March 22nd COVID19 Journal

Some of my thoughts on this Sunday, March 22nd.

Forget what I wrote yesterday about asthma

I’m subscribed to Oregon Health Authority email updates. Despite what I wrote yesterday, today the update included asthma as one of the conditions that “may” put you at increased risk. Asthma was also featured in a PSA from the CDC that ran before tonight’s Westworld episode (S3E2).

Maybe officials are just playing it safe — it sure seems like asthma ought to be a risk factor — or maybe I just haven’t found the science, which is no surprise.

Either way, it changes nothing: I’ll keep isolating.

How to stay productive

The closest experiences I’ve had to this disruption of normal life is snow days as a child. Snow days feel like excuses to be irresponsible. That’s fine for children, but as an adult I sadly must resist the temptation to run the snow day script if you will. On top of that temptation is the trauma we are living through, and the grief of our suddenly-lost normalcy. This isn’t a great recipe for high functioning adulthood.

Yet, there are still bills to pay and chores to do. This will last weeks months, if not longer.

So, we are using a Scrum style kanban technique — basically, a whiteboard with tasks written on sticky notes that we move left to right from Todo, Doing, and Done columns — as visual motivation to stay productive. Catherine’s posted a few updates to Instagram about our efforts to KonMari our apartment during the quarantine. We’re starting to pick up steam. Yesterday I felt my normal self for the first time in a week. Today was the most productive day I’ve had in a week. There will be bad days, but we’ll keep soldiering on.

Limiting media consumption helps

My friend Valerie recommended a restricted media diet for mental health: Checking the news no more than twice a day, and setting a timer to pull yourself out of it.

I must’ve averaged at least four hours a day in the past week just reading news stories and scrolling social media feeds — so I needed this for more than just mental health; I needed to get my time back.

So today I took Valerie’s advice. I decided to limit myself to two hours. Still a lot I acknowledge, but this would be a big improvement. It was difficult for me to stick to, but I did it, and I’m very glad. I don’t feel I’ve missed anything important, still feel quite informed, and also managed to get a lot done.

Isolate like an astronaut

I really enjoyed this Scott Kelly article in the New York Times on how he survived isolation in the space station for over a year.

His key recommendations were to do all of these daily:

  • Schedule your time
  • Read physical books (physical books won’t distract you with notifications or invite you to open another tab… I’m using my Kindle mostly because it shares those properties)
  • Go outside (Mr. Kelly couldn’t, of course, but that just made him more aware of its value)
  • Stay in touch with loved ones via video conference
  • Keep a journal

I’m trying to incorporate these into my daily habits. I guess you can expect more of these journal entries.

Scheduling my time today was a big part of what made today so productive. I’m definitely sticking with that.

A walk in the park ain’t what it used to be

All the official guidance I’ve seen continues to affirm that getting out for a walk is not only alright, but is encouraged for health due to the benefits of exercise, fresh air, and sun exposure.

Tell you what, though: It’s super weird to be out in public right now.

We live near to the North end of Waterfront Park, where the cherry trees at the Japanese American Historical Plaza are in full bloom. That’s where we usually go for our walks.

The first weird thing is the Plaza is full of would-be Insta models (I guess?) posing for portraits amidst the cherry trees. There are dozens if not hundreds of these people, dressed super fly, smiling for the camera like they don’t have a care in the world. These people aren’t taking selfies, mind you — most have photographers with SLRs directing them around. You’d never know we were living through anything significant, let alone the most apocalyptic moment most living people have known. I can make guesses as to what they’re thinking, but I don’t really understand it. It is completely surreal.

The second weird thing is of course navigating a crowd while trying to keep your distance. Most folks take it seriously, but enough aren’t that to keep your distance you have to adopt a defensive driver-like attitude. That makes walking about as relaxing as driving (which I don’t find very relaxing). Plus, it introduces a roadrage-like element, where I’m constantly biting my tongue to avoid sniping at the ignorant, inconsiderate, or idiotic delinquents of social grace around me.

What I’m working on

  • Marie Kondo’s “paper” de-cluttering phase is so much work!
  • Although SOAK is unlikely to happen on schedule if at all this year, I’m continuing work on the MBS lighting software. In the best case, the MBS will be gloriously lit if SOAK goes ahead, by some miracle. In the worst case, I’ll have some applied experience with Arduino, C++, and embedded electronics, each marketable and useful skills.
  • I’m making sure we eat well and are especially good at minimize food waste. Our freezer is now stuffed with vegetables I’ve processed and home cooked meals ready to re-heat, and the fridge has soups, homemade pickles, and meals marinating for the week ahead.

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