Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Tirades

First do no harm

Mother’s Day brings up many complex feelings for me. I try to find the most anodyne and bland card I can find, one that is filled with platitudes. One that has flowers or animals or something equally generic. I pick out some Muzak, scribble a nice note in it, then email it to my mother. I do the same on Father’s Day for my father before calling it a day. I dread picking out a card and I try to do it as quickly as possible.

I know it’s just a meaningless card on a made-up day. I know that there’s no reason to put much energy into it or emotion around it. But, it just reminds me of the fractured family I exist in and how exceptionally dysfunctional we are. I Zoomed with my parents and my brother earlier tonight. My brother has decided that the best way to deal with my parents is to feed them a steady stream of trivial tidbits. This time, he showed them a bunch of pictures he had taken on his previous two trips to Taiwan (I went on one of them) , and I got bored about ten minutes in. Ten more minutes later, he mentioned that I looked really interested (sarcastically, but it’s surprising that he noticed), which made me snap that there were so many pictures. I get what he’s trying to do, but he was dragging it out for far too long. I should have just used my words and said something, but I revert to a petulant child when I’m around my parents.

I can’t forget what I discovered about our family during my health crisis–and how deep the dysfunction runs. Everything that we had all shoved to the very back of the closet came bursting out during my medical trauma, and I can’t unknow that.

Before the Zoom call, my mother called me to thank me for the card. My father mentioned something about a German study saying you should gargle with warm salt water to prevent COVID. Which, I mean….I didn’t even have to Google it to know that wasn’t true. I Googled it, anyway, and, yeah, that’s a lie. You will not be surprised to find out that there is no such study that says any such thing.


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A new year and a new attitude

2021 sucked and I cannot see the backend of it soon enough. Now, to be fair, I came back from the dead twice–which is a good thing. The fact that I’m going to see 2022 is a plus in and of itself. I made this observation soon after exiting the hospital. Before my medical trauma, I was hyped for Elden Ring by FromSoft. The second trailer was released three months before I went into the hospital and I was planning how I was going to play it. See, when I play a FromSoft game, I play it on my own for the first playthrough. I try to beat all the bosses by myself, only summoning if I’m desperate. I have all sorts of rules for how I play these games and I was wondering how feasible it would be for an open  world game. I thought maybe I would have two games on the go–one solo and one for co-op. I still wanted to beat all the bosses on my own for the first playthrough.

Then, I had my medical trauma and ended up in the hospital, knocking at death’s door. I defied death and with my new lease on life, I had a different view on many things as well. One of them was Elden Ring. It may seem silly to be fixated on a game, but it’s the one popular culture thing that really gets me going. I’ll buy any game FromSoft makes (except VR games, of course) and I’ll pre-order them to boot. Which reminds me, I still haven’t pre-ordered Elden Ring because I haven’t decided which edition I want.

The thing is, once I remembered Elden Ring existed (which was a day or two after I woke up in the hospital), none of my strategizing mattered. I was just extremely happy to have the chance to play the game. That was it. I didn’t care about how I was going to play it; I was just grateful that I would get to play it. That feeling has held and intensified since watching footage from the closed network test. I couldn’t participate because I don’t have a console, unfortunately. Well, I do have a PS4, but I hate playing on it. I watched Eurogamer and Oxboxtra play it, drinking it in, and PlayStation Access, too. The closed network test was a hefty chunk of the game, too. Games journalists put in anywhere from ten to seventy hours in the pre-public stress test. And it was estimated that it was maybe 1/16th of the game? Something like that.

The hype for this is unreal. FromSoft’s last game, Sekiro, was released in 2019. It had very positive media acclaim (it won the GOTY from the biggest award show, Geoff Keighley’s baby), but it was a divisive game within the community. Personally, it’s my least-favorite of the FromSoft games. I think it’s a brilliant game and I love that it showcases feudal Japan. Sekiro himself is a hottie and an interesting protagonist, but the game itself was so grueling. I’ve said for many years that there’s a ceiling to FromSoft games and that I was getting closer and closer to it. I love the games, but I’m not any good at them. The way I beat the games is by over-leveling and grinding to the point of oblivion. And, if I really needed it, I summoned for bosses I simply could not beat solo. The problem with Sekiro was that there was no leveling and there was no co-op. It was not an RPG and the only way to level up was to beat certain mini-bosses who gave you prayer beads. When you got four of them, then you could increase your strength and health bar some indeterminate amount. The final boss was above my paygrade–and I was just lucky to beat him. If took me six or seven hours and thirty-five or so real attempts and I probably could not beat him again. I have not faced him a second time ,which should tell you how I feel about the game.


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The last year of my life

As 2021 comes to a close, I can’t stop thinking again about how I should not be alive. I died–twice–and came back to life–twice! So much happened to me that I can’t remember and perhaps my favorite exchange of the year is one that was told to me in retrospect. It  was when I saw my heart doc for the second time outside the hospital. He mentioned again that I had cracked him up when we talked in the hospital. I had no memory of that and asked him about it. To back up a second, the first time we met outside the hospital, I told him I was pleased to meet him. He laughed and said he had met me in the hospital after I woke up. I apologized immediately for anything I might have said to offended him. He laughed and said I had cracked him up. I was intrigued, but I let it go because I was too drugged up at that point to go further into it.

The second time I saw him, which was a week ago, he mentioned it again. I was intrigued and more  in control of my brain, so I asked him about it. Actually, we were talking about how quickly and unexpectedly I had woken up. He had been gone for a day or so while I was under. The prognosis was dire. When he came back, I was awake and talking. He said that when he went in to talk to me, he did what he always did. He recapped what happened to me because he found that to be helpful when he talked to his patients–reiterating what they had experienced every time he talked to them because of memory issues.

He was saying, “So you had pneumonia which led to two cardiac arrests and a stroke.” I listened to his renumeration before saying, “So I died?” He said yes. Apparently, I looked at him and then said, “That’s so fucking cool!” That’s what cracked him up and I laughed when he retold it because it sounded exactly like me.

One thing that has pleased me during this whole ordeal is that I’ve kept my sense of humor. My brother joked that maybe the brain damage made me funnier, which made me laugh when I read it in the Caring Bridge. I never lost my sense of humor during my ordeal because that’s how I deal with bad situations. I tend to see the dark side of things and I put an even darker spin on things, but in a funny way. The fact that I died was not something to shy away from, but to embrace and explore. I mean, I was fucking alive–that was all that  mattered, right?


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Holly jolly and all that

‘Twas the night before Christmas
When all through the house
Not a creature was stirring
Except for my computer mouse.

For a hot second, I was tempted to rewrite the entire poem, but then I came to my senses. It’s the end of a really rough year in so many ways. We’re still in the middle of a pandemic, though I think we can rightfully call it endemic now (my brain doc agreed with me). I was in the hospital for two weeks with life-threatening issues and I was so fucking lucky to escape mostly unscathed.

I’ve been doing a lot of research into Sudden Cardiac Arrests (SCAs) in the past week or two. My heart doc told me the last time I talked to him that his patients and their families become experts in SCAs in ways that even the medical experts aren’t. He’s right. And since it’s in my nature to research stuff, that’s what I’ve been doing. I signed up for the SCAF (Foundation) website and I’ll keep searching for a support group.

My problem is that I’m in a very small group. Only 10% of people who suffer an out-of-the-hospital SCAs actually survive. The number doubles for in-the-hospital SCAs. Even though mine were technically the former, it functions more like the latter since the EMTs got to me within minutes. At least the cops did.

Of that 10% who survive, most of them are expected to have some brain damage/other damage. I was without oxygen for some amount of time, though we are not sure exactly  how long. At first, they thought it was thirty minutes, but it turned out to be more like ten minutes. Still not great, obviously, but better than thirty minutes. Still. The brain should not go without oxygen for more than three minutes. Mine went for over three times that amount.

I don’t have much problem accepting that all this happened to me or that I went through something  medically traumatic. What I do have a hard time accepting is that I escaped it seemingly without any lasting physical damage. Survivor’s guilt is real and I’m struggling with it. Why the hell was I spared from the grim realities of what happened to me? I’ve read other stories of miraculous SCA survivals and even in those, there is still SOME damage. Or it took much longer to recover. I was walking normally within three days of waking up. I had a few issues with my vision and a huge issue with my stamina. I had a mild tremor in my middle left finger. That was the extent of it, though, and it all went away within the first month of returning home–except the stamina. I had a walker, but I never needed it to walk. I had someone help me wash my hair for two months, but that was simply a stamina issue. I could have done it myself if not for the part where I got tired so easily. I didn’t need the commode my brother put together and I was able to make it to the bathroom from the start. I didn’t have any accidents and stopped wearing my pull-up briefs after a month or so.


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O Holy Night! is my jam

I used to hate Christmas. Hell, I used to hate all holidays that weren’t Halloween. But, as I’ve talked about in other posts, my recent medical scare has changed many things for me. One of them is my hatred of holidays. It’s gone. Vanished into the night. I went to Thanksgiving at my brother’s with my parents and had a good time. I’m considering going again (without my parents because they are back in Taiwan) for Christmas and it’s not causing me to break into hives.

What makes the difference? Well, I’d been moving in that direction for the past few years in general and this year, the fact that I’m alive trumps many, many things. Including my hatred of holidays and my hatred of having my picture taken.

And, I was just raving on Twitter about how amazing my body is for having survived the medical trauma it went through. I used to have body issues for–well, all my life, but those have been wiped away. My body is fucking mazing for surviving non-COVID-related pneumonia, two cardiac arrests, and a stroke. Not only surviving, but accruing no lasting damage. How can I hate on my body after that?

But some things never change. One of them is my everlasting love for the one true Christmas song, O Holy Night. Every year, I listen to countless versions of it just because I can. I’m doing that today and I’d like to share a few (or a dozen) of those versions with you. Before I do, however, there are two Christmas-related songs I really like that I’ll share first. One of them is Vienna Teng’s, The Atheist Christmas Carol.

The next is White Wine in the Sun by Tim Minchin. He’s also an atheist, but one who likes Christmas.

With that out of the way, we can get to the endless versions of O Holy Night, the only Christmas carol that I acknowledge exists. Why do I like it so much? It’s ethereal without the overly-saccharine tones to it that so many other Christmas carols have. The melody is just so pleasing to me and I actually sang it once in church for Christmas. I had to strain to hit the high notes, but I did well over all.

I was going to do my usual thing of listening to and listing a dozen versions of the song (and I still might), but I’m in a musing mood and want to talk some things out. Since it’s my blog, I can do whatever I want. Let’s start with one that is more on the traditional side with a heavy gospel flavor to it. It’s Chris Tomlin, featuring CeCe Winans, whose voice is magnificent. she can convey so much emotion with it and her black eye shadow is on point.

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What I’m thankful for this year

I don’t do holidays. I did them as a kid and when my niece and nephews were kids, but I’ve never liked them. Holidays, I hasten to clarify, not my niece and nephews. Them, I like a lot. More and more the older they get! They’re really great young adults. But holidays? Being forced to be around people I may or may not spend time with on the regular given my druthers? Nah, son. Not for me. My mother once said to me indignantly that just because something is a tradition, it doesn’t mean it’s bad. Which, true. But, I would counter that just because it’s tradition, it doesn’t make it good, either.

This year, my brother is having a Thanksgiving lunch. I am not going because I don’t feel comfortable being around groups yet. If I hadn’t been in the hospital recently, I would consider it. Well, no, I wouldn’t because if I hadn’t gone into the hospital, my viewpoint would be not to do holiday things as it’s been in the past. It’s the hospital that changed my thoughts on many things, including the pandemic. Which is now endemic. It’s here to stay and I’m not letting it rule my life any longer.

So, if I were a year out of being in the hospital, I would consider going to my brother’s for Thanksgiving. This year, though, it’s too close to my hospital stay for me to consider it. I don’t want to get sick again. And while I’ve relaxed on the pandemic, I’m not ready to be around a group of people again.

So. I do feel grateful this year, though. Thankful, if you will. I’ve spent the last few months pondering my life and the fact that I’m still alive. A brief recap: I somehow got pneumonia. Not sure how. I wasn’t going outside much at that time, but I did open it up a crack from my earlier days of self-isolation. I called 9-1-1, opened the front door for the cops, then collapsed in the front hallway. The cops bagged me when they arrived (with oxygen) while waiting for the EMS. During the ambulance ride, I had two cardiac arrests and a stroke. They had to shock my heart twice and applied an Epi pen once.


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A mélange, a potpourri, and an olio–but mostly Lil Nas X

My brain has been jumping all over the place and my sleep has sucked, so this post is going to meander more than usual. I’m going to pull back the curtain a bit on how I write posts. Not on the writing itself because that’s usually just put down whatever is in my brain. No, it’s about how I decide what to write about. Normally, there’s something pressing on my brain and I let that flow from my fingers until I’ve said all I need to say on the subject or until  I lose interest. Sometimes, it’s both, but sometimes it’s one or the other.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been struggling with my concentration for reasons I don’t want to get into. Suffice to say, it’s not as easy to get shit done as it used to be. Most of the time, I just grit my teeth and force myself to write the post. It may not be as long as it normally is or very good, but I get it done, damn it. Today, however, I’m going to write about whatever is on my mind with no attempt at coherency. Here we go.

Lil Nas X. I didn’t know he existed until yesterday when I read something about Satan Shoes, his new kicks. That he’s selling. Oh, and he’s a rapper? Singer? Both? Anyway, there are 666 pairs and they contain drops of human blood. That’s all I knew when I made this tweet:

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Happy Lunar New Year + taiji demo

Happy Year of the Ox, everyone! I’m not a huge celebrator of holidays, but I’m more into Lunar New Year than the alternative because, well, just because. That doesn’t mean I do much about it, but I at least acknowledge it–mostly because my family celebrates it.

One thing that comes with the Lunar New Year is the demo at my taiji teacher’s home studio. Last year was right before the pandemic really hit and it was both great (saw the Double Sabre Form) and terrible (car wouldn’t start afterwards because of the bitter cold). This year, there was question whether there would even be one given the pandemic, but they decided to do it on Zoom.

My teacher was in charge of it as she does all the online Zoom classes, but this was the first time she’d done an event of this magnitude. We had twenty-five or so people, which was more than I expected for a Zoom event.

The way it was handled was that my teacher had roughly twenty slots for demos. Solo demos, which was the only way it made sense. It was limited to 2-3 minutes per demonstrator. Hm. Not a good word. Presenter.

It would have been better in person, of course, but there were a few benefits to it being online. One, we’re in the middle of a wind chill advisory and it might get down to -45. Two, for me, it was nice to be able to sit in the comfort in my own home and not have to worry about my physical energy levels. Also, while I enjoy watching the group presentations, it’s easier to focus on the details with single presenters.

One thing that blew my mind was that two of the women who demoed did their routines to rap/hip hop, one being a Beastie Boys song. I had never thought about doing a routine to music, let alone hip hop/rap, and it was the most amazing thing. One was the Dancing Wu-Li Form and the other was a mixture of sabre forms.

At first, I was taken aback with the two of these being brought together. But, watching the first demo, I immediately got into it and thought, “Why the hell not?” Then, I was besotted by it and by the end of the demo, I was thinking of which forms I could unite with which rap songs.


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The end of the year is nigh

The end of the year is right around the corner and I can’t stop thinking about what a strange year it’s been. Terrible in so many ways. The pandemic. The current president. The mingling of the two. I’ve been reading past posts I’ve done on my gaming throughout the year to get ready for my end of the year game awards I was playing Syndicate back at the end of February right before the soft lockdown. I can’t believe I played Syndicate this year. I feel like it was ages ago. I also realized I played a ton more games than I remembered playing. To be fair, most of them I only played for a few hours. But, still. Good Pizza, Great Pizza was this year? If Found? Code Vein? I feel as if I’m living in some alternate universe and I want to get out of it.

Anyway. I’m not here to talk about video games. That will be a post (or three) by itself later. I’m here to talk about how happy I am to see the end of this year and how weird that it’s simultaneously been the longest year and the shortest year ever. I have heard the same thing from several people so it’s not just me. February seems like such a long time ago, but it also seems like just yesterday. I can’t help thinking about that younger me and smile ruefully at how naive I was. Not just me, but everyone in America, really. So many of us thinking the pandemic would last a month or two. I was supposed to fly to NY in early July and pooh-poohed my mother at the end of February for suggesting I cancel it. I was also planning on flying out to Philly over Halloween and surely I would be able to do that!

Yeah, no. Looking back, the idea that I would be able to fly in July is unfathomable. I’m not beating myself up about it because very few people thought the pandemic would last as long as it did. Back in February/March, the general thought in America was that it would be a few months before life returning to normal or some semblance thereof. It isn’t our fault as our government handled it so fucking poorly in the beginning. Not only did they underplay how terrible it was, but their advice was contrary. Don’t wear masks and go about your business as usual! Do wear masks. Six-feet apart. But still buy things!

The worst is the president. He had done active harm and January 20th cannot come soon enough for me. Trevor Noah did a bit about all the things this president has done wrong concerning the handling of the coronavirus and I couldn’t watch the whole thing because it was both enraging and profoundly depressing. One thing that has been made crystal clear during the pandemic is how little certain lives mean to those in charge. All the talk about it only affecting those who were already at high-risk wore me down. Even if it were true (which it isn’t), don’t our lives count? Don’t we matter?

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Holidays in a weird and wild world

Note: I don’t celebrate holidays. I feel the need to get the way before I go on my screed. 

Thanksgiving is coming up and it could not come at a worst time in terms of Covid cases soaring in America. In my state, you cannot gather with another household at all now because our cases peaked at 7,500 cases in one day. I don’t think the strictures have gone far enough even though I understand why the governor had to walk the tightrope. I really didn’t like the press conference, however, because it was definitely targeted at the yahoos who refuse to wear a mask because ‘MURIKA FUCK YA!

To wit, he praised everyone for doing so much and emphasized how hard it was and how unfair it was. I don’t disagree with the latter, but I am not at all down with the former. So many people have flouted the rules and/or don’t think Covid is an actual thing. Then, he went on to emphasize that this four week restriction was going most definitely going to only be a month because the vaccine will certainly be ready to go by then.

I mean, what. But that wasn’t the worst of it. He ended by saying he knew that come April, we would be sitting in that Twins stadium maybe without a mask, sitting with your brother-in-law having a hot dog and a beer. There is so many things wrong with this statement. One, the fact that he was so positive about the timeline. It’s one thing to say something like ‘with the information we have, it’s likely’ or something similar. But he phrased it in a way that made it inevitable, which I think is a recipe for disaster. I know he wants to keep people’s spirits up, but that isn’t the way to do it.

Secondly, the whole situation is aimed specifically at a certain type of person. I’ll just be clear–the Covid deniers. That’s not something I would do even in the Before Times, and it make it very clear that the press conference was not for me. It was for the recalcitrant assholes who whine about freeeeeedum and personal choice. Mostly Republicans, but not all of them. There’s a thread in Ask A Manager’s weekend post about Thanksgiving and whether or not to travel for it. Most people came down on the side of not traveling, especially as many states have come out with no mixing households mandates.

There were more than a few people, however, who disagreed. They were thoughtful about it and said that it was up to each individual (or family) to assess their risks and be careful when comingling households. They pointed out how devastating the lockdowns/restrictions have been to the mental health of people. They were right about the latter part, but so very wrong about the former. It’s part of why we are where we are right now–the emphasis on individual choice.

My parents bring up Covid every time they call. They say that cases have to be down, right? They can’t understand why the numbers keep going up. Their country, Taiwan, has been the platonic ideal of how you should deal with a pandemic. I’ve had to tell them over and over again that the things that worked in Taiwan wouldn’t work in America for a variety of reasons, but the biggest one is because  individual freedom/choice has become fetishized in this nation.


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