Well here we are, another new year. Each year it seems like I say to myself “wow, another year, how did that happen” or “damn, this year went by so fast.” I was on a walk with Stephanie yesterday and we talked about 2022, but tried to keep it focused on the good things that happened. There was a lot of good, sprinkled in with some struggles. That is called life. And now I’m saying to myself “Electric word, ‘life’, it means forever and that’s a mighty long time….”
Anyway, I’m listing some (not all) of my 2022 highlights below, in no particular order. Yesterday’s walk will come into play here.
Grateful for Reading: At the beginning of 2022, I made a vow (dare I say resolution) to read more books than I did in 2021, and I did that. The bar was low, as I only read 3 books in 2021 and I suspect that may be a low point in my reading life. This year I read 11 books. I will list 10 of them here:
“Going There” by Katie Couric – excellent, honest memoir, she isn’t afraid to expose her weaknesses (or strengths)
“The Moth in the Iron Lung – A Biography of Polio” – very interesting look at Polio, though the end was unnecessarily preachy about vax avoidance
“Fighting My Way to the Top” by Shawn Thornton – I met him on several occasions for work stuff, super nice guy. Good story.
“Lights Out” by Ted Koppel – really made me think and assess a few things. See here.
“When Crisis Hits Suburbia” by Ted Riely – read this after reading Koppel book. A little over the top about “prepping” but also some sound advice
“The Nineties” by Chuck Klosterman – foremost pop culture writer on watershed moments in the decade. A gas to read.
“Devil in a Coma” by Mark Lanegan – a shorter Lanegan book about his time with Covid. I’m still so sad about his death
Hello Molly – A Memoir” by Molly Shannon – summer vaca book and terrific, harrowing journey. I love her.
“Brain on Fire – My Month of Madness” by Susannah Cahalen – frightening, compelling book about your body/brain abandoning you
“When to Rob a Bank” by Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner – collection of blog posts from the “Freakonomics” guys. So great
Grateful for Listening: Of course music still plays a gigantic, meaningful role in my life. Here’s a few things I enjoyed this year:
Wet Leg (self-titled) – released early in the year, maybe the most pure fun I’ve had listening to an album in years.
Built to Spill, “When the Wind Forgets Your Name” – so rock solid and dependable, every time. What a band.
Spoon, “Lucifer on the Sofa” – I had not loved their last couple of releases, this one brought me back to them. Rhythmic and excellent.
Deer Tick live at The Sinclair, December 12 – i can’t get enough of this band’s music, especially live. There’s a comfort and happiness with them.
Black Keys “Dropout Boogie” – another remarkably consistent band, gritty, fun, bluesy.
Julia Jacklin “Pre-pleasure” – how she still flys under the radar is stunning to me. One of my favroite emerging talents in years
Pavement live, at the Boch Center, September 28 – I hadn’t seem them in maybe 20+ years, so it was emotional, they’re a top 5 band for me
Grateful for Working I am in my sixth year at Avid as VP of Web & Ecommerce and I continue to be thoroughly stimulated and challenged by work. What more could I ask for? My scattered brain loves bouncing between different things and my current job is perfect for that. I love all the challenges it brings, from forecasting/budgeting to managing a team of 15 excellent people to helping drive and optimize a digital experience for a global buisness. It’s rewarding, befuddling, funny and challenging.
Grateful for a Lot This part is probably the most important. As 2022 progressed, a very interesting thing happened to me. I’ve become more grateful in general for all kinds of things. I’ve really leaned into this. I’ve learned to let frustrations go far quicker than I historically have. If something crazy happens at work, for example, I don’t let negatively linger about it – I remind myself that I am grateful to have a job and if there’s other people involved in some kind of frustration, I just pivot and wish them well in my mind. They may be having a bad day or struggling with something I don’t know about or can’t comprehend. If someone cuts me off driving, same thing. I am here to tell you this works.
Not that I wasn’t grateful before, but I’m discovering that when you really focus on changing your mindset to be more grateful and having a positive vision, it reverberates around your whole life. I realize this is all very “woo-woo” to say, but it’s absolutely true. Be grateful for your family, friends, health and well-being. It truly pays off. Some of this realization has occurred through some work I’m doing on myself in a somewhat formal way but even before that I could feel myself leaning this way. Adjust the mindset. And it’s really worked.
Let’s talk about positive vision for a second. My neighbor sends out an email at the end of every year with a list of his favorite music and I received the 2022 email yesterday (Dec 31). I noticed that Midlake was on his 2022 list. Midlake is a band that is not very well-known that I also happen to love. Back in 2012 one of leaders of the band quit – the band soldiered on – but I’ve been keeping tabs on that musician who left, hoping and waiting ever since that he would make some music on his own. But he hasn’t. And I wrote back to my neighbor and we were both thrilled that we knew someone else who loved Midlake and how we both really wanted this guy (Tim Smith) who we haven’t heard from in 10 years to release some music. And just last night after this exchange, I said to myself that I’m grateful for Midlake still being around and I hope that TIm Smith was ok. This morning at 8:53am, on January 1st, about 14 hours after having that thought, this email showed up in my inbox.
Is this a coincidence that it’s been 10 years since Tim Smith has released any music at all and that yesterday I had this very specific thought and then this email arrived hours after? The practical skeptic in me says yes, absolutely a coincidence. Perhaps the evolving me doesn’t.
Now, I can’t tell you one way or another if anyone has noticed in observing me that I’ve become more grateful, positive, appreciative or perhaps spiritual (and I don’t mean GOD spiritual, I have my issues with formal religion. But I’m not focused on this self-work to enhance how people feel about me. Any perceived improvement in how people view me is (or will be) gravy. I’m doing it for me, because I think I need it. But I can tell you that in 2023 you’ll see some other stuff coming from me that maybe you (or I) didn’t expect. I’m looking forward to it, and grateful that I have the health, mindset, ability and wherewithal to pursue it.
A few of you have messaged me over the last month wondering why you don’t see comments right away when you submit them in response to one my posts. In a world of instant gratification, I understand why it can frustrating or odd, or make you think that the comments engine doesn’t work. There is an explanation for this – for every real comment posted, there are literally 100 posts of spam. Some of them are just stacks and stacks of porn links or other strange websites, but others try to “fool” the spam filter.
So I’ve basically set up any and all comments to line up for review before I let the real ones through. That’s right, I comb through all the chaff to find the wheat. Just for you! So don’t fret if you post a comment and don’t see it – I try to check a few times a week and if yours is a legit comment, I will green light it.
But since I’m here, I thought it might be fun to give you a sample of some of the comments that don’t make the cut. Lots of them make zero sense. I obviously won’t cite the “commenter” since they are probably not human anyway. Here we go:
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On this day 14 years ago, I put out the message below on Facebook about Lasik. Even back in 2008, Lasik was on my mind and I know it was on my mind before that, too, because I can remember talking to an Ask Jeeves co-worker (shout out, Chris Damsen!) about his experience with Lasik. In fact, I was talking to a lot of people about it.
My eyes are a pain in the ass. I first got glasses in 1988 when I was 17 years old and a junior in high school. I really wish I had a picture somewhere of me wearing them because they were, um, of the time. I haven’t been able to find one. What I am really trying to say is that the frames made me look like a mass murderer and I bet you know exactly the frames I am talking about, don’t you? Of course you do. Witness:
I remember putting the glasses on and being dumbfounded about how clear everything was, so obviously I needed glasses long before 1988. I am pretty sure the reason that there may be no pictures is because I tried to avoid wearing them whenever possible. But more and more I had to rely on them to see in class, to drive and to watch TV. Sigh. It also was a bit of a conundrum playing hockey, because my eyes had built up a need for them, so when I took them off to play, my vision was shit. You kinda need vision for hockey.
Anyway, back then it was just plain old near-sightedness. Over the years time has really done a number on them, as is the case with many people in their fifties. I have to take off my glasses for certain things, put them on for other things, sometimes I just lift my head and point my eyeballs down to see something on my phone or whatnot. Now I wear progressive lenses, which is my next step towards inevitable death (I joke).
I basically feel like that 50 year old man always having hold something out far or within an inch of my eyeball to see it clearly. Oh wait – I AM THAT 50 YEAR OLD MAN.
OK, I’m rambling. Back to Lasik. All I ever heard was how amazing it was, how everyone said “I can’t believe I didn’t do this 10 years ago!” And I was jealous. Boy, was I jealous. I priced it out, I checked insurance, I even called around to a couple of places and talked to my doctor about it. Now you might even be asking yourself why the hell didn’t I just do it then?
Well, here’s your answer: I’m a wimp.
That’s right. A wimp. I could never get over the mental hump of surgery on my EYES. I don’t think it was the prospect of pain, it was more about the notion of something going really south and then I’d blind forever in one eye and have to wear a patch. Or blind in both eyes! Or it wouldn’t work. Or I’d have to go back and constantly get adjusted. Well, now after 25 years of wanting Lasik, but being a wimp, I have my vindication and I now no longer want it.
So yes, it’s DRAFT guidance. But now I do take great pride in knowing that my wimpiness and fears were not unfounded! The Times fairly points out that the F.D.A. document is not final and they are now reviewing the input from testing while preparing the final documents. But where there’s smoke, there’s fire, I say! And now I welcome all the comments coming from all of you Lasik lovers who’ve had no problems whatsoever. Good for you! I’m not joining your eyeball surgery club!
There have been a few moments this week where the topic of weight and how we judge people has come up. Something in the universe cooked up a bunch of random moments all tied to this subject that led to me to my post today.
First was this moment on Tuesday during the Bruins / Lightning NHL game when Bruins broadcaster Jack Edwards had some kind of mental breakdown and decided that instead of talking about what was happening in the hockey game, he would just go momentarily rogue and body-shame one of the Lightning players.
The best part of this is that after the game, Maroon outclassed Edwards by donating to a charity in Edwards’s name and encouraging fans to do the same. The charity is a local nonprofit organization focused on strengthening behavioral health outcomes for depression, anxiety and substance use disorders and Maroon (+fans) at last count had donated $50,000 in Jack Edwards name. Classy and admirable response.
There was also some talk in our house this week about Body Mass Index (“BMI”), a simple but dumb medical metric where you take your weight and divide it by the square of your height. The result is a tiered set of numbers that places you into buckets as seen below, complete with body shaming images. You can already see where this falls apart. A professional athlete, for example, who is very muscular would obviously weigh higher on the scale, but is clearly not obese. See “Pat Maroon” point above.
Even on my recent physical, the BMI metric appeared on my visit summary.
Today, the New York Times ran this piece, which does a nice job of walking us through the history of BMI, interviewing a variety of medical experts on it and also includes what might be a better way to measure your level of health and wellness when it comes to weight – it’s simpler than you probably think.
Then I remembered that during COVID in 2021, the initial vaccines were starting to be offered and there was a phased rollout, people by age, people with pre-existing health conditions, etc. There was a lot of scrambling around to schedule our shots online and maybe even “cut the line” if we could, because we all just sought normalcy as soon as we could get it. We found out that one of the ways to cut the line was to have a BMI that was 25 or over, or “obese.”
I started wearing a Fitbit in May of 2020 and my BMI has consistently been around 25-26. I’ve consistently been at that number in the two+ years I’ve been tracking my health. My weight typically ranges from 175-180 all year long. And that allowed me to cut the line and get a vaccine a bit earlier than my age group.
So by definiton of BMI, I am overweight. And that is ridiculous. I consider myself fit. I am not overly muscular, though I have *some* definition. I still play ice hockey three times a week and walk 1-2 times a week. I feel as if I am quite ordinary and normal in terms of build and I think most who know me would agree I’m not overweight. I certainly don’t let this arbitrary BMI metric bother me and I hope you don’t either!
Weight and body image are tough enough subjects as it is. We don’t need this kind of judgment, nor does the world need to hear a man broadcasting to hundreds of thousands of people snide comments about someone’s body.
I admit that I sometimes take for granted the freedoms and opportunities we are granted by living in a democratic country where free speech is largely allowed and not suppressed. There are plenty of people stateside who might disagree with that statement and at a micro level, they have a point, I suppose. Look no further than social media companies outright banning certain people or de-emphasizing certain posts that contain controversial content. Or our own government’s relationship and influence on the press. Some of this is very concerning.
Sometimes it gets muddy out there, I know that. But zoom out a little bit and you get the point – even with the warts, we are afforded various freedoms of expressions and choice that many other countries do not have and definitely long for. For all its blemishes, and there are many lately, the United States remains on a pedestal for the many suppressed who live outside of it. And maybe that number of people who aspire to live like Americans has dropped a bit. I wouldn’t know.
So it was with a bit of fascination (and now added perspective) that I read this morning’s New York Times article about content suppression and censorship in China. It is worth a read. The Chinese censhorship engine is so well-oiled and so strong that dissenters truly have to put a lot of effort into gaming the system and having their content be made visible anywhere. It’s getting to the point where protesters are just playing the volume game with dissenting content just to try and overwhelm the servers, as it may be.
Yet over the past few days, as Chinese people frustrated by severe Covid lockdowns have taken to the streets, videos of the marches and rallies have continued to surface on Chinese sites such as WeChat, a chat app, and the short video sharing app, Douyin. Experts say the sheer volume of video clips has most likely overwhelmed the automated software and armies of censors China has tasked with policing the internet.
New York Times, 11/29/2022
Along with playing the volume game, the article talks about how people are flipping videos on their side or recording videos of videos to confuse the AI and Machine Learning Chinese police bots. People in China are also hacking their way onto Twitter and Instagram (banned in China), as those are “beyond the reach of China’s officials.” You have to really work hard in China if you want to voice your opposition. You also have to work hard to even be outdoors – COVID restrictions in China are brutal and militant (sometimes literally) in ensuring that people aren’t out and about spreading what is, for many, a bad cold.
I was also slightly amused to hear that many Chinese citizens were astounded while watching the World Cup, because all of the spectators were maskless. This is how much the media is controlled by the Government there. Chinese citizens aren’t exposed to any part of the world that is moving on from COVID. It’s hard to believe, but there it is, clear that Chinese coverage of the World Cup is purposefully keeping cameras only on the field now and even obscuring or blurring crowd shots so as not to show unmasked people.
Chinese officials “are telling people that outside of China people are dying massively, they can’t handle the virus” and “that what we are doing is the only correct way,” Xiao said. So when people see a different reality on display at the World Cup and compare it with their own situation, perhaps under lockdown, it can sow discontent, he said.
Washington Post, 11/29/2022
So yeah, there’s a lot wrong with America these days. But perspective can be interesting, sometimes, right?
I don’t think this is an idea that is revolutionary by any stretch, but why do we publish the names and images of violent criminals all over the newspaper and television? I don’t profess to knowing or understanding why people commit crimes, but I think in some cases it has to do with a desperate need for attention, recognition and fame. I know that some people have a real interest in the macabre – look no further than the proliferation of true crime podcasts out there – but it just seems to me like it’s just all about sensationalism.
That is totally on brand, though, for the media. In an increasingly crowded world of TV, news, podcasts and social media, the key decision makers in the media are stuck between a rock and a hard place – either play the game or the other [media entity] gets the eyeballs and ratings. As with many things, it comes down to selling advertising and making money. I get it, I’m not dumb.
But there must be a happy medium somewhere. Why do we give criminals the attention they crave? And wouldn’t we at least chip away at crime rates just a little bit if we stopped the mass-exposure of violent criminals in the media? Or do you think it would just continue at the same rate, reagrdless of mass media exposure? I don’t know. If I had any semblance of lawmaking power, I’d at least try to push through some kind of regulation about what gets reported about the people who are performing violent acts of crime.
Seperate but related, the topic of Johnny Depp came up in the car today on a family ride. Depp’s been in the news again lately as there’s some talk of him reprising his role as Captain Jack Sparrow. What studio head would allow this? The Depp/Heard trial was infuriating to me, yet another example of sensationalism and money-grubbing by the media. Airing out the personal lives of these two – audio recordings, he said/she said, accusations, crying, all for the public to watch – was a bit much. What I got out of that trial is that Depp is an out-of-control loser with a horrific, scary temper and worse, he’s a physical abuser. And while the treatment on social media that Amber Heard received was as revolting as it gets, she doesn’t get a free pass either. By all accounts, she was also physically abusive.
Send both of them to moon, please. Just don’t broadcast it, give them roles, or show their faces in magazines or on TV anymore. Give them the thing that they would hate the most – a complete, utter lack of attention. That would probably be more painful for them than monetary fines or jail time.