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Monday, March 23, 2020

Remote control

Just wrapping up the first full week of working at home. On the plus side I get to roll out of bed 15 minutes before 8 a.m. and head down to my home office. I used to have to get up at 6 a.m., get ready and then take a train into work.

On the negative side I'm not taking as many showers.

I think I'm actually able to be as, if not more, productive working at home. Meeting with people via computer video and audio actually makes me feel more connected to them than I would be in a conference room. It is oddly comforting to meet with other people trapped in their homes without outside contact.

Since I don't have access to a gym (and they are all closed anyway), I've been taking several walks a day with my wife and sometimes my son and dog. Lots more people are out walking. Some acknowledge us as we walk past. Some cross the street. All of us have gotten used to staying six feet away.

I was walking alone yesterday at lunch. I passed a guy checking his mail box and he hollered out, "Good job of keeping six feet away." I nodded. Then he laughed and said, "We need to make light of it." I mumbled, a "Yeah." He seemed uncomfortable at that point and told me to have a nice day.

I was tempted to say, "Better six feet away then six feet under." But humor is definitely not going over big these days. People don't want jokes. They want reassurance that it will all be okay. No one seems to be able to offer that.

I did watch several online video ads this morning for buying toilet paper online. Not sure with all of the essentials you could hoard, toilet paper became the one many obsessed on. And as far as I know, the virus doesn't make you go to the bathroom more.

Not sure why Washington was so hard hit by this. Not even sure what hard hit means in the context of the virus. You don't really see anything but closed stores and restaurants. All we hear is how bad it could get if we don't "shelter in place." But shelter in place really means you can still go out walking, go to grocery store and run other errands.  So I'm not sure how it is any different than what we were doing anyway.

I am sick of the phrase, "This is the new normal."

No, no it is not. Not for me anyway.

Monday, March 16, 2020

I miss normal

So the governor of Washington issued a mandatory social distancing order. And my work is requiring us to work at home. They also closed most of the schools in the area. Today they closed restaurants and bars.

Our cats and the dog are confused as to what I am doing home. They generally just associate me with someone who comes home and feeds them.

Honestly, I don't have a problem avoiding large groups of people. I have tried doing that my entire life. I don't like the potential of not being able to go out to a restaurant. I am also worried about the long term impacts on the economy and my retirement, not to mention my kid's education if this drags on for months.

Oddly enough, I am less concerned about the actual virus. There is so much misinformation about how you get it and how badly you can get sick that it seems secondary to the impacts of group panic and fear. I was disappointed in the decision to close restaurants because I was in the camp that of all the industries, they were the ones that were supposed to be following sanitary rules already when they prep food. But I can understand the concerns of large groups of people squeezed into small spaces spreading germs.

We had our last restaurant meal on Friday night and it did cross my mind that there could be more risks as the servers and assistants kept grabbing our water glasses and refilling them. And after I used the oil and balsamic vinegar cruets I sanitized my hands.

I feel for all of those workers suddenly without paychecks potentially for weeks. Not sure when or how all of the emergency funds to help the people and the economy can kick in. Especially since most of the government workers are working remotely, too.

My wife and I drove to Olympia on Sunday to set up a computer for my mother in law so she could work at home. We ended up going to several stores looking for computer cables. There still seemed to be plenty of people going about their business as if nothing was up.

I sanitized my hands frequently and I used a rubber glove when I put gas in the car.

I miss normal.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

In a fog...no, really


There's a fog upon L.A.
And my friends have lost their way
We'll be over soon they said
Now they've lost themselves instead
--Blue Jay Way by George Harrison 
Actually there is a fog upon downtown Seattle. And I'm not referring to the Corona Virus. It is a real fog and fairly thick for Seattle. It kind of adds to the surreal mood in the city. The streets are pretty much empty. The train I rode in on this morning was fairly empty, too. People are staying home in droves clutching hand sanitizer and peering out the blinds.

It is pretty cold today, too. Not very spring like. And daylight savings time springing us forward over the weekend didn't help lighten things up. The only thing bright about the morning was the full moon peaking through the fog.

The fog has now burned off and it is sunny with barely a cloud in the sky. It is hard to believe that behind all of this tranquility the world is doing its best Chicken Little impression and squawking about mandatory social distancing.

As I worked out, I watched the image of a cruise ship pulling into Oakland with a boat load of passengers who had been exposed to the Corona Virus. All that I could think was who in their right mind would be taking a cruise right now. But I quickly remembered that you book sometimes a year or two in advance and pay vast quantities of money to go on a cruise. What an unlucky bastard to have booked one in the middle of a pandemic and didn't buy cancellation insurance.

"Marge, pack your bags for the cruise."
"But what about the Corona Virus?"
"I can't get a refund so we are going. Just have some extra shrimp in the buffet. We'll probably get food poisoning before we get the Corona Virus. Or we'll just get sick from drinking too many Corona's."

At least that is how I imagine the conversations went before jumping on a cruise ship.

Friday, March 06, 2020

Blog in the time of cholera


“wisdom comes to us when it can no longer do any good.” 
― Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera
My apologies to Gabriel García Márquez for re-purposing her great book title.  But the title has been going through my head in these troubled times of panic and misinformation in the face of a virus that doesn't seem to move as quickly as the panic it inspires.

They tell us that the people who are most at risk are:

  • Over 60 years of age 
  • Have underlying health conditions including include heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes 
  • Have weakened immune systems 
  • Pregnant
So, being over 60, I am technically at risk. So my company tells me I may work from my home if I choose. But I am torn. I don't feel compelled to cower at home in a self-imposed exile from an invisible bug that could or could not make me sick and in extreme cases kill me. Most of the prescriptions I take come with a list of potential side effects that make the Corona Virus look like a pansy in comparison.

Again it is the panic that frustrates me more than anything. Because the only difference between today and two weeks ago is that several people died in a senior care center not even in Seattle. All of a sudden, we became ground zero for the virus in the United States. But nothing really changed other than people began making runs on stores and hoarding hand sanitizer and toilet paper. It once again confirms for me the power of people's perceptions versus the reality.

I walked on the beach with my daughter last Sunday and noted that it was an ordinary activity untouched by the madness swirling around the virus outbreak. It occurred to me that nature doesn't panic or over react. It evolves and adapts...slowly, but surely.

Pity that humans can't take the same approach. But we seem to be hard wired for fight or flight. And so many of the things that we react to now are imagined or potential versus real and concrete.  

Monday, March 02, 2020

Don't pandemic!

I would say that the world has officially gone crazy. And it is the "nothing to fear but fear itself" that Franklin Delano Roosevelt counseled us about that is driving people crazy. The Corona virus that is spooking people to make runs on the grocery store and stock up on toilet paper is the boogeyman. It also caused the stock market to tank big time.

Once again I marvel at what sheep people are. Or lemmings. It is their panic that is more harmful than the spread of a flu like disease that can kill already sick people. I'm not poo-poohing the fact that it is concerning. But the misinformation about it is mindnumbing. People are told that wearing face masks is useless yet they have cleared the stores of face masks.

And now we are letting our lives grind to a halt as we wring our hands and wait. But wait for what? I don't want hunker down too afraid to peek outside my windows for fear I'll see someone cough. They have us all washing our hands constantly like Lady Macbeth.

It's an OCD person's dream come true.

I hate things that take me out of my nice, comfortable routines. I just want to worry about paying for my kid's college and retirement. I don't want to be sucked into the nightmare of global panic because of a cold on steroids.

The thing is, a year from now most of this will be forgotten and people will go right back to not washing their hands and touching their faces. Let's just hope that worse virus that infected the Whitehouse four years ago is gone.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Worth the weight


Eight years ago I wrote about my efforts to lose weight. Back in 2009 I lost 52 pounds. Four years later I'd regained 20 pounds so I upped my game and lost those 20 pounds. But by last November I realized I'd pretty much regained 40 pounds. So I went into diet and exercise mode. So far I have lost 26 pounds.

The difference in my efforts this time is that I use a couple of free apps (that beg me to pay for premium and lots of features that I don't care about). One app, myfitnesspal, allows me to log everything I eat and drink and my exercise. It tracks calories I take in and calories I burn. And it tracks my weight.

The other app, mapmywalk, helps me track how far I walk and how many calories I burn on weekends. Both apps, combined with weekly weigh ins, keep me from deluding myself about progress.

The pounds aren't magically burning off, but they are slowly dropping. All the experts say that is the way to shed pounds and not quickly gain them back. Although I have dropped 26 pounds and notice the difference, no one else has. But then again, no one noticed when I fell and broke my nose and had a black eye, either.

Regardless, there is a certain satisfaction I get by losing weight. I feel more in control and better about myself. There is a rush you get when you step on a scale and see a smaller number than the week before. And it is nice to have clothing feel loose on my body. I can even fit in the jeans I've held onto for several years.

Although losing weight is beneficial to my body, I do it more for the impact on my mind. During the years when I grow lax and start gaining weight and being less than mindful of what I eat, I feel bad about myself. I feel weak and guilty.

The weird thing about this time is that I don't really feel deprived of anything. I don't miss the snacks that my co-workers seem to constantly consume. Logging what I eat makes me aware of what I am eating. Upping my workouts during the week have increased my endurance. Walking more on weekends also helps my mental state and given me more time with my wife and son who sometimes walk with me.

I'm kind of unclear on my actual target weight. I'm shoot for at least losing another 20 pounds. And then instead of telling myself I can ease off, I'm going to keep monitoring what I eat and how much I exercise. My goal is to keep the weight off. And what I've discovered about myself, it is mainly a state of mind that helps me lose weight. So I just need to keep that state of mind focused on keeping the weigh off.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Restart


One of the challenges of being a geriatric parent of school aged children is dealing with their homework. Since my wife is a teacher by profession, she handles most of the math questions. I tend to be relegated to just trying to motivate my children to do their homework. My daughter isn't really a problem. She takes it upon herself to start and finish her homework. And she rarely asks me for help except the definition of a new word or two.

My son is another story.

My son isn't a big fan of school. He takes the position that, if the work they give him to do is pointless, it is pointless to do it. I've tried explaining the need to develop skills that help you learn the things you care about, but he isn't really buying it. And part of me kind of admires his willingness to call bull shit on some of the assignments they give.

The latest one was to read a book and instead of just doing a book report write papers and develop materials as if you were turning the book into a movie. Now to me, it actually sounds kind of fun although it is a bit too much like the work I do with ad agencies producing video spots. But my son doesn't think it is fun. After much prodding and poking we got him to do some of the written assignments. But he refused to follow the examples the teacher provided for writing a letter of inquiry to an actor to play the lead role in the movie or other letters to production companies to produce the movie.

For whatever reason, my son is a free range writer. He doesn't use capital letters, punctuation or paragraphs. He just writes stream of consciousness much the way James Joyce is famous for. Having a degree in journalism and spending many years as a copy writer and editor, this drives me crazy. It also drives the teachers crazy. After arguing with him for an unreasonable amount of time he allowed me to edit one of the documents. Then he was outraged that I tweaked some of his sentences in some places to eek out what I thought he was trying to say.


Friday, February 14, 2020

Do you still write?


I had lunch early this week with a couple of old friends. I hadn't seen them in quite awhile. And I'm afraid I monopolized the conversation about what was going on in my life. At one point one of them asked, "Do you still write?"

My response was that I have been writing a blog for 16 years. The response was kind of a blank stare and some comments about not being able to keep up with blogs.

I suppose a better question would be, "Do you still write anything anyone reads?" And I could have honestly responded, "Of course not."

Truth is, no one "keeps up with blogs" these days. It is a challenging medium. It does require a commitment from readers to check in every now and then because a blog isn't typically spoon fed to everyone. It also takes a commitment from the blogger to produce interesting content on a regular basis that appeals to your readers.

I've failed miserably on that front. The problem with not pandering to a regular audience is that you pander to yourself. And let's face it, people really don't want to read about me. They want something they can relate to.

I was better at it when I had regular readers and I knew their personalities...or at least their online personalities. I found myself crafting stuff I knew they would respond to. And they did.

Until they didn't.

I admit that most of what I write now is therapeutic. I try to keep the more personal, self pity stuff offline. But I come here now mainly to keep from getting rusty. I don't want to end up being the tin man frozen mid ax stroke next to an abandoned cabin somewhere over the rainbow.

Besides, there's no place like Dizgraceland.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Dreams of travelling


I tend to dream or be aware of my dreams an hour or so before Alexa starts blasting out chimes to wake me up. This morning I was dreaming about being stressed out trying to catch a flight that would simply have me fly to a destination and turn around and fly back.

I have quite a few dreams about having to pack quickly to make a travel connection. I few them as stress dreams. I rarely dream about laying on a beach sipping a tropical drink. And as with many of my dreams, I am in the house I grew up in. Or I am in this house that I've never been to but appears in my dreams a lot. It is a a series of connected rooms or houses. It kind of reminds me of New Orleans.

In another life, I would happily live in New Orleans and be an artist. I would not be a corporate suck up and ever have to hear about SMART goals or cascading goals. I would not receive "feedback" in performance reviews. I would not care about strategic priorities. I would not be judged by how well I conformed to corporate values.

But I digress.

The thing is that I am at the end of my career. I have maybe five years left in the work force (if they don't try and "ok boomer" me out earlier). I'd like to be having nice, peaceful dreams of unhurried environments, not rushing around trying to find my wallet or passport and catching a flight at the last minute. Those are stress dreams and I think I've worked long enough to get a break from stress dreams.

I know it is pointless at this juncture of my life to question my career choice, but I am having serious doubts about my job. I must have been subconsciously giving off some burn out vibe because I got blasted for body language and not paying attention at meetings. I don't think the "feedback" was particularly fair or accurate, but who does believe such things?

But it did shake my foundation of who I am and what I'm doing. I've always considered myself a "creative." And only about five percent of what I do in my job could be described as creative. I'll admit I don't like managing people. And from some of my "feedback," people aren't to keen on my managing.

Thing is, I've been working since I was 16 if you don't count mowing lawns and paper routes. I've spent the last 38 years pretty much doing different versions of the same thing in pretty much the same place. Every time I think I deserve some credit for time served I run into the reality that no one is irreplaceable.

If only I could dream myself away from it all.


Saturday, February 01, 2020

Just gathering data


My first real job years ago (other than mowing lawns and delivering a weekly newspaper) was working at the public library, first shelving books and later working in circulation. I started working there when I was 16 years old. I think I worked there maybe five years. It wasn’t a great job. It didn’t pay much, but I reasoned that it was better than working in fast food or at a restaurant. In retrospect, I would have probably made more money working at a restaurant.

Shelving books was mindnumbingly boring. And I had to endure lectures from reference librarians (the elite of in the library hierarchy) about how books needed to breath so don’t just shove them in an already full shelf. I would nod and smile. Then I’d keep shoving the books in place once the librarian was out of sight.

When I graduated from high school and entered college, I started working as a circulation clerk. It was less boring, but it made me interact with the public. And although you’d imagine that people in a library would be a bit higher on the IQ food chain then elsewhere you would be wrong. I often dealt with people floating in the shallow end of the gene pool. And there were transients who came to the library to sleep and get out of the elements. And there were the perverts who roamed the stacks trying to look up women’s dresses.

You didn’t have to have any special qualifications to work in circulation. It didn’t require a library science degree. You just had to know how to type. Much of the time I either checked books out or checked books in. The best time was working in the circulation office and you could at least carry on a conversation with other circulation clerks.

Most people who worked in circulation did so because they just needed a job. Many were like Starbuck’s barista’s are today: wannabe artists, writers and actors. One of those was a Chicago transplant with a full ZZ-Top beard named Kelly McFadden. Kelly was a playwright trapped in a circulation clerks body. He was a new father and needed to support his family. And he was super cool.

Kelly and I quickly became friends even though he was in his 30s and I was probably 19 or 20 at the time. He shared his philosophy on life and having to deal with looney people with me. He’d come off the front desk after checking out long lines of people and say, “Tim, I’m just gathering data...just gathering data.”

I loved that phrase. Because Kelly was taking in all of the madness we experienced and storing it in his brain to be used in his writing. At the time, I fancied myself as a great novelist in the making, so I adopted Kelly’s attitude that no matter how mind boggling our experience was, it was stuff we could use in our writing.

The other thing Kelly did for me was introduce me to the music of Tom Waits. And to this day, I think Waits is an inspirational genius.

When I moved away from Boise to finish college in Seattle, I lost contact with Kelly. But I think about what he taught me to this day. And although I never ended up writing a novel, I’ve gathered and continue to gather a great deal of data. Much of it has been used in my blog.

So thanks Kelly. I hope you wrote a highly successful play and are profiting from all the data you gathered.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The father, the son and the holy ghost


I was always confused by the phrase, "holy ghost" as a kid. I couldn't get the image of Casper the friendly ghost out of my head. Coincidentally, Caspar was the name of one of the wise men or kings who stalked Jesus when he was born.

But I digress.

The disturbing image above is from a filter on Snapchat. There was another one that showed you what you would look like as an elderly person. But I didn't look much different, so I passed. I found this one creepy enough. Again, I can't get over how much I look like my great, great grandfather with a full beard. The spooky little kid me is just wrong. My eyes didn't look that hard when I was a boy. That came with age.

I don't really understand Snapchat or the whole filter thing. They are fun to mess with, but I don't get how people use the app as a social media tool. Why would you send a friend the above image?

But then again, I am a boomer and the mysteries of the younger generations are shrouded in a fog that will never lift in my aged brain.

Though I wonder what barriers were put up between generations before someone came up with Baby Boomers, Gen X-ers, Millennials and Gen Z-ers. I suppose it was just a battle of wills between old coots and young whippersnappers.

The thing that strikes me about the above photo is how much it looks like a portrait done in a photo studio back in the 1960s. Now that is an art that has died...fortunately.

And I do look like a holy ghost. Or at least a ghost.

The image haunts me anyway.


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Let it go


There are certain topics I have struggled with letting go of over the years: the loss of followers of my blog, being invisible, not being funny and repeating myself. I've tried rationalizing. I've tried bargaining with myself. And I've tried going into denial. But the damned things keep rising up like the undead in an episode of the Walking Dead.

And speaking of the Walking Dead, don't you think after all of these years the zombies would have rotted away? They have been decomposing for years and there shouldn't be much left of them.

But I digress.

The thing that has been bugging me most lately is the lack of comments and the lack of readers period. I know I try and just write for myself, but occasionally having feedback used to motivate me if not inspire me.

The hardest part for me is that the people who used to read my blog and comment just seemed to stop without any indication of why. The Gen Z word for it is "ghosting." It's when you completely cut someone out of your life without warning or explanation. Normally it is used when you ghost someone you were dating. But it applies here.

The thing is, it leaves you without closure. Was it something I said or didn't say? Were they bored? Busy? Dealing with there own stuff? You see how easy it is to internalize stuff when people just disappear?

I realize that much of what I blog about lacks relevance to many of the people online. My demographic is Boomers and there doesn't seem to be many of them represented online anymore. The Millennials and Gen Z-ers just can't relate to a past middle aged white man with an odd sense of humor and a tendency to repeat himself about the past.

But it is the ten or so people who used to read my blog and leave these funny comments that I don't understand.

Oh, I know some people just got burned out on blogging and reading blogs. And social media came along and made it easier to engage without too much effort. Plus attention spans have shrunk substantially. And it's not like I read any blogs myself. But that's mainly because the people I used to read stopped blogging.

I'd like to say I can just let it go, but I know it will always bug me until I post my last post and slip off into whatever there is after you ghost yourself.  But hey, since I've been invisible for years, being a ghost should be an easy transition.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

And I oop


VSCO girl is a term, generally used as an insult, for a young, usually white woman who posts trendy pictures of herself edited on the app VSCO. Stereotypes of the VSCO girl include wearing scrunchies and Birkenstock sandals, drinking out of Hydro Flask reusable water canisters, saying sksksk and I oop, and generally seeking attention online.
--dictionary.com

Although I don't think there are many redeeming qualities found in TikTok, it has introduced me to some Gen Z terms that probably would have otherwise flown way under my radar.

Not that that would have been a bad thing.

However, when my teenage daughter started "sksksk..ing" the other day I joined her and freaked her out that I knew what a VSCO girl was. It's like I cracked her code.

Granted I have picked up other Gen Z terms while listening to my son while we play Fortnite. These include, "yeet," "salty," "triggered," "bruh," "chill," and "iconic." Oh yeah, and "ok boomer." Not that they originated all of these terms, they just co-opted them.

I've been trying to think of terms we had when I was a teenager. We said, "cool" a lot. Before something was "cool" it was "tough." "Far out" was popular, but mainly with John Denver. I don't think I ever said, "feeling groovy." In junior high, I remember a not so flattering term was to call someone a "fish." I'm not even sure what that meant. I still say, "dude" more than I should.

The thing I need to remember is that just because you know the terms the Gen Z-ers use doesn't mean you should use them. I tried "and I oop" on my daughter and she just rolled her eyes. But there is power in at least understanding what they are talking about without using the words yourself.

I'm cool with that.

Monday, January 13, 2020

And miles to snow before I sleep...


In the land of rain, snow is an anomaly.  It confuses people who are used to a liquid sky and not a frozen one. Ironically, Seattle is the gateway to Alaska, a place where snow just is.

Pretty as it may be, I don't really like snow. It stresses me out because it creates uncertainty and a feeling of being trapped. Schools close. Cars slide. And here, store shelves are emptied at the mention of snow. People in the Pacific Northwest are snow flakes.

Sure, when I was a kid, I loved snow. I loved building snow men and sledding and snowball fights. But our schools never closed because we all lived within walking distance of school. So there were no school buses to slide around on icy streets. And growing up, there weren't a lot of hills to make driving a challenge anyway.

I find it ironic that, even with all of our technology, we still can't control or predict the weather with a lot of certainty. So the weather is like death. You know it is coming, you just don't really know when.

Meanwhile, I stare out my office window at the flakes drifting down and melting as they hit the dark pavement. I am glad it is melting.I have yet to be stuck at work because of snow. My wife and children are home enjoying an extra day off. My dog is there too, probably disconcerted that she has nowhere in the snow covered back yard to pee or poop without getting her butt cold and wet.

And there are miles to snow before I sleep.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

They say it's Elvis' birthday...

If Elvis hadn't died in 1977, he would have been 85 today. And it is hard to imagine what the King of Rock and Roll would have looked like at 85. But in honor of his birthday I'm posting some photos of my Elvis holiday ornament collection as they looked after I took down the Elvis tree on New Year's Day.







Lady's and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building. Happy birthday Elvis!

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Measuring time


And so it is the year 2020. It doesn't feel much different than 2019...or 2018 for that matter. It's all arbitrary anyway. The calendar is an artificial construct we can blame on the Catholic church to try and give Christianity some credibility by artificially pinpointing when Jesus lived.If the calendar was real, the countdown would have begun when the earth was spit out of whatever star it came from.

Or the countdown would have begun when man's ancestors crawled out of the primeval ooze and started thinking.

But no, we are stuck with a couple of a thousand years plus two decades. And there is still bickering about this being the start of the second decade because there was no year "0." Give me a fucking break. Is that all people have to worry about?

I wonder, if the calendar had never been invented, would we age?

I imagine, though, that people would have just come up with other ways to parse out time. They would probably refer to events rather than years, like, "Yeah, Johnnie was born in the time cousin Ed got kicked in the head by a mule."

Regardless, now we are stuck with the calendar and clocks and aging. I am still startled every time I look in the mirror. My inside self isn't aging as fast as my outside self. My daughter was going through old photographs yesterday. There were the few photos taken during my childhood. I was struck by the black and white moments captured by my mother, primarily on holidays and when were camping. There were also the school pictures that highlighted the gradual transition from childhood to young adulthood.

Since it was more complex to take photos back then, the moments captured were further apart. Today, it seems like every moment is captured. So it is harder to see the impact of the calendar.

Facebook fucks with your brain by periodically dredging up memories of things you posted two, three or five years before. Since I mainly post photos of my kids, it tugs at my heart to see how quickly we lost the years when they were excited when Daddy was home. Now I am lucky to get a grunt of acknowledgement when I walk in the door.

But I suppose that is what measuring time is all about, acknowledging what is past and can never be again. Or acknowledging how much of time we repeat.

Over and over again.