My Prime Directives

Several of the other Nano Poblano participants this month have posted entries which led me to respond with comments about the set of rules that I have taken to calling my Prime Directives. Yes, that’s a nod to Star Trek, because of course it is.

Obviously I have to obey certain rules and customs to get along in this world, like wearing clothing to the grocery store and so forth. “Thou shalt not give people involuntary haircuts.” Aside from the basics, I don’t have a lot of rules though.

Being an adult with no real requirements on my time besides work and basic existence means I can pretty much do my own thing, and that means I get to set my own rules for getting along in life.

That’s where my Prime Directives come in.

This may not be a complete list- sometimes I add or remove directives on the fly, as they occur to me. I might also have forgotten something as I write this up.

For this precise moment in time, at least, and in no particular order, this is my list of Prime Directives.

Rule the first: Be kind.

This means exactly what it says. I try to be kind to other people, and I hope very much that when most people think of me, they think of me as a kind person.

Sometimes I’m bad at this one. Very few people in this world have seen me truly angry, but those who have seen my anger know that I can be a spiteful, vindictive, cruel bastard. I have Bruce Banner’s problem. It’s always there, the rage, right under the surface. I try to negate that as much as possible by choosing to be kind whenever possible.

It seems like the thing to do.

Rule the second: Never eat anything bigger than your head.

This one is lifted from a 1976 B. Kliban book I read when I was a kid. When I was little, it was funny to me, but as I got older, I realized it’s actually really, really good advice. I have stomach issues, and eating too much is a trigger for Very Bad Things to happen to my digestion. Plus I could make some earnest noises here about moderation being good for you, I guess.

Rule the third: Share the music.

Music is life. Music is very often the one thing that truly saves what’s left of my sanity – if I don’t listen to it for too long, I get cranky. It calms me, reduces my anxiety, helps me concentrate, and elates me.

If I had to choose, right now, between a life without delicious food or a life without music, I would say “sign me up for the cream of wheat, and then let’s go to a concert.”

It’s precisely because I love music this much that I believe it’s important to share it. When I was in high school, I made mix tapes. Later in life, I made mix CDs. Even now, sometimes I’ll put together mixes to share with people- the method changes over time, but the goal is always the same: “Let me play this amazing song for you! I hope you love it as much as I do!”

Music is life. Sharing the music means sharing life. It’s that simple.

Rule the fourth: Embrace your whimsy.

I am a silly, silly man, and don’t you forget it.

My second favorite thing to do with other people, right after sharing music, is to make them laugh. I’ve said on numerous occasions that my resting state is whimsy, and I think that’s basically true. If I am drained of my other emotions, and free of anger or ennui or despair, then what remains is just pure unbridled whimsy.

Leaning into my own whimsy helps me keep things light. Embracing my inner Muppet keeps me balanced.

Rule the fifth: Never wait longer than 70 minutes for a theme park ride.

This one is just good common sense for logistical planning. No ride is worth standing in line for more than an hour and ten minutes when you’re surrounded by the entire rest of the theme park. Especially when the entire ride only lasts five or six minutes. Just go do something else instead of waiting in line. You’ll definitely have more fun that way.

A Questionable Rule the sixth: Nothing good happens after 2 AM.

While I never heard this one articulated until I was watching “How I Met Your Mother,” it’s an often true statement. I can think of many, many times that I’ve stayed up late on the off chance that something cool would happen, only to have nothing happen, or worse, to have bad things happen instead.

I marked this one as “questionable” because I can think of a handful of times that I’ve had really cool stuff happen well after 2 am. Only a handful, though. Most of the time, it’s just better to go to sleep.

Everyone says you should get enough sleep, right?

Rule the seventh: Family is important.

I am fortunate to have a fairly close-knit family. My siblings and I get along really well, despite all the times they’ve tried to kill me. This extends to more than just that first ring of family, too. Just last week, I had lunch with my cousin because she’s not far away and I enjoy her company. It’s important to me to try to nourish those relationships when I can. Speaking of which- Happy Birthday, Older Brother! (Even though I’m positive you’ll never see this blog post.)

Obviously this Directive doesn’t work for everyone- I have loads of friends who don’t speak to their birth family or have disowned parents or siblings over long and sustained pain. That’s why this isn’t just limited to families of blood. Families of choice are important too.

The people you choose to thread through your life are another kind of family. I have friends all over the world, and many of them are, in my estimation, a type of family. There are people in Germany who are dear to me, and people in Orlando, and people in Long Beach, or in New Orleans, or in South Florida.

Family is important, whether you grew up with them or added them on later in life.

Do you have any Prime Directives of your own?

42/52 (and 21 of 30!)


Just ow. Did I mention ow?

On Friday, I tripped on a curb and wiped out pretty hard. I am ok; I am scraped and sore, but not permanently injured. I didn’t see that there was a curb there, and by the time I realized something was wrong I was already falling and there was nothing I could do but take the fall. There’s an awful sickening moment when you’re falling where you’re aware of the fact that you’re ass over teakettle, but also aware that there’s nothing you can do to stop it from happening.  I do not like being upside-down and out of control.

The whole experience has caused me to reminisce a little bit about my history of trips, falls, and injuries. Here’s the thing- the vast majority of my injuries throughout my life have been downright cartoonish. I’ll give you two examples.

In the first, it was the summer between ninth and tenth grade. I was riding a ten-speed bike through the Springhill neighborhood where my friends Brian and Phil lived. We were doing this insanely stupid thing where you close your eyes for a moment while riding, just to feel the wind and sun on your face. As you can imagine, this backfired splendidly- in rapid succession, I hit a mailbox and then the ground. The front fork of the ten-speed (which was borrowed from my brother’s friend) was bent at 90 degrees, and I landed in a broken heap at the foot of someone’s driveway.

A small child, smaller than me at least, walked down from the front step where he had been sitting, looked down at me, and demanded, “do that again!”

The specific break of my wrist that I got by hitting the pavement was such an obscure type of break that the doctor reading the x-rays had to look up the name of the specific type of break. I wore a cast for a few months, and that part of my right wrist still hurts from time to time.

In a second very cartoonish injury, I needed seven stitches in my left shin after I fell into an open manhole. I was closing up at work, walking a path I’d taken many times before to go to the utility room on the far side of the building. It was dark, and I was unaware there was a manhole there. Some workers had left it open earlier in the day, and by the time I realized there was a problem, I was six feet shorter and dangling by my elbows. I flailed on the way down in such a way that my arms hit the rim before I fell all the way down.  My left shin caught the edge on the way down, and I’d bled all over my shoe by the time I pulled myself back up. The hair on that part of my shin hasn’t grown there ever since, which gives me a weird little bald patch a few inches above the ankle.

When my injuries weren’t ridiculous and cartoonish and self-inflicted, they were usually at the hands of my brothers. Brothers are good for that sort of thing. I have one scar on my knee from when I was playing tug of war with my brother over a piece of the grill before we went on a family vacation. He let go, I kept pulling, and suddenly I had a gouge in my knee.

In another instance, my brothers taught me to fly. Each had me by an arm and a leg, and they were swinging me back and forth. Every time this comes up, and it comes up fairly often at family gatherings, my elder brother swears he didn’t mean to let go. Let go he did, though- both of them did. I flew splendidly through the air, right into the arm of a nearby chair. To this day, I can’t grow a full beard on my chin because of the scar there.

The scar on my forehead? That’s from where my siblings pushed tiny-me’s tricycle into a wall. I have a litany of smaller but less permanent injuries from various competitions and fights with my siblings, including one hilarious time that I was racing Jon down the street on our Schwinn bicycles and I rammed right into the side of a car that had just backed out of the driveway. I flew over the handlebars, slid over the hood of the car, and fell in a crumpled heap to the ground on the other side, laughing all the while. That poor woman was so traumatized, but I just thought it was the most fun I’d had all day. All boys love the Luke Duke hood-slide, even if they don’t know who Luke Duke is.

Sometimes I think that I really ought to just bubble wrap everything in my apartment – I crack my knee on the coffee table at least once a week, I whack my hand on doorframes as I walk past, and stubbing my toe is almost a scheduled event.  Maybe I should wear a hazard suit at home.

None of these injuries will ever be quite as over the top ridiculous as the stuff I did when I was younger, though.   As for my brothers and sister, I have a sneaky suspicion that all the shared trauma when we were kids is a big part of why we’re so close now as adults.  That’s as good a theory as any, I suppose.

What’s the most memorable time you have ever injured yourself?

3/52

Just after the Summer solstice, a post!

I’m borrowing this post idea from Bevchen.  I don’t usually do a lot of meme-inspired posts, but lately I haven’t been posting much at all.  So here’s the “What’s New With You” format…  here’s what I’ve been up to just lately.

Reading.  I haven’t had much time for the Kindle lately, but I did start Jen Bradley‘s novel “Virago,” along with  the fascinating “Cleaning Up The Kingdom, which is written by people who are former members of the Disneyland custodial staff.  Really interesting stuff here!

Watching.  Summer is upon us, which means there’s not as much new television to be seen.  I’ve nearly completed a re-watch of Star Trek: Enterprise, which I absolutely despised on the first run.  I find it considerably less revolting now, and I’m not sure what changed.     I’ve also nearly completed a re-watch of Leverage, which was a delightful and fun show that could easily have run another season without losing steam.

I also watched the first episode of the new Dangermouse, and it’s definitely got flavor of the original ones, even though some of the new voices completely take me out of the show.  The new Silas Greenback voice is particularly terrible.  I’m rather surprised they didn’t try to get Sir David Jason back… after all, he was the original voice of Dangermouse. (And Count Duckula!)  Maybe he wants to retire from acting, since he’s 76 now.

It’s also the summer movie season.  I haven’t had time to watch everything I want to see, but I can say that “Finding Dory” was exceptionally adorable, and the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie was super entertaining.  It was basically a two-hour live-action movie version of an episode of the 90s cartoon.

Fascinated by.  This news that the Earth has picked up a second moon.   Basically, an asteroid got caught in our gravity about a hundred years ago and it never managed to break free.   It’s tiny, about 150 feet by 300 feet, and it has a weird orbit.  It’s still technically a moon, though.    We have two moons!  Next up, Jedi Knights!

Cooking.  I’m not much of a cook, but I’ve been using the slow cooker for the occasional moist fall-apart-y chicken breast. (Amelie’s Salsa Chicken recipe:  Put a chicken breast in the slow cooker with mild salsa for a bunch of hours, then shred and eat with rice or something.  It’s super delicious!)

I’ve also been taking advantage of the meats that they sell which have already been prepped/seasoned/marinated-  Target sells a garlic and herb roast that is absolutely amazing after about six hours in the slow cooker.    I’ve also been making more easy-prep foods like spaghetti at home.  I want to eat out at restaurants less frequently, because I enjoy having money.

Exercising.  I’m still probably going to talk about exercise in more detail in another post down the line, but I’ve been trying to go to the gym several times a week.  When I lived in Germany, I walked most everywhere, lived upstairs, took the bus to work, and walked all over creation whenever I traveled.  My life in Florida is so much more sedentary, and I needed to get up and move.  So, the gym.  I just use the little gym at my apartment complex,  because paying for one that I would never drive to is just a waste of money.  I do some of the weight machines, some Couch-to-5K stuff on the treadmill, some time on the bike, and as little time  as possible on the Devil’s Elliptical.  I hate every second of it, but so far I keep going.

Buying.  Since I’ve been doing the gym stuff, I got myself a new Fitbit.   The Fitbit Charge HR is a wrist-worn step counter that also checks my heart-rate and tracks my sleep.  It’s great for being reassured that I am, in fact, terribly unhealthy and in need of drastic lifestyle change.

I also recently bought an install-it-yourself basic alarm system for my apartment, and the little SD card that activates the maps in my car.  The Mazda 3 model that I drive had the GPS built in already, and just needed the maps to activate the navigation.  There’s an SD card slot in the console.

Traveling. Not so much lately.  I did the Germany/Switzerland trip a little while back, but there’s nothing else on the near horizon, except a planned Disney trip in late August.  Orlando is only about a three hour drive from me, so I tend not to think of it as travel.

Thinking about: Speaking of Orlando, I won’t get into the Pulse nightclub shooting very much, except to say:   Orlando is my second home city (Regensburg is my third,) and some of the victims were friends of my friends.   I love Orlando, and I want to live there again some time in the future.  The attack was brutal and insane and it saddens me greatly.  It also makes me very angry.    I won’t say more about this, because the logical thread here gets into religion and politics, both of which are not topics I can be calm or cheerful about right now.

Listening to.  Mostly Pandora at work, but I’ve been working on an upbeat playlist called Jim Rhatt for the iPod while I’m on the aforementioned treadmill or Devil’s Elliptical.

Recent concerts with Amelie have included Florence + The Machine, Panic at the Disco, and Weezer.   The Cure is playing Miami early next week, but that’s the last show we’ve got tickets for until October (Sia) and November (the Pet Shop Boys.)

Regretting.  That my car has a manual transmission.    Almost all of the cars I’ve ever driven have had a stick shift, but this might be the last one before I go automatic.  I’ve always enjoyed driving manual because I feel like I have more control.   I’ve always preferred cars that were small and quick and maneuverable, like a White Star or the Millennium Falcon.  In fact, whenever I downshift in a turn, I feel kind of like Han pulling this lever, which is obviously the Falcon’s shifter:

falcon-flight-smaller

The problem with driving manual is that I live in South Florida again, and I spend most of my drive time on the highway, especially I-95.  This means there’s a lot of stop-and-go driving, and I spend a large percentage of my drive with my foot pushing the clutch all the way down while I coast along at eight or ten miles an hour.  It’s very annoying, and I often get out of the car with an ache in my clutch foot.

What’s your preference, automatic or stick?

Whatcha been up to?

It’s been a few weeks since I posted, and it’s been a few months since I’ve posted anything about what I’m actually up to.  Here’s some highlights:

  • I went with Amelie to Megacon, a geekery convention that happens each year in Orlando.  If you search this blog for Megacon, you’ll see my photos from several previous years.  Yes, I took hundreds of pictures this year as well, but I haven’t had a chance to sort them yet.  We saw Shatner and George Takei, Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes, Ming Na Wen and John Barrowman, Kevin Conroy and a whole bunch of Harry Potter actors.  Almost all of these people were hilarious.
  • I attended some meetings in Zurich for my job, which meant I got to have a brief visit back to Regensburg.  I took many photos of basically all the same things I took pictures of while I lived there, out of a sense of nostalgia.
  • On that same trip,  I convinced my colleagues to stop for lunch in Vaduz, Liechtenstein on the way to Zurich.  This is my 28th country visited.
  • I had minor surgery on my left shoulder two and a half weeks ago, to remove a fatty tumor called a lipoma.   Lipomas are generally soft, benign, and painless, and doctors usually leave them alone unless they’re impeding your mobility or causing discomfort.  My lipoma had grown to a rather large size, and was located in a place that did actually cause me some discomfort.  It was also growing-  the surgeon who removed it said that it was about the size of a grapefruit, but not entirely round.  Amelie and I named it Lumpy.   The surgery was very fast, but it prevented me from working out or lifting anything heavy for a while.
  • We’ve been to quite a few good movies and concerts in the last few months, including Bernadette Peters and Florence & The Machine.  I enjoyed Captain America: Civil War and the Jungle Book, and I was extremely annoyed with Batman vs. Superman.
  • The doctor told me today that I can do normal workouts again, which is great, because I just purchased a new Fitbit.  I had a Fitbit One throughout my time living in Europe, and I rather enjoyed seeing how much walking I was doing.  The one I purchased now is the Charge HR model, which does everything the One did, plus it monitors my heart rate and has a nifty wrist-band.  Also, Fitbit users can friend each other to compete or encourage each other to be active.  The “taunt” function is kind of fun.  If you have a Fitbit and you want to add me, use stevenglassman42 at gmail.
  • I finally got around to putting this little fellow on my car.  He’s been on my desk for something like two months:
    bb8

What have you been up to?

Don’t Make Me Sick

For my second full week back in the United States, I got to experience the joy and delight of having a cold.  I’ve been meaning to write a post about healthcare in Germany for ages, and being sick for the past week is a perfect lead in to the topic.  Being sick in the United States is a very different experience than being sick in Germany.

“Sick Days” are a very American concept.

While I was employed at our German office, I had German health-care and I followed the local rules for being sick.    In the German office, if you are sick, you go to the doctor on the very first day, and the doctor will give you a slip of paper that basically says don’t go back to work for however many days they specify.  There’s no “sick time” in the German office-  my benefits there included a generous count of vacation days, but the concept of “sick time” just isn’t used.  If you’re sick, you’re sick.  German employment laws are fiercely protective of the worker, and a company can’t easily fire someone while they’re out sick.  So, sick people stay home from the office in Germany, and rarely come in to get their colleagues sick.  That’s a very American behavior.

In the US office, however, the rules are different.  I came back to the US with a very finite amount of sick time, so I was only able to stay out of work for the first day of my cold.  On the second day, I schlepped myself into the office with my bag of cold medicine, tissues, and so forth.  Nobody wants to see you in the office when you’re sick, but if you have no available sick time, you must go or risk a disciplinary action.

Socialized medicine is actually pretty nice.

When the Affordable Care Act first started to gear up in the US, I remember seeing this comic in one of the local newspapers.  I saved it back then because I knew I’d be writing about this at some point:

healthcare01

 

My personal experience with socialized medicine doesn’t at all fit the negative talking points of the FOX News narrative.    I found the entire system to be uncomplicated and reasonable.   While I was in Germany, I had Techniker Krankenkasse, a large and ordinary public health insurance which was arranged with the assistance of my employer.  Private insurance is available in Germany, of course-  you just have to be willing to pay more.  I never found it to be necessary.

Because this insurance is subsidized by the government, my tax rate was higher and I saw less of my paycheck.  However, I went to the doctor several times in Germany without ever paying a cent.  One of those visits included a very small procedure which even required after-care, and there was no additional cost.   When I needed antibiotics, I paid only five Euros.    The same doctor visits here in the US would be $20 or $35 per visit, and the generic antibiotic wouldn’t be less than $10.   The higher tax rate in Germany was worth it, if only for the convenience of not having to pay anything to the doctor’s office.

The actual visit to the Doctor’s office.

I only went to one doctor in my time there, so I don’t have a frame of reference to tell you if my experiences are common.  My doctor’s office was a nice, naturally lit affair with pleasant decor.  The starkest part of the office was the waiting room, a square room with a table in the center and magazines to read-  in other words, it’s just like every doctor’s waiting room you’ve ever seen.

healthcare02

Whenever somebody arrives to the waiting room, everyone already waiting says hello.  Germans aren’t typically this inclined to greet people they don’t know, so I assume this is one of those cultural expectations that I just have to accept.

The checkup room is a big airy space.  And this is the part of writing the post where I realize that my meager count of doctor experiences in Germany leaves me with very little to talk about in this post.  Let’s move past this admittedly lovely checkup room, to talk about drugs.

healthcare03

Pharmaceuticals auf Deutsch.

One of the things that was difficult to get used to when I arrived in Germany was that you can’t get drugs in the grocery store.  In the US, you can get aspirin or Tylenol in Publix.  In a shop like Walgreens, you can get a can of coke, develop your film, buy a toy, and still fill your prescription.  In Germany, everything is separated-  food in the grocery store, drugs in the Apotheke.

Pharmaceuticals are more or less the same everywhere in the world, but the packaging is different.  Germany doesn’t use those amber plastic pill vials that are so ubiquitous in the United States; most drugs are distributed in flat packs like the one pictured below.

healthcare04

Where an American pharmacy would print a label with specific instructions on how to take your medicine, a German pharmacist will just write the instructions on the box.  See the handwritten 1-0-1 above?  That means take one in the morning, none at lunchtime, and one at night.   When they hand you the pills, they go over it verbally just once, and in my case, the pharmacist reminded me to be sure to finish the prescription.

Beyond that, things are more or less the same.    The individual pain killers are all available in Germany, just under different names.  Tylenol is Paracetamol, for example.  Vicks products are sold as Wicks.  Aspirin is still called Aspirin, though- Bayer is a German company, after all.  The only drug that I was never able to find a German analog of is Sudafed.  Any time someone visited from the United States, I had them bring me some 12-Hour Sudafed- that stuff is worth its weight in gold to me.

Being able to go to a Publix at 9pm here to get two more types of cold medicine, including one that will theoretically knock me out:  That experience is priceless, and it made me realize that if I have to be sick, I’d rather do it here, even though it’s significantly more expensive.

Have you ever visited a doctor outside of your home country?