Unexpected Side Effects of Sheltering In Place

I have been quite fortunate during this pandemic to have had my life relatively unaffected. My extended family and I have all stayed healthy. I can continue to work remotely. I also haven’t had a huge change in leisure activities being a homebody. Others have certainly experienced much tougher hardships, and my inconveniences are quite similar to others.

However, any significant change entails a series of smaller side effects. Brief changes often have similarly brief externalities, but having done for this for two months so far, many of these side effects have turned into new patterns. I picked out a few that I thought were somewhat unique.

Too Many Frozen Bananas

Let’s start with an uncontroversial opinion: I love bananas.

I’m not too picky on the spectrum from green to black. They’re a great, sweet snack with tidy, built-in packaging, and being a fruit, I feel healthy when I eat them. As such, I’m always buying bananas.

Typically, I don’t worry about buying too many because they freeze nicely. I use them in smoothies, freezes, and banana bread. The count fluctuates, but they never really get out of hand other than when 99 Ranch is selling five pound bags of loose bananas for a dollar.

However, my frozen banana consumption has greatly decreased in the past two months primarily for two reasons.

First, I usually make smoothies after exercising, which historically has been playing volleyball in the park with Russian senior citizens on the weekend. However, there’s no volleyball right now (especially with seniors), so no smoothies, and no bananas being used there.

Second, I usually make banana bread for the office. With no one at the office, I’m not making banana bread either, so now, bananas are taking up too much freeze space.

I love looking in other people’s fridges. Sometimes when I have to stash potlucks items, I take an extra-long look and pop open the freezer as well, just for fun.

Related and maybe surprising quarantine fact: we’re baking less than we usually do. I have heard that baking is on the rise right now while more people are having cravings with plenty of time for projects. We typically rely on friends and coworkers to consume the rest of batches for us, so we can’t justify baking for two.

Maybe we need to let loose a little more.

Shoulder Strain

As a software engineer, I spend all day on my computer. Then, I come home and continue my personal hobbies on the computer.

Or so I thought.

Over the past two months, I have noticed significantly more neck, shoulder, and eye strain than before. Part of it may have been different desk setups, but I realized that I’m actually spending a lot more time in front of my computer than before. During a normal day, I could expect to spend perhaps two to three hours away from my desk for lunch, meetings, or other group activities.

Now, I take my meetings at my computer over video calls. I take my lunch at my computer with digital entertainment. Incredibly, I’m using my computer more, and it’s taking a toll.

Also with limited options for exercise, I’m doing more push-ups. Inspired by BJ Fogg, I started doing five push-ups every time I went to the bathroom. That was sustainable, but when a coworker challenged me to do 80 pushups a day, that really strained my shoulders.

I took a push-up break for a week and am building up from my old habit, but either way, this is all new for me.

Learning Flowers

One of my 2020 Goals is to get in touch with nature, and that frankly hasn’t gone well. Julie and I were sick in January, and since March, we haven’t been able to get out much to hike.

We have been going for walks in the park three or four times a week, and when the sights have become quite familiar, I have been paying attention to more details. I have walked past the same plants over and over for years, but just now, I started paying attention to them.

Also while exploring new entertainment options, I have been memorizing trivia with more flash cards. It started on Sporcle where I challenged myself to memorize all of the US presidents in order and James Bond movies in order. After that, I considered refreshing my 8th grade knowledge of US states and capitals but decided to pick something that aligned with my goals instead: flowers.

I have become a fan of flash cards since I learned about spaced repetition. So with a few more walks and a little boredom, I can now identify hyacinth.

Final Thoughts

Strange times bring about strange behavior. The dramatic shifts in behavior with food delivery and video calling are interesting, but it’s the details that I find interesting. Black swan moments change the world, but life happens in these little cracks where I end up a few too many bananas.

One reply on “Unexpected Side Effects of Sheltering In Place”

Early in my career, I discovered I was getting shoulder strain fun using the mouse so much. In particular, I think it was a right mouse button click-and-hold, slide rightward motion.

I resolved this by giving up on the mouse, and instead using the trackpoint on an IBM keyboard. This is actually dinner with two hands, with my left hand operating the select action, while the right does the pointing.

Further, this is not done on the Thinkpad keyboard … my manager had said he never saw anyone else wear out a keyboard, but I did! … but on an external keyboard with a trackpoint.

Finally, that external keyboard is usually not on the table, but in a keyboard tray that fits under the table.

Nowadays, I use a kneeling chair because my back was also getting locked. I know others like standing desks, but kneeling works for me.

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