Friday, January 18, 2013

I'm Awake Now (At Least For a Minute)

Yesterday I was jolted awake out of my usual somnabulation from one day to the next. It is a little like waking up at three o'clock in the morning--the challenge is figuring out what to do now.

 There was a preview earlier this month. The first Sunday of January our pastor did a sermon about New Year's resolutions. I've long since sworn them off, but he is a person who likes to make goals. He opened the mic to let others share their resolution stories, which made for a thought-provoking (if slightly lengthy) morning. So that Sunday we thought about what we might like to resolve.

 Yesterday was twelve days later, so naturally I have by now forgotten whatever it was that I resolved. (Writing things down has been recommended to me, and I agree it would be helpful.) Thus yesterday was like the alarm coming on after pressing the snooze button. (I never ever press snooze. I am snooze-averse. I think it is because snooze only gives you four minutes. Four minutes is nowhere near long enough to snooze.)

Shall we do more than just exist? Many days it seems difficult enough just to exist. I am not a person of ambition (see above re: goals). But today I thought, perhaps with a little more effort there could be a little more joy. If I would enjoy going to the ballet, perhaps I ought to purchase some tickets and go. Perhaps stress would be reduced all around if we got out and enjoyed time with others more frequently, or even just went somewhere new.

 Also: one could try doing a little writing on the blog. They say writing is good for you.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Join Me in the Garden

I had not up until this point gotten into Facebook games. Never tried Farmville, or the one where you're a chef. Closest I've come is the one where you choose a pillow to "hit" someone with, and I never got into any extended pillow fights.

Then the other day something possessed me to click on Gardens of Time. This game is aptly named, because you can spend literally gardens of time on it, assuming it doesn't bore the socks off you. It's an extremely simple game, it's basically a version of "Memory" that somebody created with clip art.

If you're my age, you remember going to the dentist or the orthodontist and picking up an issue of Highlights in the waiting room and turning to the page where you had to find the hidden pictures. That was my favorite page anyway. Second favorite page was Goofus and Gallant. In Gardens of Time you are a Victorian Englishman or Englishwoman (does that also make you a Renaissance man? I don't know my periods of history very well), but you have a time machine in your garden. You go back in time to "fix" problems. Each journey is a very busy Victorian picture with things in it that don't belong, like fuzzy dice or Groucho glasses. You have to find them in the picture. The memory part comes in because you go back and do each one several times, to see how fast you can do it.

Like I said, this would bore the socks off some people. But then there are some of us who could spend gardens of time on this. In addition to fixing up history, you have a garden where you show off the artifacts you bring back from your travels. You get to build your garden, which is fun if you like building gardens. There's also lovely soothing music that plays the entire time, which could honestly lull you into staying there forever. The only reason I stop is that I run out of "energy", and if you don't have any gold to buy more, then you have to stop playing and come back later when you have magically been given more energy. I have no idea why they put this in the game, unless the government has caught on unusually quickly and there is some sort of regulation to reduce Facebook game addiction.

Now you might have guessed that I am not telling you all this just to pass the time of day. Facebook games are designed to get you to hook all your friends on the game as well. It's like enforced sociability. Maybe they figure we're less likely to retreat into our basement cave and become sociopathic due to living in our dream Victorian garden cut off from society if we at least have to visit our friends' gardens. It is as though Mom designed this game--you don't kill anything (in fact you're tidying up), you plant pretty flowers, and you have to play with friends.

I would hate to ask you to go down this path of laziness, sloth, and irresponsibility with me. Really I would. But I need you. I need to visit your gardens. I unlocked my first Wonder for my garden (Big Ben), and I need two friends to help me build it. (I would pay you a gold bar, and you don't actually have to do anything.) So I'm begging you. Sign up for Gardens of Time, become my friend, and just walk away. I promise I won't ask you for anything else. Honest.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Brief Blog Encounter

I'm back, but only because my email got spoofed this week and spammed a post to the blog, which I wanted to come remove. To state the obvious, I have not been taking time to post. There are times I think about writing a post, but if I don't sit down and do it while the idea is pretty fresh, it doesn't happen. As I'm sure many people who start blogs discover, writing is time-consuming, and I've got a lot of other things on the to-do list that crowd it out.

I just re-read the last couple posts, and that one from January with ideas for organizing housecleaning tasks--those are some good ideas. I ought to try a couple. :-)

The email spoofing thing is going to be a pain. I've changed the password on my email account, which might be the end of it, or, if one of the computers has a virus, I'll have to update the remembered email password on one computer per day trying to identify which one has the problem. Plus, since I use that same password for a multitude of accounts, I have to log into as many things as I can think of and change passwords. Hopefully most of the accounts I have out there are harmless.

We had a nice camping trip to Lanesboro over Labor Day. The campground has wi-fi, but only near the office which was not near our campsite. Tom and I had a nice afternoon of canoeing on Sunday which made me think of blogging, and if I'd gotten out the laptop I could have at least *written* the post, but when you're camping there isn't always spare time to get out the computer. We camped with my mom and dad, and it especially seems you don't do something solitary like writing when you have other people to hang out with. I think my first thought about canoeing was that it sounds like so much fun, and then you get in the canoe and take a few strokes, and it dawns on you that this is actually work. You sort of forget about that. But after a little bit you get acclimated and it is fun. (And then a little while later, parts of you start to complain just a bit--like the thumb that is thinking it might decide to develop a blister.) We've been meaning to try out kayaks, and I was thinking as we were paddling, in a canoe there are two of you contributing to the forward progress (and one, who is not me, steering), whereas in a kayak you have to do all the paddling. Hmm.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Good Day's Walk

Today was a puppy dog's dream day of camping. Well true, it did not begin with pancakes or even french toast, but there were a couple bites of blueberry muffin. Then we got in the truck and headed off to Lake Wissota State Park. We drove in, parked the truck, and started walking.

There were lots of trails, and they were largely vacant so the dogs got to run around with no leashes and sniff things at will. At one point we lost Tucker who must have seen a chipmunk or something and took off into the woods after it. We had to call him and wait a minute while he crashed his way back to us.

We are camping very close to this lake, but it is one of those lakes that is pretty much visible only by boat. The shoreline is fairly steep and quite wooded. We did find some stairs down to the lake itself, but the edge of the lake was muddy and rocky and fairly covered with algae. (Of course the dogs walked in it.)

The trails went through woods and also wildflower prairie. There were loads of mushrooms, lots of wildflowers, little Charlie Brown baby pine trees, and some really green groundcover that looked like moss with little juniper fronds. Some really pretty pine trees we are unfamiliar with.

We started out more in the woods and shade, but on our way back we were more in the sun and prairie. The dogs were pretty tired, and they started running ahead about 15 yards, finding a tree they could stand or lay in the shade of with rheir tongues hanging out, and wait for us to catch up. When we came alongside they would run ahead to scout out another patch of shade. We think they'll be comatose the rest of the day.

Of course Scarlett, who had found something noxious at home yesterday to roll in and was already fairly smelly, came across a dead skunk in the path and immediately rolled in it. So she was banished to the floor of the truck on the way home, which she would normally fight tooth and nail, but she just curled up on my bag and went to sleep instead. (I just looked up--both dogs are asleep under the picnic table and Tom is sleeping in his lawn chair!)

It turned out that we happened to visit a place that Tom has been before. We used to work with a guy from Eau Claire who fishes constantly, and Tom went fishing with him once. Yesterday when we drove to the campground, Tom recognized the lake and thought it was the same one they fished. Then today at the state park we drove down to the boat ramp and he said that was where they had put the boat in. That was a trip where they caught 50 crappies, so you can bet your sweet bippie that we'll be coming back with fishing licenses and a boat of some sort. (Mmm, crappie dinner...)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Old Dog, New Tricks

I don't mean to keep harping on this, but I turned 50 last October. Fifty is a weird age. I loosely belong to a group of people from our church, the Pacem Singers. Some of the Pacem Singers are also choir members, and some are not. We are available to sing for people who are homebound, or in a nursing home or the hospital, and we generally sing a selection of hymns and other favorites. Depending on the situation and people's availability, maybe just a few members go, or maybe a larger group goes--it is a different collection of folks each time. Many of these folks are, ahem, "mature". So this afternoon we're singing (at a nursing home just minutes from where I work), and the lady next to me commented that she was grateful I was there with my young voice. At first I didn't think much of her comment, because you spend the whole first part of your life being a younger person, and you get used to hearing such things. But after about a minute I thought, "Hey, wait a minute."

I keep being surprised by the things a person can learn essentially for the first time in middle age. This has occurred to me on a number of occasions, so I know there are several examples I could cite here to flesh this idea out, but since my brain is 50, I don't remember what they are. (Sorry.) These are things that could just have easily been learned earlier, but for one reason or another I just didn't learn them until now. (I just bought my first eyelash curler, but I'm not sure that counts.)

I am still trying, after all these years, to figure out how to get myself to clean house. I keep coming up with new strategies that don't work. I have improved over time, but there are still tasks that get put off for weeks or months that are really supposed to get done on a regular basis. Or seem like they would be simpler if done more regularly. Or at least would make daily life more pleasant if things were cleaned as opposed to not cleaned.

(I have considered that the most obvious strategy is to get a cleaning lady. We have had cleaning ladies at various points in the past, usually when the house is for sale, although for one stretch we had one just because, and that was great until she got pregnant and took a break. And in general, I would just as soon have a cleaning lady. That would just take some initiative and research and something like $200 a month. It's on my list of things to do, which should be enough said right there.)

My biggest bane is the bathrooms. I did discover the flylady (www.flylady.net) a few years back while I was unemployed. She advocates a daily "swish and swipe" of the bathroom counters and toilets, but I am going to venture a guess that the flylady does not live in a house with four bathrooms. I did try that for awhile, and while it was OK when I was unemployed and had more time in the mornings, when your counter and toilet are still practically spotless from yesterday, it's hard to convince yourself you really must do this extra step when you're running sort of late.

Our house was built in 1992, during the period in which the "master suite" was considered very important, and thus we have a gargantuan master bathroom complete with n-person whirlpool tub, shower, and his-and-hers vanities. So my most recently conceived cleaning strategy is that I ought to assign certain days of the week for certain parts of the bathroom. Wednesdays, I thought, I could clean the toilets. I'm thinking maybe Monday would be the shower, and Tuesday could be the floor (ugh), and Thursday or Friday could be the counters (this one is a putzy job because of all the stuff on the counters).

There is nothing particularly novel about this strategy, since for generations it seemed "Monday is wash day," but my generation seemed to think that all such folklore was outdated and silly, so some of us are only now rediscovering old wisdom. There's that saying about how those who don't know their history are doomed to repeat it, or at least waste 50 years reinventing the wheel.

So, it's January, first week of the new year, and it's Wednesday. To start off, I have to be at the dentist at 8AM, which means I have to be up quite a bit earlier than I have been getting up lately. At least it is so cold out I don't have to walk the dogs. But we have choir practice tonight, so it's going to be a late one, and I usually am pretty much done by the time we get home at 10PM. (I could point out that the result of the dentist appointment is that next Wednesday I'm having my first root canal, but that isn't until 9AM, which ought to leave plenty of time to clean the toilets next Wednesday in the morning.)

Anyway we get home, and I let myself off the hook--you can just goof off. You don't have to clean the toilets. And that's just the trick! I thought, hey, I can do this, it will only take a few minutes. So, I not only cleaned the toilets, I did a couple counters and put a load of laundry in! (Now if I can only figure out which day I'm going to run the vacuum cleaner.)

I've also been opening the mail each day or two instead of letting it pile up. But check back with me in February and see how well my new strategy is holding up. No promises.

Friday, October 23, 2009

"America Spends a Lot on Defense"

In lieu of writing a post myself today, I'm just going to cut and paste one out of Matt Yglesias' blog from today. These are numbers that deserve more play:

Yesterday, congress appropriated a $680 billion for the Department of Defense in FY 2010. Chris Preble observes that, shockingly enough, this $680 billion isn’t even the whole bill:

The defense bill represents only part of our military spending. The appropriations bill moving through Congress governing veterans affairs, military construction and other agencies totals $133 billion, while the massive Department of Homeland Security budget weighs in at $42.8 billion. This comprises the visible balance of what Americans spend on our national security, loosely defined. Then there is the approximately $16 billion tucked away in the Energy Department’s budget, money dedicated to the care and maintenance of the country’s huge nuclear arsenal.

All told, every man, woman and child in the United States will spend more than $2,700 on these programs and agencies next year. By way of comparison, the average Japanese spends less than $330; the average German about $520; China’s per capita spending is less than $100.

Preble says that this enormous expenditure “flows directly from our foreign policy.” But it’s worth also saying that our foreign policy flows from the vast scope of our defense spending. My biggest concern about the war in Afghanistan isn’t overblown feasibility concerns, but the failure to take seriously David Obey’s point that we should put this in some kind of cost-benefit framework. Arne Duncan doesn’t have a $700 billion per year budget to play with as he tries to help American kids learn. Jay Rockefeller doesn’t get to say “I could make this health plan really good by kicking the ten year cost up to $7 trillion.” People are starving in Ethiopia for want of a fraction of the DOD’s daily budget in food aid.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Slo-Mo Swimming-Running

I'm not sure quite what this video is, but it is somewhat hypnotic/entertaining. I'd like to know exactly what the filmer's instructions were to the participants (and he seems to have edited out the crashes). At any rate, enjoy:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAxgpHWtLC0&feature=player_embedded

(Andrew Sullivan's mental health break for today, of course. He got it from Daily What.)