Things to be grateful for 4/26 – 5/1

So, last week was pretty low key. That in itself is something to be grateful for given the circumstances. We’re still in one of the worst outbreak areas of COVID-19 in the world and no one in my family has gotten sick yet, thankfully. I’m a little concerned about how things are going to go with that. We’ve been having warmer weather so more people are congregating and other States are relaxing restrictions already even though they’re still on the upswing of the outbreak.

Some highlights for this week:

  • After many months, our cast iron skillet is finally developing a significant non-stick layer. We’ve baked chicken in the skillet with good results and also made filet mignon (stovetop + oven) that turned out amazing.
  • The filet mignon. We hadn’t had any since last year.
  • Got a lot of work done on last year’s taxes. I should be done with them by this weekend.
  • Got to actually binge watch a series for the first time in a few years. We found a show called “Into the Night” on Netflix that was really good. It has a lot of edge of your seat suspense that kept us reaching for the “Next Episode” button.
  • We finally found out when our stimulus deposit will hit our account.

Sitting at home all the time, I’m not doing a lot that’s exciting. I was thinking the other day that I haven’t posted anything to Instagram in a while because I haven’t been out to see anything that I felt was worth posting. But I’ve been using the time to read more, study foreign languages more, and to try to finish video games that I bought years ago and never got through.

For example, I’m about 60% of the way through “Grand Theft Auto V”. I bought the game about 7 years ago, got about 37% of the way through it and never finished it. I’m having a lot of fun watching Michael and Trevor’s bromance unfold.

Signal to Noise Ratio Online

This week was much quieter than previous weeks. It’s not that there isn’t as much going on. I suppose it’s just that I’m tuning it out more and focusing on my own issues. Caring about other people’s problems is a luxury and a burden, and sometimes that burden just gets tiring.

What I mean is that there are people on social media platforms that are constantly whining about the plight of some particular group of people or vociferously advocating some political agenda. There’s so much spin online that it’s a chore to try to find content that doesn’t suck and to sort through the noise in the responses to see if there’s anything meaningful.

I’d like to think that there was some magical era in the Internet’s past when this type of behavior didn’t exist. I remember trash talking in AOL chat rooms in the late 90’s. I remember griefing in MMO chats in games like Ultima Online and World of Warcraft. But it wasn’t this widespread and pernicious. It was localized. It was something you could turn off and walk away from and it was separate from your real life. Or at least that’s how it felt.

Probably three things led to the escalation and spread of the problem: smartphones, more widespread social networks like Twitter and Facebook, and the idea that you should use your real name online and “put yourself out there”, which later evolved into the idea of building your “personal brand” online.

The idea that you could turn yourself into a “brand” and attract attention led to polarization to gain and influence people politically, which fueled the spread of conspiracy theories and crackpot ideas on all ends of the political spectrum. And of course there are all the idiots eating tide pods and creating challenges to monetize their notoriety.

I had this idea when I was a kid that the Internet was going to help me learn things and that I would meet interesting people from all over the world that could teach me how to be a better person. In some cases that’s true, but there’s a lot more chaff than wheat in the field.

I guess I need to put more effort into curating the content that I look at, but the Internet seems geared towards overcoming people’s personal preferences to push sensationalized content for ad revenue. I would like to believe that if the barrier for self-hosting content (like, on a server in your house) were lowered both in terms of education and hardware/access costs (some ISPs charge extra to open the ports necessary for a home server to connect to the Internet) then we could overcome a lot of this BS, but I also feel like this somehow ties in to larger issues of wealth disparity and that some people are willing to push anything online if it’s going to make them money.

Maybe I’m just getting old and this is the equivalent of wanting young people to stop playing their boomboxes so loud, but I hope that one day the Internet is more than it is today in terms of quality.

Things to be grateful for 4/19 – 4/25

Dapper relaxing on the table

1. Our cats are still happy and healthy.

April 21st, 2020 tornado warning alert for the Bronx, New York City

2. We did not get wrecked by a tornado on Tuesday.

IRS “Get My Payment” tool success message

3. We finally stopped getting the “Payment Status Not Available” error and were able to enter our direct deposit information with the IRS for the stimulus deposits.

4. I talked to our ISP and got an upgrade from 100 Mbs to 300 Mbs and we’re paying $20 less a month than before. The price is locked in for two years. I’m not even sure what to do with all of that bandwidth. It might be my imagination, but streamed shows on Netflix seem to be clearer.

5. We have our health. Based on symptoms posted online, we think we probably had mild cases of COVID-19 in February. We were both experiencing the same weird symptoms at the same time, like both having weird lower back pain, muscle aches, fatigue, etc. Our social circle includes someone who had recently traveled to Hubei Province in China. I guess things could have been a lot worse for us. We’re still doing fine, though, even though we know quite a few people who aren’t.

6. I rediscovered and am having fun with some PS4 games I haven’t played in about 6 years. I never even finished GTA V and I haven’t finished the cop story in Need For Speed Rivals.

7. I’ve been seeing a lot online about mental health issues during this crisis. I was thinking about that a few days ago, wondering how being stuck inside is complicating the usual rise in mental health problems during the winter months. It’s already so gray, cold, and depressing outside and now we can’t even go outside. It felt great to just open the windows yesterday and I’m enjoying walking around in crowds in GTA V. LOL. Anyway, staying strong mentally.

Ordinary men hate solitude. But the master makes use of it, embracing his aloneness, realizing he is one with the whole universe.

Lao Tzu

Things to be Grateful For 4/12 – 4/18

Last week, I added a section to a blog post I made where I listed a few things I should be grateful for in the previous week. It seemed like a pretty good exercise, given the situation. I think it’s something I’m going to try to continue on a regular basis with once a week lists. Even after this pandemic is over, I think I could benefit from reminding myself of all of the good things that happen over the course of a week and meditating on them for a bit.

  • I reread The Red Badge of Courage and it made a lot more sense to me now as an adult and an Army veteran.
  • I’m continually grateful that the New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library have such a large catalog of audiobooks and eBooks that I can borrow through my phone.
  • I discovered free online courses from Harvard. The certificates aren’t free, but it still seems like a pretty good deal to me.
  • The cat we rescued, Mama Cat, is finally starting to improve. She is suffering from some kind of skin condition that we’ve been treating with antibacterial/antifungal wipes. We gave her a bath and she’s finally getting fluffy enough to pick up and pet. She’s super grateful for the affection.
A 9" round cake pan half filled with fresh baked brownie.
Fresh baked fudge brownie in a 9″ round cake pan.
  • I baked some kick-ass brownies.
  • I found a really cool horror anthology on Amazon Prime Video called Hitokowa: The Killing Hour that is kind of cheesy, but in a great way.
  • Honda Financial Services allowed us to defer our car payments for two months, so we’re relieved of that burden until June.
  • My wife and I are both healthy and we’re eating well, which is more than many can say right now.
  • We have lots of toilet paper.
  • Our cat, Dapper, is super happy that we’re around all the time.
One of our cats, Dapper, trying to get attention.
  • I’ve been reading more by Stoic authors and the stuff makes sense. Here’s a quote by Epictetus that is still very relevant:

There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.

Epictetus

There’s an element of this in Buddhism as well, where you’re encouraged to live in the present moment. Or maybe I’m mixing that up with Western mindfulness? I’ll have to do some more reading.

Payment Status Not Available – The drama continues

I kept hearing about more and more people getting their Trump Bucks, but I haven’t seen a damn thing so far. I’ve been checking my account regularly. I’ve been scouring the internet for clues. I’ve been trawling through Twitter for hope.

Then I thought I’d found my salvation.

The IRS released their Get Payment web app early. It wasn’t supposed to be available until the 17th. I clicked the link and waited for my turn…

…but the IRS screwed me with “Payment Status Not Available”.

Bro. I can’t even begin to tell you how frustrated I was. Better on time and working than early and broken.

I know they have my info and I know I qualify. The IRS is quick to take money from people when they owe extra on their taxes and will screw you with fees and penalties on a daily basis if you’re late, but when it’s their turn to pay up, they pretend like they’ve never heard of you.