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300 Seconds Episode #118: “The year Two Thousand and Suck”

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You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 118, “In the year two-thousand and suck,” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

It can be hard to believe sometimes, but we are now living in the Twenty-First Century.  The Future, such as it is.  Back on New Year’s Day of 2010, I thought back to all of those Nintendo and Super Nintendo video games that I played that took place “IN THE YEAR 20XX” and realized:  Wow, we’re there now.  In the novel 2001 A Space Odyssey, we were supposed to have a space station and a moon base.  Here we are, twenty years after 2001, and while the International Space Station is neat, it’s no Space Station V.  There is also no Clavius Base on the moon.  Heck, we don’t even have a Moonbase Alpha. 

My vision of how the future was going to play out was heavily influenced by all of the episodes of The Jetsons that I watched growing up as a kid and Isaac Asimov’s stories and novels, so it would be an understatement to say that I have been sorely disappointed in what I have seen in the first fifth of the twenty-first century so far.  Let’s be honest, the future just isn’t what it used to be.

To begin with, technology as a whole has not advanced as far as it could have, and one could argue that some things are moving in the wrong direction.  Take cars, for example.  Flying cars were a thing in The Jetsons, though George Jetson still had to contend with lousy traffic, because despite what Star Trek preaches, lots of people are still going to suck one hundred years from now.  I’m not even a fan of the concept of a flying car, because what goes up will eventually come down, and given the number of poorly maintained vehicles I regularly see on the road, I’m pretty sure we’re going to have a lot of people ignoring the ‘Check Anti-Grav Soon’ light on their future-car dashboard.  Honestly, though, I don’t even want flying cars, I think it would be enough for them to hover, just maybe a foot off the ground like a Star Wars land speeder.  Hover-cars would solve a lot of problems.  No need for tires, less wear and tear on the roads, or maybe, as Doc Brown once said, we won’t need roads. 

I think robots are neat, and one thing that The Jetsons gave us to look forward to was having a robot maid to clean up the house.  Given that at this point in time, we barely have a robot vacuum cleaner, I don’t expect to have a robot maid clanking around my apartment keeping things clean anytime soon.  I also think that Artificial Intelligence is also going to have a pretty hard time replicating the sassiness of Rosie the Robot.  It’s going to be a while before we figure out ‘smart technology,’ and even longer before we can have “smart-aleck technology.”

While science fiction made a lot of educated guesses as to what kind of technology we would have in the future, I don’t think anyone predicted the emergence of the Internet to say nothing of having access to it via a hand-held computer.  Isaac Asimov wrote several stories about a giant computer called MultiVac that literally contained all the information about the world.  I have a friend who refers to their cell phone as their “Mother Box,” which is probably the best description of a cell phone that I think I’ve ever heard, so maybe Jack Kirby was onto something.  Unfortunately, it is a great irony that unlimited access to unlimited information has collectively made people dumber.  This is partially thanks to social media, because no matter how terrible, out there, or insane the belief is, there will be a bunch of people with similar views online.  I’m just saying Flat Earthers should not be a thing in the 21st century.

One particularly awful trend that I have noticed in this year of twenty-twenty-one is the slow deterioration of the written and spoken English language.  Maybe it’s because of all the science fiction that I have read and watched over the years, but I was kinda hoping that we’d be using cool future words by now.  Going back to Asimov, he had his characters say things like “Aw, space!” in situations where one would expect to swear.  The Battlestar Galactica reboot famously used frak as it’s and one of my favorite future comics, Magnus, Robot Fighter would have characters say things like “I’m feeling sore down to the subatomic level.”  I always thought future-talk was neat and have adopted a similar tactic to cut down on the amount of salty language coming from me, though my preferred exclamations are “Craters!” and “Shazbot!”

People are inherently lazy, so I understand using acronyms on-line.  LOL, AFK, WTF, STFU and so on.  My personal favorite is IANAL, which stands for I Am Not A Lawyer.  I still remember the first time I heard someone actually say LOL out loud in a conversation: The person, whom up to that point I thought was otherwise intelligent said “LAWL!”  When I heard that, I wanted to smack the taste out of their mouth.  Seriously, what the hell?  Is laughing so difficult for you that you have to abbreviate it instead of actually laughing?! 

On the plus side, a common trope in near-future science fiction is that marijuana is legal, and that seems to be slowly happening, so hooray, I guess.  It also might explain a few things…

This has been 300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz, the next episode will be posted after I start writing a story about a tomorrow where nothing freaking changes, just to be different.  For more wonderfully weird, witty and mostly grammatically correct words written by me, visit Eduardo Soliz dot com and I thank you for listening!  Be good, take care, and God Bless.

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300 Seconds Episode #117: “Radio”

NOTE: This is a transcript of a podcast for those with hearing difficulties, those that prefer to read, and those who would prefer to not hear the sound of my voice. 😉

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You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 117, “Radio,” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

I consider myself blessed to be a part of Generation X.  I was born in the analog days of the seventies, grew up during the early digital age of the eighties, when video games and home computers were new, and saw the internet grow up in the 1990s from clunky beige PCs dialing up over phone lines to now being an indispensable part of modern life in the twenty-first century as we carry around our cell phones wherever we go.

Despite all the new super-awesome whiz-bang music technology that has come and gone over the years from cassette tapes to Walkmans to CDs to MP3 players to streaming services, I still have a soft spot for radio.

Back in the day, radio was where you went to hear the newest music.  If there was a particular song you really liked, you could use a tape recorder to catch it the next time it came on.  Hopefully you were there to press Record and hopefully the dee-jay didn’t blab over the beginning or the end of the song too much and hopefully your tape didn’t get chewed up by the player.  Ah, good times.

My mother had a radio in the kitchen when I was a kid.  I remember sitting nearby in the mornings watching her cooking breakfast while music played.  Years later, when I eventually bought a house, I also bought a radio for the kitchen.

My first car back in 1990 had a tape player that ended up being less than reliable so I spent my first years of college listening to local radio stations during my twenty-mile commute to school and back.  I particularly liked the oldies station; I remember listening to the morning DJs reading the local school lunch menus during my commute, peppering them with corny jokes and funny sound effects.  The radio in my car eventually quit working to the point where it would only pick up the AM dial and even then, there was only one country station that the thing would pick up reliably.  I don’t care much for country music, but they did play Paul Harvey in the afternoons during my drive home, so I got to hear a lot of Paul Harvey.  Good day.

It wasn’t until 2005 that I got a car with a CD player in it, so radio was my driving companion for a number of years, and over those years, I have noticed a few changes.  Like everything else in life, some of those changes have been good and others have been not so good. 

One trend that I liked was when stations started popping up that didn’t have DJs.  Jack-FM in San Antonio was the first one that I heard, and I’m pretty sure there is one in your neck of the woods, whether it’s called Jack or John or Bob or Sue or whatever one-syllable name they happen to give to it.  As much as I enjoyed the two guys on the oldies station back in the nineties, way too many DJs fill the airwaves with annoying blather that could be filled with music instead.  Yeah, I’ll switch over to the AM dial if I want to hear mindless yakking.  But, if there is one thing that AM radio is still good for, it’s sports.  I have spent many a Sunday listening to the Dallas Cowboys play on my drive home, and I have to say that listening to them suck is only slightly less painful than watching them suck on television.

Even though I have a USB drive loaded with my favorite radio hits of the 70s and 80s plugged into my vehicle, I still listen to radio for music on occasion, though it has become a bit harder as of late, and of course, commercials are to blame.

I get it.  Complaining about the number of commercials on the radio is like complaining about the weather:  You can’t do a whole lot about it so there really isn’t much point.  But, just like the weather, radio is getting worse:  You see, in order to play more commercials, you have to play less of something else, and kind of like how network TV shows became shorter over the years, radio stations have been trimming songs to make room for more commercials.  I mainly listen to stations that play of 80s and 90s music that I heard growing up, so when something is taken out of a song, I immediately notice.  Usually it’s something like a guitar solo, but I was legitimately upset the first time I heard Michael Jackson’s Thriller with the Vincent Price voiceover cut out.  Whomever made that decision needs to be fired…preferably from a cannon.  Radio, somebody still loves you, but we need to talk. 

This has been 300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz, the next episode will be posted after I sign up for Pandora.  For more wonderfully weird and witty words written by me, visit Eduardo Soliz dot com, and I thank you for listening!  Be good, take care and God Bless.

 

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300 Seconds Episode #116: “What’s In My Name?”

NOTE: This is a transcript of a podcast for those with hearing difficulties, those that prefer to read, and those who would prefer to not hear the sound of my voice. 😉

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You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 116, “What’s in My Name?” so let the 300 seconds begin!

It says something that even my name makes my life a little bit trickier than it has to be.  Growing up, I went by “Edward” instead of “Eduardo.”  If you’re wondering why, let’s just say that in my parent’s time, having a Spanish name wasn’t always an asset.  In any event, I went by Edward when I was in grade school and high school and even put it on my first driver’s license.  Once I finished high school and started college I stopped going by Edward.  My thinking was that Eduardo was the name that my parents gave me and so that was going to be the name I used from there on out.  Surprisingly enough, I didn’t get any grief from the folks at the Department of Transportation when I asked to have it changed on my first driver’s license renewal. 

I’ve gone by Eduardo ever since then, so family members and people that knew me in my younger years tend to call me Edward, and everybody that has met me since college and beyond will use “Eduardo.”  And because people are lazy, lots of people will just shorten it to “Ed.”

And that’s okay.  I am perfectly fine with “Ed.”  A funny thing happens when I tell people my name; they tend to ask what I want to go by.  “Should I call you ‘Eduardo’ or ‘Ed?’” they ask.  I usually tell folks that are obviously, shall we say, “ethnically challenged” to use “Ed” because Spanish is sometimes hard.  Also, most folks are eventually going to chop it down to “Ed,” anyway.  I will sometimes make the mistake giving people a choice, I’ll tell them: “Whichever one is easier for you to pronounce.”  That often results in a blank stare.  You know that look that your dog gives you when you throw a ball but instead you really kept it in your hand and they figure it out?  That’s the kind of look that I get.   Just flip a coin or something, people, it’s not that hard.  I had one manager who would completely screw it up when he took attendance at our daily meetings.  I figured that he was either super-ethnically challenged or he was an idiot.  We quickly found out that not only was he an idiot, but he was the living, walking embodiment of the Peter Principle.  Look it up.

When I had a job that involved talking on the phones, I quickly learned that using the proper pronunciation of ‘Eduardo’ would end up turning into a way-too-long discussion about my name.  If I answered the phone like this: “Thank you for calling, my name is Eduardo, how may I help you?” the customer would usually answer with a question like: “What’s your name?  How do you spell that?  Can you repeat that?” and my personal favorite:  “Are you in the United States?” and so on and so on.  I quickly learned that if I wanted to avoid that business, I had to gringo up the pronunciation by saying ‘Ed-whar-doe’ and dying just a little bit on the inside.   

The spelling of “Eduardo” is another fun thing that I have to live with.  Whenever I’m asked to give my name at a restaurant, I always tell them ‘Edward’ because I don’t feel like teaching the cashier how to spell “Eduardo.”  Now, if I don’t give them the spelling of Eduardo and I use it, there’s probably a fifty-fifty chance they’re going to put a w in place of the u.  Which is no biggie, I’ve learned to live with it, and it’s actually really close.  My all-time favorite spelling goof had to be when the people at the San Japan anime convention substituted a ‘y’ in place of the ‘u’ in their schedule.  To this day, “Edyardo” still cracks me up and I do have a few friends who like to rib me about it every so often.

The pronounciation of Eduardo is also a little bit tricky and my Spanish admittedly isn’t the best, I  will occasionally trip over the R.  I had a co-worker once tell me that ‘the R shouldn’t be rolled because it wasn’t proper Spanish.’  I responded by telling him that it was my name and I was gonna pronounce it however I damn well pleased.  I mean come on, we’re all about mangling and messing up languages here in the good ol’ US of A…after all, look at what we did to English!

This has been 300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz, the next episode will be posted after I practice rolling my R’s like Ricardo Montalban.   Thank you for listening and visit eduardosoliz.com for more of my wonderfully weird and witty words.  Be good, take care, and God Bless.

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300 Seconds Episode #115: “Fired”

NOTE: This is a transcript of a podcast for those with hearing difficulties, those that prefer to read, and those who would prefer to not hear the sound of my voice. 😉

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You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 115, “Fired!” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

Technical support is not an easy job to do, and when you work at a place that sucks, it makes it all the more harder.  My last full-time tech support job was at a school and it had been working out well, but I was laid off after my campus was closed thanks to the coronavirus back in episode number 107.  Six months and four episodes later, I would be hired on to a contract job.  It started out well enough for the first three months, but I was then transferred to another department where everything went to crap. 

There, I found myself dealing with some of the worst users that I have ever had to deal with in my ten years of doing technical support.  Now when I say that, I should mention that I spent time working for a company that made terrible software and had a monopoly on it so they never fixed anything, a cable company, federal and state tax departments, and yet somehow, those users managed to be worse.  Management treated them like children, and so they acted like children.  Funny how that works.  My boss in the department was also a lousy person who never once told me that things weren’t going well.  Instead, they let things accumulate so that they could dump a laundry list of complaints onto my boss in the IT department so that he could be the one to read me the riot act. 

On top of that, the administrative staff did this super passive-aggressive thing where they acted like I didn’t exist.  It was not unusual for me to be invited to a meeting fifteen minutes before it started.  Whenever special events happened in or out of the office, I was never invited.  I knew that things were happening because it was a small office and you could hear what everyone was saying, but no, they never invited me.  I don’t know that I would have joined them, but still, an invite would have been appreciated.  Finally, I had been sent to the principal’s office twice for bed behavior.  I was on the cusp of being fired, and so I decided that it was time for me to go.

I had planned on giving them one week’s notice, but a social media post changed my mind.  The morning that I was going to put in that notice, I saw that a guy that I used to work with had died overnight of COVID.  His name was Noah Villanueva.  He was a good tech, but more importantly, he was a good man.  Noah was a big funny guy, always smiling and joking in spite of all the crap that we all had to deal with at that place.  In fact, Noah was so nice that it would give us leads a little bit of grief every so often, but God bless him, we couldn’t be mad at him for very long. 

He left us to work at one of the cool companies in town, and I was happy for him when that happened, because he deserved better.  Noah was a damn good guy.  And now he was gone.  Except for the occasional exchange on Facebook, we hadn’t really kept in touch a whole lot, but I wept at my desk as I read the outpouring of disbelief and sadness from his coworkers and friends.  I tried to get back to work, but I couldn’t.  God help me, I couldn’t stop thinking about him and I couldn’t stop crying.  Hell, I’m sitting in front of a coffee shop crying as I type this.

Meanwhile, everyone else in the office went about their business as usual; I mean who cares about that guy crying at his desk, right?  He’s only a contractor.  Maybe if someone had asked me what was wrong, I would have stuck with my original plan.  Just one kind word might have been enough for me to put up with their crap for one more week.  I instead decided that these jerks didn’t even deserve that.

And so I packed my things.  I wrote an email to The Boss that said: “I am resigning my position effective immediately. Thank you for the opportunity.”  I clicked Send, tossed my badge on to my desk, and left the building, never to return.  This wasn’t the first time I had quit a job, but it would be the first time I would do so with a good plan on what to do next.

And what would that be?  Two words: Career change.  Stay tuned.

This has been 300 Seconds, the next episode will be posted after I update about a dozen job board statuses to “Not Looking for Work.”  I am Eduardo Soliz, if you’d like to hear or read more of my wonderfully weird words, visit Eduardo Soliz dot com, and I thank you for listening!  Be Good, Take Care, and God Bless.

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300 Seconds Episode #114: “My Coronavirus Story Part 6: 99.9 Degrees”

NOTE: This is a transcript of a podcast for those with hearing difficulties, those that prefer to read, and those who would prefer to not hear the sound of my voice. 😉

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You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 114, “My Coronavirus Story Part 6: 99.9 Degrees,” so let the 300 Seconds begin.

Since starting my new job last October, I had settled back into my typical office-job routine.  Get up, go to work, fix things, go home.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  It felt good to be working again, and of course, the money didn’t hurt either.  Of course, there were now a few pandemic-related changes, like making sure to bring a mask to work every day and having my temperature checked once I walked into the door.  Going out for lunch on Friday now involved getting something from a drive-thru and eating in my vehicle, but otherwise it was more or less the same old song and dance. 

Things were going well until I didn’t feel good one Friday.  My stomach felt lousy all day at the office and it still didn’t feel right that evening at home.  Late in the evening, something came to mind:  I hadn’t gone to the bathroom all day.

Well, poop.  Or rather, I couldn’t poop.  Now, I’m not one to reach for medication right off the bat, so I started drinking more water and had some fiber-rich cereal to try and get the plumbing moving.  Unfortunately, things were still on hold when I went to bed, but I held out hope that things would, shall we say, get going in the morning.

I woke up hot and sweating a few hours later.  Naturally, the first thing I did was check my temperature.  It was ninety-nine point nine degrees, so I was running a slight fever.  I took some acetaminophen and went back to bed.  I woke up the next morning feeling slightly less lousy than the night before, but still lousy and I still had a fever.  Even though I didn’t have any other symptoms, the thought of ‘oh crap, maybe I caught the coronavirus’ popped into my head.  I let my roomies know I wasn’t feeling well and stayed in my room all day because one can’t be too careful.  I also started wearing a mask whenever I left my room. 

If there’s one thing that really sucks, it’s being sick over the weekend.  Granted, I didn’t have any big plans for that weekend, but still.  My temperature was almost normal on Sunday morning and I felt better.  I even managed to go to the bathroom again, and let’s just say everything went as planned.  Even though I didn’t have any other symptoms, out of an abundance of caution, I got a quick coronavirus test that afternoon.  Much to my relief, the test came back negative.  I have to say that having to administer the coronavirus test on your own is kind of crappy.

On Monday morning, I let my boss know that I had been sick over the weekend.  I was told to work from home for the day and call HR.  Now, I don’t know if they were busy or just being a typical HR department, but it took quite a few calls before I got in touch with somebody, which was annoying.  Once I finally got through, HR told me to get a lab test and get back to them with the results.  I did a lab test that afternoon, but as they take two days to process, I was going to be working at home for the next few days.  At this point, I was completely over my fever, so I was pretty sure that all was well, but there was still a little nagging thought sitting in the back of my mind, certainly enough for me to keep wearing my mask at home.  Two days later, the test came back negative, and HR told me I could return to the office on Thursday.  I found it just a little odd that they didn’t have me work from home for two weeks or even one, for that matter, but at the same time, I wasn’t going to argue.

I was actually a little sad upon being told to come back to the office; Working from home over those three days had been kind of nice. The experience even got me thinking that maybe working from home full-time might not be a bad idea after all…

This has been 300 Seconds, the next episode will be posted after I check my temperature just one last time.  For more wonderfully weird and witty words I’ve written, visit Eduardo Soliz dot com, and I thank you for listening!  Be Good, Take Care, and God Bless.

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How I Lost 30 Pounds

INTRODUCTION

lossI would like to begin by saying that I am not a medical professional or a physical trainer by any stretch of the imagination.  I am an IT Guy in his late forties who spent way too much time on my rear and not enough time on my feet over the years.  This is my experience and following this little plan has worked pretty well for me so far.  I share my story in the hope that if you are experiencing health issues related to your weight like I am, then perhaps some of the things that helped me will help you to improve your health as well.

I am also not trying to sell you anything, though I admittedly will be gushing over Fitbit a lot.  That said, if you want to hang around and read some stories or listen to a podcast episode or two, it would be greatly appreciated.  Finally, this is not medical advice, please consult your doctor before starting any nutrition or exercise plan, don’t sue me if something unfortunate happens, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Still here?  Cool.  Here we go:

I like to joke that going to the doctor is like going to confession, but worse. Unlike the priest, the doctor knows you have sinned because the bad things you have done are all documented in your vital signs and your lab results. Of course, God knows everything that you’ve done, but He doesn’t offer much in the way of direct feedback. Indeed, the only penance to be found at the doctor’s office is not in prayer, but in performing acts of contrition towards yourself.

I have struggled with my weight for the better part of my life.  Working in Information Technology, first as a programmer and now as a tech support pro-slash-IT Guy didn’t exactly encourage good habits.  The truly lousy thing for me is that I don’t drink alcohol or smoke or use drugs; my one big vice is food.  Making the situation worse was that the only significant exercise I would get was when I would spend the weekend walking around a nerd convention.  Of course, with the extra weight comes health problems like Type II diabetes and high cholesterol.  Oddly enough, I’ve never really had high blood pressure, probably since I tend to not get worked up about things, but that’s a story for another time.

Last June, I had another one of those visits to the doctor…if you’re overweight, you know what I’m referring to:  The doctor tells you that you need to lose weight or bad things will happen (or worse things if you already have issues).  You respond by sheepishly nodding your head and saying “Okay, doc, I’ll try to do better” and six months later, you’re having the same conversation.  After years of living with weight-related health problems, I was finally determined to get my act together after a doctor visit in June 2020.  In a weird way, it helped that I had been out of work since the end of April, having been laid off due to the pandemic.  I had lots of time to start replacing my bad habits with good ones and couldn’t blame bad traffic or work-related stress or [insert random reason here] for not exercising.

SIMPLE, BUT NOT EASY

Losing weight is simple, but not easy. You burn calories throughout the day as you do things and you add calories by eating. To lose weight, you have to burn more than you put in, or end up at a “calorie deficit” to use the correct term. The concept is simple. To lose weight you need to either burn more calories by doing more things, eating less, or a combination of both.

But as many of us know all too well, it isn’t easy. Like so many things in life, the execution is where that simple idea falls apart. I’m no psychologist, but I’m sure there is a term for how we tend to overestimate the good things that we do and underestimate the bad. Heaven knows I was guilty of that: I would feel good about taking a fifteen minute walk around the nature path behind the office after work, but fail to recognize that the walk wasn’t enough to compensate for my ‘usual, not that bad’ meal of a bacon cheeseburger and fries that I’d had for lunch.

As I mentioned before, I’m a computer guy.  I like numbers.  So, the first step in getting my act together was getting the facts behind how good, and more importantly, how bad I was being to myself.  My thought process was that once I had all the numbers, good and bad, I could then start to make changes for the better because at that point I would know what was happening.  No more deluding myself into thinking I was doing better or not as bad as I thought I was.  I would have cold hard facts guide me going forward.  After all, as our doctors are all too aware, numbers don’t lie.

And so we have the first step.  It’s a little hard, but has absolutely nothing to do with eating or exercise:

STEP 1 – WEIGH YOURSELF EVERY DAY

If you take nothing else from these words, if you don’t read another word beyond this sentence, start weighing yourself every day. 

I won’t lie.  It is going to suck at first.

And that’s exactly the point. Once you learn what consequences your actions have, you should learn to adjust your behavior if you don’t want to repeat a bad performance. If you go nuts one day at your favorite Chinese buffet for dinner and get some bad news the next morning on the scale, then perhaps you will go a little less nuts the next time. Maybe you spent a day walking around the mall shopping with friends and you find yourself a little lighter the next day. Great! Yes, I know we’re still in the pandemic and that’s kind of a great big no bueno right now, but let’s pretend we aren’t. Ahh, good times. Anyway…

I started weighing myself every morning shortly after I woke up…and after a pit stop at the boys’ room.  I don’t know if that’s cheating or not, but when you gotta go, you gotta go.  I also invested in a smart scale, a Withings Body+, to be precise.  The convenience of having my daily weigh-in immediately zapped to the FitBit app so I could track my progress is pretty awesome.  Granted, you don’t have to go that far; if you want to write your numbers down in to a notebook or punch the numbers into an Excel spreadsheet and then do Excel things with the numbers, then go for it.  You’ll also be one step up on me because I hate Excel with the fire of a hundred suns, but that’s another subject for another time.

The idea behind weighing yourself is twofold: Do it to keep track of your progress and to learn what you are doing right and wrong on a macro level so you can start making adjustments to your habits.

STEP 2 – KEEP TRACK OF WHAT YOU EAT

This is another hard part, but technology definitely makes it easier.  I had tried calorie counting in the past, but measuring things, looking things up and writing things down (or arguing with Excel) ended up being a royal pain in the posterior, so I eventually always stopped.

At the risk of violating the ‘I am not trying to sell you anything’ pledge I made at the top of this blog, I have to mention that the Fitbit app made this much easier.  Indeed, I went all in with Fitbit and ended up using it to keep track of everything.  That said, I believe the CalorieKing or MyFitnessPal apps also allow you to do this.

The interesting thing with the Fitbit app is that in order to do calorie counting, you have to set a weight loss goal first.  I set my initial goal to ten pounds below my first weigh-in.  The app then gave me an estimate of how many calories I could eat throughout the day in order to lose weight based on my activity level, measured by my Versa, and the food that I was entering into the app as I went about my day.  I think that the app overestimates how many calories you burn, but regardless, you will eventually get a hang for how much less you need to eat to make progress, especially if you are weighing yourself every day.

I started keeping track of my diet on the same day that I started my daily weigh-ins.  Just like the daily weigh-ins, the point of doing so was to get an actual picture of how good and how bad I was doing.  It also had the effect of quickly making me think twice about my choices at mealtime:

Naturally, my first big eye-opening moment came when I decided to order out for lunch on that first day of July.  Like many of my fellow Texans, I love Whataburger.  I thought that since I had started my day with a fairly light breakfast, my “usual, regular, not-so-bad-for-me” lunch of a Whataburger with cheese with medium French fries wouldn’t be too far out of line.  Before placing my pick-up order via their app, I thought that I would plug the data into Fitbit to get an idea of the damage I would be doing.

Hoo-boy.

Fitbit’s food database has information on some major fast food places, including Whataburger.  I was shocked to find that a Whataburger with cheese on its own was a whopping 680 calories.  A medium order of French fries would tack on 420 more, which meant that what I had considered to be a ‘usual, regular, not-so-bad-for-me lunch’ in fact contained 1,100 calories.  Of course, when I dropped that data into the Fitbit app, it went DUDE THAT’S WAY TOO MUCH.  I hadn’t ordered as of yet, so I checked to see how much less awful a smaller Whataburger Jr. with cheese would be.  I was pleased to discover that it has 355 calories.  A small order of fries had 280, so that lunch added up to 635 calories, or 435 calories less than the regular meal.  I discovered that I could still enjoy a burger and fries…just smaller ones.

In doing this, I learned how awful my old diet was.  I also learned how to adjust my eating so that I would eat less calories.  In tracking everything that I was eating, I began to get an idea of how many calories I could eat in the course of a day and so I started eating less.

But here’s the crazy thing:

I AM EATING THE SAME THINGS AS BEFORE, JUST IN SMALLER PORTIONS.  I didn’t follow any “diet” whatsoever:  No low-fat or low-carb or paleo or fasting or any of those other flavor-of-the-month cure-all diet things that you hear about.  I didn’t even buy low-fat milk.  I just ate less. Since I was tracking my eating, I now knew how much I could eat before going over my limit for the day.

Sure, I was trying to include more grains and vegetables in my diet, but for the most part, my diet was still awful because I was still eating like a bachelor:  Fast food, processed food, sweets (being a good baker is a blessing and a curse) chips, and salty snacks were still on the table…just in smaller portions.  Cooking for one is also a royal pain in the rear and cooking healthy for one, even more so.  I know some of you are shaking your heads after reading that last paragraph, but the bottom line as you will see, is that it freaking worked.

Lord knows it isn’t easy, though.  I honestly miss wolfing down regular-sized burgers and fries, but if I want to not only hang around as long as I can, but enjoy the trip, then I can live with having a junior cheeseburger instead of a regular.

After all, it’s still a cheeseburger.

STEP 3 – GO FOR A LONG WALK (MOSTLY) EVERY DAY

I’ve owned a Fitbit Versa for a few years, and a Pebble Time smartwatch prior to that. My main motivation for purchasing a fitness tracker/smartwatch was to keep track of my steps, which mostly worked, but I ended up replacing looking at my phone all of the time with looking at my watch. My plan was to step my way to fitness at the rate of 8,000 steps per day. Yes, I know it’s supposed to be 10,000, but come on, man, I’m a computer guy. I would go walking around the office building for about fifteen minutes during my lunch break. After work, I would take another fifteen minute walk after work on a nature trail that was nearby. I felt pretty good about myself upon hitting 8,000 steps and occasionally even topping the recommended 10,000.

Unfortunately, counting steps wasn’t working for me.

Granted, my overeating was more than likely contributing to a lack of progress on the weight-loss front, but at the same time, I suspected that I simply wasn’t getting enough sustained exercise.  I decided that I needed to start doing some kind of workout five or six days a week.  As I wasn’t exactly in the best of shape (or rather, the wrong shape), I determined that walking would be the way to go.  Thus, I began going for a half-hour walk in the evening around the neighborhood.  Just a plain old walk; no silly power-walking or ankle weights or strutting like John Travolta or anything like that.  It helps that I like going for walks, and I walked nearly every day, maybe taking one day off every week or so.  Just a half hour walk, every day.

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT

I started my plan on July the first of 2020.  That first morning, I weighed 244 pounds (or 110.677kg or 17.429 stone for you folks in Europe).  Weighing myself in the morning was the easiest part of my plan and became routine pretty quickly.  Wake up, take care of business in the bathroom, then step on the scale and get the good (or bad) news.

My original plan was to eat “normally” and keep track of my diet to get an idea of how awful I was doing, and start making adjustments after a week or so.

That part got thrown out of the window after the Whataburger experience I mentioned earlier. I had similar epiphanies whenever I would think about ordering out. Granted, I had already cut back on eating out because of the pandemic, but having the FitBit app let me know how deep in the hole I was going to be putting myself in by having my ‘usual’ (read: too large) meals made me quickly rethink how much I was eating by letting me know just how badly I had been overeating. At the grocery store, I had already developed a habit of looking over nutrition labels before and doing my best to count calories, but now I was definitely taking them into consideration.

Getting a handle on my eating was the hardest part of my weight loss plan.  At five feet eleven inches tall, in my head I consider myself to be something of a ‘big dude,’ so I had it in my head that I had to eat a lot because that’s what big dudes do.  One thing I learned over time was that I didn’t have to eat as much as I thought I did.  As I mentioned earlier, something that I didn’t do was go on a “diet.”  I was enjoying the same things as before, just in smaller quantities. 

I had already been exercising a little, so upping the time to thirty minutes was simple enough.  Indeed, the half hour walk I started taking around the neighborhood in the afternoon became a nice little respite from the monotony of being cooped up inside of my apartment day in and day out.

Success came pretty quickly at the beginning; over the course of July I had dropped 13 pounds, and throughout the remainder of the year I continued to lose weight.  As I had suspected, the big thing that helped me along was being armed with the information I needed in order to make better decisions.  I was no longer thinking too optimistically as I had been in the past.  I now knew how bad my choices were so I could now avoid making them.  On the other hand, I could also see the positive results of my good choices which motivated me to stick with the plan and keep the ball rolling.

When I stepped on the scale on the morning of December 31 2020, I weighed 214 pounds (97.06kg or 15.286 stone), a loss of thirty pounds from when I had started six months prior. 

I was doing a thing on YouTube where I read fables every day when I started my weight loss journey. The screengrab on the left beforeafter was from July 1 and the one on the right was from December 31.  

In mid-January, I had my usual trip to confession the doctor’s office, and my doctor and I were both genuinely pleased with the results.  In addition to dropping the weight, all of my labs were now normal.  Cholesterol was normal, triglycerides, which had been through the roof before were now normal and my A1C dropped from 7.5 to 5.7 which is just on the upper edge of normal.  The possibility of cutting back on medication in the future was also bought up so things are definitely going well.

EPILOGUE

I wish I could say that things have been improving since that doctor visit, but unfortunately, I appear to have plateaued. I have been struggling to get down to 210 pounds since the beginning of the year as the stresses of quarantine life are finally getting to me. I seem to be stuck at around 215 for now, so my next challenge is going to be getting over this hump. Perhaps it’s time to change up the exercise routine or maybe even give up Whataburger. Time will tell.

So thus concludes my 2020 weight loss story.  I’m not going to claim that this is a be-all end-all solution, but my little plan worked for me and I’d like to think that it should work for lots of folks.   If nothing else, I hope that you can take bits and pieces of my methods and craft your own plan to better health.  I did it, and so can you. Thanks for reading.

Be Good, Take Care, and God Bless.

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300 Seconds Episode #111: “My Coronavirus Story Part 5: Back to Irk”

NOTE: This is a transcript of a podcast for those with hearing difficulties, those that prefer to read, and those who would prefer to not hear the sound of my voice. 😉

Click here to listen to this episode!

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 111: “My Coronavirus Story Part 5: Back to Irk,” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

After being laid off from my job back in April, or a few episodes ago, as the case may be, I started looking for a new job online, and, as many of you Dear Listeners are aware, the pickings in 2020 are pretty slim.  As in-person job fairs are out of the question right now, I attended online virtual job fairs which were just as virtually terrible as the real-life ones, so score one for consistency.

From May to September, I had a total of three interviews including one of those awful virtual ones where you awkwardly record answers to questions into your webcam.  Fortunately, the third time was the charm, and thus, I started a new contract-to-maybe-there’s-possibly-a-chance-you-might-just-could-be-hired gig a few weeks ago.  It would be an understatement to say that I’ve had to make just a few life adjustments in going back to living a nine-to-five life.

The biggest and most immediate adjustment I had to make was to my sleeping habits.  In my effort to lose weight, I had been waking up early in order to go for a walk in the mornings.  But as the Texas summer got hotter and hotter, I shifted to walking in the evenings which of course, meant sleeping in.  According to Google Maps, my new office was about thirty miles away.  That meant that I had to wake up pretty early to make it to work on time.  Funny thing about me:  I don’t have trouble waking up early.  Once I hear my alarm, I’m up.  No problem there.  But as a night owl, going to bed early is something of a challenge.  So while I might be up at five-thirty in the morning, I won’t exactly be “up and at ‘em.”

Thus, a morning commute became a thing again, and of course, with a commute comes traffic.  I had to drive from one side of San Antonio to the other, so my commute was going to be thirty miles of suck regardless of which route I took.  I eventually settled into taking the route that presented the most opportunities to stop for breakfast along the way.  Being stuck in a traffic jam is much easier to deal with when you have a Breakfast on a Bun from Whataburger along for the ride.

My new job has me working in an office, so that means I have to ‘mask up’ every day.  Since my pandemic travels up to this point were limited to the grocery store and the occasional drive-thru window, I had been making do with a few cloth masks, or the occasional shop towel mask whenever those were in the wash.  I now needed enough masks so that I could wear a different one each day.  I also had to get masks with solid colors or patterns that would be office-appropriate.  Of course, in the process of doing so, I ended up buying one or two that fit too tight because I have a big head.  Another fun big head thing that I have to deal with was that some masks would begin to irritate my ears after several hours of wearing.  Fortunately, I improvised an ‘ear saver’ using a rubber band and a pair of paper clips.

If there is one thing that I definitely need at work, it’s coffee.  I rarely drink it outside of the office, but when it’s provided by the company, then I am more than happy to partake.  When working from home, I would enjoy an occasional cup of Nescafe to keep the neurons firing.  I don’t know if this is how the new office works or if this is a virus thing, but there isn’t any coffee available at the office.  There aren’t any vending machines where I can grab a soda, either, and at the risk of being ‘that guy:’ I CAN’T WORK UNDER THESE CONDITIONS. 

Where there’s a will, there’s a way, but Will’s not here so I have to solve my own problems.  I happen to have a mini-fridge that holds six cans of soda.  I’d purchased it during my days as a field technician, but that’s a story for another time.  In any case, problem solved!  Almost.  In the interest of watching my budget, I bought generic diet cola.  I quickly began to notice that I wasn’t feeling the caffeine boost that I was accustomed to getting from a soda in the afternoon; my metaphorical tail was still dragging after chugging one down.  I randomly checked the ingredients on the can one day and discovered, to my horror, that generic soda contained less than half the caffeine of the name brand stuff.  I guess that’s why it costs a buck and a quarter for a six-pack!

This has been 300 Seconds, the next episode will be posted after I set my alarm.  For more witty words written by me, visit Eduardo Soliz dot com, and I thank you for listening.  Be good, take care and God Bless.

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300 Seconds Episode #109: “My Coronavirus Story Part 4: The New Sort-of Kind-of Not-Quite Normal”

NOTE: This is a transcript of a podcast for those with hearing difficulties, those that prefer to read, and those who would prefer to not hear the sound of my voice. 😉

Click here to listen to this episode!

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 109: “My Coronavirus Story Part 4: The New Sort-of Kind-of Not-Quite Normal,” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

The week after the office I worked at closed, the city of San Antonio went on lockdown.  Thus, I had to adjust to not only working at home, but also to being at home nearly all of the time.  I am a bit of a homebody, so being stuck at home wasn’t that big of a deal, but it was still annoying to not be able to go anywhere. 

One of the first things I did was to designate the dinner table as my home office in a feeble effort to keep some division between my home and work life.  For the most part, it worked fairly well, since my dining room table had not been getting much use anyway.  The only problem that came up was that I quickly learned how uncomfortable it was to be sitting on my unpadded wooden dining room chairs for several hours.  I eventually abandoned the dining room table for a cubbyhole in the apartment, which, while offering less desk space, did have an office chair that was much more comfortable to sit in.

Like most folks, I didn’t own any masks when the pandemic started hitting home.  I figured that if nothing else, I would have to eventually go to the grocery store, so I thought it would be a good idea to get some masks and be a responsible member of the community.  Additional motivation was provided by the fact that I have a few boxes checked off on my ‘if you catch this, you’re in deep trouble’ bingo card.

After doing some searching, I ordered some masks online from independent makers, but I needed something to tide me over while those got made and shipped.  My first attempt was the ‘cut up an old t-shirt’ method.  That ended up being a spectacular failure because I have a big head topped with a mass of thick curly hair.  Even working with a size double-XL shirt, I was unable to get it completely around my 23 and a half inch melon.  I’m also not the best with scissors, so there’s a pretty strong chance that I cut the pattern the wrong way.  I eventually found a bandana from high school that worked until I bought a roll of shop towels and made my own with staples and rubber bands.  Eventually the masks I ordered did arrive, and yes they did have animal prints on them.

Naturally, I have to mention the toilet paper thing.  Holy cats, if I live to be a hundred years old I will never understand what the hey that business was all about.  Fortunately for me, I live alone and my digestive system is fairly regular, so I don’t use too much, I don’t think.  That said, I didn’t want to be caught off guard, so I started keeping track of how long certain things, like toilet paper, lasted.  Originally, I was concerned with how long a roll of toilet paper, a bottle of hand soap, and a tank full of gasoline would last.  Gasoline wouldn’t have come to mind, but San Antonio flipped its collective lid back in 2017 and caused a shortage after Hurricane Harvey out of self-induced hysteria.  I was pleased to discover that a roll of toilet paper and a twelve-ounce bottle of hand soap each lasted about three weeks.   I was also happy to discover I was getting two months to a tank of gas in my Honda CR-V because I was only driving to the grocery store.  At one point I did have to hunt for toilet paper for a friend who was running low.  Lucky for her, I was fortunate enough to find some and save the day. 

A nice habit that I picked up during this time was walking to the nearby dollar store to pick up things in between my main grocery store trips.  At first, the pleasant weather of late March and April made for some nice afternoon walks, but as the Texas summer started to do its thing, those trips got pushed further and further into the evening until eventually I would wait until after sundown to head out.

Of course, once I was done with work, I had to do something for entertainment, so I’ve been watching movies from my DVD and Blu-ray collection, and even picking up a few new ones to while the evenings away.  I’ve actually been keeping track of what I’ve been watching, and I’m up to about eighty movies so far, not counting repeated viewings of Casino and Goodfellas.  I’ve also gone through all the original cast Star Trek and the first series of Batman movies.  I think I’ll try Star Wars next, but I’m not sure how far I want to go with those.  I recently reactivated my NetFlix account and have enjoyed the new shows that my friends have been talking about, like BNA, Beastars, and Warrior Nun.

Except for going to the grocery store or to restaurants and fast food joints for take-out, I spend all my time at home.  As I’m sure many of you will also attest, the days began to blur together.  Weekends suddenly became meaningless, because there was nothing happening to look forward to.  No comic cons, no camping trips, no local theme park visits, no casino trips, not even a trip to the mall. Instead, Saturdays and Sundays became the days that I didn’t sign into my work laptop…yippee.

And, as fate would have it, not long after I got settled into that new normal, it was thrown out of the window after I got laid off.  If you’d like to hear the gory details, you can go back two episodes.  Suddenly, instead of sitting at my work laptop hunting for trouble tickets to work on, the better part of my day was now filled with absolutely nothing!  

This has been 300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz, the next episode will be posted after I mail back my work laptop.  Subscribe via your favorite app, and visit Eduardo Soliz dot com for more wonderfully weird words written by me!  As always, I thank you for listening! 

Be Good, Take Care, and God Bless.

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Super-Short Storytime: “The Best Job in The World”

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Welcome to Super-Short Storytime, Dear Listeners!  I am Eduardo Soliz, the author and narrator of the splendidly short story that you are about to hear.

My unhappiness towards my nine-to-five (and my willingness to share it) has gotten to the point where it has become a character trait over the years.  But I’m not here to tell how you about much I hate my job.  Instead, let me tell you a story about a guy that does enjoy his work.  This work-related writing is called: “The Best Job In The World“

A middle-aged man wearing black slacks and a white button-down shirt stood in front of a row of vending machines.  He wore an identification card that bore the logo of the Prehistoric World theme park and “Bernard Olson, Accounting” in bold letters underneath that.  Bernard idly jingled some change in his right hand while he looked from one machine to the next, carefully considering his options.

“Hey buddy, could you give me a hand, here?”  A man’s voice said to his right.  Bernard turned to answer and quickly jumped back upon seeing a six and a half foot tall mountain lion standing next to him.  His shock quickly turned to relief when he realized that it was a person wearing a costume.

“Oh!  You frightened me. ” Bernard said.  Bernard hummed to himself as he looked for an identification card on his costumed coworker, who wore a T-shirt with the name “Pappy Puma” on it.  Bernard was fairly certain that wasn’t his real name.

After a moment, the mountain lion noticed his confusion and said:  “Oh!  Sorry about that.  I’m Jay.”

“My name is Bernard,” Bernard said quietly.  He gingerly shook the large paw that Jay offered.

Jay continued: “If you could help me out, that would be awesome, Bernard.  My usual helper is in the infirmary.  She’s new to the area and hasn’t gotten used to our wonderful Texas summers yet.” 

Bernard nervously looked around to see if there was anyone else nearby that could help in his place.

“Come on, man.  I ain’t gonna bite you.” Jay pleaded.

Bernard sighed.  “Okay.  What do you need me to do?”  He asked.

“Help me get this head off.  Go around me and unzip the zipper that’s at the back of my neck.”  Jay said.  He dropped to one knee so that Bernard could more easily reach it.

“Okay.”  Bernard said.  He walked over behind Jay, and looked at the back of his head.  He saw a seam running down the back and followed it to its end, where he saw a zipper’s metal tab sticking out.  He grabbed the zipper and slowly pulled it up.  Before Bernard had the zipper opened completely, Jay reached up and pulled the mask forward to remove it. 

“Whew.  That’s better.”  Jay said, relieved.  Bernard walked around to face him and stared for a moment.  Jay was wearing a tight-fitting hood on his head made out of some synthetic material.  Only his face, which was red from the heat, was exposed.  Jay took the head off and carefully placed it on the floor next to his gym bag.

“What’s that thing on your head?” Bernard asked, motioning at his head with his hands.

Jay looked at him for a moment before realizing what he was referring to.  “Oh, the hood?  It’s to keep sweat from getting into my eyes and stuff.  I’m wearing underclothes made out of the same material, but it can only do so much, you know?”

Bernard nodded in acknowledgement.

“Could you help me get one of these paws off?” Jay asked.  “They’re held on by some snaps that are underneath the seam.  I could use my teeth, but the folks in the costume department wouldn’t appreciate that.”  He extended his right arm towards Bernard, who removed the paw and examined it.  Meanwhile, Jay used his now-free hand to remove the other paw and set it on top of his costume’s head.

Bernard peered inside of the paw and quickly drew his face back when he noticed the moisture and the smell coming from it.  “Goodness, that’s a lot of sweat.”  He observed.

“Yup.   Such is the price of fame.” Jay quipped.  He was hunched over his gym bag searching inside for something.

“It looks like you have a difficult job, having to wear this all day.” Bernard pondered.  “I don’t think that I could do it.”  He bent over and carefully placed the costume hand atop of the other one.

“The positives ultimately outweigh the negatives, my friend.” Jay said.  He pulled a wallet out of the gym bag, opened it, took out a few bills, then dropped it back into the bag.  He stood up, walked over to one of the vending machines and bought a sports drink.

“What positives?”  Bernard asked.  “You walk around outside in that heavy suit all day, get pushed, kicked and well, abused by children, and I can’t imagine that you get paid very well.  No offense intended.”

“None taken.”  Jay replied before taking a swig of his drink.  “And yeah, all of what you said is true.  Those are the negatives.  So let me give you some positives:  It’s fun to interact with the kids.  As far as they’re concerned, I really am a big cat.  I get to snarl and meow and purr and be silly and goofy.  Sure, some of them will push and kick and shove and cry, but they always walk away happy, and that makes me happy, too.

You know what most people make at their jobs, Bernard?  Money.  That’s it.  Nothing else.  Do we need it?  Of course we do, that’s the world we live in.  But there’s nothing really unique about money.  A smart man once sang that ‘money talks, but it don’t sing and dance and it don’t walk.’  Money isn’t special.  It’s as common as the dirt on the ground.  Just because other folks  have more doesn’t make it any less true.

But the smile on a child’s face, the laughter of parents and grandparents as they take a picture, even the dumb giggling coming out of a bunch of nutty college kids.  Those things are special.  Those are the things that people remember.  Sure, lots of other people might make more money than I do, but I make memories.  I have the best job in the world because my job is to make people happy.”

“Wow.  I never thought of it like that.” Bernard said, surprised.  His tone became sad as he continued:  “It certainly sounds more enjoyable than my job.  I just sit at a desk all day and crunch numbers.”

“Yeah, but your job is important, too, Bernard.  If you don’t crunch all those numbers, we don’t get paid, right?”  Jay said with a smile.  “Sorry for rambling  like that, Bernard.  I guess I’ll head over to the locker room and get out of this suit.”

“Oh, so your day is over?”  Bernard asked.

“Without a handler, it is.”  Jay explained.  “The costume head severely limits my vision, so I have to have a handler nearby to help me get around, keep an eye out for kids and to make sure that we don’t stay outside for too long, but unless Angela gets out of the infirmary soon, I’m done for the day.”

“Now that’s unfortunate.”  Bernard said.  He checked his watch.  “There are still several hours until the park closes.”

“Well, them’s the breaks.” Jay mused.  He started to gather his things together.  “It’s been good talking to you, man.  Thanks for the assist.”

“Wait a second.  What if I was your handler?” Bernard asked.

“Huh. I’d appreciate the assist, but won’t you get in trouble?” asked Jay.

“It’ll be okay.  Besides, I can always make more money tomorrow.” Bernard said.

“That’s the spirit!  Come on, Bernie, let’s go make some memories!” Jay exclaimed.  With smiles on their faces and springs in their steps, the pair headed off to ‘work.’

THE END.

It may be cliche to say that “money isn’t everything,‘ Dear Listeners, but that doesn’t make it any less true for some folks.  Personally, I would love to have a job where I make something besides money, but for now, money will have to do.  This has been Super-Short Storytime!  If you’d like me to tell your story, send an email to edsoliz@gmail.com

Thank you for listening!  Be Good, Take Care, and God Bless.

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300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz, Episode #107: “My Coronavirus Story Part 3: Laid Off”

NOTE: This is a transcript of a podcast for those with hearing difficulties, those that prefer to read, and those who would prefer to not hear the sound of my voice. 😉

Click here to listen to this episode!

If you are looking for a professional voice to represent your business, your organization, or yourself, send me an email at edsoliz@gmail.com.

And now, on with the show:

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 107, “My Coronavirus Story Part 3, Laid Off,” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

April the 30th of this miserable year of 2020 was just another day at home in this weird time that is both very interesting and yet uninteresting at the same time.  The company I work at had closed all of its offices back in mid-March as the nation started trying to come to grips with the pandemic.  My job, as a deskside technician, was to be the ‘boots on the ground’ in the San Antonio office, but now that the office had been closed, my workdays consisted of sitting at my dining room table on my work laptop hunting through open incidents for something to do.  Thanks to the lock-down, the number of remote techs working from home had multiplied five-fold, so the pickings were very slim.

A fellow tech had posted a ticket into our group chat asking for help, so I seized the opportunity and raised my virtual hand. I had been hired in December and there was still a lot that I didn’t know.  Thus, I began searching through the knowledge base so I that wouldn’t be flying completely blind when I got in touch with the customer.

I had barely started to read the first article when the message: “Do you have time for a call?” popped up on my screen.  I frowned at my dumb luck.  Of course, the boss has to ping me the one time that I actually had something to do.  But, you know, he’s the boss, so I replied:  “Sure, I have time.” 

“Okay, I’m sending a meeting request.”

I logged onto the video chat to find my boss and two other people that I had never met before on my screen.

My Spidey-sense started tingling.  The first thought that popped in my head was:  This is it, I’m being let go.  In my mind, the two newcomers were the online equivalent of someone bringing a security guard with a cardboard box to your desk.

Once my boss introduced the pair of morose-looking gentlemen as being from Human Resources, my internal estimate of whether I was about to be let go from my job went from ninety-nine percent to one hundred.   The only question now was going to be whether I was going to be laid off or fired. 

The HR guys introduced themselves; one of them said that he was sorry we were meeting for the first time under these circumstances.  I almost cracked a joke about this being the last time we were meeting, too. I kinda wish I had.  Maybe it would have lightened the mood a little.  Then again, it may have also made the unfortunate proceedings about to happen even more awkward.  I chose to be a professional and held my tongue, which was probably the smarter thing to do.

After introducing them, my boss pretty much let the HR guys take over the meeting.  He didn’t even bother looking into the camera, which was off to the side of his PC.  I later found out that I wasn’t the only person to be let go, so perhaps he was setting up those meetings as well.  I can’t say I envied him having that job, but at least he still had one.

Having been fired before as well as having been part of a mass layoff, I knew what was coming.   We’re very sorry it had to come to this.  Business needs.  This wasn’t planned in advance.  Blah blah blah.  The only part I was interested in was whether I was being laid off or fired.  I did a Mr. Spock eyebrow-raise at what I thought were some questionable statements, such as:

This is about business needs, which translates to: This is about saving money.  That statement would have gone over better if I hadn’t had to sit in on an hour-long presentation with our CFO just the day before where he mentioned that the company was doing fairly well in spite of the lockdown.  Yeah, that definitely does not computer.

This wasn’t planned in advance: Yeah, I don’t buy this for a second, especially given that it was a large company.  Large companies never do anything quickly.  It had been a month and a half since the office had closed down, and I wonder if there was some threshold they were waiting to hit before dropping the axe.  If that statement was true, a company that just drops people at the drop of a hat isn’t the kind of company I want to work for.  Granted, that issue seems to have taken care of itself, but still. 

There were also a whole mess of things involving health insurance that I won’t go into here because this is 300 seconds and not 600.  For those interested, the gory details of that mess are posted on my blog at Eduardo Soliz dot com.

Near the end of that whole sad affair, I was told to not mention anything to my coworkers, because others were going to be let go as well.  Sure.  A box would be shipped out so that I could return my work laptop and charger.  I also had an access card for the office and a skeleton key, so I offered to get in touch with my local manager to return those items to her.  I was told: “I know it sounds silly, but put those things in the box and mail them over to Milwaukee.”  In my mind I thought: That doesn’t sound silly. It sounds stupid.  But, I didn’t fight it.

The meeting done with, began to clean up the improvised home workspace that would go back to being my dining room table.  I quickly discovered that my work access had been revoked, so score one for efficiency.

I sighed, logged out of my work laptop for the last time, and then came to an unfortunate realization:

I had forgotten to reassign that ticket.  Oh well.

This has been 300 Seconds, the next episode will be posted after I visit the job websites.  For more witty words written by me, visit Eduardo Soliz dot com, and I thank you for listening.  Be good, take care and God Bless.

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