Breaking News: I’m A Houseplant

Have you ever been out for a walk in a forest and see a tree with a weird bend and crazy lean angle? Most of the time that’s a tree desperately trying to reach the sun. Your houseplants will turn and orient themselves towards the light. I don’t know why it took me so long to realize this… but I am basically a houseplant.

Much to my dermatologist’s dismay, I like the sun. If I didn’t like the mountains and skiing so much, I could see moving to a tropical environment. Shorts, flip-flops, and sitting with the warm sun in your face is just energizing. What I didn’t fully realize is that not only do I enjoy the sun, but I actually require it.

The start of this winter was a bit rough. Late fall turned gray and rainy. The trails turned to muck and there was a constant cloud cover. As fall turned over to winter, nothing changed except it got cold. Just as despair set in, we finally got snow. And then more snow. And some more. Oh, happy days, we were out of the mud season and ready to start winter fun!

I’m too lazy to go back and research the actual weather, but I suspect I’d find that virtually all of December saw no sun. Just gray clouds and snow. As we drifted to the first week of January, there was more snow. Wind and snow for days that prevented even going out and skiing. So, I was left sitting around twiddling my thumbs with limited outside opportunities. As each day wore on, I felt my motivation to do anything disappear. My mood turned south. Not exactly grumpy, but close. By the end of that week I had zero energy. I was literally out of breath climbing the stairs. Mrs Troutdog wondered if I’d caught the ‘omicron. I think I slept much of the day on Thursday. I can honestly say it was the worst feeling of malaise I’ve ever had. I didn’t understand why I felt so completely drained.

Friday morning dawned without a cloud in the sky. There was sun! Just seeing that out the windows put a little pep in my step. I grabbed the hound and went out for a long cross-country ski. At one point I think I stopped in a forest clearing, motionless, with my face turned up to the sun for at least ten minutes. I could feel my mood elevating every minute I was out there. By the time I got home I was happy and blasting ‘tunes at a ludicrous volume.

So there it is. While I always knew I got a little “down” when it’s gray out for an extended period, I’d never experienced it to this extent. I clearly suffer from some degree of S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder). It caught me a bit by surprise. I’m not sure if my need for sun is more pronounced now that I’m older, or this was simply the longest period of no sun I’ve seen?

Regardless, I am officially a houseplant. I crave the sun. I need it. Deprive me of it and I’ll wither and die. Mrs Troutdog helpfully suggested I get one of those U.V. lamps to sit under. That reminds me of those polar bear exhibits at the zoo with the white painted concrete. I’m pretty sure the bears know that isn’t really snow. I am not going to let myself turn into a sad zoo exhibit sitting under a U.V. box. No dammit, I need real sun. Outside.

Next year will be different, unless the global warming prophecies suddenly kick in and we experience the end of winter. Next year there will be several planned desert golf outings or tropical beach trips scheduled around the early winter period. Just enough to keep the batteries topped off and make to the late winter and bluebird ski days.

Like an alcoholic at an AA meeting – Hi, my name is Troutdog and I am a houseplant. I denied it for years, but I have a problem handling the overcast days. I need the sun to survive.

How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains!

John Muir

Diet Secret Unlocked: Stay Busy

I should probably put this on my wildly successful, subscription substack – but because I like you guys, I’ll give you this tip for free. I don’t know why it didn’t dawn on me until recently, but I’m a little slow sometimes. Anyway, here goes. Are you ready? The secret to losing weight – stay busy. That’s it. It’s that simple. Let me explain…

I don’t have a problem working out. I don’t have a problem committing to a particular eating plan. I don’t have a problem tracking macros, calories, or a hundred other stats. What I do have a problem with is stringing those things together for more than a few days. The difference between the times I’ve been successful with weight loss and, ahem, now? Constant activity.

My last go-round with fitness happened when I was still working full-time. I was so crazy busy at work it was easy to fast all day (I ate one meal a day, when I got home). There simply wasn’t time to eat and no time to think about being hungry. So that was three days a week of at least a 1000 calorie deficit per day. (hospital work is three twelve-hour shifts) I was left with a compressed week to fit all my activities in. So even though I probably exceeded my calorie goal many of those remaining days, I was active enough to balance it out. And the weight melted off. About 30 pounds in four months. Activity fosters more activity. As I started losing weight it motivated me to work out even harder and watch my diet even closer. It’s a positive self-reinforcing cycle. Eight months later I came close to hitting my high school weight.

And then at the end of that summer, after summiting the highest peak in the lower 48, I “took a break”. It was only going to be for a short time. After all, I’d earned it. During that break period, I went part-time at work. Then the pandemic hit. Sloth set in and my activity level plummeted. Suddenly I had more time on my hands than I knew what to do with. I spent too many hours just surfing the web and watching non-stop YouTube. And what happens when you have idle hands? Grazing in the pantry and fridge every two hours.

Even though I’d “restart” the diet each morning with a vow to be strict… by 3pm I’d have already hit my calorie budget. Sitting around so much just made me tired and my motivation to be active simply faded more and more each day. This a negative self-reinforcing cycle. And the pounds came back with a vengeance.

With a new year, we’re here at reset #432. Two weeks in and doing good so far. Back in ketosis. No alcohol since the New Year. Winter finally gave us a ski season, so I’m back outside again. The scale is slowly moving in the right direction.

But I still have plenty of time on my hands. And I find myself standing in front of the fridge far too often. I’m not actually hungry. Keto is great for limiting choices and calories, and the daily blood checks keep me honest… but I can still blow my food budget by consuming 400 calories in nuts and stay in ketosis. Right now, I’m on that razor edge of continued success or falling off the wagon again.

Having time on your hands is dangerous in so many ways. It saps productivity. It’s a conduit for a ridiculous amount of screen-time. It’s a recipe for sloth. I’ve written before about wanting to find more purpose, to focus on my hobbies and actually get good at something, to make plans and follow through with them. All things worth focusing on. But more than anything – I need to keep myself occupied so I’m not thinking about food and finding myself standing in front of the refrigerator a dozen times a day. Oh, how I envy the apathetic eaters who simply don’t care about food.

So, the secret to losing weight? Keep yourself so busy you don’t have time to food graze. And the bonus reward is going to bed each night tired and fulfilled with a day full of productivity towards something. Its’ a win-win.

Of course, the other option is to completely empty out the pantry and fridge of all food. Restock them with only the EXACT number of calories allotted for each day. Heck, you could go so far as to partition all your shelves and label them Mon, Tues, Wed, etc… Trust me, I’ve thought about it.

While I’m getting desperate enough for that degree of obsessiveness, I’m not quite ready for that level of extreme. For now, it’s time to ramp up the daily activities to ludicrous levels. So, if you start seeing three posts a day about mountain biking to a lake to go ice fishing, followed by running the dog and then walking downtown to take photographs, and then evening workout sessions… just know it’s not my overachieving, Ritalin fueled personality – I’m desperately trying to distract myself from standing in front of the fridge.

Idle hands are the devil’s playthings.

Benjaman Franklin

The End Of A Blog?

Years ago (2007, 2008?) I stumbled upon a blog. I was heavily into cycling and my never-ending campaign to lose weight and get in shape. The blog was called FatCyclist. It was the first time I’d ever become invested in a total stranger’s life. He wrote about everything – weight loss, riding bikes, cancer, grief, funny stories, race reports, tech, etc… I’d find myself checking every day to see if there was a new post from fatty. He lost his wife to cancer and wrote extensively about the experience, his grieving, and starting up life again as a relatively young guy (30’s at that point I think).

The cancer experience led him to fundraising for causes he believed in and ultimately a minor association with Lance Armstrong and his Livestrong cancer foundation. This was the peak Lance period, so I was all-in. I gobbled up everything he wrote like an excited fan-boy. It was weird. I felt like I was part of a community. I read all the comments on each blog post and started recognizing the frequent commenters.

At one point he had a crazy idea for a fundraiser – a race that went nowhere. For some random reason he’d decided to ride a century (100 miles) on his stationary trainer and then blogged about it. That spawned the idea of the 100 Miles of Nowhere race. You’d sign up, ride 100 miles in the shortest space possible, submit a picture of your trip computer and get a box of prizes. The proceeds went to Livestrong and cancer research. A good cause and the resulting race reports were great reading. Of course, I had to do it. I did my 100 miles riding a mind-numbing quarter mile circle around my block, got my t-shirt and bragging rights. I can’t fathom what my neighbors must have thought watching me ride in circles for an entire day.

I can honestly say that his blog really inspired my early attempts at writing anything. I loved his style and ability to make the mundane aspects of life interesting. He managed to capture a large audience, writing about nothing more than random things like getting lost one day looking for a new bike trail. He was very self-deprecating and downplayed how good a cyclist he probably was for an average 9-5 working tech guy. It just resonated with me.

Eventually the posts started becoming less frequent. They evolved into long, multi-part, complicated race reports from the various events he’d compete in, which didn’t interest me as much. I stopped reading, other than the occasional check-in from time-to-time when I remembered about his blog. And then the posts dried up completely and I forgot all about him.

And then yesterday the FatCyclist sent out a tweet (I’d forgotten I even followed him on Twitter) saying that while it realistically had been done for a long time, he was officially ending the blog. He wrote a final post reminiscing about the experience, thanking everyone who’d helped him raise money for the various fundraisers, and so on. He’s moved on to podcasting. And then the final statement – …besides, blogging is dead.

Gasp! A blow to frustrated blog writers everywhere. He’s probably right. The world has moved on to the 140-character format, Tik Tok, YouTube, and podcasts. There are a few journalistic types who are having some success on substack, but other than that who reads blogs anymore? Especially some random stranger’s blog?

I think it’s time to evaluate my writing. For the most part I write for two main reasons. The first is that I think it’s important to be able to string words together in a semi-coherent way. It’s a perishable skill. The second is that it makes me think about things I watch/read/experience and then try to formulate that collection of random thoughts into something more structured. Forcing myself to try and articulate my thinking is a good thing. Also a perishable skill.

And let’s be honest, who doesn’t secretly want a large audience consuming your writing, photos, videos, tweets, podcasts, or whatever? As a creator, I think you’d be lying if you said you didn’t care. If you scroll back through my stuff, you can clearly see I’ve tried many different approaches. Dry humor, lists, purely political rants, thoughts of the day, running commentary on buying motorcycles… none of it has really resonated. For the most part, I don’t really care. I’m writing for myself more than anything. But when you post something you think is particularly witty and it gets zero views, a small part of you feels like… why do I bother? Yes, I recognize that if I actually wanted to build an “audience” I need to actively promote whatever I write and visit and engage with other blogs. To this point, that’s just not an effort I’ve been interested in committing to. At the moment the only people who read anything I write do so because they were looking for DYI plans on building kitchen spice racks, and some odd post I’d written two years ago came up in a WordPress search.

I need to wander off to the top of a mountain and meditate on this for a while. But my sense is that it’s time to end the blog in its current form. Maybe I’ll change my mind. I don’t think I’ll stop writing completely. I do enjoy it. I suspect it’s more a matter of finding a way to focus whatever writing I do so that it’s more productive.

Maybe I try my hand at a book or screenplay? Perhaps I should put the effort in to create actual opinion pieces and try to get something published somewhere? Or do I take the approach of becoming single topic focused and try to build an audience around that? As in, actually put the effort in to be an “expert” on something and to promote it.

But then again, why? I don’t need a career and I certainly don’t need another “hobby”. It may simply be time to put this out to pasture. We’ll see. Like I said, I need to do me ‘sum think’n on it. Maybe Fatty is right – blogs are dead?

What Did You Learn?

As we wrap up Pandemia year two, you have to ask yourself one question. What did you learn? Well, what is it punk? Sorry, couldn’t resist. On the last day of the year, I’m sitting here drinking my coffee and scrolling through the bottomless pit that is Twitter. And what’s the number one trending hashtag on Twitter at the moment? #AOCLovesDeSantis Why? Because our pal, the mask wearing – vaccine mandate loving – Ron DeSantis hating – Ted Cruz travel critic – and fun loving socialist, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was caught in Miami sipping cocktails in the sun while NYC suffers a massive Covid outbreak, and she was, GASP, completely maskless! And that hypocrisy is the perfect summation of the year.

If you haven’t learned the lesson yet, then you either haven’t been paying attention or have your head so far up the establishment’s butt it may be too late to unplug you. The lesson? It’s time to come worship at the Church of Contrarianism. Timothy Leary had it right in the 60’s when he popularized the slogan “Question Authority”. You need to be a contrarian. YOU NEED TO QUESTION EVERYTHING. Why? The “experts” are very often wrong. Politicians are wrong AND they lie. The establishment and deep state only care about maintaining the status quo and will go through extraordinary lengths to keep it. The media is ungodly corrupt and is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the state. The Fed, financial institutions, and the markets could care less about the (your) future – only about continually propping up the system to enrich themselves and the rest of the establishment today.

I don’t mean this to sound like a dark, dystopian vision and to imply that we’re all doomed. We might be – but the good news is that this is not new. Politics has always been corrupt. As our friend Mark Twain said way back in the late 1800’s, “Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason”. The robber barons of the same time period manipulated, stole, lied and bribed their way to vast fortunes. They were the Amazons, Alphabet, and Metaverse of today. Pulitzer and Hearst were the vanguard of yellow journalism, collectively shaping the countries opinions (and politicians) to their worldview. There is nothing unique about today.

It’s a clear cycle. Are we simply in the sixth version of the Matrix? (vague geeky reference, sorry) You’re not going to fix it. All you can do is ensure you’ve unplugged yourself from the source. Be a Contrarian. Question what you see. Become ungovernable. Do what you can to hold politicians accountable. Question the conventional wisdom.

Don’t forget, the “experts” filled in skateparks at the beach so kids couldn’t go outside, skate and catch the ‘rona. Surfers were arrested on the beach for surfing… alone. The Michigan governor said you could go to Home Depot, but couldn’t buy paint or garden supplies. The covid virus requires you to wear a mask walking into a restaurant, but you’re safe as soon as you sit down. We need a vaccine mandate because it will prevent you from transmitting the virus to others. Jessie Smollet and Bubba Wallace were victims of hate crimes. The Covington kid and Kyle Rittenhouse are white supremacists. The Fed said the current inflation is transitory and the White House Chief of Staff thinks that economically ’21 “wasn’t all that bad”. The savior of the right, Trump, raised half a billion dollars to “stop the steal”, yet spent only $9 million on lawyers. The Trump machine are grifters just like the rest of the politicians. There literally is no difference between the democratic party and the republican party. The current debt is $30 Trillion. We grew that equally under both parties. The Russian dossier, the “very fine people” hoax, Hunter’s laptop, the Epstein/Maxwell coverups, and the pièce de résistance… the Jan 6 INSURRECTION.

Whew! That was a weird stream of consciousness outpouring, off the top of my head. The point is that what you first read, hear, or watch is rarely the “actual” truth. It takes time and multiple observers to sort through opinion, innuendo, political narratives, and outright lies to uncover the tiny kernel of reality. This is true for the left, right, “scientists”, and social media keyboard warriors. Question. Question everything.

“The science is settled”. “Scientists say…”. “Denier”. “Consensus”. “Experts tell us”. “The majority of people want…”. “The polling is clear”.

Anytime you hear any of those phrases, remember the teaching of the Church of Contrarianism and recite the magic words – BULLSHIT! Something is true when there’s plenty of data and lots of independent parties find the same result and the negative hypothesis is not true. Until then it’s just guessing and opinion.

I’d be ok with opinion and guessing if it was done in good faith. Unfortunately, it rarely is. In the last year have you heard one public official, scientist, or authoritarian figure say, “we were wrong” or “data is indicating something different than we first thought”? Nope. Saving face and politics is way more important than admitting you made a decision without all the data.

It’s all very depressing. But it doesn’t have to be. Join me in the practice of Contrarianism and feel the cowl of the media machine and deep state being pulled away from your eyes. Unplug from the mindless nightly “news” talking heads spouting the same tired divisive crap and you may start to see the two political parties for the hucksters they are. If the Contrarian Church grows large enough, we may be able to wrest some control back from the state before it’s too late. And if not, I can at least sell some T-shirts and perhaps market some Contrarian franchises.

Worst case, unplugging may make you think a bit more. And when unplugged, you’ll have more time to go outside and do real things and have real experiences. Because ultimately, isn’t that what it’s all about? Making real life-memories, and not listening to some internet Contrarian rando tell you what to think?

With that – you filthy animals go out and have yourselves a great and safe New Years! See you on the other side as we wait for whatever new adventures 2022 holds.

In religion and politics people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.

Mark Twain

What Kind Of Eater Are You?

As we inch towards the new year, approximately two thirds of the United States is planning a new diet come Jan 1. (cough cough, myself included) In the US the portion sizes are 3x what they should be, we snack constantly, eat convenient processed food, and rarely exercise. The result is a steady 2-5 pounds a year of weight gain until you reach the “oh shit” stage whereupon you realize your scheduled beach vacation is three months away and you look like a bloated Steven Seagal with an all-you-can-eat card for the local Krispy Kreme. You don’t dare wear that fancy speedo you bought for fear of being mistaken for a beached whale. (yes, this is a true story minus the speedo part. Unless you’re an Olympic swimmer, under no circumstances should men rock the banana hammock. Sorry, those are just the rules)

Given this, I thought it would be an appropriate time to share some insights into my PhD research. I’m planning on a doctorate in applied bio-electrical nutrition and chemical manipulation of the ribosome. It’s an at-home study course. Given the costs of education these days, this one seemed pretty reasonable. Only 10 payments of $899 and you can call me Dr Troutdog! Anyway, as part of my thesis work, I’ve identified the five primary eating genotypes in the United States. They are as follows:

  • The Apathetic Eater – These people are freaks and should be shunned. They generally don’t care about food. They eat only because they have to. They pick at salads and eat half a bowl of cereal in the morning. That’s it. They’ve been thin their entire lives and don’t understand how people get fat. A large percentage of them are vegetarian or some weird fruitarian thing. They don’t exercise and often get blown over in storms. Usually, they’re cat people because they lack the strength to hold on to a dog leash without getting pulled down the street like an out-of-control dog sled.

  • The Disciplined Eater – Also freaks of nature. These eaters count calories, macronutrients, and usually meal plan and prep a week at a time. Very often they’re athletes. Or at the very least, crossfitters (don’t worry, they’ll tell you). They follow very strict diets – Keto, Paleo, IIFYM, etc… These freaks have goals for each week, quarter, and year. They track everything in journals. Be careful with conversations with these folks because they’ll overwhelm you with acronyms about total energy expenditures, insulin and glycemic to fat burning ratios. Their idea of a cheat meal is indulging in a light beer and an extra portion of sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving. When around these people you’ll generally feel bad about yourself for not wanting to wake up at 04:30 to work out or join them in the polar bear plunge on New Year’s Day.

  • The Guilty Eater – This is probably the average eater in the US. They’ve put on weight, know it, and desperately want to “get healthy”. They join, or re-join, a gym every year and go for about a month. Once a quarter they start a new diet they heard about from Dr Oz (senator?) and Oprah. The cabbage soup and raw lemon-rind snack diet works for a week or so and then fails due to consumption of three-quarters of a meat lovers pizza in a fit of near-cannibalistic hunger. These folks don’t eat breakfast, order a salad with no dressing when out to lunch with co-workers, and then binge three doughnuts in the breakroom at work. There’s a secret stash of candy and chips in the car and on the back shelf of the pantry. Dieting is just so hard when you have to make a ginormous lasagna, bread, and desert to feed the three kids. These poor souls know they need to lose weight and hate themselves every time they sneak some Taco Bell on the way home.

  • The Gluttonous Eater – Often found in the south, these folks either truly don’t understand the concept of a calorie, or just don’t care. They eat with abandon. Anything and everything. If it’s not deep fried, what’s the point? They tend to see themselves as just “big boned”. Usually they’re very happy folks, hard workers, and often great cooks. They’re plagued with health issues and are puzzled at how they “caught the diabetes”. Their grandparents and parents ate this way, and so do they. They don’t see the need to “diet” other than switch to diet Coke occasionally. The other side of the coin in this category are the folks who have some mental health issues and eat as some sort of coping mechanism. Probably the saddest group of all. The morbidly obese who’ve simply given up.

  • The Balanced Eater – The unicorn (at least in the United States). The eater who exercises regularly, but not compulsively. They enjoy food, but somehow manage to keep their calories in check. They’ll enjoy a good meal but have figured out the whole moderation thing. They’re happy and balanced. They are a rare find. They are subjects of a great deal of research. We all strive to find that magic pill or diet that gives us what they have – a healthy outlook on food, exercise and the willpower to maintain those habits without guilt, obsession, or overthinking it. They are hated by most of the population.

So, what kind of eater are you? If you’ve been reading any of my previous ramblings, you’ll recognize I’m clearly in the Guilty Eater category. I had a few brief flirtations with the Disciplined Eater, but it flamed out fairly quickly. I go through weird food compulsions (croutons, rice, pretzels, Pirates Booty (it’s gluten free!) chips, cheese, etc…) Why is it so hard to just eat normally and get some exercise? We really are a ridiculous population in this country. Laziness and sloth have taken root and I fear are here to stay. Like the Roman Empire, we became fat and complacent, living for our entertainment and pleasures. And when the zombie apocalypse comes, very few of us will have the cardio to survive*.

I wish you luck with your diet plans in the New Year. I have three months to drop approximately thirty pounds before I can stroll down the beach in my leopard print banana hammock. I have full confidence I will achieve my goals. Starting tomorrow. Wait, you can’t start on a weekend. Starting on Monday. For sure.

* Rule #1 of the 32 rules of Zombieland

Say No To The Sequel

Honest question – has there ever been a movie sequel that was better than the original? I’ve been wracking my limited brain cells and can’t think of a single one. There’s certainly a few that at least equaled the original, but you wouldn’t say they were “better”… Godfather part II, Mad Max part II, Kill Bill Volume II, The Empire Strikes Back, Toy Story 2, Aliens. There’s something about those original films that made them unique. Different film styles or special effects we hadn’t seen before. A screenplay with plot twists nobody had thought of before. Something that made you walk out of the theater and say, wow!

Naturally every movie studio and actor on the planet wants to cash in on the success of a blockbuster film, so they immediately begin planning the sequel. But at that point it’s no longer new. While it may be a great continuation of the story and characters, sequels just don’t have the wow factor the original had. Quite often it feels like the approach is, “well we made a truckload of money on the first one. if we just quadruple the special effects budget for the next one, we’ll really wow ’em!” Those films tend to feel like they filmed a bunch of cool special effects first and then tried to write a story to match the effects.

Which brings me to Christmas Eve. We’d planned on going out to an actual movie, but that fell apart for various reasons. No problem, we implemented plan B. Binge watching the Matrix trilogy, capped off by seeing the new Matrix release (Resurrections). With new movie releases being streamed immediately at home, will we ever go to a theater again? Anyway, on with the hours of Matrix immersion.

The first Matrix is one of those mind blowing films that had me walking out of the theater saying “wow”. How did someone come up with concept? Truely unique. The second one was pretty good, but started drifting towards the “hey, look at our effects budget!” problem. The third, while entertaining felt a bit like, “how are we going to wrap this up?”

I knew nothing about the fourth one, other than I’d seen a few comments on social media that it wasn’t very impressive. Oh well, we were hours invested in this movie binge. Too late to pull out now. We refreshed our drinks, snacks, and settled (back) into the couch and pressed play.

Within the first ten minutes, both Mrs Troutdog and I were looking at each other and asking, what is this? We made it through about 30ish minutes and turned it off. It was an incomprehensible mess. Dialog you couldn’t follow. Redos of story lines from the first Matrix that made no sense. Maybe they tied it all together towards the end, but the first 30 minutes was so bad I’ll never justify spending the time to find out. Had it been in a theater I probably would have walked out (which I’ve never done before). A truly awful film.

The lesson of Matrix 4 should be applied to life as we drift towards the last days of 2021. Recreating the magic of an original experience in a sequel is an extraordinarily difficult thing to do and more often than not ends in disappointment. The experiences of the past should remain in the past.

Do not attempt to re-create, fix, analyze, or otherwise dwell on the past. It’s the past. Any attempts to replicate or repair something from the past will fail. Don’t be that sad guy or gal trying to re-live high school or college glory. Mistakes made or relationships that dwindled… let ’em go. It’s the past.

Like a classic movie, it’s ok to look back fondly at it and remember how you felt when you first saw it. Just remember they’re in the rear-view mirror. Glance at the past from time to time to have a sense of where you came from, but you need to spend your time looking forward. Sequels are never as good as the original. Make yourself a new, original movie.

A Winter Of Illness And Death

The actual text of an official Whitehouse press release: “For the unvaccinated, you’re looking at a winter of severe illness and death for yourselves, your families, and the hospitals you may soon overwhelm.” Seriously? Merry Christmas, bitches. Reading this first thing in the morning made me angry. The more I went through my news and Twitter feeds, the angrier I got. Then I realized – this is not a healthy way to start my day. My typical (non-workday) pattern upon waking is to drink a large glass of water while the coffee is brewing, then head to the computer to consume the news. And that news is overwhelmingly negative. Looking back on the vast majority of my rantings on this site, they’re mostly the byproduct of an hour-plus of getting angry about the state of the world and then writing about it. Not a great way to start the day. I think it’s time to break the pattern. I don’t know what that means yet. Workout as soon as I wake, à la Jocko? Meditate for an hour? Read a book? Walk downtown to a coffee shop and buy an actual newspaper and drink something other than crappy Keurig coffee? Wake and go to the computer but only work on something creative? I don’t know what the new pattern is going to be, but anything has to be healthier than starting my day reading an avalanche of negativity. So as a morning palate cleanser, some things that made me smile this morning…

  • One of the best news reports ever.

  • Yesterday at work one of my patients was a 90-year-old gentleman who had advanced dementia. He was in the hospital because he scaled the fence at his memory care facility and fell (yes, you read that right. A 90-year-old scaling a fence). I went into his room at one point, and he seemed very upset. I asked what was wrong and he said, “This hotel is terrible. They’re very irresponsible. They lost all my clothes and wallet.”

  • After non-stop kvetching about the lack of winter… it showed up big time this week. Got three days of cross-country skiing in. We got another 8 inches overnight, with more to come. There will be downhill skiing this week!

  • Speaking of cold, the hound loves snow and winter much more than summer. Which is odd because he has no fur. Anyway, he treated me to “resting bitch face” when I forced him to stop for a photo while skiing.

  • I’m impressed at the effort it took to make this. Shit keeps escalating.

  • Father and Son

  • Not sure why this made me smile, but it did. Headline: “California pot companies warn of impending industry collapse” Why? Taxes, regulation, and limits on retail stores. People are turning to cheaper, illegal pot.

  • John Daly and his son won the PNC championship, edging out Tiger and his son. I’m convinced the pants are the secret weapon. If you’ve got the gumption to wear multi-colored day of the dead pants to a PGA tournament, you just know you’re going to play well. I’m currently shopping for a pair now.

  • And finally, Elon Musk trolling Sen. Warren is always good for a smile. He’s an underrated comedian.

Song of the day: Matisyahu – King Without A Crown (Live from Stubb’s)

A Little Perspective Is Good

A few things happened this week that have me doing some self-reflection. The first was a patient who was discovered to have cancer. Massive, metastasized tumors that had spread everywhere. The brain was being shifted to one side due to the tumors. Inoperable. The patient was told there were weeks to a month left. It’s hard to grasp being told that sort of news. Seeing that numb, vacant look in a patient’s eyes as they try to process what they’ve been told… affects you.

And then we had a family member pass away a few days ago. It wasn’t completely unexpected, but it’s still not the phone call you expect as you go about the day-to-day minutia of life. During the memorial service a video montage of photos was played, showing the spectrum of his life. From a young vibrant man to elderly and frail. Many of the pictures I’d never seen before. Hilarious plaid and burgundy pants. Massive Elvis-like shirt collars. Vacation and travel photos. Images of holding his infant daughters and final pictures of him with his new grandchildren.

Seeing those images made me happy because it was clear he’d lived a full life. He saw the world, worked hard, and had a loving family to the end. He fully participated in life. He was a happy guy who never had a bad thing to say about anyone. He far exceeded the average life expectancy in this country. You can’t ask for much more. The patient who received the bad news won’t have that opportunity. It’s a stark contrast.

Watching that tribute scroll across the screen, naturally you start thinking about your own end. What will my montage of pictures show? Will I be satisfied with my time here? What will people remember me for? Will anyone even show up? I think it’s good to be reminded occasionally that our time here is limited. What do you want out of the brief moment you’re on this earth?

We all want to leave our mark on the world. Something that says I was here, and I’ll be remembered. Some people think that’s their kids. For others it’s their job. Maybe it’s writing a book, creating art, or being a famous Instagram influencer. We think we need to leave behind something tangible because that “thing” is what’s going to define our memory. This is not true.

How you interact with the world today is what you’re going to be remembered for. The more engaged you are with life will influence everyone around you and how you’re perceived. The most beloved people are those who actively engaged with others, were happy, and led full and interesting lives. This is a hard reminder for those of us introverts who struggle with people engagement.

So, mostly as a reminder to myself, a list of things you need to work on today. Right now. Do these things and you’ll maximize the time you have left. And when your time comes… you will be remembered.

  1. Engage with your fellow humans. Preferably in person. Frequently. Repeatedly. When in person isn’t possible, txt, email, Zoom, etc… Maintain contact. This is the most important thing you can do. Out of sight, out of mind. This is also the hardest for me as an introvert. And no, engaging with Instagram or YouTube comments from strangers is not the same thing.

  2. Be interesting. It makes zero difference what your interesting thing is. If your world revolves around building model trains and attending train expos (is there such a thing?), then be passionate about it. People respond to someone who has something more to say than discussing the latest episode of some TV sitcom or regurgitating CNN/FOX news crap. And to be interesting… you have to actually get off the couch and interact with the world. A bonus!

  3. Be worldly. Travel. It doesn’t matter if that’s your own town, state, country, or international. Have you gone to all the museums in your town? Local craft fairs? Explore new restaurants? Tried foods from other cultures? (Taco Bell doesn’t count) Driven to the international potato museum the next town over? You’re only here once. Go explore your world. (see point number 2)

  4. Read. Read some more. Reading makes you think. Reading improves your vocabulary. Read stuff that goes against your political/social views. It’ll help solidify your opinions or open up your brain to other ideas. All of this goes a long way to making you interesting and enjoyable to interact with. (see point number 2)

  5. Be happy. I get it, easier said than done sometimes. The world is not always a perfect place. But you only get one shot at this. Nobody wants to be around a chronic complainer. Be happy and grateful for what you do have, recognizing that odds are you’re better off than a large percentage of the world. And for god’s sake, make a point of doing something fun from time to time. People would much rather hear a cute story about you trying to throw a frisbee for the first time in twenty years, than you complaining about your crappy job (again). Being happy is contagious.

  6. And finally… do something creative. Make something (and yes, food counts). Write. Paint. Take pictures. Sing. Play an instrument. Learn to juggle and put it on a YouTube channel. It doesn’t matter what it is. Creativity engages the brain and forces you to think and learn. And when that happens, guess what? You’ll be a more interesting human.

There are no profound insights in anything I just said. It’s the basic recipe for being a well-rounded, happy human, making the most of the time you have left on this earth. And when your time does end, I guarantee your montage of pictures will show a life well lived and will be seen by a lot of folks happy they had a chance to be a part of your life.

RIP Uncle Jim. 1935-2021

I Am A Closet Conformist

  • Here in the land of 1’s and 0’s, bits and bytes, I am a fierce contrarian. A dedicated non-conformist. The man ain’t gonna tell me what to do! I am a keyboard warrior who gives no quarter. (hey, that sorta rhymes) In the real world… I’m a rule follower. I wait to cross the street in the crosswalk until the light turns green, even if there’s no traffic (fueling Mrs troutdog’s never ending exasperation with this behavior). I dutifully return my hotel card key when checking out rather than just leave it in the room. I don’t get into the 10 items or less checkout lane if I have 11 items. I drive the speed limit. And to my shame, I wear a mask when required. If you’ve been reading along for any time, you’ll know that the mouth diapers are a bit of a pet peeve of mine. I’ve ranted about them all too frequently, although I’ve managed to refrain myself lately to spare ya’ll from too much of the same dribble. In my state there are no mask mandates. Other than at work (hospital) I never wear one. We recently had to travel to California, which is nanny-state central. And what did I do? Made sure I had extra masks and my vaccine card packed. Made sure I wore one in the airport, on the plane, and in restaurants. Why? It was an important trip, and I couldn’t risk getting “cancelled”. So much for being a rebel. It’s frightening how much power the state has. America, the land of the free and the home of the brave. And what did we do when compelled to do irrational things? We all meekly rolled over and said, “thank you sir, may I have another?” I’m very disappointed in myself and my fellow citizens. It’s clear that the state can create just about any rule they want and we’ll all just comply. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ll go along with just about any silly rule, rather than risk missing out on all you can eat prime rib night at Joey’s Dinner. We’ve clearly forgotten that all important phrase in the constitution, “…governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”. Perhaps it’s time for us to start pushing back just a little bit?

  • Speaking of pushing back, I heard a rumor the other day. My hospital decided they were going to require the vaccine to keep your job early in the pandemic. I’d already gotten the vaxx (seemed like the right thing to do at the time), so it didn’t really affect me. They suspended that rule when Covid wave 2 (or 3, can’t keep track these days) hit and we were desperate for personnel. Staffing is better now, so they’re re-implementing the vaccination rule. I believe the deadline is Jan 1. It’ll be interesting to see how many people we lose. But that’s not the rumor… word floating around is they may add the booster to the requirements. I don’t know if this is true or not. I’ve decided not to get the booster at the moment for a variety of reasons. So – if they do require it, what am I going to do? I’m going to have to do some thinking on this one.

  • For my sanity and waistline, I’m asking everyone to start doing a snow-dance. If you’re not familiar, those of us who require the white fluffy stuff so we can go skiing perform a ritual dance to encourage the snow gods to bless us. Similar to voodoo. Anyway, we’ve had zero snow so far. This is a bad thing. There is a large storm lined up for the weekend with the potential of several feet of snow. So far, every storm has diverted further north at the last minute. Pray for us.

  • I just finished Dr Scott Atlas’ book about his time as a special advisor to the White House and the Covid task force. Read this book if you’d like to get really angry about the utter incompetence of government. It’s a great reminder that groupthink, ego, dogma, and politics exist in “science” just like any other discipline. Anytime you hear the words “consensus” or “science says”, you need to put your contrarian hat on.

  • The 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor was a few days ago. 80 years before that was the start of the civil war. I thought that was an interesting illustration of time. There were some civil war veterans alive at the start of WWII, and a few WWII veterans alive today. Amazing to think about where we are today in a relatively few generations.

  • Substack is bringing back blogging in a big way. Whod’a thunk people would be willing to pay for blogs? I was convinced blogs were dead. I’ve contemplated abandoning WordPress for Substack. I equally contemplate giving up writing completely, as I can’t really define why I continue to babble. It’s clearly not for fame, fortune, or followers… Meanwhile, here’s a Substack dedicated to snacks. You wouldn’t think it would work, but it does.

  • It cost me $81 to fill up my truck yesterday. When I was traveling to CA the other day it was $15 for 2.8 gallons near the airport. Lets Go Brandon!

  • Having just returned from the nightmare world of airline travel, here’s a collection of historical airline seatback safety cards. I will confess to having never read one, nor listened to the safety brief at the beginning of the flight. It’s still unclear to me why, in the 21st century, we still need instruction on how to fasten the seatbelt buckle?

Song of the day: AC/DC – Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (Official Video – AC/DC Live) (inspired by a little A10 action)

The In-Between Doldrums

doldrums [ˈdōldrəmz, ˈdäldrəmz]
NOUN
(the doldrums) a state or period of inactivity, stagnation, or depression.

While we’re on the topic of definitions, here’s another one that’s often misunderstood/misused:
Inertia
a property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force.

My default state of inertia can best be described as… sloth. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m usually a pretty active guy. Once I start doing stuff, that feeds on itself and the next thing I know there isn’t enough time in the week to do everything I want. Once enough force is applied and I get going, my inertia is a healthy level of continuous movement.

The problem is that if anything derails that inertia, I default back to sloth mode. This is where I introduce you to the doldrums. In my part of the world, this happens twice a year. Right now, we’re in the winter doldrums. Fall is over. It’s cold. It’s rained enough that the trails are a muddy, torn up mess. You can’t run on ’em or mountain bike. Did I mention the cold? This makes a motorcycle ride an extremely unpleasant experience. There’s no snow yet, so my standard winter activities haven’t started yet. Finding outdoor activities this time of year, while not impossible, are exponentially harder.

Day by day my motivation and inertia wanes. Adding to that, it’s the holidays which means food. There’s just food everywhere. At the hospital, well-meaning families of patients are constantly bringing cookies, cakes, and candy. The staff break room is a never-ending cornucopia of calories.

It doesn’t take many days of this, and I get into a bit of a funk. I didn’t go completely stationary… I managed to play golf a few times and did a couple of home repairs. But my default state the last few weeks has been couch-bound. And the more I sit the more my inertia starts resetting to sloth mode. It gets harder and harder to want to get up and do anything.

It needs to snow soon so I can resume my skiing activities. Otherwise, I might bust out the video games that have been in a closet for the last five or so years. If that happens, you probably won’t hear from me until spring. Unfortunately, what happens in spring? Doldrums part deux. The snow melts and we have a long period known as “the mud season”. You can see that this is a dangerous cycle.

Overcoming the moment of inertia – the force required to overpower the current mass and velocity of an object can be a complicated mathematical formula. The longer I stay still the greater the mass and friction coefficients become, and the required force becomes exponentially greater.

As Lewis Carroll wrote in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, ‘The time has come,’ the walrus said, ‘to talk of many things: of shoes and ships – and sealing wax – of cabbages and kings.’ The time has come to apply some force and bust out of the funk of the doldrums.