Grocery shopping has changed, man!

It’s been a while since the duck and I last professed our undying love for grocery shopping. Since then, there have been a few changes. Let’s start with the obvious one: In the last three years, various rules concerning store capacity, face visibility, and personal space were introduced and adapted. However, the biggest one for the duck and me was paying for our shop – we finally learned about checkouts and ceased walking out of the store, bags almost bursting with free groceries- ouch! The duck’s bad joke nudges have become more forceful. I should probably look into limiting the duck’s regular yoga master drills to five per day.
Bad jokes aside, I used to love playing store with miniature groceries, plastic money, and cash register sound effects. The only reason I stopped was a halt in playdate invitations. Fortunately, real grocery shopping turned out to be nearly as fun. Can you imagine my delight when I get to use self-service checkout machines? Even at a regular register, paying for my purchases in cash, ideally with exact change, was fun. As a bonus, I always precisely remembered how much I had spent on my shopping trips.

When shoppers were asked to kindly pay cashless in 2020, I acquiesced. At first, I used the chip readers and was called back to fetch my card several times. Once, I left it at a self-service checkout. When I returned the next day to retrieve it, I was scolded by the employee as he returned my card.
I have since progressed to touch-to-pay. Fortunately, I’m naturally frugal (which is what I should call my stinginess from now on), so I’m never severely surprised by the total on my receipt. But that’s because I already am when I see the price tags in-store and internally exclaim: “I remember a time when bread was basically free… because I was a freeloading child-” ouch! When we saw that most of our staples were spared from intense price hikes, the duck and I boldly declared our fortunateness. Unsurprisingly, inflation caught up with us. Now we cry whenever we buy oatmeal at a 40% higher price than before. We’re still shopping cheaper and healthier than in Japan, so we shouldn’t complain.

What’s your stance on grocery shopping? Do you have a preferred way to pay? What is your favorite country/city/store to shop in?

… faraway couches

Earlier, I disclosed that having almost all our friends live at least an hours-long train ride away has taken a toll on the duck who is much more social than I am. We’ve had a long talk in which I apologized for not honoring the duck’s extravert needs, and the duck promised to give me a heads-up before sending off any villain-club application forms. Like the duck, I don’t love living far away from most of our friends. But I also think it isn’t all bad. When I asserted that in our discussion, the duck demanded scientific proof. I laughed. The duck stared at me with a straight face.

Befuddled, I grabbed a pen from my neverending stash, some paper, and a couch catalog for the duck to peruse as I composed this list:

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Being a completionist pt. 2

At the beginning of the year, I wrote about wanting to break my habit of being a completionist. I‘ve gotten worse am still working on that.
‘Tis the season of Christmas cookies and extra-delicious food, a.k.a. the perfect backdrop for writing about one completionist habit I don’t mind (though it does annoy people around me): food. Whenever I prepare a meal that’s not entirely inedible, I will eat it. I happily finish my plate, refrigerate or freeze intended leftovers, and always use up all the ingredients I buy – unless they’ve gone bad prematurely. The only time I’m not happy with this habit is when I eat out and haven’t brought an empty container for leftovers. Last summer, in a rare instance of outside dining, I ordered a vegetable pasta dish that was served in a medium-sized frying pan! The portion was at least 2-3 large leftover lunches large. I determinedly switched to main quest mode and began shoveling. When I had reached satisfactory fullness, you could hardly tell I had transferred any skillet pasta onto my plate. I was on a mission. So, I kept eating. I hadn’t felt that full in months years! takeaway boxBut my aversion to wasting food trumped the growing fear of my stomach bursting. I kept on eating… until a knight in shining armor and an apron appeared at my side. Our excellent server had noticed my pained face and offered me a takeaway box for my leftovers. Yes! There’s no way I could have finished this pan-sized portion. My no-food-goes-to-waste-willpower has its limits.
I felt regret: Why hadn’t I thought about inquiring about a container myself (I would have happily paid for one) before the pain had set in? But I was also happy that I had one more day of good food before reverting to my own miserable cooking attempts. Thankfully, the duck wasn’t there to witness my embarrassment… or cheer me on all the way to my painful demise.

Faraway friends…

The duck and I have lived in a few different places. As have nearly all our friends. As a result, we don’t live near most of them these days. Seeing a friend face-to-face once or twice in a decade (if we’re lucky) has become the norm. In the past few years, however, the duck and my laziness has almost entirely squelched our ambition to travel (that, and that other thing). Because of that, we have delayed long overdue in-person get-togethers even more than usual. Fortunately, we can use the internet and snail mail (though our trust in the German postal service has reached a new low) to exchange life updates. Unfortunately, the duck and I are lazy, so it usually takes us months to respond to messages and arrange digital catch-up sessions. We’re lucky to have such understanding friends who don’t judge us too harshly (to our faces) for our intense laziness.
While I function well with little social interaction (past the everyday kind), it’s tough for the duck to have me, a self-proclaimed small-talk adversary, as the only available conversation partner most of the time. That’s why, a few months ago, the duck started striking up conversations with every dog, cat, horse, crow, goose, mouse, and earthworm we encountered on slow jogs or walks around the neighborhood. At first, I was happy the duck had found a way to satisfy those social cravings. However, a few weeks ago, I saw the duck had transitioned to engaging in lengthy one-sided conversations with characters inside the TV.

When I caught the duck composing an affectionate letter to an antagonist in a movie we hadn’t watched together in months, I realized I needed to pay more attention to what entertainment the duck consumes. I can’t have the duck join any fictitious villainous circles now, can I (note to self: revisit 1984 as a negative example)? Who knows what real-world repercussions that could have?! And maybe, just maybe, it’s also time we put away our laziness and do some more traveling so that we can once again catch up with physical friends on couches worldwide. Having had only one of those longer-distance catch-up trips in the past three years is embarrassing, even for someone as naturally reclusive as me. As is having the duck strike up imaginary friendships with not-very-nice people.

The duck’s top 5 small talk topics

Last week, I wrote about how bad I am at small talk. That’s only half true. While I doubt I will ever enjoy chatting about topics like the weather if I don’t get any practical information out of it, I generally like the listening and learning element of any conversation. And, if I’m in a social situation with the duck, I don’t have to worry about ever having to do anything but listen.

Articles about improving your small talk skills mention having a list of topics and questions (memorized) that you can fall back on in a small talk situation. I love lists, but I don’t love all of the most commonly suggested small talk phrases. A lot of them would sound too rehearsed and impersonal to me. So, I asked my favorite small talk partner to help me compose a list of duck-approved topics to supplement the general questions everybody’s asking. Here it is:

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Small talk

I’m bad at small talk. When I meet new people, I’m decent at exchanging names (just to forget them immediately and then avoid any topic that might call for them) and other information relevant to the situation. I might throw in an “I like your T-shirt” or “what’s your dog’s name?” if that’s my genuine opinion/interest. That’s as far as my skills go. Don’t get me wrong. I like chatting about unimportant topics if I have anything to add to the conversation, be it an additional piece of information, a firm opinion, or a bad joke I can’t keep in. But is that even considered small talk, then?
When I meet someone I know, I usually utter the customary “how are you?”, maybe even an additional “how is your work/school/family/pet alligator/chocolate you’ve been keeping under your mattress?”. Then I wait for the actual conversation to begin or the encounter to end. Any further small talk becomes a challenge to produce polysyllabic answers while brainstorming questions without looking too uncomfortable. Even when I talk to people I’ve known for a while, I don’t always ask basic questions. Sometimes, I forget because I’m rude. Sometimes, I’m too embarrassed to ask them. Have you ever felt like it’s too late to ask about something you should know by now? I certainly have. So, because of my terrible past and present small talk skills, I avoid questions that might put me on the spot. If I ask: “how’s Al?” but don’t know for sure who Al is because I’ve only ever heard the name but never asked for details, things could get embarrassing. Let’s say I presume Al is an alligator because that’s the mental image I have every time I hear about this mysterious family member. Well, what if Al is a raccoon who has been part of the family for decades? In fact, at this very moment, Al’s grandchildren could be baking a fruit and nut cake in the family kitchen to celebrate Al’s 30th birthday because not only is Al not an Alligator, but Al is also the oldest raccoon alive. How embarrassing that would be! So, I add “pet alligator or raccoon?” to the list of conversation topics to avoid right below “my friend’s name” (clearly, I should be more embarrassed by my lousy jokes).
I’m pretty sure most people don’t care if you ask them about such things a few years too late, and often I still do. Nonetheless, I should probably try to get better at small talk if I want to shorten my list of topics to avoid… though I really don’t like exchanging irrelevant thoughts about the weather.raccoon birthday Because what’s an acceptable response to “it’s been rainy recently, hasn’t it?” if you don’t have an anecdote/bad joke about the death of your umbrella to share?
I’m open to suggestions!

Learning new programs, or: how not to procrastinate

The duck and I are proud procrastinators. In most cases. Today, I want to tell you about two times we were not so proud of our procrastination skills. Actually, since both involve software, let’s make it one. I feel much better already. That’s it from us for today. Have a great week-
is what I wanted to leave it at. But I can feel the duck’s glare on my back. So, I guess I’ll do what I do well: write a few too many words on a moderately mundane topic. Cool! Let’s go!
First, let me reiterate that in addition to being powerful procrastinators, the duck and I strive toward positively perfect parsimony. In terms of software, this means we like to go free and open-source whenever we can. If we haven’t used the paid alternative (in years), we’re great at working with the potential limitations. If we switch directly and have trouble adjusting, the prospect of a (newly introduced) subscription fee is usually reason enough to keep trying.
That’s not what happened with Procreate and DaVinci Resolve, the two programs singular case of too much procrastination I mentioned earlier. They’re (almost) free!*

Here’s the duck appreciating (well, judging) my progress on our last movie still duckification on Procrastinate– no, that’s what we did Procreate, our new favorite doodling aid besides Gimp. Even though Procreate has been popular among artists for years, the duck and I only discovered this intuitive illustration app a few months ago. We consider ourselves digital doodlers rather than actual artists and we are lazy. So, we’re okay with being especially late to clamber up on the bandwagon (I have a past of being chronically late, after all). However, we’re not okay with how long it took us to actually try Procreate, given its comparatively minuscule one-time purchase fee of around 10 Euros (if you already own an iPad). Just looking at videos of it in use, the duck and I knew we’d love how this app combines the simplicity of drawing on a sheet of paper with the possibilities of a well-equipped art studio. We do prefer computers over smartphones of all sizes. So, dealing with the iPad’s operating system when importing or exporting files can annoy us (it definitely did when we used Procreate to create the overlays for our latest video). But that didn’t even cross our minds when we postponed buying this app. We simply procrastinated because we could, as we did with:

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About that heat…

The duck and I agree that this summer has been too hot. I haven’t (yet) felt so hot that I feared waking up a perfectly baked cookie (nothing has come close to the comparatively cute but intense 2019 heat wave in Germany and that oven of a bedroom I still have waking nightmares about). Uncomfortable it’s been, nonetheless. While the duck spends most days swimming in the bathtub among tubs of ice cream in bright floaties, I have spent those hot weeks trying to avoid the heat as much as possible and going through loads of sunscreen.

As the duck has been happily splashing around, I’ve made yet another list of realizations (fueled by the joys of living in a house with no AC and weeks-long average outside temperatures well above 30ºC/86ºF):

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Learning my lefts and rights

I’ve always had difficulty telling left from right and, as an extension, east from west (on a map – physically, I have trouble with all directions). Like most directionally challenged individuals, I did learn the basics eventually. Unlike most directionally challenged individuals, I was well into my double digits when I got there. By “basics,” I mean that if I thought about it hard enough and visualized a page or a compass rose as an aid, I would probably get it right most times. I still need to do that sometimes. However, thanks to yoga videos, I’ve gotten much quicker in distinguishing the left side of my own body from the right. I even have a higher success rate at getting it right intuitively. As soon as I have to translate to another person’s body or think quickly, however, my success rate drops significantly… I’m still in awe when people just know which side is which in relation to anything. On the flip side, I get to have small successes like this: After one of my slow jogs, I was approached by two strollers asking for directions. Despite my terrible sense of direction, I was actually familiar with the place they were looking for as I had just jogged past it a few minutes earlier. I didn’t want to lie and knew I couldn’t run away – my jogging is way too slow for that because I’m polite. So, I took a deep breath and, using my hands as an aid (thanks, yoga!), I described the way slowly, but without messing up. compass
That was months ago, and I’m still super proud of myself!
I am genuinely happy with how far I’ve come in the past few years, as an adult on paper who has more trouble telling right from left than the average elementary schooler.
(I could probably improve my directional instincts if I consciously practiced. But presently, my motivation to improve is weaker than my laziness. What do I have a directionally talented duck friend for, anyway?)

(A boring post about) yoga

The duck told me “after all those recent mentions of yoga” to “just dedicate a whole post to it already to get it out of your system” (whatever that’s supposed to mean). So, this one’s entirely on the duck!

I’ve remarked that, in addition to accidental outside photography yoga, I had been doing regular simple at-home (pretend-)yoga for more than two years. It’s also no secret that I used to have an unfounded aversion to “slow exercise” (or any kind of unnecessary exercise, really) that got amplified by the suggestion I do yoga, simply because it’s feminine. Before I get into another rant about figurative pigeonholes, here’s how I went from “yoga, schmoga” to “but first… let me do some yoga!” (don’t cue the house music, please):

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