Thoughts.

I was feeling particularly introspective during my morning walk today. I don’t know if it’s the arrival of spring (however that’s defined in our new home) or the magical sound of the wind sweeping across the desert or the presence of nature all around us again, but something had me pondering life and I’m better for it.

I am happy. I’m actually very happy and am thankful for this blessing of life. I try to never take things for granted and I realized it could all be taken away in nearly an instant, so I strive to treasure each moment, each thought.

For some reason I was thinking of my high school friend that passed on from cancer a couple of years ago. We were close friends in high school, lost touch with one another, found each other on the streets of Boston, connected again, and then he became ill and passed on to whatever lies beyond. I enjoy that he was always a calm one with a dry sense of humor. Now that I think about it, many of my high school friends were rather calm. Maybe I was the high strung one of the group.

This led to me to thoughts about death, and my eventual passing (it happens to everyone, you know), and how I’m very likely well beyond the half way point of this life. I’m not afraid of death. I fully believe without hesitation that something lies ahead on our path and it’s beyond our comprehension as to how wonderful it is. What we call life is just a part of a much larger journey. A sixth sense, a flirtation with death as a youngster, it all just makes sense and is part of a universal truth. I just know these things to be true. I need no proof. I need no reassurance. I just know it to be.

Where am I going with these thoughts? Forward. That’s it. They’re probably mere ramblings written down buy some middle aged guy in a blog of little consequence or impact.

I’m thankful to be able to share them.

Anxiety.

Earl and I went shopping at one of the many locations of The Home Depot in Tucson today. There were a lot of people milling about doing their Saturday chores. The vast majority of them were wearing masks, as required by Pima County and The Home Depot (despite what the governor says).

A few folks were not wearing masks and I maintained an extra amount of distance from them and gave them an eye roll. They probably didn’t notice, they were too wrapped up in their false sense of importance in this world.

Even though I was wearing a mask, maintaining distance, and on the vaccination path for COVID-19, I still feel a great deal of anxiety when out in public. Every person I see, masked or not, is a walking petri dish of God knows what and I have not desire to sample their sickly soup. As a society we have too many people that can’t be bothered to park in one parking space let alone take care of one another by wearing a mask during a global pandemic.

I hope that I’ll be over this anxiety by the end of the summer so we can enjoy all our desert home city has to offer.

Right now I’ll just maintain my distance.

5:30 AM.

My body seems OK with getting up at 5:30 AM Mountain Standard Time for my weekday schedule. Truman stays quiet and still on the bed until I show signs of being awake. My husband doesn’t get up until later, but I tip toe around the room, do my business in the washroom, and then throw on yesterday’s clothes so I can tackle the early morning team meetings.

I wonder if my colleagues notice that I’ve showered, shaved, and changed clothes between my first and second meetings of the morning?

My mood has been surprisingly pleasant with early rising. I’m starting to feel this new routine and it’s not a bad feeling. I’m pretty sure I can do this morning thing for as long as necessary.

Someone just hook up a device to my Zoom meetings so I can be jolted awake.

Actually, I’m kidding. The only stumbling block I have with these early morning meetings, other than being unshowered and unshaven, is my speech patterns. Speaking coherently and trying to keep my mild stammer this side of outrageous in the early morning can be a bit of a challenge. Like President Biden, I have little tricks I use to try to keep things running in the same direction, but once in a while my words and phrases and such can go in six directions at once with a repetitive stammer.

I’m like Bob Newhart without the groovy theme song.

Once I get the cylinders firing on all thrusters, though, I’m in my element and not feeling any bad effects from being up so early. I used to think getting up early was a thing grandparents did.

I’m now shocked to realize I’m the age my grandparents were at when I thought these things about getting up early.

Productivity.

I’ve been messing around with to-do lists, email programs, and other related fun and frivolity in this technological world. As a Mac and iOS user, I tend to lean toward “it just works” and go with stock Apple applications when I can, but sometimes they just don’t seem to be enough.

I’m a little paranoid about online privacy, so anything that squelches tracking is preferred in my book. Apple’s Safari web browser does the vast majority of this with features baked right into the experience, so I like that. However, Apple’s Mail app does not block hidden pixel-trackers in email messages. For those that aren’t aware of these things, many mass email outfits like to put a hidden element in their marketing emails so they know if you’ve read the email or not and confirm the validity of your email address. I never respond to “Wanda has requested a read receipt” prompts, so I really don’t want hidden elements tattling on my email management habits. So I’ve opted to use AirMail on my devices because it automatically blocks this pixel-based reporting back to the sender.

My other struggle is with my to do list management system. For over a decade I’ve used OmniFocus, but I’ve never been comfortable with the locking of data into the OmniFocus platform. I’m relying on their syncing between devices, their file format, and their addition and deletion of features. I like being able to automatically schedule tasks, for example, telling my to do list “I have a flight on Saturday”, and it builds all the tasks, and times them appropriately, for everything that’s needed to get ready for the flight. As I get older, the holes in my Swiss cheese brain get bigger and I rely on my productivity app to keep track of my life. OmniFocus let’s me automate, but it’s not the smoothest experience in the world.

Lately I’ve been bouncing back and forth between OmniFocus and plain text ToDo.txt, which I can control, read, and automate with ease.

The bouncing back and forth takes more personal bandwidth than just getting things done.

I need to make a decision and stick to it. I’ll have to put that on my todo.

Wherever it may land.

No Foolin’

April Fools’ Day is my least favorite day of the year. I’ve never been a fan of the frivolity others find in pranks, lies, and other foolish things to celebrate the arrival of April. Even back when I was a kid I would dread the day because it just seemed unnecessary.

Now, this is not to say I haven’t found anything associated with April Fools’ Day to be amusing. Way back in the early 1990s, a local radio station started running ads and announcements that the United States had converted to Metric Time. They had ads from businesses announcing you could bring your microwave or VCR in to be reprogrammed for Metric Time. I thought that little campaign was clever. There’s probably been a couple others I’ve found amusing over the decades but since the Internet destroyed took over the world it seems like April Fools’ Day has just ramped up and amplified stupidity and idiocy.

I always look forward to April 2.

CGI.

This has bothered me since the “Downton Abbey” movie came out in 2019 and when the trailer was suggested on Youtube today, it finally hit me.

The did something with CGI to Dame Maggie Smith’s eyes in the final cut of the movie.

In the official trailer, Dame Maggie looks like Dame Maggie, as regal and glorious as ever.

In the same clip in the actual movie, they modified her left eye a bit.

Subconsciously I knew something had changed but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Not that I would put my finger in her eye or anything, but I’m happy I’ve resolved this little niggling in the back of my head.

And I wish they’d do another Downton Abbey movie.

Normality.

We talk about “getting back to normal”, even though the COVID-19 pandemic is still here and doing its thing. I look around and wonder about the definition of “normal”. Always introspective, I ponder, “do we _really_ want things to be the way they were before the pandemic”? I feel like we missed some learning opportunities in 2020.

I get it, two many people are facing financial and other well being hardships because of lockdowns and the other precautions around COVID safety. But that speaks more to where our society was and what we depend on more than COVID itself. There are too many people that will simply not figure out a better approach to this societal existence. They want things the way they were before the pandemic. Full stop.

It’s never going to be that way again.

After we get through COVID-19, some other variant or similar type bug is going to come along and we’ll all be trying to figure that out. Luckily, I feel like we have a better leader in the White House to handle the next crisis like this. I fully believe we’d have still faced the challenges (opportunities?) of 2020 even if Trump did the right things (which he most certainly did not) but it wouldn’t haven’t been to the extent that we experienced.

At the New Year I tweeted, “if you thought 2020 was an awful year, you were paying attention to the lesson”, or something like that. There’s so many things we could be doing better now. Many companies are shifting their workers to full-time work at home status, but too many companies want everyone back in the office under their watchful, untrusting eye. Luckily, the company I work for discovered a huge cost savings on facility costs and a good sized increased in productivity when the teams work from the comfort of their own home. Even though around 15% of the workforce was already full-time work at home team members, there’s now a sizable chunk of folks that will never be going back to the office.

Less pollution from commutes, less dawdling for chit chat at the water bubbler.

I can’t understand why so many people are demanding to be seated shoulder to shoulder in restaurants. We’ve supported our community by ordering take-out when we can, but we actually saved a great deal of money by eating at home. It’s amazing to think of what can happen in your life when you save money by not eating out. I’m hopeful we’ll continue this trend when we move to Arizona next week.

There’s comfort in what’s known as normal, I get that, but there’s also a great deal of value in listening and learning.

I wish more folks had taken the time to do that. Because things will never be “normal” again, nor will things ever feel as “safe” as they did before.

Let’s continue to be vigilant with our masks and vaccinations. Let’s make that the new normal.

Healthy.

I didn’t ask my doctor about my tinnitus during my annual physical. We talked about what I’m calling my “COVID 10”, or the weight I’ve gained during the pandemic. Honestly, I could have easily gained more weight if I put my mind to it, but I wanted to make sure things were kept fairly reasonable. I get anxious about physicals and visits to the doctor in general, hence my blood pressure was elevated the first time they took it but much better the second time the put the cuff on me.

The lab took five vials of blood. Among the blood tests was an HIV test. I get tested every year whether I need it or not, I guess it’s the Gen-X/grew up during the beginning of the AIDS crisis in me that prompts a yearly test. I attended too many funerals in the 80s and 90s. I still remember.

She didn’t do a very good job of taking blood, though. It didn’t hurt much, but she left a mark.

Closures.

I’m growing weary of businesses in our neighborhood closing down. In the past year we’ve had two comedy clubs, several restaurants, some barbershops, a couple of bars, and one or two other storefronts all close down. All of these locations are within a half mile radius of our home.

The pandemic has been hard for everyone, especially local businesses.

We’ve tried to support local business as much as possible during these COVID times. When safe to do so we’ve walked to pick up food. We’ve even picked up alcohol from a favorite local pub when they were doing that. The city of Chicago banned alcohol sales after 9:00 PM for much of the pandemic, and closed bars at the same time. This was to discourage people from congregating in groups. I’m sure many just gathered in their homes.

As restrictions loosen up I’m hoping to see businesses open up as well. Resilience. It’s what we all need. But it’s going to be a couple of years, at least, before the economy fully recovers. At least we’re heading in the right direction again. It was touch and go there for a little while.

I’m ready for whatever the new normal will be. I’m sure everyone else is as well.

Ring Ring.

My ears ring. My ears ring a lot. The left side rings more than the right side and it’s been this way for as long as I can remember. I have memories of laying in bed in our mobile home when I was a youngster and wondering why my ears rang so much. The ringing wasn’t as loud then as it is now, but I guess having ringing ears for as long as I can remember has made it manageable for me. It’s just there.

Years of DJing in clubs and on the radio probably didn’t help the ringing situation, but I believe the initial ringing may have been a result of having spinal meningitis as a kid.

As far as I can tell, there are no cures for ringing ears. We sleep with white noise going in the bedroom, which is more to muffle the sounds of the big city instead of my ringing ears, but the ocean waves coming from the HomePod in our bedroom certainly helps combat the constant ringing in my ears. I’ve always had white noise or a fan or something going in my bedroom.

Luckily, the ringing doesn’t overpower my ability to hear. I actually wonder if my tinnitus has actually made my hearing better, because I can hear the faintest of sounds as long as it’s not the same exact frequency as the ringing in my ear.

Perhaps the constant sound has contributed to my eccentricities. Oh well, it’s part of who I am, might as well enjoy the music.