Cleaning Up

So here it is, the third day of February, and I’m writing my first blog post of the year. Anyway…

At the end of 2019, I had decided to make some changes once 2020 rolled around and once it did, you bet I started and am continuing to stick with them. So here they are, in no particular order.

I Started Reading. For those who know me really well, they understand why this is a big deal and pretty surprising. Why, you ask? Because my job requires me to read All. Day. Long. and the last thing I want to do when I get home is read some more.

The main reason I did so was because I discovered that there is an iOS app for Google Books where, as an Android user year ago, I amassed a decent collection of e-books. And I started to read some of them but because my Samsung tablet had such poor battery life and awful performance, I stopped. I wiped the tablet clean and tried again and nope, it was still slow. But once I installed the Books app on my iPad and realized how many I had, I thought that it would be a good time to start all over.

I did at the beginning of January with The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Zen Living and, much to my surprise, finished it yesterday. A whole book. All 300+ pages. That’s something, and I’m not done yet. I’m going to take a break and focus on something else this month and start on my next book in March.

Being Clutter-Free. One of the things mentioned in said book is the removal of clutter from your living space in order to keep your mind focused, and ridding yourself of material goods as a means of sticking to one of Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths: attachment is the root of all suffering (and it really is). For me, it went beyond that silly made-for-television “Does it spark joy?” mantra by someone the world has since forgotten about; it was a matter of “When was the last time I used this shit?”

And if I couldn’t remember, it got thrown out. I started in the den by cleaning out the cabinets around my TV where I found so many useless things I had collected over the years. But if they had been in there for this long and not used, away they went. There’s still work to be done but it was a real test to take on this task and see exactly how badly I might be attached to any of this stuff. I got my answer.

This also continued in the garage where we applied the same philosophy. If not for my rarely used drum set in the back, we’d have more space but I keep it because it’s fun to bang on now and then. But wait! There’s even more room in there now because…

I Sold My Motorcycle. I bought a 2015 Yamaha YZF-R3 back in February 2016 because, after two years of riding my scooter, I wanted something a little faster and sportier. Here she is, showroom-fresh just before I started the paperwork:

IMG_3992

Was it fun to ride? Yes. Economical? Of course. But once I was in my scooter accident in October 2016, I swore off riding and returned to being a “cager,” a not-so-endearing term that riders use to describe people who drive cars.

So basically the motorcycle sat in the garage from then until this weekend when I sold it to a local dealer. I had tried to sell it there in the past but because I owed so much on it then (the dreaded “negative equity”), they wouldn’t buy it because there was no money to be made. When I got my last statement I decided to research its value and realized it was now worth more than I owed. So I rode it over and pretty much said I want to get rid of it and they made me an offer which I happily accepted because selling a motorcycle privately is a bit more difficult than a car. I didn’t make a lot of money on the deal because it needed some maintenance but I didn’t care. It’s gone, there’s room in the garage, and I’m saving over $150 a month from the payments I no longer have to make, plus insurance I no longer have to pay. I loved riding but with the Big 51 coming in a few weeks, nah, I can’t take anymore chances.

I’m Fasting. I had heard about intermittent fasting as 2019 was wrapping up and decided to give it a try to see the benefits. While you can simply set timers and alarms on your phone to notify you when you need to start and stop your fast, I’m using an app called Zero that keeps track of all of your fasts and lets you add journal entries and emojis to record how you felt each day. There are several fasts you can try or you can personalize your own: mine is currently a nightly fast of 12 hours. It’s by no means easy – I often find myself wanting to snack once I’ve started but that’s something you have to resist along with drinking lots of water. The app has lots of useful tips if you’re just getting started.

Have I felt any different? After the first week, I went for my walk/run and did more running than I had in a long time. The energy was definitely there and I felt great. Then, of course, I got sick with a cold for about a week, took a few days off work and didn’t exercise for a week.

Tip: I would not recommend the Zero Apple Watch app. It will drain your battery since it will be running the entire time of your fast.

So the literal and proverbial cleaning will continue for as long as it takes to get things in order.

Change is hard. But change is also very, very good.

It’s Another Update on Crap

Every December 1st I’m reminded that my annual domain mapping fee has been processed. It’s not a lot but it’s a reminder nonetheless and since I still pay for that and the domain, I feel obligated to give the people – all 5 3 of them – what they want.

But before we go too far, let’s talk about what I’m apparently not giving. I had ratings on my posts for the longest time and it seems that there are some pinheads out there who take great pride in ticking one-star ratings on a lot of them.

Look, this is free entertainment for you. And as I already stated, it costs me a few bucks to keep things going (in addition to setting time aside to blog). So starting with this post, ratings will be off because, frankly, I want them to be. All you sourpusses need to go to find someone else to belittle or, better yet, prove you are better at this. Yes, blogs are a dying medium but if you’ve been at it a long time, there’s still a sense of pride in getting your thoughts onto virtual paper for the entire world to see – and I do.

Anyway, let’s cover some things that have happened since my last post.

We Were In An Accident. I didn’t go into great detail on any social media platforms (save for a brief mention on Instagram stories) and for good reason: it really wasn’t a big deal. In a nutshell, we were going to dinner and as my light turned green and I pulled into the intersection, a guy ran his red light and hit the front of Ann’s car on the driver’s side. If I were going and faster the impact would have been on the door and I probably would have gotten a bit banged-up. But he wasn’t going fast and he admitted guilt, and we had two witnesses stop and give us their phone numbers. Anthony had the wind knocked out of him for a bit but was fine, and Ann and I had a few days of soreness.

The damage:

Photo Oct 24, 2 21 18 PM

It’s not extensive and the car is still drive-able so we’re waiting until after the holidays to get it fixed. Now here’s a few thoughts about the accident.

  • Remember in the old days when it was recommended that you carry a disposable camera in your car in case of an accident? It’s hard to imagine such days existed now that there are cameras everywhere, and you don’t realize how far we’ve come until you upload all your evidence to a Dropbox folder and send the link to your insurance agent. That’s exactly what I did.
  • They say California drivers are the worst. Well, in the case of my two accidents (scooter and car), I was hit by drivers who were not from California and both were at fault. In fact, the most recent one was in a rental car and didn’t pack his license for his trip out here (which makes me wonder how he got a rental car or why he was driving in general). So let’s lay that assumption to rest, mmmmkay?

Ann’s Recovery Continues to Baffle Everyone. Throughout the course of Ann’s journey with kidney cancer, we’ve visited our share of –ologists: nephrologist (kidney specialist), oncologist (cancer), and urologist (urinary tract and related organs). There might even be more. And with each visit, she continues to leave them speechless with the progress she’s making.

Just over a year after her nephrectomy, her most recent bloodwork shows that everything is where it should be, if not better. There are also no indications – referred to as NED or No Evidence of Disease – of any cancer anywhere. Whatever –ologist they are, we are grateful for all of them for saving Ann’s life. We’ve been handling this the best way we know how: staying positive and refusing to let it consume our lives. I believe that the mind can do some incredible things and there’s no doubt that a positive attitude – and a little spark inside both of us – made all the difference. We’re also grateful for those who helped us along the way with words of encouragement and, yes, prayer. I don’t partake in it myself but as my mom told me, “I wish I could do more but that’s about all I can give you guys.”

Thanks, Mom. I get it.

And would you believe Ann actually lost friends over this? Granted, she didn’t expect comments from all of her Facebook friends on her recovery updates since we don’t know how often they use the platform. But those that we know well enough to give our phone number and do use it a lot? Those same ones never left one comment or an encouraging word throughout her recovery. Not even a call or a text. Strangely, they were the ones who liked to complain the most over the tiniest, most mundane aspect of their dull, dull lives and blow it so egregiously out of proportion so it was like Ann got cancer to steal their thunder. They are the type to expect sympathy over a hangnail. So fuck them, she cut them loose and if they were mutual, I did the same. We haven’t heard from any of them since and we’re better off.

We Had to Replace or Fix Lots of Things. This hasn’t been our year apparently. In addition to the accident, here’s a list of things that were in cahoots with each other and all went out within month over the year:

  • Refrigerator/freezer
  • Washer
  • Dryer
  • Batteries on all three vehicles (both cars and my motorcycle)
  • Living room TV
  • Brake pads on my car (replaced by me, saving over $200)

I think there’s more but that’s all I can remember at the moment. But it’s enough. All have been replaced or fixed except for the motorcycle battery since I don’t ride it anymore.

The Texas Crap Has Been Resolved. You may recall that shortly after Ann’s surgery, I had a process server come to my door wanting to serve me with papers for a child support case. You read the details here. Long story short, a few months ago my attorney sent me an email from the person handling the case stating that they had the wrong person and I was off the hook. Attached was a “notice of nonsuit” with the reason being “mistaken identity.” That’s finally taken care of but what a stressful thing to handle while you have more important things going on in your life.

Speaking of Texas, I Was Right About the Astros. I say this not as a bitter Dodger fan but as a baseball fan who just felt that things weren’t right with the way this Astros team suddenly became the reincarnation of the 1990s Atlanta Braves.

“Those fuckers are cheating,” I said after the 2018 playoffs even though they lost.  “No other way around it. No team gets that good, that fast.” And now with every story that emerges about the scandal, it seems I was right.

Whew, was that enough? I think so. Maybe the next post will actually stick to a single topic.

Let’s just hope my computer doesn’t sUdd3nly DecIddddddddee to br…

Holy Shit, It’s a Blog Post!

Feeling lucky, punk? Well for the second day in a row, you’re getting a blog post. You’re kind of special.

The notable exception between last night and tonight? I’m using my iPad and wireless keyboard instead of my jank-ass Gateway which tends to freeze up quite a bit, which made composing last night’s post a bit of a pain. The only pain here is the freakishly small keys on this wireless keyboard and odd commands (Function + O = apostophe).

So what do you get with this post? An update from the previous one which outlined what I’ve been up to. Let’s see what changed.

Learning Japanese. For the umpteenth time, I started to dabble in learning the language as a means to kill time on the bus to work. And for the umpteenth time, I’ve given up. There’s no going back this time. If I do decide to learn something, it will be brushing up on my Spanish.

Speaking of the bus, the route changed to the summer schedule and it’s no longer convenient to take it to work since I’d have to leave the office much earlier or wait for the next bus at 6:30, then get home at 7:30. That’s a long day, and I’m back to driving until the schedule changes back.

I’ve Been Sick. Well, I had one day of being sick after the last time but it wasn’t so bad. Just took a day off from work to hydrate and recover.

I’ve Been Drawing On My iPad. While not lately, I do have a few projects going currently. Here’s one of them.

I’m Considering Leaving Instagram. Well, that never happened. It was just a rough time of being shadowbanned and just waiting until the ban was lifted. All of my accounts are now active but here is the main one if you’re so inclined.

Now you’re al caught up. Let’s see if I keep my blogging interesting going!

They Really Do Like Me

English sentences with red penThe job of a proofreader is often the least appreciated at any organization and goes far beyond the scope of making sure the word public isn’t mistakenly spelled pubic.

Don’t laugh. I’ve caught that error in the past.

We are fact-checkers, legal liaisons, and basically a safety net between the organization or its clients and the public. In my case, the public is the auto-buying consumer who will review details of specific models in order to make an informed decision. After all, a car is a big purchase and things have to be right in general and in the eyes of the Legal Department.

But often the job demands ridiculous requests from any number of internal people who don’t realize or understand how the Creative Services Department operates. Sure, it’s easy for them to add a copy block to the middle of a brochure and think nothing of it – unless that block requires disclaimers, in which sometimes everything will have to be renumbered from that point on. You should see my notepad on my desk with said renumbering notes scribbled all over it. A real work of art.

And it takes time – a lot of time – to get this done right along with other changes and sent back to the Production Artist. A pat on the back for getting it done under a time-sensitive deadline? Forget it, pal. Just take your lunch and be back in an hour.

Flash-forward to today’s daily huddle in which Project Managers, Production Artists, and Proofreaders go over projects currently funneling through so that we all have an idea of our priorities. It’s also a time to make any other announcements that might affect the team.

Once projects were discussed, one PM spoke up and informed us that she had given her two-week notice and when her final day would be. Shocking to say the least as she has been with the company for some time now, and we lost another PM last week. We’ll be down two experienced PMs come July and will have to start the onboarding process with two fresh faces at that point. No pressure with everything we have going on.

When she was done with her announcement, I spoke up in order to bring attention to a recent change in the formatting of the websites we build.

“Before y’all run away, I’ve got something to say too.”

And the looks on the faces of everyone in the room were priceless. There were gasps, sighs, and other sounds of disapproval before someone said something.

“No no no, don’t even tell us you’re leaving,” one PM said, mouth agape. There were other mutterings in the background I couldn’t decipher but I can assure you they weren’t expressing joy. All eyes were fixed on me – and looking rather bulbous. I laughed, smiled, and paused a moment to build up tension – but didn’t really answer their question.

“You’ll know when I’m moving on,” I said. “But that’s not what I want to talk about.”

Always leave them guessing.

I then went into detail about the topic I wanted to discuss and gathered some input. In fact, it’s such a mess that it will require a second meeting tomorrow in order determine how to streamline the process.

With that, the meeting was over and all were relieved to learn that I wasn’t going to be the next one to make a hasty exit and they expressed it nervously. It makes me wonder what’s going on or if I should see what else is out there, but a longer commute would hardly justify the difference in pay, if any.

But just based on the reaction of all in the room it’s safe to say that, despite my impressions of being part of the most unappreciated department in the office, I’m a little more respected than previously thought for the job that I do.

And being in a position where kudos and thank-yous are rarely expressed, it felt good to get that kind of feedback and to know that we are an integral part of the machine.

So I Joined AARP. Shut Up.

“What do you mean, Patrick? Old people are the greatest! They’re full of wisdom and experience!” – SpongeBob SquarePants

Photo Feb 10, 9 31 42 PM

Call it target marketing.

A few weeks ago, I was reading a story online about something I can’t remember but none of that is important. Near the bottom of the page was an ad for AARP and while I’m usually pretty good at ignoring ads (read: they’ve never prompted me to purchase a damn thing ever), I decided it to give it a click and see what it was all about.

I thought I’d go a little in-depth with what they had to offer and see if it was worth my time. About 20 minutes later, I was reaching for my wallet to join at the low, low introductory rate of $12 for the year.

And here’s what I’ve discovered so far.

Anyone can join AARP these days. It was once restricted to ages 55 and up but that’s no longer the case.

I get a 15% senior discount at Denny’s when I flash my membership card which, two weeks later, I have yet to receive in physical form. Thankfully, it can be added to your Apple Wallet via the app so it’s cool. But for my birthday this week, my meal will be free since Denny’s still does that Grand Slam birthday promotion. It will be a good way to start my day when I do what I have planned. You didn’t hear anything. Shhh.

I took a hearing test, a whopping $8 value but free of charge to AARP members, and to no one’s surprise I discovered I’m a little hard of hearing, mostly in the right ear. It was a little sketchy though since the test was done over the phone where I had to listen to the sound a voice recite a set of three numbers over white noise that got louder each sequence. Then I had to enter said numbers – or at least what I thought I heard – with the keypad. I guess seeing Elton John last week didn’t help matters (but seriously, it was Elton Fucking John and he was spectacular).

There are discounts a-plenty: travel, health, auto insurance, hotels, etc. And oh yeah, cellular plans for Jitterbug. Because I’m so fucking old that I need to use a flip phone to call the police and let them know about the damn neighbor kids messing up my lawn.

But honestly, the discounts were all pretty disappointing. I’ve got good health insurance for me and the family so we’re covered there. I tried an auto insurance quote and it wasn’t much cheaper than what we pay with AAA which offers many more benefits. For travel and entertainment, my company has a corporate site where we can buy movie or concert tickets, book hotel rooms, reserve a rental car, etc. at substantial corporate discounts. What AARP offers doesn’t even come close to these rates.

There are also financial planning services offered but again, the job offers the same thing. So as of now, about the only thing this will be good/used for is the 15% discount at Denny’s and as often as we go there, it’s not even worth keeping.

Maybe when I leave my job and retire (HA!) I’ll get back into this whole AARP thing but until then, it’s a no from me and won’t be renewing. I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing and OOH SHINY NEW BIKE!

Photo Feb 10, 12 26 44 PM

It’s new. It was cheap. I rode it home in the rain and it’s better than anything you can get a big box store for the same price of $199 (original retail was $489). I still like to ride and since Ann’s old bike was absconded by some putz at the office, I can take my old one to work and use it instead of the left-out-in-the-rain bikeshare bikes that often need repairing.

50 might be approaching but I’m not slowing down much.

Well, except maybe when I see a Denny’s.