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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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/unloading the dishwasher
Baking bread. The office never smells like fresh-baked bread and this is a tragedy.
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.
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
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.
I came across this video on YouTube last night from Struthless, in which he discusses the drawing advice given to him in 2016 that changed his life.
Leaving aside how quaint the world seemed in the long ago time of January 2020, I found this advice resonant, especially when I look back at my creative shenanigans when I was younger. Here are some of the things I did:
recorded audio plays/skits
acted, directed and wrote skits in school; acted in school plays
worked with clay (and plasticine)
wrote short stories, started several novels
wrote and drew multiple comics
learned to play one song on acoustic guitar
played the recorder in music class (to be fair, I had to do this)
That’s a pretty extensive list. And for a kid, it’s actually okay to be scattered. I was trying stuff out. Looking back, I enjoyed pretty much all of it, too. I was a Renaissance Lad.
But as an adult, with much more limited time to not just do stuff, but to learn to do stuff, I need to focus. I can’t do everything.
I kind of still want to, though.
But with my fiction writing currently in a comfortable coma, blissfully unaware of the hellscape that 2020 has become, I have decided to focus on drawing and sketching, first by honing my analog (pen and paper) skills, then moving into the digital realm of pen and tablet. I’ll occasionally tell myself, “But I could learn acoustic guitar, like, actually learn it this time” and then I have to remind myself, “No, stay focused. Do one thing well, not ten things using 1/10th of your ass on each” (ass analogies have been popular ever since that one episode of The Simpsons).
This video makes that point and goes even farther, by showing how he (Struthless) initially focused on not just drawing over other creative outlets but drawing just one thing–ibises. Many, many ibises. By narrowing his focus, he was able to do this one thing really well, and used it as a means to expand beyond, creating more elaborate tableaus around ibises.
It’s a good way to approach art.
I am not going to draw ibises.
But I do have my own thing: Gum Gum People.
And now I own the domain for them. This will eventually become my home for all art, not just GGP-specific stuff.
We’ll see how it goes. For now, I am putting writing on the backburner, guilt-free. If I get drawn (ho ho) back to it, it was meant to be. If not, well…hopefully I’ll have settled onto something even more rewarding. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life watching cat videos.
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.
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.