Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sock-Shaming, Survival Gaming, Goal Regrouping

I have some sort of muscular-skeletal weirdness that causes all of my socks to get holes in the same spot with annoying frequency. Last week when I was putting my socks on in the pool locker room, I swear some woman noticed and actually looked at me askance. I’m convinced she was grossed out by my sock hole. I don’t know why she felt my socks were any of her business, but Little-Miss-Perfect-Sock’s furtive glance at my footies and her subsequent mouth-curl of disgust did not escape my attention. I’m glad she has all the time in world to go around replacing her socks at the first sign of wear, but I have a job, and hobbies and stuff.   

Speaking of time sucks like jobs and hobbies, the latest in the hobby category for me has been “Stranded Deep”, one of the many survival video games floating around on Steam. I’m not generally a fan of the survival genre, but I downloaded it about a week ago and have been weirdly obsessed with it ever since. After several unfortunate perma-deaths and lots of deep dives into Youtube instruction videos, I’ve finally hit my stride! I got the food and water thing down to a science, so I’m not constantly getting dysentery, and I was ridiculously proud when I built my first structure: A humble supply shack. It’s a cheaply produced game and a bit glitchy, but the graphics are colorful and beautiful, and it’s giving me a real charge. My brain is bathed in feel-good chemicals from learning something new, and I think it’s actually improving my terrible sense of direction, because I’m forced to use a compass frequently. I have a nice little encampment set up now, and my next goal is to build a motorboat so I can get around faster and plunder the earth’s natural resources more efficiently.  

As predicted, my grand goal of the 6:00 a.m. swim has not worked out…yet. But I was listening to the Joe Rogan podcast the other day, and he may have successfully shamed me into forcing myself to try it. I’m a big fan of Joe Rogan, but sometimes he does go on a bit too much about the mechanics of maintaining his meat castle. On this particular podcast, he gave a little spiel about his intense physical discipline and how he’s good at forcing himself to do physically hard things and then upping the ante on the level of challenge. I rolled my eyes terminally hard at this, but he was right when he said that the first step is the hardest. I’m no Joe Rogan when it comes to physical skill or discipline--I'm uncoordinated, and I must distract myself at all costs during exercise, then bribe myself with rewards. We can’t all have the self-mastery and iron will of an ex-MMA fighter. But I could push it a little bit more, and as I age, I need to be constantly vigilant against the threat of total middle-aged blobbery and muscle degeneration. So, I’m off for a swim, even though I don’t really feel like it. I’ll try for the 6:00 a.m. jaunt again this week. Stayed tuned!

Not the official game trailer, but I love the song. (Our Last Night - "Sunrise")


--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Exercise Hack, SMART Goal Pre-Fail, Useless Products Gripe

I’ve started “swimming” semi-regularly again, which mostly involves me faffing around in the Loser Lane with foam weights and a flotation belt, because I can’t actually properly swim. Nonetheless, I’ve invented my own little water aerobics moves and sorted out a 45-minute routine, which seems to work okay for my body and doesn’t aggravate my knee. In the interest of preserving whatever muscle tone is left in my solidly middle-aged and un-athletic vessel, I’ve been considering a bold move: Getting up at 5:00 a.m. on weekdays to attend my public pool’s 6:00 a.m. lane swim. You have no idea how ridiculous a goal this is for me. Waking up at my normal time of 6:30 a.m. is a psychological fight to the death as it is, being a life-long morning-phobic night owl. But I can’t shake the idea that this is some sort of brilliant life hack that will totally work: I’ll have my exercise done and out of the way while I’m too tired to even know it’s happening, and viola! A lifetime of robust cardiovascular health and solid muscle tone is in my future. It’s the opposite of a SMART goal (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely), but I’m working up the mettle to give it the old college try anyway.

It occurred to me today as I was bobbing around, that half of my problem with swimming isn’t that I don’t know how to, but that I can’t listen to podcasts while I do it. I’m just stuck there in the watery gloom with my own thoughts, which somehow manage to be simultaneously horrifying and boring. It makes me wonder why someone has not yet invented a fully water-proof audio player with water-proof earphones. That would increase my swim time by at least half, and would drown out not only my own thoughts, but also the idiotic conversations I’m subjected to from people who are obviously just there to socialize and are not taking their health seriously, like I clearly am. (You may mail my medal to my home address.)

While I am stuck exercising without the benefit of distracting entertainment, deluded disrupters everywhere keep regaling us with useless, redundant products that no one needs. Here is a partial list:

Mattresses: Every day, it seems like there is some newfangled hipster mattress company coming out with The Mattress to Rival Them All. There are now at least fifteen of these on the market, and there could not possibly be a significant difference between any of them. By the way, citing “sleep science studies” and claiming to be a “system”, not a mattress, isn’t fooling anyone. They’re all mundane copycats of each other, cranking out a more or less similarly mediocre product. We’ve reached peak mattress, and I for one, am getting worried about the environmental implications of a national mattress glut.

Wardrobe Services: These are companies that proclaim to send you a “curated” box of custom-picked clothing based on your responses to their nosy surveys about your personal clothing tastes. I almost tried one of these on the recommendation of a co-worker, who stood to get a cool 15% discount on her next order if I signed up. I faithfully registered and answered all of their questions, but I just couldn’t get over the emotional hump of committing, even temporarily, to clothing I hadn’t seen, touched and tried on myself first. It seemed strangely personal to have someone else pick out my clothes for me, and I couldn’t bring myself to hit “send” on my order. This led to a rash of increasingly clingy and overly-attached e-mails from said wardrobe service, wanting to know why I abandoned them and wasn’t returning their correspondence anymore. The e-mails didn’t stop until they had gone through the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance when I told them I was never going to be interested in them again. As much as I hate shopping, I’ll slog off to the mall and pick out my own clothes, thanks.

Yet Another Online Travel Aggregator: I used to count on one in particular that I really liked, but now it’s completely useless to use any of these. The last time I searched for a hotel package, it was a dizzying dogfight of Kayak, Orbitz, Travelocity, and at least five other aggregators I’d never heard all vying for my booking and all providing exactly the same pricing information and deals. I finally just booked directly through the resort we planned to stay at, and ended up getting the exact same price I would have gotten using an aggregator.

I’m all for the free market and competition, but I’m not seeing much in the way of true originality on the product end of things these days. Indiscriminately adding more stuff to the world that is of no actual value doesn’t help anyone but the handsomely-paid marketing experts who shill them. Come on, Silicone Valley! I think we can do better. I’ll be the first to line up for your water-proof audio system, even if you name it something ridiculous, like Eerh.

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Concert A-Going, Home A-coming, Clap Theorizing

On one of our rare cultural excursions, Mr. Typist and I went to the Celtic Woman: Homecoming concert at the Paramount this weekend. It was transcendent. I teared up at the beginning when they came out on stage and sang “Homecoming” while scenery of the Irish landscape flashed on the backdrop. It was all too much, especially these lyrics:

No matter far I may roam,
I have a homeland
I have a home.

I’m prone to a deep sadness around the concept of home, as I am in a perpetual search for mine, and I was overwhelmed with emotion at seeing Ireland again, flooded with memories of my October trip. Adding to my vulnerability, shortly before we left for the concert, I read a very moving blog post by my friend Frankie about her best friend’s childhood home, which she describes as a fulcrum of stability in her sometimes turbulent life. I loved this post, and I was very heartened to hear that my friend has had this beacon of stability to hold onto.

Being from a transitory military family, I grew up with no sense of stability around place. I think that some of my former reluctance to purchase a house and “lay down roots” was that I’ve always understood that a mere house is no guarantee of any sort of enduring permanence. I used to dismiss people who thought that as deluded. And yet, I had some of the same feelings about my late grandfather’s house as Frankie does about her friend’s. It was the one constant in my life in terms of physical place, and I went through a difficult grieving process when it was sold off, to the point that I actually considered buying it. So now I resonate with both points of view--the impulse to create stability through place, yet the knowledge that permanence is an illusion. If there’s one thing the last five years has taught me with savage ruthlessness it’s that things and people we take as a given will vanish from our lives with astounding alacrity, and there is no such thing as a constant.

So I continue to search for home, and continue to grieve for my lack of it. But I try to remind myself that I have pockets of home-likeness in my life: Mr. Typist, my community at work, my family who I have grown closer to over these years of turmoil, and a handful of steadfast friends. I’m hardly an orphan. Yet my heart never fully feels that I’ve found my home. So the “Homecoming” show was a weepy one for this typist.

My personal melancholy aside, the show was fantastic. It was refreshingly patriotic and wholesome, and all of the ladies were beautiful and brimming with grace and loveliness. They mixed it up well, too, with a good combination of emotionally-charged ballads and toe-tapping drumming and dancing. And, as a result of said toe-tapping, I now have a unified theory of audience clapping behaviors and the introversion/extroversion continuum. I shall explain: I was quite alarmed the first few times that the audience suddenly started rhythmic clapping along to the music. I didn’t know how everyone knew it was time to clap, and I was worried it would somehow “mess up” the performers. Then, halfway through the show, I finally noticed one of the dancers hold his arms over his head and deliberately clap, and that was the signal that I had been missing. However, I was horrified at the idea of joining in, because I have no rhythm and was convinced that I would single-handedly throw off the entire concert with my off-beat clapping. Plus, I’m just not a clapper-alonger. It seems to go along with not being joiner-inner, a board-game nighter, or a book club lady. After a spirited discussion with Mr. Typist (also a never-clapper) about the phenomenon, we both concluded that it was definitely the gregarious extroverted types who were doing most, if not all of the clapping-along, while the introverts in the house sat with our hands primly in our laps, silently praying that no one would single us out for our non-participation.

I’ve been cranky about extroverts in the past, but I’m glad they were there to do the heavy lifting. They made it a really fun show, and many of them were very friendly to me in the lobby at intermission. So, points to them. For now. Until one of them annoys me at a meeting again by pointing out to the whole room that I’ve been quiet and asking me what I think.

I couldn’t find a good Youtube clip of the show, so here’s a little nod to some Irish music and dancing. They’re shy and adorably awkward at the beginning, but damn, these boys got rhythm! 

--Kristen McHenry