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.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Systems of systems. Outlook was down most of the day on Wednesday. That was after three days of fighting another “file sharing” system. It’s possible that this week will enter my personal record books as the one in which I spent the most effort to accomplish the least. I’m sure there are good and fine reasons why all out tech seems to be tits up more often than it’s not, but it continues to be one of the top two or three most reliably annoying elements of the job. It’s just one of the many reasons I’m dedicated to being able to walk out the door in thirteen years, five months, and a hand full of days.

2. The week before Christmas. It’s the week before Christmas, or close enough for all practical proposes. It’s certainly less than eight working hours before my long Christmas holiday commences. It’s also been just about the busiest week of work I can remember since the beginning of the Great Plague. Easily 50% of the week’s dumpster fires are entirely self-inflicted because someone just got around to looking at something that should have been handled last week, or because our electronic communication system suck, or for untold other reasons. I shouldn’t say this with so many bosses, former bosses, and other trusted professionals following along, but with seven hours left in my work year, every single one of my fucks has already been allocated. Anyone coming at me between now and 4:00 Friday afternoon expecting much more than a blank stare is going to be sorely disappointed.

3. Prednisone. Thanks to the as-yet unidentified reason my arm had been broken out in a rash for about three weeks, I had a 4-day course of prednisone this week. The (mostly) good news is that the arm has sort of cleared up – it at least looks a lot better than it did a week ago and I’m not longer tempted to satisfy the itch by scratching it with a circular saw. What the four days of prednisone also gave me was an insatiable craving for salt, rampaging blood glucose levels, an even shorter temper than usual, and I’m pretty sure at least one panic attack. I have no idea how people stay on that stuff for weeks or months on end. Next time I’ll just scratch myself bloody and it will still be a less awful experience. 

Party in a plague year…

Glancing through my Outlook calendar this morning, I noticed an appointment labeled “Holiday Gathering.” Based on past precedent that could mean anything from a non-denominational holiday afternoon of food and drink at a local watering hole, or more often a soulless pot luck served around a conference room table.  

In the (plague) year of our lord 2021 both options have at least one thing in common: The distinguished representative from Cecil County votes no.

In the last 21 months I’ve sat down in a restaurant exactly one time. It was in the middle of the afternoon with one other person at the table and maybe 10 people in the entire building. The idea of gaggling up elbow to asshole with 20 or 30 people to spread both holiday cheer and pathogen, feels like something I can avoid with absolutely no regrets. 

Plus, it looks like it happens to fall on a day I’m already scheduled to work from home, so there’s one more reason it doesn’t have any significant appeal. I’m sure if there’s something pressing, someone can dial me in on Teams.

I’ve never been on Team Office Holiday Party, but a party in a plague year feels even less enticing and like it’s missing a bit of the big picture. 

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Opinions. Having an opinion is a fine thing, but it’s helpful to remember that not all opinions are created equal. I don’t know at what point we decided the ideas of random cranks on social media carry equal value with the opinions of those who have spent a lifetime studying medicine and health policy, but here we are. It’s just the latest bit of the long thread of anti-intellectualism that weaves its way through American history. At some point, though, it would be really nice if we could hold dumbasses up to public ridicule and shame rather than lionizing them as telling secret truths “that no one wants us to know.” 

2. Joe Biden. In an interview this week, President Biden defensively maintained that there was no for American forces to get out of Afghanistan “without chaos ensuing.” Having spent a fair amount of my early career working in various emergency response activities, I’ll admit that they are often messy… but the heart and soul of managing through a crisis is having a sense of what to do after you get hit in the face with a shovel. The answer shouldn’t be telling American citizens to get to the airport while in the same breath warning them that the US Government has no plans to ensure their safe conduct to the airport from other locations in Kandahar – let alone any poor bastards stuck elsewhere in the country. That’s before we even get into a discussion about the responsibility we have for Afghan nationals who worked with and for us over the last two decades. The handling of this last gasp of American power in Afghanistan heaps shame and ignobility on the President of the United States, the State and Defense Departments, and the entirety of the United States of America.

3. Bandwidth. That’s it. That’s all the bandwidth I’ve got for this week. Between the continued rise of misguided opinion over verifiable fact and the absolute debacle in Afghanistan, I simply haven’t had room to process anything else this week. I’m sure there were a million other points of annoyance I walked right past, but there’s only so much anyone should be expected to process in a single sitting.