Who got scammed and how, I’m still not entirely sure, so this situation is haunting me. I’m writing it up for the benefit of anyone else who has something similar happen.
We ordered a meal from our favorite local restaurant. We’ve used the same app to order from the same place maybe half a dozen times since COVID. This time, it was because my hubby won a prize at work and he had to submit the receipt for reimbursement.
I watched the app as the order was accepted, the food was prepared, and the driver was sent to pick it up. That’s when things started to get weird.
The driver was changed, which happens all the time with rideshare too, so I didn’t think anything of it.
Then the order looked like it was hanging. It kept saying the food was going to be delivered in one minute, then two, then five.
Then suddenly it said that I had canceled the order!
Me?? The one waiting for the food?? I think not!
I poked at the app several times, thinking maybe it had crashed.
Then I thought, what if the restaurant was closed or something unexpected happened, and there wasn’t any food in the first place? I called and got a busy signal four times in a row. I checked their website to see if they had gone under.
I had my husband look them up and try to call, in case I had somehow found a cached obsolete number. He got the hostess, and I could hear her over his phone saying that something was “very weird.”
Okay. So Driver 1 showed up, asked for the order under my name, and left with it. Then Driver 2 came and asked for my order, and they had to explain that a different DoorDash driver had already picked it up.
The hostess suggested that we reorder our food. When I tried to do that, the app responded “You do not have permission to perform this action.” Huh? Am I blocked now, as well as not getting my nice dinner?
Fast forward: my hubby installed the app, duplicated the order, paid for it, and another driver brought it, so we finally got to eat two hours after we had planned.
Now I’m trying to figure out what happened, because the food went somewhere and the money did not.
My first guess would have been that there was a glitch in the app. Something like this happened with a Grubhub order last year, where the driver lost connectivity and wasn’t able to access our address. When she finally got through, she contacted me and was very apologetic. I got a refund and my friend and I didn’t get to eat until almost 10 pm, due to an event conflict, but it was okay. The mystery was resolved.
But then... why would the app think I canceled my order? Who did cancel it? The first driver or the second driver?
Where did the second driver come from?
When this happens on rideshare, the app cancels the first driver and gives the message that someone closer was available. (Except for the time that our driver blew past us in the rain and then canceled the fare).
Is there a way for the first driver to simultaneously pick up the food and then act like they were unavailable for some reason, initiating the switch to the second driver?
How would that make sense, though? If this was an attempt to scam free food, there would be a record that the driver was assigned to that pickup, right? If there were a way for them to pick it up and then claim that I had canceled the order, then where did the second driver come from?
If the first driver got the food and then there was a glitch, then still - where did the second driver come from? And why would the email that I got claim that I canceled my own order?
I want to share that I have experienced years of food insecurity, and what I perceive in this system is someone being hungry enough to steal. In a culture that throws away literally hundreds of billions of pounds of food, where over 30% of our food production is wasted, this is both unnecessary and unacceptable. There is no reason why anyone should starve here!
So before I continue, I want to acknowledge my privilege and state that millions (or billions) more people should have that same privilege.
These are the things that bother me:
At least I hope someone ate it. If you’re curious, it was: nachos, chips and guacamole, two slices of lemon cake, and a nice vegan Cobb salad. I mean, at least I hope someone ate the salad and didn’t just throw it out. Clearly almost anyone would eat nachos and cake.
If there is a way for a driver to scam DoorDash and get free food, that gives me several thoughts, the first of which is that that person has intelligence to spare. Food delivery is probably far below what they are intellectually capable of doing, which means that all of society loses out on that talent.
My next thought is that I’m not being charged enough, which is okay - charge me what it actually costs to make sure that the driver gets a living wage. I’m a good tipper. I even would have tipped Driver 2 for his troubles, enough to get himself a snack at least?
Then I wonder, in the case of the missing lemon cake, where did that food go and who ultimately pays for it? Not me, since I already got my refund. I only paid in terms of hassle and eating two hours late.
Who paid, my favorite restaurant? Is this sort of thing going to drive them out of business? In which case - we all pay.
Did DoorDash pay? If their app has a glitch or a security flaw, then that’s a risk of their business model and they should be bearing the cost.
Did Driver 1 pay? Was it her fault that this happened, or not? I don’t really want a system where a gig economy worker can wind up working all day for free, with no benefits or paid time off. If this kind of thing happens a lot it also raises the question of how many soggy fries and rancid wings are piling up in their back seats.
Who pays Driver 2? Does he at least get a courtesy $5? I hope he made his quota and that he doesn’t have to go home to 7 roommates empty-handed.
Ultimately this whole experience makes me question my contribution, both negative and positive. Am I an economic parasite? We rarely order in because it’s a hassle to go down five floors and wait for a driver who sometimes has to park a block away. But then aren’t a lot of people depending on these jobs to make ends meet? How else are we going to help?
I dunno. All I know is that there’s a lot of shadow labor being performed here, extra work for almost all parties involved that does not lead to economic credit for any of us.
I’m gonna go donate to my food bank and figure out what to cook tomorrow night.
Why not? Today I’m just going to talk about my sweet little bird and her cardboard box fort.
We might have figured it out sooner. For years now, whenever anything would come in a box, Noelle would take a keen interest in it. You can always tell when she really wants something because she turns her head sideways and stares at it with one eye. You can practically see the cartoon arrows pointing directly from her pupil to the object of her desire.
Every now and then, we’d get a big empty box and put her in it. She would scrabble around in there, chewing holes in it and scratching at it with her feet. She does this thing we call “starting the Harley” where she repeatedly kicks one leg backward. There’s a bit of force to it, which you’ll find if you ever put your hand back there while she’s digging.
One day, Noelie was making a bit of a racket while my hubby was trying to work. (I checked my photo album and, coincidentally, it was just a couple days before I realized I had COVID). He had the bright idea to give her a box to play in, except that we didn’t have any big boxes. The one he gave her was barely big enough for her to fit in, an A1 size.
She loved it!
She stood in this little box that only just fit her from beak to tail, and she peeked out over the flap quite cheerfully - for three hours.
Every now and then we would look over at her and crack up laughing. What are you even doing in there??
It didn’t take long to realize that she felt safe in the box. Her perch looks out the sliding glass window into the top of a palm tree where several bird families live. She likes the house finch family and the sparrow family and the hummingbirds and the pair of doves. She is not, however, a fan of the three crows that hang out there.
Birds, by the way, don’t really understand the concept of glass. Their eyes are different than ours and I don’t think they can really tell anything is there.
In the window, she feels exposed to predators - including the gulls and pelicans that she can see sometimes. In her little cardboard box on the top of the bookshelf, she felt cozy and safe. We kept the box and put her back in it the next day. And the next, and the next.
When she wants to go over there, she leans forward and stares intently. If we don’t notice her right away, she starts vocalizing and getting pretty insistent. Then when she needs a break, she does the reverse, staring at her perch and calling for a ride.
Entropy happened and a month later the little A1 box was starting to look pretty chewed up. We needed a replacement, but we didn’t have any more boxes in that size. I managed to scrounge one a little bigger, an A3, and that was when I had my idea.
“I’m going to make her a fort.”
I put the little box vertically in the bigger box, a L shape. I figured we’d lose the first day, because birds are notoriously freaked out by changes in their personal space, even like a new toy or a snack sometimes. But I hadn’t even finished setting it up before Cardbird was over there leaning forward and shifting her weight from foot to foot.
So she stood there in the “box fort” for several hours a day, with occasional breaks.
A week later I got hold of a third box in about the right size and put it over the top. Once again, she figured out that this was a value-add right away and wanted to check it out immediately. She had a roof.
That was when she started taking naps in there.
A week later, I figured out how to add a side compartment and give her a split-level. It took her, like, minutes to climb up into it and explore. She started going up there and peeking at us around the wall.
Two weeks later, I had another box and I built her a compartment on the opposite side. That was the arrangement that allowed her to get up onto the roof, an accomplishment she obviously found very satisfying indeed.
Cardboard doesn’t last forever, though. Also, my husband is an engineer.
What happened next was probably inevitable. A month later, when the existing structure had started to collapse because she gnaws from the base, my husband rebuilt the entire thing.
This was when the “box fort” became what it is now, which is basically a three-story Bauhaus modernist bird mansion with a porch and a ladder.
At this point, we realized that Noelle Noodle is probably the only parrot in the galaxy who has her own box fort. That should change, right?
The fort has transformed the experience of having a parrot at home with two busy office professionals who are on the phone all the time. She knows she is allowed to do whatever she wants in there, tearing and shredding and kicking bits of cardboard over her shoulder. She can climb between levels and compartments safely, with juuuuust enough challenge to make her feel like she’s really earned the fresh view. She naps out in there all the time.
Any bird family might be interested to learn that she’s made it four months completely streak-free. She considers the box fort her “nest” and she has kept it 100% immaculate from the start. She won’t even take toys in there - I’ve tried to offer her a couple and she pitches them out onto the floor.
Our groomer advised that if she started acting aggressive, we should take the fort away from her. She is a remarkably sweet bird and it hasn’t been a problem, but maybe partly because it’s at least a foot lower than her usual perch.
That’s the story of Noelie and her box fort. It began as a random, casual idea and gradually, over a period of three months, morphed into a real plan. This is an allegory for any creative spark, you get that, right? Also, it’s a bit of a manifesto. Even a kid can tape together some empty cardboard boxes and make something sturdy enough for a pet bird to climb on. Every household pet absolutely needs a private personal space to chillax - and they also all need at least 12 hours of sleep, something that is tougher for birds to get, which can make them a little crazy.
True for us all. We all need quiet time, personal space, some playtime, and a little imagination. Maybe some of us could use box forts of our own.
Just what you’ve all been waiting for, it’s... more COVID updates! Who better to hear them from than someone who has had it, talked to real live doctors about it, and lives in an uncontrolled hot zone?
Yep, it’s true, I’ve been complaining about my sloppy lackadaisical neighbors here in [redacted] [never mind, let’s just call my town Corona Cove] for months now, and predictably we have moved from 7th in number of deaths to 3rd. We’ve already reached first place in total number of cases.
California has the highest population of any state in the US - or at least, we do for now, she said darkly - so it will make perfect sense when we eventually find ourselves at the top of the chart. *shakes head sadly*
It’s hard to accept that so many people prefer pseudoscience to protecting their own caboose, but there you have it.
I’m a Mensan, right? We have an online book club. One of the members went off about how she believes in conspiracy theories. Would you like to know why? Because a Dan Brown novel published in 2013 about a pandemic has a fictional organization in it, and supposedly a paycheck protection program launched in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has the same name. Proof! That is proof to her that “something is going on” and that “someone planned this.”
As a COVID survivor, I’d like to know: why would it matter anyway?
Why do people insist on believing that humans are very very good at developing viruses into biological weapons, and yet the exact same people refuse to believe that a human could develop an effective vaccine? Why believe in a supervillain scientist but not one motivated by altruism?
I’m sprawled out here under two afghans, still trying to recover, and I’ll tell you what. It wouldn’t matter to me whether I got COVID from space aliens, Lex Luthor, biological weapons, an armadillo, or sniffing deep into the spine of a Stephen King novel. Why? Because I’d still be just as ill no matter where it came from!
All I would want to know in any of those scenarios was: 1. Are there any treatments and 2. Is there any way for anyone else to avoid it?
People, and by “people” I mean “dimwits,” are saying that you don’t need to wear a mask because there are effective treatments. I hope you’re not reading this aloud to your minor children because I’m about to say something NSFW, but to me this analogy is like saying that you don’t need to wear condoms because there are treatments for syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and herpes. Uh, wouldn’t you rather avoid the outcome than treat the outcome??
Let’s talk realistically about this whole thing for a minute. We have only successfully eradicated two viruses in the entire history of humanity. One was smallpox and the other was a cattle disease, rinderpest. Of course I hope our track record will improve, and the last I heard, there aren’t any “virus rights” anti-extinction groups out there, but, our track record isn’t super impressive thus far.
Next issue. The fastest vaccine ever developed took around four years. That was for mumps, which I can assure you is a real illness because my granddad got it when he was in the Army, and that first vaccine didn’t last all that long. The one we have now works much better, and yet people still refuse to get it because evidently as a species we prefer to be devastated by pestilence than to avoid it through human ingenuity. “Avoid it like the plague,” I think not.
I guess where I’m going with that is, if we do get an effective vaccine, then 1. It will take a while and 2. It might not last very long and 3. 40% of people will throw a fit and refuse to take it because they’d rather be violently ill than not be violently ill.
Me: You do not want this
Them: YEAH I DO you don’t know my life
We have a friend who used to go on a lot of business trips with my husband. They went to dinner one night. My husband took a roll from the bread basket, bit into it, and said, “Man, this bread is terrible.” Our friend said, “I guess I’d better eat some then,” took a roll, bit into it, and said, “this tastes terrible.” “I just told you that.” “I thought you were just saying that so you could have all the bread.”
If this sort of trend keeps going, it’s going to be a great year for rattlesnakes and sharks because humans aren’t going to take each other seriously anymore.
Okay, let’s go over some interesting developments in coronavirus research.
Indications that tall people are more likely to get sick with COVID? If true, this would reinforce the speculation that coronavirus is airborne, which I have thought since April, because that is the most likely way that I contracted it myself.
COVID-19 can cause blood clots that may lead to amputations.
COVID-19 may also lead to hearing loss, which we could have guessed because there are a lot of viruses that act this way, and deafness can be caused by high fevers.
Nearly 90% of patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19 had underlying conditions, which US papers will tell you, and apparently obesity increases risk of death from COVID by 90%, which I saw in the British press. If we’re really almost twice as likely to die from COVID-19 due to a risk factor as common as obesity is in the US, but it’s not being widely reported here, would that not constitute a sort of conspiracy?
Something I’d rather talk about than that: Getting the flu shot lowers Alzheimer’s risk, which is fabulous news to me because Alzheimer’s is the only thing that scares me almost as much as getting COVID again. This is a companion to the news that having had the MMR vaccine may be protective against severe COVID symptoms.
Also interesting, tattoos could boost the immune system, which would be one really good explanation for why they became popular in so many cultures throughout history.
Some speculation, since I am a futurist and that’s what we do: I don’t think a vaccine is going to pop up and miraculously allow us all to start going to stadium glam rock concerts before Halloween. I plan to stay indoors until, say, spring of 2023. Subject to updates based on current events.
What I do think will happen is that several innovators will release various designs of helmets with filtration systems that test well against airborne pathogens. I think that could happen a lot faster; is probably in development in multiple countries right now; can be tested much more quickly; would also protect against influenza, the common cold, and maybe even pollen/hay fever... and would be something I personally would buy right away.
Bye from Corona Cove, and as the conspiracy theorist said to COVID-19, “Catch ya later!”
I worry that what has happened to me will eventually happen to everybody else. I worry that everyone is going to get COVID-19, and that a significant chunk those of us who didn’t die will just feel cruddy forever.
At least it feels that way. I first got sick four months ago, and as I write this I’m still sitting listlessly bundled up in blankets. Woke up twice from chills last night. Still on an inhaler, still planning my days around the latest alarm to take my pills.
What if this is all there is?
There’s this saying: ‘Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.’ I used to puzzle over it when I was a kid and try to figure out what it meant.
Basically it means, enough stuff happens every day to worry about. No reason to worry about the past or the future. The problems of today will always be enough to keep us busy.
There’s a balancing effect there, sort of like dollar-cost averaging. On the days when things are truly terrible, we can make a memory that will help to remind us why we can appreciate the easier days a little more. Taking a decent day for granted is a sad mistake.
In one sense, I can remind myself how fortunate I am in almost every respect. At least it’s something to do to occupy my time... I lived, I can call my family, I have health insurance, my doctor is responsive, there is currently a little robot mopping my floor. All pretty great stuff.
I have to keep going through these exercises because the rest of me is getting pretty fed up.
What did I even do to bring this on myself.
I don’t mean getting COVID, because to be fair I was duly warned. I actively debated whether I should go out that day with both my husband and QT. I took an informed risk that blew up my entire life, but it wasn’t like I had no idea it could happen.
What I want to know is where the bacterial pneumonia came from. The antibiotics seem to have done a reasonable job on it. Now I just feel like I have a bad cold, which is a huge improvement over feeling like someone kicked me in the chest several times with a steel-toed boot.
I’ve spent eight weeks so far this year being ill. Now it feels like my rational course of action is to just plan for this to be my default mode.
Get up. Hit inhaler. Get dressed, eat breakfast, take pills. Start work. Clock out and lie down on couch. Drink NyQuil and go to bed. Repeat.
* This is the location of the pivot *
See, I know I can go on like this if I have to. If I don’t get better but if I also don’t get very much worse.
I wouldn’t be able to do it if we had to go in to the facility. I don’t know if I’m contagious. I also think it would be too much for me to get up an hour earlier every day and get myself across town. But for now, it’s possible.
The alternative would be to lie around feeling cruddy every day and watching my husband work.
Whenever I think about that, which is daily, I think of how boring and depressing it would be to feel this way and also to have nothing to do.
Then I think of all the famous historical figures I can remember who fought chronic illnesses. It turns out there are a LOT.
Carson McCullers had lupus and died at age 50. (I have a friend who has lupus who has outlived this sad milestone).
Proust, he... what the actual heck was wrong with him?... he was considered to be a hypochondriac but it turns out he actually had a rare genetic disorder and died aged 51.
Frida Kahlo was in a horrible bus accident as a teenager, suffered chronic pain the rest of her life, and died at 47.
Emily Bronte died of tuberculosis aged 30, although she wasn’t sick yet when she wrote Wuthering Heights so that’s sort of a different point...
(Which is to make the most of the time we have, because we know not the day nor the hour)
Anyway there have been all sorts of artists who made their art in spite of their physical state, level of pain, or mood. Probably about as many as those who had substance abuse challenges. Someone could do a statistical comparison; it might be comforting. Or a PhD topic, or both.
This is exactly what is annoying me so much right now. I had this bright idea that I was going to apply for grad school and get a PhD, but now I feel so low that it seems like it would probably be a fantastic waste of money.
What can I manage on a daily basis, what can I do simply by putting one foot in front of the other and making it through the hours, one hour by one hour by one hour by one hour?
Living, I suppose
I hope that thinking about my state of breathlessness and exhaustion helps someone else. I hope it can help uplift someone who at least feels capable of breathing cleanly. Of course I also hope it helps someone to deal with the boredom of self-isolation, knowing you are saving yourself from something yet more boring and depressing, which is to just be ill all the time. But I hope it helps some of you to feel that you can go on, cook a nice dinner or put fresh clean sheets on your bed or something.
I’ll learn to pace myself, like we all do. Eventually I’ll figure out how much I can expect of myself. Eventually I may find a way to get up to my old hijinks. For now, it’s worth remembering that there are only five months left of this stupid year.
Others have dealt with worse (cite: 536 AD) and made something of it. This is my hope, that I’ll find a way to dab my own drop of paint or scribble my own smear of ink. You as well. Let us all get through this together, breathe our way out of it and try to make it into something worthwhile.
This is the story of how I got my dream job through the portfolio method.
The idea here is that traditional, convergent techniques will never reveal certain types of candidates. This is bad for companies, it’s bad for teams who are missing key players, and of course it’s bad for us as unique talents. Everyone loses when we work below our potential. Let’s help them help themselves and show them what they’re missing.
I had a very clear vision of what I wanted to do. I knew the company I wanted to work for, I knew the person I wanted to work with, and I was stone-cold certain I would be a great fit in the particular role and department.
I spent two years looking for the right opportunity, a position that I could apply for, and I kept turning up with nothing.
Either the role I wanted required a security clearance, or I didn’t have the specific job history they were looking for. Obviously I qualify for a clearance, but you can’t initiate that process on your own, so that was a bit of a Catch-22. So is the question about the job history. You know you would be good at something, but you can’t get hired until you’ve already done it, but you can’t get hired until you’ve already done it, but you... et cetera, ad nauseam, ad absurdum.
If I was getting into this place, I was going to have to climb in the window.
I came up with a speculative idea, a way to create my portfolio project.
This is why a portfolio project is such a big deal. It proves a bunch of points that can’t be demonstrated with a traditional resume.
It shows the quality of your work.
With a long-running project like mine, it can show your ability to adhere to a production schedule.
It shows your creativity.
It shows, like nothing else, your sincere desire to work for the company... since technically you’ve just done it for free.
It may show that you see potential opportunities for the company that it hasn’t seen for itself yet.
It shows your communication abilities.
It shows your understanding of company culture and whether you have the right social filters to succeed in the workplace.
One thing it may show, which you can’t control, is how your work compares to that of other people in the department, or maybe even in your desired role.
Most people aren’t that engaged in their jobs, for a variety of reasons. Largely I think it’s because there’s a huge disconnect between people’s talents and what they are asked to do as their official role. There is a vast gap between what people will do from passion and internal motivation, and the petty tasks that are asked of them.
A passion project shows something besides the details of the project itself, and that is: the existence of passion itself.
Not everyone can or should display emotions like passion for their job. As a natural enthusiast, I have an almost unfair advantage here. If I’m into something, I am INTO it. I think about it day and night, sometimes dream about it, and I can’t really even stop myself from thinking about it even during my off hours.
Might as well harness that and make money off it, right?
This is the specific nature of my project. I put together a highly specialized, highly targeted newsletter aimed at the interests of the engineers where my husband works. I knew what they would like because I know him and also because I worked at an aerospace engineering firm for several years. Probably nobody but me could do this thing in the way that I do it.
I put out the newsletter day by day, day by day, day by day. My hubby forwarded it to a couple of people. Gradually, as I knew it would, interest built through word of mouth.
I probably have the highest open rate of any newsletter out there. Right now I have 49 readers.
Did you get that last part?
I could send a piece of email to my relatives and it would have more subscribers. This is an incredibly small reach.
Does this project have commercial potential? Could I build it out to 100,000x? Sure.
Did I want to? No.
I have a bunch of other things I’m working on, and I didn’t want to build an email business. I didn’t want to pay out of pocket for the months and years it would take to catch on and I didn’t particularly want to work with advertisers. It also wasn’t my chosen topic. If I were going to put in all that effort for something of my own, it would be something else.
I set out specifically to target this project to this one particular place and get myself this job.
It totally worked, too. One of my readers was... my future boss.
So when a position opened up in his department, I applied for it, and I prominently featured my newsletter in my cover letter and my resume.
That was the first thing the HR rep asked me about during my initial phone screen. “Yep, that’s me.”
After doing this project every business day for nearly two years, it was pretty clear that I knew what I was up to and that I would meet deadlines. What else did they need to know?
And then what happened?
And then I was asked to give a presentation about my methods, and it rocked, and people got pretty excited, and I got 25% more subscribers in one day.
The portfolio method worked for me, as it has for other people. They don’t always know they need you until they meet you and see what you can do.
I believe it’s our responsibility to make sure that we land in the place where we can contribute at our maximum. When we get scared about money, we sell ourselves short, and we grab at whatever we can find, no matter how far beneath our abilities it might be. Instead we should be honing our pitch and aiming at the highest level that we can reach. Several years later, we’ll be able to do much more, anyway, with our earned experience and new skills. So why wait?
The next step in the portfolio method should be obvious: Keep going. Develop whatever it is and get ready to pitch again. If you can do this, then you can probably do more, and all interested parties deserve a chance to find out just what that is.
Believe that I’m ready to pitch, and pitch hard. I have an entire page of ideas I can develop now, and all I need is the tiniest sliver of opportunity. Just let that window open a crack and everyone will hear my singing.
Something happened. Something happened at work and I’m not sure what the ramifications will be until next week, maybe later.
It basically went like this. I got a brand-new job, partly based off a project I’d been doing on spec for not quite two years. Right after I started, I reached out to someone who knew about that project to ask for advice on choosing a grad school in her field. She invited me to meet, which I thought was very generous, and it turned out she wanted to talk about my project. Then she asked me to give a presentation, which I did.
What I thought I would be doing was giving a brown-bag lunchtime talk to about a dozen people. I’d tell them how I came up with the idea for my project and how I put it together. I’d share the specific work tools I use and maybe teach some of my techniques. Fun, right?
Then there were 80 people there, at least one of them a director, and the response wound up being at least 10x bigger than I expected.
WELL THAT ESCALATED QUICKLY
One of the slides in my presentation came from notes I scribbled on my phone in the middle of the night, when all I wanted to do was sleep. During the Q&A everyone wanted to go back and look at that slide and discuss it some more.
Now I’m realizing that my original idea might have legs. I may have accidentally and sleepily created something good enough to be an entire book.
This kinda happens to me all the time.
The thing about ideation and creativity is that it comes out of a pipe. For some people, that pipe has been shut off for many years, and it will take more than a pipe wrench to get it turned on again, trickling out in brown sputters that nobody wants to drink at first. Then the water starts flowing pure and clean and cold.
Then it really starts flowing and spraying all over the place.
Then it’s like a fire hydrant blasting every kid in the street and it takes an entire crew to get it back under control.
This is my fountain, a high-pressure water main continually pumping by the thousands of gallons, and here I am in rubber boots, trying to collect it all in buckets and cans before it washes away my entire building.
Part of my remit now is to put together a reading list of books on imagination and creativity. I’ve read dozens of these, and if anyone can do this task, certainly I can. The trouble is keeping it under eight pages... although maybe I don’t need to...
Being a natural ideator often feels like trying to keep a beach ball under water in the pool. It keeps finding ways to pop back out and then everyone wants to play with it. The process of pushing that beach ball back underwater is ungainly, and it feels very exposed to do it in a swimsuit.
The idea is often ready before we are.
I’ve been working on capturing more things at the beginning phase of the process, the early curly part of the ideation arc, so that people can watch something unfold in realtime.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if my little grid illustration, born in the dark of night on my pillow, eventually turned into a published book? And we all got to watch it happen together?
I know what I am. Over the past several years I have developed myself into a working artist, and I have that confidence in my identity that is necessary to succeed in the creative world. What I don’t necessarily have yet are the world-class ready-for-prime-time skills that develop from practice and experience. I also don’t have the validation or credentials of having millions of fans. (Yet - but it could happen).
Possibility thinking includes anything and everything with a non-zero chance. There’s a zero chance that I will personally go to Mars, because I’m scared to get in a rocket and I just don’t want to. But there’s definitely a non-zero chance that people will go to Mars in my lifetime. Mars is a thing, me on Mars is not going to be a thing.
In that same light we can say, what else is there a non-zero chance of happening? In the past 25 years there’s been a non-zero chance of me working on a llama ranch, sorting recycling in Antarctica, winning $15,000 on a game show, or teaching MMA classes. This is because I am curious and I give serious consideration to options and opportunities that would not cross someone else’s mind as acceptable outcomes.
Is this awesome? Y/N
Would this be good for the blog? Y/N
Will this cause me to go viral for the right or wrong reasons?
Then what happens?
Sometimes I don’t believe my own hype. I can document the fact that I came up with the idea to backpack around Iceland for three weeks, and then rooked my husband into it. I can document the fact that I studied knife fighting and situational combatives. I can document the fact that I can solve cryptograms while listening to audio books on triple speed and using chopsticks left-handed. But that all makes me sound like a cartoon character. Inside I still think of myself as the world’s most boring person, because just as much of my time goes toward basic domestic tasks as everyone else.
It’s probably inevitable that I’ll wind up publishing a book, and/or giving workshops, and/or putting out a cartoon or an advice column or something. Those are just locations on the other end of the innovation arc that I’m traveling on. I can’t stop running my mouth, in realtime or behind the scenes in my own mind. Myself talks to myself a lot. It will turn into something eventually.
What remains to be seen is whether it will take 3-5 years, like I originally estimated, or whether it will happen more quickly because I have already dreamed it into obviousity.
We’ve swung about as far in the direction of the individual as we possibly can, a claim that I will proceed to back up in great detail but that can be observed by anyone in any common area these days. There is only a certain amount of time it can hold in this position before it inevitably begins to swing back the other way.
An example that comes to mind is of a woman who was killed by an alligator in Florida back in May. She was informed that the same individual alligator had taken down a deer at the same exact spot. She replied, “I don’t look like a deer,” moved closer, and those were her last words, as the alligator then proceeded to do what alligators do.
If you’re ever looking for a way to explain the concept of “death by misadventure” to your kids, this would be a solid example.
What was happening there?
It’s mean to pick on someone who isn’t here to defend herself, and I don’t mean to do that. I still feel the same shock and horror that I felt two months ago, when I first read this sorry tale.
Why would someone disregard social proof or direct evidence of objective reality?
I’m not sure, because I’m not wired that way, but I can take a few guesses. Demonstrating autonomy, that nobody tells me what to do? Displaying skepticism, that I’m smart enough to tell the difference between common sense and urban myths? (Although... alligators are real??) Raw physical courage? Belief in one’s ability to move quickly and outrun danger, on the extremely unlikely chance that I guessed wrong?
This is exactly what I think is going on with the novel coronavirus and mask refusers.
I can tell you from personal experience that COVID-19 sucks. Hated it. I can also tell you that the person who gave it to me thinks it’s no big deal. She believes she’s immune now and that the crisis is overblown. She is not alone in this reaction, to be sick with COVID and then shrug it off. All I can say is that if her symptoms were as bad as mine, then she must have the grit and stamina of a thousand wildebeests.
What people are saying over and over again is that rules don’t apply to them. Emotionally they buy into the concept of the sovereign individual. They interpret the situation of living in a pandemic to mean that they are assuming personal risk, and that is their ethical prerogative.
The merest suggestion that any one human can owe anything at all to any other human, under any circumstance, seems to trigger a deep rage in these people.
I think this is only possible because of where we are on the pendulum swing between the individual and the collective. We’re at a place where the idea of “a community” of any kind doesn’t even make sense to some people.
Just because there is more than one person in any given location does not then mean that there is a “group” of any kind. No connections, no broad categories. It’s impossible because there is only The Individual multiplied by seven billion.
The opposite extreme of this would be the idea that there is only a group, and that there is no such thing as an individual with personal rights. It’s fairly easy to imagine this, and it’s possible this is how it feels to be a bee, or a fish in a school of fish. Any ant stands in for any other ant, but in this formulation they don’t have personalities or names or music preferences.
Obviously it makes the most sense for people to exist somewhere in the middle, with personal rights but also with social connections, friends, and some way to contribute to a greater good. This is the space with the potlucks and the games and the concerts. This is the space with a modern economy.
The far individual end is the space with the terrorists and the mass murderers. Arguably the mass murderer is a notch more individualistic, because terrorists tend to act based on group decisions and delusions. The lone gunman is probably acting on a personal grievance. The only reason it would make sense to inflict a personal vendetta on random strangers is if those strangers have no value to the killer.
The reason I talk about this is that an asymptomatic super-spreader of coronavirus... may very well have a higher body count than most mass murderers.
“Oh it’s just the flu...” that is 50x deadlier than influenza.
Why would someone persistently refuse to pay attention? Sure, I can understand why someone would feel allergic to mainstream news. But at this point, people know someone personally who got sick or died. I know I do. At this point I have several friends and a few first-degree relatives who have gotten sick, and someone I’ve been to dinner with several times has died. I know a dozen people who have lost a family member to COVID.
Which specific friend or relative has to die before someone finally caves and says, “All right already, I guess the alligator really does grab people sometimes”?
The trouble is that nothing is harder for the extreme individualist than admitting to a mistake. It comes across as losing face. For a sensible person, getting solid information is a cause for gratitude - thanks for looking out for me, I know you’re trying to help. (Avoid food poisoning, avoid getting a speeding ticket, avoid a sunburn, etc). A narcissist will be more and more enraged the more serious the warning was, because the bigger the threat, the dumber they might look for missing it.
One of those mistakes that is impossible to admit is the mistake of trusting a con. Being tricked is so embarrassing that people will avoid reporting fraud, sometimes even at the cost of millions of dollars. Finding a way to reframe these events in a way that is emotionally more acceptable would really help correct a lot of issues.
How do we get the pendulum swinging again, so it is at least one notch away from the farthest possible point of selfishness? What are some ways to help people feel safe to relax into a friendlier, more altruistic position? How can we help people feel proud and smart for stepping away from the alligator?
I ordered some breathing apparatuses and they were delivered today. As a COVID-19 survivor who is currently trying to recover from bacterial pneumonia, I want to improve my breathing. Like, a lot. I’m starting from a knowledge base of zero and trying to figure it out as I go. What are these things, how do they work, and can I actually start breathing normally again one day?
The first thing I can tell you is that if I get arrested in the near future, it will be because a police officer saw one of these things and assumed it was a weird futuristic vaping tool. I can about guarantee that an airport security guard somewhere in the world would confiscate it. I want to put a tag on it that says ‘NOT DRUG PARAPHERNALIA.’
The other thing looks and acts like a children’s toy.
Actually they both look like children’s toys, in their own way, which is great because I can use some fun in my life.
Relaxation techniques always tell you to focus on your breathing because they assume that is universally relaxing. I’m here to tell you that it would be more relaxing if I could stop focusing on my breathing for a while. It shouldn’t take this much effort. It shouldn’t be in question. I shouldn’t be wondering so much about how long I’ll be doing it or if I’ll accidentally quit while I’m asleep.
I first learned about breathing exercises as a tiny tot, when my mom was in labor with my brother. I remember I kept trying to lean over the seat and help her do her Lamaze breathing, and my dad kept snapping at me to sit down. (We didn’t have car seats in those days). I associated special breathing with the magic of a new baby popping into existence.
The next time was in kundalini class in college, but that’s a story for another time.
I had a less exciting lesson in breathing when I got the respiratory infection that followed me out of university. A nurse had me breathe into a spirometer to measure my lung capacity (52%). This memory is what gave me the idea to buy a device of my own, and that’s what triggered the idea that I could find a gadget to measure my improvement.
The device that the nurse used on me had me exhale as hard as I could into a tube. Apparently what she was measuring was Forced Vital Capacity. When I found out about incentive spirometers, this is what I thought I was getting.
The device I bought (for $9 US) has you inhale through the tube as slowly as you can while trying to keep a little ball suspended in a tube. It’s the exact opposite of what I thought.
What I was hoping for was a percentage capacity measurement like I had 16 years ago. For one, I wanted to compare it to how I measured when I was younger. For another, I wanted a baseline. I’ll admit, though, partly I wanted to show off just what bad a shape I’ve been in.
What I’ve learned, while scouring the internet, is that I would need a trained nurse to do this properly. I can’t really make any official medical claims because I don’t have the proper training and because I don’t even know where to find the correct device, which I might not be able to afford.
All I can do are three things. I can start with a baseline; I can train and compare my later results with this baseline; and I can compare myself with my friendly local husband.
(I had him test everything out before I put my mouth on it. I’m not great at reading instructions at the best of times and he happens to be an engineer).
We both tried the incentive spirometer. After we figured out how it’s supposed to work, and by ‘we’ I mean ‘he,’ we timed each other. Then he did the calculations.
He was able to keep two of the three balls in the air for 9 seconds. (The third ball isn’t supposed to go up).
I was able to keep the first ball in the air for 3 seconds on the first try, and 4 seconds on the second try. No second ball. My head was spinning afterward.
I’m super competitive about this stuff, though. Ordinarily I have the attention span of a... sorry, ran out of analogies. But when I’m fixated on something, I’m like one of those squirrels that never quits going after the supposedly ‘squirrel-proof’ bird feeder. There is now no way I will quit practicing with the incentive spirometer until I can keep the ball up for 10 seconds.
What the times supposedly mean, if we have any even remotely accurate idea of what we’re doing, is that my lung capacity is like 2400 CCs and his is like 5400. The trouble is that we have no idea what’s normal. Also, he is a tall man with a large build, a lifelong athlete who joined the swim team at age 4 and who also played the tuba. I, on the other hand, am of average height with a small frame. I had COVID-19 all through April and I’ve been fighting pneumonia for a week.
The other device that I bought is a special breathing trainer that has apparently been in use since 1980. I can tell you right now, if this was designed in the late Seventies then there’s about 100% chance it was inspired by a hash pipe.
Me: “Do you think you could make this into a bong?”
Him: [glances over] “It is a bong.”
Note: We are straight-edge people by inclination and by profession, and also we plan to retire early so we save our money. But also we live at the beach and that kind of thing is recreationally legal here.
The “Breather,” as it is known, now comes with an app and a training plan. I set it up, but for some mysterious reason it gave me today as an off day, so I don’t know what the exercises are like yet. All I know is that it believes age, height, weight, and gender are relevant. Well, that, and the positive reviews included athletes as well as people with various medical issues.
I’m a diligent person. It makes sense to me to follow medical advice, especially when I paid for it and took time out of my schedule to hear it. I’m the kind of person who carries dental floss in my purse. (Right next to the Blow Pop, the dog clicker, and whatever else I have in there...) I have the patience and the persistence to sit down with these new gadgets and test myself, day after day.
Because if the alternative is to keep being as short of breath as I am today, almost anything is worth trying.
Nobody is really useless, I always say; if nothing else, you can always be a bad example.
I just feel useless since I’ve been sick so much. Maybe even worse than useless, since not only am I not doing much these days, other people have to keep stepping up to do my work on top of their own.
It’s a little melancholy to get pneumonia for your birthday. Honestly I would have preferred a scented candle or some colored pencils. It makes me wistful for all the years I made some big enthusiastic goal, and then eventually got around to completing it a few years later.
This year? I thought I’d make a goalless goal, just give myself a year to do nothing and not feel guilty about it. Or bored.
I made it a few hours, I swear I did!
Then I came up with something, something I actually found inspirational and exciting in spite of my current limitations.
Let’s get to that in a minute. First, I want to say that there are quite a number of goals that are still possible even in the midst of severe pain and illness:
To maintain a streak of never snapping at people, no matter what
To always say ‘thank you’ when appropriate, plus some extra
To track symptoms as accurately as possible - for science!
To set alarms and reminders, and take meds on time
To use a wastebasket rather than leave tissues etc all over the place
Not that anybody needs to do anything, or follow anyone else’s dictates - just that for me personally, it helps to maintain a certain amount of control over my attitude, my behaviors, and the things I say to other people. Until the day my head starts spinning around backwards, I can stop things from coming out of my mouth that I wish I could call back.
(If that happens, go ahead and call a priest, why not).
Even on bad days, I can recall a few particularly rude people, notorious for their constant sarcasm and cutting remarks, and think to myself, at least I’m not nasty like So-and-So. Keep it together, suck it up buttercup.
Kindness, if nothing else. Kindness, or maybe they won’t keep coming back...
It weighs heavily on me that nobody owes me care or nursing. There is not a person on this green earth who was born to be my servant or wait on me or watch over me or bring me things. Those who are willing will say, “I’m doing what anyone would do,” or “you’d do it for me,” the second of which is true and the first of which, alas, is not.
Everyone is somewhere on the spectrum of Taker to Giver, not always where we think we are, but we’re all on there somewhere. I try to keep it dialed to Giver when I’m able, because I know how often there are extended periods when I’m forced over to the ‘receiving’ end.
Personally I don’t mind caregiving. There’s a lot of room for personal time when looking after an ill person, especially when they need a lot of sleep. I can just turn on an audio book and clean and cook and carry a tray, doing what needs doing, while reserving a corner of my mind for myself. This is because I’ve always been able to see a way out, that there is a natural time limit after which my services will no longer be needed.
It’s probably much harder when it’s indefinite, when it’s been going on for years, when it might go on for yet more years, when nobody knows.
That’s what I worry about.
I worry that I’ll never feel well again, that I’ll never get back to what I would consider 100%, that I’ll just have to progressively reset what counts as ‘not unwell.’
That’s why I’ve put aside my goals about going to grad school, or writing a book, or training for an ultramarathon. At least for now, when I’m still on an inhaler and still not over this post-COVID pneumonia.
And that’s where my new goal comes in!
As bad as I feel right now, a day that has included chills, trembling hands, coughing, ears ringing, and the swallowing of 18 pills, I believe that improvement is possible.
Why? Because I’ve done it before.
I realized recently that I have a storyline about this already.
Back in 2004, I had a terrible respiratory infection. At that time in my life, it didn’t occur to me to go to the doctor at times that should have been obvious, because I didn’t have health insurance for most of my 20s. It wasn’t until my friends intervened that I went to the doctor on campus, leaning on every bench and tree and lamp post along the way. The nurse had me breathe into a spirometer, where I rated a 52%. (Oh, maybe that’s why I’ve been coughing up blood...)
Tl;dr, they gave me an inhaler, and I missed three weeks of work, but I quit coughing and got better. Looking back, it really took me about a year to start rebuilding my cardio endurance. There was a day that I tried to go for a bike ride, made it about a mile down a gentle hill, and had to turn around and push my bike home. But?
Exactly ten years later I ran a marathon.
I know it’s possible to regain lung capacity because I’ve done it. I know it’s possible to recover from a really gnarly respiratory infection and go on to feel totally fine.
Is it going to be the same for me after COVID-19? I don’t know, but that’s not going to stop me from trying. If I have data then I’m going to contribute it.
My new goal is to learn everything I can about breath work and respiratory therapy. If there are exercises, I’m going to do them. If there are training tools, I’m going to test and compare them. If there are logbooks or studies or tracking devices, I’m going to find them.
It’s hard sometimes, feeling weak, feeling like a burden on others, feeling disappointed about having to let go of goals that were appealing and personally meaningful. One way to deal with that is to shift focus to something else. Not “what can’t I do anymore” or “what am I losing this time” but:
What CAN I do?
What can I do today?
What will I be able to do tomorrow?
If nothing else, how can I use this particular experience in a way that might help others?
Someday this pain will be useful to me. Or maybe not me, but someone. And if that’s true, then it’s useful to me after all.
“Pneumonia is a treat compared to COVID,” I said. My husband pointed at me and said, “You should write about that.”
I thought I had COVID-19 a second time, but it turned out just to be bacterial pneumonia. The main difference is that pneumonia hurts, while I didn’t find COVID to be physically painful. It’s a Krav Maga-level pain in the chest and upper back.
Other than that? Not a big deal.
I mean, sure, I was so short of breath that I had to lie down after reaching up to open a cupboard in the kitchen. But at this point I’m used to that sort of thing.
The best part about pneumonia, besides the fact that it’s treatable, is that... people know what it is! They believe it’s actually real!
I feel like there are a lot of people who would be more likely to believe me if I told them I saw a ghost, or that Sasquatch came and shook my tent in the woods one night, than the fact that I was sick for a month with COVID-19.
In that sense, it’s a relief to have something familiar and old-fashioned like pneumonia.
Maybe people who are scoffing at COVID, even though it’s killed hundreds of thousands of people, will sit up and start paying attention when they start hearing more about the after-effects.
Yeah, I lived? But I’ve also needed antibiotics for two separate follow-up respiratory infections in three months. In the summer.
Me, a 45-year-old multi-sport athlete and marathon runner.
At least, I used to be. Now I’m just happy to be able to walk across the room without leaning on anything.
That’s one of the other great things about pneumonia.
No vertigo! No dizzy spells! No headaches!
I can taste and smell my food!
Only a couple heart palpitations once a day or so! And my heart rate hasn’t even doubled!
Man, this stuff is great.
I can actually read and follow the plot of a movie!
Okay, there are a few things that COVID-19 and bacterial pneumonia have in common. With both, I coughed so hard I fell over. With both, I nearly passed out at least once. Both have made me too tired and ill to make my own lunch. Both make it really hard to sleep; on the night of my birthday I could only sleep four hours before the neighbor’s dog finally woke me up at 9 am.
This time, though, I haven’t even been sick for two weeks and I’m already starting to get better! I mean, hooray!
My doctor’s office got on the phone with me within a day, and I managed to get prescriptions for antibiotics, an inhaler, and non-drowsy cough medicine. That’s the all-time number-one reason that pneumonia is better than COVID: treatments! When I got COVID they didn’t offer me a darn thing other than an apology.
By this point in my bout with COVID, I felt that my life force was draining away. With pneumonia I already feel like I could probably drag myself through a day at work (since I have the luxury of working at home, off-camera). I’ll try, anyway. I hate feeling like an invalid and I always feel very guilty taking sick leave while other people cover my tasks.
This is what I wish people would remember. There are a lot of contagious things out there that are not fun, do not feel good, and are spread from person to person through the air. I was saying not that long ago that I didn’t want anything, not even the common cold, for as long as I could get away with it. I’ll probably wear a mask in public for several years, if not the rest of my life - assuming I live several more years, she said darkly...
You know what? Nobody can stop me from wearing a mask. If I want to wear a plastic face shield on top of it, I’m darn well going to. If someone tries to refuse me service while I wear my masks, I’ll take action. I’ll wear a mask anywhere I want. It’s my right. If I happen to think it brings out my eyes and covers my incipient jowls, that’s my opinion. If I find that wearing a mask and sunglasses makes me look ten years younger, I’m going with it.
That’s my fantasy, anyway. I haven’t been well enough to go anywhere but the pharmacy in over a week.
Another great thing about pneumonia! I was able to go to the local pharmacy in person - I didn’t have to choose between paying someone to go for me or going to the COVID hospital 15 miles away. Pneumonia is so convenient!
I have to say, I was pretty mean about giving COVID-19 only one star and telling everyone I didn’t recommend it. But I can go so far as to give pneumonia two stars. Much better experience all around.
I’m learning a lot from this experience. I did a little exploring online and discovered that there are devices available for purchase to the average consumer that can help train the lungs back to better function. “Incentive spirometer” is one. I’m eagerly awaiting its arrival. I have a special box now, where I keep my pulse ox and my thermometer and all my pills, and there’s plenty of room. So many medical devices, how fun, they’re so collectible! I’m almost like my own amateur nurse now!
Okay everybody, gotta go, the NyQuil is kicking in. Wish me luck that I can get back to work soon. There’s a lot to do and I need to read up on respiratory therapy!
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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