dogs, funny stories, lessons learned, love, technology

Something to live for… awkward conversations about life and death…

Yesterday was a pretty busy day. I wrote three fresh blog posts. Two were about Josh Duggar, and one was a review of Naomi Judd’s book, River of Time, which was about her struggles with depression and anxiety. Interspersed within all the writing, there was also the news about the people who died in Uvalde, Texas… nineteen children and two teachers. I read last night that Joe Garcia, the husband of Irma Garcia, who was killed during the school shooting massacre, died of a heart attack just a couple of days after losing his wife of 24 years. This morning, I read a ridiculous tin foil hat comment from someone who thought Garcia’s sudden heart attack was part of a conspiracy, since the police department in Uvalde were apparently unprepared to deal with a school shooting.

People are still arguing about COVID, abortion rights, gun rights, school safety, and all of the other political hot button issues that will probably never be settled in my lifetime. All I can do is shake my head. The world is really fucked… and yet, sometimes there are little flickers of beauty, humor, and wonder that make me think it’s worth trying to stick around for however much time I have left.

Last night, Bill came home with kind of a sheepish look on his face. He said, “Well, today got started on a rather ‘awkward’ note.”

I looked up at him, noticing that he looked a little mischievous. “Do tell.” I encouraged.

He said, “I was in the bathroom, taking a shit, and when I came out, I was confronted by my boss, who said he needed to talk to me. So we sat down and my boss said, ‘Bill, I have to ask you… are you alright?'”

And I said, “He was asking you this because he heard you taking a shit? Or he smelled the remnants of it?”

“No…” Bill said, laughing. “The shitting part becomes important later in the story.”

“My imagination is going wild.” I said.

Bill continued, “So my boss says, ‘The guys in the IT department noticed a questionable search string coming from your computer. It got flagged. And I have to ask you, are you okay? Are you considering suicide?'”

Bill said, “No! Of course not!” Taking a deep breath, Bill explained to his boss, “I Googled ‘when someone you know commits suicide’, because recently, two acquaintances committed suicide. One was a guy I knew in high school, years ago. He was a good friend in those days, but we weren’t close recently. We were just Facebook friends. And one day last month, he posted ‘Guys, it’s been a slice,’ on Facebook, and that was it. Next thing I knew, people were announcing that he’d killed himself.”

Bill went on, “The other was the woman who previously lived in the house my wife and I rented near Stuttgart, before we moved to Wiesbaden. She had worked for our company, and one day I noticed that her name wasn’t on the company roster anymore. And because she had kind of been ‘cyberstalking’ my wife, the fact that she wasn’t on the roster caught my attention.”

Bill paused, then continued, “I told my wife, so she Googled her name, and discovered that she’d died. It was a shock, since she was so young. So she did more investigation, and found out that the woman had committed suicide. We were both really surprised by the news. She seemed to have everything going for her. These two recent suicides were just really surreal, and suicide was on my mind only for that reason. So I did a quick Google search, but even as I did it, I realized that it might get me in trouble.”

Then Bill concluded, saying “I have everything to live for. I just took a wonderful trip, and I’m planning another for my wife’s birthday next month. And my daughter is about to have my grandson, any day now. So no, I’m not thinking of killing myself. But thanks for asking.”

Bill said his boss sighed with deep relief and said, “Okay… I feel much better now. Don’t worry. This is not going to be on your permanent record, or anything.”

Then Bill said that one of his work buddies had been looking for him before that conversation took place. The boss had asked where Bill was, and of course, at the time, he was taking a shit. His work buddy had said, “Oh, Bill is probably ‘hanging out’ somewhere…”, which seems like kind of an unfortunate choice of words, under the circumstances.

We talked about it a little more, marveling at how people are always watching what we’re doing, although they don’t always take action before it’s too late. I’m sure the IT guys at Bill’s company don’t monitor every search string, but when someone Googles something weird while on the clock, it gets flagged. Obviously they take any mention of suicide seriously, which is comforting, I guess. Why would someone in Bill’s line of work be searching for articles about suicide? It would make sense for me, since I have a background in public health and social work. But it doesn’t make sense for a guy who does what Bill does for a living. If anything, this serves as a reminder to watch one’s Googling while on the job.

As we were laughing about that, Bill noticed a message from his daughter. He clicked on it, and we were introduced to Bill’s new grandson, who was born a couple of days ago… At the time the message was sent, he was just 13 hours old. He’s tiny and adorable, and he serves as another good reminder that life goes on, even when there’s crazy and terrible shit going on everywhere. Bill’s daughter looked so beautiful, too, as she held her little son. I managed to snap a photo of Bill looking at the video, so happy to be “Papa” to another soul. Yes, I would say he’s got plenty to live for…

Priceless boys…

As I write this, a gorgeous song by Janet Jackson is playing. Her song, “Together Again”, is special to us, because we kind of see it as a message from Heaven. In December 2012, our beloved “bagel”, MacGregor, died of spinal cancer. MacGregor was a very special dog, and Bill adored him. He was especially devastated when we lost him. Then a month later, we adopted our beloved Arran, who immediately bonded with Bill. Arran even did something MacGregor always did to show affection to Bill… you can see him on his hind legs in the photo below. MacGregor used to do the very same thing, putting his paws on us while standing on his hind legs. And as Arran was doing that for the first of many times, “Together Again” was playing. It meant something to us… like MacGregor was sending us a message through Arran. And now, as I write about life and death, here it is again… and it’s followed by “Psalm 23” by Eden’s Bridge, which I would love played at my funeral someday.

I’m not a huge Janet Jackson fan, but I love this song. It’s very special.
That organ… it just moves me.
January 13, 2013, the day we brought Arran home in North Carolina, and he made Bill his favorite person… Janet Jackson’s song was playing.
And last week… they are still extremely bonded. Arran would be DEVASTATED if Bill died.

We have been very fortunate to live a very good life together. Even when things seem absolutely bonkers in the world, we still have some happy news to share. I don’t know what life is going to be like for the newest grandchild, but I know he’s already much beloved by many people. And he has the most wonderful “Papa”, too. So no one should worry about Bill… “Papa” isn’t going to do anything drastic anytime soon. But thanks for asking!

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controversies, disasters, technology, the environment

The latest viral post…

Yesterday, I noticed a couple of my friends shared the post that serves as today’s featured photo. The quote has been attributed to the author, Marguerite Quantaine. Although I am an avid reader, I’m not familiar with Marguerite Quantaine’s work, so I’m not sure why I would be influenced by her over anyone else. Nevertheless, she (or her social media “person”) makes a pretty good point about individual choices most of us have the power to make as the costs of gas and other products rise. I saw her post being shared by different people on my friends list, who had also seen it shared by their own friends. In reading the comments on her original post, I noticed that Quantaine’s comments were actually made by a “cyber-liaison”, as Marguerite herself has been “indisposed” since October 2021.

However, while I agree with Quantaine’s statement about what we can do to mitigate high gas prices, I’m not so sure the higher gas prices can only be attributed to the war in Ukraine, at least not in the United States. Gas in the US mostly comes from sources other than Russia. Now, here in the European Union, it’s a different story. A lot more of the gas supply comes from Russia. But people over here are used to paying a lot for gas. That’s not to say they like to pay so much for gas, but at least there’s a trade off. For instance, generally speaking, it costs much less over here to get medical treatment than it does in the United States.

I clicked on one the posts that was shared by someone who apparently shared from Marguerite Quantaine’s page. There were a few dozen comments there. The very first one came from a man who is clearly a conservative voter. I just went back to the original post to re-read what the guy wrote, only to find that the post was apparently “cleaned up”. The “hater” comments were deleted. So I decided to visit Quantaine’s page, to see if there were any similar comments. There were, but none that made the statement that inspired me to write this post today. I’m going to have to rely on my memory. Fortunately, my memory is still pretty awesome, in spite of my wine habit.

So this guy, who appeared to be a “boomer”, basically wrote that all he cares about is being able to buy affordable gas. And he thinks that we should just exploit all of the resources we have in the United States. Another poster shamed him, reminding him that fracking and drilling will ruin what little is left of the natural beauty in our environment. The guy came back and wrote that the damage would be “minimal”, and he would be able to run his car.

I had a look at the guy’s profile picture and noticed that he appeared to have a family. There was a woman with him who appeared to be his age, and several attractive adults and kids. It looked like he loves his family very much. Unfortunately, the first thought that came into my mind, was that he must not actually love them that much, if he’s not concerned about the state of the environment and our dependence on fossil fuels. He’s only concerned about what’s happening right now. He probably won’t be around for that much longer, so the lasting damage to the environment likely won’t affect him too much. But it will definitely affect those grandchildren of his. He seems to love his grandchildren, yet he’s not concerned about what lies ahead for them.

I’m going to turn 50 in June. As winter is ending here in Germany, I’ve thought a lot about how different the climate is in 2022 compared to what it was like in the 80s, when I was a teenager. I remember back in the 80s, some people were concerned about the environment. I even remember there was a 1989 episode on this topic on the hit NBC sitcom, Family Ties. In the episode, “Rain Forests Keep Fallin’ on My Head”, the character, Jennifer (Tina Yothers), is studying ecology in school and gets fixated on making changes that would protect the environment. She encourages her family to adopt more Earth friendly lifestyle choices, to the point of being very annoying. But ultimately, she gets very depressed and has to see a counselor. I watched that episode maybe a year or two ago, and remembered how Jennifer’s family tried to console her. Now, 33 years later, that episode seems very prescient.

A couple of days ago, I noticed a picture an acquaintance posted on Facebook of her little daughter. The girl was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. It’s not even mid March yet. I remember when I was a child, March was still a pretty cold month, even in Virginia. I asked her what the temperatures were in North Carolina, where they now live. She said it was in the 80s.

Here in Germany, I’ve noticed there’s less snow that there was even fifteen years ago. The winter in Wiesbaden was rainy and chilly, but not particularly cold. When we lived here the first time, I would not have dared go outside with bare feet in the winter. I could and did go out barefoot sometimes over this past winter. Granted, I don’t think Wiesbaden gets as much snow as Stuttgart gets, since it’s not as elevated. But I would have expected at least one good snow in which there wasn’t immediate melting. We really didn’t get any of that this year… or since we’ve been here. I’m pretty sure this is global warming in action. The guy who made that comment about not caring about anything but gas prices probably denies it exists. But how else can we explain why the weather has been so much warmer in recent years?

I do understand that Quantaine’s suggestions in her viral Facebook post might not be feasible for everyone. I’ve had the experience of living in parts of the United States where public transportation is scarce. I’ve worked at jobs that required lengthy commutes. Moreover, I am not a fan of “preachy” Facebook posts in the form of memes that can be passed around like a plate of stale hors d’oeuvres. I guess it just shocks me that so many people are self-centered to the point at which they brazenly state it outright. The guy who was enthusiastically responding in that post really came off as a selfish asshole. And yet, it’s easy to see that he’s a much beloved person, with many family members who evidently appreciate him.

In another example, I noticed a thread by a friend who is also former fellow Epinions writer. This person has a lot of people on his friends list that are no longer on mine, for whatever reason. He posted a statement about how the United States can be more energy independent by encouraging people to buy fuel efficient vehicles and vote for using more renewable resources. He got a lot of responses from other former Epinions members. One response came from a guy I used to have a lot more respect for than I do today. This guy is one of those “me and mine” types– as in, “I’ve got mine, and that’s all that matters to me.” I unfriended him several years ago after his relentless pushing of his conservative views became too obnoxious on my page. This guy had a habit of shaming me for being pro-choice or having opinions that were progressive. I used to refer to him as “Papa Smurf”, because he often tried to act like everyone’s daddy and lecture them when their views didn’t align with his. It got to be very annoying. In fact, I believe my parting words to him were, “Fuck off, Phil.”

Anyway, I noticed that Papa Smurf posted a response to my friend’s suggestion that everyone should use more Earth sustaining vehicles and adopt practices that preserve the environment. Below are his comments, which I think kind of echo the entitled “fuck you all” attitude I noticed the “boomer” stranger had shared on Marguerite Quantaine’s post.

We used to have a RAV4 ourselves. It was a good car, and we kept it for 13 years. But I wouldn’t say it was particularly fuel efficient.

The above comment isn’t as bad as others I’ve seen him make. Like I said, there was a time when I didn’t see the conservative “boomer” side to his personality. I liked him fine when we could just talk about travel. I got a first inkling that he was kind of a jerk when we happened to be at an Epinions social event and he was openly talking about undertipping the wait staff because he had to wait for his dinner. Then years later, we’d clash on Facebook when I would be snarky and “tasteless” (in his opinion) in my comments about certain current events and political ideals. He would chastise me on my own page, which is a “no no”. You ain’t my daddy, Papa Smurf.

Anyway… to me it’s just a reflection of a tragic attitude some people have regarding the environment. They don’t seem too concerned about how today’s practices and policies might be paid for by tomorrow’s adults. Once again, I’m glad I didn’t manage to have children. I look at my husband’s daughter’s adorable son and daughter, and think about the little boy who will soon join them. I worry about what it might be like for them… and I’m glad my life is likely at least halfway over. This war in Ukraine, coupled with the coronavirus, are probably going to change life as we know it… and likely not for the better. Not unless we work together to come up with ways to mitigate the damages done. I think humans are technically capable of adapting our practices for the better… but unfortunately, selfishness and greed often get in the way.

I’ve noticed that electric cars are increasingly popular in Europe. There are a lot of places where one can plug in their vehicles. When we bought our Volvo in 2019, we were told that very soon, Volvo will stop making gas powered cars. I have been giving some serious thought to making my next car a hybrid or an electric. But I rarely drive much anymore, anyway. Unfortunately, I think it will take more time for electric cars to catch on in the United States. They are expensive, and it’s a concept that may be hard for some people to embrace. People tend to like to stick with what they know. For instance, it took me a long time to switch from Windows to a Mac. 😉

I do think, though, that if our species is to survive in relative comfort, we’re going to have to make some changes. And while I don’t think the higher gas prices are entirely caused by the war in Ukraine (the pandemic also contributed), I do agree that at this point, those of us who aren’t in Ukraine are lucky… for now. However, I also think that this thing could actually turn into yet another global event very soon if something lasting is not done about Putin. He’s gone much further than people thought he would… perhaps he sees this stunt as a way to ride out of this world in a blaze of glory. Frankly, I wouldn’t be averse to that… as long as he makes an exit from the world stage soon.

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condescending twatbags, housekeeping tips, money, politics, sex, silliness, technology, transportation, travel, YouTube

Lime scale, lobsters, lectures, and lost causes…

Today’s featured photo is of the Boothbay Harbor blue lobster. Bill and I visited there for my birthday in June 2011, and I got a picture.

So yesterday’s “boring” post about water and limescale actually generated a lot of comments– for my blog, anyway. I know there are a lot of mommy bloggers out there who go viral and get hundreds of comments on their posts. But they tend to be sunny people who write things like “totes amazeballs”. I’m not like that. But since everybody poops, everybody needs water, and most normal people like to poop in clean bathrooms, I guess yesterday’s potty post resonated! Good for me! And thanks to everyone who read and commented! I probably ought to take a look/see at the bathroom in the basement. I almost never use it, but it also has some lime build up.

There’s still a little buildup, but it looks a lot better than it did yesterday.

And I just looked, and sure enough, that toilet has pretty terrible limescale build up, too. So I treated it with vinegar, and then tried the sink and the water is barely flowing. I have a feeling the pipes have lime in them. I treated it with baking soda and vinegar, but it may need a professional’s attention. This house has pretty terrible lime issues. When we first moved in, the buildup was so bad that we literally couldn’t turn on one of the faucets in the shower. It was completely stilled by calcium. The basement bathroom rarely sees any action, so I guess this is a reminder that it pays to stop in on occasion. Curiously, the toilet on the main floor doesn’t have much buildup at all.

I have a few things on my mind today, so this post is probably going to be multi-faceted. Now that I’ve written more about lime scale, and the payoff from yesterday’s project, it’s time to move on to the next topic. And the next topic is lobster.

A couple of days ago, Bill and I watched some random videos on YouTube. I ran across one about a guy who rescued a live lobster from the grocery store and kept it as a pet. I don’t know what made me decide to watch that video, but I found it absolutely fascinating. It also kind of made me a little ashamed of how much I enjoy eating lobster. This guy brought the lobster home, cut the rubber bands that rendered him helpless, and dropped him in a saltwater aquarium, where he gave him the name Leon and observed his behavior.

This was an unexpectedly fascinating and somewhat sad video… I might not ever be able to enjoy eating lobster rolls again.

I’m sure on one level, Leon is happy enough not to be someone’s dinner. On the other hand, Leon escaped death, but now lives in an aquarium, where he depends on the kindness of the guy who “adopted” him. He can’t really hunt, and he has no lobster friends to hang out with or have sex with… I guess lobsters have sex, and I’m sure Google would tell me if I cared to research further… It might be too early for me to explore the potential joys of lobster fucking, though.

Okay, I have to admit, my curiosity got the better of me. I Googled, and sure enough, lobsters enjoy a rather “kinky” sex life. Apparently, female lobsters attract mates by repeatedly peeing on their faces. And lobsters have urethras under their eyes that evidently make this possible. The female lobster pees on the male, then runs away. Female lobster pee evidently has the magical essence of an aphrodisiac, and after a few days of golden showers, the male lobster gets romantic and loves the lady lobster enough to cause reproduction. Wow… the things you learn on the Internet! And this was all inspired by a YouTube video about Leon, the lobster, who was rescued from the grocery store and now has a job teaching humans more about crustaceans. Leon should be proud. Not everyone has the chops to make it as a YouTube star.

I highly recommend watching the above video, if you’re interested. I legitimately found it informative and entertaining, and it reminded me that the animals we eat are still sentient beings with personality. Sigh… I really should be a vegetarian. Maybe someday I’ll give up my carnivorous ways… live on wine and beer, instead. Which brings me to the last two topics, lectures and lost causes.

Seriously… I don’t like the idea of promoting drinking, but this COVID-19 lifestyle is a real fucking drag. Last night, I had a mild meltdown after reading an article about how Dr. Fauci thinks we’ll be forced to wear masks on airplanes from now on. I have said it before, and I’ll say it again. I have a feeling that this prediction of his– while entirely possible– probably isn’t going to happen. Why? Because the world is a big place, and there are parts of it that are still pretty undeveloped. I remember being in Armenia in the mid 90s and seeing that most people there still weren’t wearing seatbelts, even though they have been “required” in most modern places for many years. And I simply doubt that people all over the world are going to embrace being forced to wear masks forever. They are uncomfortable, impractical, and annoying, and while they may save lives, a lot of people are inherently selfish.

Moreover, even in so-called “civilized” places, people are still losing their shit over masks. And they are deeply polarizing, with a lot of smug, self-righteous, left leaning all knowers discounting and insulting those who are legitimately terrified of government overreach and tyranny. Look at how many people are freaking out on airplanes. There are a lot more people wigging out in the “friendly skies” these days. Obviously, the masks are causing stress. And don’t tell me they aren’t. In 2019, there weren’t nearly as many people misbehaving on planes. What’s changed? People have to wear masks. THEY ARE AN OBVIOUS PROBLEM for a lot of people, even if some people don’t think so.

The fact is, you may not mind wearing a mask at all, but that doesn’t mean your neighbor agrees, nor should they have to agree if we’re living in a free society. Disagreeing with masks doesn’t give someone the right to be unruly on an airplane, of course. All I’m saying is that telling someone that masks are “no big deal” is disingenuous. To some people, they ARE a big deal. If they weren’t, there wouldn’t be so much bad behavior, violence, and legal morass surrounding their enforced use. And I think that not respectfully listening and trying to understand why some people aren’t embracing face masks is going to help prolong this situation we’re in.

Now… before anybody comes at me, let me state that I realize that masks are necessary for now. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t wear them. What I am saying is that this talk of forcing people to “mask up” (ugh, hate that expression) forevermore, and dismissing their concerns about the depressing prospect of that, as you tell them it’s “no big deal”, is part of what is driving all of this stubborn rebellion. Nobody likes to be condescended to or lectured– at least not when they haven’t paid tuition and specifically asked for a lesson. Telling someone to “get over it” is rude and disrespectful, and it’s not likely to inspire cooperation. And while you may think they’re rude for non-compliance, there are always other perspectives in any situation. I just think the wise person will take a minute to try to understand the other perspectives, even if they seem ridiculous. At this point in time, even ridiculous people can still vote, right?

When I venture into comment sections and someone raises a concern about masking– even when it’s done in a respectful way– there’s almost always a slew of comments from people who lecture, insult, condescend, or outright dismiss those concerns. Those who are anti-mask, or simply have concerns, then get pissed off and more stubborn, and some of them get pissed off enough to vote in politicians who don’t support mask mandates or vaccines. Unfortunately, a lot of those politicians also don’t support other policies that are community oriented or family friendly. So maybe you don’t have a vaccine mandate or mask requirement, but you also have some white, Southern, conservative yahoo who wants to make guns easier to buy and abortions harder to get.

As for Fauci’s predictions about masks on planes… I will state that I think money will be the deciding factor on this. I think there are people who are already looking for innovations that make it harder to contract illnesses in buildings. There’s a lot of money to be made with a solution like that. You can bet someone out there is looking for a way to filter air so that people stay healthy and productive. It’s not necessarily a trend that arises for the public good, either. It’s because there’s money to be made, and money drives a lot of people into action. Healthy people can work longer and generate more money.

Some people don’t want to travel if they have to wear a mask. Just yesterday, I mentioned a dream I had about moving to New Zealand– probably been watching too many Mama Doctor Jones videos. She is moving to New Zealand. Someone on Facebook mentioned that that sounded nice. I said I don’t want to sit on a plane that long in a mask. Flying sucked enough before the masks. The seats are uncomfortable, the fares are high, the food is inedible, and there are a lot of rules to follow. Now, many people have this dystopian “hall monitor” mentality, where everybody is watching and judging everybody else. Personally, I think I’d rather stay home or drive somewhere, than sit on an already uncomfortable flight for hours with a mask on my face. At least in a car, I don’t have someone watching my every move.

Same goes for cruising. Some people don’t mind wearing masks on ships, but others won’t like it. I think of the ships Bill and I tend to frequent, where booze flows freely. A person could sit and drink all day, if they wanted to. I have also personally witnessed people on ships getting drunk and belligerent. I remember hearing about v-loggers who were on SeaDream last year, documenting the trip, which was supposed to be “maskless”. People got COVID on that trip, and the v-loggers mentioned it, causing SeaDream to force passengers into masks again. The v-loggers were on the receiving end of a lot of anger, mainly because SeaDream cruises are very expensive and people were wanting to escape the COVID rules for a bit. No such luck. I know I don’t want to drop ten thousand bucks on cruise fare for an experience like that. There ain’t enough free flowing Prosecco in the world.

I think about how Royal Caribbean just built several HUGE ships in the last ten years or so, and now they’re in the news because 48 people tested positive for COVID on a recent cruise. Having such huge ships is bound to become a liability, especially if people are turned off of traveling due to draconian rules. Cruising will be probably less popular if people have to wear masks as a general rule. One of the things that makes cruising fun is socializing, and a big part of socializing is seeing people’s faces and non-verbal communication. Masks make it hard to forget the troubles of the world. They are a visual reminder of how fucked up things are. One of the reasons cruises are appealing are that they allow people to forget things that are stressful. So I think forced masking from now on will probably not fly in the long run.

It may not be a bad thing, though, if people travel less. It will be better for the environment. But it will also force some people to find new ways to make their livings. Again, I think money will be what drives this trend. If enough people decide to stay home, the policies will be amended… and/or someone will come up with a way to make traveling maskless safer.

Either way, I think people should try to be more understanding, patient, and willing to listen to other viewpoints without turning shitty. We’re in an unprecedented era for most people who are living, but don’t forget, this is NOT the first deadly pandemic of humankind. One hundred years ago, Spanish Flu killed lots of people. Masks were a thing back then, and I’m sure the thinking was eerily similar that things weren’t ever going to be normal again. But they eventually did go back to “normal”, although we came away with more knowledge.

To take it a step further, think of all of the crazy stuff that’s happened in the last hundred years. I wonder how people felt during World War II. Did they think the war would go on forever? Did they think the world was going to end? Some people probably did… but as you can see, they were wrong. There will be life beyond COVID-19 for those who don’t die from the disease. And I think it will more like it used to be, which may or may not be a good thing. Some of the COVID changes haven’t been bad, after all.

And finally… I think it’s inevitable that most everyone will end up with COVID at some point. But it will eventually be less deadly, because it’s not in the virus’s best interest to kill everyone. I still think getting vaccinated and staying away from other people is the best way to go. And if you have to be in a crowd, masks make sense. But I don’t think they should be something we strive to normalize forever, and I don’t think they’re the end all be all of fixing this problem. They’re just one facet of the solution. This is a problem that needs to be solved, not “lived with”. Fortunately, history shows that some human beings are very good at finding solutions. So that’s what keeps me going, for now…

But, I will admit, sometimes I envy those who have already peaced out of this life. As extraordinarily fortunate as Bill and I are, I find today’s world frightening and depressing, and I wonder what the point of it all is…

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dogs, funny stories, technology

Healthy habits spurred on by butt sniffers and smartwatches…

I have a couple of issues to address today. They aren’t really related, but I don’t feel like composing two posts. I hope you’ll bear with me, anyway.

Our dog, Noyzi, who came to us from Kosovo last fall, has really been turning into quite a charming beast. When we first got him, he was pretty terrified of most things. He was used to living outside with many other dogs, so he’d never encountered glass before. He bumped his head several times on the glass door before he learned that he couldn’t go through it. Now, he knows how to deal with the door and the mesh fly screen we put up earlier in the spring, although that scared him at first, too.

When Noyzi first joined us, he didn’t really know how to walk on a leash. I gave him a few lessons in the backyard before we took him out for his first walk around the neighborhood. He now walks on the leash like a champ and, in fact, even seems more secure when he’s on a leash than when he’s not. He’s become very civilized in that regard, willingly walking behind or beside me. He never pulls or barks, although sometimes if he’s excited or scared, he will freak out a little bit and backpedal. But those incidents are becoming fewer and further between.

Noyzi is a perfect gentleman when anyone rings the doorbell. Almost all of our other dogs, save for C.C. the beagle/husky mix, have barked like crazy when someone comes to the door. Now, Arran barks as usual, but Noyzi stays quiet. He doesn’t rush to the door, trying to get out or greet the stranger. In fact, he really doesn’t bark much at all, except for when the next door neighbor’s Labrador, Tommi, is outside. I have rarely heard him utter more than a few high pitched yips, which I feel pretty sure aren’t the extent of his full on barking capabilities.

I have yet to see Noyzi be food aggressive or aggressive, in general, at all. He patiently tolerates Arran’s figurative rolling pin waving antics. Arran bitches Noyzi out regularly, trying desperately to cling to top dog status, which he never really had when we had Zane. Arran could really only dominate Zane when Zane wasn’t feeling well. But Noyzi, who is several times Arran’s size, puts up with Arran’s bossiness like a champ. I have noticed a little eye rolling, now and again, and Noyzi will sometimes sneak upstairs even though Arran often bitches at him when he tries to invade. But, for the most part, Noyzi quietly and patiently respects his place in the hierarchy and doesn’t make waves.

I couldn’t have asked for a more naturally obedient and intelligent pet. Noyzi doesn’t counter surf, and his begging for food is minimal and endearing. Noyzi didn’t even need to be house trained, which was a hugely pleasant surprise! It was like he was born to be an indoor dog, despite his size. He even enjoys being bathed!

The one thing Noyzi does do, however, is something that is taking a little bit to get used to. You see, Noyzi is the tallest dog we’ve ever had. He’s almost as tall as my hip. That puts his head at just the right place for sticking his nose right in my ass. He doesn’t do this every day… it’s mainly when he’s wanting to take a walk or be fed. Noyzi, like most of the dogs we’ve ever had, now knows how to tell time, more or less. He knows when he usually gets fed or walked.

Noyzi enjoys part of our longer walking route, thanks to the other monitor in my life… Our local Rewe does its part to encourage the bees to do their jobs.

Usually, Arran will come and tell me when it’s time for either of those activities, if I haven’t already gotten started. But now, I’ve noticed that when I go and get dressed for a walk, Noyzi will come upstairs and wait. Then Arran will lead the way downstairs, stopping and pausing on the way to make sure I’m following. Noyzi will station himself behind me and stick his nose where the sun don’t shine. He does it to Bill, too, though not as often as he does it to me. Sometimes, he also gooses me in the ass when I’m putting on my shoes. It’s like he sees my butt as a target… a funny smelling target… and sticks his nose there to light a fire under my ass, so to speak. It’s kind of like a G rated canine version of the “Shocker”. If you don’t know what the Shocker is, Urban Dictionary is your friend.

I probably shouldn’t allow or encourage this behavior, but honestly, I find it kind of funny. Like I said, in the past, we’ve always had medium sized beagle mixes who have been too short to engage in such antics. This is the first time we’ve had a dog large enough to be a legitimate “ball sniffer” or in Noyzi’s case, “butt sniffer”. George Carlin had a hilarious comedy routine about such dogs… Behold:

Noyzi doesn’t do circumcisions… yet.

I guess as long as Noyzi doesn’t push me as I walk downstairs, I’m alright with being spurred on to success. I did manage to get a cute animation from my new Apple Watch the last couple of days. I’m not sure I’ve dished much about my latest toy, and I originally didn’t realize Noyzi and Arran had anything in common with the watch. But now that I think about it, it occurs to me that the watch and the dogs do have something in common. Both the dogs and the watch are spurring me on to take better care of myself. I don’t think either of the dogs do it for my sake. They spur me on for their sakes. But my taking the dogs for a walk is a mutually beneficial and healthy activity for all of us.

So anyway, a couple of weeks ago, when I was sitting here at home alone, I decided to order an Apple Watch. I don’t really even need a regular watch, let alone a “smart” one. I don’t have anywhere to be, so I don’t need to know what time it is. Besides, I usually have my phone or iPad with me, or I’m sitting at the computer. Still, I’d been reading about all the nifty stuff on the Apple Watch and decided to order one as a TDY consolation prize/early birthday present. Since we haven’t been traveling, I had the money mostly saved.

The new Apple Watch does indeed have a lot of nannyism health gimmicks that remind users to take care of themselves. For instance, this watch is capable of checking my blood oxygen levels. It prompts me to take a moment to breathe deeply and will pause the exercise if I’m not focused, still, and breathing properly, and encourages me to try again. It reminds me when to go to bed and get up, not that I need any help with that, being married to a man whose brain goes down with the sun (seriously, Bill is practically comatose by 9:00pm, and he’s always up by 5:00am… consequently, so am I). Today, I got a chastising message when I neglected to wash my hands for a full twenty seconds. The watch wanted to know why I hadn’t scrubbed for the right amount of time– was it just a rinse?

Your Grace! Isn’t it nice to be addressed respectfully? I’ll probably subscribe to Apple Fitness+ once my three months are up.

When I take walks and forget to tell the watch I’m “working out”, it will buzz my wrist and ask me if I want it to record my walk. It’s already been recording, mind you. If I answer affirmatively, it will show the time of the walk already in progress, so I don’t miss those precious early minutes before I asked the watch to count the walk as exercise. The new watch comes with three free months of Apple Fitness+. There are three wellness ring goals that it encourages me to meet every day: exercise, standing, and moving (which seems kind of strange, since I mostly stand and move when I exercise). As I get closer to meeting the goals, each ring– light blue for standing, maroon for moving, and light green for exercise– get closer to closing in perfection. I get a cute animation as I meet each goal and a really exciting animation when I reach all three. And if the day is closing and I haven’t moved, stood, or exercised enough, the watch will send me an encouraging message, reminding me to get up off my ass.

Aww… thanks for caring, Apple Watch. Maybe it’s time I named you.

I also get a warning if my heart rate is dangerously high, or the noise in an area is too loud and could damage my hearing. I got a message yesterday asking me if my period has started yet, since it’s overdue… but I am getting old and will soon turn 49, so I expect that my once Swiss watch regular cycles will go horribly awry soon. I read yesterday that the next incarnation of the Apple Watch will even be capable of checking blood sugar.

Of course, I could disable some of these features. I think if I had real life things to attend to, like a job or a child, the constant reminders for every little thing might get very annoying in a hurry. It’s bad enough that the watch reminds me when it’s time for me to play Words With Friends or sends me notices when some strange creep on Facebook wants to “connect” with me. I probably will start to shut down some of the “services” as I get to know the watch better. I probably will keep the exercise reminders, though, because it’s encouraging to keep track of how much I move… and it’s good to be reminded to move.

I’m sure Arran and Noyzi also appreciate that the Apple Watch gives me a reason to take them for a slightly longer route, since the weather is better. I wish I’d had this watch when we lived in Jettingen, where our walks were twice as long, because we were next to a huge forest. I would have definitely had no problem meeting and exceeding the exercise goals there.

Anyway… I appreciate the help and concern from my dogs and Apple Watch for helping me maintain my physical health, especially since I haven’t seen a doctor in about ten years. But I might need one if Noyzi pushes too hard as he herds me toward the door for his daily walk or victuals. I might fall down and bust my ass or break my face. At that point, since this watch is also capable of sending and receiving phone calls (once I connect it to my cellphone plan and pay the fees), it might automatically call 112 for me (Germany’s equivalent to 911 for an ambulance).

Not that I expect anyone to click the link before buying an Apple Watch, or even to buy one from Amazon, but that would sure make a nice birthday gift in sales commissions from Amazon. 😉 As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from Amazon on anything purchased through my site… and my birthday is on the 20th!

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disasters, modern problems, technology, transportation, travel

Get back on the bus, Russ?

This morning, I read an article in The New York Times indicating that many people have quit using trains and buses in cities around the world. Ridership has gone so low that there’s concern that public transportation systems will fail and there will be many related disasters. One of the biggest worries is that there will be a severe effect on the environment, since more people will be driving their own cars. I expect that with more people opting for private transport, there will also be bigger traffic jams and less available parking. However– I don’t think that consequence will happen unless life gets totally back to normal, if and when the pandemic ever ends.

As I read the article about how cities around the world are grappling with the low numbers of fare paying travelers and governments are having to bail out bus and train systems, I couldn’t help but shake my head in wonder. It seems like it would only be natural that people aren’t wanting to use public transportation right now. Here’s a list of reasons:

  1. Most of us have been instructed NOT to travel unless we must.
  2. Many people are working from home, which eliminates the need to commute (and is probably better for the environment, too). Where I live, most businesses are closed, so why would I go anywhere?
  3. Who wants to ride in close quarters with a bunch of strangers, some of whom aren’t practicing social distancing or wearing proper masks?
  4. Who wants to ride on a bus having a bunch of people watching your every move and giving you the stinkeye if you aren’t wearing a mask the way they think you should?
  5. Isn’t it nicer not having to smell other people’s farts or halitosis? How about vomit, urine, poop, smoke, or booze? Or not being smushed standing up on a bus while some yucky guy cops a feel? That happened to me more than once in Armenia, where the buses would be filled until people were literally almost hanging off of them.

To me, it makes perfect sense that fewer people are taking public transportation. I think there are a lot of reasons why they aren’t using it. Some people, who were once bus or train riders, have opted to buy a car. According to the article, used car sales are up, and so are their prices. But some people are walking or riding bikes instead of using public transportation. Isn’t that a good thing, both for their health and the environment? Riding a bike is pretty low impact in terms of causing air pollution. So is walking.

The article makes it sound like the world will end if people don’t get back on the bus. And, I guess, if everyone suddenly starts driving a car instead of getting back on the bus, there could be serious problems. Mass transit systems are valuable sources of employment; they cost money to maintain, and they provide an efficient way of moving people that eliminates the need for parking spaces or sitting in traffic jams. However, more people than ever are working from home. Quite a few folks find that they like working from home and their employers are discovering that working from home is a viable option. They have lower overhead, the employee can handle minor personal business, and there’s no need for a commute. That means the employee can potentially sleep a little longer in the morning and maybe doesn’t have to spend as much money on work clothes or gas.

I read some of the comments about this article. So many people were writing that they don’t want to ride public transportation because they are concerned about anti-maskers spreading diseases. But there are probably just as many people who find riding on public transportation with militant mask enforcers just as unpleasant. I would rather ride privately in a car to avoid both types of people– the ones who don’t comply with the rules and engage in racist tirades, and the ones who act like mask cops and pay their kids to publicly call out rule breakers.

I have repeatedly stated that I won’t be willingly flying or cruising anywhere until the pandemic is under control, and I don’t have to be forced to wear a mask for hours while sitting in a cramped seat, being surveilled by flight attendants and other passengers after I’ve also been groped by airport security and had my bags searched. That just doesn’t sound pleasant to me, even as I understand why masks are important. I simply don’t want to spend money on that experience. For that reason, we’ll drive if and when we can travel. Mrs. Merkel did decide not to do the “hard” lockdown for Easter, but as it stands right now, most places I would want to go to aren’t taking visitors anyway.

I think, ultimately, the answer to this problem is mass vaccination and changing the way we do things. It sucks, although I do think that some of the changes could turn out to be positive. The article in The New York Times predicts disaster if the public transportation systems fail. But if people stop traveling so much for work and leisure, it seems to me that there could be a positive effect on the climate. If more people are able to work from home instead of clogging up the roads every day at rush hour, that could mean less air and noise pollution and less wear and tear on the road systems. And if people refuse to get with the program and get back on the bus as it is now, then perhaps the systems will evolve so that they are more appealing for riders. Hell… maybe more car manufacturers and municipalities will embrace electric cars instead of gas fed ones. That would be good for the environment and reduce noise pollution somewhat.

One thing I have noticed since we moved to Wiesbaden and live close to two Autobahns is that I can really hear the traffic here– both from the massive roads and the flights coming in to Frankfurt. One thing our homes in BW had over our home here is that it was a lot quieter (at least when the landlady wasn’t yelling at me about something).

I did think this article in The New York Times was interesting reading. If you have access to the NYT, I do recommend reading it for a look at how public transit systems around the world are coping, as people have stopped moving around as much. I think the people working in that industry are going to have to come up with creative and cost effective ways to make the system more attractive to riders. And that will mean they might have to consider why people are opting not to ride the bus or the train and adapt as necessary.

I can state that when I lived in Yerevan, public transportation was not comfortable. Riders were expected to cram in as much as possible, and it was not pleasant or safe. Today, I would imagine those buses that used to be stuffed to the gills with passengers are not so much, thanks to COVID-19. But in the 90s, when there wasn’t a pandemic, I remember having my crotch and my breasts explored by someone’s hands as I was mashed up against a stranger who hadn’t bathed in awhile (due to a lack of running or hot water in those days).

Public transport in Germany, pre-pandemic, was generally not that extreme, but I do remember some really crowded rides on the U-Bahn or city trains in Stuttgart. I remember there not being enough seats and almost falling on my face as the trains moved, because I had to stand in the aisle. Believe me, I have had my fill of public transportation. It’s a necessity for cities to have it available, but honestly, if you can arrange your own transport, why wouldn’t you? At least you have a say in how you will ride without having to deal with other people’s bullshit or bad behavior.

Even flying is less attractive these days. I remember how, about five years ago, a young pilot on Germanwings (now Eurowings) decided to kill himself and everyone else on the plane because he was so depressed. He deliberately crashed the plane and killed 150 people. Given how deadly COVID-19 is as it’s begun to mutate, perhaps the odds are becoming riskier for public transport users. Maybe 150 people on a bus won’t die because of COVID-19 spread, but for those who get the illness, it could mean long term disability and a permanent change of lifestyle.

Incidentally, my comments on not wanting to spend money to ride planes, trains, buses, or cruises don’t mean that I’m an “anti-masker”, either. I do follow the rules. A person can agree with the necessity for wearing masks, yet still hate the goddamned things and do what they can to avoid having to wear them. My need to travel is not so great that I have to get with the program, but I understand that I write from a place of extreme privilege. I know most people don’t have the choices I have. My point is, nowadays, since there is a pandemic, one really does take his or her life in their hands when one uses public transportation. City transportation experts should probably consider that, and act and change accordingly.

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