My mind is blank

Yep, it is. I am in one of those weird phases where the more I try to think of something to write, the more the thoughts find ways to squirm out of my head and fly away, never to be seen again. Or maybe they just splat against the nearest window.

So when in doubt, let’s list1I like lists!

The Five Best Colors in the World According to Me

  • Dark pink
  • Red
  • Dark blue
  • Verdant green
  • Black. It’s not a color, but it’s so handy. And black.

Three articles of clothing I will likely never wear

  • A speedo
  • A kilt
  • A burlap sack

Perks of working in IT Support

  • lol
  • lol
  • Seriously, lol

Ways to Make the World a Better Place

  • Ride your bike
  • Grow some veggies
  • Be nice to others. Not super stupid nice, just reasonably nice and pleasant.
  • Eliminate all management
  • Probably need to do something about capitalism, too
  • 1
    I like lists

Top 5 Worst Songs in the History of the Universe by Popular Artists

As experienced by me.

And in no particular order.

  • “Mother” by The Police
  • “Revolution 9” by The Beatles
  • “Just the Way You Are” by Billy Joel
  • “Rock and Roll Music” by The Beach Boys (cover)
  • “Mr. Roboto” by Styx

Notes:

  • Fantastically annoying
  • Tedious and indulgent
  • Insipid and cloying
  • Far removed from actual rock and roll
  • So, so dumb. But admittedly kind of catchy.

Neat things

Let’s end the month on a positive note, with a list of things that I find neat. Sometimes I can’t explain why I find something–it could be something that delighted me as a kid and that delight stayed intact as I grew into a bitter, cynical adult. Or it could be so intangible I can’t explain it at all. I’m sure someone could build an interesting (?) profile of me from what I’ve posted below.

Here’s the list, in no particular order:

  • Trains, passenger jets and large ships
  • Desktop wallpapers featuring landscapes with bodies of water or spooky forests
  • The art of Simon Stalenhag, who combines simulated oil paint, realism and retro-future technology
  • Outer space. It’s just so freaky with black holes, dark matter, nebulae and more.
  • Spacecraft, both real and imagined
  • Electric bikes that look like ordinary bikes
  • Computer mice. I always want something new, regardless of how well my current mouse works.
  • Computer UIs. One day I’ll do a comparison of Mac vs. Windows. Maybe when Windows 11 comes out.
  • Dams, both those made by humans and beavers
  • Ducks
  • Skyscrapers. Really, anything that is built on a massive scale.
  • The ocean. It delights and terrifies me in equal measure.
  • Photography that shows things you wouldn’t normally see, by using long exposures, extreme close-ups or other techniques
  • Fudge. Okay, it’s not really that neat, but I kind of want some.

A list of observations gathered while strolling in 42 °C weather

It hit 42 °C today, which breaks the old high temperature record by an impressive 11 degrees. Tomorrow’s high is forecast at 35, which will feel almost mild in comparison. I decided to go for about a 15-minute walk down to the park when it hit 42, just to see what it felt like. My observations, in handy list form:

  • Opening the front door of the condo building is like opening the grate on a furnace
  • The breeze feels like it is burning my face
  • My eyes are hot; this feels hugely weird
  • Heat radiates from the pavement, less so from the sidewalks
  • After about five minutes, the metal on my Apple Watch is starting to get hot against my skin
  • I am sweating like I am running, yet I am merely walking
  • Kids are still running around and screaming; presumably they are magically immune to heatstroke
  • The idea of going for my usual 7+ km walk today seems equal parts foolish and ludicrous–I do not go
  • Coming back and opening the door to our condo unit and getting hit by the cool breeze of the air conditioner is really, really nice. Like, super mega-nice.
  • I secretly wonder if I’ll be finding out what it feels like when the temperature goes above 42 °C–and how soon that might be
  • At least I don’t live in Lytton

Quote on Lytton from CBC News today:

As of 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Lytton had hit 47.9 C, according to Environment Canada. For context, that’s hotter than the hottest temperature ever recorded in Las Vegas, at about 47.2 C, and almost eight degrees higher than Lytton’s record high before this year.

A list of all the things I like about Apple

Time to be positive for a change.

  • The Apple logo is nice
  • The M1 MacBook Air offers excellent performance
  • Apple includes the fast Thunderbolt 3/4 interface on all of its computers–and now on an iPad
  • They seem to be on the right side of user privacy
  • The Apple Watch clocks (ho ho) all other smartwatches in terms of versatility and performance
  • They’ve been around for over 40 years, they can’t be *all* bad
  • My iPhone 12 works as intended
  • My iPad Pro is really pretty good as a drawing tablet
  • Did I mention the logo is nice?

Dreams (not the Fleetwood Mac song)

I had four dreams last night and remembered them by inventing an acronym for them: CPAP (not to be confused with the device that assists people with sleeping):

  • Cat: In one dream I had a cat, and I was cleaning its food dish and was vaguely upset that the cat might be sick. The cat, a gray short hair, curled up in a giant plastic tub that was apparently its bed (?), but also had water in it. She didn’t seem to mind. This was a mildly upsetting dream. The same dream later featured me at a coffee shop, inexplicably with the cat.
  • Personnel: I was at work, but it was Dream Work, not actual work, and everyone was different or at least I don’t recall them being my normal co-workers. I was in a hallway with a co-worker, as we had apparently been working on something together and a couple of management types were there. A third co-worker was also there. The management types were suggesting that certain improprieties had been committed, and I began thinking over whether I had done anything I shouldn’t have done. I came up with nothing and the co-worker and I walked off, while the third one stayed behind, seemingly about to be punished for some unspoken sin. The impression I got was he had done something like watched porn on the job. This was kind of a dumb dream.
  • Allergies: I looked down at my arm and saw a few silver spots on it. I held the arm up and noticed more silver spots appearing. In the dream I guessed it was an allergic reaction, though silver spots are a dream allergy AFAIK. Then the dream took a turn for the very weird as my arm turned entirely translucent, allowing me to see light through it. I woke up at that point, but my final thought in the dream was something clever, like, “This is weird.”
  • The fourth one I have suddenly drawn a blank on, but it started with P, so it may come back to me. I told Jeff all four dreams, but he doesn’t remember, either. Note to self: Write these things down at the time, other people’s memories may be no better than your own. :P

2020: The Review

I could make this easy by saying “1 out of 10, would not do again” and be done with it, but in this most unusual year, let’s take the time to review the good, the bad and the ugly, because while there was a lot of bad and definitely some ugly, there was also good, and it may be instructive to see how good can come out of even very bad things.

This list may be updated as I think of more stuff. It is also a mostly non-personal big picture kind of view. I may focus on my own stuff in another post.

The Good:

  • No nuclear wars or massive asteroid impacts
  • Only one pandemic
  • Trump was not re-elected
  • Work from home meant saving lots of money and time on the daily commute
  • Trail running is a relatively safe pandemic form of exercise

The Bad:

  • There are still two days left for nuclear wars or massive asteroid impacts to happen
  • Only one pandemic is still one too many
  • Trump still got 74 million votes. What is wrong with America? It’s complicated.
  • Work from home also meant suffering through online meetings (still worth it, though)
  • Two words: Plantar Fasciitis

The Ugly:

  • All the people who died who probably wouldn’t have died otherwise
  • The dummies crying about “freedom”, refusing to wear a simple mask and helping to spread a virus that has literally affected the entire planet. Bonus points to the ones who think the whole thing is a hoax.
  • Social media continues to be a net (ho ho) negative on the world. More blogs, less Facebook.

A random list of favorite songs

These songs are all silky smooth pop confections. And old, like me.

  • Dreaming, Blondie
  • Vacation, The Go-Go’s
  • Don’t Answer Me, The Alan Parsons Project
  • Roam, The B-52’s
  • Good Vibrations, The Beach Boys
  • Got to Get You Into My Life, The Beatles
  • Get Through to You, Blue Rodeo
  • The Logical Song, Supertramp
  • Coming Home, Prism
  • New Sensation, INXS
  • Don’t Stop Believin’, Journey
  • Ray of Light, Madonna
  • Something About You, Level 42
  • Gemini Dream, The Moody Blues
  • Graceland, Paul Simon
  • Sean, The Proclaimers
  • Catapult, R.E.M.
  • More Than This, Roxy Music
  • Birdhouse in Your Soul, They Might Be Giants
  • End of the Line, The Traveling Wilburys
  • Buddy Holly, Weezer

Work from home: The good, bad, and ugly

I have been working from home (WFH) for about eight months now and here’s my list of what is good, bad and ugly about it.

The Good

  • My commute has been reduced from just over one hour to 30 seconds
  • I get 90 minutes more sleep per night
  • I can finish my shift, go for a run and be home before I’d normally complete my post-work commute (this still works in winter, the running is just done on the treadmill instead)
  • Breaks allow me to do or start chores that would otherwise be impossible until I was off work, including:
    • Starting/folding laundry
    • Starting/unloading the dishwasher
    • Baking bread. The office never smells like fresh-baked bread and this is a tragedy.
    • Sweep, mop
    • Run down the garbage or organics
    • Check the mail (the physical kind that comes in envelopes)
  • I can listen to music while I work (I don’t do it often, but I do it occasionally)
  • I never have to wait to use the bathroom
  • I never have to worry about someone else making the bathroom a giant stink bomb
  • Snacking is easy and convenient
  • Co-workers and other people cannot walk up to your cubicle and trap you in long, painful conversations

I will point out that the first three items listed are huge quality of life improvements. Almost life-changing, really.

The Bad

  • Some tools that must be relied on are not great. To be fair, this would be true at the office as well, it’s just that when WFH you can’t just go to someone’s office to have a look because the remote support tool refuses to elevate privileges.
  • Online meetings. These are often even more soul-draining than in-person meetings. To the person that asks, “Can you hear me?” at the start of every meeting: Yes, we can hear you. If you don’t suddenly start putting your mic between your feet or attaching it to your cat, we will hear you every time! Also, even when people are on video, it can be challenging picking up on body language and other visual cues.
  • Let’s just say some people are not exactly timely in answering messages
  • Can feel isolating at times, given the lack of face to face interaction

The Ugly

  • Knowing that this will eventually end and most people will just automatically go back to doing everything the old way, taking no lessons from what we learned. Or in other words, people will be people.

Overall, I love WFH. I don’t miss the office at all. The air in the office is bad, the commute is long, there are numerous distractions, I am forced into contact with others and this inevitably leads to a series of colds and other bugs through the year.

Random deep questions

  • How many people would want to know when they will die if that information was available to them?
  • If the universe is expanding, it would only occupy so much space. What would you see beyond the edge of the universe?
  • Speaking of, what was up with the ending of The Black Hole, anyway? That was probably the most un-Disney ending of any Disney movie ever.
  • If there is “life after death” (a soul, etc.) why is it so hard for the two sides (living/differently living) to communicate with each other? Why *would* it be so hard? Is it because the living would be all, “Man, life sucks compared to the groovy other-side. I’m killing myself RIGHT NOW”?
  • What if we really are the only “intelligent” life in the universe?
  • What if we aren’t the only intelligent life in the universe but the other intelligent life finds it amusing to watch us screw everything up on our planet?
  • If multiverses exist, what are the other versions of me doing right now? Is at least one of them writing this same list, but maybe in some weird other dimension language? While waiting for his flying car to recharge?
  • What if we’re living a simulation and in a few short months we’ll find out that whole Trump presidency thing was just a test, haha. And all the horrible other things that have happened in 2020, too.

How things have changed for me, how they haven’t (Pandemic edition)

Like puberty, the global pandemic has been impossible to avoid. But at least this time my voice didn’t change.

While the future remains unwritten and hopefully won’t turn into a real life recreation of The Stand, here’s what’s changed (and what hasn’t) during life in a global pandemic.

Also, I like lists.

Here’s what’s changed:

  • Work from home. This is the biggie, of course. I started work from home (WFH) on March 18, so it’s been about two months, though it feels like a lot longer. The idea that this would happen at the beginning of the year was absurd. I expect to be WFH at least through the summer, which will mean at least six months total, and it could extend to the end of the year, which would be 10 months total. That’s a lot of commute time saved.
  • Speaking of commute time, I have no commute. I used to ride on two different SkyTrain lines and spend just over one hour traveling to or from work. Now I roll out of bed, cross the living room and I’m there. My commute has gone from over 60 minutes to under 10 seconds.
  • I am getting more sleep. This is directly related to no commute as I am getting up an hour and a half later now.
  • I am saving money. This is related to WFH and having no commute. I am not buying a two-zone monthly fare card (currently $131), plus my use of transit has dropped to near zero. I have been on the SkyTrain twice in the last two months, versus 44-50 trips per month previously.
  • I am gaining weight. Snacking is a lot more convenient. I am working on this, but I have added 5+ pounds since this began.
  • I am exercising less. I’ve been doing walks, both on and off the treadmill, but I’ve only done a single run outdoors. I’m just not comfortable running outside right now, even though I know it’s not actually high risk or anything.
  • Reading time has declined. I am currently five books behind on my modest Goodreads Reading Challenge for 2020 because my reading time used to be during my commute and, well, see the second bullet point. I’m starting to finally read again, so may start catching up on this.
  • Shopping has shifted online or been severely reduced. I’ve purchased stuff from Apple and Best Buy online (and Amazon, of course) and had it delivered, something I generally would not do (I’d just go to the respective stores). This usually means I wait longer to get something (which is fine). I-person shopping is always done solo and no more than once a week if possible. Shopping in-store is relatively unpleasant now due to physical distancing requirements and some members of the public being indifferent or actively hostile to these requirements. The online shopping experience has varied as follows:
    • Amazon: The closest locker is closed, so they deliver direct to door. Usually once they get in the building the drivers leave packages at the condo door. This means stuff could potentially be stolen. Not good.
    • Apple: They ship free (yay) via UPS. UPS comes to the building, they try buzzing our suite number (this doesn’t work, as the buzzer number is not the same as the suite number–which they can see if they read the list of occupants next to the buzzer), then leave a note and I have to pick up the package the next day at a store a few blocks away. This is not convenient, but it’s less risk.
    • Best Buy. They ship through Canada Post. If the package is large, the delivery person will leave a key to a Canada Post large item locker in the lobby of our building, across from the mailboxes. This is convenient, and I wished Apple shipped this way, even if it meant a day or two extra for delivery.

What hasn’t changed:

  • Work is mostly the same. With in-classroom issues eliminated, the actual work I do is much the same as before, I just do it from a desk at home instead of a desk on campus. I like WFH and hope to keep doing it because not having that one hour commute is a gigantic improvement in quality of life.
  • Still playing Diablo 3. But I’m nearly done getting my final character to level 70. After that, all the treasure goblins in the world will not bring me back (maybe).
  • Mealtimes and other routines, like a walk at noon. Times and locations have shifted, but the activities are still the same.
  • And other miscellaneous stuff.

This weekend marks the beginning of the easing of some restrictions, but I don’t expect things will change much for me. Physical distancing will still be in place when shopping and many mall stores will remain closed (like Apple, for example) or will be restricting their sales to things like curbside pickup. I guess we can go to provincial parks again (during the day), though as I type this it’s pouring rain. Normally that’s a bummer on a holiday weekend, but this time it may just help us flatten the curve a little more when so many people are anxious to get out and get “back to normal”–something I suspect will not be happening for quite a while.

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 (just kidding, this thing is sold out everywhere)
  • Buy the new iPad Pro with LIDAR! Why would I want an iPad with LIDAR? 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 Homer Simpson, “I don’t know.”