The Days of Wine and COVID, Part II: Working from Home

As stated in my previous post, this is the first time I’ve ever worked from home save for that time I thought being a freelance proofreader would be the way to go (I ended up doing one project).

As such, there was much to get used to – like, everything. And being my wife is also working from home and starts at an earlier time than me, I’ve kept my alarms set to 6 am so that she can get up and start her day an hour before I start mine.

But after about a week I had my schedule in place and it goes something like this.

6 am: Alarm goes off on iPhone. Hit Snooze for the next few rounds.

6:30 am: Ann gets up and prepares for her workday in the kitchen where her home office is set up. I roll around in bed a few more times before deciding to get my running clothes together.

6:45 am: Laced up and ready to go. My daily goal is 5 miles which has become easier by the day. I get home in about 1.5 hours, 1.25 of which are moving (I take a few breaks along the way).

7:00 am: Out the door I go.

And before you ask, yes, social distancing is in order. In my city, outdoor exercising is one of the few things you can actually do that does not require wearing a mask. I take full advantage of this because, frankly, running with one really, really sucks. (And ladies, if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to have facial hair, put your mask on – just pretend you have a hole for eating and speaking – and imagine wearing it all the time. Yeah. Really. That’s why I no longer have a goatee because it’s freaking hot and I don’t care to constantly maintain the goddamned thing. Plus, gray hairs. And ew, facial hair.)

Here’s a small section of where I run (about 1 mile in length).

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There is a dirt path next to the San Gabriel River bike trail but with all the foot traffic, maintaining social distancing is next to impossible. I’ve been running on the right side of the picture because there was never anyone over there – then some figured it out and traffic has increased. So now I run alongside the river to avoid people, COVID-19 or not. And on the way here, I run in the street if there are people on the sidewalk.

8:10–8:20 am: I return home with just enough time to take a shower and have breakfast. During this time before I start, I also charge up the case for my new – they are about a month old – JLab Air Icon earbuds so that I have juice for the day in case I need it. (Not a paid endorsement; for a mere $59 they have held up to my daily workout abuse and get me through most of the day on a single charge. Plus Apple earbuds don’t fit my ears and have abysmal battery life, and Beats are overpriced and uncomfortable.)

Wearing running shorts, a t-shirt, flip-flops and no hair gel I make my way to my home office in the den. I light a candle and turn on the computer.

9 am: Work until 6 pm.

The reason I started doing this daily cardio was because I was eating way too much and at the start my WFH tenure, things were still kind of sketchy with this COVID-19 thing, meaning there was a time when it was nearly demanded that we stay indoors for a week in order to reduce the chance of spreading it. So I did Wii Fit “workouts” until we were cleared to exercise outdoors once again. They were goofy and fun but being indoors all the time really sucks.

Now that I’ve been doing this I’m down 7 pounds, eating better, gaining muscle and losing fat. Not bad.

WFH definitely has advantages. For one, I’m not driving much if at all anymore, as if I did to begin with since I was taking the bus to the office. Now whenever I open the door to my car, I have to yank on it a bit because it’s practically sealed shut and air-tight like a sarcophagus. I think I may have put gas in it twice since mid-March – we alternate cars every week when we do have to drive – and that’s okay by me. I don’t even know how much gas costs anymore.

Not dealing with traffic or a long bus ride to the office are great. While working at the office, by the time I walked home from the bus stop it would be around 7:20 pm. Now I just turn off my computer and walk from the den to the living room to get “home” at 6 pm. Plus I can have dinner and lunch with the family instead of dining solo long after their meals have been consumed. It’s a win-win.

But it’s still working. Messaging apps and conference calls have become the norm for my daily work life, respectively replacing phone calls and daily meetings. And being we’ve had some layoffs and restructuring, there have been plenty of conference calls.

For now, this is how it will be. My company is getting things in order for our potential return to the office, which will be based on local government recommendations (we won’t talk about the federal government’s plans or, more precisely, lack thereof). It has been stressed that by no means will anyone be required to return to the office if they do not wish to do so, and I’m kind of leaning in that direction.

And that’s the only thing that has me torn.

The office is in a great location. I’ve spent many a lunch hour walking or riding my bike around town and on the beach, taking pictures of interesting things. There’s so many cool buildings, fun events, and interesting people in the area. It spawns my creativity. In that respect, I miss being there.

But since we’re still under safer-at-home orders (indefinitely it seems), there’s almost no point in going back. Many businesses are still closed and several restaurants have shuttered permanently. All major events that I enjoyed attending were cancelled this year and who’s to say if they will happen next year. In fact, I’m holding off on registering for this year’s half marathon since everything is still up in the air – there goes my 10-year streak of participating. And since people like me are working from home, there’s no downtown vibe.

So I don’t know what I’ll return to downtown if I decide to go back. If working from home has proven anything, it’s that my job can be successfully done from a darkened den with a candle burning for ambiance instead of a fluorescent bulb-illuminated office where I’m tied to a desk all day.

There’s a certain freedom being home.

And I really like that.

Next episode: The Days of Wine and COVID, Part III: The Return to the Office

The Days of Wine and COVID, Part I: Black Friday

Back on April 4, I was walking along the side of the house and came across a patch of clovers. Keep in mind I’ve walked past these things many times in the past and never gave them much thought but that day I decided to go looking for a little luck.

And I found it.

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Count ’em. This isn’t a four-leaf clover, no. Look closer and you’ll see that there’s a fifth leaf on the other side. They say that the fifth leaf is supposed to represent money and extra luck. Little did I know that over a week later, I’d really need it.

Up to this point, because of all the coronavirus madness, I had been working from home since the middle of March and we had gotten a few emails from the company President explaining what the next moves were going to be. Nothing too drastic – until one stated that layoffs and furloughs were coming. The only thing I could think of was great, here we go again.

I had been laid off from several jobs in the past and figured this would just be another notch on my résumé. But being we had gotten our stimulus money a week prior, I figured we’d be okay for little bit while unemployment kicked in. We had it all planned and were ready.

And on Friday, April 10, it happened – but not to me. Several people were let go but not entirely because of COVID-19. We lost a big client due to a really stupid business decision on their part so people who were a part of that team were transitioned to other teams while some people on other teams were let go entirely. But some of the blame most definitely falls on COVID-19 as markets around the world try to rebound from this economic crisis.

We lost a person in our department who accepted the company’s offer for a retirement package. While we all thanked him via email and Slack messages, it sucks that we didn’t get a chance to say goodbye in person. I wish him the best in his retirement.

The rest of us are still hanging in there as we continue to plug along in this strange new working world, strange to me at least.

I was never ready for this to happen and hadn’t made room for or given much thought to where my work computer would go. In the end, I put it on my old drawing table in front of my personal computer which, as you probably know, doesn’t get much use these days because it sucks.

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This is my workspace (the calendar on the screen covers up the company name). I’m pretty much crammed in the corner of the den but I’m making it work. And yes, it’s dark and those are the only lights I have on most of the time while I work but I turn on another lamp occasionally in case my eyes start to feel strained.

For now, the stimulus money sits in the bank untouched and although you can’t see it, the five-leaf clover rests under the monitor in a Ziploc bag because it worked for me the first time.

Let’s hope it continues to do the trick.

Next episode: The Days of Wine and COVID, Part II: Working from Home

 

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:

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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:

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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!