The mysterious workout

I got a notification on my watch and like any well-trained modern technology user, I checked it out, to find this:

Nice indeed! There are a few issues with this, though:

  • I do not own an elliptical
  • I was sitting in my chair at the computer doing pretty much the opposite of burning calories. How many calories are consumed by using your eyes to read text off a screen? I’m assuming not many.

This raises the question of how the Fitbit Inspire HR, which was in my pocket at the time, somehow decided I not only did an impossible workout, but did it for 19 minutes. Normally there would be some semi-plausible explanation, like I was moving back and forth from one room to another, and it was misinterpreting that as exercise, but no, I was sitting still in a chair.

Now, I have tricked my Apple watch into thinking I did a few minutes of exercise by vigorously singing along to music with the headphones on, but that’s one of those semi-plausible things. With the Fitbit the only way I could have been less active is if I was sleeping.

It is a mystery, then, and a reminder that while technology can be great, it can also fall flat on its shiny metal face.

March 2020 weight loss report: Up 5.9 pounds

There is no sugar-coating this month’s report, though it might seem accurate to say everything in the report was coated in sugar, then eaten by me.

I am up 3.9 pounds for the year to date. This is not good, as I had been trending down. Looking at the calendar, I see that I impressively gained five pounds in the ten days from March 21-31.

What happened? Cookies, and plenty of them.

But also the global pandemic, which is actually connected to the cookies. While others were hoarding toilet paper, I was hoarding food, specifically hoarding it in my mouth and then in my belly. More than any other time in recent memory the stuff I ate was comfort food. I apparently needed a lot of comfort.

It’s not a coincidence that I started working from home on March 18.

For April I simply vow to improve. The cookies are gone, I’m going to resume regular workouts, and just generally try to do better on what I eat. At least I didn’t have any donuts.

The fat-filled stats:

March 1: 169.8 pounds
March 31: 175.7 pounds (up 5.9 pounds)

Year to date: From 171.8 to 175.7 pounds (up 3.9 pounds)

And the body fat:

March 1: 22% (37.3 pounds of fat)
March 31:
22.4% (39.4 pounds of fat) (up 2.1 pounds)

Well, that was a month (March 2020 edition)

If I go back all the way to the start of the year–you know, three months ago–I had probably heard about the coronavirus that was starting to appear in China, but it was otherwise just another news story in the background, like so many others.

Today, two days from April, I am in my third week of working from home, the place I work is all but locked down, businesses that aren’t “essential services” are closed, transit is ghost trains and empty buses, and it’s still ridiculously difficult to buy toilet paper, which is a fitting epitaph for this species if we manage to extinguish ourselves–maybe not with this virus, but perhaps with another.

For the first time I am keenly aware of sharing the sidewalk with others. Walks are now solitary affairs, with wide berths given to others. Runs have become stressful exercises (ho ho) in avoidance. Visiting friends has gone virtual. I look at Facebook almost every day (ew).

It’s awful. But enough about Facebook.

The news coverage of COVID-19 is constant and ever-present. You can’t do anything without seeing or hearing the effects of the virus (as I write this, 16 stories on the CBC News website are about COVID-19. That’s all of the stories, by the way). I wonder how long I’ll be working from home; through April seems like a safe bet. Beyond that, it all depends on how under control the virus is. This is the first global pandemic in the age of social media and easy, world-spanning travel, so we are in a very real sense in uncharted territory now.

Some things haven’t changed. I get up in the morning and have my usual breakfast. I work out on the treadmill. I write on this blog. But even the regular things have that undercurrent of unreality to them because I know these normal routines are set against a world that is operating dramatically differently than it was a couple of months ago.

I’m curious about what sort of blog post I’ll be making in June, as we reach the middle of the year and the start of summer. Will things be starting to return to normal, or will we be settling in for longer, more permanent changes to how our whole society works? I don’t know. I’m not even sure I want to know.

But we’ll see in three months. Until then, interesting times.

The no-run, pandemic edition

This is kind of depressing, but not surprising.

Today started out pretty nice–the temperature got up to around 12 degrees, it was mostly sunny. A beautiful day to go for a walk or, in my case, a run.

I planned to go to Burnaby Lake, and was set to run clockwise, starting on the south side of the lake.

There were a lot of people on the river trail as I made my way to the lake. I feared the worst, but pressed on. At the lake so many people were crowding on the top of the dam that I actually stood back and waited a few minutes for them to clear out before making my way across.

I had to pee. The Jiffy John was, naturally, occupied.

I came out and there were groups of people on the trail near the parking lot (families and such), so I thought I’d walk to the road and actually start my run there, allowing me to go directly onto the Avalon Trail, which is wider and can more readily accommodate more people and the social distancing that is the vogue in these plague-filled days.

Sign at entrance to Burnaby Lake

The idea of maintaining 2 meters on a park trail is largely a fantasy because the trails are often barely that wide to begin with, and people aren’t terribly likely to traipse through the skunk cabbage just to comply. But still, it’s possible to at least spread out and do your best. Besides, Burnaby Lake isn’t exactly the seawall at Stanley Park in terms of popularity.

Except today it kind of was. I looked down the road to the Avalon Trail and it was packed full of people–more than I’ve ever seen, groups moving in both directions, with more feeding in from the trail connecting to it from the parking lot.

And the parking lot? Normally in late March, even on a nice day, the lot would have maybe a half dozen vehicles in it. Today they were parking in the middle, the lot nearly full.

Avalon parking lot. Some of these cars are not maintaining social distance.

The lot is rarely this full during the peak of summer.

Now, I get annoyed at having a lot of people on the trail when I’m running when there isn’t a pandemic. But during one? It’s dumb. These people are basically doing the opposite of what they should be. Instead of staying home, they are going out. That itself is fine. They are going to a park. Also fine.

They are all going to the same park and jamming the trails with huge crowds of people. This is not fine. This is, in fact, how you spread the virus.

Metro Vancouver is partly to blame here. In the city of Vancouver the Parks Board has shut all of the parking lots for parks and beaches. While that won’t stop everyone, you can see by the above photo that it may have stopped dozens.

I was initially looking forward to heading out because the forecast was for rain showers and while some would still be out no matter what the weather, a lot would have stayed inside and watched Frozen with their kids for the billionth time. But the weather changed and instead we got a mix of sun and clouds.

I left without running. The stress of having to push through the crowds was too much. I wouldn’t have enjoyed the experience. Ironically, partway on the walk back it did start to shower a bit, but too little, too late.

My next outdoor run will only happen if it’s raining even before I step outside.

At least I got 8 km of walking in.

Egg quest complete!

I didn’t even realize I was on an egg quest until I went shopping for eggs.

Of course, in this time of panic-buying and hoarding, the grocery store had no eggs. Like, none at all, not even the most expensive, free range “the chickens that laid these live better lives than you do” eggs.

I went across the street to Shoppers Drug Mart as they have a few aisles devoted to groceries. I wasn’t expecting them to have any eggs, but lo, they did! I grabbed a dozen (I didn’t see any signs indicating limits but I’m not a panic-filled hoarder) and went to the checkout…where the cashier was standing behind a giant plexiglass partition. It had a cutout in the bottom for me to slide the eggs through so he could scan them. He did so and placed the eggs and the receipt at the end of the till, away from his body.

It was a bit weird.

But now I can have eggs for breakfast for at least six days.

The real key to social distancing

With both provincial and federal governments starting to get testy about people not practicing social distancing when out in public (in order to slow the spread of COVID-19), there are plans in the works for fines and other measures to make people behave more sensibly while in the middle of a global pandemic.

But the best plan of all is set to arrive tomorrow and it won’t cost any government a single cent (if they still minted them):

Rain.

People will pack the beaches and parks when it’s sunny and 14º but not so much when it’s below 10º and pouring rain.

So thank you, Mother Nature, for not raining on our parade, but rather being the parade.

My only political cartoon post (possibly)

I normally don’t post political cartoons, but I’m making an exception here because I think this one perfectly captures the essence of a person entirely unfit for the position he holds and his real priority–himself.

For future generations (if any): This refers to the COVID-19 global pandemic of 2020

More things not to do in the pandemic (and a few you can)

Closures continue, though we’re not in full stay-at-home mode yet like California, where its population of 40 million people (more than all of Canada) are literally being asked to stay home and not go anywhere unless it is for an essential service.

Here’s the latest bunch of things I can’t do:

  • Go out for dinner (all restaurants are closed except for take out and delivery)
  • Get a coffee (Starbucks is closed. Technically, I still can go because they are keeping stores close to emergency services open and there is one a few blocks from Royal Columbian hospital that’s open, so if society begins to totally collapse and I want a final oat fudge bar, I’m set. For now.)
  • Go to a playground in Vancouver (the ones in New West are still open for the time being, with signs basically telling kids not to play together which…uh, good luck with that?)
  • Go to work (work from home started on Wednesday; staff are only going in on an as-needed basis)
  • Buy groceries between 7-8 a.m. (reserved for seniors and those at risk, though I’d only shop this early if I was doing it in a dream, anyway)
  • Go to The Other 11 Months local NaNoWriMo weekly writing group (postponed indefinitely for obvious reasons, though I haven’t gone for quite awhile due to my extended writing slump)

But to not go all Negative Nellie, here are things I can do:

  • Grab a bunch of free games from services ranging from Apple’s App Store to gog.com
  • Buy Serif’s line of excellent Affinity software for 50% off
  • Go outside, provided I practice social distancing (as a bonus, the weather has finally been sunny and mild this week)
  • Ride the bus for free and enter through the rear doors (to promote social distancing)
  • Purchase a Nintendo Switch w. Animal Crossing bundle (just kidding, this thing is sold out everywhere)
  • Bu the new iPad Pro with LIDAR! Why would I want an iPad with LIAR? I do not know.

The next phase of this pandemic will be interesting. Everyone will adjust to the restrictions and the novelty of it will keep things interesting for a few weeks. But I suspect a lot of people think it will also be over in a few weeks and if it’s not…what next? People lived through years of war, but in our hyper social media-dominated world, will we as a society have what it takes to keep it together if all of this starts stretching past weeks and into months?

To quote Home Simpson, “I don’t know.”

At long last toilet paper

A blog headline I never thought I’d write.

Today at noon–the first day of spring (and a glorious early spring day it was)– I went to Save On Foods and found the toilet paper aisle empty, as usual. But at the end of the aisle there was a small pallet with a partly opened cardboard box…filled with Western Family toilet paper!

I’m pretty sure if I hadn’t been working from home and able to check over lunch they would have been out again after dinner, even with the new 1-per customer limit (down from 2-per just yesterday). I consider this acquisition a minor miracle, given the awesome panic and hoarding that is gripping the general public.

I am hoping this is the last time I feel a need to blog about toilet paper.

Signs of the times (2020 global pandemic edition)

I went out on my TPQ (Toilet Paper Quest) again, since I had time at noon (today is the first day my department is working from home, which I will talk about in some other post). My TPQ ended with me once more empty-handed, left only with sadness. And jam. They had jam and it was on sale, so I bought some jam.

The empty toilet paper shelves have a new sign, though, so there is some small hope I might get some before the last three rolls get used:

Unless the sign means they only had two packages in total, which is also possible.

Those chili-style baked beans I posted about a few days ago were also gone. Desperate times, indeed.

And the meat section was nearly barren. Fittingly, a single, mask-clad woman was picking over what little was left.

Meatless in New West

I’m not really concerned yet, just annoyed and a little depressed at all the needless hoarding going on that is preventing others from getting anything at all. If the zombie apocalypse starts, I’m pointing the brain-eaters to the houses with all the toilet paper.

The continuing effects of the global pandemic on my life

In list form, because I lists:

  • Still no toilet paper at the grocery store
  • Hand sanitizer also remains vanished
  • As of tomorrow, I am working from home until [no date specified]
  • Things I can’t do because they are closed:
    • Buy a book at Indigo
    • Buy an iPad at an Apple store
    • Buy a Surface Pro at a Microsoft store
    • See a movie at Landmark Cinemas
    • Have a stiff drink at any bar to try to forget about the pandemic
    • Exercise, go for a swim or play a sport at any indoor public facility
  • Things I can’t do because they are no longer allowed:
    • Gather with more than 50 people
  • Things that are still allowed:
    • Fretting
    • Worrying
    • Pacing back and forth
    • Checking your temperature
    • Did I mention fretting and worrying?

The whole thing still seems surreal, but the new wrinkle of working from home (which in a way is a relief as it allows me to avoid the long commute on public transit where I could be exposed to the virus or unwittingly expose it to others) has added a more tangible sense of yep, things have changed.

The question now is, for how long? Optimists say weeks, pessimists say months and I haven’t checked with the nihilists yet. I’m expecting that we will at least be edging into summer before anything resembling a sense of normalcy returns, and I consider that leaning toward the optimist side of things.

A somewhat surreal morning commute on the SkyTrain

If the last week’s worth of posts haven’t tipped you off, the coronavirus is officially a big thing. This morning Prime Minster Trudeau announced fairly drastic restrictions on air travel and literally asked Canadians who are abroad to “come home.” He also urged everyone who can stay at home to do.

I write this while on my lunch break at work. :P

The commute on the Expo Line of late has been less than ideal. With trains getting ever-more crowded I often find I can’t get a seat when I board at Sapperton (there are 15 more stations after Sapperton before I get out). It varies, but I usually get a seat anywhere from one to six stops later.

But not this morning! Instead I was able to get a seat entirely to myself. Luxury! Many other people also had seats to themselves. This not only never happens during the morning rush hour, it never happens on the morning rush hour ever. I mean, I have never seen it happen since I started riding the SkyTrain in 1986.

I finally got someone sitting beside me at Commercial-Broadway. Why I am not sure, as there was an empty seat across from me. This person began rooting around in her purse, digging through the many layers before finally finding what she was looking for: a surgical mask, which she then put on.

I would have facepalmed, but we’re not supposed to touch our faces now.

She switched seats at Main Street and I rode solo again for the rest of the trip.

The Canada Line was different with its itty-bitty under-capacity two-car trains, but even there I had a seat to myself for about half the trip.

I made it clear this morning that getting everyone working from home should be a top priority, as public transit is an excellent vector for spreading COVID-19 far and wide. I neither want to unwittingly spread it, nor catch it from someone who is similarly unaware they have it.

Also, some toilet paper would be nice. (Trudeau also told people to only buy what they need. He was very polite but the subtext was clear: Don’t be a greedy, hoarding a-hole.)

As they say, interesting times.

My next post will be a funny cat.