Thursday, July 29, 2021

The Horse Doesn't Even Get a Medal!

I realize now that I have made an error. I should have switched this blog over to an all Olympics theme while the Tokyo games are going on. I think it would have been fun because I know so very very little about sports. I would have written posts with titles like: “So Fencing is Still a Thing, Apparently” or “Dressage is an Olympic Event, but The Horse Doesn’t Get the Medal???”

Alas, I missed the boat on all that.

However, I was reading this morning about Simone Biles and how she pulled out of her gymnastic event the other day. I’ve got nothing but love for her and how great is it that she was willing to do that to safeguard her own mental health?! We should all be a little more like her.

I had heard yesterday that she referenced something colloquially called “the twisties” when she was explaining why she’d stepped back from competing. I’d assumed that this was a term that the kids use to mean “nerves” or performance anxiety or something along those lines. Like when I was young and did theater and would get super nervous right before going on stage. 

This morning though I discovered that that is not exactly what she’d meant. Amongst gymnasts the term “twisties” actually has a very specific meaning that the rest of us wouldn’t even understand. It has to do with performing the sort of twisting or flipping or rotational moves that gymnasts (especially at Biles’s level) do during their events. It is not uncommon that when making these fast and frequently airborne moves that an athlete can essentially lose track of where their body is in relation to their surroundings. 

I’d honestly neve thought about this before. If you leap through the air while flipping, obviously you need to know - know in your bones - where the various parts of your body are in relation to the floor so that you can get your feet to land on it. Your brain has to be making calculations and adjustments IN MID-AIR WHILE SPINNING! So if you lose track and get lost, you are in grave danger and it seems like a really good way to break your neck.

That is what a gymnast is talking about when they say “twisties”.

How insanely terrifying is that???

Apparently that is what Biles experienced the other day and so it isn’t simply a case of stage fright. It is more like flying a jet through the mountains and suddenly you go blind. So while I think all right thinking people were already sympathetic to the idea that She needed to step back for her own mental health, the reality is actually more than that: she was making a responsible decision based on the status she was getting from the jet that is her body. She had some warning lights going off and so she behaved accordingly. 

Can you imagine the discipline and self-awareness that it takes for someone as young as she is, at the pinnacle of her sport, and competing in the GD Olympics to make a decision that smart? To not be cowed by other people’s expectations? To not allow herself to be forced by ego and ambition to do something her body was telling her not to do? As a lifelong maker of bad and impulsive decisions, I’m really humbled thinking about it. Well done Miss Biles.

If you’d like to know more about ‘the twisties”, NPR has a pretty good article about it here.




Wednesday, July 28, 2021

A Potential Gold Medaler.

Olympic events I could be competitive in (if they existed):

  • Sleeping poorly.

  • Podcast listening.

  • Getting myself worked up about people who won’t get vaccinated.

  • Fogging up my own glasses while wearing a mask.

  • Missing messages on Facebook because I don’t go on it anymore.

  • Finding the cheapest bottle of red wine in any store.

  • Having dreams where I explain to people how the mail works.

  • Singing songs to my cat about my cat and not having them appreciated by my cat.

  • Always having the closed captioning on.

  • Buying fruit and then not eating it.

  • Slowly killing my own herb garden.

  • Making lists.




Tuesday, July 27, 2021

And Now: A Joke.

Today I not only have an early workday, but I have to actually GO IN TO WORK! Can you even believe that? #unreasonable. I have to commute and everything. So that means I don’t have any time this morning to do the navel gazing that I usually do here. Sorry about that, I know how much my non-existent readers enjoy that sort of thing!

To make it up to you, here is a joke:

VIVIAN: Hey Saul, I made up a new word, want to hear it?

SAUL: You know I do!

VIVIAN: Plagiarism.

That’s all folks! Thanks for tuning in. Remember to tip your waitress.




Monday, July 26, 2021

Time for Quality.

** RING! RING! **

ME: Hello?

VOICE: Hi, it’s me, the unrelenting forward motion of time.

ME: Oh, yes. We have met.

TIME: Could you spare a moment to take a quick quality assurance survey?

ME: …

TIME: You’re not that busy.

ME: Yeah, fine.

TIME: Great! On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being absolute certainty and 1 being full-blown denialism, how certain are you that every moment of your existence is leading unflinchingly toward your own death?

ME: I mean … 10, I guess.

TIME: Great! Would you describe your existence as more like that Toy Story 3 scene where everyone is getting pushed toward the incinerator? Or more like the act of falling to the floor un-movingly when a child enters the room?

ME: Um. Five, I guess, just straight down the middle?

TIME: I see, I see. That’s not what most people usually go with, but okay.

ME: Can I ask, what exactly is being assured by this survey?

TIME: Well, you know, time has existed a long time, but it is only relatively recently - for us - that we have had conscious, sentient beings to toy with. Most of existence we’ve been dealing with planets and space dust, micro organisms, that sort of thing, so the opportunity to get real time feedback is still pretty novel for us, so we’re just trying things out.

ME: You keep saying “us" as in plural … are there other kinds of time?

TIME: Oh sure, but you don’t want to get into that! It will break your adorable little biological brain.

ME: Oooooookay.

TIME: Moving on. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being total transcendence and 1 being soul paralysis, what is it like for you to wake up on a Monday morning?

ME: Did you say “soul paralysis”?

TIME: Hm, not familiar with that one?

ME: It sounds terrible …

TIME: I’m told it is quite bad.

ME: Well, I guess, I mean, maybe a 6 … I don’t like waking up on Monday morning, but compared to the lives most people have lived, I probably shouldn’t complain. All I do is log into a computer and do work for 8 hours … it isn’t the most rewarding thing, but probably it is pretty far away from soul paralysis, if I really think about it. And I’ve kind of accepted that most of life is being bored frequently.

TIME: Yeah, that’s why we invented forgetting. You should be thankful for that one.

ME: You invented it?

TIME: Could you imagine if you had to actually remember how much of your life you wasted? Watching TV or waiting for water to boil, that kind of thing?

ME: I guess that would be a lot to have to confront, existentially, I mean.

TIME: So, last question!

ME: Okay.

TIME: Do you want to know how much time you have left?

ME: Excuse me?

TIME: Yeah, how much you got left on the shot clock, as it were?

ME: You’re asking if I want to know when I’m going to die?

TIME: Exactomundo.

ME: … Well … no, I guess I don’t want to know that.

TIME: Suit yourself. It doesn’t really matter anyway.

ME: How do you mean?

TIME: To us, I meant.

ME: Oh, I see.

TIME: Well, thanks for taking the time — wink wink — to talk to me today. If you ever need to get in touch with us, just walk outside at midnight, point at the moon and scream.

ME: Will do.

TIME: Have a good rest of your day.

ME: You too, thanks.

*** CLICK.***




Friday, July 23, 2021

The Kind of Week It Has Been.

Okay, so mixed results.

I had really good days Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Every day I worked and my work days were reasonable. Every day I went running, every day I did some writing, every day I read, every day I did yoga, every day I did some resistance training, every day I ate healthy and clean. Good days.

Yesterday, Thursday, I was worn the hell out. Tired all day. Sore. If I tried to do anything with my right arm that approximated a biceps curl, my arm simply refused to comply. Walking was not great on account of the tightness in my hips and calves; I logged almost 20 miles of trail running in three days and my body retaliated with quiet refusal.

That’s all okay. I too a recovery day yesterday. All I did was yoga and clean eating. After work I basically took a nap for like an hour and that’s okay.

Life is mostly about boom & bust cycles. Plus, this is a pattern in my life: I overdo it, which prevents me from doing it well. However, lately more and more I find solace in the political concept of the Overton Window. The real goal here is not to make stunning change all at once, but rather to drag the narrow window of the possible in the proper direction.

This is what it has always been like with my weight. It tends to fluctuate within a window of about 6 pounds. That has always seemed like a lot to me, but I have lived in this body long enough to simply know that is what this body does. So my goal is never to lose weight exactly, my goal is to drag that window of six pounds lower down the scale. Yesterday (while not running) I looked back through my journals from 2019 when I was living in Arizona, when I had time to run and go to the gym every single day. I consider this to be a time when I was in pretty good shape (or at least healthy) and my weight then was experiencing a heavier window than it is now. Granted I had somewhat more muscle then. I also went back through some very old pictures of me when I was in my early 20s and VERY heavy. I didn’t even recognize that guy. And I had to remind myself that I didn’t even start running until I was 30. 

There are times when I have to remind myself that all of life is a kind of Overton Window. Beyond the edges of the window is a person we don’t even know. My window no longer includes that short 250 pound guy with a mustache (what was I even thinking????).

I have made progress. Not just this week, not just this month, but since February when I decided I needed to develop a plan, that I needed to build a staircase I could start climbing up. I haven’t stopped climbing it, but yesterday I paused to take a breath. And that’s okay. 

Today I will start climbing again.




Thursday, July 22, 2021

What Do People Do With Weekends?

Back in February I started this project of re-designing my daily life. I’ve written about it here extensively. Well, it has taken these last five months to really dial it in and test out what works, but this week I have really been doing it! Which is not to say I haven’t been doing it a little at a time. I’ve been climbing a mountain, so to speak, figuring out how to do it as I do it. This week has been good. The last three days I have managed to not only work, but also fit in running everyday, writing every day, reading every day, while also eating healthy, and keeping up with my journal. If our lives have to be filled with mostly boring days, I have finally been making the best out of them.

But now, on Thursday, looking ahead to the weekend, I realize, I don’t have a PLAN for that. Oh no!

The Quarantine made me realize that, left to my own devices, all I will end up doing is laying on the couch eating potato chips, drinking red wine, and listening to podcasts. Let me tell you, that is not the worst way to spend your time during a quarantine. But I’m kind of tired of it. I want to actually be doing things, I want to work off all that Quarantine weight, I want to be truly lean for once in my life, I want to be creating things even though I feel like I have been in a creative slump since that Quarantine started. Hence the conversation I had with myself back in February. The conversation went like this:

ME: You know what? This can not be my life. I don’t like it anymore.

ALSO ME: It’s fine.

ME: Is it though?

ALSO ME: Probably?

ME: I should run more.

ALSO ME: You don’t have the time.

ME: I’ll make the time. Here, look at this spreadsheet I made.

ALSO ME: Did you chart the activities of your average day, hour by hour?

ME: I also put some graphs in the appendix.

ALSO ME: Oh my god, you’re a nerd.

ME: I think I should probably start eating better too.

ALSO ME: I guess that wouldn’t hurt.

ME: Probably I’m also going to cut my meat consumption down to pretty much zero.

ALSO ME: Come again now?

ME: Not full on vegetarian. I’ll still eat meat if I go out or something. I just won’t bring it into the house anymore.

ALSO ME: Probably I can live with that …

ME: I may start doing that with wine too.

ALSO ME: I’m sorry, I didn’t process that …

ME: Look, we all love wine, but it’s not a hobby, you know?. I need better hobbies.

ALSO ME: Like what?

ME: I was thinking yoga?

ALSO ME: Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

ME: No, really.

ALSO ME: Oh god, you’re serious.

ME: I am.

ALSO ME: I don’t think you have the discipline for that.

ME: Do you want to bet?

ALSO ME: Not really, I’m not that interested.

ME: Well you just watch all the discipline I’m going to bring … Can I have my graphs back?

And scene!

I’ve focused so much on making my weekday/workdays better, that I have not figured out any plans for the weekends. Yes, I can do all the things I do during the week, but I need to create some activities that are ust weekend things, things I can find special enjoyment in. Maybe classes of group activities like hiking, things that will get me out of the house, out of my routine, and maybe provide the opportunities to meet new people. I am making a list of things like those and doing some research. Do you know anything about surfing classes???


Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Jokes About Scale.

Yesterday I was listening to the brilliant podcast The Constant and was reminded of the very very short short story “On Exactitude in Science” by the one and only Jorge Luis Borges. It is one paragraph long and ostensibly about map. Here is the story in it’s entirety:

…In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a

single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety

of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the

Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and

which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so

fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map

was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the

Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are

Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is

no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.

—Suarez Miranda,Viajes devarones prudentes, Libro IV,Cap. XLV, Lerida, 1658

That’s all folks!

But not really. As with most of Borges, it is very funny, but it is also impossible to realize that at first.

It is really about maps and draws attention to the fact that a map is a simulation, not a fact. So really it is about simulation and how simulation itself is not fact. So really it is kind of about how fact is generally also not fact. So really it is about the unknowableness of all things. So really it is about everything.

Often this story is paired with an excerpt from Lewis Carroll’s Sylvie and Bruno Concluded which makes the funny a little more explicit:

"What a useful thing a pocket-map is!" I remarked.

"That's another thing we've learned from your Nation," said Mein Herr, "map-making. But we've carried it much further than you. What do you consider the largest map that would be really useful?"

"About six inches to the mile."

"Only six inches!" exclaimed Mein Herr. "We very soon got to six yards to the mile. Then we tried a hundred yards to the mile. And then came the grandest idea of all ! We actually made a map of the country, on the scale of a mile to the mile!"

"Have you used it much?" I enquired.

"It has never been spread out, yet," said Mein Herr: "the farmers objected: they said it would cover the whole country, and shut out the sunlight ! So we now use the country itself, as its own map, and I assure you it does nearly as well."

See how funny that is!




Tuesday, July 20, 2021

I Had a RWR Day!

So I have a pretty solid* metric for what constitutes a good** day***. 

There are some caveats though:

* "solid" means, the best I have found so far for myself.

** "good" means a day when I can at least go to bed at the end of it without that gnawing feeling that I wasted yet another day in this life. So it is not a metric that one would use for measuring the best days of one’s life. It is a metric for measuring the boring, forgettable ones, which are the ones that make up the bulk of our lives.

*** "day" here applies basically to weekday workdays. Those unspectacular periods of 24 hours when what we’re supposed to be doing is paying the rent and earning grocery money. Those days when we have to wedge our lives in around our vocation.

So all that being said, here is my very simple, but solid metric for what constitutes a good day:

It is a day when I can manage to run, write, and read. All in one day!

I’m sure that does not sound like much to some people and I’m sure that to others it sounds like an absolute horror show of a day. 

For me a Run Write Read (RWR) day ends up being rather fulfilling. This is in part because it is actually REALLY HARD TO DO! You try it!

Partly it is a matter of scheduling. All three of those things are better when one can devote some real time to them, but to make the math easy, let’s just say that each one of those takes or should take an hour. So we are talking about a day where I can muster 3 free hours. 

That shouldn’t be that hard. On the weekday workdays I’m describing, I sleep 8 hours, I work 8 hours, but those 8 hours really cost me about 9 total out of my day, leaving 7 other hours. I spend 2 of those hours in the mornings before work drawing my silly comic (@standard_kink) and writing these blog posts and doing a little bit of yoga. Now I have 5 hours left. In the evenings cooking and eating dinner usually takes about an hour. So I have 4 hours left in a day. That’s if I don’t have to go anywhere or do anything. And all of this assumes that my job stays in its box (which we have allocated about 9 hours to).

You can begin to see how the hours slip away and how fitting 3 hour-long endeavors into those remaining 4 hours can quickly become difficult. And I don’t even have kids or anything. God bless though of you who do; I don’t know how you manage to accomplish anything.

All that being said, scheduling is only the first difficulty. The second is the truly difficult one: getting myself to do these things. I think that Quarantine really took a big bite out of my ability to motivate myself. It has been a very real challenge. I think we all did whatever we needed to to get ourselves through all that and that’s okay. Napping on the couch listening to podcasts, half watching movies with the sound turned down while munching on kettle chips, that was all totally fine under those circumstances. But not anymore! Now I’m trying to break the habits of the lazy napping-ness that go me through Quarantine. Here’s the thing about habits though, you don’t just break them, you have to bury them and then replace them.

I’m working on that, but I’m not very good at it yet.

However, yesterday (Monday 7-19-21) was a Run Write Read (RWR) Day! How cool is that?!

The thing I always realize at the end of a RWR Day is how not impossible they are. Every time I pull it off, I always end up thinking to myself, “I could do this all the damn time!” and that might even be true. Maybe some people do it everyday, but who wants to hang out with someone who has that kind of discipline?

What I do want, is to have more RWR Day. Doesn’t have to be every day (I’m often proud of myself when I can manage ONE of those things in a day), but it should be MORE of the days.

That’s what I’m working on now: more better days. 

Like I said, these are not the days that you’ll end up telling your grandkids about; these aren’t fall-in-love-at-first-sight days, win-the-lottery, or make-a-new-friend days. These are all the other days. I’m trying to make those days better.




Friday, July 16, 2021

It is Okay to Be Bad at Stuff.

Very slowly I have been working on a little poetry project. It is nothing to write home about, as I am not a very good poet. But I have been putting together a little collection of poems that I wrote for no reason over the last five years or so. Let me tell you, it is a lot of work because — again — I am not a very good poet.

I have a plan to make a small little book that is very designed. I want the text itself to move around the page and grow or shrink in size and to change fonts and width. I am by no means the first person to do this, but it is kind of a fun little project.

It does mean though  that I am spending a lot of time going through my old writing and so much of it is so very bad. Luckily I have been at this writing thing for so long that it doesn’t hurt my feelings that so much of it is bad. In any creative life, most of what you make will probably suck. This is true for pretty much everybody and I think we should talk about that more; it is okay to suck. What it important is to try. And to keep at it.

Between you and me, I even LIKE some of the bad stuff. If I ever choose to make a project exclusively out of my worst writing, it would be the easiest and largest project of my life.

There is something sort of enjoyable about sitting down with these old poems — old enough that I don’t feel them as mine anymore — and slicing through them with a red pen. There is great precision confidence in a good red pen. The redness makes you feel like you’ve made the proper choice.

I’ll tell you more about this project when there is more to tell. This weekend I’ll spread out all my papers in my dining room and grab at them randomly and slash them with my red pen until the whole room looks like a bloodbath. Should be fun!




Tuesday, July 13, 2021

How Long Does it Take to Sleep?

Next month I’m going to have to start getting up crazy early. I start going back to working face-2-face about 80% of the time and when I got to negotiate my schedule, I asked if I could go in early and leave early. I was thinking at the time that I’d like to be able to leave work in the Fall while there is still light out so that I can have a little bit of time at the end of the workday to be alive.

That’s all fine and good, so I just did the math and said, “I will start work at the crack of dawn! This seems like a good idea!”

So now I am trying to train my body to get up extra early and it is not going well. 

I figure I am going to start getting up at 5 am. That will give me time to still do my morning things, clean up, and commute to work, but here’s the things: THAT IS REALLY EARLY!

Right now I am struggling to get up at 6 am, and 5 am is a WHOLE HOUR EARLIER!

On top of that, if one wakes up at 5 am, then in order to get a solid 8 hours of sleep, one would have to go to bed at 9 pm. 9 o’clock at night! I have got gone to bed at 9 at night since I was in like First grade. So I may have screwed this up. 

What I’m going to need to do is cram 8 hours of sleeping into about 6 hours. Not sure how that is going to work, especially since I am a restless sleeper and it take sme FOREVER to get to sleep!

This is when you say, “Perhaps you should stop listening to podcasts when you go to bed. Maybe try a white noise machine or something …”

Well, fine.

Maybe you are right.

Obviously something is going to have to give. 

Maybe if I go to bed at 10 pm, wake at 6 am and then have an hour to do yoga, do my silly morning drawings, then clean up … I could probably get all of that done in an hour, then about a 30 minute commute, then I could write these little blogs in the evenings when I am supposed to be doing my own writing … I mean, you make a good point, that might work ....

Or I could circle back to the 8 hours of sleep in 6 hours idea … that seems more efficient, it just happens to be impossible. But remember what Aristotle said: a plausible impossibility is preferable to an implausible possibility!

I think about that saying a lot.




Monday, July 12, 2021

Growing a Flower Took a Long Time.

Yesterday I did something we could all do a little more of and I went through and purged my closet. I spend so much time thinking about the things in my life that sometimes I fear that I have gotten this minimalism thing backwards. The whole idea is to spend LESS time and effort worried about your things. I have come to realize that for me part of this years’ long project is about doing it well and that it takes time. Am I a little more obsessive about it than I need to be, well sure, but what fun would it be to not.

I probably cleared out about a third of my closet yesterday. I folded everything up nicely and put it all into the top of my coat closet. I’ll let those things sit there for awhile just in case it turns out that I do need them.

Many of those things were items of a work wardrobe I have not worn in the 16 months since the Quarantine started. I tried everything on and looked in the mirror and I realized how much I disliked much of those clothes. There isn’t a deeper meaning here, I just didn’t like the way they fit or how they made me look. I’m a short guy and it can be hard for me to find clothes that fit well, especially work shirts and polos, etc. When I moved here at the end of 2019 I had to assemble a work wardrobe quickly and so I took what I could get. Next month, I am supposed to start going into work about 80% of the time, so by next month I will need to have a rebuilt work wardrobe. So I have a new little project: I need work clothes. 

When possible, I like to be deliberative and so now I get to be deliberative about this. I get to ask questions about how I want to look and to some degree, who I want to be, when we go back. 

As much as the purge itself, this is really the thing that we should all be doing a little more of, not fretting about our appearance, but expending some time and effort on our own lives, to check in and make sure that we like what we are are doing and that we like who we are. 

I’ve been prone to make GIANT life changes in a way that often seems to come out of the blue for people who do not live in my head, but I have a good thing going right now in life and so I am trying to do the harder work of noticing and making the smaller, mid-course corrections that keep one’s life on course.

So, small as something like a closet purge may seem, it is important. It is the kind of life maintenance that I have perhaps ignored at other times. It is like the weeding of a garden, no one weed puled makes the garden healthier, it is the accumulation of all that small effort that makes the garden healthy.

Oh, and if you’ll allow me to tortue this gardening metaphor fully to death, over the weekend, my first ever flower grew. I planted some wildflower seeds forever ago. The resulting plants have been green and leafy, but last week I notices a bud had sprouted and finally, just yesterday, it opened up into a delicate little white and yellow flower. 

How great is that?