May 31, 2012

Work Balance / Life Balance

I've had a bit of a work balance issue for a while now. As an independent consultant, I've set a personal goal of not having any one client exceed 25% of my monthly billables. My engineering rate is set so that if I bill 20 hours a week, I'm on the low end of comfortable, which gives me a target of 80 billable hours a month. So keeping any one client to about 20 hours per month means I'm not in as much risk of them rolling over (cancelling the project, going elsewhere) and squashing me. All good, so far.

One client, however, who has sent me steady work in an ongoing / sustaining project (since 2003) has slowly increased the work. I've been billing 30-40 hours per month, pretty steadily, for the past year or so. Which means this one client is around 50% of my target engineering billables. In reality, it's a bit higher than this, since my 40 hours of available time each week are also doled out to web wenching, yoga teaching. etc. I do not really want to discourage the work; it's a bit repetitive, but it can be done at my convenience, they pay 30 days on the nose, and not a lot of hand-holding or maintenance. So I've simply lived with the tension of having a lot of eggs in one basket, and when other work comes in, putting in more hours and cranking to stay on top of things.

But, running with steady income like this can cause some other issues. My website is woefully outdated and in need of a complete overhaul. Another client has a website redesign pending that I need to put some time into. And I'm not doing much, if anything, towards marketing, networking, or building the business out into new areas.

The past few weeks, however, the big client has been offline (vacation) and since he keeps a bit of a tight rein on my work, there's nothing coming in. So, May will be a very light billing month (about 50% of usual) and I suspect I will get dumped on with a big backlog come the first week in June.

In the meantime, however, I have been enjoying a bit of a work holiday. I'm still teaching yoga, of course, and other projects are coming through and getting handled. But I've had the chance to really catch up in my personal life. I've cleaned the heck out of my living space - with three room totally cleaned, the others pending, and a bunch of small and large projects (seasonal stuff, as well as things I've had on my "I'll get to that someday" list) knocked off. I've been blogging more (notice?). And I've started sitting back and thinking about my engineering consulting practice, moving forward. I suspect I'll get that website redesign moving in the next week or so, and want to refocus my work to better sync up with the other things going on in my life - more local business, more niche business, less "jump in an airplane and resolve problems" type of work.

It feels like I've been just swamped and not really taking care of stuff (for years, really) - and  these two weeks have allowed me to catch my breath, finish things up, make some long term plans, and look to the future. I've got some new energy - thinking of a long overdue "how to" book project that would work great on Kindle self publish, signed up for a SquareUp credit card account. Just seems like there is a lot more room in my work life for new growth....

The end of June might be a bit tight, but there are some largish invoices outstanding that I expect to see any day that will soften that. And many of the projects I've been able to catch up on will translate into invoices in the next few weeks.

On a Timer

A short list of items on timer at the house:

a) Dehumidifier. For some reason, it tends to cycle on/off a lot when it's near the target humidity. Annoying during the workday in the basement office. I called the manufacturer - no way to adjust the hysteresis. So I picked up a heavy duty timer to keep it off during the day, when it switches on at night (when electricity is less in demand, anyway) it runs longer but less annoying cycling.

b) Fan in yoga room. Switches off mid-morning before the day gets hot, stays off all day (preserving the cooler night air in the house) and switches back on in teh early evening.

c) Front porch - I have a programmable switch that turns the porch light on and off automatically.

One of these days I'll pick up a whole house controller, and really geek it out. But not today....

If You Can't Find Something To Do This Weekend... are not trying very hard. Here's a short list of things I am aware of, I am sure there is much more to choose from.

Blues: Friday Night, June 1 is the annual Black-eyed and Blues Fest in Bushnell Park, sponsored by Black-eyed Sally's. ABSOLUTELY FREE.  More info....

Alternative Rock: A plug for my friends at Little Ugly - they are playing the Firebox Restaurant (at Billings Forge) on Friday @ 9:00 pm

Poetry: This is the kick-off weekend for the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, at the Hillstead Museum in Farmington. Poetry and music all weekend long, starting Friday night.

Spirituality: Something new this year, the 2012 Creative Spirituality Fair, in East Haddam is going on Saturday. June 2. All sorts of yoga, healing modalities, energy work, music, arts, food and fun.

Queer Film Fest: The annual Gay and Lesbian Film Fest - Out Film CT - starts this weekend, at Cinestudio. The festival runs June 1- 9, with some big social events planned for apres cinema on the opening night, closing night, and mid fest. A lot of interesting looking films, with several premieres.

Krishna Das:  Kirtan and workshop on Sunday, June 3 in West Hartford, sponsored by West Hartford Yoga.

That's just a start, bet there are many more events happening as we kick off the first weekend of the summer season. Get out there and enjoy!

May 28, 2012

Weekend Report Card

Holiday Weekends are usually tough for me - I tend not to have a lot of invites to social events, no nearby family, so I watch the parade of happy picnic, party and travel photos on Facebook with a bit of sadness. 

That being said, the weekend was pretty reasonable. Got a lot of chores done - interior plants refreshed and renewed, exterior plants purchased and transplanted. I installed a window A/C unit in the bedroom, thoroughly cleaned multiple rooms (bedroom, yoga room, living room).

Went to a movie (MIB3) as well as a play (The Tempest) - got some chores done for a friend (some transplanting of large houseplants and a window A/C unit installed). Couple of (not so healthy) meals out - Doogies with a friend (his first time), as well as The Counter (my first time). Guinea Pigs rehearsal on Friday. Taught yoga on Friday and Monday, and did some private training work on Saturday. Met up with some friends on Saturday for an informal birthday hangout at Elizabeth Park.

Today (Monday) was really the bleah day - taught my class, and vegged for much of mid-day (heat) before cleaning the living room and  seeking some A/C at the movies. Hope to get the kitchen cleaned up this evening.

Still on the list: Kitchen cleaning. Bathroom(s) cleaning. Laundry room cleaning. Office cleaning. Changeover seasonal clothes. And a small pile of long delayed work projects I hope to bang out this week, while my big client remains off line. Once he's back in the office (next weekend or Monday) I suspect the floodgates will open and I'll have quite the work backlog moving into June.

The Tempest - Hartford Stage

So much to love!

A lazy Memorial Day weekend, without a lot on the agenda. So as a friend and I lamented our single (meaning, no families, no picnics) state on Facebook, we realized we could sneak in a visit downtown - and holiday tickets were 50% off!  We were so there!

Forst off, I've already seen The Tempest at Hartford Stage - the last time they put it on, circa 1984/85 season. Yeah, I am that old.  I must have been a way cooler 24 year old than I remembered - although a few years out of college (where I sucked up every Shakespeare course my engineering college offered), with a good (for the time) salary and a pile of credit, I was flush. Anyway, I am sure I loved that version (I made a point of seeing every Mark Lamos directed Shakespeare play that I could), but I think I loved this one more.

In no particular order, I loved:
  • Ariel played by Shirine Babb with a chorus, I loved the concept of Ariel being multiple sprites. It would have been pretty  cool (conceptually) to have the three actors portraying Ariels movement chorus shared the speaking roles, although Shirine was outstanding throughout.
  • The stage floor and costumes, many of which were woven with the text of the play)
  •  The wall of books, artfully designed to permit the Ariel chorus to climb and pose.
  • Caliban. Amazing performance by Ben Cole, and amazing choices in terms of how to play him by the director
  • The stage turntable, used sparingly but effectively, all night, but especially during...
  •  The opening scene, where a woman on stage in a long-trained dress transformed into the Figurehead of the ship that is wrecked in a storm. I just fell in love from the start.
  • Not a huge fan of Prospero's revels (ballet and aerial dancing) in general but it was a beautiful interlude and I did love the rainbow arc. 
The actors were great, the costuming was great - hard to trump the fantastical elements of the play but they supported it fully and never detracted. Even Trinculo and Stephano (Shakespeare's obligatory comic relief) were wonderful. 

Live theater, I miss you. It was really not that pricey to see a play, there are bargains to be had, I need to cultivate a few theater going friends.

May 25, 2012


I am not exactly an early acquirer, and I tend to hang on to technology long past its average life. Witness my old iPhone 2 (still working fine), my iPad (a first generation device that I bought on closeout when the iPad 2 came out, and I'm still enchanted) and, until now, my GPS. I have had one of those old fat Garmin GPS devices that looked like a miniature CRT. The batteries died years ago (only worked when plugged in), the power cable was getting a little wonky, the touchscreen would occasionally and intermittently get out of registration, and the maps and software had never been updated (last time I checked, a few years back, it was $99 or something and it seemed better to buy a new box)

It owed me nothing - not exactly sure when I purchased it, probably 2006 - it went with me (via checked luggage) all over the USA on business trips. Occasionally, I'd pull up the history and find directions to a hospital 2000 miles away, to the southwest. It was, all in all, a VERY USEFUL and  RELIABLE bit of technology.

The last few months, I have found myself relying on my iPhone maps app for directions (and more importantly, traffic) so I knew it was time to update. 

Picked up a Garmin Nuvi 40LS (hey, I'm still not an early acquirer and I'm cheap!) that came with a lifetime map / software update for $120, on sale at Staples. I'ev never liked the Tom Tom User Interface, so Garmin it is again, even 10 years later the Garmin GUI is familiar.  A real impulse buy (I went in looking for a low profile extension cord, came out with a notebook, pens, and a GPS.)

May 24, 2012

Weird Dream

I rarely dream vividly and memorably, but I did last night (perhaps driven by some rather yummy fish tacos from the nearby No Name Tortilla Grill), and perhaps advised by the rather fluid layout of the "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" (saw the movie yesterday)

In my dream, I was living in a second floor apartment in a big rambling house that was not designed as separate apartments. The kitchen (for instance) was huge and had multiple stoves. And there was a screen door separating my place from a common space adjacent to a group home for adults with some sort of disability (did not seem to be developmental, perhaps mental health issues).

I arrive back home to find my kitchen occupied by a handful of these group home folks, cooking my food in my kitchen. I remember one guy was frying up 6-8 eggs, someone else was making spaghetti. I kicked them all out, and closed / latched the screen door, and went down to talk to the group home staff about it. Later on, I find the screen has been cut / pushed in, the latches unlocked, they had been back in. One guy in particular seemed rather gleeful and  obsessed with the project of invading my space. I think somewhere along the line I ended up tussling with him trying to get him to leave.

It was the kind of dream that stuck around; I woke during the night, turned on the radio for a bit, and when I dozed back asleep, the dream continued.

May 23, 2012

Deus Ex Machina

Locked my keys in the car this morning, pumping gas en route to yoga. I opened the passenger side door to clear out some trash, left the keys on the passenger seat. A few seconds after I closed the door, I heard the ominous click of the car doors locking. No idea how that happened; the automatic door locks are pretty smart - I've tried to to this in the past without success. Best I can guess, the door lock button was inadvertantly pressed as the keys were sitting.

Anyway, I have OnStar - came with the car with a free year subscription and I've procrastinated killing off the subscription. Found the toll free number on the little window sticker, and borrowed the gas station phone to call. Took about 3 minutes (an extra minute because I never updated the subscription with my new address / phone number) but the satellite unlocked my car. Was not even late for yoga.

Once upon a time, pay phones would have been ubiquitous. And remarkably, there was a working pay phone in the lot, but for some reason, it did not seem to want to dial OnStar's toll free number, and I had no quarters to mess around with it.

I understand OnStar has smartphone apps that are cool and powerful; though they do not work for my vintage device (it's a 2007 car). Next vehicle, perhaps.

Had OnStar not been active, would have been a minor annoyance - I was about a mile from home, and could have walked home, gotten my hide-a-key to get into the house, and gotten my spare car key. But this worked faster!

May 21, 2012

Small, Beautifully Moving Parts

Free Movie Preview tonight for members at Real Art Ways - the film was Small, Beautifully Moving Parts.

Real Art Ways is working to reward members (hey, that's me!), and to get the word out for the quality, independent films that it brings to town regularly. So tonight, I took advantage of their kind offer, and saw a wonderful film for free!

"Small, Beautifully Moving Parts" is a charming study in relationships, family and technology. Its protagonist, Sarah, is a thoroughly modern young woman. A free spirit technology geek who might be best described as dispassionate, she's more surprised about the high quality font in the disposable pregnancy tester than she is about the word that font spells out - PREGNANT. She's got a supportive partner, does not seem to lack for money or life skills. But a cross country trip (for a baby shower thrown by her sister, a visit to her father, and a quest to find her estranged mother) gives her the opportunity to connect to the little girl she's incubating in a way that the technology in her life is unable to.

It was really interesting and refreshing to see a movie portray our complex, and not always healthy, dependence on technology. Sarah's rental comes equipped with a talking GPS which seems about as much human contact as she can handle initially. She's forever on her iPhone; Skypes with her partner. Her father is carrying on a Skype relationship with a woman from Portugal (after Sarah fixes his firewall problem). There's a short foray to Las Vegas (where Sarah connects with her partner's sister), who loves Las Vegas because it's so authentic and pre-modern (!) - yeah, that was me snorting with laughter. The theme of authenticity in the midst of modernity and technology are woven throughout the film.

As Sarah wanders further from technology in search of her mom, her GPS gives way to maps, her cell service fails and she must rely on a good old fashioned pay phone. It feels like a stripping away of layers. And when she finally finds her mother, it is interesting that, even in a community that eschews technology, human connection remains elusive.

There's a not a lot of high drama or fabricated plot in the film. One would imagine that with a solo trek through the southwest with a baby on the way and a dependence on technology, there might be many opportunities for potential tragedy - car trouble, desert heat, meeting the wrong kind of person. But the filmmaker resists the urge to go for the easy plot device here - it's all understated. Sarah's existential crisis is plot enough. There is a funny Deus ex Machina moment in the film (me laughing out loud, again), and if Sarah does not get what she wants from her mother, she gets what she needs from the journey.

I really liked this film a lot, definitely worth a trip down to Arbor Street when it's in town. It's scheduled to play at Real Art Ways starting June 1.

Buying Art

The Guinea Pigs (my folk rock band, I play bass and a little guitar) played a gig this weekend in Glastonbury, at the annual Audubon Society "Art for Nature's Sake" event. Last year, I took advantage of the event to purchase a piece of art (a painting of a downy woodpecker, which has become a little bit of a spirit guide to me). This year, I once again did a little "unreasonable" (in the sense that buying art is a little bit extravegent for me) and purchased another piece.

The artist, Lesley Braren of East Hampton, CT, has a very nice web presence. And I found my purchase online, entitled "Bird Cat" - a monotype of a red winged blackbird perched on some cat-tails, so you can see it as well!

Not sure why, but I really liked the impressionist feel of the monotype form as worked by Ms. Braren. I'm not an art scholar so never heard of this before, but Lesley describes it thus: 
"Monotypes are oils that are painted on glass and then transferred to paper. Sometimes it's only possible to make one print from the painting and other times there is a second one that's called a "ghost". Rarely a third one would be "ghost 11". Everyone is different."
It's funny, moving through the various artists tents and looking at the work. Several artists work impressed, some made me laugh or smile, and a couple I really liked. But like a suitor at a dance, there is usually one artist whose work speaks to me at that moment, an perhaps just one or two pieces that step to the fore. In this case, my continued delight and appreciation for birds, and the bright colors and textures of nature drew me in.

It's a lovely experience - finding something that speaks to the heart and spirit, and giving the artist some livelihood (in the form of money) in exchange for their vision and work. I'm a latecomer to the appreciation and collection of art, and I am sure I will never have the time, space or money to collect seriously, but it's nice to put a little bit of good karma into the art world.

Detox Cleanse: The Ongoing Saga

I'm into the second phase of my 21 day detox cleanse. We've reintroduced animal protein (hopefully from clean sources), legumes, seeds & nuts, and nightshades (which in my case has meant tomatoes). All good. I've been a little sloppy with some processed foods, but I'm trying to stay off dairy, gluten, sugar, and caffeine. And I've handed in my coffee card - my morning 4 cup pot of decaf (with milk and artificial sweetener) is no more.

Twice in the past week I've opted to have a bit of a food splurge. Last Friday, it was a roast beef sandwich (Arby's) with fries and a diet soda. Today, a relatively healthy turkey / avocado sandwich (on Rye) with sea salt kettle chips and a diet soda. Both times, I ended up crashing heavily - falling into bed for a post lunch nap that was like the dead. So a bit of gluten (bun / bread), some fried potatoes, some artificial sweetener / food coloring, etc. No dairy in either meal (no cheese, no dressings)

So I'm looking at that. Was I simply overly tired (always a possibility) and putting a big meal in my belly caused sleepiness? Or was my body telling me that something in the meal (crappy as they are) is a specific problem for me?  I'm thinking gluten might be the culprit - perhaps a test of a healthy lunch with a bread or roll might be a useful test.

I'm a little freaked out by it all. I've never noticed much sensitivity in the past, and ate any damn thing I wanted. I sort of joked that I was in such a high state of inflammation and disease that I could (and did) eat anything and never noticed any symptoms which friends would go into a two day hangover if they ate a cupcake. And part of me feels like that's not such a bad thing :) - although I do feel marginally better in my body (joints, fascia, energy) post cleanse, this being held hostage by what for all intents and purposes is a normal american meal makes me crazy. I already feel a bit freakish and isolated, and feeling unable to grab a quick bite or have a drink without paying a high price makes me cranky.

Ah well, the research continues. I feel like the detox has given me the opportunity to investigate foods (and how they effect me) in a way that I was unable to in the past. So that's a good thing. But dammit, I really do not need more excuses to withdraw from social interaction and avoid contact.

May 15, 2012


I was about to write a cranky post about the new (to the area) RAW: Natural Born Artists website / movement. Specifically, we already have a RAW here in Hartford, shorthand for Real Art Ways. I imagined some local artists or promoters, bearing real or perceived slights by the folks at Real Art Ways, coming up with RAW: Natural Born Artists as a reaction or slap at the venerable local arts organization.

But digging into the RAW website, I see that it is a national movement that has been around three years but new to Hartford, and that any similarity, confusion, or conflation is most likely incidental.

Still unfortunate. Real Art Ways (truth in advertising, I'm a long time supporter / member) has spent a lot of time developing their brand, and the new RAW can only erode that branding, however slightly. 

Ah well, more arts can not be a bad thing, can it?

Detox Cleanse Day 9

So I am on Detox Day 9, working with Pauline Weismann. Wish I could say I have been flawless on this, but I've had a couple of slips the past few days. But right back on that horse, right?

It has not been all that difficult physically to do this fairly radical and restrictive change in diet. I did not have huge detox symptoms (or a "healing crisis", as it's called) - a mild headache on the morning of Day #2, and a bit of lethargy on Days #2 and #3. I think the fact that it's fruit and smoothie heavy helps me personally - there is a morning and evening shot of sugars (even natural ones) in the form of a berry (mostly, with side trips to apples, pears, bananas, and pineapple) smoothie with some sanctioned protein and green additives (via Moss Nutrition). It neatly replaces both my morning mini-jolt (decaf coffee) as well as any nighttime desire for sweets / dessert.

The rest of my food has been a mixed bag. Quinoa, brown rice, and spaghetti squash serve as the foundation, with a variety of veggies (spinach, kale, summer squash, green beans, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflour, etc.). Protein is mostly lentils, with an occasional sweet potato providing some comfort foodishness. Fats come via extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed oil, and cocoanut oil.

Starting Thursday (Day 11) I can fold in clean animal protein, nuts and seeds, legumes, and the deadly nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants) - although I think I will stick to vegetarian choices with the exception of eggs. I'm kind of liking not eating animal protein and I think if I move in that direction it will help me resist the lure of cheap, easy food going forward.

Physically, I feel pretty good. I've been backing off my hot / power yoga practice - because of the detox (feeling a little yin and less grounded) and also due to some injury (my chronic plantar fascitis on the left foot has been joined by a broken pinky toe, and last Friday a mildly sprained right ankle by way of a 6 mile hike). My joints feel less cranky and sticky - far fewer pops and cracks in the fingers, toes, ankles and wrists. My flesh feels more fluid, less congealed if that makes sense. I have an overall sense of lightness or airiness, which is sort of strange; I'm usually pretty solid and grounded. So I feel a little off kilter. No significant weight loss (that I am aware of) but I feel marginally better and brighter.

Mostly, I miss being part of the socio-economic food commerce. My frequent visits to coffee spots for a decaf (iced or hot) were places of human interaction, as were my forays out for lunch or dinner. Being self-employed, I can easily got a full 12 hours without seeing or speaking to another human being, and running out for a meal is a break from that. On the up side, I've been carrying around the same $20 bill in my wallet all week - I use my debit card at the grocery store and I have just not eaten out. So a lot less petty cash wandering off into junk food land.

And I miss "crunch" - granola, pretzels, chips - even the healthier versions of these provide some chewing and crunching satiety that I am not getting a lot of. Totally roasting some chick peas on Day 11 for a little bit of crunchiness!

May 14, 2012

We Have a Pope

A lovely little Italian film, over at Real Art Ways. See the trailer here. being a recovering Catholic, I liked the "inside the conclave" aspects of the film. I liked the portrayal of the cardinals as imperfect and human. Not sure how the filmmakers got access / permission (or made it look so good) but it was lovely and authentic. But mostly, the study of a single soul (Cardinal Melville, the newly elected Pope) as he struggles with self-doubts, fears, weakness. I liked it, a lot. Not a tear jerker or a world changer, but a lovely film, definitely worth a look!

May 11, 2012

Ira Glass Pron II

Went to see This American Life Live, the second live telecast of my favorite public radio show. It was all that, and a bag of chips. First, the disappointment. One of the most amazing things about the first telecast (2009) was watching Ira Glass produce a radio segment, live. He has two CD players, one with voice tracks, and one with background music and effects. And to watch him mix the show live - intermixing his voiceovers, the music, the subject audio clips - well it was almost ballet. Enchanting. And there was none of that. He seemed to be running some things via a handheld iPad (and got off a little inside joke about his relationship with Apple). But no live radio show. But, other than this one small thing - it was a total win. I am sure I will miss some things, but my morning after highlights.

Item 1: Tig Notaro. Think I am in love. And her surprise guest star (no spoilers) had me laughing my ass off.

Item 2: OK Go. I'm not a huge fan in general but they were amusing and fun and their use of technology and smartphone apps to create a huge, multi-player version of Guitar Hero was clever and made me smile. If you are going to a future rebroadcast, download the app ahead of time!

Item 3: David Rakoff. Funny and brave.

Item 4: David Sedaris in somewhat questionable stage make-up. Funny story, ratcheted up to the surreal by the live presentation.

Item 5: A piece about street photographer Vivian Maier - an artist who worked alone and in obscurity. Her work was brilliant, copious, and never shown to the public, nor intended to be shown. When a storage locker containing her life work was abandoned and auctioned off, her prints became known. The work was amazing, and the musing about privacy, art, life, death as we watched her work flash by was very moving. A documentary Finding Vivian Maier is currently in production.

Item 6: Monica Bill Barnes & Company. Witty and charming. Real people with real bodies dancing. Loved.

Item 7: Getting to see Snap Judgment host Glynn Washington. I've listened to the show quite a bit over the past year or so, and my initial opinion was "an urban This American Life", and sometimes it is a little too "in your face" for me. Gained a better appreciation for the way that show is mixed and created, and will listen and appreciate with a fresh ear.

Item 8: Mike Birbiglia created a short film featuring Terry Gross of Fresh Air. I laughed. A lot.

The whole evening made me smile. If you get the chance to go to one of the rebroadcasts, take it!

May 10, 2012

21 Day Detox Cleanse

I'm in the midst of a 21 day detox cleanse, led by Pauline Weismann, and sponsored by West Hartford Yoga. I've never done a straight food detox cleanse before; did a colon cleanse fast a long time ago (involving apple juice and betamite clay) which was interesting. This is a lot different - no real limit of how much I eat but a very limited palatte from which to draw my meals. No meat or animal protein. No dairy. No gluten. No processed foods of any type. No tofu or tempeh (processed) which are staples of a vegetarian diet; no legumes or nuts (other than lentils), no nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant). So I'm pretty much limited to fruits and veggies, brown rice, lentils, sweet potatoes. Seasonings and dressings are also fairly restricted - nothing processed or pre-made; but extra virgin olive oil, bit of vinegar, spices are OK. I had a little headache, tiredness, and spaciness the first day or so - but four days into it I'm doing much better. It's been very interesting observing my body changing; so far I feel less achey in the joints, my hands and fingers feel thinner / less swollen. I've got some chronic stuff (plantar fasciitis, an old shoulder injury) that will be interesting to watch. More sobering - becoming aware of how meals and food are a central support in my life - how a typical work day is propped up by three meals which are not only sensual highlights of my day but also my opportunities to engage with society and make human contact (even if it's just the counter clerk). Eating clean means a lot less opportunity to engage in human contact, and it's shining a spotlight on my loneliness and isolation.