Travel Perks Industry Going Bonkers

I’m seeing American airlines and credit card companies react to COVID by making it ever-more lucrative to be their customer/loyal fan.   In my opinion, the best deals right now are with Chase — two cards, specifically:

For earning cashback OR travel points:

Chase just made their Freedom Unlimited even more worthwhile.   You still pay no annual fee, earn 20,000 bonus points after spending $500 in 3 months, earn 1.5 points per dollar (one of the best offers available, translates to 1.5% cash back).   But now, they’ve increased point-earning opportunities to double points on drugstores, dining and delivery and more than triple points-earning on travel AND GROCERIES!

If nothing else, this is basically a 5% discount on groceries and 3% discount on all takeout food you order!

To stockpile maximum travel benefits:

Chase Sapphire Preferred is still the best thing to have.   Currently a wild 80,000 point initial bonus (the highest I’ve ever seen it) and still double points on travel and dining.  If you can meet the minimum spend ($4,000 in 3 months), it gives you the most point-use flexibility. You can redeem your 80,000 points for travel spending on the card, but you can also transfer the points and use them in a frequent flyer or hotel program.

I’ve written lots about the free-flights and/or points-earning world, if you want more details.

Happy Perk Collecting! ♣

Is Your Thalamus (Also) On Fire?

I’m one of the hundreds of thousands of Americans being impacted by the wildfires raging across thousands of miles in the U.S.

I’m currently coming to you from my friend’s garage in Boise, Idaho, where I’ve set up a tent bedroom and toolbench office (because COVID) after fleeing hazardous air quality and fires moving ever-closer to my usual stomping grounds in Oregon.

That the fire part.

fire flames

Here’s the thalamus part:

I’m finally reading The Body Keeps The Score, after a half-decade of having it vehemently recommended from many corners of my world.   It’s an excellent treatise on what is happening to the structures inside our brains when life is less than optimal.   My ah-ha moments to pages-read ratio is basically 1:1.   (Seriously.   Read it!)

I learned the thalamus in the brain combines incoming information into a coherent experience.   Hold on to that factoid for a minute.

diagram of brain with some parts labelled

The thalamus is the red bit. (Perfect color – going to fit in soooo well with the metaphor I’ll eventually make. Read on!)

Thanks to my relatively new skill of noticing what is (instead of my life-long skill of noticing what should/could be), I observed many things about my mental and emotional state as I:

  • left my home just after midnight this past Tuesday
  • drove many hours in the middle of the night to relative smoke/fire safety
  • slept in my car for a hot minute next to a freeway under Walmart-parking-lot floodlights
  • drove under-slept most of the next day to social safety
  • set up my garage-refugee life
  • started adjusting to new reality

I noticed a consistent chasm between what I expected myself to be able to do and what I could actually, reasonably do.   E.g. Despite being in refugee mode, there’s no reason I can’t still work, exercise, keep up with correspondence, and sort out healthy meals, right?   (I hope you’re laughing!)

Then I realized that pattern is everywhere in my life, the lives of those around me, and in Western culture at large.   In short, I think Western culture dramatically underestimates the cognitive impacts of instability.

brown eggs precariously balanced in a stack - changing color in a gradient with brown on bottom and white on top

Tell me this isn’t the perfect metaphor for the instability of 2020!

According to the book I just mentioned, in threatening situations the thalamus can break down.   “Normal memory processing disintegrates.”   Even if you aren’t experiencing COVID as a “threatening situation” and aren’t a fire-refugee, even if your thalamus isn’t breaking down, surely it’s glowing fire-hot with the effort of combining the incoming train wreck of 2020 into a coherent experience?

All I want to say is that it seems instability causes our brains to work double-time.   When we fail to respect and allow for that reality, we can end up feeling at best bewildered by our own “incompetence” and at worst full of self-loathing for falling short of our own (ridiculous?!) expectations.

For instance, maybe there is simply no room left in your mind to take advantage of the pandemic perks I mentioned in the last email missive.   That’s okay!   I see you!   Deep breaths.  Keep breathing.

neon sign with the word breathe in cursive set against a backdrop of plants

If you’ve been expecting yourself to keep functioning in 2020 like you did in 2019, can I invite you to give yourself a little grace?   Can I ask your inner parent to go easy on you right now?   Tell them your thalamus’ inbox is overflowing and needs you to spend more time staring at walls and doing mindless, “unproductive” things so it can do its very important, very “productive” job!

Happy Processing! ♣

Earth Lessons

It feels strange to offer such a niche post when I’ve gone so long without saying anything (publicly) at all.   And yet.   I was so captivated by some lessons at a talk I went to recently, it seems a real shame not to find a way to share them.

With an eye toward helping us feel gratitude for our past to then yield a sense of responsibility for our future, a scientist covered some of the highlights of history on earth.

beige desk globe on white desk

Did you know:

  • The earth’s iron core gives us our atmosphere!   It creates a magnetic field that deflects particles from the sun that go zooming by that would otherwise sweeping away atmosphere.  
  • Earth time is divided into eons.   Each eon is divided into eras.   The three most recent eras are:
    • Paleozoic – meaning old life
    • Mesozoic – meaning middle life
    • Cenozoic – meaning new life
  • We’re in the Cenozoic right now.
  • Five times in earth’s history have we seen more than 50% of life die out
    • at end of Paleozoic, 95% of ocean and 75% of land life was lost in great dying
    • at the end of the Mesozoic, an asteroid killed off many reptiles and birds  

dried soil

  • Some precursors to life being human-friendly:
    • Plants changed the atmosphere, pulling CO2 content way down.   At the same time the sun warmed things up.
    • In the Mesozoic, plants began to flower, seeds got bigger and richer
  • Things that moved life toward a human body:
    • The emergence of jaws allowed chewing, which sped up digestion, which allowed for energy expensive brains.
      • It also allowed for facial expressions! Only mammals have this!
    • The earliest mammals had many predators and so were mostly nocturnal, causing an emphasis on development of hearing and smell.
      • There are still more nocturnal than diurnal animals!
    • The discovery of fire meant more calories could be absorbed from cooked food, supporting even bigger (calorie-expensive!) brains.

♣ Happy Human-ing!

While not writing publicly, I’ve still been… alive!     And occasionally communicating with people who subscribe.   And I’m pretty sure that sometime this year (2020), I’ll start publishing publicly again!

What Happened to 2018

If you’re not into gleaning insight from others’ personal experiences, this set of words probably isn’t for you.   🙂

I haven’t written anything containing chronological information about my life since I temporarily quit the internet in May.    Seven months.   Whoa.

A month before that, I published a disjointed collection of words containing an update of sorts.   I didn’t know I was in the midst of losing 6% of my year to strep throat. 1Which I contracted from a lovely group of humans with whom I was work exchanging.

The only other 2018 public snapshot of my life was published on day 2 of the year.   I shared my annual intentions.

Three public missives.

That’s it for this year!

photo: andre guerra

In 2017, I wrote ten times as many.   Why?   I have two guesses.   One now, one farther down the page.


1 Which I contracted from a lovely group of humans with whom I was work exchanging.

Blessing in the Chaos

It’s National Poetry month. If this is the only section of Half the Clothes you visit, you probably think I dropped off the face of the earth.

Au contraire.

2017: Some Things I Never Told You

I’ve spent more of these December days thinking about 2018 and looking forward than thinking about and looking back on 2017.   However, a reflection seems appropriate before excitedly charging into a fresh batch of days.

Unexpected Lesson from a Border Canyon

My former college roommate is about the most motivated, driven, action-taking person I know.   He sets a goal, puts his mind to it, and gets it done with an indestructible good attitude.