It’s only been two weeks, and the results are indisputable. I made a minor tweak on my phone, it led to a pretty major behavior change, and now I’m sleeping almost two hours more per night on average.
I can’t believe it worked that well and that fast.
It’s actually a little embarrassing.
Not everyone feels this way, but for me, I feel like, if I was able to sleep then I obviously needed it. Not only will I refuse to apologize to anyone for sleeping, but if another person is actively interfering with my sleep, I will put them on blast and deal with it.
You! Have you ever woken someone else up because you were annoyed that they were sleeping? And they weren’t behind the wheel of a moving vehicle? Then you should probably reconsider what the heck is wrong with you.
Sleep is free and healthy. When other people are sleeping, you are then free to read or enjoy your alone time. So make the most of it.
Anyway. I sleep a lot because I’m a COVID survivor and I also have a parasomnia disorder. Sometimes I have issues sleeping, even with various OTC sleep aids, and I can struggle for weeks or months in this way. Being chronically sleep-deprived is bad for my productivity at work. So it’s quite a pleasant surprise when I’m able to sleep a lot.
This year I started to notice that I was sleep-procrastinating, which is staying up too late even when you’re tired because you’re so desperate for downtime. It’s a way for Night-Me to “get revenge” on Daytime-Me. You know, for having a job and responsibilities and stuff.
Sleep-procrastinating is a pernicious habit because the rewards are immediate. Look at me! Reading late at night! In my pajamas in my bed where I am so cozy! This is my favorite activity of all time!
Then there is Daytime-Me, crabby and irritable and tired, oh-so-tired, until it’s bedtime again and Night-Me gets this big ear-to-ear grin and starts the whole cycle over again.
I had a solid idea of what was behind this. My news queue. I knew without having to track metrics that my default mode was skimming my news app. I also knew that I was most likely to get myself into trouble with this after I was already in bed.
I made three tweaks, all of which work together.
First, I set up a bedtime routine in my Morning Routine app. It turns out that it takes me forty minutes to get ready for bed, partly because I see a periodontist now and I may have some of the most elaborate oral hygiene practices on the planet. So whenever I start that app, add at least forty minutes before my head hits the pillow.
To me, a bedtime routine is the number one keystone habit. It determines whether the household is always on time, early, or late. It determines quite a lot of health results. And it definitely determines whether everyone is fighting or basically getting along.
My bedtime routine is elaborate because I like to sleep until 7:30 am for an 8:00 am start at work. The more I do before bed, the less I have to do in the morning. Basically throw on clothes, straighten my hair, and make my tea.
Anyway, I had been using the bedtime routine app with some success, but then when I was finished, I would flop down and start skimming the news again. This practice was indeed streamlining my morning and making sure I remembered to start the dishwasher. But it wasn’t really helping me fight the bad habits and self-destructive tomfoolery of Night-Me.
Don’t feel the mogwai after midnight
I happened to stumble across an article that indicated I could customize my access to specific apps on my phone. As soon as I knew it was possible, I knew I wanted to do it.
This sort of thing only works if you trust yourself to be your own advocate. My superego is pretty good at driving the bus around here. I am not particularly vulnerable to psychological reactance, where we get mad at ourselves for setting limits. I just shrug and say to myself, Ah yes, I remember that I decided that was the best idea. Questioner Power.
Tweak One was setting up a bedtime routine that is gamified with a timer.
Tweak Two was setting a bedtime on my phone. Almost all apps are unusable between 10pm and 7am, which is a moot point since I’m still asleep at that time. I had to go back and add in a few apps, like the Morning Routine, that I use after 10.
Tweak Three was to set a one-hour time limit on my News app.
It turns out the third tweak was the biggest deal. I am now quite aware that every minute I skim through the news queue takes away one minute from reading that app during my workout.
There are a lot of ways to cheat; for instance, I can open an article in my browser instead and read it outside of the one-hour limit. This is perfectly fine by my standards. In fact, most of the news that I consume is through my speed-reading audio app anyway.
Because I also have the 10:00 pm shutoff, most of the time that I would have idly been reading news articles would be in the time between 10 pm and, on weekends, 1:00 am. As long as I’m not browsing in that three-hour window, any amount is probably fine.
My new setup started working the very first night. I picked up my phone, saw that it was shut down for the night, shrugged, and started getting ready for bed. I’m “allowed” to read books on my phone after 10, just not the news or email, and it turned out that I was asleep before midnight.
As time has gone by, I seem to be falling asleep a few minutes earlier each night.
Part of my higher weekly average is that I take three-hour naps on the weekend, but then, I was doing that before I set up these time boundaries on my phone. Almost all the increase in my average sleep time has just been going to bed earlier and falling asleep earlier during the week.
I have the power to change what I’m doing any time. I can turn off these settings on my phone. I can also start getting ready for bed even earlier and see what happens. It is pretty interesting to be able to track my metrics at a glance.
How do I feel? I feel great. I also feel like I could easily take a second nap each day on the weekend, but I haven’t yet. Daytime-Me keeps thinking there are “things I should be doing.”
But... are there?
We played hooky.
By that I mean, I went to the dentist, and my hubby drove, and he used comp time and I used two hours of vacation.
I was supposed to take the whole day off. I just couldn’t quite bring myself to do it.
All the same, what we managed to do with a fairly brief window of time off duty felt like a vacation day. Properly planned, it doesn’t take very much.
The first thing that made this day feel like a vacation day is that neither of us had to sign on at a particular time. I blew off my morning stand-up meeting since I had already written up and submitted a status report. Delayed delivery is our friend!
More of us should start taking it seriously when we say “this meeting could have been an email” - and actually write the email and then cancel that meeting.
I did have a meeting scheduled that I had forgotten about when I asked for the day off. I wanted to keep it, though, and we wound up finishing our discussion in under fifteen minutes. Whether “work” feels like “work” depends almost entirely on how much agency you have around your project. It doesn’t even have to be interesting or challenging if you feel like you are the boss of getting it done.
Since I had this meeting that I wanted to keep, I made an intuitive decision that I would put in a certain amount of a proper workday, and that I would do it sub-rosa. I simply wouldn’t log in or talk to anyone else, and I would get some stuff off my backlog.
This was a little nutty but it totally worked. It felt like I got two days off in one - the equivalent to my working Fridays, when nobody else is around and I can be 3x as productive - plus a fun outing.
It turned out my hubby also had a morning meeting that he had forgotten about, even though he, too, scheduled a day off. His was a little later than mine, so I used the time to get some stuff done. We both left feeling productive.
We took off, having temporary use of our friend’s car. (Everyone loves you when you have your own personal parking spot in a secured garage, at least when that spot is empty).
We drove to our old town, where neither of us can quite bring ourselves to break up with our dentist, even though it’s quite a haul. The truth is that trips to the dentist also make room for a quick tour around our old stomping grounds, and we still enjoy that, so much so that we keep talking about moving back.
(That is, until we drive home again and realize all over again how untenable the commute would be, even for a day).
While I had my appointment, my hubby sat outside our favorite old Starbucks, drank tea, and read a book.
One important secret to playing hooky is to do it during a season when you really appreciate the weather. Some people are going to want a snow day, some people are going to choose rain rolling down the window, and we of course are going to choose hot summer weather.
This is really the ingredient that made our day special. Half an hour of driving was like fast-forwarding from spring to summer. It was about 15 F hotter in town than it was at home. I wore a sleeveless top and a skirt, while I’ve been wearing sweaters for months.
It’s not quite enough to forget that one is wearing two masks plus a face shield, but maybe it’s as close as one can get right now.
I went to the dentist, and the news was not good, and I sometimes wonder what I have done to have this sort of saga visited on me. On the other hand, it does mean I’m going back again, and I have another appointment to look forward to, and I can try to think of all the fun parts of that day rather than dental implements.
After my appointment, I had a nice sunny walk down what used to be one of my favorite parts of town. I remembered all the times I went into the bookstore that was now open for curbside pickup only. I remembered past years when I had bought Girl Scout cookies from a table on the sidewalk, right at that corner. I remembered living there and having no idea that 2020 was coming and just swinging my arms and having a bare face.
Then I saw my hubby sitting at his little outdoor table. It has been a very long time since I was just able to walk up on him from a distance and see him from that vantage. I like to pretend sometimes that he’s just a random single boy and I’m a single girl and that I’m going to try to chat him up.
He told me a little about his book, which I imagine he would have done if I were flirting with him, because that would totally work.
We ordered sandwiches from what used to be our favorite sandwich shop. Sometimes we would eat there and then go see a movie. This time, we got our food in a bag and drove across town and went to a park.
Eating a meal in a park, when you haven’t done that for a long time, can feel like a vacation in itself.
It was such fine picnic weather. I saw a yellow-rumped warbler and a black phoebe and a very saucy squirrel. We ate potato chips and drank lemonade and felt that we had the entire day to do whatever we liked.
Then, of course, we realized that we really needed to get a move-on if we were going to beat traffic, and remembered all over again what it’s like to drive on a six-lane freeway, and why we decided never to have a freeway commute again, and why we got rid of our car.
We were back before 4:00 pm. It was a coin-toss whether I would log back on and work a bit more, or not. But it was too late to take a nap, and I had to sign my timecard anyway, and I realized I wanted to get stuff done. So I worked another two hours. But it felt like nothing.
The best parts of the day were enjoying the fine summer weather and having hours together to chat casually about whatever. In every respect, it was like a vacation day.
Except that I only had to take two hours of vacation to pull that off.
I’m sad to say that if I had taken the entire day off, like I originally planned, I probably would have spent a lot of the day thinking about work. I would have worried about what was lurking in my email and I would have stressed about how much more I would have to do the next day. This is definitely something that I need to work on - and a lot of people in our culture should probably join me. I will give myself credit for taking a part of a day and using it recreationally, which is what vacation time is for.
How about you? Are you leaving comp time or vacation time on the table? When is the last time you took an afternoon off, or even took a long lunch?
It’s about that time again. We look up and realize another year has passed, and we still don’t feel like making a car payment or paying insurance. We’re some of the few business professionals in Southern California who choose not to have a car.
But - but how do you do that??
The first thing is to acknowledge our privilege, some of which is timeline privilege. If we lived in 1547 we would not have the option of buying a vehicle with a combustion engine. If we didn’t have a donkey or a large dog we would just have to walk places. If we were serfs, there wouldn’t be anywhere we could really go anyway.
Come to think of it, the same would have been true in 1847. Even in 1947, if we lived where we live now we would probably ride the streetcar.
We just happened to become adults in the age of automobile supremacy, and we bought into it just like everyone else, until suddenly we didn’t.
If you’ve been reading my blog that long, we had a series of events that led up to our sudden ejection of a personal car from our lives. My hubby’s old truck sort of died around 200,000 miles. Then we replaced it with a regular four-door sedan, which was recalled by the manufacturer just as we were changing cities a couple years later.
This is where the privilege factors in. We knew we could buy a car any time. There wasn’t any time pressure. I am pretty sure that if we really wanted, we could find a broker or car salesperson who would sell us a car quite literally 24/7. We could call someone, and buy the car, and have someone drop it off for us at 3:00 am. It might even be easier to purchase a car in the middle of the night than certain kinds of food, say, a Vegemite sandwich or out-of-season Girl Scout cookies.
Why not wait, then?
We were very busy moving. By that I mean that we had 11 days to find a place close to the new job, so we sold or donated all our stuff and put it in storage and went directly to an AirBnB and we could only eat meals that went in the microwave and then we had to look for an apartment. Buying a car just was not something we felt like doing that month.
We had practice. For the last year that we owned a car, we didn’t really use it. We had cased out a neighborhood within walking distance of my hubby’s work, which we both loved. We only took the car out about once a month to get groceries or go to the movies. Mostly we felt like we should probably turn on the engine from time to time, and then we would have to go through the car wash because the windows were coated in pollen.
We did then what we do now. Most of the time, we walk to the grocery store. We do our banking and everything else online. The biggest difference is that for the past year, I have been cutting our hair so we don’t take the bus to the hair salon.
Most people get very stressed out when they think about getting rid of a vehicle. Not switching to car-free and saving all that money, or living in a more pleasant area where it’s fun to walk to the ice cream shop. They think about having to share a car with someone else and they start feeling their blood pressure rise.
The thing is, nobody is asking you to do anything. I don’t even know you!
All I’m doing is sharing that it’s totally possible to be normal adults with two normal full-time, demanding jobs, and still live a totally normal modern lifestyle without owning an automobile.
In fact, we are probably living a more luxurious lifestyle than a lot of people... a dark little secret that I don’t elaborate on too often, but I might as well.
A major factor in our decision to jettison our Jetta was that it cost us $700 a month all told. That’s car payments, insurance, gas, oil changes, parking, bridge tolls, etc. Now that we don’t own a car, we don’t have to pay for any of that at all. Other people may pay less because they have owned their vehicles for longer, but then again, they may be paying more because they have two, and maybe they’re older, and maybe they need more repairs and the gas mileage isn’t as good. I dunno.
All I know is that $700 a month is enough to make a big difference in a lot of budgets.
It is in ours. We’ve used a small portion of that (let’s count it, 4 years x 12 months x $700 = $33,600) to... HOLD ON, HOW MUCH???
I was just going to blather on about how we bought a window-washing robot for $200 and I buried my own lede.
The main thing that we have done with the $33,600 we didn’t spend on cars is to never, ever fight about money.
When we go on vacation, we just do whatever we want and get appetizers or whatever, because we know we can afford it.
That’s what not having a car means. It means that sometimes we have to pay to have something delivered, and sometimes we have to leave a few minutes early to take a rideshare. But while we are doing those things, we have this sense that we can afford it because there’s a giant empty place where other people have vehicle expenses.
We’ve maxed out every retirement contribution available to us, and we’ve done it for years. We’re also debt-free, and we’ve done that for years too.
When people talk about their cars, the word that comes to mind is ‘freedom.’ It’s a teenaged concept. We want to feel free to get in the car any moment, and drive off to buy a taco or get fries on demand or whatever. What most people aren’t aware of, though, is what actual financial freedom feels like. It feels like a pretty good trade to us. It also feels like maybe both aren’t possible, that financial freedom and maximum vehicle ownership can’t exist in the same budget or the same household.
Something to think about.
We’re still in the position of being able to afford to buy a vehicle any time. Probably more so than we were four years ago. It should say something about being car-free that we have chosen to continue this way.
Our system of only watching movies that got above a 70% on Rotten Tomatoes has failed us.
We watched “Greenland” and it has problems, so so many problems.
If you haven’t seen this film already, this review will be completely loaded with spoilers, so make up your mind now. Although it’s probably okay because if you’ve seen one disaster movie, you’ve seen them all.
The first problem with disaster movies is usually the pseudoscience. If you know that going in, you can willingly suspend your disbelief and try to enjoy the thrill ride.
Unfortunately, the first problem with “Greenland” is not the pseudoscientific disaster but the ethical disaster. It’s a morass. The worldview of this film does not even make sense.
In a nutshell, the plot goes like this. A comet is going to hit the Earth in an extinction-level event. A very small group of people have been selected, by profession, to get on a bunch of planes and be whisked off to some special bunkers to ride out the catastrophe. But the logistics are problematic.
Cue: humans decompensating.
The only part of this movie that we found believable, as people who [job details redacted], was the crowd behavior. People refuse to wait in line. People cause traffic jams. People loot stores. People start punching each other over the least provocation. Someone should actually just make a supercut of scenes like this from various disaster and action films, spliced with clips from actual news broadcasts, and just lay a black metal soundtrack over it.
Okay, where do the ethical issues come in?
The story starts with a quick demonstration that the protagonist is a structural engineer/workaholic. He’s going to help out with a party at the home of his estranged wife and son. Almost immediately, he gets a ‘presidential alert’ on his phone that he needs to grab his wife, kid, and luggage and get down to the Air Force base.
[There are a million and five reality-based problems with this, but it’s crucial to the plot that a) this guy never knew he was on some kind of list and had no advance preparation and b) he and his family are... deserving?]
All the friends and neighbors are present in the living room when the news hits, both that their region is going to be wiped out by this comet hitting the Earth and that these three individuals, but no others, are going to be rescued.
Alpha-protagonist convinces estranged wife and kid to go with him, though evidently he has broken their trust in some way. Neighbors start crying, following them with pleas and attempts to negotiate. One neighbor blocks the vehicle, begging that they take her daughter with them. NOPE.
What is this scene saying? We have no choice but to follow orders and obey; we would only be turned away if we tried to bring extra people. You weren’t selected so deal with it.
Everything after this point in the plot has the exact opposite message.
I think the theme of this film is that this family has grit and loyalty, therefore they deserve to make it to the end. Even though that is true of other families in the film who don’t.
What is presented is fairly realistic, in that the family are disorganized and poor communicators. They are as entitled as one would expect, given their neighborhood and social class. They are constantly interrupting people, screaming, cutting ahead in line, and convinced that their needs come first. There is only one moment when any of them shows any care or consideration for others, and that is when Protagonist drags a man out of a burning car.
(But why then? When the world is physically coming to an end?)
Part of the muddle of this film is that the family is trying to finagle their way around a government plan that is portrayed as simultaneously sinister and sloppy, both cruel and logical, both poorly and well planned, both effectively and ineffectively executed.
The motive of the protagonist seems to be, I will take advantage of my elite place in this plan, even after I have been formally cut from the team.
Is there some kind of plan to preserve certain subject matter experts in the event of a crisis? I do not know, but I strongly suspect there is. Would this plan include random people with no security clearance who were not notified until literally the last minute? Implausible. If such a plan did exist, would it include the family members of this person, regardless of their health situation? Probably yeah. We have this thing called a group insurance policy.
I know a bunch of SMEs who have significant health issues and need various accommodations to do their work. In our world, there is no requirement to be able-bodied - that’s for astronauts, Navy SEALs, the Secret Service, and that sort of high-test individual.
I might have liked this movie better if this dude drew on his natural alpha powers and rallied his neighbors in some way. Structural engineer, yeah? You have an entire neighborhood full of construction materials and tools - can’t you just get an excavator from your work site and build some kind of bunker for a couple hundred people in the next day or two?
Gimme a break. If one series of implausible events can happen in this plot, then why not another equally implausible formulation?
Such as someone somehow knowing the exact place in Greenland that would be safe for an ordinary building to ride out a planetary catastrophe? And then opening the doors after nine months to sunlight rather than sheets of ice? (There is no season when this timing would work out, even in a normal Greenland).
The moral of the story is that one of the most selfish families in Florida gets to ride out an extinction-level event by crossing two international borders, committing manslaughter, and arguably causing a plane crash. What is the message? That they do/don’t deserve their place, that the government’s plan did/did not work, that the manifest destiny of Americans is literally everywhere, and that people should/shouldn’t be “saved” based on their contribution to the economy?
The only thing I can tell you is that if there was a nervous-making comet headed our way, we would probably see it months in advance. It’s been 66 million years since the last real troublemaker hit the Earth, just as it will be another 66 million years before someone makes a disaster movie that actually makes any sense.
Is the glass half empty or half full?
I’ve always felt like the basic formulation of the “optimist vs pessimist” question - is this glass half empty or half full - was designed by a pragmatic, convergent thinker.
Who cares what’s in it when you have the glass itself?
Think of all the things you can do with a glass!
If it’s completely empty, you can hold it against a wall and eavesdrop on people.
You can have a wedding ceremony and have someone stomp on it.
You can use it to roll out dough and cut nice, symmetrical biscuits.
You can fill it with flowers.
You can draw a picture of it - or if you’re not great at drawing, you can use it to draw circles.
Then you can use the glass to hold the corner of the paper down.
Or let’s say the glass is half empty. It has something in it, say your favorite juice, but - it’s almost gone! *schnif*
Woe, woe, the way of the world, my glass is almost empty, isn’t that always the way
But the very existence of the glass refers to the availability of a million different kinds of beverages out there in the world.
Free, sanitary tap water!
The cleanest the world has ever known!
Inexpensive industrial beverages, available not only at every single grocery store, convenience store, and gas station, but in vending machines as well.
And you don’t even need a glass to drink them!
Then it only makes sense to think, this darn glass is still half full. All this liquid is getting in the way of all the other potential beverages that could be in here. Won’t someone please come along and empty this darn glass so I can refill it with something I like better?
Chug it and empty it yourself, drain it to the last drop, knowing there will always be more where that came from!
The truth is that an empty glass is a call for hospitality. How many parties, weddings, even funerals are there where someone walking up with an empty glass will quickly have it filled?
Even the most begrudging people would probably still allow you to fill this glass from their garden hose, and that’s not nothing.
A stranger holding a glass in hand is basically crying out for someone to come up with another glass and clink it, Ting!
This is something my little parrot loves to do. If you meet her, she’s going to want to know if you ting. Take turns tapping the glass and holding completely still, listening for the ringing sound until it fades away, then it’s the next bird’s turn to go ting.
See, a drinking glass is not just good for a philosophical construct. It is an interesting material object in its own right, and of interest not just to humans but to other species.
Why, just set it down on a table and find out what a housecat will do with it.
Thus is it clearly demonstrated that it doesn’t matter one whit whether the glass is half empty or half full. The very existence of the glass itself is a testament to the problem-solving and creative nature of humanity, our ability to continually generate new ideas and new ways of doing things, making them decorative in the process.
Anyone who sees less is just too impatient to apply a bit of imagination to the question.
I’d do anything for you, I hope you know that.
If you ever need me, just call me, day or night.
If anyone ever messes with you, they better not, but if they do they’ll have to go through me.
Nothing gets me more worked up than picturing you in harm’s way, and all the things I would do to anyone who ever tried to hurt you.
I just really want you to know that.
I’m here for you, I’ll always be here for you.
If you were ever wrongfully accused, I’d get you lawyers, I’d call the press, I’d call our state rep, I’d write letters, I’d be in court every day. I would get you out if it took twenty years.
If you were ever in the hospital, I’d be by your side day and night. I’d sleep in a chair. I know you know that.
If you needed a blood donor, if you needed an organ, take mine. But if we weren’t a match I would drive around with posters all over the car. I’d set up a GoFundMe. I’d do whatever it takes and I’d find you a match.
I’d do anything for you.
If you were ever stranded, you could call in the middle of the night and I’d put on my coat and snow boots and I’d go get you.
Would I fight a bear for you? Are you kidding me? I am that bear!
I told you I’d do anything for you and I know you know how much I mean that.
So why do you keep asking me about this vaccine.
You know that is something I will never do.
But that has nothing to do with how much I love you.
I’m not getting the shot. I’m not reading articles about it. I’m not watching interviews about it. I’m not looking at posters or brochures.
I made up my mind, so stop it and leave me alone!
Just, please can’t you quit thinking this has anything to do with you or how much I love you?
I’ll do any of those other things, but not this.
Because I’m afraid of the vaccine in a way that I am not afraid of the courts, or the press, or wild animals, or any human on earth.
I will face literally anything on Earth for you - except this one thing.
This is where I draw the line.
Sure, I had the tetanus shot, so not all needles. Just this one.
Maybe there are two things I won’t do for you after all.
I won’t get the shot and I won’t listen to you on this subject.
I have the biggest, wildest heart in the world, just bursting with love and loyalty - but this is where it stops.
This is the fence around my love.
And I’m not even sorry.
Please let’s go back to pretending this isn’t happening so I can go back to loving you with my whole heart once again.
It was brought to my attention how much apps run my life when I found myself awoken by my alarm on a work holiday. Why, I thought, can’t there be an AI that notices when there is a holiday and reminds me to turn off my alarm?
This is something I think about a lot. When will artificial intelligence be able to take over more of my mental bandwidth, and what would it look like when it does?
Right now the focus seems to be on consumer habits and passive entertainment. Whatever algorithms are in place right now, they do a decent job. I actually like it when an ad for something I’ve bought recently, like a bedspread, follows me around the internet for months. It then displaces whatever advertisements might have filled that spot and enticed me to buy things I didn’t know existed.
The algorithms in my news reader are fantastic. It hasn’t taken me long to get all the gator news a girl could ever want. I also use this as a source for my little tech newsletter, which not only makes me look awesome at work but probably got me the job in the first place.
If there were ever one solitary thing that artificial intelligence improved in my life, it would be this. I can find an endless supply of articles about robotics and drones and other tech innovations while scarcely lifting a finger.
On the other hand, this constant access to valuable information is like drinking from a firehose. I realized some time ago that scrolling through my technology newsfeed has become my default mode, eating far more of my day than I ever intended. What did I do about it? Why, I turned to an app!
I went into the settings on my phone and set a one-hour time limit on my news app. This has been in place for one day and I already feel like I am levitating against a glass ceiling. I also expanded the quiet hours on my phone, so not only will it not ring or show me text messages, but I can’t open most apps after 10:00 pm.
It is helping but also it is really not helping
What I’d really like is for AI to help with more of my day-to-day. I lost an hour of sleep because I set up an automated alarm clock and neither I nor my electronic backup brain realized that I should temporarily turn it off. In how many other areas could I be living a more optimal existence with a little artificial assistance?
One of the biggest and most obvious ones, to me, is the gathering of the stuff. Is there an app yet that reminds people to put certain objects in a pile and make sure they are carried out the door? This would be one of the greatest memory aids of all time.
I think I’ve actually figured out a way to do this, although if it works the way I think it will, it’ll take a bit of setup.
I went to a grocery store in person the day I wrote this. Trader Joe’s! Why do you not work with delivery services! Because you don’t have to, okay, I get that! But still! Anyway, I was quaking in my shoes but I figured, with careful planning, I could do a “smash and grab” speed run and spend fewer than 15 minutes in the store.
(I was right, because I am a logistics master and an experienced trail runner and also because I felt the hounds of hell breathing down my neck the whole time).
I used a paid app called Morning Routine. Normally I use it in the morning and at bedtime, so I remember all the dumb things I normally forget, like locking the door and turning on the dishwasher. You can add items to a list and give each a time limit, and then the app runs the timer for each task and switches to the next task when the time runs out. If you’re skillful about your time estimates, this timer will keep you on track. The key feature is that you can set it to read each new item aloud.
I made my shopping list, with each item listing the item I wanted followed by the next item, so the app would read both. For most people this might look like: “front door to bread, bread to eggs, eggs to milk, milk to cereal, cereal to toothpaste.” Since I knew the layout of the store, I was able to do this in the most streamlined path between items, and I had everything on my list in six minutes. The list is still in the app if I find myself having to go in again.
(In two masks and a plastic face shield)
I think the Morning Routine method would work for getting ready for work, loading kids’ backpacks, packing for a trip, and generally getting out the door. If you take the time to keep tweaking it, and actually listen to it, it will keep you from flitting back and forth between rooms. You can keep adding items as you remember them, from sunblock to permission slips to bridge toll. The app then becomes like a butler or personal assistant.
It’s a short jump from that to an actual robot that tootles around the house, loading your suitcase for you and carrying it to the car.
Eventually it will happen. Within our lifetimes, I bet it will. The potential payout is so, so high, and once one person has one, it’ll be like smartphones all over again. Everyone will want one to the point that people will camp out overnight in a tent in order to be first in life.
Until, that is, our robots can go out and do that for us.
The question, whenever we welcome new tech into our lives, is whether we’ll allow it to be a boon or a curse. Will we use it to free up our time and mental bandwidth, giving ourselves an overall lifestyle upgrade? Or will it just be a monkey on our backs?
This is why I pause every now and then to ask, if apps run my life - which obviously they do - which ones are in charge this week? Is this what I would have wanted? Can I make adjustments so that I am impressed with the results?
This is the day when everyone runs out and buys half-price Valentine’s chocolates, am I right?
Not me. Life is too short to eat cruddy, stale candy. I like heart-shaped stuff and I love Valentine’s Day, but I don’t care for supermarket chocolate.
I’m glad, though. I’m glad there is some consolation for the haters. Whereas, after all the decades I have been exhausted by two-month Christmases, all I get is decorations left up until February.
Why is there so much sympathy for the Valentine’s cynics and none at all for the Grinch crowd?
As a divorced person married to another divorced person, it’s not like I have no inkling of imperfect matches or bad romance in general. My ex was pretty good at the romantic stuff. He was a phenomenal cook and a great gift-giver. Once he got me this super fluffy white bathrobe that I kept long after we split up.
Nothing on the traditional romance checklist could have kept us together, though. Fundamentally, I don’t think my ex ever actually liked me as a person.
Did I like him? In that way? I dunno. Honestly it never occurred to me to ask myself that.
This is my only real grievance with the marketing around Valentine’s Day. And it’s the commercial aspect that’s the problem, I’m convinced of that. If all we attend to are the ads, we’ll get more or less the same message that we get around any other holiday.
BUY THEIR AFFECTION AND GRATITUDE
There’s an annoying stereotype around every holiday, starting with the New Year. Get drunk and start your new year with a splitting headache! Buy red roses, conflict diamonds, and child-slavery bonbons for your love interest! Burn breakfast for Mom! Cause explosions after dark, for patriotism!
It goes on. I’m stopping before Halloween, though, because at least one thing in this world must remain pure and true and that is the mass wearing of costumes while eating candy and watching scary movies.
But doesn’t that describe Valentine’s Day, in its own way?
Put on flattering clothes that you would normally never wear, eat sweets, and maybe watch a “romantic comedy”?
I’ve been with the same person for fifteen years. I just leaned over and asked him:
“Have we ever watched a rom-com together?”
“I don’t usually put those things in memory.”
(AHA! I thought as much. If we’ve ever watched a movie with a romance in it, it was probably a standard screwball comedy that happened to have a couple get together at the end).
It is my considered opinion that “romantic comedies” do not reflect reality and that following the plot of any of them would not lead to an actual relationship.
Romance novels? Even worse. I have yet to meet someone I would consider happily married who is also a consumer of romance novels. The most dedicated romance readers I have known are single and like it that way.
What does it take to feel like you’ve won the romance lottery, that you’re in a long-term relationship with someone who actually makes your knees weak? Someone you would still choose over all others?
Friendship first and foremost. I don’t know why this is such a mystery. I know several pairs of friends whom I think would make fantastic married couples, and why they don’t just go for it is known only to themselves.
A paradox, second. What has created the cloud of romance in which we live is the straightforward pragmatism with which we negotiated our union.
Total transparency with money.
A full accounting of all our past relationships and where we messed up.
Official business meetings, complete with an agenda and business jargon.
This is part of why we’re a good match, because we’re both able to dork out on the same stuff.
Of course, the other part is that we know we can trust and respect each other. We started out by comparing value systems. While we don’t necessarily share the precise same ethical position on all or most things, I think we both have a good understanding of each other’s position.
Based on that foundation, we’ve gone out and tested ourselves. We’ve ventured into the wilderness together, we’ve done the “wing-it method” in other countries where we didn’t speak the language, we’ve handled one goldarn crisis after another, been broke and confused and stressed out, and at this point he’s even kept me alive through this stupid pandemic.
Have we ever bought each other roses? No
Heart-shaped box of chocolates? No
Written each other poems or love letters? ...well, *I* have
I did buy him a nice anvil one year. Which he loved, of course.
We’re allowed to do things our own way. We’re allowed to choose what we think love means, for ourselves, and we’re even allowed to talk about it from time to time. Anyone else who finds it annoying when a couple is sweet on each other, check yourself.
Do you suppose that perhaps your attitude is the reason why you don’t have a happy love relationship?
Do you prefer it when other people openly bicker and make their quarrels the center of social gatherings?
*shrug* have it your way
A two-person union isn’t the only way to do things. It is a way for a lot of people, though. I’m convinced that in a lot of ways it can be a shortcut to personal growth, to have this other person to call you out on your BS and remind you who you are in times of difficulty.
No matter what the world may think, there is space for two people to create a private universe and step into it, hand in hand.
Romance is pragmatic in this way. It’s just so darn useful to have that other person around, for wise counsel and sympathy and boosterism and sometimes making the breakfast.
The trouble is, to *have* that person you have to *be* that person. This is why it’s so important to nail the pragmatic parts. To figure out your partner’s love language and check those boxes, especially the acts of service. To be the good and decent roommate. To be endlessly considerate and courteous, even when the other person is being annoying. To put in the time every year to think of something that would really please and delight your partner.
Romance is work. It takes mental effort. Probably 80% of it consists of indisputable chores and drudgery.
Ah, but the payoff. Love, sweet love, the best way to live and the best form of revenge.
People be out here listening to their craziest friend. I am very curious as to why.
This is genuinely what seems to be happening. If the rule is, Anything mainstream is automatically suspicious, then the most paranoid person suddenly seems like the wisest and best strategic thinker.
I like this sort of thing for comedy value. In practice, though, I have questions.
It used to be that you could go to people and ask them about their experience with something, and they would tell you a story about what happened to them, and you would be smart to follow their example.
For instance, I was at a meeting the other day where people were trading tips on which DMV was the fastest, how to get an appointment, and what to bring with you. If someone shared information that turned out not to be true, the next person to go there would quickly find out. Then they would tell everyone. The first guy would lose a bit of credibility and would probably be expected to give a sort of apology. Whoops, my bad.
That is how social proof works.
People are constantly asking each other for social proof. What restaurant is good. Did you try that flavor yet. Is that breed of dog good with kids.
That is the entire premise of everything having star ratings or likes or product reviews. We want to learn from each other what things work as promised.
What we’ve all learned from a couple of decades of rating everything, from movies to salad dressing, is that some reviews are not worth reading because the reviewer obviously has a screw loose. Giving something a one-star review because you had problems with the shipping is not helping anybody.
We’ve all quickly learned to skim through the page-long rants because it seems pretty clear that that person’s deranged opinion is not going to affect our experience of the local dry cleaner or veterinarian.
The trouble is, we don’t seem to be quite as savvy about topics that don’t involve consumer products or local businesses.
I wonder why that is?
I was talking to a friend the other day and she said her parents aren’t planning to get the COVID-19 vaccine because of the “long-term effects.” It turns out my friend’s mom’s friend’s... son? Neighbor? works in a hospital. In the mom’s mind, this makes him a nurse. Supposedly he said something about Bell’s palsy, which she heard as Ball’s palsy, which then somehow morphed into the story, “Nurses are saying that the COVID vaccine causes cerebral palsy.”
Bell’s palsy, by the way, can be caused by viral infections. It’s a temporary facial paralysis that resolves in six months. Yeah, I wouldn’t want it, but it is far less frightening to me than the idea of getting COVID again! And it has nothing in common whatsoever with cerebral palsy, which only happens to kids under age three.
What this sort of anecdote comes down to is, I heard something that made me nervous from someone I know, therefore I am 100% opposed to it.
Even though I can’t even remember the exact details and I’ve never even met the first guy who said it.
The “long-term effects” argument sounds perfectly reasonable. A lot of people are skittish about getting the vaccine because it was developed so quickly. They think that must mean that there can’t be enough testing information from humans, and they don’t want to be that first penguin that jumps in and gets eaten by the leopard seal.
Okay, then, you want more information about “long-term effects” before you’ll take it? What timeframe are we talking here? One year? Five years? Twenty years?
That means you would literally rather the pandemic continue to rage unchecked all around the world for whatever length of time than have a vaccination program in 2021?
What year, can you tell me? What timeframe do you think would be long enough?
Also, could you give me numbers on the number of sick, hospitalized, or dead people that you find acceptable? Like, maybe if the numbers stay low enough we could all wait even longer?
It took over two hundred and fifty years to go from variolation in North America to the elimination of smallpox. (1721 to 1974).
Is that long enough?
I go back to what I was saying to my hesitant friend. If vaccines caused some kind of long-term health effects, we would be seeing that reflected in the longevity data. Vaccines appear to have added thirty years to the average human lifespan just in the last century.
If you think that lifespan increase was due to something else other than vaccines, what do you think it was? Television? Microwaves? Air pollution? 5G?
The most surprising thing to me about vaccine hesitancy is when you hear about it from people who were previously fine with it. People who were vaccinated as kids, who then took their own kids to get their shots, people who were maybe even getting their flu shots up until recently. What changed?
Why are there so many Boomers out there who are nervous about vaccines, when they saw smallpox completely eradicated in their adult lifetime?
Oh, and polio! How many Boomers knew someone who caught polio?
The biggest question of all to me is this. Why would you think that vaccines from 40-60 years ago were somehow safer or better than the vaccines that we have today?
Think it out. How many stories have you heard in your lifetime of people who survived breaking their neck or having a stroke or heart attack? When you were a kid, wouldn’t you have expected that all those things would have killed someone?
Medical science has improved. If you stop and think of all the anecdotal evidence you have of various people surviving accidents or surgery or crazy illnesses, most likely you will be able to come up with a bunch of interesting medical miracles. For instance, we had a neighbor who survived meningitis and another who had a quadruple bypass. I know at least four people who have had brain surgery.
On the other hand, your memory is probably also full of every story you’ve ever heard under the category of Disaster.
It’s a survival trait to trade disaster stories. We don’t want the same thing happening to anyone else. “Don’t eat that, it gave me food poisoning” is probably one of the very first folktales that humanity ever told.
This is where we stand today. We’re constantly bombarded by information from literally millions of possible sources. It’s too much for us all to do due diligence on all of it. The way we cope is by relying on people we can vouch for, people within two or three degrees of separation from us.
We like the stories that come from our craziest friends because they are more memorable and because they seem more trustworthy than whatever we’re told by any kind of larger organization.
We’re at a crossroads where we have to choose what we think is true, and base our actions on that. Unfortunately, the consequences for turning in one direction or the other are more serious than usual. I hope that the path of documentable results becomes more well-trodden and that it starts to be more obvious which way to turn.
We’re the type to brag about it. Someone close to me has an appointment to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Almost everyone I know is in the 1c tier, for critical infrastructure or essential workers. That includes my husband and myself.
The group chat started to light up. There are differences of opinion between us as to whether our person is entitled to get the shot this early. This is going to happen tens of thousands of times over, so I figured it’s worth talking about.
To me, it seems obvious that we need to get as many shots into arms as fast as possible. Every single last thing about this pandemic has been botched, bungled, and befuddled from the very start. We need to speed things up.
The reason my person has an appointment so early is along the same lines as why it’s easier to get appointments at some DMV locations rather than others. When I went to get my REAL ID it took me two separate trips over two days and a cumulative 5.5 hours. Coworkers are reporting that they’re able to get an appointment within days and be in and out in ten minutes. That’s because they share information about which is the best location and how to work the system.
Engineers are particularly great about learning system requirements. Low side compliance for the win.
So my person has been working in what I would refer to as “the hinterlands.” As far as I’m concerned, if someone is able to book a legitimate slot using legitimate credentials, then please go in there, roll up your sleeve, get the shot, and then tell everyone you know. There are a lot of fence-sitters out there who can be convinced after they hear enough uneventful stories and the case load continues to drop.
Getting a vaccine is less painful or time-consuming than going to the dentist, and everyone accepts that we need to do that twice a year. I would say, based on personal experience, that the consequences of getting the coronavirus are worse than the consequences of not going to the dentist!
Obviously not everyone would agree that my person should be getting the shot. We’re still working on the seniors. I understand this, and of course I believe the most vulnerable people should be protected.
However, we’ve done an staggeringly shoddy job of protecting our seniors so far.
This is an instructive example of real-world ethics.
What we’re seeing is the crossroads between divergent ethical frameworks, where various arguments could be made depending on our values.
In this case, one position is the categorical imperative. We must wait our turn so that those who are more vulnerable are protected first. Subverting this system is cheating and it’s selfish.
(This is generally where I stand, on the end that if something is wrong, it is always wrong, and that we should make a commitment to live these values even at great personal sacrifice).
Another position is the utilitarian one, that says we need to do what is best for the greatest number. There can be a dark side to this, which can be demonstrated in the Shirley Jackson short story, “The Lottery.” Just because the majority agree on something does not mean it is okay!
Right now, during the pandemic, we are racing against time. There is this little phenomenon known as “vaccine escape,” in which the virus mutates into a strain that is resistant to the vaccine. This is why we currently have to get a flu shot every year, because influenza is a tricky bugger that shape-shifts too quickly for a universal vaccine.
This may be changing, though. Due to isolation and masking, flu cases dropped by a whopping 95% this season. It would be extremely weird and cool if influenza (figuratively) died of COVID.
The other thing that would be bonkers would be if the COVID-19 vaccine also wound up eliminating the coronavirus form of the common cold. Crazy, right? Then we would still be stuck with the rhinovirus family, but it would be a good start.
It seems obvious to me that vaccines are one of the greatest innovations of all human history, that they have saved hundreds of millions of lives, and that getting vaccinated is not just an ethical issue but a moral one. At this point, I wouldn’t care if the vaccine was guaranteed to make my leg fall off, because if mass vaccination can stop the pandemic, it will be worth it.
But of course that won’t happen. I’ve been vaccinated for a dozen different things and the only thing that ever happened was that my arm hurt for a couple days.
This is a factor in the decision of whether to “jump the line” and take the opportunity to get your shot early.
Part of why there are spots available is due to mass vaccine hesitancy. People are freaking out, even people who obediently vaccinated their own children, even people who used to regularly get the flu shot. The same generation that saw the extinction of smallpox is now turning its back on vaccination, for what ultimate reasons I cannot say, because I don’t understand them.
It works and you know it from personal experience. So what’s the problem?
Others may disagree, but this is my position. I believe that it is a tragic and appalling waste to have to throw out a single spoiled dose. Every last dose needs to go toward protecting a person.
Waiting because you feel guilty and someone “worse off than you” should get their shot first is precisely like waiting to jump out of the emergency exit on a plane. There are only 90 seconds to evacuate a plane. If a single person stands there dithering and dilly-dallying, it’s possible that every person on the plane could die in a massive fireball.
Don’t wait, GO!
People like my example may be getting their opportunity a little early because they have access to a location with less population pressure. Maybe the people in that community have been frightened into inaction by derpy friends and irresponsible fake journalists? Or maybe they’re out there getting it done and they just have more doses to go around.
Probably what will happen is that the virus is eliminated more easily in certain less-dense communities, and six months from now, entire swaths of countryside are COVID-free. The hot zones will remain in places like my neighborhood, where the neighbors have one immunity, which is to science. That will be my problem to deal with, but I certainly wish godspeed to those locales that can be clean and clear more quickly.
When I get my chance, I’m going to book my slot as fast as I can. If I find out I can get it sooner in the parking lot at work, or at Kaiser, or through the same drive-thru where we got our tests last year, then by Jove, I’m going.
We all need to work together to beat the spread of coronavirus and replace it with concepts of civic virtue, collective effort, community pride, and rational thought.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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