Hello Again

Huh. It’s a blog post! Considering my last one was in December, I thought I’d write another one and try to be better at it. I said try, folks.

In said post I had mentioned that COVID cases continued to surge. That’s no longer the case as more and more people get vaccinated and numbers are actually dropping. As a result, the state has entered a lower tier and restaurants are starting to open for indoor dining, stores are allowing more customers in their doors, and gyms are welcoming back the resolutioners that haven’t thrown in the towel yet.


I have acquaintances posting family pics at Mongolian BBQs. Ann has friends who couldn’t wait to get smashed at local bars and posting selfies of their exuberant debauchery.


Perhaps I speak for myself when I say that we’re still in the midst of a motherfucking pandemic and it’s still way too soon to be getting shitfaced at Moe’s Tavern or be slurping udon with your family in a restaurant.


Anyway…

(Update 3/25/21: I learned yesterday that a family on our street — known to have had plenty of social gatherings during this pandemic — all came down with COVID after one of their drunken soirées because one of the members was unknowingly exposed and spread the virus. It cost one of the eldest members his life. Worth it?)


I haven’t been shot yet because I do not meet the state’s criteria of being a fat…uh, morbidly obese nor do I fall within the age range of being 60+, work in field that puts me at risk, or have any underlying conditions that put me at a higher risk of dying from COVID. Damn you, you healthy stinking body!

Ha ha. Sucks to be you, I guess. Go eat some oranges you healthy sucky-suck.


Frankly I have a greater chance of getting hit by cars while out for my morning walk/ride – and it’s already happened more times than I’d like to mention.

The family hasn’t been vaccinated yet either for the same reasons I’ve stated although they do have asthma and one is a cancer survivor. (Ann is now two-and-a-half years of being what the doctors call “unremarkable” and still exceeding all the -ologists expectations!) My mom has gotten both shots and in-laws have had their first dose. My brother got his today although I suspect he, as he always does, stretched the truth to get it. I mean…there’s a history of that and all…

And when we finally do, don’t count on any post-vaccination selfies. Because.


In a post last May I had mentioned that I was going to write a three-part blog series called The Days of Wine and COVID with Part 3 being called The Return to the Office (ala the J.R.R. Tolkien books which I did read, thankyouverymuch). While I got through Parts 1 and 2, Part 3 isn’t happening any time soon. My employer continues to monitor the state’s situation and will follow those guidelines when the time comes although we are at no obligation to ever return to the office. While I do miss being around some coworkers, being home has proven to be a viable alternative to the typical workday. We’ve gotten just as much done at home as we would have at the office and I have much more freedom to do what I need for the family. I miss the location of the office and my coworkers but this is just too easy.

So aside from all that, what’s new?

I’m down 20 pounds. I started to track my weight when I got my Wyze scale last April and weighed in at 237 lbs. Holy, holy fuck. I’m currently at 217 and working on reaching 25 pounds lost by this April. So far this year I’ve logged 500 miles between daily walking and cycling with the occasional rest days. Change is always possible even in the most adverse of situations so don’t give me the “But we were in lockdown!” or “The gym was closed!” excuses for weight gain because I did this during lockdown and never set foot into a gym. You want it? Find a way and work for it.


I’ve joined some virtual challenges. With running events being on hold indefinitely, virtual runs/walks have become more popular. I’ve completed several Conqueror Challenges and have set a goal reaching of 2,021 miles this year so with 500 miles in the books thus far, it’s gonna happen by October. As of now I’ve earned 5 medals and they are soooo cool.


L-R: Mt. Fuji (46 mi.), Mt. Everest (40 mi.), Giza Pyramids (46 mi.), Grand Canyon (280 mi.), St. Francis Way (312 mi.).

New iPad Air. Stimulus money be damned! I got a 2017 Nissan LEAF EV last July and Ann realized on the last day of 2020 that I qualified for a $1,000 rebate, so I hastily submitted my application with the appropriate paperwork and got approved a few months later. Once I got the check, I used a portion of it along with some cash I had saved up for this specific purchase and some Amazon gift cards to get the iPad and an Apple Pencil 2 (required for newer iPads). That said…


Y’all wanna buy some stickers? Part of the reason I got my new iPad was to be creative and draw more regularly. I had one of my drawings of Milhouse Van Houten made into stickers and my first batch is up for sale on Etsy. I’ve sold a total of one but will have more on the way.


NOBODY LIKES MILHOUSE!


We’re growing stuff! No, not that stuff. After a year of being home, we decided that having a garden would be fun so we used our existing planters and any empty areas in the backyard to plant a bunch of stuff: onions, pumpkins, peppers, cilantro, tomatoes, etc. It’s been a lot of work but so worth it. This is just a small part of it.

Green goodness!


Fresh eggs are comin’! I eat two eggs every day for breakfast, so I thought hey, why not have fresh ones? I have a chicken coop coming and once it’s built, I’m getting a hen. It seems we’ve turned into city farmers – maybe even hippies with my EV – and it feels kinda nice picking what we need from our backyard. And no, my hen isn’t going to be on our plate one day. She’s going to provide the eggs and be our pet, and we’re looking forward to having her.


And that’s pretty much been life since December!

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

 

Friday Five: Payday

Yep, so I’m a day late with this one. With the release of the SNES Classic yesterday, I spent the evening playing Super Mario World with Anthony on my original console.


Seen here with Super Star Wars, it’s ugly, turning yellow and still works, but I’m not sure for how much longer. It couldn’t seem to handle some of the more intense movements in certain games — because, you know, 16 bits — so who knows. Anyway, that’s the reason for not posting this last night.

Let’s go with the Friday Five!

1. From whom did you receive your first real paycheck?

My first job ever was at a one-hour photo lab inside a grocery store (The Giant branch of Ralphs that took over former Zodys locations). It was called PDQ 1 Hour Photo and I still have my name tag somewhere. I made a whopping $4.25 an hour which I think was minimum wage at the time. The Giant was a warehouse-style grocery store ala Costco that featured smaller shops on the inside. It was an interesting concept but it didn’t last.

By the way, saying someone got their clothes at Zodys was an insult back in the day.

2. Among board games involving the exchange of money, which have you enjoyed most?

Easy: none. I hated and still hate Monopoly and never really dealt with board games that involved money. I spent way too much time playing games like Perfection which probably explains why I’m this way.

3. PayDay is the name of a candy bar consisting of salted peanuts rolled in caramel surrounding a firm, nougat-like center. How does it sound to you if you haven’t tried it, and how do you like it if you have? Is there a similar candy bar you like better?

I like PayDay bars but they are hardly satisfying if I want a snack. Lots of protein, yes, but I normally have a box of protein bars in my drawer at work. I get my protein and my chocolate craving in one sitting. I’ll still buy a PayDay now and then but they aren’t at the top of my list.

4. When did you last do something nice for yourself just because it was pay day?

Why, this payday I did! I bought an Xbox One game called Cuphead, a hand-animated scrolling shooter adventure made to look like a 30s-era cartoon. I have been waiting for this one and downloaded it today after Xbox got their server issues in line (*shakes fist*). The music, dialog, animation, everything is to-the-era perfection. It’s like you’re playing a color version of Steamboat Willie but a lot less Disney-fied (read: animated violence).

5. What person with the surname Day are you most familiar with?

Although Morris Day is the first, I’m going to post Doris Day video. Just because.

The kid is venturing out with friends tonight to go to Knott’s Scary Farm/Halloween Haunt, a local event at Knott’s Berry Farm that’s been going on for over 40 years. It’s a big local event that is packed every night and something I myself would never attend. I was scheduled for a few Haunt shifts when I worked at Knott’s. Way too many people for my liking. Nope.

But the good thing is I got fantastic corporate pricing and it gives me and Ann the chance to have a dinner sans kid. It will be nice I’m sure.

Peace out!

At Last

In my Year in Review post, I had mentioned that (among other things) there was a good chance that my current freelance assignment was going to turn into a permanent, full-time affair.

I had been freelancing there since August and only had maybe three weeks off between then and today. They called me back when one of the other proofreaders—that’s what I’m doing yet again—went on vacation in September. I’ve been there ever since.

Then things got interesting. The word was that we had just landed a huge project with a current client and they were going to be in need of help. Naturally, the company started to search for potential candidates so that they could be in place once the work started to materialize. That said, they let all employees know that this was also an opportunity for them to move up and into one of the new vacant positions.

One of them was Proofreader*. Naturally, I applied.

And although I’d been there since August, I was still a bit nervous about how I would measure up against others who might have applied—and if they would even consider me at that point.

But my worries were all for naught. For some reason, they like me but I guess the feeling is mutual: I really enjoy working there, especially someplace that is not Ralphs. (In fact, I’ll refer to the new place as Not Ralphs or NR for this post.)

About two weeks after submitting my name, I was informed that my freelance gig was extended until January 31 and, as of February 1, I was officially hired. No more freelance; I was now an official NR employee.

And I can’t begin to tell you how happy I was.

No more waiting until Thursday or Friday to find out if I was returning on Monday. That was probably the worst part of freelancing: figuring out the bills when nothing was guaranteed the following week, and how to split what could have been my last paycheck into little chunks in order to pay everybody. That game was finally over.

No more going home after 3 or 4 hours when there was little work. Granted, I’m paid well enough to where even working 20 hours a week at NR was significantly more than what I made for 40 hours at Ralphs (not that I ever got more than 30 hours while there but you get the idea). Now that we’re starting to get the work for the new project, it’s full-time hours. There’s going to be plenty of stuff for us to do.

I no longer have to travel light. I’ve started to decorate my cubicle with personal items, something I refused to do while freelancing. In fact, my old Ralphs name badge is now one of the items on my desk—just because.

It’s Monday—Friday, 9 to 6. Bank holidays are paid days off and we get so many freaking perks as far as days off go that it’s insane, but NR knows that happy employees are good employees. Some of those days off include three Summer Days that we can use during the summer months in case we want to do something with the family. Then there’s floating holidays and personal days, not to mention two weeks of vacation that accrue each calendar year. I can finally take a vacation with the family and have money to do things. That will be nice when the time comes.

Speaking of money, we spent last Saturday at a local outlet and did some serious shopping. I can’t tell you the last time we did that but I can say with certainty that it wasn’t during my 18 months at Ralphs. We could barely pay the bills, let alone treat ourselves to much of anything.

Then there’s the commute which is about 20 minutes from home. It’s an easy ride on my trusty scooter that is easily filled with gas on less than $3 a week in most cases.

And the views downtown are spectacular, as is walking down to the marina during lunch.

My Chinese zodiac sign is the monkey and in this, the Year of the Monkey, it seems my luck as finally changed. As I’ve mentioned to HR and the boss, NR is exactly where I need to be at this point in my life.

NR is everything my last place wasn’t and I am so freaking grateful for the opportunity they have given me. I look forward to being there for a long time.

*I’m a much better proofreader when I’m being paid to do it. Considering the time I write these posts, I can’t much guarantee ye olde blogge will be 100% free of errors so don’t bother to point any out Smile