Reeling, in a year

Today marks a year since I retired.

Here’s one of the questions I get asked the most: do you have any regrets about retiring so young?

I have to bite back the glib answer, which is, man, do you even know me? I have regrets about everything. I’m pretty sure that there’s no major decision in my life I haven’t questioned furiously before, during, and after making said decision, for hours, days, months, or even years. I still feel bad about the way I answered some Very Important Questions1 when I was sixteen, and those were twenty-three years ago. Regrets? Yeah. Yeah, I have them. I have them all the time.

Another common question is this: does being retired make you happy?

(It’s worth taking a moment here to note that, while I’m never angry with people who ask me these things, they seem to be coming from a place of mild bewilderment that someone can retire before the age of forty without the excuse of being makes-cigar-wrappers-out-of-hundred-dollar-bills rich2. The world at large is still very confused by us lean-savings early-retirement types.)

And, to be honest, sometimes I’m not happy at all. I lead a pretty lonely life, and one of the biggest things I lost when I stopped having a job at a vibrant company was a large, easily-available social circle. Getting people together to hang out when outside of work is hard, and I still haven’t cracked that particular code a year in. I went from always having a person or two I could chat with in a moment of downtime to sometimes going for a week or two where the only people I speak to face-to-face are the cashiers at Walmart. They’re nice and all, but it’s not exactly high-level social interaction.

But.

Let’s change these questions around a bit, starting with the last one: are you happier, now that you’ve retired?

The answer to that question is an unequivocal yes. I had a rough time at work the last couple of years. The social aspects were great, never mind the food and the board games, but I didn’t find the job itself very satisfying, and could feel myself getting unhappier by the day. There were times when I had to take vacation for a week or so, not because I actually went anywhere–if you’ve read much here you know I’m not much of one for travel–but because I needed to get back the energy required to actually be able to show up for work again.

(There was a coworker of mine, a younger person who I regularly chatted with in regards to our careers. They were unhappy with their position, and I told them that they needed to grab hold of one of the many opportunities the company offered to move upwards and outwards, that being unhappy in a job was one of the most exhausting places to be in life, that they had years of working professionally ahead of them and they needed to make the best of them. Their usual response was: great advice, buddy, but have you ever thought of taking it for yourself? And they were right, of course. I was one of those jerks who didn’t practice what they preached.)

So, sure, some days I wake up and feel like I’ve made a poor decision… but most days I wake up and go: Yeah. Yeah. This is right. This is what I want to be doing right now. Am I happy? Maybe. Maybe not. Am I happier? Abso-freaking-lutely.

Let’s go back to that first question now, and take another stab at it: Do you have enough regrets about retiring early that you’d choose not to if given a chance to do it all over again?

And the answer to that question is as easy as the answer to the last: Absolutely not. I made the right decision then, and I’d make it again in a heartbeat if I had to. Retirement’s not regret-free, but nothing is, at least for me. That doesn’t mean I won’t change my mind in the future, of course, and one of the things I intentionally planned for is the ability to change my mind if I need to3. But regrets are a part of life, and every decision made is another decision unmade, every road traveled a path not taken.

And my footing is firm.

Weekly status update [0052/????]

Fifty-two weeks. Not gonna lie: I’m more than a little surprised at myself that I’ve managed to stick to writing this for one day short of a year. I’ve always had a bit of a problem with sticking to long term projects, but somehow this one’s survived so far. I’ve toyed with shutting this down in the next week or so, given that the low readership makes it feel a little too self-aggrandizing to write this stuff… but I think I’m going to continue for the time being.

Anyway, I’m writing this one a bit earlier than usual because I want to write up a full-year retrospective this weekend. Fortunately, it’s been a quiet week, so there’s not a ton to say.

  • I’m most of the way through the third season of The Man in the High Castle. The first two were passable but not great, and I mostly watched thanks to my love of alternate history; this third season, though, has been jam-packed with Big Stuff Happening, and I’m genuinely excited to see where it’s going.
  • I finished up Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood on the PS4, netting a Platinum trophy I was forever denied back on the PS3 due to stupid online requirements. It had a whole bunch of terrible design bits that continued to prove my previous take on achievements is correct. I booted up the third Ezio game, Revelations, and after about fifteen minutes went “nope” and deleted it off of my PS4. I’ll probably come back to it in six months or a year or so, but right now I’m super burnt out on that particular flavor of game.
  • A dreadful discovery: Walmart now carries cookie butter, both store-brand and Biscoff. This is really unfortunate for my future diet.
  • Totally unrelated (I hope), I spent most of Wednesday with a combination of a bad stomach-ache and back trouble, which meant I spent basically the entire day in and out of the bed, failing to get any quality sleep. I finally managed to wake up with some verve… a few minutes past midnight. Ugh. Sometimes the wacky sleep schedule I have thanks to being retired is nice, and sometimes it’s kinda awful. This was definitely one of the latter times.
  • I have several books checked out of the library and have been busy ignoring them, instead reading Chokes McGee’s Let’s Plays of Final Fantasy Legend and its sequel. It’s the sort of things that probably mean nothing if you didn’t play games in the late ’80s or early ’90s, but the LPs were impressively well-written, funny and poignant throughout. I have no regrets having spent hours on them.

Fifty-two weeks. Crazy, man. Crazy.

Setting money on fire, 2018 edition

[This entry is almost entirely about my finances. If you’re the sort of person who is uncomfortable reading that sort of thing, best leave now.]

I spent a lot more in 2018 than I meant to.

Gnucash tells me that I spent $36,600.67. That’s probably close to the truth–I’m pretty good at entering things into the program–but I’m sure some stuff slipped past. For the purposes of this article, let’s round up and call it $37k. I wanted that number to be closer to $30k… and I overshot by more than twenty percent.

I should note that that number very explicitly does not include the taxes I paid last year, which was another $30,000, thanks to the sale of almost all of my tech-company stocks I got while I was an employee. Taxes cost money, yes, but you’re going to pay them no matter what, so it feels disingenuous to consider them with other expenditures. (Besides, my tax rate has already plummeted, since I only worked in January last year, and will drop again for 2019.)

I should also note that, while I do track, I don’t budget. That’s probably a mistake, but it turns out that my regular costs are very regular indeed, so a bunch of the variability comes either from stuff out of my control (maintenance, twice-a-year car insurance, etc.) or stuff I know I shouldn’t be spending anyhow (healthy servings of boardgames and videogames, mostly, with a light sweet drizzle of puzzle magazines from Japan on top).

Now, some amount of that $37k is pretty fixed. My rent is $650 a month, and I paid a bit more than that each month for my COBRA health insurance continuation. Yes, that means had I not had health insurance, I would have hit my $30,000 goal pretty much on the nose. I wasn’t willing to risk that, though, and I still feel that keeping said insurance was the right decision even though it cost me a lot of money.

In my heart, though, I know there’s a lot of obvious wastage in those numbers as well. (In a moment, you’ll even get to see it in graphical form.)

The first question is: did I get better at this spending thing over time?

You can even see how I break down my money.  Yes, “Frivolity.”  (The huge Travel chunk in March was ~$1000 in necessary car maintenance.)

The answer: yes, by a bit. My monthly spend rate dropped from ~$3,000 to ~$2,500 by the end of the year. That’s a good sign; were I to stay at that level for this year, it would save me ~$6,000 for the year, which is a significant chunk of change when you no longer have a regular income.

There’s still a whole lot of orange in the bars, though, which means that most months I spent north of $500 on unnecessary stuff. In fact, for the year, my Frivolities sub-section accounts for almost $11,000 of the $37,000 I spent. That’s… well, it’s stupid, not to put too fine a point on it. That leads to the second question: can I stop setting so much money on metaphorical fire?

Fortunately I realized the need to do that even before writing this up, and have already adjusted course pretty aggressively. For January it looks like I’ll have spent less than $300 on frivolous things this year, and part of that is an $80 once-a-year payment to Grandmaster Puzzles, which you should check out if you’re as much of a puzzle fiend as I am. On the other hand, I already know of at least one big Kickstarter in February that I’ll be backing to the tune of $300… ugh.

In addition, thanks to the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies being income-based rather than means-based, I’m not paying anything for my health insurance this year. That’s another $6,000 or so I’m saving this year.

Given all of that, let’s ask a third question: is it plausible that I only spend about $25,000 in 2019, rather than the $37,000 I spent in 2018? It is, and that’s my goal. I won’t be furious with myself if I miss it… but I will be if I break $30,000 due to unnecessary spending.

I do have one big purchase coming up that’s going to hurt the numbers a bit. My current desktop is more than nine years old, so calling it a “potato” is honestly a bit of an insult to potatoes. (I kid; as long as I’m not playing modern games, it actually still works perfectly fine.) I don’t plan on spending more than $1,200 or so on a new machine, all bits and bobs included, but we’ll see how that goes.

And, honestly, we’ll see how this all goes. I knew this first year was going to take some getting-settled time, and honestly that’s still going on. I suspect my expenditure rate will continue to drop over the coming year or two as I figure out what I do and don’t need to spend money on, and that’s on top of my having explicitly decided to spend less on unnecessary stuff.

Hopefully year-in-the-future me will be proud… or, y’know, at least not furious… at the soon-to-come me. We shall see!

Weekly status update [0051/????]

The author stares silently at a calendar, a dazed look on his face.

  • Much of this week was spent watching HBomberguy’s Donkey Kong 64 charity stream for Mermaids. I read about it after-the-fact and am slowly catching up on it… but the stream’s close to 60 hours long, so even watching it at 1.25x (for the gameplay parts) and 1.5x (for the “just chatting parts”) is a whole lot of time. It’s been really good so far, though, and a pleasant change from the usual negativity and vitriol on the Internet.
  • Speaking of videogames, I’ve actually been playing them again quite a bit this week. I finally finished up Shining in the Darkness this weekend, played a bit of this and that earlier in the week, then settled in on trying to finish the PS4 remaster of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (or, as I like to call it, Assassin’s Creed 2.1). I made some serious progress in it, but am putting the game away for a day or two thanks to playing so much my right thumb hurts. I even played some online co-op Overcooked! 2, which was just as fantastic as I thought it would be.
  • We had a game night on Tuesday at Fercott Fermentables. It was just three of us, but we had a great time playing Aeon’s End, a quirky co-operative deckbuilding game. I liked it quite a bit more than I thought I would going in, and I actually had pretty high expectations. I also managed to play a pair of games of ConHex on Tabletop Simulator with a friend… which mainly just made me long to play more stuff on TTS more frequently.
  • I haven’t talked much about my diet since I’ve returned from Louisiana, but never fear: I’ve actually been sticking with it after the first few days of “travel is stressful and I don’t need this too” justification. (I mean, travel is stressful, but it’s still a justification for bad behavior.) I suspect I’ve taken off all of the weight I put on during my near-month back home, and maybe a little extra? I continue to not weigh myself due to the way that tends to mess me up, but pants sure seem to be looser…
  • …and speaking of food, I had dinner last night with one of my good friends and old coworkers. His last day at the company was this Thursday; he’s moving into the world of small business, helping his wife run a local veterinary clinic. I am extremely interested to see the similarities and differences with our experiences, although obviously there are a tremendous number of fundamentals that are already quite different for the two of us (family vs. single, working vs. not) so I don’t think they’ll actually be all that comparable. I wish him the best of luck, and we plan on having dinner on the regs to catch up, compare, and enjoy tasty Tex-Mex.

You walk away slowly.  He doesn’t seem to notice, his eyes still fixated on the flimsy cardboard-and-paper construction. “Hang in there!” it blandishes. Hang in there indeed. 

Weekly status update [0039/????]

Oh, hey, it’s November.  Gulp.

  • I kept reading aggressively through November 1st.  I wrote about The Orphan Master’s Son here; it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read.  I also knocked out another Christopher Priest novel, The Separation.  I still like him, but I feel that he really basically writes the same novel over and over again.  Each one has begun to feel a little too same-y compared to the rest.  Timothy Zahn’s Spinneret was the last book I read; I finished it on the morning of the 1st.  Some of you may recognize his name from the Thrawn trilogy of Star Wars novels that really kicked off the Extended Universe back in the ’90s.  Spinneret was fine, if slight.  I’m taking at least a brief hiatus, even though I still have way too many books sitting on my sofa to read.
  • November started, which means NaNoWriMo started as well.  I began writing Sharp on the evening of November 1st, and after getting ~300 words into it I stopped.  The literary style I was affecting simply wasn’t working.  I should have known better, honestly; the last time I copped a style that wasn’t my own, it was for a Banksian pastiche, and I had similar troubles putting words to page at any reasonable rate.  This time, though, the words weren’t just slow.  They were awful, as I discovered when I reread it.  So: I tossed it and started over today.  I’m a little over 1500 words in now, and those words came at roughly 6-10x the rate of the original 300, so that’s good at least.  I’m not sure yet if the story is any good, though.  I’ll keep you posted.
  • The first of November was also the first day of open enrollment for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (AKA “Obamacare”).  I had to finish on the phone, because COBRA is complicated, but the end result is that I should have insurance next year… and it should be free.  That was a surprising discovery, but it’s because I make a lot less money now that I’m retired.  On the one hand, it feels kinda weird and wrong that there isn’t means testing to go along with raw income.  On the other hand, government stuff like this never, ever breaks in my favor… so I’ll take it.  I’ve still got to contact my COBRA coverage company and get it to terminate on December 31st, but that can wait until I get at least the beginning paperwork for the ACA stuff.
  • Let’s just say the diet didn’t hold and leave it at that.  I’ll try harder this coming week.
  • I’ve been trying to actually stay on top of TV for once.  Last Man on Earth and Brooklyn Nine-Nine continue; I’m in the last season of LMoE.  I just finished season 2 of Luke Cage tonight (it was fine but not great) and am close to finishing season 6 of Orange is the New Black.  I started watching The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Hallowe’en, for obvious reasons, and that’ll take the place of Luke Cage for the time being.  It’s cheesy but fun.
  • Boy, this was a down month for the stock market.  And there’s likely more on the way.  Those numbers used to be a lot more hypothetical in terms of affecting my continued financial health than they are now.  Gulp.

I’m gonna keep cracking on this novel for the next few days, at least, to see if it’s got legs.  If so, I’ll try to assess whether the writing is worth sharing or not.  If it is, well, I’ll be linking it here, which should provide something a bit different to read, horse story notwithstanding. 

Weekly status update [0036/????]

This morning was the first time this fall that the temperature dropped in my house overnight below my AC settings.  I have never been so prepared for autumn.

  • The mad reads continue.  I did a rare re-read of a library book this week, The Rook by Daniel O’Malley, because I had also checked out the sequel.  To be fair, I didn’t know for sure it was a reread until the first page, when I went “this seems strangely familiar,” sending me digging through my library history.  It was worth re-reading, though; it’s basically a more comic (and less cosmic) take on the premise of The Laundry Files, which is one of my favorite series of all time.  The sequel was good, too.  That said, the real star of this week is the book I finished about twenty minutes ago, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz.  It was very, very good.  I cried a lot.
  • Quite a few puzzles, too, although the pace slowed down during the week as I realized that I have a lot of reading to do if I want to be done with the stacks before November starts.  That’s almost certainly not gonna happen, but I have to try the best I can.
  • The same goes for television; I’ve managed to watch an episode of Last Man on Earth and Brooklyn Nine-Nine most days, but it’s been a while since I watched one of Luke Cage, and I haven’t picked up another dramatic show either.  That’s fine, though; I’m never going to feel bad about minimizing my time spent watching TV.
  • The only real event this week: there was a Hallowe’en shindig at my old workplace this Friday evening, and I finagled a +1 from someone.  It was nice to see folks–particularly the kitchen staff, who I miss like hell–even if I kept getting asked when I was coming back.  I’m glad I went, though.  It gave me an opportunity to taste a cherry-flavored Hint water as well.  They’re great.

Next week will be quite eventful; I have a cousin coming into the area for vacation, and we’ll be doing touristy stuff while she’s around.  Should be fun!  And then NaNoWriMo’s right around the corner…

Weekly status update [0033/????]

What a week.

  • Saturday, Sunday, and Monday: the storm that didn’t really hit us.  I had thoughts.
  • Most of my weekend time–and, actually, most of my time during the week as well–was spent reading.  I think I read something like twelve novels in the last seven days; I know for a fact that I read three just yesterday.  It was nice.  I particularly want to note the three Seanan McGuire novellas that start with Every Heart a Doorway and the three Ben H. Winters novels that start with The Last Policeman.  They were all particularly pleasant reads.  I’m currently in the middle of Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee, the first in another trilogy.  It had a bit of an impenetrable start, but I’m over halfway through it and enjoying it thoroughly now.
  • I also got back (at least temporarily) into watching television.  It’s Last Man on Earth and Brooklyn Nine-Nine in the morning, then the just-released season of Bojack Horseman and season two of Jessica Jones in the afternoon.  Both of those are almost done, though; I’ll move onto Luke Cage for sure, and probably finally start the second season of Fargo as well.
  • Several of my old coworkers (and some that would be new, were I still working) were in town this week, and I was invited to a pair of group events.  Those were nice, but honestly the best evening was Tuesday, which involved just three of us having a long conversation about science fiction over dinner at the best local Tex-Mex place.  It’s always nice to catch up with folks, but I do much better in small groups than I do in large ones, and I’m delighted that someone reached out to plan that dinner.  (Thanks, Mike!)
  • The downside of said dinner: despite getting through a dozen novels this week, my library stack actually grew (in word count, if not volumes) thanks to suggestions-slash-recommendations from that extended conversation. Sigh.
  • Puzzles provided a nice series of interrupts over the course of the week.  Not just for me, too; I had Amazon ship a fat stack of puzzle books to one of my cousins back home, who had expressed interest in them back when I visited in April, and spent a couple of hours on the phone over the course of the week helping her work through some of them.  She seems pretty hooked, which gives me a good feeling.  Puzzles are awesome.
  • Nothing exciting on the video game front, though; I’m mostly taking a break after the heavy Creeper World action from the past few weeks, just maintaining my dailies in the handful of free-to-play games I still muck around with.  I really, really need to put Let It Die to bed.

I’ll finish up my Cardpocalypse series this coming week.  I know my tiny readership isn’t big on commenting, but: this is your final chance to get me to cover anything you think I’ve missed.  So, uh, get on that, I guess?

Twenty-six weeks and what do you get?

…half a year older, for sure; thankfully not deeper in debt.

(A quick note: I added a widget to the side that lets you subscribe to the blog via eMail; put in your address and you’ll get a message whenever I write a new article.  Several people have asked how to follow along a bit easier.  Hopefully that helps.)

My last day of work was February 2nd, 2018.  This past Friday marks twenty-six weeks since then, fully half a year of retirement.  It’s kind of crazy to think about; I remember when I was in my late twenties and thinking, “huh, maybe I can pull this off sometime in my mid-forties if I work really hard at it.”  Working in tech let me pull that off seven or eight years before my original plans, and for that I will always be grateful.

It doesn’t feel like it’s been six months, but it doesn’t feel like it’s only been a couple of weeks either.  If I had to put a number on how long it feels, I’d say something like three months… but I’m not sure that that perception of time is really any different from when I was working.  I was at my last job for just a bit over five years but it felt like three at most.

Let’s answer the most obvious question first, because it’s also the easiest: No, I don’t regret retiring.  Do I have any concrete regrets at all?  Sure.  I miss the social aspects of my workplace, playing board games at lunch and chatting with people in the halls.  I miss the food team and the delicious free food (although my waistline is rather happier now).  But I honestly hadn’t been all that happy with my day-to-day job for a couple of years when I left, and there’s no question that I enjoy what I’m doing now–even if, to the outside world, it might look like a fat lot of nothing–quite a bit more.

The money situation requires a Magic 8-Ball response: Ask again later.  The market volatility this year has completely swamped any attempt I could make at understanding whether my rate of spending is sustainable or not in the long term.  That rate of spending has actually been surprisingly constant over the year, which I discovered almost by accident last week when messing around with graphs in Gnucash; it’s quite a bit higher than I would like–looks like it’s likely to be somewhere around $36,000 for the year, when I’m aiming for something more like $30,000–but there is still a ton of superfluous spending in there, if it turns out I have to buckle down and Get Serious about my money habits.  And assuming my spending increases at the same rate as the value of my investments (a pretty ridiculous assumption, seeing as the trend is downwards, not upwards) I still have somewhere around twenty years before I have to touch the first penny of my retirement, at which point I’ll be in my late fifties.  Yeah.  It’ll almost certainly be fine, but still: ask again later.

As for longer-term plans, well, I said I’d give myself a year before I started worrying about that sort of thing, so get back to me in six months.

From one perspective, these twenty-six weeks have been profoundly unproductive.  Other than this blog, I haven’t written anything of note; other than a few tiny patches and tinkerings, I haven’t written any code either.  But that’s at least partly by design; I don’t want to force myself into those things if I’m not really feeling it, and in both cases I can feel the desire to “do something” percolating more and more inside me.  I suspect it won’t be more than a couple of weeks before I sit down and write something, be it code or prose.  I’m going to let it happen naturally.

From another perspective, though, it’s actually been quite productive.  Changing the way that I type–something I do a lot of, even if it’s not writing prose–has been a huge undertaking; I remember that first weekend, typing at 5wpm and thinking it was the worst idea I had ever had in my life.  But now I’m back to something like 75% of my old typing speed, which puts me in the top 1% or so of typists in the world, and that is Plenty Sufficient for my needs.  It’s also way less strain on my hands, something I need to be careful with if I want to be able to do this for the next thirty-plus years.  It’s the sort of “short term pain, long term gain” thing that I couldn’t really justify back when my livelihood at least partly depended on how fast I could bang on the keyboard, and my life will be better now indefinitely into the future for it.

There’s the other stuff too.  I’ve read a bunch of books I hadn’t gotten around to, played a bunch of games I never finished, completed a couple of puzzle books that have been lingering near my chair for years… basically doing things I always pushed off because I didn’t have the time.  My backlog of media is effectively infinite, so it’s hard to say that I made progress on those fronts, and it still grows at a rate greater than my ability to consume it, but there’s no question that I did something there.  And that’s satisfying.

Another thing that retirement has made easier is taking control of my weight.  There’s no question that I’m addicted to food, and being alone at my house allows me to highly regulate the food I come in contact with; the ever-present snacks at my old work place were a serious impediment to my diet, and although I overcame that for a while it is always easier to just eat all the things.  I still have quite a way to go, but the combination of calorie restriction and keto is doing its job.  (It’s also making me pretty grumpy some days, but you can’t have it all, at least if you want to drop a bunch of pounds in time for the holidays.)

In some ways this was always something of an experiment.  You can plan and plan, hypothesize that “it’s going to work out,” but until you actually do the thing it’s almost impossible to know whether or not such a long-term life shift is actually going to work out.  And it’s still very much early days yet; I won’t presume to know that my first six months are indicative of the next six, much less the (hopefully) long life ahead of me.  But: so far, so good.  So very, very good.

Thanks for coming along on this ride with me.  If you have any questions or topics you’d like me to address, whether briefly in replies or via longer-form posts, just let me know.  Thankfully I get enough comments to know I’m not just screaming into the void, but I’m happy to hear feedback of all types.

See you here again in six months!  (Also on Friday or Saturday, for the weekly rundown.  But also in six months.)

Weekly status update [0026/????]

Half a year in.  Woof.  Let’s jump right in.

  • I made up for lost time on reading this past week; the first book (Ninth City Burning) was fun but slight.  The second, A Dirty Job, was so good that I read the whole thing in a single sitting, something I hadn’t done in ages.  Christopher Moore is always at least interesting and funny, but A Dirty Job was also very engaging, as evidenced by the fact that I couldn’t put it down.  Good stuff.
  • As mentioned here previously, we had a game night Tuesday that led to me starting a new series of articles about card games.  I’ll be writing another one up soon on card-playing etiquette before we jump into the games proper.  I’m still looking for feedback on what games you think should be part of the Guide to the Cardpocalypse.
  • I actually watched the tiniest bit of television this week, a single episode of Jessica Jones.  It was better than the first, which was good.  I have a lot of catching up to do with the Marvel Netflix series, not to mention everything else… but honestly I’d generally much rather read, play games, watch other people play games, or do puzzles.
  • Speaking of puzzles, while I didn’t do a whole lot in any magazines, I picked my Nintendo 3DS back up and did a bunch more of Picross 3D: Round 2.  It’s an excellent game, really hampered only by the clawlike way you have to hold the 3DS to be able to hit all the buttons; my hands actually cramp up after solving a puzzle or two, an issue I don’t have with any other puzzle games.  I’m close to the end, though, so I’m likely going to try and muddle through in the coming week or two.
  • I broke my diet somewhat for the first time since I started; I just really really needed some General Tso’s chicken on Thursday, and topped it off with jalapeño poppers.  It was delicious, and I suspect that one moment of weakness will help make the next several months easier.  I’m not really craving anything right now the way I was before… other than the always-persistent Ghost of Carbs Past moaning in the back of my head, but I’ve gotten good at ignoring that particular bugaboo.

Half a year.  I’m definitely going to write something up this coming week about what it’s been like so far, but just in case you were worried: still not bored.

Leader of the plaque

(Don’t blame me, blame Little Shop of Horrors.  Also, if you have a visceral hatred of talking about dentistry, feel free to skip this one.  I don’t blame you one bit.)

My dentist appointment went fine, other than costing rather more than I would have liked.  In fact, for the first time in my adult life, I wasn’t told that I needed to floss more.  This has been a goal of mine for at least the last decade, and while I’ve been flossing regularly for years, apparently the combination of keto and overall reduced consumption was finally enough to pass muster with the dental hygienist.  Success!

Also, still no cavities, for 37ish years and counting.  (I’m not sure when my first baby tooth came in.)

Like many people, I don’t like going to the dentist at all.  Perhaps unlike most people, my problem is 100% focused on a single thing: the water-pick device that modern hygienists use for scaling the plaque off of your teeth much more efficiently than the hooked picks (although they still use those as well).  Something about the frequency the water-pick runs at makes my entire head ache with the sound when it’s in my mouth, and on top of that it inevitably zings some of the nerves in my gums as they knock off the build-up, which makes me jump… and so I spend the entire time in a state of nervous shaky tension waiting for those zings, making the whole experience indescribably worse.  It’s basically a solid fifteen to twenty minutes of my body in complete and total fight-or-flight quivering-in-my-boots fear, except that I can neither fight nor fly.  I feel deeply drained after every visit.

Imagine how bad it’d be if I had cavities and they had to break out a drill.  Uggggggggggggggh.

Anyhow, that particular obligation has been done and dusted for the next six months.  As a first semi-major “health” thing since I’ve retired, it could hardly have gone better, so for that at least I’m quite pleased.  I’m also very, very pleased that I shouldn’t have to go back for quite a while.  That water-pick.  That water-pick.