Expensive empty lot
I always find it weird to see an empty lot in an expensive area.  There's a neighborhood near where I live where a bunch of houses have marble statues and curved stairs leading to their ornately decorated front doors.  But a few lots in, there's an empty lot complete with overgrown grass.  Like, what's the deal here?  No one wanted to build a nice expensive house in just that very particular space?  Is it flood-prone (that's solvable).  Haunted? 

I was at the beach in New Jersey last week, and there's an area with multimillion-dollar houses, interspersed with empty lots, directly on the waterfront.  The property taxes have to be $5000-$10000 per month, so I can't even imagine what the owners of the empty lots are doing.  I get the idea of waiting for the right offer, but come on.  And there's literally no way they're waiting to "save up" $5 million so they can build their dream house.  Either you have that kind of money or you don't. #lifestyle

House-selling is emotional
Having sold my house and moved recently, I was surprised how emotional the process was.  It's weird because it's essentially just a financial transaction, and if there's anyone who can have zero feelings about something, it's me.  But to work with a realtor who tells you how much money your house is worth, then to deal with potential buyers who try to low-ball offer you 80% of that price, then to haggle with a prospective buyer about all the things you should fix before they buy it, it's just a lot.  Part of it was that we were selling at sort of the tail end of the market high, so prices were naturally dropping.  But to see your neighbor's house sell for one price a month before yours, and they had literally all the same features and upgrades and everything, and then to see your house's price drop for literally no reason other than "market forces" felt like very dumb bullshit.  I almost wished I could've just paid someone to take care of all that nonsense for me and tell me the final price at the end.  But then I would've wished I'd been more involved because of my dumb emotions.  Yuck. 

I think part of it had to do with the fact that that house was sort of my dream house.  It had all the things I wanted in a house, and after moving into it I planned to live there until I died, at least partly because the moving process had been so absurdly unenjoyable.  Moving out of the house prior to that one felt like getting out of a toxic relationship.  Moving out of this house felt like losing something special.  Like breaking up with someone vs. being broken up with. 

The other thing is that a house is a physical structure you live in.  But by living in it and making improvements and remodeling and painting the walls and hanging pictures, it becomes a home.  Home is where you live, it's where you sleep, it's where you feel safe.  It's where you eat dinner, watch TV, and celebrate holidays.  A home is a house with emotions. 

This move sort of came out of nowhere, so it didn't feel like we were ready to leave.  And this isn't to say I wish it didn't happen or that I'm not happy in my new home.  But I think the magnitude of the process, and the shittiness of the experience, plus the accelerated rate sort of amplified the emotions of it all. #lifestyle

In defense of the southeast
Call it a mid-life crisis or whatever, but I started thinking about other jobs when I turned 40.  Not for any real specific reason, but the thought that went through my head was, "If I could do what I'm currently doing but for a different overall purpose or from a different geographic area, that might be neat." 

So anyway, what this all boiled down to was:  Where do I want to live?  I lived in New Jersey forever and I've seen enough snow for a lifetime, so that rules out anywhere north.  You literally couldn't pay me enough money to live anywhere in the midwest, what with its overarching wet, gray aesthetic and general flatness.  Florida seems cool, except hurricanes.  Plus it'll be underwater in a decade or so.  Texas might be cool, except it doesn't exactly fit my ... vibe (or vice versa).  Utah and Colorado are a little too remote for my comfort.  Arizona is a literal fiery hellscape (which is very nice to visit).  California would be great, but I might not be able to afford a house, plus traffic.  Hawaii would be awesome but I probably wouldn't see any of my friends or family again (mixed feelings). 

What's left is the southeast.  I'm a new resident so this might be a little premature, but the southeast has a lot of good features: 
  • longer summers, milder winters
  • proximity to major cities (Nashville, Atlanta, etc.)
  • access to beaches (4-5 hours away)
  • near some mountains (feels like home for me)
  • low taxes
  • plenty of jobs/industry
  • friendly people
  • college football
I don't want to speak too soon, but I kinda like it here. #lifestyle

Weight Watchers diet experience
I turned 40 recently, and I decided I wanted to lose a few pounds.  My wife had done Weight Watchers a year ago and had a good experience with it, so I decided to give it a try.  The thing about my normal "diet" is that it's not hard to point to the foods that have caused me to gain a little weight over the years:  pizza, bacon cheeseburgers, alcohol, etc.  I work out regularly, but as the adage says, "Losing weight starts in the kitchen." 

So I signed up for Weight Watchers and started tracking my food intake.  Instead of tracking strictly calories or even fat/carbs/protein, Weight Watchers uses a points system which assigns you a certain number of points per day, with each meal or snack deducting from that point total.  Except that certain foods count as zero points, such as vegetables, fruit, lean meat, eggs, and a few other things depending on your particular plan.  Fatty foods, pretty much all carbs, and alcohol count as points, depending on their type and amount.  What this means is that you're incentivized to eat a bunch of zero-point foods while carefully choosing where you spend your points budget.  For example, a whole grain wrap for a chicken burrito costs about as much as a beer, so if I want to eat well, I might have to skip the beer. 

This was not a starvation diet.  At no point was I ever really hungry.  There were times when I was unsatisfied, but I was able to find some foods like apples and carrots that took away my cravings. 

The points system sounds like it won't work because you're not directly tracking calories, but it sort of works like magic.  It's a little annoying to have to trust a system whose internals you don't fully understand, but at the same time it's mentally easier to understand the cost of a 4-point beer in a 20-point program versus a 130-calorie beer in a 2200-calorie diet.  The math is just simpler. 

Long story short, I lost two pounds per week for about two months straight, and I'm down 18 lbs and counting. #lifestyle

No easy home projects
I'm a homeowner, and I occasionally have to attempt to fix things.  I'll look up a tutorial or watch a video about how to do what I'm trying to do, and it's always some guy wearing gloves (always), using his pristine and extensive tool collection to calmly work in a well-lit, comfortable environment where he has exactly the right tool for every single task, and everything works on the first try.  Everything takes 5-10 minutes, there's no blood involved, and no one cries. 

This has never once been my experience. 
  • I own close to a million tools, and I'm always missing the exact right one.  I just had to buy extra-long Torx bits from the hardware store last weekend, because of course I did.
  • I'm always hunched over a project, or wedged beneath it.  There's literally no other way to replace a bathroom faucet unless you remove the floor.
  • My lights are never bright enough, or they never shine far enough, or my big dumb head produces too big of a shadow.
  • My gloves rip the second they come in contact with anything metal, plastic, or wood.
  • My hands and/or body are always covered in blood.  I just received a puncture wound IN THE TOP OF MY HEAD from a fucking nail in the fucking roof of the fucking attic.
  • Every screw is stuck with rust, every removable thing is jammed or broken, and everything eventually requires me to destroy it to proceed.
  • Every piece, part, and product I deal with is non-standard, e.g. extra-long supply lines, extra-wide drain attachments, extra-high voltage wires, etc.
The standard instructional video starts with "Step 1 - remove the old stuff by simply unscrewing it", and that takes me an entire weekend and seven trips to the hardware store before I finally give up and just Dremel it to death. #lifestyle

Types of diets
I'm no expert (I should probably just start every sentence with that), but there are pretty much three main types of diets: 
  1. Calorie shift - cutting or increasing calories from any source
  2. Nutrient shift - decreasing carbs and increasing protein while maintaining calories, etc.
  3. Source shift - replacing meat with vegetables while maintaining calories, etc.

Painting takes months
I painted my bedroom last winter.  It literally took months to accomplish.  For starters, I don't like painting.  It's very tedious and time-consuming.  The end results are good (usually), but the process is unenjoyable.  And it's because the process isn't just painting.  It's taping the floor and walls so I can paint the trim, then taping the walls and windows so I can paint the window trim, then taping the upper wall to paint the ceiling, then taping the trim and ceiling before finally actually painting the walls.  Oh, and painting a door, both sides, two coats each.  All this coupled with the fact that (a) I already have a full-time job, (b) other activities occasionally take up my weekends, and (c) I really don't feel like doing it. 

Yes, I could hire someone to do it for me, but as I've mentioned in the past, I have a hard time convincing people to take my money in exchange for a simple service, i.e. contractors suck. 

And yes, the timing of this post (10 months after the fact) is ironic. #lifestyle

Being bald
As a kid, I thought about growing up to be a professional athlete or an astronaut, but I never thought about how I would look.  And I would imagine if you asked people how they think they'll look when they're older, they'll say something about being wrinkled and gray.  No one expects to go bald, which is weird because it's ridiculously common.  In every culture on earth, a significant proportion of the male population goes bald. 

Sometime in my late twenties, I noticed it was happening.  I shaved my head a few times when I was younger, so I wasn't opposed to having short hair.  And I remember deciding before it happened that I wouldn't be one of those people who tried to hide it with a comb-over.  So I pretty much just went for it.  My current hair style varies between 1/8-inch of balding hair to 0 inches (razor shave). 

Being bald is a little weird because it's not something you can really hide.  It's out there, right in front.  You can't cover it up with baggy clothes or makeup.  It's not like being overweight and having the option of working out.  Everyone sees it and notices it.  Some people make jokes about it, including me.  It's like having this weird negative thing attached to you that you don't really like and other people don't really like but you're at peace with it because it's already there. 

That said, I have a renewed appreciation for men with wonderful luscious hair.  At the same time, I also have an increased disdain for men who are sitting the fence between having hair and being bald.  It's so obvious they're clinging to the last thing that signified their youth, and on top of that (pun) it looks bad.  Just accept it, cut your hair short, and move on.  It's better over here. #lifestyle

Default abilities
A lot of video game characters come with default abilities, like sprinting, jumping, etc.  Some sci-fi and fantasy game characters also have semi-magical abilities like invisibility and teleportation. 

I was pleased to learn about the default abilities that my human child came pre-installed with.  Of course she had the standard abilities like a rooting reflex and the ability to grip.  But she also had the ability to hiccup, and also a light-induced sneeze reflex.  I would say my favorite of her abilities is her stretch which involves arching her back while lifting her arms and making a kissy face, and her standard vocalization which sounds like a hiccup but isn't.  What's most amazing about these abilities is that they were all present in her first few hours of life, no unlocking or leveling-up required. #lifestyle

I mentioned the midwives a few times in my birth post, and I wanted to elaborate on them a bit. 

Midwives seem to me to be simply women who have some experience with childbirth.  They're sort of like older, wiser tribeswomen with experience doing the thing you're nervous about.  They have a lot of experiential knowledge, and tend to have practical suggestions for things.  Their methods tend to be less scientifically rigorous than I'd like, but sometimes you don't need proof to know that a certain treatment works for some people sometimes. 

We went with midwives (certified nurse midwives, to be exact) instead of the traditional ob-gyn doctor route because Wendy felt more comfortable with them in general.  The doctors were a little too clinical for her tastes, and she wanted more of a say in the actual birth process than a doctor would've allowed.  Specifically she wanted the option of doing a water birth and possibly a home birth, which doctors typically aren't on board with.  Also she didn't want a needle in her back. 

My initial opinion of the midwife-sanctioned home birth was not positive.  What if something goes wrong?  What if they need to do emergency surgery?  What if the umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby's neck or the baby gets stuck in the birth canal or the mother's blood pressure drops too low while delivering?  There are like a billion legitimate reasons to not do a home birth. 

But the midwives have a simple and interesting philosophy:  Childbirth is a very natural process.  The baby will come out of you whether you want it to or not.  Yes it can be dangerous and deadly at times, but humans have been giving birth to babies since before we were technically humans.  Nothing that happens during a childbirth is too much for a woman to handle.  If it was, none of us would be here. 

Modern medical practices have reduced infant and mother mortality by a ton, but some doctors are a little trigger happy.  The rate of C-sections isn't uniform across the board; it depends what hospital you go to, or what state or country.  A lot of the treatments during childbirth are linked to statistics:  If you're not progressing at a certain rate by a certain time, they induce or cut you open.  Also, by inducing childbirth with drugs or procedures, you're short-circuiting the body's ability to produce oxytocin and other chemicals that further help the process and reduce pain.  I'm 100% not an expert on this stuff, so I'm a little out of my element, but the general outline makes some sense to me. 

The midwives' guiding principle is that it's all about atmosphere.  So everything they do, from using a tub, to talking quietly, to having calm lights and sounds, is to relax the person giving birth.  There's no rush, as long as the labor is progressing at a medically reasonable rate (they measure mother's and baby's heart rate).  The cervix is a sphincter, and that type of body part tends to tense up in stressful situations.  So anything that can relax that muscle will allow the mother to relax, which will make the process begin and go smoothly.  They mentioned an anecdote that many women start their labor on the toilet, because that's one of the few times they're alone and in a quiet environment.  Wild animals tend to find a quiet, secluded place to give birth.  Humans should be no different. 

Even before the birth process and after the baby came out, their principles stay the same:  Just relax about the whole thing.  Still take it seriously, and do blood tests when necessary, and measure pulse and weight and whatnot.  But just relax.  I really like that entire worldview. #lifestyle

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