Reflecting on 2020

It's no secret that, overall, 2020 has been a terrible year, between COVID-19, incredibly tense elections, unprecedented division, and many other things. However, for me personally, 2020 has actually been quite a mixed year, filled with not only low moments, but some incredibly high moments as well.

The COVID pandemic hit towards the end of my high school year, so I had to spend the rest of my senior year doing my classes online. However, this was also the year that I graduated high school, ending a very tumultuous 4 years of my life. It was also the year that I started attending university and thus was the first year I started living on my own, which was in all honesty way more enjoyable than I thought it would be. I really enjoy living by myself and I enjoy the independence and freedom it gives me.

This year was the year that I, as many others did, hit a low in terms of mental health. Several months of the pandemic this year were incredibly rough, and it was honestly rough getting through it. I have my therapist, and my friends to thank. This was also the year that I made several new friends, friends that I honestly wouldn't be here without. Seriously, I cannot thank my friends enough this year. You all are all so amazing and I truly love every single one of you.

This was also the year that took me to new heights in terms of my career, particularly with the Quackity Full Streams channel I've ran since 2017 becoming official and being rebranded to QuackityVODS. Having a fan project I've run for years become official and getting to work with a large creator that I've watched for years and immensely respect is truly an honor and a dream come true. Working with Quackity has been amazing and I thank him for the opportunity to work with him on this channel and various other things.

This was also the year that my mental health significantly improved, later in the year. I don't know what exactly what caused this, but it's likely a combination of the new friends I've made, new opportunities I've had, going off to college and getting to live on my own, getting to really know myself better, and a few other things I'm probably forgetting.

Like I mentioned earlier, I couldn't of made it here without my friends, whether we've met recently or I've known them a long time. So thanks to these people for really making my year:

VoyVivika - Seriously just being an incredibly awesome friend. We've chatted a lot this year, and I could not ask for a better friend. Thank you so so much for becoming my friend, being someone I can be open with and for putting up with my bullshit. You're the best.

Chase88 - Thank you so much for sticking by after all these years, and for putting up with all my bullshit.

Net - Another new friend. Thank you for being my friend, being a positive force I didn't know I needed, and for just being around.

The OverSimplified Discord Moderation Team - A group of some truly amazing people. You all are so talented, so amazing, and I'm so glad and honored that I get to work with you all.

Everyone that enjoys what I do - Thank you to everyone that's followed me, appreciated, or just enjoyed what I do online. Being able to create something that you enjoy is very special to me.

Quackity - We're more business associates but thank you for making QuackityVODS an official thing and for deciding to give me this wonderful opportunity. I've watched your stuff for years and you've always been thoroughly entertaining and one of my favorite creators. Thank you so very much.

Here's to hoping that 2021 is better. Happy new years everyone!

Unus Annus, Cultural Events, Time, and FOMO

The YouTube channel Unus Annus ended today. The premise of the channel, which was run by Mark (Markiplier) and Ethan (CrankGameplays) was that it would upload every day, but that 1 year after the channel's creation, everything would be deleted. The channel ended with an 8 hour livestream.

I subscribed to Unus Annus at the beginning of the channel's life. I think I was a day 1 subscriber. I was intrigued by the concept. A channel that only lasts a year? Obviously it went against a lot that I believed in as a preservationist (I mean, I've started several projects around the idea of archiving things) but it seemed interesting.

Over time, a year passed, and Unus Annus was at it's end. I missed everything. At least I got to be there for a good part of the ending livestream, but that was cold comfort for me. I had an entire year to experience this, but yet I missed almost all of it, for one reason for another. For a good chunk of the year I forgot about the channel, but even when it was on my mind I still didn't bother with it, and now it's simply too late. Forever is forever. I feel super guilty about it.

A year is a long time. The deadline to watch it or to watch the videos on the channel was a year, and yet I missed pretty much all of it. I had this pit in my stomach as the channel was ending and it all set in, and that only got worse after the channel ended.

I know I really shouldn't feel this strongly about a YouTube channel, but the reason why I feel the way that I do is because I strongly value mass experiences and cultural events. I value experiences that huge swathes of people experience together. It's because of this that I also have a pretty strong fear of missing out in cases like these. I want to be a part of things like these. To say that I was there looking back. When I'm not there, when I've "missed out" so to speak, I almost always have this strong sense of guilt and regret. So to know that I had a chance to watch and be there and I just didn't kinda hurts.

I suppose I have made a good use of the 365 days since the channel was created though, so it's not like I've wasted that time. The past 365 days have been incredibly transformative for me. I've created some pretty cool things, I've made some new friends, I've started working with some incredibly cool people, I've graduated high school and started college, I've found out quite a bit about myself, and quite a bit more. I'm definitely proud of myself and what I've done in those 365 days.

I suppose that's part of the channel's message isn't it? That life is fleeting, death is inevitable, you only have a limited amount of time on this earth, and that you should make every second count. I know I've spent barely any of that time watching the very channel that stressed that concept and that has made me more conscious of time and how limited it is, but hey, at least I've still mostly made good use of my time. Even despite this though, my feelings of guilt and regret still persist. Hopefully though, like Unus Annus itself, these feelings will fade away with time.

Memento Mori.

September 2020 Apple Event Thoughts

Apple just held their second event during the COVID-19 pandemic, this one being about hardware. Unlike Apple events of the past, and similar to Apple's first event during the pandemic (WWDC 2020), this event was entire prerecorded and livestreamed. The times we're living in are weird, and so was this Apple event, so here's my thoughts on it.

The Event Format

Similar to WWDC 2020, this event was entirely pre-recorded and delivered exclusively online through a livestream. As such, the format of this event is quite a bit more polished than live events, taking place all over Apple Park instead of on a stage, with incredibly smooth transitions, onscreen graphics, and lots of Easter eggs. I definitely prefer this to Apple's live format, and personally Apple should keep it even after the pandemic ends. It certainly makes watching these events a lot more enjoyable.

Apple Watch Series 6

Apple had two major fronts that they made announcements on: Apple Watch, and iPad (with a bit of services mixed) in, and their big announcement on the Apple Watch front was Apple Watch Series 6, a premium Apple Watch that succeeds the Series 5. There aren't that many features on this one, but the new features that are there are still pretty exciting nonetheless. The star feature is the ability to measure your blood oxygen level. The fact that this is in a watch packed together with so many other features is frankly mindblowing. I don't see myself having a use case for it, but it's certainly incredibly impressive. The screen is also improved to be brighter outside, and although I don't have any screen visibility problems on my Series 3, it's still a welcome addition. There's also an always-on altimeter, which will certainly be useful while hiking. The Series 6 includes the S6 SoC, which Apple says is up to 30% faster than the S5 although at this point I'm not sure of the real world difference it makes.

With a starting price of $399, it's a welcome upgrade to the Apple Watch if you've been waiting for one, although if you have a Series 5 you likely won't have a need to upgrade.

Apple Watch SE

The Apple Watch SE is Apple's new budget Apple Watch, and like the similarly-named iPhone SE, it's sort-of a Frankenstein's monster made up of parts from Apple Watch generations past. It has the body and display of the series 4, the SoC, compass, emergency calling & falling detection features of the Series 5, and the always-on altimeter of the Series 6, although it doesn't include the always-on display, ECG, or blood oxygen monitor.

It's starting price is $279, which is about $120 less than the more premium Series 6, although if you wanna go ultra-budget Apple is still selling the Apple Watch Series 3 (which was released in 2017) for $199 ($80 less than the SE and $200 less than the Series 6)

It's honestly a pretty compelling offer, and should go well with the iPhone SE, and would be incredibly smart of Apple to promote those two devices together. I'm strongly considering upgrading to the SE from my Series 3.

Apple Fitness+

To complement the new Apple Watches, Apple announced yet another premium subscription service: Apple Fitness+, a workout subscription service, which features workout videos that sync with your Apple Watch, providing information from your Apple Watch on top of the video, and using the Apple Watch to enhance your workout. It uses your Apple Watch for fitness tracking and an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV for the workout guidance itself. At $9.99 a month it's certainly a bit steep (although if you buy an Apple Watch you apparently get 3 months free), even if it's less than Peloton's pricing (although I have to mention that Peloton was shaken by the announcement, which happened during their first investors meeting). I personally don't have interest in the service, although I'm sure others might find it useful

Apple One

While Apple was on the topic of services, it announced it's long-rumored subscription bundle: Apple One. There are 3 levels of pricing for Apple One: Individual, which includes Apple Music, Arcade, TV+ and 50GB of iCloud storage without the ability for family sharing for $14.95 a month, Family, which is the same as Individual but includes family sharing for up to 5 people and ups the included iCloud storage to 200GB, and Premier, which additionally includes Apple News+ and Fitness+, and ups the included iCloud storage to 2TB. It's an interesting proposition, and for those who use lots of Apple services, it might be a good way to save money. Although it would've been cool to be able to mix and match services and build my own plan.

iPad 8th Generation

The new iPad 8th Generation is a simple spec bump from the 7th generation, now featuring a A12 chip from the previous A10 chip, for the same starting price of the previous generation at a mere $329 for consumers and $300 for educators. If you're looking at getting an iPad but were hesitant on the 7th gen due to it's older, A10 SoC, the 8th generation iPad is a no-brainer, but if you have a 7th gen, there's really no reason to upgrade. That's really all that's changed, so there really isn't much to talk about here.

iPad Air 4th Generation

This is the big announcement on the iPad side of the event, bringing some features from the iPad Pro down to the Air, including the iPad Pro's design, a USB-C port, a 12-megapixel rear camera and 2nd Generation Apple Pencil compatibility. One big difference, however, is the lack of Face ID, instead including a Touch ID sensor, although unlike the previous iPad Air, the touch ID here is included on the lock button, instead of there being a home button. However, what's strange is that this iPad Air actually exceeds the iPad Pro in one regard: the SoC. Unlike the iPad Pro, which features a A12Z SoC, the new iPad Air debuts the new A14 SoC, which Apple claims is on a 5nm process, and gives up to a 40% performance improvement over the A13, making it significantly faster than the iPad Pro.

For around $200 less than the iPad Pro, you now get mostly everything the iPad Pro offers, except Face ID, a LIDAR sensor, a 120hz display, and less maximum storage (the iPad Pro goes up to 1TB, while the new iPad Air only goes up to 256GB), none of those things are must-haves, at least in my eyes. So you now have a less expensive iPad Air which has most of the features of the iPad Pro, but also exceeds the iPad Pro in one important case, so why buy the iPad Pro? It's a very strange situation.

What We Didn't See

The event was unusually short, only lasting an hour, and omitted several things, such as iPhone, Apple TV, the Mac, among other things. Also missing are several long-rumored products, such as AirTags, over-the-ear AirPods, and the first Apple Silicon-based Macs that Apple announced would be coming by the end of this year at WWDC 2020. So perhaps we'll see these things at a potential October Event? It's certainly a strange situation, but hey, these are strange times.

Closing Thoughts

Overall, I'm actually a bit underwhelmed by this presentation. I'm certainly pleased by what we did get, but this event was unusually short and didn't have as much as we thought it would. There are also a few questions raised by some of the new products announced, such as the new iPad Pro. I guess we'll see if there's an October Event?

ICE tells international students to transfer universities or leave the US

ICE (Immigration Customs and Enforcement) recently notified international students that if their universities are going entirely online for the fall semester than they must either transfer to another university, or leave the country. This is a massively harmful policy that is undoubtedly going to screw over a ton of students. These students not only study in our university, but they also do research and work in university labs, all of which they will no longer have access to, which can ruin study plans for many students.

Not only that, but this massively screws over a ton of universities, so this will likely kill some especially struggling universities. International students massively contribute to this country, it's development, it's technological and scientific strength, and it's economy. Many of these students will contribute greatly to their own countries, and that's not even considering the students who decide to live in the US full time, contributing to this country even more.

There is frankly no reason for this change by cruelty. It is punishing students for not being American. It is a move that will likely discourage international students from studying in the United States in the future. It is a decision that was made with no regard to the lives of the students, or the universities that they study in. It is a absolutely shameful decision and I hope it is overturned.

Coming to Terms With My Past

Everyone has skeletons in their closet, so among everything that's been happening, I feel like I need to share mine. I've been thinking about it a lot, and I feel like I can't be at peace with myself if I don't come clean.

I was raised in Texas in a very conservative household. A place where homophobia, transphobia, racism, etc are the norm. Furthermore, when I was 14-15, at the height of far-right and alt-right populism, I feel down a far-right rabbit hole. As a result of these things, I said and did many things that I regret today.

I made statements during that time that were homophobic, transphobic, sexist, racist, etc. I've handwaved white supremacy and systemic racism as no big deal, despite the presence of these evils in American society today. I've supported movements that are hateful, or would become hateful.

I've abandoned those views about 2-3 years ago and I've vowed to fight against these very evils that plague society today. The things I did and said during that time is one of the biggest regrets in my life. I wish that I could go back in time and slap myself for saying those things. But what's done is done. There's no going back, and all I can do is try to be a better person in the future.

To anyone hurt by the hateful things I've said or done in the past: I'm sorry. They were unacceptable then and they are unacceptable now. Even though I feel like I've changed quite significantly for the better in the last 2-3 years, I understand that I will always have to strive to be a better person in the future.

Thank you.