By In Stuff

Kidney stones, electric cars, Pixelbooks and Twitter

The two worst days on the calendar to get a kidney stone, I can tell you, are:

    1. Thanksgiving.
    2. Every other day including Thanksgiving (tie).

Yes, OK, 3:30 a.m. Thanksgiving morning I woke up to that awful thing, the kidney stone pain, and any of you who have gone through it know that it’s not super pleasant. I spent the last three days drinking lots of water, fighting off the various waves of agony and nausea while waiting for this thing to pass. There is really not much to add about the pain of kidney stones other than to say that if you happen to watch the Lawrence Taylor leg-snapping sack of Joe Theismann when you’re in the midst of a kidney stone attack, you think: “I’d trade for that.”

As it turns out, the kidney stone attack came at the end of a strange self-evaluation week when I did three somewhat life-altering things that I don’t THINK are connected but they probably are in some cosmic way.

1. We bought an electric car.
2. I paid too much money and bought a Google Pixelbook.
3. I have basically quit Twitter.

The electric car thing is really fun. I traded in my car and bought a Chevy Bolt. There’s a reasonable chance you’ve never even heard of the Chevy Bolt at least in part because Chevrolet, in its infinite wisdom, built cars called the Chevy Volt and the Chevy Bolt. In addition to Volt and Bolt both being terrible car names, they are also so similar that even now my wife will call our car the Volt even though it’s the Bolt.

The Volt is a hybrid car that gives you 50 or so miles on electricity and then becomes a full gas engine. It is, I’m told, a good car.

But the Bolt, the car we bought, is a wonder. It’s all electric and it’s spectacular. The Bolt gives you 238 miles on a full charge (it depends on how you drive it), which is crazy if you think about it. This car is a stunning piece of technology. But, look, I didn’t buy it just because of the environment or to save gas money. The craziest thing is that the Bolt is CRAZY FUN to drive. Seriously. It’s like a futuristic golf cart with an awesome radio. It goes 0-to-60 in 6.1 seconds according to the brochures, but in reality, it goes from 0-to-60 as fast just about as you could want it to go. And it doesn’t make a sound.

You might know that there are like a half-million people on the waiting list for Tesla’s new Model 3, which is an exciting electric car that will get 220 miles on a charge and will be loaded down with all of the Star Trek technology and will cost almost exactly what a Chevy Bolt costs. Tesla vaguely says that the Model 3 will be delivered in 12-18 months. Meanwhile, the Bolt is here RIGHT NOW, and it’s awesome, and best I can tell no one is buying it. We have not yet seen another one in our town, though I’m sure there are a few out there. I can only guess that this is because Chevy just doesn’t have the coolness quotient of Tesla. I get that. But the Bolt is a really, really, really cool car.

The Pixelbook is a different thing but it’s also a cool piece of technology in a whole other way. If I had to describe the place I am in my life right now I would choose a single word: Simplify. I just have to simplify. It is something that has been weighing on me quite a bit over the last year or so. I’m fortunate in so many ways and one of those ways is that I have like 10 things going all the time, some of them my job, some of them for fun like the PosCast or this blog, some of them projects like this Houdini book I might have mentioned. We also have two daughters, one a full-fledged teenager, the other about to become one, and we have a dog that has started barking at everything, and we are involved in various charities and such. Maybe you see the hectic nature of your own life in here.

Simplify. I need to simplify. In some ways, I think this is why I have stopped following the NFL (except for the Browns) and college football entirely. Yes, it begins with the football no longer entertaining me. I’m not saying football has gotten uninteresting; I’m saying football has gotten uninteresting TO ME. Why watch if I don’t enjoy it? It took me three years to finally realize that the answer to that question is: Hey, I really do not have to watch it.

But as a side-effect to not watching football, I realize that I now have more hours to do stuff that matters to me because I’m not watching Georgia-Alabama or the Packers and Bears. I have said many times: I’m not trying to make any sort of statement about football. If you love it, absolutely, keep loving it. I just don’t. And I’m in a job for the first time in 30 years where I don’t have to care.

Back to the Pixelbook — it’s Google’s high-end Chromebook. It’s a lovely little device, thin, white, light, great keyboard, you can use it as a tablet. There is some controversy about the Pixelbook because it costs a thousand dollars and Chromebooks are not supposed to cost that much because they are limited in what they can do — they are not like Macbooks or Windows 10 machines where you are free to run any program you like. On a Chromebook, you live in the world of Google Chrome, and while there are workarounds for a lot of things, the truth is that you simply cannot do as much on it. A thousand bucks is a lot to spend for a limited machine.

But this is the point: I don’t WANT to do as much stuff. Simplify. Nothing in the world is easier to use than a Chromebook. I can write my book on it using a wonderful a simple little service called “Dabble Writer.” I can write this blog post or my baseball blog post. I can write my stories for And the other stuff, the high-end games, the video editing, the numerous different ways to get things done, I don’t have to worry about any of it. I paid for the Pixelbook by selling off my Windows and Mac laptop and made a little money on the deal. Simplify.

And finally: I have, mostly, dropped off Twitter. I will still post my stories on there because I think/hope it’s useful to do that. But I will no longer look at it. Again, like with the NFL, I’m not doing this as some sort of protest; if you are getting enjoyment out of social media, if it makes you happier or better informed or makes you feel more connected to the world, I think that’s wonderful. It just isn’t doing that for me for anymore.

About 15 or 20 years ago, I realized that talk radio was wrecking my writing process. I would be writing a column, and I would hear the talk radio voices in my head screaming, and I thought: “This isn’t helping me.” And so I stopped listening to talk radio. That’s sort of how I feel about Twitter now. All of the good — and there’s a lot of good in Twitter — just doesn’t for me outweigh the negativity, the rashness, the time-suckitude. At some point — I wrote about this — I figured out how many words I have written on Twitter, and it just about broke my spirit. I’ve written a full book on Twitter. A full, lousy, grammatically challenged, snarky, largely unfunny book of snap judgments and surface-level philosophy. I don’t have time for that. I have real books to write.

And hey, maybe with my recovered time, once I finish the Houdini Book, I can finish the Top 100 baseball players. You never know. Anything is possible once the kidney stone passes.

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30 Responses to Kidney stones, electric cars, Pixelbooks and Twitter

  1. Jack Hyland says:

    “How does it feel? To be on your own? With no direction home? With a kidney stone?”
    (Sorry, had to do it.)

    • Mike Tzanakis says:

      As a man who has had, and successfully passed eight kidney stones I know your pain all too well! I would not wish, well there are a couple folks I would wish that upon, suffice to say child birth for the male species is what this is akin to

  2. John Cochrane says:

    I went to the Charlotte Car show this month and saw the Bolt as one of a few cars specifically to check out there. I have seen one other than the one at the show. Maybe you and yours?

    • Joe Posnanski says:

      That is OUR BOLT, John. Hilarious. When we bought it, we looked in the glove compartment and it had a slip of paper saying it was shown at the Charlotte Car Show.

  3. Mark says:

    The end of the iPad review jokes?
    End of an era.

  4. Jay says:

    As a man who has a genetic dispensation to kidney stones, you have my condolences and a pair of tips.

    1. Sit down when passing the darn thing. If you pass out it is a lot shorter distance to the floor.

    2. When you go, make sure you really have to go. No fun in it getting stuck half way.

    Good luck and like all things in life, this too shall pass.

  5. MarkW says:

    As a 3-time kidney stone loser, you have my deepest sympathy. Also, I would encourage you to give up whatever it takes to finish the Top 100. Not sure how well that fits with “simplify”, though…

  6. Fin Alyn says:

    For Twitter, as a celebrity, I would use Bruce Campbell as my go to example. He promotes his shows and appearances and pictures of him, and pictures fans send him, in nature. Nothing else. this might be the simplify route you wish to follow.

  7. KHAZAD says:

    I highly recommend simplification. Life is all about balance and memorable moments. I have found that almost none of the memorable moments come from anything that that sucks all your time or overly complicates your life, and that when you simplify, you actually have MORE memorable moments happening to you, because you are more present in the moment yourself.

  8. J Hench says:

    I threw my fists up and did a victory dance when I read you bought a Bolt, Joe.

    I bought a Bolt in April, and I love it. I cannot second your sentiments enough. As someone who has never been a “car guy,” I find it so much fun to drive. It’s just a really great car.

    And yeah, I don’t know what Chevy is doing marketing-wise either. But spread the word, Joe!

    • Dan says:

      At least they’re not advertising it with that pretentious guy and the “Real People, Not Actors”. If an Chevy ad came for the Bolt and I didn’t hear his smarmy voice, there might be a chance I wouldn’t change the channel.

      • KHAZAD says:

        Those are my most loathed commercials on TV, and that is saying something. I find myself wondering how they can possibly work as advertising. (I guess they think they must because they keep making more and they air all time, or what is different about me that I have such an immediate negative reaction to them.

        • John says:

          Would you rather:

          a) Pass a kidney stone

          b) Watch those annoying Chevy commercials on a continuous loop for the time it would take to pass the kidney stone?

  9. BobDD says:

    So, didn’t Chevy used to have an economy car called the Vegan, and a commercial where a buyer said, “Where’s the Beef?” Something like that, right? It’s hard to keep up. At my age, my mind was simplifying well before I noticed.

  10. Paul says:

    I drove a friend’s Bolt recently. It was a lot of fun. It will also be more reliable than a Model 3, and is made by a company likely to still be in business in 5 years. So there’s that. As a car guy, I am waiting for the electric 911.

    Sorry to hear about the kidney stones.

  11. robert says:

    We went to a stress clinic. Here’s what you do: get a piece of paper and divide it in three. Column 1 is the things you get way more out of than you put in (family, church). Column 2 is all the neutral energies: you put out into them but don’t get much back (office parties). Column 3 is the energy suckers-things you do just because you do and don’t get much back if anything. So, cut column 3 out totally. Cut column 2 by 50%. Keep and cherish column 1. Result? Good things, and column 1 gets bigger.

  12. MikeN says:

    GM made the EV1 and marketed it like crazy, and there were basically no sales. They are not making the same mistake again.

    No way Tesla delivers in 12-18 months. This is another lie told by Elon on top of all his previous lies. The company is burning through cash at a rate of 4 billion per year. By maintaining a cult status with his lies, he hopes to be able to raise cash thru bond sales and by selling off as little of the company as he can.

    At current production pace, it would take him about 400 years to fill all orders.
    Even if he somehow ramps up to the 10k cars per week he promised(lied), it would put him at over that timeline. He went from promising to get to 10k cars per week by the end of 2017 to March 2018 to now sometime in 2018. In August he said he would produce 1500 cars in September, and the real number was about 200. This is what he missed by just one month later. Another lie. It is all to keep his market cap higher than GM, while actual production is less than Toyota did in the exact same factory.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      Don’t worry. Elon will have the first production plant on Mars and then production will really take off. And those Martians work cheap.

  13. Ted Logan says:

    What’s more painful – the kidney stones, or watching the Browns each week?

  14. shagster says:

    Wow Joe. You must be in pain. A life’s work is passing before your eyes. Throwing whole platforms of expression out the window. Even mentioning need to complete Baseball 100!

    All for it. Except the stones and life passing before eyes part (and gruesome LT – Theisman image part).

    Get better. And back to BB100.

  15. bryan jones says:

    Unbelievable quantities of lemon water, vitamin B-3, magnesium pills. Rinse, repeat.

  16. Curtis says:

    I have a 2015 Electric Ford Focus, and I would say many of the same things about it. Quiet as a mouse, fun to drive, so on and so on. I had to buy it in Oregon and ship it to Texas because they only built them for states that had stricter emissions requirements. It doesn’t have nearly the range as the Bolt or any of the Teslas, but nonetheless it is basically a perfect second car for a family. I can charge at home or at the office, and so even though the range on a charge is roughly 80 miles, I rarely get below 40 and only once or twice in a couple of years have been below 15.

    I think the “fill-up” stations of the future will be able to just swap out electric batteries and charge them there. You drive the EV in with your mostly empty battery; they pop it out and put in a charged one, and you give them $25 or whatever and are good for another couple of hours down the road. That won’t happen in the next year or two, but it is coming.

  17. Marc Schneider says:

    I had surgery to remove a kidney stone. Surprised that they didn’t suggest that. There is also lithotripsy. I don’t think that there is no alternative but letting it pass these days.

  18. It’s been said that we do our best writing when it comes from our pain, to which I reply, kidney stones. You led with the kidney stones. Rock on. No pun intended.

  19. HenryQ says:

    Oh, I encourage you to get back to the Baseball 100. That would be so awesome. I enjoyed that series so much!

  20. […] Internet column of the Week: The great Joe Posnanski, on (mostly) quitting Twitter at the same time as he gets a kidney […]

  21. HDS says:

    I had a kidney stone battle in November/December 2016. I woke up in the middle of the night with back pain, went to school the next morning (I’m a teacher) made it through two classes, and called my urologist. He ordered an X-ray, then called me with the results. The adjective was “huge”. I was scheduled for an ultrasound blasting the Monday after Thanksgiving. I woke up Thanksgiving morning with kidney stone pain, a cold, and the flu. Three bites of turkey, then back to bed. I was absolutely miserable while the rest of the family stuffed themselves. Two procedures and three weeks later, all clear. Hang in there, it does get better eventually.

  22. Bruce W. says:

    Ah, kidney stones. You know those little pain scales that they put up in doctors offices? The ones that go from one to ten, with the little sad, crying face at the end? Kidney stones mock those scales, tear them down from the wall, and stomp on them. Just sayin’.

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