Photo of the Day, Feb. 23, 2020

I have been lazy about posting shots to my blog because Instagram makes it so easy. Maybe I should look for an Instagram-to-WordPress plugin.

In the meantime, this shot was actually taken on Feb. 20th. Sunrise at Sapperton Station. The blue lights in the sky are likely just glitches on the camera lens…or the start of a UFO invasion.

Sunrise at Sapperton station.

Inktober 2016 in February 2020

I finally decided to start drawing again because drawing is relaxing and I need to relax more. I chose to return to what got me (temporarily) rolling again–Inktober!

You might note that it is now February. This is correct. But I didn’t take part in the first three Inktobers, so I’ve decided to start with the first set of prompts from 2016. I won’t necessarily post one per day, but I’ll try, because the quick turnaround is part of the fun.

The one thing I am doing differently this time is featuring Gum Gum People in not just some, but ALL of the prompts. 31 days of Gum Gum People. Hee hee, as they would say.

Here’s the first prompt from Inktober 2016, FAST.


Treadmill miracle walk

The miracle is that after a day of coughing, feeling generally sick and above all else, indolent, I actually got on the treadmill tonight and did a half hour workout.

I did not cough once during the workout.

I started coughing immediately after completing the workout.

I also noticed my heart rate was much slower than normal to recover. Not that it was crazy high or anything, it just took a few minutes longer than usual to get back below 100 (which is the arbitrary point I’ve chosen for when I stop the treadmill and get off…the treadmill).

The stats in brackets are from my previous walk, just a little over a week ago, completed during the small window between the bad flu and the bad cold. As you can see, everything is slightly worse, but actually not too bad considering the coughing, congestion and general unwellness I continue to experience.

Here’s to a healthier week. At least it is mercifully one day shorter than normal.

Speed: 6.5 km/h
Incline: 10

Pace: 9:09/km (9:06 km/h)
Time: 30:05 (30.04)
Distance: 3.28 km (3.30 km)
Calories burned: 301 (298)
BPM: 142 (140)

Sick sick sick sick sick sick


Last Sunday I got on the treadmill and had a good ol’ workout for the first time in weeks, finally recovered from The Great Flu of 2020.

The next day at work I was feeling a little phlegmy and at first dismissed it as some lingering effect from the flu. I felt fine otherwise. That night I went to bed thinking that this was something. I woke up in the night, my throat raw and inflamed, my sinuses itchy and annoyed. It was something. Something bad.

I missed a day but seemed to bounce back quickly, so returned to work on Wednesday. Thursday I realized that I had not actually recovered, but was simply entering a different phase of what now seemed to be a cold. The most delightful part was getting to experience a whole different set of symptoms compared to the flu.

Thursday was the “running nose” day and when I say running, I’m talking Olympic-caliber sprinting here. It was awful. Also my sinuses began this back and forth of being clogged and unclogged, like a dam that was constantly releasing water, the shut back up, over and over.

I missed another day on Friday. It was now the long weekend and I was sick again.

By Friday night the first of the coughing began. The nose ceased its running and choose instead to just clog up permanently. I tried drinking some water while it was in this state and the experience was weird and unpleasant. Go ahead, try drinking something while holding your nose shut. Do this over a sink or outside, though, because you’re bound to spill. Turns out that breathing is important.

I kept waking up Friday night with my mouth bone dry, because I was breathing through it rather than not breathing at all. Saturday the stuffiness seemed to wax and wane again, but the coughing continued. My voice began to grow hoarse. The cough medicine did nothing or produced an effect that I could not measure with my working senses.

Speaking of senses, the last few days I have lost both my sense of smell and taste. I lifted a garbage bag with a day-old fresh chicken wrapper in it that had to stink to the hills, but smelled not a thing. That was kind of nice. But eating food without tasting it kind of sucks.

By tonight–Sunday–my nose is now officially only half-plugged, a major breakthrough. The coughing is worse when I sit or lay down, so my voice has also gotten worse. I don’t talk right now so much as croak. My voice cracks like I’m revisiting puberty. Once was enough, thanks.

But my sense of smell has returned a tiny bit. I had some mango passionfruit tea tonight and if I smushed the dry teabag right into my nose I could faintly detect a pleasant aroma of fruit.

Tonight I will take NyQuil and hope that my nose stays partly-functional through the night. Tomorrow I hope I “turn the corner” on the coughing because it wears me out, almost as much as getting sick with a cold right after recovering from the flu. It’s silly and wrong and I wonder what karmic payback this is for. Or maybe it’s just riding public transit every day.

Anyway, I thought about complaining about being sick and how it wouldn’t really change anything or make me feel better, but it got me writing, so there’s that. Here’s to better health for the rest of 2020 (pretty pretty please).

SkyTrain vs. dump truck

Last night I had a dream and instead of being about world peace, it was about riding on one of those scary old original SkyTrain cars.

In this instance, I was on an olden train and it was entering a terminus station that was similar to but not quite Waterfront station, as it was clearly inside a tunnel. As it began to brake I noticed a pickup truck up ahead and it was crossing the track, as if it was a conventional at-grade rail crossing. I was somewhat concerned, but the truck got across in time and seemed to wait on the other side, possibly because it was in a tunnel and had nowhere to go.

But once the pickup cleared out, I saw another more ominous obstacle: a giant dump truck that was sitting on the track, with the back end presented to us in a somewhat rude manner.

As mentioned, the train was braking, so a high-speed collision was not in the cards, but it seemed some sort of collision was and sure enough, the train bumped into the dump truck, pushing it away because behold the power of a Mark I SkyTrain car. After this it seemed the train had too much momentum and was going to crash into whatever was at the end of the tunnel, so a switch was activated to divert the train left and into some kind of auxiliary tunnel, except it seemed quite short and narrow and sloped down about 45 degrees. So the train sort of crashed, anyway. Everyone was fine, though, so we got out and after that I’m not sure what happened. Maybe we all went and yelled at the dump truck driver.

Anyway, my concerns over riding the increasingly aged Mark I trains is clearly starting to manifest in my subconscious, so hooray for that.

Treadmill walk: Finally another treadmill walk

After having my energy sapped for three weeks due to the flu and its lingering fun side effects, I finally got back on the treadmill again for the first time since January 15th.

I did a 30 minute walk and at first felt surprisingly peppy. That peppiness started to wane a bit toward the end, but overall it went better than I would have expected, considering I’ve been mildly dreading any sort of exercise based on the way my energy level has zeroed out by mid-evening the past week. But here I am at 9 p.m. having survived the first treadmill workout of February.

The stats, with the previous 30 minute workout in brackets for comparison. Somewhat surprisingly, my pace was actually better and my BPM was only a wee bit higher. Maybe listening to R.E.M.’s Accelerate helped.

Speed: 6.5 km/h
Incline: 10

Pace: 9:06/km (9:11 km/h)
Time: 30:04 (30.08)
Distance: 3.30 km (3.28 km)
Calories burned: 298 (296)
BPM: 140 (138)

My own made-up career test results

I took one of those “answer a bunch of questions and we’ll tell you which careers you are totally suited for” quizzes last week and partway through I suspected they would ask me to pony up a few bucks to see the results. Sure enough, I was asked to fork over $9.99 to learn that I might make a great chicken farmer.

My unpaid conclusion is that I need to get into the job quiz creation business. $10 per result? I could get rich! Slowly, slowly rich.

I may yet be willing to offer money for some of this “career advice” but I’m not convinced the specific site in question is worth the money, meaning I’ll have to do research on these sites first. Once again, looking for work is work, even if I’m not looking for anything specific (yet).

While I contemplate the horror of having to do research (I hate research the same way I hate elevators. Maybe I had a traumatic experience with research when I was a child that I’m blocking now.) I figure I could get the old idea train rolling by just getting out and pushing myself.

Which is to say, I’m going to list a bunch of careers I might (“might”) be suited for that I’m coming up with off the top of my head. Here we go, yay!

Awesome careers for someone
(Possibly me, possibly someone else, possibly no one)

  • Chicken farmer
    • Pros:
      • Chickens are small and sort of cute, maybe?
      • The rich smell of earth, honest and pure
      • Be my own boss
      • Chickens might talk back but it’s all just clucking, so it’s fine
      • Never have to shop for chicken for dinner ever again
      • Not cooped up (lol) in a stuffy office, sitting at a desk and prematurely aging
    • Cons:
      • Chicken poop
      • Probably have to get up early
      • Not a life of fabulous wealth and luxury
      • Rich smell is actually gross, because of the aforementioned poop
  • Singer
    • Pros:
      • Who doesn’t like singing?
      • All you need is your voice
      • Look, “Friday” was a best-selling single. FRIDAY.
      • Creative work nourishes the soul
    • Cons:
      • Earning a living could be challenging, resulting in starvation and death
      • Autotune can only go so far
      • Would need musicians or have to steal music or something

I have run out of time (I am writing this on my lunch break, which may be ironic), so I will add to this post soon(tm).

Laptop Quest 2020: Maybe a better keyboard

I have two laptops currently:

  • A sixth generation (2018) ThinkPad Carbon X1
  • A 2016 MacBook Pro without touch bar

I got the ThinkPad because I a) hated the MacBook Pro’s butterfly keyboard and b) worried that it would fail out of warranty, leading to a $600-700 repair bill, given Apple’s insane (or insanely clever?) design that necessitates not just replacing the faulty keyboard, but basically half of the entire laptop.

Apple then started its keyboard repair program, which covers every model with a butterfly keyboard (this is every MacBook released since 2015, not counting the MacBook Air prior to its 2018 redesign). For four years after purchase, Apple will repair or replace a defective keyboard for no charge.

I bought the MacBook Pro in December 2016, so I am good for 10 more months, after which the cost of repair will again rise to about $700. Or maybe even more, because Apple has never been shy about raising prices.

This whole thing is further complicated by a couple of things related to my writing:

  • I went back to Ulysses, which is Mac-only
  • I still really hate the butterfly keyboard. I find it uncomfortable on my finger tips, and that’s even when I’m not applying my usual “fists of gorilla” approach to typing

I’m wed to macOS, but have begun looking for other writing app alternatives again, because the tool is really secondary to the writing itself.

But wait! In October 2019 Apple updated the 15 inch MacBook Pro to a 16 inch model and brought back the more traditional scissor switch keyboard. Instead of having half a millimeter of travle, it now has one entire millimeter of travel! I tried it out in an Apple store and it’s better, but it’s still not great.

The ThinkPad keyboard feels luxuriously deep and satisfying in comparison (my partner is using the ThinkPad now, as his $200 HP laptop is not running anymore so much as hobbling along intermittently).

So my current options are:

  • Hope that Apple comes out with an equivalent to my current MacBook Pro this year with a “good” keyboard and a price that is not any more outrageous that what it is currently. Rumors suggest the possibility of this is pretty good, but Apple is notoriously unreliable for updates on anything other than the iPhone and Apple Watch. And they have treated the Mac line pretty shoddily post-Jobs.
  • Get a Windows laptop and find other software to use. I’ve been trying out a bunch of new writing apps, as well as noodling around in some old standbys, like the perpetually-in-beta version 3 of Scrivener for PC. For the actual device, the Dell XPS 13 and ThinkPad (7th gen) both seem like strong candidates. The Surface Laptop 3 can be had for a decent price, too, and I’m not concerned about its relative lack of IO.

It’s early, so I’m not really leaning in one direction or the other yet. On the one hand, Ulysses is a really nice app. On the other, I resent having to pay a subscription for it (the updates have clearly not been enough to warrant the cost, which I’ll go into in a separate post). I’m also not a huge fan of macOS. It’s fine and for writing it does everything I need, but I am both extremely comfortable with Windows 10 and really like some of the native features of Windows (it may come as no surprise that windows management is really good, where in macOS it is just short of a disaster).

Anyway, I’m typing this on the MacBook Pro now and my finger tips are starting to hurt, so unless I switch to voice dictation, I am going to end this post here. More to come!

Only 135 days until summer

Yes, I am counting. The snow has stopped and the drizzly, cold rain has returned, which is actually an improvement.

It’s also a mere 42 days until the spring equinox, when we switch back to Daylight Saving Time and I no longer have to endure getting up in the dark to go to work and coming back home in the dark, with actual daylight reserved for when I’m working and mostly indoors. Tech support doesn’t require a lot of going outside.

I find myself utterly uninspired when it comes to writing on the blog lately, but I figure if I start writing I will hopefully get past the hump and start producing utter gems. Utter Gems is also the name of my Talking Heads cover band.

The post-flu world

Yes, given how awful and lingering this flu has been, I am now dividing my life into pre-flu and post-flu.

Every night for about the past week I have intended to post something to the blog–maybe a haiku, or a comment about the weather (done), but every night, after dinner and by mid-evening I find I have no energy left. The idea of laying down becomes immensely appealing. The idea of engaging my brain while sitting upright seems like far too much work.

That said, I’m forcing myself tonight, as you can now see. So here’s a haiku on the flu. A fluku, if you will.

The flu strikes swiftly
Energy sinks like a stone
Weeks later, still blah

Okay, not exactly my finest work, but it’s a start. Of something.

January 2020 weight loss report: Down 0.7 pounds

It’s a new year and time for new fat! Well, hopefully not.

First, a review of last year. I started the year at 167.5 pounds, 17.5 pounds from my target of 150. I ended the year at 171.8, up 4.3 pounds. As weight loss plans go, this was not exactly the ideal. The only positive is that I got through the month of December without gaining (or losing weight), a somewhat impressive feat given how much candy and treats one gets plied with over the holidays.

I start this year at 171.1 pounds, which is down for the month of January. I had dipped even lower thanks to the flu, but some last minute indulgences pushed me back over 170 pounds. I used food as comfort again, which was bad and I feel bad. But it was yummy. But still, bad.

So here I am 21.1 pounds away from my goal. I am almost recovered from the flu and will start running again. I have managed to keep the snacking under control lately, so who knows, maybe this will bee the year I actually dip below 160 again.

January 1: 171.8 pounds
January 31: 171.1 pounds (down 0.7 pounds)

Year to date: From 171.8 to 171.1 pounds (down 0.7 pounds)

And the body fat:

January 1: 21% (36.1 pounds of fat)
January 31:
21.6% (36.9 pounds of fat) (up 0.8 pounds)