2024-02-04

Hard work is not always its own reward...

When I was younger, I worked as a cook. I started out in high school washing dishes and kept at it until I was making salads and desserts, then I was on the line. I eventually went to cooking school after high school and continued in that line of work until I had a health issue that prevented me from continuing. The job let me live in and explore some beautiful places but most of the time I was just working hard for long hours.
 
This is the first of what I think could be a series of blog posts based on the things I learned doing that job. It stands out in my mind because I was very excited about the culinary world when I was young and I wanted that to be my career, eventually leading to my own restaurant or perhaps working as an executive chef of a large hotel. I made it to sous-chef of a small restaurant by the time my journey ended. A lot of people glamorize the profession due to way its portrayed in the media. Watch The Bear for an honest look at the reality of the job.
 
The lesson this post concerns is "hard work isn't always rewarding". 
 
We are taught, growing up, that hard work is its own reward. This can be true. It feels really good to work very hard on something and see it through. Persistence and exertion can get you through a lot of difficult situations. Studying a new skill can lead to employment, working hard on fitness can increase your quality of life, and learning an instrument can be satisfying for you and entertaining for your friends and family. 

But sometimes, hard work isn't rewarding, it's just hard. I learned this lesson the hard way. I worked in a busy kitchens that had high standards and expectations both around the food and around the cooks. We worked long hours, often without breaks, and had to deal with constant pressure, criticism, and complaints. I thought that if I worked hard enough, I would be rewarded with recognition, promotion, or a raise. Those things did happen but not to the degree that you would think. Other than some time I spent working at a hotel in Switzerland, the most money I made in North America was $10 an hour. It's hard to live on that.

The lesson I learned was that if hard work that has no real reward is not good for you. It's stressful, it wears you down, it makes you angry and frustrated. For this low reward scenario, you really have to love what you are doing for it to make sense. There has to be some altruistic component. 

If you find yourself in a situation where work is drudgery but you have no way out of the job, the only way you are going to enjoy life is if you find comradeship there. That was often the case in kitchens. We shared a bond forged through hard work and being there for each other. While I don't miss being broke, living in rundown apartments, and have no social life because I worked when other people were out having fun, I do miss the comradeship and how good an ice cold beer tasted after a long night. But, at the end of the day, I could not build a life that way. I had no real future. I am lucky that I was forced out of that life as it let me grow as a person and discover that I was capable of doing other things, things I find more rewarding. 
 
Do I still work hard? Of course. But it's not as hard as cooking. It's different. I find the intellectual challenges of my job to be stimulating and there's compensation that allows me to live securely and safely with my family. That's the real reward.


2024-01-20

Article - Deep in the Amazon, researchers have uncovered a complex of ancient cities — using laser technology

Deep in the Amazon, researchers have uncovered a complex of ancient cities — using laser technology:

> "Wow" was all archaeologist St├ęphen Rostain could say when LiDAR (light detection and ranging) laser technology revealed several ancient cities hidden deep in the Amazon rainforest.

I keep reading things like this. As technology is developed that can be used to look into the past, we continue to find surprising things about humanity that we previously hadn't considered. 

There are discoveries every year that push further back into the past the first use of tools, of agriculture, of large civilizations in areas we thought were populated by hunter gatherers. Is there any way to know how far back we go? How could you possibly know you have found the "earliest" of anything? All you know is it's the oldest thing you've found. And there could be a lot of evidence of previous civilizations and technologies that are simply gone due to the passage of time. 

One reason I want to live as long as possible is to be here to learn about all the fascinating discoveries that will be made by archeologists. In some way, it's more exciting that scientific advances that lead to better materials or new technologies.

2024-01-13

Bitter cold

It is very, very cold here in Edmonton. Overnight lows will be below -50 Celcius.

If you have never experienced cold like this, you will be very, very cold regardless of what you are wearing in a short period of time. That cold stays with you once you are back inside. 

Now, consider the fact that there are people in this city living outside in this in tents. The sometimes will have two tents and some tarps over them which creates an insulating layer to trap body heat but we are talking about a cold so deep that best you are going to get in this situation is maybe -15 or -20 in the tent. Then next step is wearing as many clothes as you can get and wrapping in a sleeping bag, probably with your head inside the bag. 

And you are still going to be cold. 

So spare a thought for them.

I am doing some research on the problem of homelessness in Canada. It seems like the public money being spent on this issue is under 5% of what would be needed. It seems like we don't really want to fix this. 

Maybe one day we'll figure it out and spend more money on this and less on the military (which we don't spend that much on in the first place). 

The Canadian defense budget is about 26.5 billion. I estimate that to completely solve Canadian homelessness in 10 years, you would need about that much per year. This would pay to house everyone that would be homeless in that period in secure housing with appropriate care, security, and food. 

 The question is "how much of that military budget can we transfer over to the homelessness problem"? The military probably thinks this number is $0. Or close to it. But what if their primary mission was to solve this problem?



2024-01-07

Hearing - Eustachian Tube incident

OK, there have been several times in my life where I had a bad cold with a lot of sinus congestion and ended up not being able to hear much out of my right ear. It's like I have an earplug in that ear. 

Apparently, this is a result of my Eustachian Tube being blocked.

In the past I have coincidentally gone on a trip involving a flight or a drive into the mountains which ended up fixing the issue. This might sound like quite the coincidence but I have had this problem go on for several weeks each time it happened before. 

This time, there was no trips planned. I did the usual googling of all the possible treatments. I was massaging below my ear, trying to force air into my sinuses, sipping water while holding my nose, chewing gum, and so on.

Nothing worked. 

I eventually decided I would try a nasal decongestant. I really don't like them but I did try this eventually and it worked. At the end of the third day (today) the problem cleared up. 

Drixoral Nasal Congestion Spray is the product I bought. Wow, so many warnings. I heeded them. I somehow survived the use of this product and by today (the end of the third day) I was good. I can hear again, the pressure is gone, etc. 

Tips:
  • use as directed
  • keep a glass of water handy while you are inhaling this stuff as it will run down the back of your throat and it tastes horrible
  • keep a box of Kleenex handy, you'll need it for a few minutes after you use this as your nose will run like crazy
 
I am mostly putting this here so I'll remember what product I used next time but I hope this helps someone.


2023-12-24

Health and Fitness (what it's like having neither!)

Here are some health and fitness updates:

Moh's surgery 

 

  • After finding out I had basal cell carcinoma on my right ear, I had Moh's surgery. That was on Wednesday.
  • Now it's Saturday and I have had a cold since Friday morning.
    • No one else in my home has a cold.
    • The ONLY place I have been for over a week is that clinic, a pharmacy where the staff were masked, and a small convenience store near by to purchase a snack.
    • Anyway, I've got that going for me. I had a great nap today and it seemed to help.
  • For anyone dealing with post surgery wound care, I really would would say to check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=viiLbz-jSwo
    • Reviewing it let me really take care of the dressing on my own. I have incisions running in two directions as well as a central area where the actual tumor was so there's a bit of ground to cover. My dressing today went really well and it looks pretty tidy, considering I did it myself using a hand mirror for reference.

Dietary changes

  • I also started logging my food in MyFitnessPal. I have tried this in the past but tended to cheat or get sick of it. 
    • Typically, I'll get tired of weighing and measuring so this time I am guesstimating.
    • Typically, I'll cheat a little by not logging late night snacks or cheat meals so this time I am logging everything.
    • Typically, I'll get discouraged because I am not losing weight quickly enough, so this time I am focusing on the process of tracking my means and not worrying too much about what my weight is.
  •  What have I learned so far?
    • I tend to go out to the kitchen frequently during the day to eat little tidbits. Chocolate covered almonds, a slice of bread with butter, etc. These really add up and are just emotional eating. I don't need to do this.
    • A lot of my calories were consumed before bed in this uninhibited snack fest. I have stopped that now, and am planning out a snack that lands inside my calorie goal for the day.
    • Keto might be BS. I have lost weight using every conceivable method. I am leery of any "diet" which can lead to disordered eating. Eating a mostly normal diet (e.g. what you grew up thinking was healthy) has worked for me as long as I don't eat too much. Eating smaller portions, snacking less, and exercising might be the key here, people. 
    • So far, by understanding the times of day when I am really hungry and keeping my meals smaller when I am not has let me stay inside the lanes while still enjoying the food I like. I am eating way less butter, though. 
  •  Where is this going? I hope I stick with this until I have changed my thinking about food but I might be the type of person who has to always weigh themselves to keep myself honest. 
  • Why am I doing this? 
    • A lot of my health issues are exacerbated by being heavier. Think arthritis and general inflammation.
    • I have noticed a considerable lack of energy and difficulty with basic tasks that used to be easy. 
    • I have been working longer hours and so I am not getting my daily walks in. I can't eat as though I am getting lots of walking done and it's shown in my expanding waist line and increased weight.
    • I want to be here for my son's high school graduation at beyond.  

 

 

2023-12-06

UFOs in the news

What a strange time to be alive. I really think the world keeps getting "weirder" as I get older and I am not sure if that is just how every person sees things as they age, or if our stretch of time really is the strangest time to be alive so far. 

It started in 2017 with the NYT article about UFOs (archive.today link).

I read the article, reviewed the videos, and checked out the UFOs chatter on Reddit.

Why? Well, several years ago, I saw an extremely bright green meteor that had a lot of nickle in it streak low across the sky and off to the horizon when I was out in the yard with my dog. It was low enough that I heard it sizzle (https://earthsky.org/space/whoosh-can-you-hear-meteors-streak-past/).

This really freaked me out. It lit the area up like the day. It was "otherworldly". I became obsessed with understanding what I had seen. Over the course of time, I eventually found out this was a fairly common meteorite burning up and the nickle caused the green flame. The sizzle is totally normal as well. While I was trying to figure that out, I learned a lot about UFO sightings and the pop culture around UFOs. This just comes up when you search for "glowing green orb that sizzled".

Once I found the true explanation, I stopped looking and forgot about all this sort of thing. Then 2017 comes along with the article and videos and I thought "I wonder what r/UFOs is saying about this". And I was in the rabbit hole.

I would like to just not think about this at all but it keeps coming back up in the news. Lately, even Chuck Shumer is in on it, putting forward an amendment to a military spending bill that reads like science fiction: https://www.democrats.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/schumer-rounds-introduce-new-legislation-to-declassify-government-records-related-to-unidentified-anomalous-phenomena-and-ufos_modeled-after-jfk-assassination-records-collection-act--as-an-amendment-to-ndaa

At this point in time, we have government discussing it, mainstream media covering it, scientific experts holding conferences on it, and more and more people who "want to believe". Where is it all going?

Either this is a mass delusion which has reached the highest levels of government (and, let's be honest, that happened with Qanon) or its a real thing in our world. 

I don't have enough data to know for sure but I'm keeping an eye on it and wondering if we have merged so much with virtual reality, in the intellectual sense, that it could be affecting our connection to base reality. As we lose our visceral grounding, our consensus reality becomes more aligned with what is online. If that is made up, so is our consensus reality but we make decisions based on this shared framework. 

Are we too close to this merging to see it objectively?





2023-11-27

Coping with stress when there is no time to relax

 I have a lifestyle which can be stressful for me. 

It might not be stressful to others, and might seem incredibly busy to still other people. Probably I'm just leading a normal life for a married person with a child and a full time job. But regardless, stress can build up for me. 

 One of the things I find aggravates my perception of this stress is an unrealistic expectation about when and how I should be able to relax. This weekend, for example, I spent a lot of time doing things I might not have chosen for myself. I enjoyed some of them, others were more like chores, but none of it was particularly terrible to do. I even got to take a nap today.

 But I feel no more relaxed today than I did coming off the week on Friday afternoon. I feel like a weekend should recharge batteries but maybe it is my own personal issues leaving me almost dreading the week to come.

 After doing some soul searching, I think it comes down to physical activity. I am simply not getting enough exercise. For a while I had been walking 45 minutes a day in addition to my normal activities, then things got busy at work and instead of finishing off at the same time every day (roughly) I ended up working until my son got home from school. This is the time of day I normally hang out with him, get some chores done, and make dinner. All of this means no time for that 45 minute walk. 

 I had also been trying to get that time in on the treadmill in the evenings if I wasn't getting time outside after work but somehow that fell by the wayside as well. It's a feedback cycle. You get tired from stress, which leads to exercising less, which leads to lack of stress maintenance, which leads to more stress. 

 Time to break the cycle. I am going to try to get on the treadmill again if I don't hit activity (steps, essentially) goals during the day. I can try doing this before bed. I realize you aren't supposed to exercise before bed but some fast walking on a treadmill doesn't seem to interfere with sleep at all for me. I will also try to do more pushups, stretches, and other exercises during the day as a break from sitting at my desk. 

 I'll report in here in a while to see how this is all working out.