The Joy of Peeling an Egg

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the future of human civilization and how technology will change our lives, our jobs, the amount of landmass under the sea, our medical and our governments, politics and more.

Biotechnology, artificial intelligence, robots, climate change…

In 50 years, it will be a world we just won’t recognize. Almost all “mundane” and some very not mundane tasks will be accomplished by robots which run off artificial intelligence and will be much smarter than all of us combined.

But as I stood over the trash can today, peeling a hard-boiled egg, I realized that eggs were peeled this same way in the 1950’s when I was born, and probably in the 1920’s and earlier.  We can now use technology (the microwave) to cook them, but we still have to get off the shell.

There is something fun and very tactile about peeling an egg – if you are not in a big hurry.  The sound the shell makes as it cracks.  How you can get your fingernail under one little broken section, and often it pulls along with it half of the shell.  The slightly wet feel of the egg inside, although the shell was bone dry. The thin, see-through membrane separating the shell from the inside.

How often have you heard it said the “Small things matter”?  The small task of shelling an egg reminds of this.  Humans have fingers, such miraculous appendages, that can do such things.  If someone invents a robot to shell eggs for us, we will lose a little bit of our dexterity and one of our joys in life.  

So I say, bring it on, robots!  I’m sure I’ll love most of what you can do (vacuum the floors, for example), but there are limits.  I’ll keep shelling the eggs.

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Please DNA* the DNA

*DO NOT ADJUST!

So it has happened.  A Chinese professor has meddled with the DNA of twin infants.  He has modified their DNA so they are not susceptible to the HIV virus.

At least that’s what he thinks.  Aside from breaking all of the rules of ethics, morality and academic norms, we might never know if that is really how he modified their DNA.  What if he got it wrong?

Let’s assume the twins were Chinese.  And that the professor was texting while he modified their DNA (Called “Distracted DNA Meddling”) and made a mistake. What if this mistake made the twins have the following complications?  What a long unhappy life they would have in China!

  • Eating rice made the twins sick.
  • They grew up despising Math, Science, Computers and Violins.
  • They liked Checkers but not Chinese Checkers.
  • Their hair grew out bright red.
  • They adored the songs of Britney Spears.
  • They had a particular attraction to very brightly colored clothes.
  • They got a rash each time they tried to use Alibaba.

I mean, that would be like having a German baby who didn’t like Wiener Schnitzel, or a French baby allergic to wine.  So sad!  Let us all say a prayer for the twins, may they live a full and happy Chinese life.

SO, Dr. Professor, keep yer cotton pickin hands off of our DNA!

Boxes and More Boxes

You probably thought this post is about cleaning out those overstuffed closets in order to simplify my life.  No it’s not (although that could be another post another time).  This is about brain storage.

boxesI have a room in my brain where I store all of my worries about the world: local, national, global.  Inside that room are boxes for each worry, so that on a daily basis, if I don’t open a box, I can delay worrying about that issue for another day.

A very large box is reserved for The Donald and Mitch.  This box has flaming red WARNING signs on it, since opening it tends to raise my blood pressure.

It is so large that a number of sub-boxes reside there:

  • The cesspool that is Washington DC: Power and corruption
  • Gerrymandering
  • The loss of democracy as we have known it
  • Overpaid and over-influential lobbyists

The remainder of the room is full of boxes which are just as important, but don’t hit me worried womanover the head every single day:

  • Wildfires and will they ever end?
  • Climate Change from our own actions and values
  • Starvation in Yemen, caused in part by U.S. military support
  • Britain’s fight over a Brexit plan
  • That crazy guy in North Korea
  • White male rural gun-toting people
  • The suffering plight of immigrants, legal or illegal
  • Opioid addiction
  • Technology gone wild
  • The next generation and their future
  • Corporate moguls and their share of the wealth
  • Cancer in general and in our own home
  • Depletion of animal species – habitat loss, pollution.
  • Many more which I have delightfully forgotten right now….

no vacancy.jpegToday, I realized that this room is now FULL.    There is NO VACANCY.  I cannot take another box of worries. My “personal” worries aren’t even listed yet.

Personal worries don’t get a room or even a box.  They float around in my brain unconstrained, raising their heads whenever they see an opening.  Perhaps “worry” is not the correct term for most of these.  They fall into categories like:

  • to-do listI need to fix…
  • I need to clean…
  • I need to get…
  • I need to call…
  • I need to write….
  • I need to pay….

Surely, it is the six “needs” above which suck up my life and steal from the richness and meaning of the limited time I have on this earth.

Buddhism insists that the menial tasks in life are meaningful and important. That you should clean a toilet with gratitude and presence of mind.  Hmmmm…  I’m still working on that.

Life Speeds and Slows

I looked at my last post and realized it has been three years since I wrote something here.  How time speeds along.

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Ozzy and I at Big South Fork Ride

I’ve been competing in Endurance Races, (Note: We are not supposed to refer to them as races but as rides… but it’s a timed event so I think “races” is closer to reality.)  These are long trail rides but at a fast speed.  I’ve been doing the 25-mile distances but hope to “graduate” to 50-mile distances in 2019.

When riding those distances, there are times when you can speed along, wind in your face,  the thrill of trees and bushes rushing past, the alertness to watch footing, rocks, and uphill/downhill riding positions.  It’s a real rush.

But then, there are the slow times too.  A particularly muddy or steep patch. A horse who is breathing too hard and needs to rest. An ache in your legs from a long fast stretch… ah, it feels good to just sit in the saddle for a while and let your horse walk or munch on grass by the side of the trail.

Days, months and years passing by are a lot like these races.  Sometimes you are spinning along, enjoying the hectic nature of being “too busy”;  other times you just need to pull back, rest and sit around for a few days.  (Well, there is no sitting around here because there are constant farm chores and the normal upkeep of living.  But you get the point…)

As winter sets in, I am looking forward to doing some writing, and revitalizing this blog. What are your winter plans?  Winter seems like another life in many ways. More time indoors.  Less time riding horses.  More bundling up just to go out to feed or clean stalls. A bigger effort to keep weight down (Yuk, exercise classes??).  Too much darkness.

But we muddle through each year and so having a Winter Plan or Goal is a good way to wait out the darkness and cold.  OR we could just move to Hawaii! (Yes, chuck it all, sell it all, and go sleep on the beach.  I’d like to try it, but my husband wouldn’t think of it. For now, I can blame him anyway)

Hope to keep in touch with you all and to hear about your winter pursuits.  We need to hang together until the spring grass comes peeping up.

Batching up the Work

The next step in getting reducing time spent doing things I don’t want to do.. or at least are just not productive!  (Read the last two blogs about this topic, I am shooting for a “4 Hour Work Week” as applied to retired people like me…)

OK, so this next step is BATCHING.  It just mean that if there is something that you NEED to do, and can’t easily be eliminated or delegated to someone else, the best thing to do is to do it the LEAST AMOUNT OF TIMES.  Which means, sometimes, batching it up.

For example, sorting through mail that arrives 6 days a week.  Let’s face it, most of it is either junk mail or catalogues.  Mostly catalogues you don’t want.

So I am going to batch up my mail.  I will only go through it ONCE A WEEK, I think I will plan on Monday mornings.  In between, I pile it on my desk, not even looked at.

You may think, well, that won’t save a whole lot of time!!  It may only take you 2 minutes to go through mail.

But it does save SOME time, and furthermore it eliminates one daily chore that gets in the way of doing what I really want to be doing. Called an unnecessary distraction.

All kinds of chores can be batched, and I figure if I take advantage of all of those opportunities, the time saved will add up to something significant… and my sense of dashing from one task to another – without accomplishing much — will go away.

Here are other things I’ve thought might be batchable (it will take some experimenting)

  • Laundry
  • Grocery shopping (ie survive on what’s in your house except for the weekly trip to the store)
  • And related to Grocery Shopping: When I need something at the store that “keeps” well, I’m going to get two at one time, which doubles the time until I’ll need it again. (I’ll have to figure out storage for these extras though)
  • Dishes (do once a day rather than everytime a few dirty dishes appear.  Heck, I’d be glad to do them once a week, but the Health Department might not like that, and the ants would love it.)
  • “Putting things away”.  I know this sounds ridiculous, but you’d be surprised how much time I spend walking to and from the bedrooms and studies and bathrooms, just putting things back.  So here’s my plan: LARGE basket somewhere where I won’t trip over it and anything “out of place” gets dumped in there and once a week I walk around the house with the basket putting things back. (Like I said… an experiment)
  • Paying bills. Actually I already pay them just once a month, and most are already automatically paid electronically.. but if you are not doing that, please start! There is nothing less fun than sitting down to pay bills.

I considered putting “Clean House” on this list.. but I don’t clean very much and I certainly don’t want to commit to a schedule. LOL.  Unless I schedule cleaning once a month, would that be enough?  Maybe a housecleaner is in order, if I can justify the expense.

In the next post, I’ll tell you what to do about those catalogues.

Slaying the “Junk” Email Dragon

Step #1 in attaining the Four Hour Work Week – for retired folks:

I decided to slay the Email Dragon which was slowly but surely eating up my life!

Surely, someone who is retired does not get a whole lot of email, right?  WRONG, OH SO WRONG.

It’s my own fault.  With a bit more time to kill while sitting at the computer, I’d start investigating areas of interest to me, and before I knew it, my inbox was filled with all kinds of e-newsletters, solicitations for charitable donations, updates on topics I had a passing interest in…

I was reading enews about:

  • Healthy eating
  • Training women to run for political office
  • Immigrant rights
  • LImiting corporate donations to political campaigns
  • Protecting against cancer with nutrition
  • How to train your horse the natural gentle way
  • Saving farmland around Lexington
  • Land conservation across the U.S.
  • Endangered species and the effect of global warming
  • Promotions and sales at the local grocery and drug stores, as well as the internet sites I occasionally purchase from.
  • Yada Yada Yada…

Oh yes, I was well-informed!  But it was beginning to feel like a JOB keeping up with all that information.  And it was cutting into my fun time.

As my #1 Step in achieving a 4 hour work week: Viciously unsubscribe to all of those newsletters.

It took me 2 hours!  Not only did I unsubscribe but I also deleted all of the unread newsletters which were clogging up my inbox.

Part of Slaying the Email Dragon is also vowing to only read email once a day.  That will be the harder goal to achieve, since I am used to sitting down and browsing it at least three times a day.  Some discipline required for this one.

I’ll let you know how it goes on changing that habit.

(Don’t even get me started on Facebook… there’s another severe time killer. I haven’t figured out a good approach to that yet.)

Onward day by day to cut down on useless, wasteful use of time… and on to more fun things.  OK, now I’m going out to ride one of my horses. Whee!

Four Hour Work Week

Now why, you might ask, would a retired person be talking about a four hour work week?  I’m reading a book by Timothy Ferris, which was written 8 years ago, about supporting yourself on 4 hours of work a week.

When you’re retired, if you have any kind of life and volunteer for any organization at all, you quickly find that you ARE working 40+ hours a week, it’s just that you aren’t getting a paycheck.   But WAIT… there is a paycheck which is not paid in money, it’s paid in enjoyment and satisfaction.

So anything I am doing which DOESN’T bring enjoyment or satisfaction, is my WORK.

Example:  I hate to weed gardens.  Yet every year I put in a small vegetable garden, not to mention the flowerbeds which dot our whole yard.  “WHY???”, I ask myself.  I know that both flower gardens and vegetable gardens will produce weeds, which make me spend precious time pulling out.

There are two solutions: Eliminate the gardens or pay someone else to weed for me.  How to decide?  It’s a balance of financial considerations and enjoyment considerations (I DO enjoy looking at the flowers and eating the vegetables!)

Oh, there are so many other examples I could give you of my “work”!  Paying bills, sorting through junk mail, cleaning out useless emails, doing laundry, getting things fixed around the house… just plain WORK to me, and with no monetary compensation!

But AH HA! you say: This is life, NOBODY gets to ignore these types of tasks.  Just accept it.

NO! I say.  There must be a better way.  I think we all just get used to thinking that life HAS to be full of these chores, and we spend our one lifetime wasting time taking care of them.

Every single thing ANYONE does (whether retired or not) falls into either WORK (you don’t enjoy it but you do it for some kind of paycheck – money or some sense of guilt or responsibility) and ENJOYMENT (you DO enjoy it and are happy to spend the time doing it.)

So I am experimenting with some of the techniques that Mr. Ferris suggests in “The 4-Hour Work Week” to rid myself of the “work” part of my life so I have more time for the “enjoyment” part of my life.

I’ll let you know how it’s going over the next few weeks.  Or maybe months, since there is so much work to do on this topic.

Letting Go

I am learning to let go.

In this culture, that concept goes against everything we are taught.

SET YOUR GOALS!  

STRIVE AT ALL COSTS!

HANG ONTO THAT DREAM!

PERSEVERE!

It is shouted from every rooftop and every business book, chat rooms, LinkedIn, self-help manuals, and on and on….

goals

THIS MAKES ME TIRED JUST TO THINK ABOUT IT!

But I am finding out that HANGING ON is easy, it’s LETTING GO that is the difficult work.

stubbornBecause we wrap ourselves up in our dreams, and they begin to determine if we are happy or constantly angry, resentful and sometimes hateful to those people or circemstances that get in our way of our dream.

“DAMMIT”, I have often said. “I WILL DO THIS AND NOTHING WILL STOP ME!”

And then I would fight any person, any event, anything at all that got in my way,  I would be miserable to other people, and I would be miserable myself if I wasn’t changing something that I needed to change. I’d stay awake nights worrying about how I would get it done.  I’d concoct behind the scenes manipulations, or feel guilty and overwhelmed because I wasn’t achieving what I set out to do. I’d work harder and longer until I was so mentally exhausted that I couldn’t see straight.

Why?

Because I had learned to be totally attached to the idea that I can control everything, if I just try hard enough.  And that MY IDEA of what needed to be done is DOGGONE IT the only right idea. And if everyone else wasn’t buying into the idea, well then – they are all just idiots.

Did you ever run into someone you thought was overbearing, thoughtless, and stubborn?  Then you have run into someone who bought into the idea that they can control the world if they just try hard enough. (Note, that’s generally how we get dictators…)

go with the flowI’m finally learning and practicing not to be too attached to any idea I have.  Let it go.  Change it up. Smile regardless of whether it’s “working out”. Make a “bad situation” into a good one. Go with the flow.  Find my karma. Every day should be great even if I don’t get my way. “My way or the highway” has gone down the highway now. (OK — THAT was circular logic!)

It sure is an easier life to live. I still have my dreams and my ideas…. but if I have to change it or exchange it for another idea… that’s OK.  It doesn’t make me a wimpy person or an aimless wanderer. I set down the road for a goal, but if there’s a fork in the raod, I can sit and think about it… and change direction.  It’s OK.

Solar Power All Over

horse see breathWAHOO!  I rode Stormy on the trail yesterday with my friend Mindy.  It has been a month since I have been in the saddle.

The cold reality is…. it’s COLD out there. It topped out at 37 degrees.  Yet I went, bundled up from head to toe. And still despite the bundling… my fingertips got numb and my toes were cold.  My legs felt chilled although they warmed up once I was mounted and Stormy’s body heat emanated up through the saddle.

Stormy wasn’t all that thrilled when I slipped the cold bit into his mouth.  He chewed and chewed …and chewed… on it.

OK, so these solar pants aren't so beautiful...

OK, so these solar pants aren’t so beautiful…

Will someone please invent a solar-powered bit?  One that stores a charge when you put it in the sun or bright light, and then you push a tiny button right before you put on the bridle and VOILA!  A warm bit and a happy horse.

Next I want a solar powered pair of pants.  Solar panels on the thighs which store energy until you need it… push a button in the waistband and VOILA!  A warm and happy rider.

These hiking boots have solar panels in them.

These hiking boots have solar panels in them.

Next the boots. Sewn-in solar panels on the tops of your boots..you get the point…. VOILA! Warm toes.

And what about a solar-paneled horse blanket?  Lots of surface on those blankets for the solar panels.

Hey, “electronic wearables” are all the rage now.  The computer in a watch, Google glasses… Tech industry — don’t forget the equestrians.

power-purse-solarI just found a purse (available online) with built-in solar panels, and a USB charger inside, so I can charge my phone or tablet while walking around with the purse.  Is that cool or what?

But cool is not what i want when riding in the winter.  I want WARM.  The good news is, my horse is naturally solar powered.  Give him sun (and hay) and he warms up without pushing a button. Low tech but still cute as a button, that’s my Stormy.

Horse gains weight, I gain weight

There it is. Winter’s reality.  If my horse is getting fatter, so am I.  He’s an Easy Keeper, and so am I.  Does that mean I can blame it all on him?  NO???  Darn.

(This picture was taken when I was much thinner.)

(This picture was taken when I was much thinner.)

My only real exercise regimen is to ride Stormy, my horse.  But something happens (I say this as if I am purely a victim of course; surely it is not MY fault!)… the weather turns nasty, cold, and rainy.  Looking down at the barn sitting under a low cloud of dull grey, a spit of rain and a ground cover of mud, I lose my motivation to ride.

And so I stay in the house, all warm and toasty, but burning ZERO calories.

Stormy watches me from his muddy paddock, hoping at least to see a human face for something to eat.  Of course, I go down to feed him breakfast, or dinner… but in between, I am a self-imposed prisoner of the house.

The good stuff must be at the bottom.

The good stuff must be at the bottom. the house. I am a face in a window to him, not an attachment to his back.

So he gets no exercise, but keeps eating anyway.  I get no exercise but keep eating anyway.

The guilt sets in. (Well, it sets in for me; I don’t think horses know what guilt is, those lucky creatures.)

Actually, when I bundle up, it is not too bad to be outside. The hardest part, just like the first step of a 1,000 mile journey, is the first step outside.

Starting the long journey.

Starting the long journey.

But isn’t that so true in so much we do?  It’s not the work that is the problem, it’s the STARTING of the work that is the problem.  I’m trying to solve that problem for myself, by tackling those tasks which I’ve procrastinated on,  for “just 15 minutes”.  I figure I can do just about anything for 15 minutes. Then, once I get “into” it, I keep going and often finish the whole thing without thinking much about it.  So the 15-minute approach seems to work for me.

But the 15 minute psychology doesn’t work for riding horses.  Heck, it takes you 15 minutes just to put on all your winter clothes, walk down to the barn, bring the horse in and start grooming the mud off of him.  I need a completely different approach to this winter laziness.

Sometimes I think, “OK, I’ll just go down and clean him off, or muck out the stall.” That’s at least a 45 minute commitment.

I can get mud just about anywhere on my body with no effort at all.

I can get mud just about anywhere on my body with no effort at all.

And I do it.  But getting the saddle and bridle out, and actually mounting…. not so much progress there!

If anyone knows of something, I can try, PLEASE let me know.  The added weight on both of us (me AND the horse) might get ugly by the end of January.  ARRRGHHHH!