Friday, April 16, 2021

Ten Minutes at a Time.

This afternoon I’m supposed to start physical therapy on my bum shoulder and I am really excited about it because — I guess — I am middle aged now and that’s the kind of thing I get excited about.

Man, that was tough to type: middle aged.

I have avoided thinking about it that way.

Where have the years gone?

And of course, I know. I’ve had a pretty fantastic life so far. It has been a little inscrutable at times, but I’m proud of (most of) it.

Back to physical therapy though: I’m not sure I ever really understood physical therapy until I had to do it in Portland about three years ago. That was for the same shoulder, but the cause was different. I think I thought at the time that it was going to be sort of like getting a massage, and parts of it were like that, but most of it was lots of small and not that individually different little silly exercises. The guy would be all like, “Here, squeeze this rubber ball for ten minutes.” And I was all like, “Sure dude, whatever.” And then I would squeeze the rubber ball for ten minutes and then he’d come back and be like, “Use your hands to pedal this upright bike contraption for ten minutes.” And I’d be like, “This seems undignified, but whatever dude.” And so I would pedal the upright bike contraption for ten minutes and then he’d come back and be like, “How does your shoulder feel?” And I’d be all like, “OMG, it does actually feel better!”

I have always had a little bit of respect for traditional medicine and things like Reflexology, not because I’m an anti-science magical-crystal hippie, but just the opposite; some of these things do have very long histories stretching back to before we had upright bike contraptions and if you think about the traditional medicines of lots of indigenous people whose cultures were doing their thing for hundreds or thousands of years before what we think of as “modern medicine” came along, you can imagine how enough trial and error over a long enough period of time would likely produce at least SOME usable results. 

One of the benefits we have accrued by existing when we do, is that we have so much built up human knowledge of so many kinds that we can rely on and so many people who know so much about different parts of it. Like, in the Before Times, I could get on an airplane and I didn’t need to know how to fly the airplane, because the pilot knew how to do that. This is a concept called ‘Specialization of Knowledge’. The idea is that over time, the increasing complexity of our world has required that people specialize in particular spheres of knowledge. 

That’s why I didn’t need to understand Physical Therapy, I just needed access to someone who did. And oh man, I am so excited to get access to one again later today.

Wish me luck! I get to pedal the upright bike contraption again.




Thursday, April 15, 2021

Remember to Stay Hydrated.


There was a stretch there from about December - February when I thought I was burned out. Like I had finally hit that “pandemic wall” that people talk about. However I see now that my period of burn out coincided directly with a long stretch of unreasonable work demands. Even though I built a whole new daily routine to try and deal with the burn out, I suspect that its early success directly correlates to a brief period of more reasonable work demands.

Well that period has ended.

Literally yesterday I was listening to yet another podcast on the topic of pandemic burnout and the person being interviewed was all like, “Well Americans use work as a way to form their identities,” and while I agree with that, her advice was all like, “So stop doing that.”

And while that is great and evergreen advice, some of us have very real deadlines and responsibilities over which we have no control. I’ve tried to explain this within my (very large) organization a few times: I do not need another mental health webinar, I need a reasonable workload.

Later today though there is another mental health webinar.

Who the fuck is making all of these webinars? I bet that person is stressed out as hell. This is the golden age of Zoom mental health webinars.

All of the podcasts and articles on pandemic burn out say basically the same thing: get enough sleep, drink water, spend time outside, find things that “nourish your soul” and so on. And of course, I try to do those things, but if I am working this much, I can’t fit a nice walk into my day without cutting back on the time I have to sleep, because like that expanding insulation foam they use now in houses, work finds a way to creep into all the spaces in life.

One article did say the only useful thing I have heard on the entire topic, “We are not working from home, we are living at work.”

That was the only thing I have read so far this whole pandemic that made any reasonable sense. 

And I shouldn’t complain, I have it easier than a whole lot of people out there, but (as therapy has taught me over the years) that is not the point; that lessening your own experiences by comparison is not actually a healthy thing to do, that it is essentially a way of not processing the way that you feel.

I don’t mind hard work, I actually quite like it, but I do mind Sisyphean tasks and I do mind that the wage-earning part of life can eclipse the “soul nourishing” parts of our lives and that there isn’t some sort of hotline that we can call about it. Imagine if there was something like 911, but for complaints about stress. I would watch a TV show about that, but only if all the characters were muppets.

We need more muppet-centered TV shows. I also want to see Kermit play George Clooney in a remake of Ocean’s 11, but that is a blog post for a different day. Maybe tomorrow. Right now I need to go drink some water and nourish my soul before my work day starts.




Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Am I in a bad mood? It sounds like I am in a bad mood.


On Monday I got my second shot of Moderna and it really knocked me back a step yesterday. It felt like a hangover or the first day of getting the flu. I would have called in sick to work, but I really couldn’t because there is so much going on right now. I’m not going to go into detail about that here, but suffice to say that the new life routine I built for myself (and which i have written about here before) has all but collapsed. 

The problem now is the same as the problem that prompted me to build a new routine in the first place, mainly that my work life is aggressively trying to eat the rest of my life and simply will not stay within the boundaries we agreed upon. 

That being said, I am still doing okay in the mornings. I still manage to do my silly little daily drawings (posted on IG @standard_kink) and I have still mostly managed to keep writing a few hundred words here each morning. So even though it has been two steps forward and one step back lately, at least I can still be proud of that one net step forward.

The demands of my work will lessen somewhat over the next couple weeks and I will try to put it back into its box and maybe try (again) to talk to some people about how to keep it there. At that point I can focus more on the things I have been failing at: I haven’t been for a run so far the entire month of April and I have not been able to spend any time in the evenings writing because during the time I have allocated for that I am still working. Yesterday I worked an 11 hour day and that was less than the day before.

The part that I did not take into account when I set about designing a daily routine, was how little control I have over the demands that are placed on me. And that’s life, right? I am single and have no children. And yet I feel like the world is just pushing back against me constantly. What is it like if you are carrying around all the things I have chosen not to carry: a family, a mortgage, a too-expensive car payment? One has to wonder why we built a world that seeks to crush us. Nothing about the world or society or country or culture that we find ourselves living inside of is in any way naturally occurring or preordained. We made it this way; from our cars that go WAY too fast and run on fossil fuel, to our houses that are WAY too big and terrible for the health of the planet, to our political system that doesn’t seem to work anymore, to our economy that seems constantly on the brink of collapse while only serving to make rich people richer … and on and on and on … we made things this way. One has to wonder why.

Obviously there are answers to all this, but I don’t have the time to get to them right now because I have to go take a shower and get ready for work. Which is, I guess, an illustrative example of the problem.




Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The Month that Just Won't End.


That’s it though, I don’t want to celebrate too much because when I woke up this morning I saw that the Johnson & Johnson roll out of vaccines has been “paused” apparently over concerns about blood clots. To date something like 6.8 million J&J shots have been administered and there have only been six reports of possibly related blood clots.

I know this is how safe science is supposed to work, but damn, that is just a kick in the gut. Having no special knowledge about any of this, I know that when the EU briefly paused their AstaZeneca roll out over concerns about blood clots, they determined that the occurrences of vaccinated people with blood clots was actually lower than in the population over all, so I’m hoping that a similar type of determination could be made in this case. Fingers crossed.

Maybe things had been seeming to be getting slightly better lately and maybe that is why the J&J thing has hit me so hard this morning. I’m a big fan of thinking about second and third and fourth order effects and the ripple effects this could cause in the supply chain and in the culture could really be significant.

I’ve been concerned for awhile now that America isn’t actually going to reach a herd immunity threshold, basically because we are a nation of anti-science assholes, and this is not going to help matters any. People who were on the fence about vaccines because they only believe in handguns and healing crystals, will now have yet one more data point to misunderstand. The irony of course being that a pause like this over six possible blot clot occurrences should actually INCREASE their trust in the way science and medicine work specifically because when there was even a whiff of a problem, the distribution was stopped so more information could be collected. That is the sign of a system working, not the sign of a vaccine failing.

It is also a bummer that no matter what this means the overall vaccine distribution will be slowed to at least some degree and that means we may not hit those optimistic thresholds we’d all been hoping for; July 4th barbeques and life looking normal-ish by Fall. The pause means this whole thing could stretch on longer and we’ll be stuck in this situation where some people are vaccinated and others who want it aren’t and that is not a good recipe for anything.

Here we are in April of 2021 and yet it turns out we still are not as done with March 2020 as we’d thought.




Monday, April 12, 2021



This will be a short post because I am a little behind schedule this morning because I had to shave my head this morning because even though I usually do that on Sundays, I couldn’t yesterday because I was working.

That’s life, right? Because … because … because …

Just a long series of interrelated events. I’ve always felt that the way Americans learn history in school is kind of misleading because the study of history relies on a concept called “Periodization” which basically just means that we slice history up into nice little clean segmented pieces. You have the fall of the Western Roman Empire and then that chapter ends and a new one starts called “The Dark Ages” and then that chapter ends and you have one called “The Renaissance” and then that chapter ends and you have one called “The Enlightenment” and then that chapter ends … and so on, even though that’s not really how any of that happened. It erases the messy and overlapping parts about because and because and because. By the way, the Dark Ages never happened and the Renaissance also kind of didn’t, but we don’t have time for that.

Anyway, later today I will get my second Covid vaccination and I’m very excited about it. A couple of weeks from now I will (hopefully) be at the beginning of a slightly new version of this life. It will take awhile before the difference will be noticeable, because I’m still going to mostly social distance and will still wear a mask because I am trying to be a responsible person because I think that in a society we do actually have a responsibility to one another because if that isn’t true, then what are we even doing?

Soon I will be able to take a deep breath for the first time in 13 months because I will be vaccinated. Soon you will be able to say that too because you will be vaccinated. And then we will all be able to take a deep breath and look around at the world we return to and maybe we will do a better job with it this time … because we came so close to losing it.




Friday, April 9, 2021

As Foretold by the Prophecy.

I’ve owned a plant for a very long time. His name is Fred. He’s lived in three states. He’s a pretty cool plant. I bought him at a Walmart in Hanford, California sometime around 2003. I have no idea what kind of plant he is. My mother says he’s an “avocado plant” which I think means she thinks he’s a very small avocado tree, though I have my doubts.  The thing I admire so much about Fred is that he simply refuses to die.

As you might imagine, I am not a very good plant keeper, so the fact that Fred is alive at all is testament to some weird quality about him that has nothing to do with me. Right now he is sitting on the window sill in my living room, his spindly green arms spread out against the window. If you try to sit under him on the couch it is like sticking your head into a little tiny pocket jungle. 

Once it became clear quarantine was going to last longer than expected (remember “15 days to slow the spread”?), I remember looking at Fred and thinking, “I should get some more plants.”

One of the carve outs in the modern incarnation of minimalism seems to be that you can have as many plants as you want. Like, you can own nothing but a single fork and a sleeping bag, but also so many plants that your studio apartment develops its own weather system. No one knows why this is acceptable, but every functioning philosophy of life has its own inborn contradictions, that’s why it can function.  

Rather than buying plants (How was I going to do that without leaving the house?) I bought an herb garden kit online and went about planting seems and raising parsley and basically — you know — becoming a farmer. Let me tell you, I am bad at this. I would peer down into my little planters and look at the withers stems of oregano that I killed by either under or over watering or maybe not giving them enough sun or maybe too much. Who knows? Surely science has not cracked this mystery yet. I think my success rate as a farmer so far hovers in the 30-30% range. Let me tell you though, I can grow the shit out of some parsley, apparently. 

I discovered you can order small succulents online, so I have some of those too! My success rate there is 75%, I know because I bought 12 and haven’t yet had the heart to throw out the three dead ones. 

Recently the Grocery Outlet where I shop — I love the Grocery Outlet precisely because it is an outlet and the inventory changes all the time — started selling plants! I bought two more succulents and so far they are doing pretty well. I can not tell you how much better my sad window sill herb gardens look with a couple of not-dying-yet plants thrown in.

One time back in about September when Covid cases were pretty low in my area, I drove about six miles to a little nursery in Seaside and I bought a couple of plants (which are now long dead) and I had that Covid anxiety and I remember thinking, “I probably should not have done this,” but the nursery was entirely outside and i went early on a Saturday and no one was there but the employees, but even still, I told myself I wouldn’t do it again.

The other day my mother mailed me an article about “Easy Care Houseplants” and I initially looked at it and thought, “well this is great, but I can’t go out and look for these particular plants.” But then I realized, one day soon I can! I get my second shot next week and then I have the two week waiting period AND THEN! I shall return to that little nursery and I shall announce, “It is I! And I have returned! As foretold by the prophecy!”

I read recently on the website that if you add, “As foretold by the prophecy” to the end of any statement it adds some gravitas.

So around the end of April or beginning of May, I can buy some of these “Easy Care Houseplants” I’ve heard so much about. I can maybe give up on my failing career as a farmer and bring to an end my slow murdering of herb plants.

Maybe. I kind of like dotting on the seedlings and watching the first green shoots emerge. Maybe I will cease killing plants by getting better at keeping them alive. I don’t know yet. Thirteen months ago, when all this pandemic business started, I never would have guessed I’d spend a year of my life counting my toilet paper rolls or jotting down the daily death totals in my journal. And I never would have guessed that I would have spent so much time and energy keeping delicate little plants alive.

Even though I have proven to be terrible at that last part, I still manage to take some inspiration from Fred. I look at his thick hearty leaves, dappled by April California sun beams and I am reminded that these little plants want to live, they want to grow. They want to keep on going. Fred keeps on going. I can keep on going. Maybe one day I will be able to get some of this fucking oregano to keep on going.




Thursday, April 8, 2021

On the Acquisition of Musical Plastic.

In the mornings while I sit here and do my silly little daily drawings and write these silly little blog posts, I listen to music on my laptop. I realized recently that I hadn’t been listening to music. I think podcasts have taken over my life. In the Before Times I listened to music mostly in the car and I haven’t used my car much in the past year and so without even meaning to, I stopped listening to music.

So recently I have been looking for ways to inject more music into my life.

I don’t have a little Alexa robot, because it has just never struck me as something I need in my life. I don’t have Spotify because I still just use my free Pandora that I’ve used for just about forever, and I am very conscious of not signing up for crap that has monthly subscription fees. I kind of abandoned iTunes years ago when it somehow became the central hub of Apple’s walled garden, and as much as I appreciate my iPhone, I’m just generally over Apple and their $60 dongles and faux minimalism. 

There was a hot minute when I considered buying a record player and becoming the guy who puts on a nice piece of vinyl in the mornings and then I came to my senses and I was like: I don’t buy things I don’t at least kind of need, I don’t need a record player, and how am I going to shop for records during a pandemic anyway?

I thought back to times when I had music in my life to deconstruct how I’d done it. There was a specific moment I remember when I lived in San Diego. I was walking back from a store listening to my iPod and walked into my apartment and plugged the iPod into a little speaker dock and the song switched from my ears to the speaker and flowed out into the room. That great! So I was like: do iPods still exist? And then I remembered that I have this iPhone and can do basically the same thing wirelessly now. So I looked at Bluetooth speakers and quickly discovered that is one of those weird rabbit holes where some people take these things extremely seriously. And I don’t know … I am always weary of that. Much like there are people who are super into vinyl, there are people who are super into their Bose. I feel this way too about the Beats by Dre stuff too. It just seems that generally in this life people get real precious about various forms of expensive plastic. I mean, to each their own, but I don’t know … it doesn’t suit me. Especially since the weird thing I am precious about is not owning a lot of stuff. So the Bluetooth speaker thing is out because it makes me think too much about it and I have enough weird shit to think about already.

Then I had a marvelously retro idea: I should just get a radio. Remember radios?!? 

So I looked at radios online and as I was reading about all the “features” that radios have (which have not changed in like 40 years) and ended up thinking to myself, “My phone can do all of this.” So radios are out. (Admittedly, I do already own a small emergency radio, it is solar charged and it can charge my phone with a hand crank!)

Thinking about the phone again brought me full circle and I realized that I already HAVE this phone that can play music, I already HAVE a laptop that can play music, I already HAVE a smart TV that can play music. I have access to Youtube and some access to Amazon music (via Prime, which I do pay for, but only once a year) and there are like a million streaming radio stations and, as mentioned, I have my little free Pandora. I already HAVE all the STUFF I need. 

My problem was not a lack of expensive plastic, my problem was me and how I live. So I have gone about fixing that, which is actually much harder than just one-click buying a record player.

I have found places in my day where I can incorporate music, where I can return it into my life. One of those places is right here, each morning while I sit at my kitchen table. 

I’m listening to Cold War Kids right now. I like it.