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
  • 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.”

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.

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).

Five things I like about winter

The first day of winter is 10 days away, December 21st. This is the shortest day of the year, with approximately 30 minutes of daylight. The bears are warm in their caves, while humans are in full thrall of the whole holiday thing, crushing against each other in malls for last-minute gifts and possibly some nice frozen yogurt at the food court.

I generally don’t like winter because I am not a big fan of the cold and dark. But in the spirit of being positive, here are five things I do like about winter:

  • If it’s officially winter, we’re less than one season away from spring and t-shirt weather
  • A little snow looks pretty and gives the world a fleeting peaceful quality
  • You can skate outdoors if it gets cold enough
  • No need to run the air conditioner
  • Risk of a sunburn drops dramatically

Hmm, that’s not really a great list. Let me try a few more:

  • A warm mug of hot chocolate can hit the spot
  • Running a base heater to warm your toes is far more satisfying than it ought to be
  • Watching TV under a thick blanket is nice and relaxing

The obvious theme here seems to be, “Winter is cold, the fun is in finding ways to stay warm.” Some people will argue that it’s easier to get warm than to keep cool, that putting on a sweater will warm you up on a cold day, but taking it off on a hot day may not do much to cool you off on a hot day. This is perhaps true, but given how hot it generally gets here (note to historians reading this in the far future: in late 2019 the metro Vancouver area is not yet a tropical paradise), I don’t find it a big deal to keep from profusely sweating during the summer. And removing layers is somehow better than piling more on.

Anyway, that’s the best I can come up with. To stay positive, we are only 192 days away from summer. Yay!

November 2019: Bah

I’m not sure why, but November was kind of an off month, despite some positive developments.

On the plus side:

  • Improvements in workflow at work
  • Ran a 10K
  • New headphones provide relatively silent sanctuary on public transit
  • It didn’t really rain that much and up until the last few days, it hasn’t been that cold, either

On the negative side:

  • Return to Pacific Standard Time has probably led to some kind of SAD. Getting out from work and seeing that it’s already getting dark is never not depressing.
  • Still not reading as much
  • Writing has gone from minimal to micromal. Yes, I just made up that word.
  • Even blog writing has tapered off. This will be post #21 when I’d normally be on post #30.
  • After a month of Inktober and getting into sketching again, I only did one sketch in November
  • Fat. Up 2 more pounds.
  • Pulled two muscles
  • Not running as much (see bullet point directly above)
  • General feeling of malaise with working in technology. I’m tired of fixing things. I want to make things.
  • Have not started stretching
  • Have not started meditation

I don’t have a witty summary to sum up the two lists. I also have no expectations for December. I hope it doesn’t snow. That is all.

September 2019: Good, bad, not really ugly

September 2019 in list form:

  • The last day of the month was sunny and pleasant. Yay!
  • The days are getting noticeably shorter. Boo.
  • I ran a 10K…twice! Yay.
  • My fiction writing remains MIA
  • I read a little more than in August
  • At least I’m not turning into a couch potato
  • Early fall colors are pretty
  • It hasn’t really rained that much, all told
  • 30 days, just like every other September
  • I didn’t go out to see any movies
  • On the above point, I also don’t feel like I missed anything
  • Did I draw? I did not draw.
  • On to October!

Things I like: The saga continues

There could be some duplicates on this list. I didn’t check first because I also like being lazy.

  • Turkish Delight
  • Running
  • The first three weeks of fall
  • Switching to Daylight Saving Time
  • Mango passionfruit tea
  • What the brightest, kindest and most innovative people can achieve
  • The smell of the sea breeze
  • Sketching random junk
  • Finding quirky things to take photos of
  • Serendipity
  • Fonts
  • Cats
  • And as always, lists

Progress update on assorted things

Let’s have a look now that we are eight months into this year of 2019:

  • World peace: Could be better, could be worse. Trump is still president, so likely to get worse.
  • Measles: on the rise, thanks to anti-vax paranoids. Thank you, Luddites and irrational fearmongers!
  • Global warming: We are doomed, pretty much.
  • Politics: Authoritarianism and despots on the rise, democracy ailing, even in places where it should be strong. This could change–but it could also change for the worse. See the first bullet point.
  • BC politics: The minority NDP government has proven adept and sane, boding well for the next election, though the general insanity of voters is always a worrying factor. It’s helped that the BC Liberals elected an out-of-touch rich white guy as their leader.

And my own list:

  • Meditation: Thought about it, but have yet to meditate. Before I can even begin, Pocket has already offered an article on the sinister side of meditation, where you apparently think tranquil thoughts about murdering people or something.
  • Stretching: Not really. A little here and there, but no concerted effort. This needs to be a higher priority unless I actually reverse the aging process.
  • Writing: The less said, the better. Which is how I’ve approached writing this year.
  • Drawing: I think about doodling. Then I never do it. But the doodles in my mind are great.
  • Reading: My pace is picking up again. If I stay at it, I may end up matching last year, which will be good.
  • Blogging: Generally running to catch up, as is the case this month where I’m tapping last minute inspiration to get to 31 posts before midnight.
  • Running: Doing more, and the runs are going well. I have yet to tackle a 10K this year, but will try to before we get fully into the fall weather.
  • Losing weight: It’s actually going down now. Yay.
  • Losing hair: Yes. Shaved head mutes the impact.
  • Legs: Still sexy.

App of the Day: No app

I can’t remember the last time I got an app for my phone that actually excited me. As phone technology has improved, I’ve found the way I use the phone has, in some ways, regressed.

I’ve commented on this before, but my phone habits have probably shrunken even more since then.

My typical usage now is:

  • text messages, either with my partner using the default Messages app, with friends using Facebook Messenger (ugh) or at work using Slack.
  • taking photos of things, sometimes work-related (these are typically deleted after, as they are only useful in the moment, but mostly just flowers and scenery I find interesting
  • occasionally checking email
  • occasionally checking something in a browser (usually Firefox)
  • occasionally adding something in the Reminders app
  • using the PayRange app to buy something from a vending machine (I do this at work to avoid long lines in the cafeteria when all I want is a beverage).
  • occasionally taking or (even less occasionally) making a phone call

Everything else, like playing games, checking news, other apps, the weather, maps–are all edge cases I only do once in awhile.

AR (Augmented Reality) is something Apple is pushing but it excites me about as much as putting on socks in the morning. VR is even worse, and doesn’t work for me, anyway.

I am more likely to delete an app than install it. In fact, iOS 13 (coming next month) will offer a new feature that will make this easier, by presenting an uninstall option when an app offers an update. This is kind of clever, really. “Hey, here’s an update for an app I installed a year ago and never use. But look, there’s a handy uninstall option right here, too!” This might make some companies like Facebook rethink their strategy of constantly pushing updates to keep the app in the user’s mind.

Anyway, it could be that I’ve just become a boring old sod and the app world is actually exciting and innovative, but when I look at the upcoming iPhone launch, I wonder why on earth I would spend so much money to do so little, especially when the phone I have now seems to be good enough.

The “Did Not Need” Vacation 2019 list

I’ve fallen a tad behind in writing about stuff and junk, like the camping trip Jeff and I took last month. I have the text written for that and will pick and post the appropriate photos soon™.

In the meantime, here’s a post-trip list of what I took and found useful and what I didn’t need to bother with. For every trip I have to consider things like:

  • How long I’ll be away
  • What kind of place we’re staying at (campsite with full hookups, abandoned farm in the country*, luxury hotel, etc.)
  • How much is practical to bring along because the easy solution would be to bring everything if possible

We were going to be camping for a week in Hope at a campsite on the edge of town, with full electrical and water. We’d go without either the last day and a half at the dirt bike camp, but generally we’d be in civilization and close to the outdoors, rather than the reverse (as would be the case at Manning Park, for example). We did not plan on doing any laundry while away.

Here are the things I brought and did not use:

  • Jeans. It was mid-July and though we had a few misty days, it was never cold enough to wear pants. Even if it had rained all week, I still don’t think they would have been needed. Summer vacation does not require one to be a pantser, you might say.
  • Long sleeve shirt. See above.
  • More than one hoodie. I brought a thicker one and a thinner one and only wore the thinner one. See above and above.
  • iPad. I figured since we had electricity, I’d bring along my MacBook Pro, which is rated for 10 hours of battery life–the same as the iPad, but with the bonus of having a larger screen and keyboard. I never looked at the iPad, though I did charge it once just to keep it topped up.
  • Long socks. See bullet points 1, 2 and 3.
  • Running gear. I brought everything–shoes, belt, shirts, shorts, cap. But I never ran. It wasn’t out of laziness, either–we did plenty of hiking and biking and disc-tossing and such. I probably could have squeezed a run in, but I’ve only ever done this once while away (in Kamloops). Plus there was a cougar alert at the campsite, which made me not really want to go dashing off on my own.
  • Charger for Apple Watch and iPhone. I forgot the trailer has these.
  • Sleeveless t-shirts. I never wore them, not wanting to get my shoulders burned. I stuck to regular t-shirts. As it turned out, I likely wouldn’t have gotten burned, anyway, as it never got hot until the last day.
  • Jabra Move wireless headphones. I never listened to music because we were always doing other stuff.
  • Charging cable for the Kobo e-reader. It didn’t need to be charged, it actually wasn’t even close to needing to be charged, one of the perks of e-readers. Mind you, the MacBook Pro also didn’t need to be charged, because I used it for less than an hour per day.
  • Electric shaver. I could have slummed for a week without shaving, really.

Overall, my load would definitely have been lighter in hindsight, but I can use this knowledge going forward to be more efficient and satisfy my latent OCD.

The things I was glad I brought:

  • MacBook Pro. I wrote every day.
  • Kobo e-reader. I spent enough time reading to warrant bringing it along, plus it’s fairly light and compact.
  • Lots of t-shirts and socks. These tend to get dirty and stinky when you’re outdoors, so more is better.

I forgot to bring along bug spray, but surprisingly there were very few bugs. I got a couple of minor bites and that was it. I’m probably forgetting a few things–one of the hazards of writing this more than two weeks after getting back. If need be, I’ll jazz this up later. It’s mostly reference for the next trip, anyway. If this accidentally informed anyone reading it, I apologize!

Amazing list of personality attributes to have or avoid for job interviews

I’m not going to link to the article but if you use your favorite search engine, you should have no trouble finding CNBC’s article on how personality matters more than things like education or appearance when it comes to job interviews.

This may seem obvious to you. It seems obvious to me. The purpose of an interview is not to assess a person’s education–that’s presumably listed on their resume. Nor would appearance be a factor, unless the candidate showed up dressed in a bunny outfit (assuming they were not applying for a position as a bunny, of course). What else is left at an interview, then? Personality. I mean, anyone can answer the mind-numbingly dull, rote interview questions that always get asked (“Tell us about a time there was a conflict at work and how you handled it”), it’s all in how you handled it (driven by your personality) that matters (“I smashed a chair over his head and said next time it will be an axe. We got along great after that.”)

Here’s the list of the least and most desirable personality traits provided by some experts or something. Are you ready? This list will blow you away.

The takeaway here is to not start the interview with, “I am the best person you will interview today, I have already had a thousand other jobs where I excelled, deserve top pay from Day One, will promise to show up almost all the time and will dictate all of my own working conditions, do what I want when I want and will ignore all requests by management.”

Obviously, say the opposite of the above and you’ll be hired. It’s just science.

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Using my smartphone for good, not evil

Actually it would be more fair to say I’ve been using my smartphone (currently an iPhone 8) for harmless nonsense, which is still better than using it for evil.

I’ve made a few recent posts to the blog during my morning commute, using the Ulysses app to slowly tap out a post and then upload it directly to my blog. I marvel at the technology, even as I lament how few will see my carefully-considered nonsense. I even just recently had a two-day stretch of zero visits on June 21 and 22. This is bad even by my own sad standards. I clearly need to work on the SEO and other acronyms to boost hits. More clickbait! More gossip! More whatever it is people want. Maybe just a redirect to Facebook.

It feels like the writing muscles are finally starting to halt their atrophy, as I am using more little blocks of time to write errant thoughts down, moving ever-so-slightly closer to perhaps engaging in some fiction writing again.

Mainly, though, I am not using my phone for social media, except for using Slack at work, which is not really in any way fun, so doesn’t count. There’s hardly any clickbait.

What do I use my phone for? Here’s a list. I like lists.

What I use my smartphone for, in order of most to least

  1. Listening to music
  2. Sending and receiving text messages with my partner. A lot of this includes Bitmoji nonsense, which I love and adore.
  3. Logging food/water in the MyFitnessPal app
  4. Adding or removing stuff in the Reminders app
  5. Checking stats in the Activity app
  6. Occasionally checking email, either personal (Gmail) or work (Outlook)
  7. Checking calendar appointments (almost exclusively work-related)
  8. Adding errant thoughts using the Drafts 4 app
  9. Adding errant and less-errant thoughts using the OneNote app
  10. Sometimes checking the weather or news
  11. Using the flashlight function
  12. Making or receiving an actual phone call
  13. Playing a game
  14. Writing a blog post (this one may move up the list over time)

What I never use my smartphone for

  1. Making the world a worse place (to my knowledge)
  2. To smash open walnuts
  3. As a level
  4. To play music without earbuds or earphones. Seriously, why do people do this? Do you do this? Don’t do this.
  5. To plug in a nice set of headphones (zing!)