15 Mar

Plot twist: it turns out basements can be a bit chilly

One small act of miscalculation with a basement office: I did all the work to set it up during 40-50 degree temperatures.

A new wave of chilliness has swept across this area of the country. I noticed that as it fell below 30 outside, my basement fell down from 68 degrees Fahrenheit, where I could easily boost my new basement office space to 70 degrees and be comfortable typing and working, to 63 degrees where I’m just unable to get comfortable. The larger heater I have by the desk gets the temp up to 66.

Upping the humidity a little and making sure I have my shoes on means I’m comfortable, but my fingers just can’t handle anything below 70. They just lock up.

I tried moving the heater around to aim at the keyboard more, but it didn’t work. So I snagged these gloves online:

IMG 0438

Just basic fingerless gloves. I got red to make it harder to lose them in the office.

Next winter I’ll get a more powerful heater, but I’m not going to spend a big chunk on a solution there when winter is closer to over than starting and the gloves will do just fine.

09 Dec

The Transformers/Gobots Christmas Surprise

For his 12 blogs of Christmas Paul Cornell asks:

Have you, in your life, a mishearing that you’ve persisted with, from
a song or a movie or anything, that you prefer to the original, or
that has special meaning for you?

So it’s the 80s, I’m a little boy growing up in Grenada, WI and money is tight. Some of my friends are super into Transformers. I live on a boat, so I don’t get TV, I’ve never seen the cartoon. I’ve seen some of the toys being played with.

In a move rare for me, I do fall for brand marketing and talk up Transformers to my mom. And so, one Christmas, I pick up a package and remove the paper, and then another layer of paper, and then more tape (this was my mom’s things, heavily wrapped gifts that took a while to get to the bottom of) and lo and behold I got…

…a Gobot!


See that little blue-legged one with the big wheels on the shoulder? That was my Gobot.

They were off-brand Transformers, basically. I was pretty devastated. Mainly because the Gobots were hard as fuck to transform, the wheel on the shoulder came right off in no time, and I remember the joints being rubbery and imprecise.

So, I don’t remember if I was charitable or gracious. I do remember that I knew mom had done her best. I wasn’t angry at her, per se. I was angry because in my mind, if I couldn’t have the Transformer, I wouldn’t have minded the money just going towards more Legos instead of a Gobot. It was a one two punch, see? We didn’t have much money, so I knew that the Gobot had sucked resources away.

Then there were the kids. “What is that?”

“A Gobot?”

“So, not a Transformer?”

“Apparently not.”

“It can be a bad guy that we melt on the stove. Hold its hand over the flame and make it confess.”

Eventually the Gobot, after taking some abuse, faded away. As we couldn’t afford Transformers I developed a reflexive avoidance of all things Transformers and Gobots as a form of psychological self defense. So again, I didn’t own any, didn’t have any marketing material, had never seen the show.

As a result, I’d never actually *seen* the phrase Transformers: Robots in Disguise (the tagline for them).

But I was living in the Islands. I was *hearing* a lot of friends playing with Transformers and singing the line “Transformers: Robots in Disguise.”

But linguistically, a lot of my friends had accents that blurred the TH and D sounds. So it’s not as simplistic as saying they said ‘Da Skies’ but when sung quickly ‘The Skies’ in a Caribbean accent and ‘Disguise’ sounded awfully damn close and so I thought, honestly, that the tagline was:

“Transformers: Robots in the Skies!”

Remember, if I was singing that out loud, I would also have a little bit of an accent with many friends, so they had no reason usually to correct me.

Until one fateful day when I was with someone who had the unholy combination of a) having Transformers b) my saying I didn’t want to play Transformers because I didn’t like them made no sense at all to him and c) he was a white kid.

So imagine us playing Transformers. He’s flying them through the air. I have no reason NOT to think that Transformers DON’T fly through the skies.

He sings “Transformers: Robots in Disguise” and I’m like, yeah, cool, and in a very formal English: “Transformers: Robots in the Skies!” And I’m all Received Pronunciation on ‘THE.’ You can fucking tell it’s a TH.

And he pauses and looks at me. “What did you just say?”

Me, trying to rewind what he just sang. “Transformers: Robots in the Skies?”

Him. “What?”

Me, hesitantly, like walking along the abyss and realizing something horrible is about to happen. “Transformers… Robots…” yeah, okay, so far so good. So they ARE indeed robots, I’ve inferred correctly there. “in?” Yep, they’re definitely *in* something. “the…” awww fuck, it’s going all wrong… “skies?”

“Robots in Disguise.”

“Yeah, man. Robots in the Skies. Totally.”

“No. Disguise.”

Understanding dawns. It’s out. It’s clear I haven’t watched the show. I don’t really know what the fuck Transformers are. I’m a fraud. I’m ignorant. There’s only one way out of this, a Hail Mary pass that will let us move past this and forward. “Fuck Transformers. They’re dumb anyway. Let’s play Legos.”

My antipathy toward all things Transformers and Gobots lasted for many years, and were not improved by the Michael Bay films in any way.

And if I sing the tagline out loud, to this day, in my head, it’s still ‘Transformers: Robots in the Skies!’

31 Aug

Adventures in Unbearable Pain

On Friday I was going to write about things I had learned since declaring a social media vacation the week before, but was experiencing stabbing pains in a very delicate area and wasn’t in the mood.

Saturday chimney repair people came. Emily (and I’ve been helping) has done some remodeling in the house to put down new floors and we found that our chimney was leaking and rotting a piece of floor. I repaired that but we got a chimney quote. That was expensive, but due to higher than normal amounts of rain, we were lucky to get a person in.

While driving to the hardware store to get a new downspout and some screws I experienced pain so intense I drove off the road. But it ebbed ten minutes later and went away.

I took a nap mid afternoon as I hadn’t slept well, and woke up in so much pain I bolted upright gasping right out of deep sleep. Dizzy, I stumbled into the hallway and with gritted teeth told Emily I wanted to get to the ER. No ifs ands or buts.

Every little second of kids getting ready and Emily getting keys seemed to happen in slow motion. I scared the kids a little writhing around in the passenger seat. Jumped out of the car the moment she got me in front of the ER. Step step step, pause and hyperventilate, step step.

The admitting nurse asked a bunch of questions and told me to breathe slowly, as my teeth were so gritted she was worried about me passing out.

Once admitted, they asked me what I thought was going on and I guessed ‘kidney stone?’

“Who diagnosed you?” I was challenged (I’ve had doctors get a bit snippy with me sometimes about that).

“No one! You’re the medical experts. You diagnose me, you’re right, I don’t know what this is, I just want the pain to stop,” I hissed.

They gave me some pain meds and lots of fluids. I watched trashy TV with Emily (a good friend came over to the house to watch TV with the kids while I was in the ER).

Because I had no lower back pain at all they were not sure, so I got a CAT scan. Into the Stargate machine!

Back in my room, settled in, fully full of fluid, I ended passing a largish kidney stone while waiting for scan results. I wasn’t expecting that, there may have been a yipping quick scream or something along those lines.

The medical staff were super excited and so happy. Like, big grins. They retrieved it for a lab, the nurse showed it to another nurse and everyone agreed that yes, I had been most likely in quite a bit of pain and that, yes, it was a kidney stone.

The doctor rushed into the room like it was Christmas. “We just saw it on the cat scan!” he said, and took a look. “Yes, that’s it, we just saw the picture of it and here it is!” The ebullience in his voice and big grin made me think he was going to high five me. I was surprised cigars were not produced.

I came home, had some scotch, passed out at 9, slept twelve hours or so, and spent Sunday lolling around playing video games.

How was your weekend?

21 Aug

Twitter Vacation Until October 15th

A long while ago, I read some very good articles about the impact of news.

See, news works on us by making us anxious. Six things under your sink could be killing you! Turn it at eleven. You won’t believe this horrible thing that happened that could have been to someone like you! If it bleeds it leads.

I’d seen the effect that had on people who consumed heavy media diets. My stepdad’s grandmother in Florida, once she was unable to get out of her house much (and in pre-Fox News times) consumed so much news. When I, a geeky underweight nerd, traveled with family to Florida I found that she kept leaving the room whenever I walked in. Turns out that since the only thing she’d seen about ‘teenagers’ was them robbing or beating up people that she was terrified of me.

A diet of constant alarm and fear puts you into a state of fight or flight. I drastically curtailed news shows, media, and such and began to engage with news extremely carefully and mindfully. Began focusing on deeper dives into topics if I was curious.

I do dearly love the water cooler aspect of twitter, and I learned a great deal from so many people linking and explaining important experiences to twitter over the last years. However, the media part of social media means that bleeding leads. I’m not going to bang on about ‘outrage’ culture, that’s not what I’m getting at. I love twitter. It’s a tool. I’ve been on it since 2008. It’s not about that. This is a problem that’s as old as any media. What I’m getting at is that we click and pass on stuff that scares or horrifies us much more than other items. It’s simple human nature, just like more of us turn in to scary news than happy news. We focus on bleeding for leading, always have. And because of the social aspect of social media, it’s been delivering things that I used to engage with more mindfully in a way that is a bit of a firehose.

Right now, I have a tight deadline, and a larger than normal amount of freelance work to do. I’m noticing that social media is fine when I have a lot of emotional energy to handle and negotiate my media intake, but when I’m stressed and overworked my ability to handle it goes down. And when that happens, I’m over flooded with horrible news that’s important, but since social media has so many vectors and ways to deliver fearful news to me, it generally takes away energy that I need for doing my own important work because I have to engage, think about how to react, dig deeper, or move, which often doesn’t work because I then have guilt about either not signal boosting or grappling with something.

This isn’t about people sending me things on twitter or disagreeing with me or anything, it’s just about constant heart-breaking stories being linked that take energy out of me.

So, out of simple self preservation, I’m taking a cleansing break. I’ll be taking it until the middle of October.

The bonus? I will be blogging. And my blog posts will auto post to twitter.

I will not be reading @ replies or twitter. DMs will come to my email, however I won’t be getting on twitter to DM back, I’ll likely just email. You can always email me on the site!

Twitter has been uninstalled from my phone, bookmark deleted from my computer for now.

Ironically, I’ll be using more dead media to make sure I’m not uninformed, and doing more reading during this period. Just in a carefully controlled way so that I’m able to keep a balance going that does not lead to me feeling drained, and figuring out where I can invest my energy best.

As a result, I may even end even up blogging a bit more.

29 Apr

Money money!

Sounds about right to me:


“While there are some differences in the slopes, the more remarkable feature is simply that for every country, the relationship estimated at low incomes appears to hold in roughly equal measure at higher incomes. In particular, there is no evidence that the slope flattens out beyond any particular ‘satiation point’ in any nation.”

(Via You Can Never Have Too Much Money, New Research Shows | Brookings Institution.)

I’ve slid along a large part of that scale in my own lifetime, fascinatingly enough…