2020, bad juju, broken sleep schedules, and the moonshadow

I’ve been having a hard time writing lately. My blogging is pretty sparse and that’s been a pattern for years now but I’ve also stopped writing on paper, on my iPad, in random note taking apps like notion and iA Writer. The amount of writing I do now is non-existent compared to any previous year. Is it a bad juju or just 2020? I don’t really know, I think it might be a combination of both. Or possibly the result of bad sleep. This is the first year in the past few years where I’ve started to value sleep less and less, even when I realize I need it badly.

What I’ve been doing lately

Since March or April, I’ve spent hundreds of hours playing video games. Back in September or October, I would’ve used the word “wasted” instead of “spent” but I think some of those hours were not wasted, they were hours in which I couldn’t find the motivation to do anything else and video games are an easy resolve. So the video games eat up a lot of my spare time. Just in the past week, I’ve started to fiddle around with code for fun. I haven’t done that in a long time. It’s hard to motivate yourself when there’s so much doom and gloom around. It’s also hard to split up my days properly. After working on the computer all day, it’s almost impossible for me to want to be on the computer. I didn’t realize how valuable it was to be able to interact with colleagues at work, walk around the office, grab a cup of coffee, see unfamiliar faces, and all the odd little things that come with working around other people.

I’ve been trying to read and write but it happens in spurts, a few days of “good behavior” followed by a lot of bad days. I’m mainly writing this post as a therapeutic exercise. To be able to just spill some of my thoughts and emotions.

Music, or the background sounds that fill my time

For me, music has been downgraded from a first-class experience to a background ambience. The songs are the same, the sounds are familiar so there isn’t any newness. I find it comforting to hear the songs that I heard while walking to work, while riding the bus around SF, and the audiobooks that made walking around the house more interesting.

I don’t like the wordpress embed for spotify right now so here’s a song that sounds like what I’m feeling right now: Carol Kaye by Laura Veirs.

Spotify recently put out the Wrapped 2020 playlists, here’s mine: Your Top Songs 2020.

Retail therapy anyone?

It’s eye-opening just how much money you save when you’re not commuting, eating out for lunch, spending money on various things you see others have or mention. I have always been more frugal than “spendy” but I recently gave myself a bit of free reign on buying something nice for myself. I bought a reMarkable 2 which is quite pricey and was a bit uncomfortable for me to justify at first.

I don’t have any grand plans for it, I think it’ll fun to mess around on. I created the above illustrations with it. I wanted something that was a middle ground between an iPad and a notebook. This seems great for that.

I have bought a few small things to sort of improve / remove some minor inconveniences. One of these has been a small fan that I use to move around the air in the room from my humidifier. I got it for about $15 and I think it was a great purchase.

I have resisted purchasing things like clothes, shoes, and other things that I already have a decent amount of. I am pretty simple when it comes to clothing. If it fits and is comfortable, I am happy with it.

The pets

My pets, Samson and Heisenberg, look at me with confusion and maybe even concern (all made up I guess). They’re always around me, barking and meowing, but we don’t really understand each other besides the occasional “walk” and “outside” phrases.

I wonder what’s going through everyone else’s pets heads as well, are they happy or concerned we’re at home with them all the time? I hope happy but I wonder how things will be when we do start going back to our workplaces.

What a year, under the moonshadow

Ask anyone right now and they will say that 2020 is probably one of the worst years. I am in that boat too but I also have found out a lot about myself. I’m a pretty private person, I share some things on my blog but it’s hard for me to do it as some people do it on social media. Oftentimes, I will go days without talking to another person except Kristen (my wife). I am happy to be around people but it doesn’t bother me to not be around people either.

I’m no biologist but I know there’s a lot of chemical things happening within our bodies when we’re around people, in the sun, in new places, and experiencing new things, I think there are so many things missed because we as a society had to lockdown and stay put for some time. Hopefully, it will show us all the great things out there to appreciate in the future.

There’s a song I really like by Cat Stevens called “Moonshadow”, it’s a positive take on being alive and it has lifted me up quite a bit. Like I said earlier, the songs this year have made a resurgence from the past few years to help me feel okay and safe within these uncertain times. There’s a line in the song “Did it take long to find me? And are you going to stay the night?” It’s an obvious question, moonshadows don’t stay around forever but they do come back.

And in the world of FUD, there’s always Bobby McFerrin

I’d like to remind you if you’re tired and done with the fear, uncertainty and doubt, find a pleasant refuge, for me that’s the indiscernible music by Bobby McFerrin like “Circlesong Six”. It takes me away from the human languages we’re used to and puts me a state of mind of being completely unfamiliar and yet at the same time, gives a lot of warmth from the voices that surround me.

Spooky season vibes

This is the first year, in almost a decade, that I am living in a “normal” seasonal city. Not as normal as the east coast but definitely more than San Francisco. The summer was hot and the recent few weeks have started cool down and really feel like fall. Being in a house, we’ve also decorated the outside a bit.

The other day there was a “wind event” as Kristen called it and it was actually a bit crazy to experience even being safe inside our house. The wind howled and flipped over our trash bins. The wind felt like it was close to 50 mph. According to the article linked, it was between 50-70 recorded in different areas in the Bay Area.

Halloween is going to definitely be different this year as we won’t be going anywhere and we aren’t dressing up. I hope to just watch some Halloween movies and relax at home. An odd coincidence is that this is one of few halloweens in recent years that landed on a Saturday! Think about how much cooler it would’ve been if there was no pandemic to keep people locked inside 🙁

Here’s a chill Youtube video to set the mood

Interesting time standards

I’ve recently been interested in time standards like the local time e.g. Pacific Daylight Time and general times. And I saw a comment somewhere either on reddit or hacker news about how times would work in places not on Earth, like the moon. I came across Barycentric Coordinate Time which is a time standard that is intended to be used for outerspace objects like planets, moons, their orbits, and satellites launched from earth.

Of course, it’s pretty amazing that we’ve been using a calendar system created almost 500 years ago and it still seems to hold up.

Self-knowledge

I just finished reading “Self-Knowledge” from The School of Life.

It’s a simple book and I’ve used it as a meditative practice.

Sit down for 10-15 minutes, read and reflect on the topics.

It covers various parts of our emotional life that translate, sometimes incorrect, into actions we take in day to day life.

I don’t like star ratings for reviews so I’m just going to say, I would recommend reading it.

My recent interests

Being at home has given me a lot of extra time to try new things and do things I didn’t really have time to do before. Not all the things have been very positive or productive but hey, there’s a global pandemic going on, anything to keep me inside is a good thing.

Video games

Before lockdown started, I was gaming at a truly casual level: once in awhile, a day full of gaming but oftentimes, just an hour or so during the week. This has changed drastically in the past few months. It started back in March, I downloaded Warzone (part of the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare game), which introduced me to the latest Call of Duty game and slowly I discovered that my friends and my siblings were playing it. This made the game a lot more interesting because I could be playing with other people (who can resist this during lockdown).
What started out as a simple way of chatting with friends and playing a video game turned into a nightmarish addiction. So bad that in July, I had to force myself to be away from my computer desk so I wouldn’t get triggered by my PS4 controller sitting right there. (I used the same monitor for my computers and my PS4)
I’m happy to report that August has been a huge improvement, I’ve only played starting on Friday evenings through the weekend (mainly skipping on Saturdays and then picking up on Sunday). And I’ve been good about staying away from it on the weekdays.

At the same time, I also haven’t touched any other games, it’s only been Call of Duty. Both Warzone and multiplayer are so well done that once I start playing, I can’t stop. The drug-like addiction is well built into these games.

Reading

During the past few years, I’ve been slowly increasing my total reading time on a daily average and total for the year. In 2017, I was mainly doing audiobooks but now in 2020, it’s a mix of both. When the COVID-19 lockdown started, I was in the middle of a few books and I was trudging through them, not making much progress but some time in June, this shifted. I started to listen to the audiobooks pretty consistently while cleaning and doing other chores around the house. And for sitting down and reading, I just find a couple of minutes here and there throughout the day, which ultimately adds up to a good chunk of time.
My main interest has been fiction books, mainly to find worlds away from our current one. The pandemic did push me to listen to the Station Eleven audiobook, not the best dystopian book but definitely a cool concept. I also started to move towards familiar authors like Terry Pratchett, Charles Bukowski, John Steinbeck, Brian Jacques, and JRR Tolkien.
I’m thinking of picking up the Harry Potter series as a comfort read next since I’ve seen the movies, listened to the audiobooks (if you haven’t checked ‘em out, I highly recommend them).

Streaming content

I didn’t want to separate YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, etc so this category sort of covers all that. YouTube has been a blessing and a curse in one. On the one hand, I can listen to relaxing background music and on the other, I can go down rabbit holes of various topics (my favorites being geography, history, and memes).

Netflix is sort of my umbrella term for any streaming services that offer TV series and movies. I’ve been watching the Studio Ghibli movies on HBO Max on the weekends and also just started watching Lovecraft Country. It’s hard to keep the traditional model of TV shows in my head nowadays but I also find it that I’m a big fan of the model, watching a series over an extended period such as a month or a couple of months helps me think more about the show, remember the characters better, and even come up with some conclusions that aren’t immediately apparent.

Naps

It’s been hot the past few days. Around 100ºF in Oakland and it feels new to me. Being in the middle of summer, always being home, and having a lot of chill music playing in the background has made me want to just nap at least once a day now.

Summer during the lockdown

I can’t believe it’s July already. There are so many people infected with coronavirus, it’s hard for me to understand just how many people’s lives are impacted, gone, or drastically changed because of this.

I don’t know how summers of the past have been in Oakland but this one is quiet and boring. But I am grateful to be able to type this with my health and safety in place.

Over the past few weeks, my addiction to Call of Duty has gotten worse. I was playing at a decent pace during weeks of the past, but now, I’m playing a couple of hours everyday. Starting today until this coming Friday, I’m going to pause playing the game to bring awareness back into my daily life.
The mornings start out fine and then late in the afternoon, around 4-5pm, I start to get the craving. After playing for 3-4 hours, I feel like I haven’t had enough. This is a big problem now because I neglect doing other things I take true pleasure in. COD’s developers have it figured out, the feature releases and the slot machine effects of the game keep wanting me to come back pretty much every day.

It’s a Mogwai kinda day

Every year when I clear out my Spotify library to start fresh, there’s tons of music that goes missing from my recent memory. I can only remember songs that either come to mind throughout a day or just artists that I was listening to days/weeks before cleaning up. So naturally, a lot of music gets forgotten about pretty quickly. This is good and bad. Good because I then end up finding new music that I enjoy. Bad because oftentimes, the new music is just reminiscent of the music I was familiar with or that it makes me forget about a great song or artist altogether.

This morning was interesting, the day was foggy and gray, unusual for Oakland’s sunny summer days and MONO started playing on shuffle, turns out I have “Ely’s Heartbeat” saved to my library. MONO is one of the dozen or so post-rock artists I’ve listened to and kept in my library. But there was something else to this song, right when it started playing, I remembered that there was another band I was a huge fan of that I hadn’t heard in a long time, Mogwai. My post-rock listening experience is sprinkled with a few of the big names and then some others. I don’t know where exactly Mogwai falls in the popular music spectrum but to me, they’re pretty high up on that list.

Their song “Tracy” is one of my favorite post-rock songs for it’s simplicity and nostalgia. The name also reminds me of my high school hometown which has a lot of strong feelings attached to it.

Mogwai on Spotify →

Black Lives Matter.

For too long the systematic oppression that’s codified in the American laws has caused too many innocent lives to be lost and too many black men to be wrongfully imprisoned. The current movement in America is not a sudden or unexpected event, this has been building up for decades and has finally started to boil over.

Below are some resources for more information:

Black Lives Matter website

Mapping Police Violence

George Floyd Protests around the world

Donate to the Black Lives Matter movement

Multiple resources aggregated