Archive for Personal Life

A Taste of the Old Fear

Around here, I’ve mostly forgotten about COVID, at least in practical terms. Obviously, it’s changed us for the rest of our lives, but I don’t find myself gripped with the fear that I had in 2020 or 2021. I’ve had it. I survived. I’ve been exposed since and not gotten it. It sucks, but we have treatments now. Vaccines. If I feel sick, I wear a mask to protect others. That seems to be mostly the extent of what precautions I can take these days without looking like a crazy person to the locals.

One thing about being off social media is that I’m not constantly assaulted with information of a dubious nature about the disease. Hell, I’m not constantly inundated with fear-based information about most things. I find I can think more clearly about such things.

That said, my RSS reader spit out an article about getting kids to mask up again (I won’t link it) and it said that “COVID is more like HIV than the flu.” And there it was. That old fear, that “the world is falling out from underneath me” terror that I lived with daily for almost two years.

I did not miss it, the old fear. I’m no longer sure how seriously to take proclamations like that. The Metafilter comments are definitely taking it to task, so maybe that is bullshit. I’m just going to do my best to forget it. Ignorance is bliss and all that. Or in this case, at least, ignorance is not living in abject terror every waking moment.


white toilet paper roll on brown wooden table

Parenting, Personal Life

Misc. Miniatures

I’m trying not to rely exclusively on my miniature painting for a source of blogging fodder, but at the same time, there are some days where the only noteworthy thing I do is paint a couple of miniatures before bed. Note, I just typed “dead” instead of bed. I may be a bit tired by this point in the week. I really need to get a new gym membership. If only I could persuade myself that a gym membership isn’t just a way to pay to get COVID again.

Anyway, here are a couple of miniatures, bringing my total up to 13. The number of gnomes present is a total coincidence.

I didn’t paint any last night – it was my night off from family responsibilities so I headed out to the office and binged The Rig on Amazon Prime. It was super mediocre. I started out focused, because I liked a lot of the actors, but by the mid to late episodes, I was more playing a video game called Dinkum and not paying much attention.

I tried to do this with Copenhagen Cowboy but the subtitles meant I will have to watch that one with my full attention. I’ve heard mixed reviews, but I have liked some of the director’s films.

In general, my attention span is terrible right now. Work events have me distracted and anxious. See previous posts about all that. We’re alive and perhaps even thriving though, so there’s a lot to be thankful for.

We’ve started tentatively planning a family vacation over spring break to Disney World. I knew it would be expensive, but I’m shocked at just how much. My kid is lucky we love him, because if I had my way, we’d go to Costa Rica or Puerto Rico instead of cursed Florida. The things we do for our children, huh? So I guess we’ll go there in March. We’ll confirm that and make reservations once our taxes are back and we know we have no nasty surprises.

Until next time, be kind to yourself and get lots of rest. Enough for both of us, okay?


painting of building

Miniatures, Personal Life

The World Still Spins

I have sticky earwax. Too much information?

My ear wax has been a pox upon me for many years. Most people, your ears just kind of expel the ear wax normally, but mine don’t. Over time, my ears get compacted and I’ve punctured my ear drums more than once trying to clear things out. Now days, I have little Japanese tools to help me keep them clear and I know how to use hot water to flush it out (perhaps the most disgusting aftermath you’d ever find in a bathroom sink), but sometimes, I wake up and the world is spinning. Sticky earwax, damn you!

Today is one of those days. It’s not too bad, but if I move too quickly, the world continues to move and there’s a good chance I might fall over. It’s probably comical to everyone but me. I’ll keep yawning and hoping that I’ll eventually stablize. Usually, this takes a couple of days. I’d like to say I’m used to it, but you never get used to being dizzy.

It’s carrying over my disconcertment from waking up from a particular kind of dream. I know, stories of other peoples dreams are about the least interesting thing in the world, so I won’t bore you with details, but I lately have dreams about buying or receiving a new home, only it’s not a regular house. It’s some crazy building re-tasked as a house, full of hidden rooms, corridors, and other strange spaces, often liminal ones. It’s the kind of place you can own for years and still discover new things within.

Putting on my arm-chair psychiatrist hat, I’d say these dreams are a byproduct of living with two other people (and a dog and a cat) in a very small house (by modern standards). My brain seems particularly obsessed with having more space, in exploring spaces. I am definitely descended from apes that didn’t like to stay in one place for long. The ones who were first to wander into mysterious caves, probably. Quite a few snipped lines of distant ancestors eaten by cave bears probably. Might be why we also have a genetic predisposition for anxiety. My people? Oh, we were nervous cave explorers. If cavemen had novelty t-shirts, ours would have read “if you see me running, try and keep up.”

I used to have dreams about world travel, visiting exotic locales, but COVID has killed those, and if I have travel dreams at all, they’re about getting stuck and not even managing to board a plane. I find the idea of getting on a plane absolutely repugnant now. Completely dehumanizing. Having not done it in so long, and hearing all the travel horror stories in the past few years, I think I would much rather drive myself anywhere I go. This is rather limiting on the choice of destinations, though. We’re talking about a drive to Disney World this year. A nice half-month trip, driven somewhat slowly, giving me a chance to work in the evenings. Always with the working, me.

Speaking of which, I had better get back to it. The world’s still spinning, and I had best try to keep up.


Personal Life

Minis 5 and 6, Mornings Suck

I start each week determined to wake up early and attack my day, and each day I wake up a little later and a little later. Especially in winter. I think my body finds it easiest to wake up with the sun, and getting up while it is still somewhat dark is particularly difficult for me. On cloudy days, I can accidentally sleep in an hour or two. If they ever give humans the ability to hibernate through winter, sign me up. Until then, I’ll be groggy and poorly composed for the first hour or two of every day. I really should take up drinking coffee. I am pretty lucky not to have to sleep with an alarm. Freelancer life!

Last night (when I wasn’t tired, how’s that for a segue?) I managed to paint a couple of goblins after Matty went to bed. Nothing too exciting or difficult here. My brush control continues to improve, which feels pretty good.

Two goblin miniatures, one with sword and shield and another holding a spear with orange cloth on it
Whut’s over there?

I started a new book yesterday after painting these guys. I found a copy of Grady Hendrix’s Horrorstor on Libby, which appears to be about a haunted Ikea analogue. It’s about work also, which means it is right up my alley. I’m enjoying it so far. More when I finish it.


Books, Miniatures, Personal Life

The Joy and Suffering of 3D Printing

Here are miniatures #2 and #3 for 2023. I’ve got an assortment of silly gobbos that I am working through. I’m pretty happy with how my skill is progressing with a good set of brushes and paints. I only use contrast and speed paints at this point. I’m not really painting for quality beyond a certain point–just bulk quantity. I’ll never win awards, and I’m cool with that. I don’t have the patience to spend 40 hours on a single model.

Two small goblin miniatures, one holding a club and one in full plate with a big staff/mace thing
You turned down the wrong alley, mate!

Meanwhile, I borked my resin 3D printer overnight. The way resin printers work is that they have a vat filled with liquid resin that rests on an LCD screen. A thin layer of plastic called FEP sits between the resin and the screen. The screen exposes some of the resin, which adheres to a moving build plate, which pulls up a tiny bit, allowing another layer to adhere. The object prints up and out of the resin slowly, layer by layer. Here’s an article about the various processes in case you’re into that sort of thing.

The issue with FEP film is that it can get punctured or just wear a hole in it over time, and that seems to be what happened to me. A minor leak, but the problem is, getting cured resin off an LCD screen is a bit of a pain. I did the best I could this morning before heading to work, but it will remain to be seen if I can still print with that screen. A new screen runs about $100, so it’s not cheap, but also not the end of the world, and I happen to have one stored away for just this kind of incident.

The harder part, most likely, will be learning how to remove the FEP from the bottom of my tank and install a new sheet. It’s a delicate process, and the tension of the sheet has to be just right. Also, you need it not to leak any resin right out of the box and there’s like 40 screws holding it in. Somehow in all my time printing, I’ve never had to replace an FEP sheet, so this will be my first attempt. If vats didn’t cost so much, I’d probably be tempted to just buy a new one, FEP installed, but that’s pretty wasteful. I’m lazy, but not that lazy.

The point of all this is to say, 3D printing is not just a part of an existing hobby – it’s a hobby in and of itself. If you’re thinking about getting a printer, realize that. Also, maybe start with FDM, not resin.

In totally unrelated news, I read about half a book last night. I haven’t read a book in well over nine months. Something about my post-COVID brain really made it difficult for me to concentrate on blocks of text for long periods of time. I started off easy; more on the particular book, which is seriously flawed and not remotely challenging (intentionally on my part anyway), but I am enjoying it now after a rough start.

I’m starting to find that I have missed blogging all these years. Twitter was such a confined space to think in, but blogging feels like the wide open range by comparison. I guess we shall see if I keep it up!


Greetings From 2023

Yeesh, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything on this blog. Social media killed the personal blog for nearly everybody, but I’ve finally broken away from Twitter (thanks, Elon!) and Facebook is something I rarely spend much time on anymore. One of my low-key goals for 2023 is to post a little something every single day of 2023 like it’s 2013 again. Even if it’s a little sentence or two, or a photo. I have no minimum requirements, except that I would like to build up my blogging instincts again. I’m planning to paint 365 miniatures through the year, so you can expect pictures of that. Thoughts on books, TV, movies and video games, because I can’t help but analyze the media I consume. And generally I hope to continue figuring out how to be a happy and well-rounded person. Probably a little healthier too. Heading into this new year, I am more content than ever, but there’s always room for improvement.

So, here we go. It’s entirely possible that absolutely nobody will read this, and I am totally okay with that. I look forward to seeing what develops as a record of the year.

P.S.: I’m definitely due for a redesign as well. I’ll be working on that also.


Personal Life

Life with The Corona Stare

I find myself entering a certain mental state more often than I would like. I’m still capable of accomplishing what needs to be done; I do my work daily and I answer my emails. My clients should experience nothing different. I’m still reactive; however, when provided with no immediate inputs, my mind just fades into the background.

Bavarians have a word for when your eyes go unfocused and you stare into the middle distance; the call it goaßgschau, or “the stare of a goat.” I haven’t spent enough time around goats to understand the relevancy, but I find myself doing this often lately. I had started to think of it not as goaßgschau but as the corona stare. The corona mind state.

All of my hobbies have faded away. Due to my extreme workload, I even put my D&D games on hiatus, as while I love the time spent playing, I couldn’t see myself having the time to actually focus on preparing materials for upcoming sessions.

When I am not working, I am mindlessly surfing the web. Watching old movies. Staring and not thinking about much of anything. Goaßgschau. Coronaschau?

I suppose on some level we’re all processing the trauma of this. There isn’t anyone in the U.S. whose life hasn’t been impacted by our efforts to control this outbreak. Our lives are completely different now, and may never go back to normal. Some theorize what we’re doing is grieving.

I’ve grieved before and I’ll grieve again, I’m sure. This feels different, however. I’m not sure that’s what I would describe it as. To me, it feels more like we’re holding our breaths. We’re conserving energy. We’re waiting. For what? The next shoe to drop? The big collapse? I keep calling this 2020: The Year That Didn’t Happen, but what if it becomes the year Everything Happened? Which would be worse?

Uncertainty. Fear. Doubt. It would be unbearable if not for the glimmers of better lives weaving through all of it. People are gardening. People are baking. People are gathering through the internet and people are listening closer to their communities. My neighborhood shares toilet paper and other resources. People, on a small scale, are kind and generous. But unfortunately, that generosity appears to not be scalable to the national level.

Maybe all the corona virus is doing is accelerating the atomization of our society that we were already going through; the era of walls, figurative and literal. Maybe it’s building walls, and maybe we’ll tear them down? Or maybe we’ll decide that we like those walls, and they’ll stay up for good.

There’s that uncertainty again. I keep expecting myself to grow more comfortable with uncertainty, but that’s the damned thing about it. It changes shape too often; it’s restless. It never settles, and you can never get used to it. That’s the whole point of uncertainty.

But in my heart, I believe nothing can last forever; not even uncertainty. This too shall pass, and one day those of us who survive will look back on this time with a mixture of regrets and guilty nostalgia.

Life with the corona stare isn’t all bad. For those that make it. For those that live to remember, anyway. All we can do now is stay distant and hope that we’re in that group, and not the other one.


The Narcissist, God, and Me

I am not a believer. If you’ve come here to read an uplifting story about belief, this isn’t the story. This is the story of how my unbelief became concrete for me.

I don’t know exactly how old I was when I began questioning the existence of God. I grew up surrounded by those that believed, and I think there was an assumption at first that anything they told me to be true, was true.

I know that when my mom first told me the story of Jesus’s resurrection, I was disturbed. Even at the age of 4 or 5, I knew that people couldn’t come back from the dead. Still, nearly everyone in my life believed in the Christian God, and while I felt uncertain and agnostic, I didn’t want to believe that the adults in my life believed something untrue.

The church I grew up around was a Pentecostal one, southern Baptist maybe? People spoke in tongues and talked regularly about God intervening in their lives. Church made me uncomfortable, but the music was great. All around me were adults having a concrete, real relationship with this omnipotent being. Their lives were full of miracles.

I challenged God to prove His existence. I silently prayed constantly, claiming “if x happens, then I will believe.” I have a vivid memory of sitting in a bathtub, praying to God to cause the floating bubbles to drift to the left instead of the right. I wanted to believe, but I lacked proof.

I searched for real physical, tangible evidence everywhere. I obsessed over the Shroud of Turin because it felt like something concrete that my budding scientific mind could wield against doubt. I had a framed holographic picture of the face on the shroud. I took it to Show and Tell.

My interest in the paranormal was an offshoot of this quest. I sought evidence of the existence of the supernatural and thus, evidence for the existence of God, even if I didn’t know it then. It wasn’t so much that I personally felt like I needed God, not at first. I wanted it to be true for the sake of my family, for them. Because I didn’t like what it said about them, or myself, to question like this.

My parents divorced when I was in the first grade, and soon after, my mother met and married her second husband, a man I will only refer here to as B. This man was good at first. He knew about rocks and fossils and had gone to college, unlike most adults I knew. He seemed to have a bit of a temper, but I wasn’t worried, not yet.

Over time, B. was abusive to both my mother and us kids. He would scream and shout and call us kids names, and he hit my mom. Sometimes he would shake us or spank us. I don’t remember being hit “inappropriately” like my mother, but I don’t remember B.’s time very clearly. I’ve buried some memories over the years, but there’s one memory of him that stands out as an important moment in my life and my relationship to religion. I have been thinking about it since becoming a father.

B. came home from work and he was angry. Raging angry, shouting angry. I don’t remember what about, only that I ran to my room and hid in my closet. In there, I prayed to a God I didn’t believe in. Protect me, keep him away. I’ll believe in you if you do.

He found me easily. It wasn’t a large apartment. He drug me out, pinned me against the wall, and shouted in my face. I don’t remember the words, but I do remember the spittle against my face. I don’t remember if he hit me. I don’t think he did.

The next thing I remember is that I’m laying on my bed, face down, sobbing into my pillow. I’m. So. Angry. Not at myself. Not at B. I’m angry at the God I don’t believe in. I find myself saying it then, outloud, into my pillow, between sobs: ‘You’re not real, God. You’re not real. I don’t believe in you.”

I wasn’t alone. B. was standing outside, listening, only he didn’t hear me clearly. He somehow thought in that narcissistic, rage-filled brain of his that I was declaring that I thought B. was God, and that I no longer believed in him. He stormed in again, forced me up, and shouted again, this time to the effect that he wasn’t God, that was a terrible thing to suggest, etc.

I was baffled at the time. Why would he think that I thought of him as anything but the Devil Incarnate? I knew I couldn’t tell him the truth. I said nothing and eventually he left. I let him go on believing that somehow I thought he was God, instead of the truth, which was that I had begged his God–the one he believed in–to protect me from him, and nothing had happened. No miracles for little Jeremy Tolbert.

I don’t know if that was truly the moment that I became a non-believer, but it was one of the last times I ever asked God for anything with any seriousness. It was probably years before I was willing to admit it.

My life wasn’t all that bad, in retrospect. I couldn’t put it into words then like I can now, but my opinion on gods is simple, and yes, informed by those days.

No god that lets children suffer is worth a single iota of belief or worship.


Controlling Anxiety in a Complex World

I was talking with a friend today about the strategies I’ve developed to help control my anxiety when the world feels too large and scary. Here, I’ve boiled down what I was trying to describe to him in a few bullet points that might prove useful if you too find life in this era anxiety-inducing at times.

  • Limit information input. I do this by unfollowing and muting sources on social media that are key to increasing my anxiety. I may love you personally, but if your tweets are constantly gloomy and scary, I’ve probably had to mute you in my daily reads. It’s not personal.
  • Focus on what I can do. Anxiety is my brain’s way of feeling like it is contributing to a problem, real or not, and sometimes I can dispell it by doing something concrete, or acknowledging that there’s literally nothing I can do about the problem. So if I’m worried about something political, it helps to recognize maybe all I can do is send a letter to my congresspeople and make a donation to an organization. I can then put that anxiety to bed, sometimes.
  • Limit my time on websites that drive anxiety. Because so much of my day is spent at a keyboard working, I find myself drifting toward news sites and social media even when I know they’re bad for my heightened state of anxiety. I use Stay Focusd, a Chrome extension, to limit my ability to do this, especially during work hours.
  • Give my brain some work. I have in the past found myself worrying about things simply because my brain was bored. Even something as simple as doing powers of two or counting in my head can be effective in reducing extreme anxiety.
  • Take my meds. I’m a proud user of Prozac these days. My brain malfunctions and produces the wrong chemicals. There’s nothing wrong with my mind. It’s a problem with my meat brain.

Taking my medicine helps me a lot, and possibly even the most, but it’s not a 100% solution. The above tricks are also helpful in giving me some control over how my body produces stress chemicals and will hopefully help me live a longer life. The general approach that has worked for me makes my world smaller and more concrete. Anxiety brain wants to deal in what-ifs and outlandish scenarios. Forcing myself to focus on the concrete is good for soothing it.

How about you? Got any tips? Let’s hear them.


Life Cycle of the Common Parking Lot Sandberg

When I was a boy, I loved the archipelagos that formed in parking lots towards the end of winter and the dawn of spring. Murky, sand-drenched snow-islands accreted around every lamp post, existing in defiance of air temperatures thanks to their composition of half grit, half ice.

They seemed towering, ephemeral Everests that demanded conquering. Often my siblings and I would try to climb them to the chagrin of my parents who only wanted us to get in the damned car so they could get home after a long day.

As spring bounded on each year, the islands wore ever downward, the warming tide against their shores, until nothing remained but a sea of asphalt left pocked by potholes. But for a brief few weeks, there they dwelled in the K-Mart lot, a temporary geography ripe for imagination, calling to be explored and to be dreamed larger than they really were.