The cocoon effect

I have a fairly long commute to work. I take the Expo Line from Sapperton to Waterfront and travel time is 36 minutes, per the Translink site. I then transfer to the Canada Line, traveling from Waterfront to Langara-49th Avenue, another 14 minutes. That’s 50 minutes, with another 10 minutes or so spent waiting on platforms and walking, so about 60 minutes total. Not the world’s worst commute, but not exactly a trip around the block, either.

I usually pass the time in one of two ways, either listening to music (usually when I have just finished a book, or am forced to stand), or reading. I have read dozens more books than I would have otherwise thanks to this commute.

Of late, I’ve been doing something a little different. My current headphones are Jabra Moves and while they are technically on-ear, they cover my ears enough to be pseudo over-ear. This means they can cut out a decent amount of ambient noise. This is nice when listening to music, because it lets me keep the volume lower, and the actual music is just a lot easier to hear. Earbuds that don’t form a seal, like my recently-deceased AirPods, are generally terrible on the SkyTrain, because even the quietest cars are noisy, and the racket forces you to crank the volume and put yourself on course to be as deaf as Pete Townsend.

The different thing I’ve been doing is putting on the headphones and then…reading. By this, I mean, I don’t actually listen to music, I just use the headphones as makeshift ear muffs. It’s great! The headphones are comfortable enough to wear for the entire commute, they don’t block out all sound, so I can still hear loud/alarming noises, but they bring a level of tranquility to an otherwise noisy ride that I find soothing. Sometimes I don’t even read, I just put on the headphones and revel in all sound around me being muffled.

When I arrive at my destination, taking the headphones off feels like emerging back into the real world. It’s not unpleasant, exactly, but it effectively serves to let me know my time in the blissfully quiet cocoon is over.

Maybe I just need a set of cheap earplugs.

Amusing cat image, May 2019 edition

With my new PC currently down, it is now time to turn my attention to cats being weird and funny. I present unenthusiastic cat vs. enthusiastic puppies:

World golf championship, May 2019: Mini edition

Jeff and I renewed our fierce mini-golf rivalry on the weekend in a match that was filled with drama and a lot of crowds. We went to Eaglequest on Mother’s Day and mothers got to play for free. We had people in front of us and behind. The place was packed. It was a little weird, as last summer the crowds were minimal. Admittedly, it was insanely hot at the time, too, so maybe people were avoiding heatstroke.

I was set to rumble with a pink club, but sadly there were no pink balls, so I chose yellow.

Jeff was more color-coordinated, with both an orange club and orange ball.

It started out surprisingly cool out, hence the jackets, but warmed up as we progressed, just like the competition!

I started out with an early lead and through the first nine holes lead 29 to Jeff’s 35, a comfy six stroke margin. Keep in mind that the course is a Par 2 for every hole, so we were both already well off the ideal of 18.

Something weird happened on the second half of the course, as my verve swerved, right into the sand traps, out of bounds and everywhere except in or even near any hole. Jeff began closing the gap. In fact, we tied on three of the latter holes, but Jeff came out ahead on five. This meant that on Hole 18 we were tied at 57 each. My lead was gone. The final hole is a straight shot up the middle, though there are two uphill slopes. I used brute force when finesse was demanded and shot a par 5. Jeff shot a par 3, completing his come-from-behind victory and winning 60 to 62.

Still, it was fun all around and it perfectly sets up the revenge match later in the summer. Maybe I’ll play better when I’m sweating like crazy.

Cloudy with a chance of doom

The chance of doom is minimal, but you never know.

Today the sun has departed and the clouds have rolled in. My mind is similarly clouded as I question the effectiveness of the so-called “extra strength” cough medicine I took this morning that has not particularly stopped me from coughing. Maybe it’s a perspective thing. If I hadn’t taken the cough medicine, I would be on the floor, in endless coughing spasms, my sides sore, feeling worn out from the effort. In that light, the cough medicine is actually working pretty good.

Meanwhile, this flu or whatever it is has reached the annoying stage. I try to remain positive and think how much better I’ll feel when it’s moved along, but right now a nap would be seriously nice. Just curl up on the cold tile floor, right here. I don’t need carpeting. Or a pillow. I’m surprised I’m not napping right now, in this chair, as I type.

Changing gears, I looked through my blog a few days ago semi-randomly. I do this from time to time, usually starting out by searching for something specific, and ending down the rabbit hole that can keep me checking YouTube videos for hours when I totally didn’t mean to do that.

One of the things I re-discovered is how in-depth some of the writing prompts I worked on were. There are complete stories, albeit short ones, on this very blog. I thought to myself, “Neat!” and “I should do more of this.”

So starting tomorrow, when I am hopefully feeling a bit better, I am going to tackle a prompt whenever I have nothing else to write about. Get the ol’ creative juices going again. Maybe this time it will stick. Stranger things–such as the election of Trump–have happened.

This post brought to you by Day 3 of the flu or convincingly flu-like.

Achingly stupid

I am nearly convinced that after our current civilization crumbles away and is (maybe) rebuilt some time in the far future, those far future historians will look back at the unfettered commentary made on the internet by the “every person” and their ability to reach an audience of millions of like-minded people, will be cited as one of the key factors in our downfall.

Go to the CBC News website and find any story on politics, then read the comments and you will marvel at how achingly stupid, how willfully ignorant, how blindly loyal, how in love with their own malformed thoughts the general public is. People who know so little, yet are so confident in sharing their ignorance with as wide an audience as possible. People who fundamentally lack the understanding of how the world works. It’s a complex thing–there’s no way one person can know everything. And that’s okay. Educate yourself, make informed decisions, take the time to learn what you need to know.

But it feels like so few people do this. We live in an age that celebrates ignorance and stupidity, abetted by mass media that regularly turns away from thoughtful reporting in favor of not just the sensational–which has always been the case–but in perpetuating “both sides” nonsense and has helped to normalize the aberrant politics we endure, that give platforms without consequence to those who deny climate change, to anti-vaxxers, to people who still honestly seem to believe the world is flat, for the love of Pete.

It’s all depressing and it makes me angry in a low-level, simmering sort of way. It’s 2019 and the world should be better than this, but instead it feels like we are regressing. Maybe we are meant to be doomed and another species will take over when we’ve eradicated ourselves.

Bonus material: People who answer questions about products on sites like Amazon with “I don’t know.” WHY DO YOU DO THAT?

This rant brought to you by the flu.

I only *thought* I ate pizza…

I use MyFitnessPal to track what I eat (today is the 2,280th day in a row I’ve logged in, in fact) and the phone app allows you to scan the bar codes of packaged food, to conveniently add them to your list of foods consumed.

Tonight we had a Delissio three meat frozen pizza for dinner. This is how MFP scanned it:

Now I’m wondering what I really ate.

Yet another example of Betteridge’s Law of Headlines, LinkedIn edition

The world may end when one of these headlines can actually be answered with “Yes.”

Hmm, let me think about this one.

More great headlines-as-questions:

  • Is diving into a pool of lava a good idea?
  • Is kicking your boss in the groin a smart way to begin your day?
  • Is gravity strawberry-flavored?

Link: Betteridge’s Law of Headlines

In the shallow end of the pool

I am a shallow person.

Funny cat videos amuse me greatly.

I can go to one of those auto-correct sites that are comprised of largely fake text message conversations and find myself laughing loudly, even as I acknowledge the fakeness therein.

I can become impatient with stories that trade heavily in metaphor. I resist reading more Harlan Ellison. I want my stories served up straight, without riddles. I don’t mind thinking, but I don’t want to think hard.

I’m exaggerating a bit for effect here. I don’t really mind metaphors. I finally got around to watching the film adaption of Annihilation (I read the book in August of last year) and it is steeped in metaphors. Some are explained rather plainly, others are left to the audience to pull together. And I get why this movie was not a big hit–it demands too much of those watching it. People don’t want to actively think while sitting in a movie theater while holding a $10 bucket of popcorn between their legs. They want action, romance, comedy and whatever else to be doled out quickly, frequently, and without complication. Annihilation often makes you want to rewind to confirm if you are putting the pieces together correctly (this is awkward in a theater, as the projectionist and other audience members are likely to object to your whims).

In going back to a spoiler thread started on Broken Forum discussing the film, I enjoyed everyone’s guesses and theories on what happened, and appreciated even more what people thought everything meant. The video below was linked and it’s a terrific companion piece to the film, highlighting how the right question isn’t, “Did aliens do it?” but what do the events in the film say about the characters, how are they changed, what does it say about us, our world?

Let me return to how I am a shallow person.

I could never write a novel like Annihilation. I could never write a screenplay for a movie like Annihilation. Why? Because my skill with metaphor, my ability to tease out deeper meanings is limited. Was it my upbringing? Is my brain too small? Did my teachers go soft on me? Are cats just so naturally adorable that they short-circuit my intellect? I don’t know. But I do know that any number of stories I write that attempt to say something more profound than ACTION SCENE and BIG LAUGH tend to make me cringe when I re-read them.

I do better now than when I was young, though. There is some seriously overwrought stuff that I wrote in my teens (I mean, who doesn’t write seriously overwrought stuff in their teens? Unless you spent your teens in juvenile or otherwise not actually writing). As a (much) older adult, I can rein in the worst excesses, but my stories are still pretty straightforward:

  • Man swaps bodies with cat
  • Superheroes clumsily save the world from a world-destroying asteroid
  • Man vows to lose weight and is helped by a candy bar-eating magic gnome

Okay, that last one contains a bit of metaphor. But it ain’t subtle.

I guess in writing about my shallowness, there is the idea that is must somehow bother me. And in a little way it does, but I am only actively reminded about how it bothers me after seeing films like Annihilation, and analyses like the one above that explain all the clever, layered things that are presented. Then I feel dumb for not quite fully understanding them or worse, missing these clever things entirely.

I’m not going to make a New Year resolution to write deeper stories or go on a metaphorpalooza, mind you. Frankly, just doing more actual writing would be good enough for now.

And with that, I conclude this post. It’s a metaphor for being lazy, see? Or something.

My in-depth review of Games of Thrones, Seasons 1 to whatever

Okay, I lied. I haven’t watched any episodes of Game of Thrones, although thanks to its perpetual presence in all forms of media–especially now in its last season–it feels like I have.

I have also not read any of the books.

I have seen HBO timidly suggest that Trump (still not kidnapped by Bigfoot) not use Game of Thrones typography and imagery for political purposes. Trump seems more interested in continuing to debase the presidency of the United States, though. Winter is coming indeed.

Instead, let me use this to briefly highlight one of the weird aspects of online media. Most of the sites I read are primarily focused on tech, but they all include reviews of books, TV shows and movies now, because they have broadened their scope (probably to stay competitive with everyone else broadening their scope). The effect of this is I see a lot of GoT coverage without even looking for it.

And it is weird. It is weird–and I point out that this weird thing is not limited to GoT, it’s just the most prominent example out there–because in addition to providing the usual reviews or previews of the show, they are also providing analysis. Here are some headlines from the articles:

“There’s a major flaw in Winterfell’s battle strategy on Game of Thrones”

“Here’s why Sansa and Theon’s reunion was so emotional”

“Tormund Giantsbane’s ridiculous origin story is different in the Game of Thrones books”

“Who had the most merciful death on Game of Thrones? Science has an answer”

It seems like an attempt at water cooler-style conversation, just aimed at many thousands of readers instead of a couple of co-workers. Some of the topics are nerdy. Some delve into the minutia of obsessive fans that carefully examine every element of something they like. And it all seems weird to me, because this is the kind of conversation that nerdy friends would have, not something you’d read about in an online tech news publication. Maybe it’s just me drifting ever-closer to the “old man yells at cloud” phase. Maybe this is perfectly fine because you can now share your nerdy conversations with thousands of others in the comments of these stories.

Maybe nerdism (?) is something unlike riding a bike, where you can actually lose your nerdiness over time if you don’t keep nerding it up.

Maybe I’ve used the word “nerd” too many times already.

I still think this is weird.

Now I’m off to read a cheap one-off horror novel I found on Bookbub. I’ll write a review and no one will even know (It’s okay, my social media presence is something I cultivate as well as an actual garden, which is to say not at all), and my nerdity will decline just that much more. And I’ll start hiking my pants up to my nipples for no discernible reason.

Easter 2019: Eggless

Or more accurately, eggless thus far. Tomorrow is Good Friday, so I still have a few days to rectify my egg-free situation.

In the meantime, I recall as a kid I loved Easter because of the copious amounts of Easter candy. I don’t recall the origin of Easter turning into a candyfest and even though I could easily look it up now (thanks, internet!) I don’t really need to know. All I know is I loved Easter for the following reasons:

  • Chocolate bunnies. The hollow ones were fine, the solid ones were the kid equivalent of gold bars in value.
  • The cream-filled eggs that came wrapped candy-bar style. They weren’t true egg shapes, as they had flat bottoms, but they were very yummy. The Oh Henry! variant was quite good.
  • Cadbury Creme Eggs. Interestingly, these have been hard to come by this year. I don’t think I’ve seen any in stores. Did they stop making them? (Fake edit: No, they just changed the packaging to confuse me.) They are apparently only 150 calories each. I say “only” because I don’t think I’ve ever eaten two in a row, or ever could. They are, as they say, rich. But they were always my favorite. And who am I kidding? As a kid I probably ate a three-pack in a minute flat. 450 calories–I could burn that off in a 10K run now. I’d be tempted, but I really don’t think I’d make it through three. I’d need days to recover before I could even think about running to work them off.
  • Pretty much any other bunny or egg-shaped candy, unless it contained black licorice. That stuff is grossbuckets. I’ll happily eat broccoli as an adult, but black licorice was and still is still a no-go.

Anyway, here’s to a happy Easter. The weather is supposed to be decent-ish (cloudy, seasonal) so I may go out and pretend to hunt for eggs. Then buy some for half-price the day after.

A short, odd book review

This single paragraph–for a horror novel called Salvage, posted on the Kobo website–may qualify as one of the oddest book reviews I’ve seen:

“I had a hard time with it. The chapters being on average 30+ pages induced me to skip many, perhaps too many in order to finish the chapter being read. I became lost at times and finished the book by sheer determination. the book is well written but those never ending chapters.”

The idea that 30+ pages per chapter is too long is strange. It’s not like there’s a rule for chapter length, and with ebooks, you don’t even have to keep track of where you left off. Perhaps the reader is one of those people compelled to always read to the end of the current chapter before setting the book down. Even then, it’s such a weird affectation that I wonder why one would even bring it up. But even more baffling is how the reader confesses to skipping a bunch of chapters, then becomes “lost at times” (no kidding), but still finishes the book (“well written”) and gives it three stars.

(I bought the book in question–not based on this review.)

The world we live in

I did that thing tonight where I watched a particular video on YouTube and ended up going on to watch a bunch of mostly-unrelated videos. One of them was Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” which is a catchy song with a well-choreographed video (seriously, it’s obvious the director is meticulously timing the entire video to the actual music, something you don’t see that often).

One of the things I noticed is the video has over one billion views. It was released in 2009 so it’s had time to acquire those views, but it’s still a staggering number.

But more than the number of views, I was struck by the number of comments.

802,810.

If you read one comment per second, it would take you 223 hours (over nine days) to read them all. Also you would be insane.

And this is the world we live in.

I am afraid.