Monday, December 21, 2020

Dreaming: Traveling at the speed of light, riding the waves of thought

It's been awhile since I've done a dream diary post. I guess it's been awhile since I've had a dream that had significant enough impact on me to feel it worth mentioning. Well, the dream I had last night, as in Sunday morning, was one of those dreams that got my attention. 

It's weird because something happened different in this dream that I don't recall happening before. In this dream I remember being consciously aware that I was dreaming. Well, that in itself is not new, as I have had lucid dreams before, but what was different this time is that at the moment of this realization, like a bolt of lightning my attention traveled at what felt like the speed of light to the object of my attention. 

In this case, I was at what appeared to be a shopping mall at night, somewhere I don't recall ever being before, which was populated by various people shopping in the shopping mall. Keep in mind I have not been to a shopping mall in many years, so it's not like I was just at a mall recently and dreaming about it. So no idea why I was dreaming about being in a mall, but that's where I was. 

Anyway, in this dream as soon as I had this realization of being fully conscious that I was dreaming, I notice a person in the dream, a person in the mall that I was looking at, and my consciousness traveled directly to this persons face, like I was first looking at them from afar, way across the room, and was instantly transported to their face hovering in front of it. I won't tell you what happened exactly next, because it's personal, but I did it again to another person, like I was experimenting with this new feature of dreaming I figured out, how to travel at the speed of light riding the waves of thought. 

The dream continued onward. As I explored this new environment it became ever more apparent that this place I was exploring was real. It seemed like the point of what I was doing was, once becoming conscious that I was dreaming the next step was to closely watch everything around me, to study it and to test its validity, to test its reality or lack of thereof. I remember that was the point of zooming my consciousness closer to this dream person, it was to analyze it, to test the accuracy of what lie before me, was it real, or fake, were these shadow people, figments of imagination, or something more substantial, something as real as normal waking life, real physical reality? And the strange thing is that at the time, while dreaming and being aware that I was dreaming, it felt as real as it is right now as I type this. 

When I woke up, it suddenly felt so faraway, and so intangible, like the dream it was. It makes me wonder if dreams have the potential of being portals to parallel universes where you live out alternate existences that coexist at the same time, similar to the idea of time travel and that of past and future lives and afterlives. 

It's real, but occupying a different dimension of time and space, like the twilight zone, and when you visit these places from the perspective of the dream dimension, you're visiting them in a similar fashion to what would occur if you were visiting another planet in our physical dimension using a robot or a drone technology, your attention is there, you're seeing it through the eyes of a camera as if you were there, but at the same time you are someplace else, in this case you're here on the planet earth in the year 2020 surfing the apocalypse, existing in multiple dimensions at once.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Gone But Not Forgotten

I lost my sweet little girl cat yesterday morning, Friday, November 20th, 2020. My lovely calico pixie bob with the most beautiful blue eyes, who lay by my side nearly every night. She was a stray cat I had taken in five years ago, and I never knew how old she was, and I never took her to the vet. It was very selfish of me. I was so attached to her I was afraid the veterinarian would find a microchip identifying her as belonging to someone else and she would be taken away from me. 

When I found her she was in very bad shape. Had I not taken her in she surely would have died. She had tapeworms. So I got some tapeworm medication and once that cleared up she seemed entirely healthy up until earlier this year. She had the signs of having a cold, eye drainage, runny nose, and sneezing. I tried the best I could, cleaning her eyes with cotton balls soaked in saline solution. I also used chamomile and distilled water eye drops a few times. And it seemed to help. 

But then a couple months ago she started missing the litter box and having accidents all over the place. I had to buy puppy pee pads. Anyway, I just figured it was a sign of old age, and was going to live with it. Well, it seemed that other than some mild incontinence, her cold and eye drainage seemed to be getting better but then about a week ago I had gotten sick, not sure what it was if it was a bad cold, or sinus problem, or even a mild case of Covid, I've never been tested so I don't know, but soon after that she started getting a really bad cold too with a lot of yellow mucus coming out of her nose and eyes, and I had to wipe them frequently, especially her nostrils, because it was crusting over really bad and interfering with her breathing. That was a week ago. Again it seemed like she was starting to get better just a couple days ago, but then all of a sudden a day before she died she took a rapid turn for the worse, couldn't walk for more than a few feet without collapsing, and refused to eat, but still drank water and urinated on the floor, as she didn't have the strength to stand. I thought that too would pass that she was just having a bad day, because it was only one day like that, but the next day she was gone. 

I am left in a state of grief and shock, not knowing what she died from, and not knowing if her death could have been prevented, or if she could have been saved had I just taken her to the vet. I'll never know. It was a terrible error in judgment that I will have to live with for the rest of my life. 

Now it is very empty here without her. I've always felt that way after the loss of a pet. It wasn't as bad last time though because I had two cats, and my other cat that died was 15, and because of his old age it was less shocking, but this one seemed younger, I would speculate that she could have been between eight and ten, but not knowing for sure makes it all the more worse. 

Although death is always a saddening affair no matter how old they are, it is always harder to lose someone younger than older, because you figure it is natural to eventually die from old age, but when they die young, you think they could have been saved, and that it was a tragic mistake, but there is no way to fix it. It is done. Nothing can change it. There is no thinking your way or talking your way out of this one. It's reality in its coldest and most unsympathetic and brutal honesty. 

Death is the ultimate wake-up call, the slayer of delusion. You can take care of life, prolong it, make it healthier, stronger, more comfortable, but eventually, in the end no matter what you do, you'll lose the good fight, too. Death is the victor that cannot be defeated, the adversary in which there is no escape. For this we must find the courage and the wisdom to accept that which we do not have the power to change. This may be our only solace in the end.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Confessions of a Pro-Masker

I've been wearing a mask out in public since March, long before the mask mandate took effect. You could say I'm an early adopter, a true believer in the efficacy of wearing masks in reducing the spread of Covid-19. 

I'm definitely a pro-masker. It's difficult being a pro-masker in a state that is overwhelmingly anti-mask. Don't let the mask mandates fool you. Sure there's more people wearing masks here than before the mandate, but there's also a lot of holes in the system, a lot of breaches in the security. A lot of non-compliance, non-enforcement, and a lot of people wearing the masks either inconsistently, improperly, or who wear the wrong kinds of masks, such as neck gaiters and bandannas, bandannas being barely better than nothing, and neck gaiters having actually been proven to be worse than not wearing a mask at all. 

Where I live the people I see not wearing masks in public can be classified into three primary categories: they are typically either people under 30, Latinos of all ages, or what I would describe as white trash redneck, aka Trumpers who get all their Covid-19 information from Facebook and FOX. That's pretty much the anti-mask demographic where I live. 

I live in a state with over 200,000 cases of Covid and a high death rate per 100,000 people. I believe the state of Arizona is in the top ten for deaths per 100,000. Anyway, my state is sort of a hotspot with over 200,000 cases, though the numbers have definitely been falling. We've gone from at our worst 4,000 cases a day, to lately less than a thousand. It appears the mask mandate has been doing some good, but maybe not good enough, likely because of the reasons I've stated above. 

In other words, a mask mandate means nothing without consistent compliance or enforcement. 

What the fuck? I go to the grocery store last week and noticed a couple customers in the store not wearing masks. Since this is not something I've ever seen before at this particular store I decided to report it at their customer service counter. They sent the manager over and the people were really nasty and refused to comply, so apparently the police were called. 

I didn't stick around long enough to find out what ultimately happened but while I was waiting in line to check out I noticed a US postal worker in uniform had also entered the store without a mask. He came in to buy two jumbo cans of beer. Shows where his priorities are at. No one said a word to him. No one told him that masks were required. No one tried to stop him from entering the store without a mask. No one refused to do business with him. The customer service people, the cashiers, the cart attendants, they never said a word. I said something to the cashier. And she said she's not allowed to say anything. 

After I checked out I asked the cart attendant who was sanitizing carts outside the main entrance, who clearly sees everyone coming and going, I asked him if he's been given any directions of what to do when people enter the store without masks. He told me he's not allowed to do anything. He can't make contact with the people at all. Next thing I knew the manager comes outside to talk to me, to let me know that he spoke to the people I had reported, and that the authorities had been called because they were non-compliant. I proceeded to tell him about the mailman who wasn't wearing a mask who had already left. 

He confirmed that none of the employees are allowed to confront anyone not wearing a mask, out of regard to their own personal safety. The only person authorized to confront customers not wearing masks is a manager, but here's the most relevant piece of information, in that apparently the manager only confronts the people if a customer complains about it. If no one complains about it no one does anything. Sounds like not enforcing the mandate to me. 

I have no way of knowing, but I wouldn't be surprised if the cops never even showed up, because from what I've observed here in the city I live in the police aren't wearing masks either, neither are the paramedics, or firemen. Their all exempt. Which is fine and dandy when their working outside, but when such people are in close proximity to others indoors, they should be wearing a mask, and the fact that they aren't suggests to me that enforcement would be a low priority. I mean really how do you expect someone to enforce the mask mandate when they themselves aren't wearing a mask? 

Yes, I believe we are in big trouble. Wearing a mask is the single most effective strategy against Covid-19 when staying home, or socially distancing isn't possible. But people don't like wearing masks. They think they are uncomfortable and that it violates their freedom to be stupid. Yes, we are in big trouble. 

One last word in parting, I want to really emphasis this point. That when you have states that had long-term mask mandates, places like California and New Jersey and New York, but still had, and in the case of California still has, super high rates of infection, the anti-maskers love to entertain the possibility that masks really don't help. How else do you explain it they say, that even with the strictest COVID-19 restrictions in the country, mandatory masks, shelter-in-place, and the closing of non-essential businesses, why is it that these places still had the worst cases in the country in spite of it all? They conclude that it's because there was no stopping this disease, that it just has to run its course until enough people get infected and survive and develop so-called herd immunity, therefore the restrictions, including masks, are a waste of time and money. 

Okay, I'm obviously not an epidemiologist, so I'm not even going to try to go there to explain what's happening here on that level, other than that whose to say it wouldn't have been worse without the restrictions, we'll never know, or that maybe there was a more virulent strain of the virus that hit some places harder than others that infected enough people before the restrictions were implemented that there was no stopping it. Or the third possibility that I propose, which is happening right now in places like California and in my own state, is that despite the mask mandate and the requests to socially distance and to limit large gatherings, is largely going unheeded, or not consistently followed. Like I said, maybe people aren't allowed to officially gather in large groups, but whose to stop them doing so privately in their own backyards and homes?

I mean the point is just because there's a mask mandate doesn't mean people have been consistently following it. 

Maybe they wear a mask when they go into a store, but as soon as they come out the mask comes off. And it wouldn't be a problem if it was just them, but not only do the masks come off, but they stay off when they talk to other people. They socialize with people they don't live with, they talk really close together, face-to-face, without wearing masks. And these are elderly and people with pre-existing conditions, too. I see it all the time where I live. They hug each other, they kiss each other, they shake hands. It's as if they think the pandemic is over. They say: "This is normal. I'm not going stop living my life and being social just because of some stupid virus. Only losers socially distance. Only weirdos wear masks." 

That's the mentality we're dealing with here. And that's why this virus is out of control. Not because of a virus running its natural course, but because most people are selfish and stupid. And like I said before in an earlier post, if washing hands with soap suddenly became legally mandated I'd be willing to bet money that some of these anti-maskers would surely out of defiance stop washing their hands with soap, because they are like selfishly stupid spoiled little children.

Disclaimer: This rant only pertains to areas with large incidences of Covid-19 where people are largely ignoring the guidelines. If you live in a location that has relatively low levels of Covid-19 then perhaps you are right not to wear a mask or to socially distance, but hopefully you are washing your hands with soap, for that there is no excuse. 

Monday, September 7, 2020

Commentary: Chris Gets Money

So, I just watched a short documentary film on Tubi TV and got the idea to do a series of blog posts about it. Basically I'll watch a documentary, maybe one a week, maybe three, and write something about it here.

What I will do in this series is to watch a documentary film, and use it as a writing prompt. I will say whatever comes to mind, in response to having watched the documentary, in 2,000 words or less. Yes, it will probably be much less, but I like to keep my possibilities open, while still being somewhat realistic.

Documentary #1: Chris Gets Money (2016) 46 minutes

Synopsis: "Comedian Chris Cubas has always been poor, until now. He's given 30 days to live like the 1 percent, infiltrate the elusive super-wealthy of Austin, Texas, and investigate why the poor stay poor and the rich keep getting richer."

OK, this documentary is only 46 minutes long, so I guess you shouldn't expect much from it. The only thing really going for it is that Chris is a fairly friendly and likable guy, who works as a comedian, among other things, and probably it would have worked out better as a series, with this being an introductory episode, rather than a stand-alone documentary, but we'll just have to judge it as is.

Anyway, what happens is that Chris is given $30,000 to spend in 30 days, simulating one months salary of a person making $360,000 a year, which in Austin, Texas is the lowest amount necessary to be considered part of the 1 percent in that region. He would attempt to use this money to embed himself into the lives of rich people by becoming their neighbor and joining one of their country clubs so he can talk to them face-to-face under the disguise of someone making $360,000 a year.

Well, in all honesty $30,000 is just a drop in the bucket, so you're not going to get a very realistic glimpse into the inner circle of the one-percent with that kind of money, but hey it is what it is, doesn't really matter what the wealthy have to say in this documentary because Chris does a good job of answering his own questions, and is the perfect case study into why the poor usually stay poor. Let's be honest here, we're not talking about the real poor, people who are legitimately undernourished and starving in third world countries, who don't have access to clean water and whose average life expectancy is only in their thirties, this documentary is not about that, we're talking about lower income spoiled Americans who think they are entitled to live like kings. That anyone who has more than them are somehow the bad guy, because their reasoning is that in a rich country everyone should be rich.

Chris is a perfect case study of why most poor people stay poor, or rather why most perceive themselves as poor, even when they have adequate food, water, and shelter, it's because they are thinking about wealth in the wrong way, and have cultivated a lifetime of poor habits, poor money management skills, and a victim mentality that does not take responsibility for the poor choices they have made and will continue to make.

The problem is I think greed and addiction to affluence. Greed is not just something that affects rich people, poor people can be extremely greedy too, in that they may not be able to afford every luxury they desire, but they covet more luxuries than they need, thinking they need a lot of expensive luxuries to be happy, and are resentful when they can't have them. Things like 4K TV, high end gaming laptop, a lot of consumer electronics, expensive sports car, watches, designer high end fashion, huge house, you know expensive toys that you don't really need, and I think they are artificially created wants people have been programmed to think they need from having watched too much television and addicted to following the lives of super wealthy celebrities who flaunt their wealth, and they want to be just like them, and if they don't have all that expensive stuff, too, then they feel like they have been cheated, and feel like they are victims of income inequality, because why are are some people making millions when I'm only making thousands and I'm broke after I pay all my bills?

That's the wrong way to think. So many people are broke after they pay all there bills because they are attempting to live beyond their means. They have a car they cannot afford. They are paying too much rent. They could downsize but they don't want to. How much money does a person really need? There's nothing inherently wrong with having a lot of money, but just because you're wealthy in money, doesn't mean you are wealthy in spirit. And just because you are poor in money doesn't make you poor in spirit either. There is a mental side to it. If you're poor, stop blaming other people. Do something about it. Very often a craving for material wealth, feeling that you don't have enough, even though you have adequate food, water and shelter, is very often a symptom that you may actually be suffering from a spiritual poverty, and in such a case as that, getting a lot of money at this time, might actually make your spiritual poverty, not better, but worse.

Getting back to the documentary, this guy says he has always been poor, and yet he is morbidly obese, appears to be a happy-go-lucky sort of guy,  claims to work 50 hours a week, and has never had more than $2,000 to his name. 50 hours a week and he doesn't have any money? Sounds to me like he's suffering from a money management problem. Sounds to me like he must be living beyond his means. Sounds to me like maybe he ought to go on a diet and maybe cut out the booze. You think? Totally.

I make less than $24,000 a year, which I guess sort of qualifies me as being on the poorer side in my country, and yet I don't feel poor at all, nor do I feel like a victim of income inequality, nor do I feel angry at rich people or envious or jealous of their wealth. Why would I? I have everything I need. I know how to budget my money and I live within my means. Everyone has to make their own lives. If you want more money, figure out what you need to do to make more money. If you can't increase your income maybe you can decrease your expenses, both are effective methods of increasing wealth. Everything has its price. Some people have to work really hard for their money, they have a lot of money, but not a lot of time, others have gotten lucky, where they've gotten a lot of money without having to do a lot of work, but who knows what other problems they may have that all the money in the world couldn't solve? Nobody knows what is going on in the private lives of people. A person could be living in a $100 million dollar mansion and be clinically depressed.

The mistake I think a lot of poor people make is thinking that all there problems come from being poor and if only they were rich it would solve all their problems, but in reality, while it solves some problems, it creates entirely new problems, because guess what problems are a fact of life. You're always going to have problems, that's not going to change just because your net worth has increased. Life is not perfect. Even if your life is going really well for you right now, and you're experiencing prosperity at all levels of your life, it won't last forever. Sickness, old age, or just plain bad luck, have a way of creeping up on people when they least expect it. It happens to everybody. Becoming rich is not a panacea for your problems, but many poor people think it is.

Chris says he's complaining about income inequality. But I think he's really complaining about the fact that he wishes he could be rich without having to work for it. It's clear though that Chris will likely never become rich because the first thing he does when he gets some extra money is to spend it, and no one will ever get rich spending more money than they save.

It doesn't matter how much money you make, whether you make a hundred dollars a week or a hundred thousand, if you never save any money you will never be rich in a monetary sense, nor will you ever have financial security. Even if you make a million dollars a year but spend every penny you make, if you suddenly lost your job, with no savings in the bank, you could become a penniless bum overnight. But even a person making a modest living who saves a portion of their check every week, could build up a nice little nest egg over time, and could actually end up more prosperous than the millionaire who never saved a dime.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Pros and Cons of Working From Home

I've been working from home four months now and while there have been a few negatives to it, the experience has been overwhelmingly positive. Just thought I'd take some time to talk about some of the pros and cons I've experienced firsthand since working from home.


1. Increased Time (10+ hours a week)

a. The biggest benefit so far is the amount of time I'm freeing up in my day by not having to commute to and from work. I ride my bicycle to work and so there are multiple factors that contribute to the total travel time. For one thing, I have to leave early in case I get a flat tire so I wouldn't be late for work. Then there's the actual travel time spent on my bike, and time spent locking up my bike, and there's also time spent changing into and out of my cycling attire. I live in a hot climate, so I can't wear my work clothes on my bike commute, because it would get all sweated up. So there's time spent changing into cycling clothing, and packing work attire, and changing into it once I get there. And if the weather is poor there could also be extra time spent cleaning my bike, wiping down the frame, cleaning the brakes and chain; things that need to be regularly done when commuting on a daily basis.

b. There's time saved by not having to get "as ready" for work. While I don't work in my pajamas, this time of year when it's hot and I have my AC set for 82 degrees, compared to the 108 outside, I'm most comfortable working barefoot and in shorts and sleeveless shirt, something that I would never do if I were going into the office. I also save time by not having to pack a lunch and snacks, or getting water bottles or thermoses packed. I also can sleep a little later or have my meal a little later before I start. Not having to get dressed up for work also means that I don't have to do as much laundry, because I usually work from home wearing quick dry athletic apparel that can be easily washed out by hand. So I'm saving a lot of time and money on not having to do as much laundry as well.

c. I can often do double duty, and get more personal projects done in between calls, on break, etc. that I would never be able to get done in the office, so I can accomplish more in a day working from home than I can working in the office.

2. Improved Quality of Life

a. Calmer more relaxing work conditions. There's no place like home. My own decorations, familiar sights and sounds, the therapy of my cat sitting on my lap, the use of my own computer, keyboard and mouse, my own furniture, my own bathroom, which is just a few feet away from my workstation, which makes bathroom breaks so much faster and more convenient, everything about it is just so much cleaner and more comfortable and relaxing than you'd ever find at any publicly shared workspace.

b. No more migraine headaches. Back at the center I was getting headaches nearly every week. Since I've been working at home I've had only one headache in the last four months. I blame the headaches on eyestrain, caused by the bright lights and the computer monitor used in my center, but it also could have been fatigue from cycling to and from work in extremely hot and polluted air, as well as allergic reactions to smells in the center, like people's perfume or cleaning chemicals. The center I work at is brightly lit with florescent lights and maybe the monitors are not designed to reduce eyestrain. At home I use a special eye care monitor that reduces eyestrain, and I also work in natural light conditions during the daytime, and low level light at night. So even though I'm looking at screens just as much, I'm no longer getting as much eyestrain.  In fact, most of my recurring sinus problems I've been suffering from over the last few years have cleared up since working from home. So that's a huge improvement.

c. No longer sharing public restrooms, work spaces and amenities with co-workers/strangers with bad hygiene. My job is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and employs almost a thousand people at my center alone, and there always hiring. So it's not the kind of job that you know everybody you work with. There's too many shared surfaces and no assigned seating.  Every time I'd come in I'd sit somewhere different, use a different computer, a different keyboard and mouse, and a different chair. It's a recipe for getting sick a lot. I rarely got sick before I worked at this company. The only time I got sick was if I drank too much beer, which is something I no longer do. Other than that I hadn't been sick in years. Now since I've worked there I'd get headaches every week, and would be sick in bed for two or three days at least 3 or 4 times a year. In the four months I've been working from home I've only had one headache and haven't been sick otherwise at all.


1. Lack of Social Interaction

This is probably the biggest con working from home for most people, is not seeing and interacting face-to-face with your co-workers on a daily basis. Even if you don't actually talk to anybody socially at your job, just seeing people around you is often a positive for most people, in that if nothing else at least you're not alone. But for me I never really cared about that, at least at the job I'm at now, where it's all about the money, the culture of the place I work at is completely irrelevant to me. And I'm not saying that because I'm an introvert, it's just the nature of the job. My job is a weird job, never had anything like it, it's the only job I've had that doesn't involve interacting with my co-workers. It's a call center where everybody sits isolated in a cubicle, taking calls alone their entire shift, with no mingling or socializing on the call floor, work is completely self-directed and done independently, and most communication with other employees or your manager is conducted via email and instant messaging, with the occasional face-to-face meeting going over the quality of your work and anything that needs improvement. All training is done remotely via video presentation and chat and basically all questions can be answered in an email. And because people are working all different shifts, literally 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, most working part-time, and breaks are scheduled at different times everyday, there isn't a whole lot of opportunity to get to know the people you work with, and I'm fine with that. But in most other jobs, even most other call center jobs, there's probably a lot more daily interaction and I can see people may miss that working from home.

2. Lack of Structure

Sometimes having somewhere to go that gets you outside everyday and gives you a reason to get dressed up and to do your hair and to smell good and to look your best and to make a good impression on people helps to enhance the quality of your life. Picture this: A person is completely self-quarantining, working from home, hardly talking to anybody, hardly leaving their home, working in their pajamas, maybe not styling their hair in the morning, maybe not showering as much, and everyday is pretty much the same, the same old same old, with no separation from work and play, where you live and where you sleep and where you work it's all in the same space. That could get depressing after awhile. It doesn't have to. Just because you're working from home doesn't mean you have to let yourself go, and it doesn't mean you have to become a complete hermit either. But this lack of structure of getting out everyday and leaving your house and going to work and seeing and interacting with other people at work and on the way to and from work can take a tow on people after awhile, especially if you are more socially inclined to begin with but even to some extent if you're not. Sometimes it's helpful to have a routine that also includes changing scenery and getting out of your comfort zone, something that is very difficult to do when you are working from home during a pandemic and a heat wave on top of it. There's a double whammy if I ever saw one. It's been 105-110 for weeks and it's the first week in 4 months that I've had 2 days off and it's too hot to go anywhere!  What will I do with myself?

So there you have it. There's pros and cons to working from home, but which is better really comes down to your individual circumstances. It depends on the type of work you do, and the quality of your life outside of work regardless of whether you're working from home or not. But in my case at least, despite the negatives I still say working from home is the clear winner. It keeps me out of the heat and I'm not getting migraine headaches anymore, for those two things alone it's worth it. But I wonder how long it will last? The rest of the year? Into the next year? Will there be a second wave? Will there be a new crisis? The eruption of Yellowstone Super Volcano, a nuclear war, the invasion of hostile extraterrestrials? Who knows? But honestly nothing would surprise me at this point. Whatever it is, it is what it is.