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Pandemic Habits

Introduction

The year is 2050. What was life like during our first pandemic?

And how can we cope with the next one?

How do we get fitter, eat well, relax deeply, and love life without the mundane monotony of everyday habits? Make new habits. Better habits. Replace normal habits with pandemic habits.

Don’t waste a day. Don’t wait until next week. You might waste a life.

Start now. Day one. New habits.

Ready. Set. Go!

Work

Work is easier and harder. Easier because engineers can focus better with less distractions. Easier because everyone is remote. Everyone has the same strange world, new expectations, and unpredictability. Easier because working from home is an introvert’s paradise.

Remote work is a balancing act even for engineers. It’s nice to talk to a real, live human once in a while. I can live without it for much longer than a salesman. But one of my favorite parts of the pandemic was having a five-minute conversation with my boss on the front of his lawn five yards apart. I miss the little things.

two stick figures talking

Harder because most people have kids or parents or both that need attention. Some don’t. Some aren’t working. We have an extra half-time job.

Childcare

Childcare is a full-time job. Split between two full-time workers in our house. Not an equal split. Maybe a 70/30 split. For me that’s a half-hour of videotaping the baby for the grandparents while I stretch and get ready to start the day. A half-hour walk before lunch. Another half-hour walk at the end of the day. Plus, rolling around on the floor or checking email with one eye at the end of the day for an hour.

This is the hardest part. The extra time is great. We’re lucky. But a break would be nice. If we had daycare I would be more productive than ever.

Write

It’s speech contest season. For me that means a half-hour writing every morning before work. Normally, this would be an hour without a baby at home and more sleep.

But it’s speech contest season, so I find time. A half-hour every morning. A half-hour after work some days. A couple of two-hour writing sessions on weekends. If you want to read more about this (bless you), read this or these.

Oh, and I wrote a book mostly before the pandemic. But once we started working remotely I added my top ten tips for virtual presentations. I’m no expert on virtual presentations. But I just won the Philadelphia/Tri-State Toastmasters International Speaking Competition. Which was held virtually for the first time ever. Which I guess makes me the Philadelphia Virtual Public Speaking Champion. So now I can call myself an expert.

Creative Projects

My creative priorities look like this:

  1. Rise Above competition speech
  2. Finish the book Create a Better Presentation Quickly
  3. Code a fasting protocol for Loop diabetes/pump software
  4. Diabetes presentation for development conference
  5. Communication (write, listen, speak) education for Penn conference/Radnor TV
  6. Design – learn a little about typography, CRAP principles, apply to website
    1. Contract
    2. Repetition
    3. Alignment
    4. Proximity

#1 and #2 are done. I’ll start version two for the book later in the summer.

#3 took a backseat once home daycare started due to vision getting worse and no time. #4 is tbd now that I won the competition with #1. #5 got postponed and keeps getting postponed on my priority list.

#6 is a work-in-progress. You might see a bunch of font changes on the site. Who cares? I do. It’s good design practice.

Home Projects

We have a tall house. My office is on the highest floor above our master bedroom. When it’s 80 degrees outside, it’s 100 degrees up there. I bought an air conditioner that vents out the skylight window. It’s ghetto-rigged with polyurethane panels and duct tape to just barely do the job and make my dad proud. I didn’t think our one-circuit electric system could handle it. So far it has.

I bought a stand-up desk on Black Friday. That was inadvertently prescient. My posture has improved from working at home. Even though I have a stand-up desk at work, I stand up more at home. On top of that I’ve tested and added multiple monitor arms, laptop stands, monitor organizer lifts, all to get everything just right sitting, and standing in the right ergonomic position. If you think that’s nuts, read on.

My speech competition was virtual. There’s nowhere in house that’s ideal for filming in a clutter-free, well-lit, good-sounding consistent for practice and gameday delivery. I tried clearing the one wall, moving the couch, adding a throw carpet over the rug stain. I even bought a movable bean bag couch I could toss aside (and nap on). None of that looked good.

I turned the office/loft into a mini filming studio. A 14-foot green screen, an even bigger mount, dozens of clips, two softbox lights, two wireless lavalier mics. My speech looked like a professional recording. Compared to the amateurs in their living room with knick-knacks, glaring photos, and bad lighting. And I’m returning the lavaliers. Macs and their one audio jack for headphones and mics do not recognize mics consistently. Bless you audio engineers. The 2019 16″ Macbook Pro mic sounds like a pro mic anyway. I’ll save money.

Eat

My wife says I don’t eat anymore. I eat plenty. I just eat after noon. Fasting is good for my blood sugar. My digestion is more predictable. And so my blood sugar is more predictable. And so I don’t get headaches, crankiness, brain fog, and even worse vision. If you think fasting is hard, remember I have more incentive to make it work.

Drinks

  • Coffee – La Colombe, Crema (rotating playlist), GGet (LA coffee with good decaf, great caf), Devocion (all Colombian, all-the-time), Atlas (one country per month)
  • Coffee style – mostly Chemex, learned immersion basic method with Clever coffee ripped, espresso, occasional French Press, cold brew
  • Iced mineral water with lemon – Topo Chico or San Pellegrino

Food

  • “Break fast” (more like meal #1) Eggs, bacon, arugula, goat cheese, pine nuts, olive oil balsamic
  • Snack #1 – Macademia nuts and walnuts, Siggi’s triple cream high-fat lemon yogurt, Primal almond spice bar
  • Post-Workout Shake – coconut milk, cinnamon, two brazil nuts, one avocado, 20-40g whey protein, 7g collagen powder, 7g mct powder, one cup berries or peaches, 1 cup spinach or cucumbers, basil or mint, sometimes cacao powder and peanut butter
  • Dinners
    • Ribeye steak, mushrooms, onions, garlic, sage, roasted brussels sprouts with olive oil, maybe parmesan cheese, balsamic
    • Fish (salmon, cod, artic char, swordfish), arugula salad with goat cheese, pine nuts, olive oil, balsamic or cruciferous veg
    • Bacon, andouille, shrimp, paprika, onions, garlic, sage, mushrooms, roasted brussel sprouts or riced cauliflower or broccoli
    • Zoe’s – Salmon kababs, tzatziki, chicken salad, roasted veg, vat of olive oil for veg and chicken salad
    • Chipotle – Supergreens salad bowl, barbacoa, tomato salsa, salsa verde, peppers and onions, sour cream, cheese, guac if fresh and full-coma sought

Treats

  • Dark chocolate square
  • Extra-strength menthol lozenges (my crack)
  • Englightened or Rebel ice creams
  • Peanut butter, low-carb/high-fat granola, dark chocolate chips
  • High-fat yogurt with almond butter

Move

I replaced exercise with move in my vocabulary. Exercise sounds intimidating. Move sounds like a low bar. And it is. The fittest people set a high low-bar. But don’t set yourself for failure by aiming for the high bar. Just move.

Here’s my typical weekly workout itinerary

  • Walk 40-60 minutes daily with a 20-lb weight vest (i.e. baby)
  • Heavy lift every ten days
    • 5 sets circuit-style with a 2-minute break after a circuit
    • Squats (5 reps increasing from 185-250 lbs)
    • Ring pull-ups (5-8 reps)
    • Deficit push-ups (8-10 reps)
    • GHD situps (8-10 reps)
  • Driveway Kickboxing 24 x 1-minute rounds with a 15-second break of:
    • Jump rope down the street – doubles, side-to-side, criss-cross
    • Shadowbox – with occasional grass ground n pound
    • Heavy bag – 275-lb stand-up heavy bag 🙂
  • Family lift 5 sets of 10 reps with baby “tosses” between sets
    • Unblanace kettlebell deadlifts with 50-lb and 70-lb or kettlebell squats
    • Doorway pull-ups or kettlebell rows
    • Push-ups or overhead one-arm kettlebell press
    • Med ball slams or weighted sit-ups
  • Bike 15-35 minutes 2-3x per week through Chester County
  • Saturday EWOD
    • 1000 burpee split 4 ways one week
    • Team/partner workout at East Goshen park another week
      • 200 Burpees
      • 200 Pushups
      • 200 Squats
      • 200 Situps
      • 200 Lunges
  • Sunday Teach Kickboxing – Zoom or East Goshen Park
  • Occasional – 5×20 sets of 50-lb KB squats

Relax

I read books. We watched movies. We caught up on classics we’d never seen. We rewatched old favorites. We listened to social media and it paid off. We strained ribs laughing at the new season of Curb. We feared for life without FDR in The Plot. We feared for others watching the KKK in the last episode. I rewatched President Bartlett to get ready for my speech…again. If you think rewatched and again is redundant, it’s not. I’m on my fourth run through The West Wing.

Movies

  • Do the Right Thing
  • Road to Perdition
  • Miller’s Crossing
  • The Talented Mr. Ripley
  • The Big Lebowski
  • Wonderboys
  • Casino Royale
  • The Way
  • Contagion
  • Dolemite
  • Fargo
  • Courage Under Fire
  • Silver Linings Playbook
  • Labyrinth

Shows

  • The Plot Against America
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm
  • Hunters
  • Homeland
  • Dead to Me
  • The West Wing

Books

  • Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa
  • The Dubliners by James Joyce
  • The Non-Designers Guide to Design by Robin Williams
  • Average is Over by Tyler Cowen
  • The Great Mental Models: Volume Two by Shane Parrish
  • Working by Robert A. Caro
  • Gates of Fire by Stephen Pressfield
  • Blinks – The Courage to be Disliked, Principles, Truth, The Paradox of Choice, Ego is the Enemy, Stillness is the Key, The Second Mountain, The Long Tail, Antifragile, The Black Swan, Fooled by Randomness, Great Thinkers, The Wisdom of Life, Reading Like a Writer, Sapiens, The Art of Communicating, Common Sense, Words That Work, How Language Works, To Have or To Be?, A Curious Mind

I did not read all those books. I started Musashi and Gates of Fire. I’m still reading. Blinks are ten-minute book summaries. You might say that’s cheating but I like testing the waters sometimes before committing. Particularly if a book has been on my reading list for five years. And I can reread books quickly. It was free the first month of the pandemic. I haven’t re-signed…yet.

Health

  • Weekly chiropractor visits
  • Weekly PT/ART visits

Since January my balance, vision, energy, deep sleep, heart rate variability have improved dramatically from seeing this chiropractor. My C1 was tilted. He’s putting humpty-dumpty back together again. Every time I see him the back of my head is smooth which it hasn’t been in three years since all these weird health issues cropped up. My vision deteriorated dramatically when I only saw him once in March due to closing the office. One day after he adjusted me, bam! Vision gets better. Occipital adjustments. Who knew? It only took my sixth chiropractor to figure it out.

Couple that with ART from the guys at Move and I’ll be back to normal health soon. Yay!!! The three year journey back is almost over.

Mental Health

  • Full nights blocked with UFC
  • Planning our first pandemic beach week
  • Dreaming of our ten-year anniversary vacation

Anchor events are my goto technique when I want the mood boost from looking forward to something for a long time. I pay attention when the UFC announces a card, because I’m me. We talk about our beach trip plans at dinner. We think about every Scott’s Cheap Flights email we see and whether it can match our five-year anniversary in Santorini. And while we can’t be sure we’ll take any trip we book, these are good problems to have. And airlines are extra accommodating. So if the right Japan, Argentina, or Italy trip hits with the right season for weather, we might just book that flight. Okay, not Japan. We (not me) aren’t ready for that…yet. But I can dream.

Daily Schedule

  • 07 am – Wake-up, baby/stretch/smash everything, hot/cold shower
  • 08 am – Make coffee, mineral water, meditate, write, record speech
  • 09 am – Ice neck/back, work, work, work
  • 10 am – Work standing for mindless tasks, sit and focus
  • 11 am – Baby walk, support/management calls, prep lunch
  • 12 pm – Virtual lunch, nap/close eyes
  • 01 pm – Work meetings, feed baby
  • 02 pm – Baby naps, meetings, meetings, meetings
  • 03 pm – Work, meetings, work, snack, chest stretch
  • 04 pm – Baby walk, feed baby, check email
  • 05 pm – Finish work tasks, practice speech
  • 06 pm – Roll around with baby, close eyes
  • 07 pm – Workout (bike, kickbox, or lift), shake
  • 08 pm – Prep dinner or read or write
  • 09 pm – Dinner, a good conversation, tv
  • 10 pm – The West Wing, treat, stretch, ice back/neck
  • 11 pm – Bedtime

Weekend Schedule

  • Friday night – go outside if sunny, ride bike if stressed, acquire dinner, movie
  • Saturday morning – baby, meditate, read, coffee, EWOD
  • Saturday afternoon – baby, nap, cold shower, write, write, write, baby
  • Saturday night – acquire dinner, movie
  • Sunday morning – repeat Saturday morning but teach class or write
  • Sunday night – laundry, food shopping, a family dinner, movie or show

What I Miss Most

  1. Talking to a human in person…occasionally.
  2. Walking on, sitting on, smelling a beach
  3. Squatting hundreds of pounds

If I get time I’ll draw a stick figure squatting. I miss heavy squats. The first time I squatted heavy after six weeks of no squats, the world felt just right. I thought I’d be weak. Nope. Two-hundred-twenty-five pounds felt lighter than before the pandemic. Strange. Maybe the full recovery is good for me. I might take the occasional month off from heavy squats now. We’ll see.

We look forward to the beach. The first week of nice weather, we’re quarantining in Bethany where social distancing on the beach is the norm.

What I Hate Most

Nothing. I imagine this might be a long list for many people. I don’t mind the isolation. I will appreciate human contact more when this is over. But it’s good to have hobbies, interests, books, a few creative projects, and just enough people to keep an introvert sane. That’s one talking adult human and one gibberish-jabbering baby.

What I Love Most

Baby stick figure thinking, "Look at me stand." at parents.  Male and female stick figure saying, "Good job."