About that pandemic…

When I went grocery shopping today I noticed the 2 meter lines placed on the floor to remind customers to keep apart were looking rather worn and faded, which makes sense considering they’ve been walked on for close to four months.

Which then made me think that we have been living with the immediate effects of lockdown/quarantine/pandemic for about four months now and no real end in sight.

How will we adjust as this continues on? While some places have opened up early (with predictably disastrous results), only to close again, and large events like concerts being pretty much off-limits (unless you’re a certain flavor of idiot country musician) until–or if–there is a vaccine, it feels like more people are adopting a “just let it happen and get it over with” attitude.

Why people would feel this way is easy to understand–they are tired of having their lives upended by all the changes the virus has forced on them. They don’t like physical distancing or wearing masks or having to do take-out instead of eating at their favorite restaurant (though they can do the latter now in many places–time will tell how prudent eating out is).

What remains to be seen is where we go from here. Some people are engaging in a weird sort of anti-coping by doomscrolling. Others are decrying their “freedom” being curtailed and doing whatever the hell they want, safety be damned. Most are just plodding along, tired, but still understanding the necessity of following guidelines and the measures in place. B.C. has had it much easier than some places and things still seem to be under control here, so complacency is also taking root among come crowds. How careful do we need to be when it really doesn’t seem that bad? Why would the government allow things to open back up if it wasn’t safe?

Who can say what the future might bring, though? Recently I’ve been reading about some of the less-reported effects people have endured after contracting COVID-19 and the list of ailments is scary as all get-out. There is evidence emerging that some may suffer permanent organ damage, such as to their lungs. The virus is less than a year old and we know very little about it. The fact that it is infectious enough to shut down the world is frightening all on its own. It’s not the flu. It may turn out to be so much worse.

While the pandemic has in some ways become so much background noise, I wonder just how many people have thought about how long it will be before we return to “normal”–or if we ever truly will.

2020 has been a year of change and upheaval. And it’s only half over.

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.

The less friendly pandemic, Part 2 (Plus bonus more friendly)

The sign at Hume Park warning that the playground (er, “park feature or area”) is currently closed now has a new sticker on it warning of a $200 fine.

“You there, little boy. Let’s see some ID. You’re being fined 200 clams for riding on that swing set.”

“But I don’t have any clams.”

“It’s a metaphor, kid.”

“A meta for what?”

But while the city is turning up the heat in some ways, they are turning it down in others, as the first signs of going back to a kind of normal have emerged. Here’s another sign, this one at the tennis courts.

As long as you are unorganized and have few, if any, friends, you are good to play tennis again. So that’s something.

In the meantime, a weekend of unseasonably hot weather meant people were jamming the parks and beaches, physical distancing be damned. It will be interesting to see what new cases look like in a few weeks. The week ahead appears to be largely wet, so that should dampen a lot of venturing out.

Also in the meantime, I got confirmation today that the college is committed to online courses for the entire summer, as well as for the fall semester, barring those that require specialized equipment or face-to-face interaction–but only if it’s deemed safe to do so. It is expected that “most” classes will remain online.

My thinking on this is that they realize how difficult it is to do physical distancing on the campus–it’s essentially designed to jam people together, not keep them apart–and want to delay this until a vaccine or other effective workaround can be ironed out that would keep the majority of people safe, rather than turning an education into a trip through the plaguelands.

What this means is that I’m all but guaranteed to be working from home until September and may be working from home until December. Basically, for the rest of the year.

While I like my new no-commute very much. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this.

Treadmill walk: May day (Pandemic #11)

I didn’t intend to stop doing workouts and here it is almost two week since my last one. I am bad. And fat. But it is time to stop morphing into a sloth and morph into a slightly less pudgy human, and so I metaphorically dusted off the treadmill and did a workout tonight.

I made one small tweak–I set the speed to 6.0 (10 km/h pace) instead of the usual 6.5 pace. I was surprised at how different it felt. At 6.5 I have to hold onto the handgrips nearly the entire time, as the treadmill is pulling hard, trying to whisk me off the back. At 6.0 I can hold on with a loose grip and walk without holding at all, though 6.0 is probably near the edge of where that is possible, as I don’t feel entirely steady walking hands-free at this pace.

Overall, I felt fine. The slower pace helped and the 30 minutes went by quickly, even though it still took 30 minutes. The notable differences in the stats are pace (slower treadmill means slower pace, though I was comfortably under the official 10 km/h pace), fewer calories burned (naturally) and a lower BPM (also unsurprising, but nice to see it dropped as much as it did).

Maybe next time I’ll so a mix of speeds. Maybe I’ll actually try jogging. Maybe I won’t wait almost two weeks before doing something again. The world is full of possibilities.

Speed: 6.0 km/h (6.5 km/h)
Incline: 10

Pace: 9:47/km (9:31 km/h)
Time: 30:04 (30:04)
Distance: 3.07 km (3.15 km)
Calories burned: 251 (296)
BPM: 132 (141)

The less friendly pandemic

A few days ago I went on one of my near-daily walks down to Hume Park and saw some visual confirmation of something I’d read online, where the City of New Westminster is shifting tactics when it comes to physical distancing. This sign is now on the lacrosse box, which as you can see, is now padlocked:

“Lack of physical distancing” is pretty clearly saying, “You jerks kept tromping all over the place like there wasn’t a pandemic, so no more fun for you.” The second paragraph carries a veiled threat that parks and trails could be closed entirely.

I can’t say I’m surprised. I think there is a group of people who just don’t care or grasp the risk the virus carries, so they go about things as they normally would, aware that there is a pandemic because they always see it on the news, but indifferent to its effects and of taking precautions.

There is another group, too, one that has been drawing more attention to itself as lockdowns stretch on: the protesters who bristle against their “freedom” being curtailed by the enforcement of physical distancing, restaurant closures and the inability to get a haircut. Especially in the United States, where “rugged individualism” has morphed into a kind of scary self-parody, you see these people gathering outside government buildings, yelling and screaming about being able to do what they damn well want, when they want and more importantly, where they want (some of these protesters wear medical masks, which is curious). These people willfully ignore signs related to physical distancing, because they will not be oppressed. They will, of course, continue to endanger the health of others.

This is the world we live in.

Welcome to May, 2020.

April 2020 weight loss report: Up 1.0 pounds

It could have been worse.

And as of yesterday, it was worse, when I tipped the scales at over 178 pounds for the first time in 12 years.

This is what a full month of working from home looks like, where access to snacks is easy and constant. This is what a pandemic does to my waistline. It expands it.

Looking back since the actual start of WFH on March 18, I can see most of the damage was done in the last 10 days of March, when I quickly packed on more than five pounds. Through April my weight has regularly gone up and down, so ending with only a one pound weight gain seems pretty decent, considering I had put few controls on my eating.

That will change in May because I am now only 10 pounds shy of the overweight version of me that was told by a doctor at a clinic in 2008 that I was a year away from Type II diabetes on my present course.

Some things are different now, of course. I do generally eat much better than I did back then. I still run or work out on the treadmill (though that waned in this last week) and I’ve eliminated sugary drinks from my diet (and am starting to drink more water).

Still, 41 pounds of fat is a lot of fat. I am fat. Jeans are no longer comfortable. I slovenly wear sweatpants and pretend I’m being hip, somehow. I know I need to cut out the snacking, so some exercise every day and get that slim ‘n sexy figure back.

On another positive note, with campus shut down, I was guaranteed to go donut-free for the month. And shall do so again.

Here’s to a slimmer ‘n trimmer May.

The fatty stats:

April 1: 176.3 pounds
April 30: 177.3 pounds (up 1.0 pounds)

Year to date: From 171.8 to 177.3 pounds (up 5.5 pounds)

And the body fat:

April 1: 22.5% (39.6 pounds of fat)
April 30:
23.1% (41 pounds of fat) (up 1.4 pounds)

More of that pandemic life

I started working from home on March 18. It’s April 23 as I write this, so 37 days later. It feels like a hundred years.

A few things have changed. There is now talk of easing some restrictions. The Saskatchewan government has announced its plans for Phase 1 and 2 (of 5) as follows (quoting from the CBC News story linked above):

Beginning May 4, restrictions on certain medical practices in Saskatchewan, such as dentistry, optometry and chiropractic therapy, will be lifted along with restrictions on fishing and boating. Golf courses will open mid-May and campgrounds on June 1.

The second phase of the province’s plan is to begin May 19, when some retail businesses, such as bookstores, jewelry stores, sporting goods stores and electronics shops, will reopen.

(Note that golf courses never actually closed in B.C.)

B.C. is widely expected to announce its own plans to ease restrictions next week, and will probably follow similar measures to what Saskatchewan is doing.

I don’t see anything about re-opening schools, whether public or post-secondary and when I try to imagine how campuses could have students safely return, the lengths required to keep people apart seem almost impossible to overcome. One-way hallways? Classes with only half as many students (where would the other half be)? Staggering students at end of class so they leave one at a time? Have courses start and end at different times? Or on different days? I mean, all of these things are doable, but you’re constantly fighting against the inherent design of schools, which is to pack rooms full of people, sometimes hundreds of people.

That said, I would not be surprised if my work at home order is lifted before the end of May because I think the desire to re-open schools may collide with caution and caution may lose.

On the home front, the scarcity of the first few weeks when shopping has largely dried up, save for a few select items which are still hard to find. We’ve been able to get toilet paper (still a limit of one package per customer) each time we’ve gone shopping (separately now, never together), so we now have more than 64 rolls, more than we ever had in the pre-pandemic times. We’ve also finally managed to stock up on other paper products such as napkins and paper towels. Most of the usual food we buy has been in stock. The days of having to settle for chili-style baked beans are over. For now, anyway.

Two changes in New Westminster in respond to the virus:

The crosswalk light at the corner of Fader and Braid is normally pedestrian-activated. No more! It now changes automatically so you don’t have to press the filthy, virus-laden button (which I did when I went out today, because I pressed first, read after).

And the where East Columbia turns into North Road, right near were I turn in to the river trail to walk or run, they have closed off part of the lane adjacent to the sidewalk on the bridge to allow people to keep apart without getting run down by semis.

This is both nice to see and kind of bonkers that it’s needed. But kudos to the city for doing these things. I feel a smidgen safer about not keeping myself cooped up.

Thinking ahead, we already know a few things. All major outdoor events are already canceled:

  • Pride parade
  • Celebration of Light fireworks
  • PNE
  • Concerts and festivals (Folk Festival in July, etc.)

I suspect that community pools will stay shut for the summer. The one in Hume Park normally opens in late June and the idea of it opening in just over two months seems highly implausible. It will be weird to see it sit empty on hot summer days. But I could end up being wrong.

And that’s the thing. Governments want to be cautious–and this is good–but how long will they really keep some things locked down? I can easily see the pressure to open more things up as the weeks turn into months.

For myself, I just want to buy groceries without having to give a wide berth to every other shopper, because like schools, grocery stores were not designed to keep people apart, and the experience of shopping has become awful as a result (as has most other things that require being outside of the home).

Interesting times, as they say.

Dear Diary (no, just kidding)

I occasionally toy with the idea of starting a journal again. While this blog mostly serves that purpose, there are things that I don’t really want or need to discuss publicly (ie. here), but might be helpful to write down somewhere. It’s kind of like how I make shopping lists, but wouldn’t post them publicly because who cares about my shopping lists?

Shopping lists will suddenly become a thing now.

I have the Day One app and despite some quibbles with it, it functions fine as an actual journal, yet I’ve only written in it a few times. Maybe committing to it on a daily basis would help my overall writing, as well as my state of mind, especially in these nutty pandemic times.

For example, a few days ago I wrote on the board on the fridge: Do something positive or productive every day. I wrote this for myself and my partner, thinking it would help us find something good in every day, even if the overall day was a bit poo. These positive or productive things would be good for recording in a journal. Today’s entry would be something like: Um…I was kind of lazy today, actually. I offered advice. I helped my partner with a technical issue on the iPad. I put away the clean dishes and loaded the dishwasher with the dirty ones. Okay, I guess I wasn’t totally lazy. But I could look back on this in a journal and nod at how I always put the dishes away, because I’m highly organized or something.

Hmm. I will have to ponder this journal thing. It seems like a positive step, with no real downsides, so I don’t have a good reason to say no to it.

We shall see.

Treadmill walk: Pandemic edition (10 in an ongoing series)

I was not overly active today, so decided I better hit ye olde treadmill to make up for it. It was fine. I seemed to sweat more than usual. The stats almost look like I forgot to fix my copy and paste, but my pace and distance were in fact identical to the last workout. BPM was up a little, but not a lot, and I burned off a few more of the million calories I need to go through to get back to my usual weight.

Baby (elephant) steps…

Speed: 6.5 km/h
Incline: 10

Pace: 9:31/km (9:31 km/h)
Time: 30:04 (30:03)
Distance: 3.15 km (3.15 km)
Calories burned: 296 (284)
BPM: 141 (137)

Signs of the times, Pandemic edition (April 2020)

I went to London Drugs today, to get things both trivial (bubble bath) and not (toilet paper). It was my second time there since the pandemic forced us all into “physical distancing.”

Most of the Lougheed Town Centre mall is closed. The only ones open are London Drugs, Walmart, and a couple of banks. Oh, and Tim Hortons. The food court is nominally open, but only for takeout–the entire seating area is taped off. Most food outlets appeared to be closed.

I walked to the mall, taking my usual scenic router, with a brief detour to Burnaby Lake, to see hoe many cars were at the Avalon parking lot near the dam. There were a fair number, though somewhat surprisingly, not as many as when I was there last on March 21. There were new signs up regarding physical distancing, including this one:

Also handy if you need to determine if you are about to be attacked by a bald eagle.

The unfortunate thing here is that much of the trail around the lake (including the part right behind this sign) is pretty narrow, so you can’t even get 2 meters apart, even if you walk along the edges. I guess as long as you don’t sneeze into someone’s face…

I also found this on the path leading into Burnaby Lake:

This angers me, because it’s not just litter, it’s putting others at risk. A mask is by design going to be covered with the germs of the person wearing it. It should be disposed of responsibly, and carefully, not tossed on the ground. Imagine this scenario:

Asymptomatic person wears mask, then decides to discard it on the ground because they are thoughtless and dumb. Minutes later a family comes along with a young child. The child sees the mask and immediately picks it up to exam it, because it’s “neat.” The (hopefully) horrified parents tell the kid to drop it, but it’s too late–the kid is now carrying the virus. The family returns home, where they live with their grandparents. The kid eventually spreads the virus to everyone. One of the grandparents, already in less than good health, becomes very ill and ultimately dies.

All because someone was too lazy and irresponsible to dispose of their mask safely.

Unlikely? Maybe. Possible? Absolutely.

Passing through Hume Park, I noticed a new sign aimed at my least favorite people, dog owners:

PSAs featuring terrible puns are OK by me

I find the language interesting. “Please keep your pet leashed to help keep out parks and trails open.” At first glance, this doesn’t seem to be related to the pandemic, until you realize they would never close the park because off-leash dogs were running around, so it’s totally about the pandemic and fears associated with having pets running loose and, I guess, potentially spreading the virus? I’m not sure if that’s possible, but I like the city giving it to dog owners, anyway, because I had my fill of off-leash dogs way back. I’m also guessing the signs went up after complaints were raised, which would also be good.

On the way to the mall, I encountered a fair number of people (it was another unseasonably warm and sunny afternoon), but managed to keep my distance without difficulty and enjoyed just being out in the sunshine. It felt good and for moments at a time I could forget everything else.

Then I get to a pedestrian bridge that crosses over Stony Creek and see this:

This is impressive in its simplicity and clarity, yet also terrifying in how it doesn’t actually mention the pandemic, other than the covid19 in the URL at the bottom. It’s like, “This is your life now. STAY APART.”

I didn’t pass anyone on the bridge to find out how well others know right from left.

Once at the mall, I was greeted by several signs related to the pandemic (safety tips and a list of the few open stores) and a giant hand sanitizer dispenser, which gushed sanitizer into my awaiting hands.

London Drugs is now set up for physical distancing, which stickers on the floor showing you where to stand at the checkouts. The checkouts have Plexiglas barriers to protect the cashiers–it’s like they’re suddenly inside the salad bar. The Plexiglas is thick enough that talking to the cashier feels a bit like using the Cone of Silence from Get Smart.

They also had a giant stack of baskets at the front of the store that had a sign declaring them clean and ready to use. Buggies were similarly arranged:

Technically the arrow should be pointing to the right, unless there are buggies under the floor.

It’s a lot trickier to maintain distance inside a store, because stores are not really designed to keep people apart. While ducking through aisles and avoiding others, I observed a phenomenon I noticed again later today when I went grocery shopping at Save On Foods. While some people clearly try to avoid others and some make at least a marginal effort to do the same, a small set of people appear to be making little to no effort to avoid others and several of these people brushed by me multiple times. The one thing they all had in common?

They were all wearing masks.

It seems some people may be viewing masks as some magical shield that means you no longer have to worry about anything.

These people are dumb. And they make me nervous, and make shopping even more unpleasant now than it already is.

On the way out I went to use this sanitizer station in front of the taped-off playground–which looks like an abandoned crime scene–but the dispenser was empty so I made note to note touch anything for the next 30 minutes. Fortunately the mall has automatic doors at the entrance.

On the walk home, a guy on the sidewalk passed by carrying a take-out bag from White Spot. He was wearing a mask. If that isn’t a sign of the times, I don’t know what is. It also made me want a Legendary burger.

On North Road another guy passed by wearing a mask, as well as a bike helmet. He was not riding a bike, or even walking a bike. There was no bike. I have no idea what was going on there. I kept walking.

As I mentioned, more of the “I can do anything, I’m wearing a mask!” people were at Save On Foods, but I was buying a ton of stuff (to minimize trips) and used a buggy, which is a great way to keep people from getting too close. Also it was kind of fun to toodle around the store with it. The last time I used a buggy while grocery shopping was…probably never.

I try not to think too much about it, but every time I got to a store, I wonder how long it will be before we can shop normally again. A few more weeks? Months? Longer? I’m not sure I’d want someone to tell me the answer now, if they knew.

I also took a few pics of things not related to COVID-19 while I was out. These will be posted separately, so they don’t get infected by this post.

Treadmill walk: Pandemic edition (9 in an ongoing series)

Nothing too exciting to report on tonight’s workout. I started reasonably early compared to some recent exercises–it was only 9:30 p.m. when I hit the treadmill.

I wasn’t really feeling it, but sometime around the midway mark my mind started to drift and I muddled through, distracted from the sweating and exertion by various thoughts about various things.

Note the stats below are comparing today’s 30 minute workout to the previous, which was all of 7:28 minutes. The only interesting thing of note is that my pace after 30 minutes was the same as after 7:28 minutes, so I apparently had more gas tonight than I did the previous night.

Speed: 6.5 km/h
Incline: 10

Pace: 9:31/km (9:31 km/h)
Time: 30:03 (7.28)
Distance: 3.15 km (0.78 km)
Calories burned: 284 (59)
BPM: 137 (123)

Treadmill walk: (Very very late obsessive ring completion) Pandemic edition (8 of an ongoing series)

I went for a walk down to the park in the afternoon and unlike my previous stroll, I made sure to not have a few lingering minutes left on my exercise ring to haunt me through the rest of the day.

The rest of the day proved to be a rather lazy one, though, so I ended up with a shortfall on my move ring instead. I was at 90% by 11:30 p.m. and my mind was starting to click over into “too bad so sad” on missing closing all three rings. But at 11:45 p.m. I found myself donning my shorts and hopping on the treadmill, determined to close the move ring in one final burst of obsessive completionist effort. It happened at 11:55 p.m.

My exercise lasted 7:26 minutes and covered 0.78 km. The minimal stats are below. Hitting my move goal with minutes to spare gave me a perfect week on all three goals, and made me feel a tiny bit better about having a pretty lazy day overall.

Stats (note I am comparing to a shorter-than-normal 20 minute walk):

Speed: 6.5 km/h
Incline: 10

Pace: 9:31/km (9:38 km/h)
Time: 7:28 (20.03)
Distance: 0.78 km (2.08 km)
Calories burned: 59 (163)
BPM: 123 (129)