Category Archives: health

My (Early) Thoughts On Pandemic-Era Live Sports

This past weekend felt like a turning point for the world of sports. For sports lovers like me, it was a weekend we thought might never come. This past year and the global pandemic that has consumed it has ruined so many things, canceling so much of what we love. It got to a point where some of us seriously wondered if sports would go the way of concerns, indoor restaurants, and strip clubs.

As a lifelong lover sports who builds spring and summer afternoons around watching baseball games, this was a terrifying thought. I was already bracing myself for the worst, thinking that 2020 might become a year without sports. For once, the worst didn’t entirely come to pass. Baseball, hockey, and basketball all made a comeback and sports fans everywhere could breathe a bittersweet sigh of relief.

Having spent the past few days watching a little of everything, from late night ball games to the new NBA playoffs, I certainly share that relief. I am very happy to see sports return. It feels like a real sign that we’re navigating this pandemic. We’re making a genuine effort to get our lives back. That said, the experience of watching sports is very different during a pandemic.

The most jarring thing, at least for me, was watching a Red Sox vs. Yankees game with no fans. Even though the broadcast tried to pump in crowd noise, it just felt so off. This is one of the most heated rivalry in the history of sports. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the playoffs or the regular season. When these two teams play, it has real dramatic stakes.

You can hear it in the crowd.

You can feel it with every home run, lead change, and scoring opportunity.

It’s part of the experience, even if you’re watching from home. Without real fans and real visceral crowd noise, it just felt incomplete.

Don’t get me wrong. I still enjoyed watching the game. After several months with no sports outside of Korean Baseball, it was incredibly cathartic. You could just tell that this is an incomplete product, but for very good reasons. The subsequent outbreaks that followed opening day were proof of that. I have a feeling that won’t be the last outbreak before the season is done.

That season might even get cancelled. That’s a real possibility and one that doesn’t bode well for football season, which is just a month away.

It seems basketball and hockey are faring somewhat better. They still had the benefit of nearly being done with their season by the time the pandemic hit. I managed to watch a few basketball and hockey games. It wasn’t quite as jarring as baseball, but it still felt very incomplete.

If you’ve ever seen how the Las Vegas Golden Knights put together an opening show, you know why. It also changes the stakes, somewhat. When the both the NBA and NHL seasons were put on hold, teams were still fighting for playoff positions. Those positions matter because higher ranking means a chance at home field advantage.

Well, since both leagues are playing in a bubble in limited locations with no fans, there’s no such thing as home field advantage. There’s no crowd energy. There’s no real sense that any team has an advantage, besides the record they earned before all this happened. For some, that’s disappointing. At the same time, this might be the most level playing field these teams have ever had.

In those circumstances, how do we treat the team that ultimately wins it all? How can you judge any team that wins a championship when an entire season got disrupted by a global pandemic? Does that championship deserve an asterisk? Will people and players alike see it as legitimate? Will the fans even be able to celebrate it? It’s not like parades are conducive to social distancing.

These are sentiments I still find myself contemplating as I celebrate a return of sports. I’m sure those sentiments will change as the rest of the year unfolds. If baseball gets cancelled or football season gets delayed, that’ll be another sign of just how bad this pandemic is and how terrible we’ve been at dealing with it.

Again, I’m still bracing for the worst. For me, the worst-case scenario is the NFL season getting canceled or cut short, due to an outbreak. I suspect, with billions of dollars on the line, everyone involves will try to avoid that. However, if this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the unthinkable is more possible than we care to admit.

I don’t know how it’s going to play out. I’m just glad sports are back, in some capacity. I just worry about what the end results will be when all is said and done.

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Filed under Current Events, football, health, sports

Global Pandemic Likely To Decrease Birthrates (After I Predicted The Opposite)

In general, human beings are awful at predicting the future. That’s why those who successfully do are so celebrated. I’ve certainly made a few predictions in the past. Some are broad and far-reaching. We won’t know how accurate or dead wrong they are for years, possibly until after I’m long gone.

However, some are simply bound to be proven wrong in short order. There’s no shame in that. You dare to speculate. Sometimes, you just end up being wrong. Earlier this year, I speculated that the lock-downs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic would lead to a miniature baby boom.

I thought my logic was sound. People are going to be stuck at home with their significant others for extended periods. The aspiring erotica romance writer in me thought that was all it would take. Keep two people together at home long enough with little else to do and eventually things will get sexy. When things get sexy, babies tend to get made.

The logic may be simple and sexy, but the real world is complicated and chaotic. Now, recent reports indicate that my prediction was so wrong that the opposite might be happening. The Daily Mail reports that, amidst the pandemic, very few women are getting pregnant and the overall fertility rate is plummeting.

Daily Mail: Americans are NOT getting pregnant amid the pandemic as experts warn already declining fertility could plummet further

In addition to the unsteady economy, couples are also likely experiencing fear and anxiety over the public health crisis and its uncertain end.

Fertility rates have been steadily declining over the last several years and some believe the COVID-19 crisis could cause these rates to plummet.

Demographers and public policy experts say fewer children will mean not enough healthy, young workers to keep the economy going and replace the aging US population.

One report has even predicted that as many as 500,000 fewer babies could be born, which coupled with the death toll from the virus, could lead to a stagnating economy.

I freely admit I got this wrong. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have made that prediction on such simplistic logic. I should’ve also factored in the anxiety that comes with a massive economic downturn and the fear that comes with not knowing if you or your loved ones will get sick. Those are incredibly relevant forces. They do plenty in terms of undermining anyone’s inclination to get frisky.

It’s a dire situation on so many levels. It’s also understandable. Who would want to have kids during a crisis like this? Who would even want to try? These are not good times for starting families. The world, the economy, and society in general is in a very precarious state. Isolation or not, few people are in the mood and that’s not likely to change in the near-future.

Declining birth rates was already an ongoing trend. This pandemic might just accelerate it. How low will it go? I won’t try to predict that. I’ve already demonstrated that I’m not good at predicting the extent to which people will get frisky.

As for what happens when the pandemic is over, that might be worth speculating on. I’ll try not to make too bold a prediction here, but I will say this. Whenever this crisis ends, whether it’s when a vaccine emerges or when new cases drop to zero, I think people will celebrate. Some of those celebrations might get sexy. Will it be enough to offset this sudden dip in baby-making?

I don’t know. Only time will tell. We just have to get through this first. That should be our main priority. The sexy stuff can and should come afterwards.

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Filed under Current Events, health, human nature, sex in society, sexuality

Why I Won’t Be Too Disappointed If College Football Is Cancelled This Fall

I love sports. I think I’ve made that abundantly clear already.

I really love football. I hope I’ve made that clear too.

Like many fellow sports fans, this year has been agonizing. So many major sporting events have been cancelled over the past several months. A few are trying to start back up, but their efforts have been mixed at best. As much as I want to see live sports again, I’m not too optimistic. I assume it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

The worst case scenario, at least for me, is how much this pandemic will affect the upcoming football season. For me, and America as a whole, football is king. It’s the top sport of the country and one I build my entire weekends around. I’m already expecting to have to change those weekend plans for the upcoming season.

I really hope the NFL finds a way to play a full season. I imagine it’ll be traumatic for many football fans like myself to see the season cancelled or diminished in any way. However, as dire as this news might be for football fans, there is one potential silver lining that I hope comes to pass.

If college football is cancelled this year, I think it’ll be better for the sport and college athletes in the long run.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love college football. I went to many raucous football games while I was in college. They’re something people build their entire Saturdays around and it generates big business for networks and universities alike. That’s all well and good, but there’s just one problem. This all comes at the cost of exploiting the labor of college athletes.

It’s not a new issue. The debate on paying college athletes or somehow compensating them with something other than a scholarship has been ongoing for years. Having gone to college and known college athletes personally, I understand that it’s not a simple issue. At the same time, it’s hard to argue that the current system is horribly flawed.

The only reason that system hasn’t changed much, despite plenty of concerted efforts, is because the money kept pouring in. Peoples’ appetite for football is insatiable and the NCAA was not inclined to change what had been working so well for them.

Then, the pandemic happened.

Suddenly, that steady stream of money, fueled by the sweat of unpaid college athletes, might not be there anymore. Some conferences have already canceled their fall sports programs. More are likely to follow. If the rate of infections and death keeps rising, there’s a real possibility that all of college sports will be canceled this fall, including football.

As a football fan, this is terrifying.

As someone who has no sympathy whatsoever for the NCAA or the current system of college athletics, I’m oddly hopeful.

It takes a lot to change a corrupt system that’s making a select few very rich. A global pandemic definitely qualifies. While I understand some of the arguments behind not paying college athletes, I don’t think that’s enough to justify the current way of doing things. These kids deserve to get paid.

I’ve seen what they go through. I’ve known players who strain their minds, bodies, and souls under this system and get so little out of it. I’ve also known players who grossly exploit the system for their own benefit. It needs to change. It should’ve changed years ago, but it only became more entrenched.

If losing an entire college football season will finally bring that change, I’ll gladly take it. If it leads to a better system for the players, the schools, and the sport in general, I’ll endure. This pandemic will end. Sports will eventually return. As bad as this current situation is, it’s also an opportunity real, meaningful change. I hope the sports world embraces it.

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Going Back To The Gym: Relief And Realizations

I missed going to the gym.

Those are words my teenage self never thought I’d say, write, or think. That makes them all the more satisfying to say in the past tense.

This global pandemic has ruined a lot of things and disrupted a lot of lives. It’s also not done. It’s definitely going to get worse before it gets better. Many of us are already feeling nostalgic for a time when we didn’t have to wear masks, could go to a movie theater, and went out to eat on a whim. That was only four months ago. Let that sink in.

Coincidentally, that was also the last time I went to the gym before this week. Back in early March, I was told by the gym manager, who knows me very well after going twice a week for nearly a decade, that the gym was closing indefinitely. I thought it was only temporary. I’d hoped to be back in a few weeks. Weeks turned to months. We all know what happened during that time.

I was starting to lose hope. I still made an effort to stay in shape. If anything, I became more motivated. Being healthy during a pandemic is an objectively good idea. However, that wasn’t easy without the gym.

I don’t have a lot of exercise equipment of my own. My exercise routine was restricted to doing push-ups, sit-ups, and squats before running along the local trails. That definitely helped, but it wasn’t the same. Plus, I was at the mercy of the weather. If it was cold or rainy out, then I couldn’t do much.

It wasn’t the same and I felt it. I lost some muscle mass and gained some weight. It was frustrating, but that was the situation I had to deal with.

Finally, that changed this past week. I finally got word that my gym was re-opening, albeit to a limited extent. We can only go for hour-long chunks at a time and the capacity is severely restricted, but I can work within those constraints. After these past four months, I’m willing to jump through some extra hoops.

When I made it back, it wasn’t just a relief. It was cathartic. I almost forgot how satisfying it was to make it through a nice, rigorous workout. I also forgot how nice it was to have the luxury of doing something other than running in the blazing summer heat for cardio. I’ll never take that for granted again.

I also realized that I am definitely behind the curve. I still remember where I was, in terms of how many reps and sets I could do at a certain weight. When I tried to go back to where I was four months ago, my body did not cooperate. I had to turn the weight down to get through my sets. It was humbling. It also revealed that my efforts to duplicate the results of a gym were only partially successful, at best.

I know it sounds like I’m making a big deal about this, being able to go to a gym again. Believe me, if my younger self was reading this, he would’ve believed an impostor wrote this. However, the act of regaining part of my old routine, as trivial as it might be in the grand scheme of things, was nothing short of therapeutic.

The world is still in an awful, chaotic state. We’re nowhere close to being back to “normal,” as though that’s possible anymore. However, the fact that I can go back to the gym gives me hope that the effort, struggle, and persistence will pay off in the long run. We can’t regain the lives we lost, but we can push forward.

That will inspire me with future workouts. I hope it inspires others, especially those still living in a state of lock-down. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. It is worth enduring. Just hang in there. Like a good workout, this kind of strain will only make you stronger in the long run.

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Filed under Current Events, exercise, health, Jack Fisher's Insights, psychology

Why You Should Be Pessimistic About Optimistic News On Vaccines

In general, I’m a pretty optimistic person. I try to focus on the positives, even when I’m surrounded by a lot of negatives. It’s part of my personality. Granted, I wasn’t always like that. As a teenager, I was a pretty miserable, jaded, self-loathing cynic. There’s a long story behind that, but it’s not important right now

The reason I make that disclaimer is because the past few months have killed my sense of optimism. Actually, that’s an understatement. The impact of this massive global pandemic has taken my optimism, shot it five times with a shotgun, and ran it over eight times with a fully loaded pickup truck. My optimism is dead. It will be for the foreseeable future. That’s what this pandemic has done.

At this point, I question the sanity of anyone who has clung to any sense of optimism. Thousands of people are dead. Infections are in the millions. Things are getting worse every day. That’s not an opinion. That’s just basic goddamn math.

Now, I’m not trying to turn everyone into a pessimist, nor am I trying to crush everyone’s hopes. The point I want to make here is that there are just some things that hope cannot help, no matter how many inspirational quotes you read. Yes, hope and optimism can go a long way in many fields. A global pandemic just isn’t one of them.

To that point, I want to highlight the recent “optimism” surrounding vaccine research. I admit I too have been following this closely, too. How can you not? Even a cynic would agree. The best way to end this pandemic and get our lives back is with a vaccine. That’s somewhat distressing, given all the negative press vaccines had leading up to this moment.

At the same time, it’s remarkable how much the world has united behind this effort. I can’t remember a time when so many countries and so many organizations were this unified in their effort to achieve something. I want to find hope in that, but there are still a few intractable problem. This time, it has to do with both math and physics.

Making a vaccine is hard. There’s just no way around it. Even if you know the exact molecular sequence, producing it on a mass scale and distributing it to a large number of people is also difficult. It’s not a matter of will. It’s a matter of resources and logistics, the likes of which can’t be solved overnight or even within a year.

For that reason, when you see a positive story about a vaccine for COVID-19, you should be very pessimistic. Just look at this recent story from the Associated Press regarding Moderna’s vaccine research.

AP: First COVID-19 vaccine tested in US poised for final testing

There’s no guarantee but the government hopes to have results around the end of the year — record-setting speed for developing a vaccine.

The vaccine requires two doses, a month apart.

There were no serious side effects. But more than half the study participants reported flu-like reactions to the shots that aren’t uncommon with other vaccines — fatigue, headache, chills, fever and pain at the injection site. For three participants given the highest dose, those reactions were more severe; that dose isn’t being pursued.

Some of those reactions are similar to coronavirus symptoms but they’re temporary, lasting about a day and occur right after vaccination, researchers noted.

“Small price to pay for protection against COVID,” said Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, a vaccine expert who wasn’t involved with the study.

He called the early results “a good first step,” and is optimistic that final testing could deliver answers about whether it’s really safe and effective by the beginning of next year.

On the surface, it looks rosy. It hints that a vaccine is getting closer. It may even arrive at the end of the year. They’re even saying that research is moving at record speed. It all sounds so great.

Don’t get your hopes up.

Don’t expect this pandemic to be over by Christmas, either.

Notice that I bolded the phrase “a good first step.” Also, note how few details about the research are actually listed or linked to. It just notes how many people were involved and how many will be utilized in the next step. That’s both a sign and a red flag.

It’s a common problem whenever the media tries to report on science. Actual scientific research, namely the kind reported in journals, is not the kind of thing you can fit into a simple news blurb. You can’t fit it in an article, let alone a tweet. Most scientific research, especially of the medical variety, involves a lot of numbers, intimate details, and chemical constructs that most people aren’t equipped to understand.

It’s not that the news media has to dumb it down for us, the public. It just can only report on the broadest details. Those details often include the various complications and shortcomings of the research. Make no mistake. Those complications are there. If they weren’t, then the scientific research wouldn’t be necessary. It’s why becoming a doctor is so difficult and laborious.

I don’t doubt for a second that most of these doctors want to end this pandemic. Some are probably hopeful that they’re close. However, you can’t be a good doctor without sticking to rigorous science. Breakthroughs don’t happen all at once. Those light-bulb moments we see in movies and TV shows aren’t even close to what happens in real life.

In real life, medical breakthroughs still take years if not decades. The sheer complexity of disease and our methods for treating it preclude easy fixes to big problems. In terms of problems, pandemics are as big as they come. If ending it required only one breakthrough, it would’ve been found by now and thousands of lives wouldn’t have been lost.

That’s why you should never look at vaccine news in terms of a breakthrough. Even headlines that inspire hope in this field can only ever tell part of the story. Unfortunately, science is hard and so is creating effective medicine. You can’t rush it. You can’t encourage it. It’s at the mercy of hard limits that you can’t bullshit your way around. That’s what makes it hard. It’s also why it works.

Remember that the next time you see headlines about the prospect of vaccine research. Don’t assume it’s going to finish tomorrow. Don’t assume a miracle will speed it up. That’s not how science works and that’s not how this pandemic will end. For now, the best we can do is endure, brace ourselves, and retain our sanity until things eventually do change for the better.

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A Message (And A Challenge) To Anti-Vaxxers

There’s a time for discussing serious politics.

There’s a time for discussing the veracity of certain scientific principles.

There’s even a time to question the very assumptions we once held without reservation.

All that said, a global pandemic is not one of those times.

I bring this up because, like so many others who have been stuck at home for months on end, my ears perk up every time I hear news about a potential vaccine for COVID-19. There’s a good reason for that. Every legitimate doctor, who doesn’t have a TV show or infomercial, says the same thing. The best and quickest way to end any pandemic is with a vaccine.

That’s not news for most people. If you passed high school biology, you know what a vaccine is and why it works. However, in the years leading up to this pandemic, there was a concerted movement against vaccines, especially for young children. It was called the anti-vaxx movement and, like many social movements relating to science, it was driven by misguided goals and faulty data.

I won’t get into the history of the movement. John Oliver already did a very comprehensive breakdown on the issue back in 2017, long before the pandemic. Here’s the video in case you need a refresher.

Even if you don’t support all the points Mr. Oliver made, I do have a message for those still skeptical of vaccines. Whether you were anti-vaccine before the pandemic or have just come to distrust modern medicine in general, I have one critical question to ask.

What’s your alternative for ending this pandemic?

It’s a legitimate question. Nearly every doctor agrees. Vaccines work. A vaccine is what will end this pandemic. If all those doctors are wrong and your side is right, then this is the best possible time to prove it.

You, whether you identify as an anti-vaxxer or are just skeptical of western medicine, have a chance to both show up the entire medical establishment and save thousands of lives. People are dying. Economies are faltering. Societies are frozen in place. The medical establishment, no matter what you think of them, are working on a solution. Where’s yours?

Now, I’m not saying the medical establishment is staffed by angels. There are many shady dealings in the modern medical industry, especially among pharmaceutical companies. Corrupt her not, however greedy their motivations might be, they’re still doing the work. They’re researching, developing, and testing potential treatments for this deadly disease.

There’s still time for the movement to do the same. If there’s any legitimacy to the anti-vaxxer’s stance, this would be their chance to demonstrate it. If anyone in this crowd, be it some renegade doctor or Jenny McCarthy, can come up with a better treatment, then they won’t just be a hero for saving so many lives. They’ll have proven their point beyond any reasonable doubt.

The time to make that statement is now. At some point, they’re going to find a treatment. It probably won’t be this year, but with lives, money, and prestige at stake, someone is going to succeed. Then, as the pandemic subsides and cases decline, what will the anti-vaxxer crowd have to say?

They’ll watch with the rest of the world as a vaccine ended a pandemic. On top of that, they’ll have sat around and done absolutely nothing to have developed another treatment. They had a chance to both save lives and show up the medical establishment, but failed. What does that say about the movement and its credibility?

That’s just some food for thought.

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PSA: Wear A Mask (And Wear Condoms)

Under normal circumstances, we shouldn’t need to remind people to be safe and responsible.

Under normal circumstances, we shouldn’t have to explain why certain safety measures are worth the inconvenience.

These are not normal circumstances. Let’s not pretend otherwise.

We’re in the midst of a global pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of people. Thousands more are likely to die, even after we develop an effective treatment. This is serious. There’s a time for debating the balance between public safety and personal freedom. This is not it. Viruses don’t give a damn about politics, borders, race, economic trends, or who gets cast in a Disney movie.

With that being said, I have a simple statement/public service announcement.

Wear a mask when you go out in public.

Yes, it’s not convenient or comfortable.

Yes, it’s not stylish or flattering.

Yes, it’s infuriating that we’ve let it get this bad.

It’s still a simple, sensitive recourse that can help combat this crisis. The science is clear now . Wearing a mask helps in multiple ways. For someone who has the virus, it keeps them from spewing the droplets into the air around them, thus protecting others. For someone who doesn’t have the virus, it prevents those droplets from getting into your nose and mouth.

It’s essentially a double barrier. You protect yourself and you protect others. It doesn’t require a prescription or some overpriced medicine. Most people can make an effective mask with the right materials and a sewing machine. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing. It doesn’t eliminate risk, but it does reduce it considerably.

It’s not unlike condoms, another protective measure that gets caught up in politics, albeit for different reasons. Like masks for your genitals, they do the same thing. They protect your body from outside invaders. It can be just as be as inconvenient and frustrating, but it beats the alternative of getting sick or pregnant. In fact, so long as we’re learning the value of masks, I’ll supplement my announcement.

Wear a condom when you have sex.

I understand the situation is different. Protecting yourself during sex is not like protecting yourself from an air-born virus. We all have to breathe every hour of every day. That’s not the same as sex. The principle is still the same, though.

It’s a simple safety measure that’s cheap, widely available, and effective when used properly. Granted, religious zealots love to make a big fuss about them both, but that’s part of a much larger problem and during a pandemic, you can’t be picky with priorities. Again, there will be a time to deal with them. This is not it.

I’ll say it again, just to belabor the point.

Wear a mask and wear condoms.

They protect you and the people around you. It’s the easiest thing anyone can do. During a global pandemic, that’s the best thing you can do to help stem the tide and save lives. That has to be our top priority now. Too many people have already died. We can prevent more deaths if we all do our part.

 

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A (Real) Story About Temptation, Peer Pressure, And Spicy Chicken Wings

I love spicy food. I make no secret of that. I’m the kind of guy who gets weird looks at a restaurant when I put buffalo sauce on potatoes. Some think it’s strange and a little unappetizing. I refuse to apologize for it.

As much as I love spicy food, I have my limits. There is such a thing as too spicy for me. I’ve had chicken wings dipped in sauce that caused me to run to the nearest sink and pour cold water on my head. I learned early on in my diet that there’s a fine line between spicy food and devil spit. I’ve since become quite capable at walking that line whenever I order chicken wings.

I’m glad I did because when it comes to spicy food, you don’t want to learn the hard way how hot it can get. While there are real methods for gauging the spiciness of a food, namely the Scoville Scale, there’s only so much numbers can tell you. For some people, the dangers of using a sauce that measures 1,000,000 Scoville units just doesn’t register.

Those people are destined to learn the hard way how much spice they can handle. As it just so happens, I have a story about one of those people that I’d like to share.

With summer upon us and barbecue foods dominating our dishes, I think the time is right for a quick reminder of what happens when spicy foods go too far. It was also around this time of year that a former co-worker of mine learned just how far it can go and paid the price.

To set the stage, this happened at one of my first jobs out of college. I’d been at this company for about a year or so. I’d made some good connections and quality friends. One of them was a fun-loving guy who I’ll call Derek, out of respect for his privacy. When you see how this story plays out, you’ll appreciate that.

Derek was a lot more extroverted than me. I was still coming out of my social awkwardness shell from high school. This guy, who was also fresh out of college, just loved hanging out and connecting with people. He frequently led other co-workers to nearby restaurants for beers and wings after long days at the office. Sometimes, I attended. Most of the time, I didn’t.

As it just so happens, one of the nearest restaurants to the office I worked at was a well-known buffalo wing place. Like many wing places, they had a broad selection of spicy wings to choose from. One, in particular, was so hot that you had to sign a waiver before ordering it. They called it the Widowmaker. It was said to use the infamous Ghost Peppers in its sauce, but the specifics were a well-kept secret.

I can’t remember too many people who dared to try it. For reasons that are still the stuff of legend, Derek decided to take the plunge one fateful evening after a long day at the office. I can’t get into too many specifics. I’ll just say that there was a considerable amount of beer and peer pressure involved.

To the credit, and chagrin, of my co-workers, they cheered him on. They offered to pay for the entire tab that night if he took up the challenge. It took surprisingly little convincing. Derek wasn’t even that drunk. He’d had only one beer at that point. He still signed the waiver and ordered the Widowmaker.

He was excited.

He was determined.

He claimed he could handle spicy foods better than most.

He would come to regret that boast.

When the Widowmaker wings came out, he was so confident. He looked like he was ready to take on the heavyweight champ in a boxing match. My co-workers were still cheering. He prepared himself mentally. It was a tense moment for everyone involved. He wanted to go down in history as one of the select few who’d finished those wings.

Then, he took his first big bite and swallowed quickly. It turned out to be his last of the evening.

The details after this get a bit fuzzy, but he went from determined to defeated in the blink of an eye. One second, he had the eye of the tiger. The next, it looked like he’d been punched in the jaw, gut, and balls by Mike Tyson on crack. He keeled over, started coughing, and started chugging ice water by the gallon.

Some laughed. Others cringed. A few had to help him to the bathroom so he could wipe the sweat and snot from his face. Needless to say, we all figured out why the restaurant demanded that people sign a waiver.

Derek didn’t come into work the next day. He claimed he needed a sick day. I think his pride was the only thing seriously ill after that experience. He also claimed that he had to stay within 10 feet of a toilet for the day. I don’t doubt him.

When he did come back, he was in good spirits. My co-workers did apologize profusely for goading him into eating the Widowmaker, but he just smiled and accepted. I think in hindsight, it was a humbling experience for him. It’s the kind of experience I think we all need at some point in our lives. Some are just more painful than others. This was one of them.

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Improving My Sleep With The “Sleep With Me” Podcast: Using Boredom And A Soothing Voice To Fall Asleep

Staying healthy has never been more important. During a global pandemic, we all have to be more health conscious. One of the best things you can do for yourself in a crisis like this is to stay healthy. If your body, your mind, and your immune system are robust, then you have a better chance at making it and so do those around you.

Working out and eating right are plenty important. I’ve shared some of my experiences with that. However, the importance of sleep is often understated. By that, I don’t mean the kind of sleep you get when you’re lazily lofting about for 12 hours at a time. I’m referring to the kind of refreshing, restful sleep that is critical to our mind, bodies, and everything in between.

It’s a precious, but critical element of our lives. It’s also something that feels incredibly elusive, especially during stressful times like this. I know this because I’ve been an overly stressed high school student with a part-time job. I’ve been a stressed out college student who crammed for exams until three in the morning.

I think everyone, from those stressed out by work to those stressed out by kids, know the value of a good night’s sleep and what happens when you don’t get it. The problem is that, even when you’re tired, falling asleep can be difficult. There are plenty of things you can do to help that, including medication. However, I discourage the use of sleeping pills, except in rare cases for rare conditions and at the guidance of a doctor.

Most of the other sleeping tips you can do are common sense, but in the interest of helping everyone sleep a little better during this crisis, I’d like to offer a not-so-common tip. It’s not a pill, an expensive pillow, or some spiritual woo. It’s a podcast.

Specifically, it’s the Sleep With Me podcast. It’s kind of what it sounds like, depending on how dirty your mind is.

I recently discovered this after having a few restless nights. On paper, it sounds so absurd that it just has to work.

A man named Drew Ackerman basically spends an hour telling long, non-sensical, boring stories in his unique monotone voice to help lull you to sleep. These stories are so boring and mundane that you can’t help but feel drowsy halfway in. It essentially takes boredom and weaponizes it for the purpose of helping you sleep.

It’s as strange and wonderful as it sounds. It also works, as many loyal subscribers can attest. If you need any proof, here’s a sample. Just don’t listen to it while driving. You will get sleepy.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, I encourage everyone to give this podcast a try. The world is a crazy place right now. Getting a good night’s sleep can only help.

Sweet dreams, everyone. Hopefully, this helps you as much as it helps me.

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Drunks Vs. Stoners: How College Shaped My Opinion On Both

College is a weird and wonderful time. The experience varies for everyone, but it’s remarkable in that it gives teenagers on the cusp of adulthood their first taste of real independence. Most handle it fairly well. Others don’t. We know who those people are. We can identify them in almost every college movie ever made.

My experience was special in so many ways. I often credit college with finally cracking the thick shell of misery, social anxiety, and self-doubt that I’d built up over four years of high school. It was an experience I needed. I’m a better adult because I went to college. I learned many life lessons there, but I’d like to share one particular lesson that stands out more than most.

It has to do with stoners and drunks. Depending on your college experience, if you had one, this should bring back memories.

Specifically, I’d like to highlight why I preferred hanging out with stoners more than drunks. It’s something I confronted early on in my college career. As a freshman, I lived in an all-male dormitory. It was quite rowdy, to say the least, and I have any number of colorful stories that I could share. One in particular stands out and it set the tone for how I’d deal with both groups.

Even for those who didn’t go to college, there’s a good chance you’ve dealt with heavy drinkers before. They come in many varieties. Some are happy drunks, like me. When I get drunk, I tend to laugh, stumble, and hug random strangers for no reason. I’m overly affectionate, albeit sloppy. I tend to make a fool of myself, but in a not-so-messy way.

Then, there are the not-so-happy drunks. They’re the kind of people who, when they drink, have a tendency to get more confrontational. They’re not always violent, but they are uninhibited in terms of their willingness to pick fights. I remember being at a bar and seeing someone get pissed off because some girl laughed at his shirt. I could tell from how he was standing that he had a few too many.

While these types of drunks weren’t as common as the happy drunks, they often left their mark and not just with hangovers. Even among happy drunks, they did some damage and not all of it was physical. They would say things and conduct themselves in ways that made for some awkward conversations once they sobered up. One guy in my dorm had a bad reputation for pissing in the elevator every Saturday.

With stoners, the story was different and a bit more consistent. I got to know a few in my sophomore year. They were, by and large, the easiest kind of people to hang out with. Once they got stoned, they weren’t too picky about how they wanted to spend their time. They were happy just watching TV, listening to music, and lofting about without a care in the world.

For someone with sub-par social skills, like me at the time, they were a pleasant surprise. I was able to get along with them a lot easier than heavy drinkers, who instinctively wanted to do something crazy every half-hour. Stoners are just content re-watching Star Wars and bad sitcoms.

That mellow attitude was also gender neutral. There wasn’t much variation between the male and female stoners. The only thing I noticed is that the women just laughed more when they got stoned and were less likely to get paranoid. The women drinkers, however, tended to be a bit more volatile. They rarely got violent, but they were a lot more inclined to yell at people for no apparent reason.

One girl I knew through a roommate once got into a shouting match with her TV because the speakers kept shorting out. I’m pretty sure the TV won.

However, when it comes to incidents that best highlight why I prefer stoners over drunks, one stands out among the rest. It happened during my junior year. It was late at night and I was just returning from a friend’s birthday party. I’m almost at my dorm when I come across four guys who were definitely drunk, as their inability to stand clearly demonstrated.

They weren’t violent or confrontational, for the most part. A couple smelled awful, though. I suspect vomit was the source. They were actually really friendly with me because I was wearing a football jersey. They laughed and joked with me. Then, for reasons I still don’t understand, they decided to start throwing lit matches at each other to make one another dance. They even offered me a chance to throw one.

I politely declined and was on my way. I was laughing for most of them, but I was genuinely worried. It only took one mis-thrown match to make their antics dangerous. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. It’s still a memorable incident in that it made stoners a bit less stressful to hang out with.

To this day, I know plenty of people who drink and smoke pot. They’re all genuinely wonderful people with jobs, families, and heart. I’ll gladly have a drink with any of them. When it comes to just hanging out with no discernible goal in mind, I still prefer stoners. Their so affable and mellow. They’re also less likely to puke in my kitchen sink.

Yes, that happened once.

No, I’d rather not go into detail.

It’s just one of the many insightful experiences I gained in college. It might not be the most groundbreaking, but it did prepare me for the adult world in a strange, yet wonderful way.

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