What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Protests. I’ll be honest, I can’t remember a sign waving, getting in the way of things protest that I’ve ever knowingly supported. The tactics most protesters employ seem almost perfectly designed to guarantee that I’ll either quietly oppose them or openly mock and deride them. The small “r” republican protestors who have been popping up in London this week aiming to disrupt the most solemn state occasion of the late Queen’s funeral are probably exactly the kind of friendless cranks you might expect to engage in that kind of ill-timed, boorish behavior. I’m not saying the Crown should necessarily haul them off to the tower, but if the rest of the populace got together and heaved them directly into the Thames, I’d likely look the other way and then have a good laugh about it.

2. Lindsey Graham. For the last six months every Republican who could find a TV camera earnestly declared that abortion was an issue that should rightly be resolved by the states. That the federal government has gotten too large and overreaching is a reasonable argument. The remedy, of course, isn’t to hand that misbegotten power to the states, but rather return it directly to the people, who are the font of power under the American system, and allow them each to decide based on their own particular light. But then here comes Lindsey Graham, boldly introducing a bill that not only flies in the face of small government orthodoxy, but which will be wildly unpopular with 60% or more of the electorate. It might buy him some votes from the Republican base in South Carolina, but otherwise it makes him look like a fucking moron.

3. Eyes. My eyes suck and have since I was a kid. Take away my glasses and I could probably squint my way through things at very close range, but forget about telling the difference between a car and a cow more than a couple of dozen yards away. I’m headed off to my annual eye exam tomorrow, where I plan to spend my hour griping and complaining that by 8PM, my eyes are shot. It’s a situation that’s beginning to interfere with my evening reading and that obviously can’t be allowed to stand. With the return of wasting hours of the week commuting to the office for reasons that defy logic, but make perfect sense to management on the near horizon, I can’t afford to lose another hour or two in the evening with my eyes running everything together into lines of black smudge. 

I’m pretty sure it’s a racket…

Tomorrow will start the first of a series of various doctor visits and lab appointments that I really had been hoping would somehow magically fall off my calendar. I’m sure they’re all very important and will reveal many interesting and entertaining things, but it’s a level of shit to do and sick leave I don’t want to burn off that’s just uninspiring.

A month or two ago I got myself an endocrinologist, who seems nice enough, but is determined to build her own history rather than just going on the eleven years of records I sent over from Johns Hopkins. So, over the next six to eight weeks, I’ve got multiple appointments lined up for basic blood work, thyroid testing, pituitary testing, a “nutrition assessment,” and one or two other things I’ve got noted as “Endo Appointment – UNK” on the calendar. I assume they’ll tell me what I’m there for. At this point, it only feels like I’m missing tests for color blindness and hearing.

The good news, I suppose, is as far as I know there’s nothing new actually “wrong” with me. The doc didn’t appear alarmed and used phrases like “establish a baseline.” Since I feel fine, my numbers are basically hanging around where they have been for a decade, and they didn’t immediately throw me in the hospital to conduct these tests, I’m proceeding from the assumption that this is either a) standard procedure for bringing a new patient into the practice or b) an unsophisticated scam to bleed me for copays while charging Blue Cross a small fortune. Either one feels entirely possible at this point – and both feel like some kind of a racket.

Now that the bathroom is in spitting distance of being done, I thought maybe this would be the time to get back to the series of dermatologist appointments I paused in the spring. Turns out that was wildly optimistic. Maybe I’ll see him again in November… assuming there isn’t some other ridiculous thing that comes up between now and then.

The open bay petri dish…

Since March 2020, I’ve taken the reasonably prescribed precautions against the Great Plague. The regular advice to avoid crowded spaces didn’t feel particularly onerous to me. After all, avoiding crowded places has been my stock in trade for most of my adult life. It’s the kind of crisis situation I was built for.

When the bosses prioritize asses in seats, though, there’s no way to avoid the office, which is how you get a poor schlub coming in when he’s not feeling 100% and only hours later popping hot on a rapid test. That, of course, leads to the rest of us sitting around wondering if that brief conversation we had in the early hours of the morning was enough to swing us from exposed to infected. There’s no way to tell until something does or doesn’t happen, so we all just keep on keeping on.

I miss the front half of the plague experience. A positive test like this would have triggered an immediate quarantine and deep cleaning of the physical space. Anyone in the room would have been declared “exposed” and sent home to quarantine for as long as 14 days. Now guidance from the top is “Well, we just have to tell you that you may have been exposed” and an accompanying shrug.

Having been vaccinated and boosted, it’s reasonable to assume the plague isn’t going to be my cause of death. That shouldn’t be taken to mean it’s an experience I particularly want to have. Given the couple of underlying conditions I enjoy that don’t necessarily play nicely with the plague, it’s in my best interest to avoid it. If I catch this bug after two and a half years only because someone at echelons higher than reality is mired in the misguided notion that there’s anything at all I can do sitting at my desk in cubicle hell that I can’t do from my desk in the sunroom at home, there’s a fair chance I’ll absolutely lose my shit the very next time someone mentions some absolute tripe like “synergy, collaboration, and innovation” and the importance of having all the warm bodies back in an open bay petri dish.

Not what I signed up for…

A few months ago, my doctor started hectoring me to schedule an appointment with a nutritionist. The guy cured some recurring foot pain I was having years ago with the power of positive thinking, so I’m usually game for anything he wants to try.

Let me start off by saying I could probably have gotten a cardiology appointment more quickly that I was able to get something scheduled with a local nutritionist. I made the appointment so long ago that I’d honestly forgotten about it. In fact, it wasn’t until my boss mentioned this morning that I was scheduled off this afternoon that I remembered it at all. That’s not the finest hour for my long-term memory, but I made it on time today so at least I have that going for me. 

I’m not sure what the doc expected me to learn. Eat less, exercise more, knock it off with the red meat and gin. I’m perfectly willing to admit intellectually that I should be exercising an hour a day or that I should be eating low-calorie, flavor-free foods. But the simple fact remains that a) That’s not how I want to allocate my limited free time and b) I like foods that don’t taste like someone smeared cottage cheese on cardboard. I’m well aware that I’m taking years off my life… but I’m not at all sure that the cost of adding years is worth what joys I’d be expected to give up.

This all would have been a fine use of an afternoon, except for the part where when I called requesting an appointment with a nutritionist, the nice people at Christiana instead made me an appointment with an endocrinologist. She was pleasant enough, I suppose, but far more interested in sending me off for a round of all the bloodwork than discussing how to make low-fat lasagna that doesn’t taste worse than the box in which the noodles arrive. I’m pretty sure that’s not what my doc or I really had in mind… but she said her office will be happy to refer me to a nutritionist, so I guess I’ll just go ahead and build a whole suite of medical professionals while I’m waiting on that to happen.

Sometimes it’s increasingly difficult to tell if I’m the sane one and the world has gone mad, or if the world is sane and I’ve lost my mind. Maybe it doesn’t make any difference.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. My right foot. Last Thursday I noticed a little catch in my foot, especially if I were standing still for too long. By Tuesday I was walking with an undisguised limp. Here, now, on Thursday leaving my foot flat on the floor is an agony… and let’s just say I won’t be releasing film of me gimping my way around the house. I don’t mind being injured when I know what dumbass thing I’ve done to cause it. When it comes flying out of nowhere and for no apparent reason, though, well, that’s cause for severe agitation in addition to the baseline level of pain. Thanks to the internet, I know the general advice is to stay off the offending foot and give it plenty of rest. That’s probably a decent enough recommendation, but there’s critters to feed and a household to run, so the actual utility of that advice is marginal at best. It’ll either ease off or it won’t. If we’re still here this time next week, it’ll probably be time for professional intervention.

2. Hearings. In the summer of 1987, Congress held televised hearings about the Iran-Contra affair that featured then Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North. I remember the hearings in part because they were a daily afternoon fixture on the television as I passed regularly from the pool to the kitchen at my aunt and uncle’s house in Fairhaven, where we were visiting at the time. It’s funny the things that stick in the mind of a nine-year-old. In any case, we’re about to be treated to another round of televised Congressional hearings. This time, they’ll focus on something far more insidious than anything LtCol North dreamed up. After eighteen months, much of the nation’s attention has shifted away from the insurrection and treason that took place on and leading up to January 6th, 2021. In my heart of hearts, I hope that these hearings are a forum to both shed light on and hand down consequences for those who engaged in, supported, or passively acquiesced to the attempted violent overthrow of the legislative branch. I fear, however, that it will all be used for hour after hour of prime-time grandstanding by everyone involved.

3. People. OK, admittedly, I’ve never been a fan. With rare exceptions I’ve found that people are more trouble than their worth. Over the years, I’ve developed a pretty reliable sense for those who make the extra effort worthwhile. That sense, as was proven this week, is not foolproof. In fact, that trust in my own intuition lulled me into a sense of complacency. In that complacency, I missed warning lights that should have been wildly obvious. From any other direction, when evaluating any other person, they would have been. It’s been a good long time since I’ve so badly misjudged someone… and I’ll be bloody well sure it’s even longer before another one slips past the goalie the same way.

I’ve been referred…

I went into the doctor’s office this morning expecting the normal checkup and regular drubbing for being too fat, too in love with salt, and hating all forms of exercise that aren’t yard work.

I got those things, of course, but I also got three unexpected referrals. The first involves an as yet undetermined amount of physical therapy for a back that never entirely quits hurting. The second is for a dermatologist to take a look at a stubborn bit or rash on my arms that the doc now thinks could be an acquired allergy to one of my medications. The last, well, that’s the one that just adds insult to injury.

The final referral is for a consultation with a nutritionist. Apparently, the idea of most of my collected recipes being directly from the 1950s and 60s is abhorrent and “not at all” recommended.

Yeah, well, they all taste good. Which is inevitably more than I’ll be able to say about whatever diet cardboard with lite vinegar sauce I’m about to have recommended for me. I’ll try to go in with an open mind, but the first time someone tells me cauliflower is an acceptable substitute for bread, pizza crust, or rice, you’ll be able to hear my eyes rolling from wherever you happen to be in the world.

I’m not convinced healthy people really live longer so much as it just feels longer because they’ve sucked every ounce of joy out of living. Anyway, it looks like I’ll be burning off shit tons of sick leave in the near future, so at least I have that to look forward to.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Flossing. I have a hate/hate relationship with flossing. I hate doing it and no matter how gentle I try to be or which kind of floss I use, it always ends up with blood.. and occasionally a crown falling off. In the interest of at least trying to comply with the spirit of my dentist’s request to floss regularly, I’ve worked a water pick into the daily routine. At least it’s never pulled a crown off one of my teeth and the bleeding happens far less often… Although Tuesday night the sink took on the appearance of a crime scene, so maybe it’s not an all that much better solution.

2. Computers. I got a new computer this week. Well, not me, exactly. Uncle got a new computer that he’s assigned to me. The jury is still out on whether it will be any better than the broken down old laptop from 2017 that it’s replacing. I suppose if it manages to consistently boot up from a cold start in anything less than two hours, it’s got to be considered progress. Still, that’s a long way off from being a snappy new machine. No matter how new, it’ll be crippled with whatever “basic load” of software our IT boffins think is necessary to protect us from the enemy and ourselves… and it’ll still be a wildly frustrating piece of equipment to use.

3. Limitations. It’s been an awfully long time since I sat in on ECON 101 or 102. They were requirements for a social science major. I did well enough in them, but God knows I’d never consider myself an economist. I’m pretty good at picking up on basic concepts, though, when conversations turn to commodities pricing, interest rates, and the state of S&P 500. If I put in a little effort, I can mostly follow along with the reasons why they rise and fall and even grasp a few of the implications that might follow on. I do, however, realize my limitations. Having an opinion is a fine thing. Sharing it is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. But it’s really a crying shame that more people on the internet don’t seem to have any sense of their own intellectual limits.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Rabbit holes. I’ve lived these last 43 years without ever needing much more than my regular checkups and copays. Despite that, I recently went down an internet rabbit hole reading about my insurance plan’s catastrophic health coverage and how to avoid out-of-network charges. I mean it’s nice to know and surely will come in useful someday, but there’s an hour or two of my week I’ll never get back.

2. Normal. Turn to any news provider and you’re bound to hear stories about “getting back to normal” or “the new normal” or “life after COIVD” or “life with COVID.” Most of those stories turn on the same general theme of wanting something analogous to pre-pandemic life to return as close to immediately as possible. Personally, I’m in no rush… although that could be because most of what I’ve enjoyed during the Great Plague are the same things I enjoyed doing back in the Before Times. The only significant change I’ll notice in getting to whatever “normal” looks like in the future will be inevitably spending more time commuting and sitting in a cubicle. If you’re waiting on me to do handsprings about that kind of normal, it’s like you don’t even know me.

3. Mud. I plant grass seed in the back yard every spring and fall. Jorah, on the other hand, spends all four seasons doing his best to turn everything inside the fence line into a sodden morass. It’s not entirely his fault. The soil is thin and surprisingly bad – mostly clay and rocky – so what grows there doesn’t grow thick. Being a deeply shaded area, at least a third of the green is moss rather than grass. The minute it’s disturbed, it opens a gash and mud ensues. I only bring it up because his favorite thing to do on rainy days is go every outside at full speed kicking up mud like some kind of teenaged bubba with a lifted F-150. That’s fine outside, I suppose, but it’s current on him, the floors, a couple of walls, and a bit of the ceiling from when he had a good shake. 

Normal again…

Being sick is, by popular consensus, not fun. The worst symptom of my recent crud was an achingly short attention span. I couldn’t focus on anything. As a result, TikTok became my best friend. Thirty to 60 second clips were manageable and, if not exactly entertaining, helped pass the time. I usually read away whatever down time I find, but getting through more than a page or two at a sitting was pure agony. Even when I forced it, I couldn’t remember what happened two paragraphs in the past.

The old reliable focus has slowly come back over the last few days. In fact, last night was the first time in two weeks that reading wasn’t misery. The words spooled out, pages turned, and whole chapters were swallowed up by the evening. This morning I was even able to remember that ground I covered. It’s a relief. 

Being able to comprehend complex ideas and story lines is a profoundly underappreciated skill. I didn’t realize how much I’d miss that until I couldn’t do it.

Hooray for being “normal” again.

The interregnum…

The week between Christmas and the new year is more or less a lost week. Let’s face it, it was still 2021 and there was still plenty going on. Even if you weren’t paying attention to world events there was more than enough that needed doing, but the whole week has forever felt like it exists out of time or in a universe where time has no meaning. 

It’s an interregnum as the old year closes out and the new one starts. I don’t hate it. I just can’t shake the feeling that it’s an odd sequence of days that don’t feel quite right.

Add in that I spent most of my time alternating between the bed, the couch, and one of the various La-Z-Boy’s scattered around the house and it’s pretty much the week that wasn’t. At least it (probably) wasn’t COVID, so I’ve still got that going in my favor, even if it was one of the nastier head colds I’ve had in the last half-dozen years.

Here we are a little more than a week later and the last remnants of this particular crud are finally dissipating… but hey, I have one of those fancy oxygen meters, a few boxes of KN-95 and N-95’s, and a few other odds and ends now due to my paranoia of the Great Plague. Given how hard it is to find a simple test, even my NyQuil addled brain was able to grasp with growing realization that if I should come down with it, I need to be prepared with whatever tools I can muster to triage and treat myself.

The interregnum is over. I’ve put together a decent little stockpile against what feels like an increasingly inevitable bout with the plague. Still, I can’t quite shake the feeling that mostly it was a perfectly good week of annual leave utterly wasted.