Coffee heat rising

A break in the clouds…

Hallelujah, brothers and sisters, yonder breaks a beam of light through the clouds!

Yesterday developed into surprisingly de-toxifying day.

First off, I discovered the reason the MacBook was throwing out messages to the effect that it couldn’t hold all the data stored on iCloud was…ohhh, wait for it… BECAUSE… The damn computeris somehow CLONING ALL THE DATA FILES ON ITS HARD DRIVE…over and over and over again.

Call up the AppleCare people and reach the first tech there that I’ve ever talked to who hadn’t a clue. She had never heard of such a thing and didn’t know what to do, so she made me an appointment with the Apple “Geniuses.” Like I have nothing else to do with my time…

Whenever I get off the phone with her and calm down a bit, I think to do a Web search. Find an Apple user’s forum where a) some guy says you can get rid of the redundant files by shutting down and rebooting, and b) they will eventually come back. Another user reports that this is a function of the Sierra operating system. Say what????

Well, I’ve had this computer for two years and it’s been running on Sierra for almost that long and I’ve never seen endless strings of duplicate files before. Presumably older versions of Sierra didn’t do that. When the guys in Tennessee replaced everything in this device’s innards, they would have had to reload Sierra, and in doing so, they presumably would have loaded a slightly newer iteration of Sierra. Hence: iterations, all right: thousands of them!

Really, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I just CAN. NOT. DEAL. WITH. THIS. SH!T any longer!

At that point, I about decided to shut down The Copyeditor’s Desk. The computer headaches, the DropBox headaches, the PayPal headaches…all conspiring at once: it’s more than I can handle.

Naturally, the minute I make that decision, a new Chinese mathematician e-mails in a sweat, needing to get 10 (typeset!) pages of new copy edited and jammed into an article that’s already been provisionally accepted. He, however, is at the Great Desert University, where I have spies. And he has a bank account. So he at least can pay me. However, that means I have two book projects in hand, another pending, this math thing, and a computer that is laboring to undercut me.

But… But, indeed: his piping up reminded me that not all Chinese mathematicians, scientists, and scholars of business management labor away their lives on the Mainland! A whole lot of them live in the United States. And they can pay with checks. Or get their universities to pay with checks.

And how hard is it to make nice to these folks and cultivate that set?

He blinked not at all at my bracing  per-word rate, so I will be paid fairly for turning his golden words into publishable copy.

This sounds sooo weird, but I love copyediting these Chinese scientists’ copy. The beauty of a math paper is that if its author says something stupid, I don’t know it. That, alas, is not true of work in just about any other discipline. 😀

And most of the stuff is strangely interesting, at base.

He wants to meet next week and trudge through the new content, face-to-face. That’s a new one for me, but it should be interesting. I figure if I can make nice to him and not persuade him that I’m a complete idiot, he may refer me to colleagues.

Whiled away part of the day with another new client’s effort at science fiction writing. That was light and amusing and did not leave me in a rage. Which is good. Always good.

In the morning, I tested the blood pressure again — still obsessing about whatever it was that happened in the wee hours the day before yesterday. Back down into to fairly normal range: average 123/77. One reading was an amazing 115/75. Not bad for a 74-year-old, eh?

So I think it’s safe to assume the episode in the night was a stress attack, not a life-threatening cardiac event.

That alone relieved a whole lot of stress. So did the idea that I might simply fold The Copyeditor’s Desk and really, seriously retire retire.

And in the evening, we — the Women’s Schola — sang at Compline, a particularly lovely end-of-the-day service that, being absent the hoopla of a mass and all that, is a lovely, contemplative moment entirely sung and presented by candlelight. Meditative, it is. And a very fine antidote to crazy-making stress.

This service — Compline — is in my opinion the most lovely and spiritual event in the church’s entire repertoire. Hardly anybody seems to know about it: attendance can be numbered in the single digits. This is too bad, because a whole lot of people are missing out on something that ought not to be missed.

And now…away! Off to pick up the Old Folks, the first traffic-traipse of the day.

Ten stress reducers

Elevated blood pressure can be a sign of stress, among other things. When I had my little stress attack a while back, my blood pressure was so alarmingly high that the doctors suspected a heart condition; if I so much as lifted my head off the pillow, it went even higher. After the episode passed, the blood pressure numbers went back to normal. But it was scary there, for a few hours. Whenever I go into a doctor’s office, it’s often a little high, especially if I’m not sitting in a chair with my legs uncrossed and my feet flat on the floor. This phenomenon—blood pressure that rises when you go into a doctor’s office—is called “white coat syndrome.”

A week or so ago, GLBL reported at Gather Little by Little that an incident of white coat syndrome led him to buy a blood pressure monitor and keep tabs on himself for a while. This revealed that his blood pressure was higher while he was at work than over the weekend, at home. He put it down to stress.

The work environment can be very stressful, even if you’re not in a high-tension job such as police work, emergency medical or fire services,journalism,or teaching. Certainly one of the elements that led up to my episode—one of the petals of the Poison Poppy, as I call them—was workplace stress, largely resulting from friction with a subordinate. After great effort, I discovered a number of fairly easy strategies to reduce stress, which really comes at you from all directions, not just from the workplace. Here are ten of the best:

1. Reduce caffeine intake

Substitute other satisfying drinks. Some varieties of soda pop are caffeine-free: Sprite, 7-Up, ginger ale, and many brands of root beer. Read the label to be sure. Fruit juices can be combined with soda water or tonic water to make DIY pop, which IMHO tastes better than the canned stuff. Green tea is said to contain less caffeine than black. Sometimes just cutting back the amount of caffeine you take in helps: decaf coffee and tea are not caffeine-free, but substituting them for high-test may help bring down your blood pressure and lower your stress level.

If you go off caffeine cold turkey, you’ll get a headache that may be fairly bracing, but it will pass in a day or two. You can avoid or minimize this by tapering off instead of quitting abruptly. The fact that eliminating caffeine can make you sick should tell you something.

2. Try to de-stress your commute.

Leave earlier so you have plenty of time to get to your destination. Driving in the slow lane reduces the number of people tailgating and jerking around you—you tend to see more of that obnoxious behavior when you’re driving faster in the middle and outside lanes.

Do not listen to the stürm und drang on the news and yak shows. Avoid stations that carry advertising, which also can be stress-inducing and annoying. If your local airwaves don’t carry stations that broadcast the kind of music you enjoy, free of advertising, then get yourself an iPod or MP3 player and bring your own entertainment. Make it something soothing.

Learn some alternate routes to and from the workplace. If you see the freeway backing up, get off and proceed on the surface streets for a while.

3. Keep a low profile at work, and leave work at the office

Refrain from arguing with coworkers or bosses. Let the BS slide off your back like water off a duck’s feathers.

Do your job well and quietly.

Keep coworkers’ and customers’ oddities in the perspective of the large picture. How exactly will their ridiculous behavior change the course of world history?

Don’t bring work home. Make your private time exactly that: your time. And do not work more hours than you are paid to work. If you’re expected to do so, maybe it’s time to find a new employer or a new line of work.

4. Leave the office during lunch hour

Never work through lunch. If you are brownbagging, go outside or to a coffeehouse where you are allowed to eat your own food if you buy a beverage. If you must stay on the premises to eat, take some time to go for a walk. If your company offers a workout room, use it over the lunch hour. Or, if you hate gyms as much as I do and you have an office, close the door and do some yoga during breaks or lunchtime.

5. Learn to meditate.

Use break time or lunch-hour time for brief periods of meditation. Prayer is a form of meditation. If you are religious, spend a few moments at your desk in quiet prayer.

6. Reduce alcohol intake.

Restrict wine, beer, and other potables to one drink a day, max. Alcohol pushes up your blood pressure and interferes with your sleep. If you’ve been in the habit of having a couple of glasses of wine with dinner, you may find you sleep better if you have water instead. Treat yourself to wine on the weekends and on special days only. Nope…for this purpose, every day is not a special day!

7. Find a form of exercise that you enjoy and do it every day.

Walking the dog is exercise. Climbing three flights of stairs instead of taking the elevator is exercise. Bicycling is exercise. Roller-skating is exercise. Gardening is exercise. You don’t have to spend half the day at these activities or exert yourself to the point of exhaustion. A half-hour of walking goes a long way toward lowering your blood pressure and brightening your outlook.

8. Turn off the television.

The constant flow of violence and disturbing imagery flowing out of our TV sets inundates us with stress, if only on a subliminal level. I find I sleep much better if I don’t watch the idiot box at night.

9. Develop a strategy to pay off debt, create a budget, and keep your financial books up to date.

Money worries form a huge part of the stress we all suffer. Getting a grip on these issues, although it won’t instantly solve your financial problems, will at least help you to feel more control of things. And this will ease your stress.

10. Join a group, totally unrelated to your job, that will get you out of the house and into the company of other people. Examples: church, hiking or bicycling group, pet fanciers’ club, hobbyists’ club, Habitat for Humanity, or some other service group.
Try it! You’ll like it!

Frugal driving = stress relief

It ought to drive you bats to dork around with your driving habits, which have served you just fine over lo! these past 45 years, in penny-pinching resolve to save a gallon of gas here and a gallon of gas there. Focusing on every mile per hour and wondering whether the tattooed fright behind you will brandish his Uzi if you slow his blast-off from the red light should leave you grinding your teeth. It’s only common sense, right?

No. Paradoxically, the truth is quite the contrary. For the past week or ten days, I’ve been trying out hypermiling techniques, just to see if $4.00 can be stretched to cover a little more of my 38-mile round-trip commute. One issue the hypermiling advice has brought to my attention is that what I call “assertive” driving is actually…well, it’s true: aggressive driving. Also, it’s possible that flying down the freeway in the pod that habitually moves 10 or 15 mph over the limit could, maybe, be called “speeding.”

Since I’ve taken to following just a few steps to save gas, the hated drive has mysteriously become a lot less hateful. The stress of wending my way across the surface streets and then competing (yes, competing) with other wired-up drivers across 18 miles of freeways has gone away. If it doesn’t matter whether you get there first and it doesn’t matter whether you get across the city at 65 or 75 miles an hour, then suddenly it doesn’t matter whether someone cuts you off! It doesn’t matter whether slower traffic wanders right in front of you. And it doesn’t matter that you can’t see around the truck ahead of you, because seeing around it wouldn’t make you go any faster.

Removing all these frustrations that used to matter, at one psychological level or another, causes driving to morph from mildly annoying to fairly relaxing.

Now, here’s the weird part: Not only does frugal driving relieve stress, it gets you there just as fast as jerking around and racing down the road will! In fact, it may get you there faster.

First time I tried a couple of hypermiling techniques, I noticed I got all the way out to campus in about 20 minutes. Fluke. Gotta be a fluke: it was coming up on Memorial Day weekend. All the moron drivers must have knocked off a day early and gone on vacation. Next trip: 20 minutes flat. Next day: think I actually got there in under 20 minutes. But, uhm…this is a 30- to 40-minute drive under the best of circumstances; two hours on a bus.

Why? For one thing, it’s in the interest of hypermiling to stay on the freeway even if traffic is moving slowly, as long as it’s not stop-and-go, because you don’t want to have to accelerate from a standing stop (i.e., you don’t want to stop at intersections). So, instead of dropping onto the surface streets at the earliest sign of a back-up, I’m hanging in there to see what develops. Often freeway traffic will slow to 30 or 40 miles an hour but then after a few minutes go right back up to speed. So I’m making more of my trip at 55 mph, nonstop, than I would if I traveled half the way on the surface streets at 50 mph but stopped at red lights, slowed for a school zone, or got stuck behind a school bus.

It may also be that second-guessing the speed of various lanes somehow slows you down. Some mathematically inclined bloggers look at traffic in terms of fluid dynamics and argue that driving slower and keeping a wide space between you and the car in front of you actually forces traffic around you to flow more efficiently. True? Not knowing, I’d hesitate to state, for fear of being erroneous.

Here are the frugal driving techniques I’ve been using:

  • Try to avoid applying the brakes any more than absolutely necessary. Watch the traffic flow ahead and, when red lights start to glow, coast to decelerate. Try to reach traffic stopped at the light as it’s beginning to move, so you don’t have to start up from a dead stop.
  • Accelerate from a stop slowly. It’s a car, not a jackrabbit.
  • When starting from a dead stop, allow the car to idle forward for a second before stepping on the gas.
  • Use the cruise control to maintain speed on the freeway and on steadily moving surface streets, and use it to accelerate and decelerate. Use the “coast” and “acc” functions to slow and speed gently. Try to keep your foot off the gas pedal as much as possible. But n.b.: don’t use cruise control on an uphill grade.
  • When approaching a grade, speed up a little (stay sane about this) to build momentum; then allow the car to slow as it climbs. Use the downhill grade to get back up to your cruising speed before resuming the cruise control.
  • Never drive faster than 60 mph on an urban freeway. Try to keep your speed at around 55 mph. Stay in the slow lane and take it easy.
  • If it looks like you will have to stand for more than 30 seconds (for example, at a long stoplight, in a gas station line, at a railroad crossing), turn off the engine.

Hypermiling includes several other strategies, some of which apparently aren’t very safe. We’ll see soon enough whether the seven techniques above work to improve my Sienna’s 18 mpg performance. I’ll let you know the next time I fill up!

1 Comment left at iWeb site

Value For Your LIfe

Great post!These are some gas saving tips I haven’t seen repeated over and over again elsewhere.I always go easy on the brakes (as a result it also makes my brakes last almost twice as long as average), and we have just gotten into the habit of driving more slowly and have noticed a significant difference.I will defintiely try some of the other hypermiling techniques you mention here!

Tuesday, June 17, 200809:56 AM