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The Unapologetic Geek

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14 Things I Learned in 2014

I was afraid that, as the years go on, it would get harder and harder to find enough things to fill this annual blog. I'm at 2014, so I have to come up with 14 things I learned? Actually, this was an easy year. I don't even have any parenting tips for 2014, because it was just that eventful for me. I haven't separated the list the way I did last year, but there is a rough stream of consciousness to the order below, from personal to video games to publishing to politics, and know that, had I wanted to, I could have easily doubled the size of this entry.

NSAIDs Have Side Effects

So blue, so pretty, so groany

For years now, I've had an on-again, off-again problem with stomach pain that seems to come out of nowhere, linger for a while, and then disappear after a few days. As I've grown a teeny bit wary of anything to do with my digestive system (my father died of colon cancer), I've had it checked out repeatedly with ultrasounds and a colonoscopy and much else without finding anything of note. Finally, it dawned on me in a moment of clarity that the problem seemed to rear its head whenever I'd take Aleve. In 2014, I was taking a lot of Aleve, because it is the only thing that really works for back pain (more on that in a moment), so my stomach got extremely upset at me. I've had to accept the annoying truth that I have to find milder, less stomach-churning alternatives to pain relief, like gritting my teeth and cursing under my breath whenever I sit down with a sore back. Transition to elderly curmudgeon: 50% complete.

Back Pain is Awful

Intelligent design, my sore ass!

So wait, what's all this about back pain? I'm no stranger to throwing my back out, pulling muscles I didn't even know I had back there, or being rendered completely incapacitated by spasming, throbbing anger near my spine. But that's not what I'm talking about here. I'm talking about something that starts far more subtly and just slowly grows in intensity. I thought it might be my new lounge chair, or the amount of time I was sleeping on the couch (I wasn't on the outs with the wife or anything--we just had a flailing five-year-old who was impossible to keep in his own bed all night long). It eventually got to the point that I talked to the doctor about it, but he told me to take a few prescription pain meds and wait it out to see if it went away on its own, since there wasn't anything serious like intense, radiating pain down my leg or something. Just a few days later, I experienced intense, radiating pain down my leg. I went to the hospital and declared myself to be at an eight on the pain scale, which was not an exaggeration. Long story short, I had a couple of pinched nerves and had to endure cortisone shots, physical therapy, and then vicodin withdrawal in order to get to the point where back pain became an occasional annoyance instead of an all-consuming disability.

Don't Trust Moving Companies

some random Google-image-searched clip art
"How did our furniture even get to Indonesia?

Did I mention all this trouble with my back happened at the same time we were preparing to move to a different state? I was unable to help much with the actual moving process--picking up heavy boxes all day long was out of the question--so we went ahead and hired a moving company, something we'd never done before. Without going into too much detail about the drama that followed, let me just say that you should definitely not expect things to go smoothly when you're using a moving company. We didn't lose anything and only had a few broken dishes in the end (something that was really our fault for how we packed them), but by then, we'd already spent over twice as much money as was originally estimated, had to explain to a couple of movers that they didn't actually deserve the several hundred dollar tip they tried to extort out of us, and had spent over two weeks sleeping on the floor of our new and barren apartment because the delivery date for our stuff kept getting pushed back while the truck full of our stuff just sat in a Pennsylvania parking lot. It was not an experience I am ready to repeat.

Midwesterners Don't Mess Around on July 4


Before we were fully settled into our new life near St. Louis, Missouri, we were invited to a July 4th party in a nearby suburban neighborhood. Again, I'm not a stranger to beer or fireworks (I went to college, after all) or even crazy suburban parties. But this was something altogether different. It wasn't what I'd call crazy--it was a pretty tame party by my standards--but it did have one thing I was totally unprepared for: a ludicrous excess of fireworks. Everybody on the block had truckloads of really heavy stuff, not just your average bottle rockets and sparklers. After hours of every firework imaginable going off all around us, we drove home in a thick fog of smoke, loud explosions, and flashing lights that would easily trigger PTSD flashbacks in any combat veteran. The war--which felt as though we were still keeping those redcoats at bay--went on well past reasonable hours of the night and, in the morning, it was still smokey outside. This was our welcome to the Midwest.

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-e. magill 1/9/2015

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