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