Teeth Grinding Extravaganza

I’m a teeth grinder. At night, I have to wear a mouth guard, because I do my darnedest in my sleep to grind my teeth into oblivion. I grind so much, I literally ground through my first night guard. Had to upgrade to a harder one. The theory was that I would only need to wear that one for a half year or so to “train my mouth” so that it stopped wanting to grind at night.

My mouth turned out to be about as trainable as a rabid badger. A hungry, rabid badger with really sharp teeth. (Because that’s what happens to your mouth for the first while when you grind your teeth. Or at least, that’s what happened to my teeth. My canines got sharper. This makes biting my lips sometimes particularly painful . . .) Longterm, of course, grinding your teeth eventually wears them down, and that’s no good at all.

But anyway. Teeth. Grinding. Me. You get the picture.

Over the course of the pandemic, it appears I’ve begun to take teeth grinding to eleven. Somehow, I’m grinding my teeth during the day now and not even realizing it. I know I’m doing it, because I know how my teeth feel after I’ve been grinding. Usually I’d have that feeling after a night when I forgot to put in my mouth guard. (Hardly ever happens now.) Now I’ll discover myself with that feeling after a few hours of working on the computer, being really focused.

I’m not entirely sure what to do about it. Maybe take more deep breaths? I’d go on a vacation, but . . . that’s not really happening at the moment. For now, I’m trying to be mindful of it and remind myself to take frequent breaks and calm down. It’s not that I feel really wound up the whole time. I mean, I’m stressed, but I’m handling it, right? Except I must not be, because my mouth tells a different story.

I have to continually remember that this pandemic is really affecting people in ways that you just can’t see by glancing at a person. That so many people are carrying around extra mental baggage because of it. The more we can treat each other civilly and choose not to get bent out of shape over things that don’t matter, the better. (Or even not getting bent out of shape over things that *do* matter, honestly.)

Maybe that’ll help me not break any teeth in the near future . . .

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Social Niceties: 2020 Edition

I’m back in the office today. Ironically, it feels like I’m even more socially distant than before. I have my door closed, because I don’t want to wear a mask for no real reason, and the building itself is closed too. This means I’ve seen a grand total of 4 people since I walked into the building, and that was in the first 15 minutes. Since then? I’ve been in my office. It’s very, very quiet. When I was at home, I could take a break and go talk to Denisa or my kids at any time.

Positive: I’m able to focus much more easily.

Negative: It’s kind of lonely, which is not the feeling I was expecting after 5 months. Things should change a bit when the building opens, but . . . maybe not as much as I think, since I’ll still have to have the door closed. (We can have 50 people “per space.” If my door is open, I need to have a mask on, and I count toward that 50 person cap on the first floor. If my door is closed, more people can be on the first floor, and I don’t need to have a mask on. If it were just a matter of masking, I’d probably have it open a good deal of the time. But I don’t want to make it so one less person can be in here, just because I want my door open . . .)

I think navigating the coming semester is going to be very tricky, from a social niceties standpoint. I’ve now been in several different environments with strangers and friends where masks are involved (or where they theoretically should be considered, at least). And figuring out how to reach some sort of a consensus about how they should be handled is like rocket science. A few examples:

  • The person you’re meeting doesn’t have a mask on. You do. If you’re outside, that doesn’t seem like too big of a discrepancy. If you’re inside, it seems like a much greater one. (Or at least it will to some.) Some of the people will be insulted if you ask them to put on a mask. Some of them have forgotten they didn’t have one on. How do you ask someone politely to put on a mask? (It goes both ways. I got to work this morning and was halfway to my office before I realized I’d left my mask in my car. I had to go back and get it. It’s such an easy thing to forget.)
  • Friends come over to visit with you outside. You’d be more comfortable if they wore a mask, but they haven’t brought one and don’t seem to think of it at all. Do you bring it up? Do you put one on and hope they get the hint? Do you not worry about it at all? They’re your friends! Making them put on a mask (or putting one on yourself) still feels like you’re implying they’re unclean somehow. At least it does to me. When you’re around your friends, why are you wearing a mask? If there’s low community spread (like there is in Maine at the moment), that makes it even thornier. In all likelihood, neither of you is infected. The mask is just getting in the way. But if you keep wearing a mask, then hopefully that community spread stays low. Better to have a #firstworldproblem and dither about social niceties around a mask than to have to know 100% that you need one, right?
  • In class, all the students are wearing a mask. One shows up without one and makes a stink about it. Freedom! America! I’ve already seen a lot of debate around how to handle that. Hopefully it’s worked through quickly, but it all adds to the stress.
  • I met up with a friend from high school I haven’t seen in probably . . . ten years(?) yesterday. It felt very wrong to me to just have us both show up and casually wave to each other. No hugs. No familiarity. I missed that. But it also didn’t feel right to not have a mask on. (She’s also an epidemiologist, so that helped the situation.)

I see people continue to share articles about how this pandemic is overhyped. How Sweden is already back to normal, and they never had mandatory masks or quarantines. (Never mind the fact that might be an argument in favor of having a robust national healthcare system and a populace that takes health and well-being seriously. I could go on. But I’m not going to.) People want to believe this isn’t an issue. They want to believe we’re all going to be able to go back to normal, and that this is no big deal.

I would love to be wrong. I would love to have it proved to be no big deal. We’ll know one way or another (again) after all these schools have opened up. We’ll have plenty of examples to point to. Schools that social distanced and schools that didn’t. Of course, I remember saying this same exact thing back when a lot of the places across the country were doing away with their quarantines. The results from that? More death. Granted, not as extreme as it might have been (I think the prevalence of masks from many is helping with that, as is the fact that many are social distancing regardless of what the government does or doesn’t say.) But so what if I was right before, and I’m fairly certain I’ll be right again now? That doesn’t really change anything around what’s going to happen in America in the next few months.

Sigh. Sorry. I’m getting sidetracked. All I really wanted to say was that figuring out how to navigate the mask issue on a personal level is going to be tricky, and I’m not looking forward to figuring it out. On the other hand, I do believe that at this point, if/when I’m ever “just a bit sick” (and we’re not in a pandemic), I’ll almost definitely wear a mask to protect the people around me from catching it. That seems like the right thing to do, even if some of the people apparently don’t want to return the favor.

Baby steps . . .

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Heading Back to Work: In Person

Tomorrow’s the day. Almost 5 months to the day after last setting foot in my library, I’ll be going back to work. In many ways, this is (obviously) exciting. School is coming back! Students are coming to campus! I get to see people on a regular basis again! But (obviously) this is also stressful for a variety of reasons as well. School might close again at any moment! COVID! I have to see people on a regular basis again!

Honestly, the biggest hang up I’m having right now is that over the past while, I’ve regained my sense of composure. I’ve learned to live under the current set of circumstances. I know how working from home works, and I’ve got it all down pat by now. More importantly, I’ve reached a balance with worrying about the future and figuring out what I’m doing on a daily or weekly basis.

But to be honest, that balance is pretty darn precarious. It doesn’t take much at all for me to start stressing out again. The “balance” I’ve found currently is much different than the balance I had pre-COVID. Back then, I had all four feet of my chair on the floor, so to speak. Something could hit me from a different direction, and I wasn’t thrown too much for a loop.

Right now, I feel like I’ve got two feet of my chair on the floor, and I’m tilted back. Balanced, yes, but push me the wrong way, and I begin to flail my arms around wildly as I try to keep from falling backward. That’s the sort of new balance in my life. Clearly, this isn’t a wonderful situation to be in, though I imagine it’s one shared by many of you as well.

As I’m getting ready to actually go back to work, and I’m facing the realities of the semester in front of me, I’m beginning to rethink a number of things. Is this really the time to be doing a kitchen renovation, for example. As Denisa and I were working through the budget again, looking at all the aspects of the project that we need to address, I was getting really worried. “What would help?” Denisa asked.

“$20,000,” was my quick answer. I meant it as a joke (since I was fairly certain Denisa didn’t have 20k squirreled away somewhere), but once I’d said it, something clicked in my head. With an additional 20k, I’d know we had enough to cover contingencies as they arose during the renovation. Right now, I think we have enough, as long as everything goes according to plan, and no other crises crop up between now and December.

Because of course that’s something we can count on, judging by the last five months . . .

However, if we were to wait to do this kitchen renovation until the spring, that 20k would be a lot closer to a reality. We’d have that much more time to save. Denisa would have more classes she’d have taught. I’d have some checks from my writing that would come in. Honestly, I think we’d probably have that 20k by April. So would it make more sense to wait another half year to do the renovation?

It doesn’t take a genius to know what I would advise a friend who came to me in the same situation. The problem is when I’m personally invested. When it’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, and something that I’ve been looking forward to. I hate to have COVID claim another thing this year, but . . .

I’m really stretched thin. And we have all these other projects happening on the house. (And have I mentioned we found out the back roof might need to be redone before winter?)

I’ve blogged before about how when I get really stressed out, I have to periodically look through my life for ways to reduce stress. And this year, it’s beginning to look like that’ll have to be the kitchen renovation. It’s possible I’ll feel differently once I’m actually back at work and feel like I have more control over my life, but I don’t know when that feeling will actually kick in. The amount of relief I felt when I thought about just waiting until we had more money to do the renovation seems like a pretty big sign right there . . .

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Television Series Review: Perry Mason

Denisa and I finished the new season of the Perry Mason prequel last night on HBO. I’d been excited for the show. Matthew Rhys (of The Americans fame) is a solid actor, and I wanted to see what they did with the character. I watched a whole ton of the Perry Mason made-for-TV movies that came out in the 80s, though I’ve never seen the original TV show. What would an HBO version of the character be like?

Pretty excellent, it turns out. As a prequel set in the 30s, they went full noir with the material, and that’s a genre I’m already very inclined to like. The season focuses on several main character arcs and one central trial. It shows how Perry went from being an embittered private detective to a slightly-less-but-maybe-more embittered defense attorney. It fleshes out the back story of his supporting cast (Della Street, etc.), diving into some of the racial tensions that would have been present at the time, but not doing it in an overly preachy way. (I prefer it when a show or a film trusts me enough to be able to reach conclusions on my own without being hammered over the head with them, something many historical pieces just can’t seem to hold themselves back from.)

Beyond the main characters, there are some great side arcs as well. There’s Perry’s lawyer mentor, played by John Lithgow in another good round of acting. There is a revivalist-style church that’s swept through Los Angeles, with a vibrant woman at its center. And then there’s the main case: a kidnapping gone wrong, with a dead baby at the middle of it all.

It’s a pretty bleak series,which is very fitting for the noir tone to it all, something that is heightened by the trumpet soundtrack. I mean, all it’s really missing is Bogart giving a voice over, and you’d be set. Perhaps this would be too much for some. I loved it.

Being an HBO show, it (naturally) has to prove how gritty it is with the inclusion of adult material. For the most part, however, it refrains from anything gratuitous, and it keeps the entire thing character-driven. That’s what I enjoyed the most about the series. I found the characters to be complex and riveting, able to surprise me in good ways and not gimmicky twists. While the central case may not leave you guessing all the way up to the final episode, the narrative arc will keep you hooked to the end for sure.

Of course, if what people really wanted was a Perry Mason encore, they might leave disappointed. This feels much more noir than Mason, and while that might be perfect for me, I did wonder if some might object. (It was a nice touch that they threw in the old theme music at the end of the finale, though I didn’t particularly care for the jazzed up version of it.)

All in all, it made for a thoroughly entertaining ten episodes. If you’re in the mood for some noir and you’ve got an HBO account, this is a great season, and I’m looking forward to more in the future. 8/10

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Video Game Review: Slay the Spire

I love me some video games, even though I don’t get nearly the amount of time to play them these days as I used to. (Though I wonder how much time I ever really had. Maybe it just felt like I had a lot of time because I played an hour or so a day, and an hour or so felt like a longer amount of time when I was 16 than when I’m over 40 . . .)

That said, I’ve had some time at home for some strange reason the last few months, and I’ve taken that time to explore new things. One game that was suggested to me was Slay the Spire (now available on iOS). I tried it out, and I’ve really become hooked. It’s a great single player card game, so if you like drafting a deck on the fly, then this is the perfect game to scratch that itch when you have to be socially distant.

What does it mean to “draft a deck on the fly”? The concept behind Slay the Spire is that you’re working your way through various levels of a tower. You use a deck of cards to beat enemies. The cards either give you defense for the turn, or they attack for the turn, and you can only play a certain number each turn. Once you beat an enemy, you get to add a card to your deck, choosing between three random options. So bit by bit over time, you do your best to create a deck that will be successful in a variety of fights.

Better yet, the game’s difficulty scales. Once you beat the game, you’re able to increase the challenge, and when you’ve beat that harder level, you can do it again, up to 20 times. And on top of that, there are four different character classes you can use, each with their corresponding strengths, weaknesses, and card sets. I’ve put in many hours on this game, and I’m still not past the fourth difficulty level on all four characters.

Even if you manage to beat all of that, the game has daily challenges: custom made games you get to try to get a high score on. (And then you get to see where your score ranked compared to all the other players who tried that day. I’m proud to say I’ve gotten one day when I ended up #1 at the end of the day. It’s tough.)

If any of this sounds remotely up your alley, you should give it a shot. (It costs $10 on iPhone/iPad, $20 or so on PC.) It definitely plays better on an iPad screen than an iPhone screen, so take that into consideration. Honestly, as far as deck building games go, I think this is one of the best ones out there. An easy 10/10 in my book (because I love deck building games.) Tons of value for a pretty cheap investment. If you end up playing on iOS, add me as a friend. I’d love to compare scores!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

%d bloggers like this: