Natural World

Working hard at Procrastination

Procrastination. It sounds such a positive activity. We all love Crastination! Crastination for all!

Verb; To crastinate:  to dither about doing anything other than what is required at that time.

Presumably someone who does everything smartly to time, besides being anally retentive and a colossal bore, should be guilty of anticrastination. As I am a definite Pro on the subject of crastination,  I should be a Grand Master Crastinator.

I don’t see anything wrong with procrastination. Lots of useful stuff gets done as a result. I just wish it didn’t take up so much time to put off doing the things that really should get done. There is a time and place for everything, as they say. However finding precisely when that time and place is for certain tasks is profoundly challenging for the Grand Master.

There are a few things I really want to spend time on. These are my noble and cerebral exploits. And given that these are exploits of my own choosing, one would think they would be easy to slot into my working day (now free of any real ‘work’). But no. Grand Master Crastinator that I am, I find attending to the small and mundane tasks to be infinitely more satisfying than the noble deeds to which I wish to assign my time.

I have three personal goals at this point in my life. That’s it. These are the only things I should be focused on right now. So how do I lose days, weeks and months to ‘other stuff’? How do my Time Bandits (© Terry Gilliam) manage to rob me of whole days and weeks?

We all have our Time Bandits. Laundry is so much more vital than revision; alphabetising the book shelf really must be done before the assignment which is due tomorrow. And so is true with my own goals. Even though these are challenges I set myself, things I truly want to accomplish, they are challenging. They are arduous and hard. And so I find myself whiling away the hours on useful, necessary, but not essential activities instead of applying myself to what I really should be doing.

Take writing. I want to write, I truly do. I want to create, and gain wider recognition for my work at some point. But finding the time – there’s the rub. Even with no work to hinder me, the hours and days run away and still no words appear. My latest diversion was to create a calendar so that I could plan out when to write. Yes, I spent time planning when I could have been writing!

Procrastination is the bane of life for so many of us. Why do today what could just as easily be done tomorrow? To quote despair.com:

Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now.

Not quite the same – I’m busy, just not doing the right things.

So how do we arrest these pesky Time Bandits? With a Plan, of course (just not as an excuse to actually working), but moreover with a rethinking of Priorities.  I like the tale of the rocks, gravel and sand. You may have read a similar tale:

Rocks, Pebbles, Sand – The Important Things in Life

A teacher took a large jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks, about 2 inches in diameter. When the rocks reached the top he asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The teacher then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks. He asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The teacher took a bag of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “Yes.”

He then emptied out the jar and refilled it in reverse order: Sand, pebbles, then rocks. This time, he could not fit all the rocks into the jar.

“What changed between these exercises?” he asked the students. He saw a sea of blank faces.

“The jar represents your life,” said the teacher. “These rocks? They are the most important things – your family, your friends, your health, your interests. The things most central to your being.”

He picked up a handful of sand and a handful of pebbles. “These,” he said, “represent the little things, the necessary but not important, the routine tasks. As we saw, if you fill the jar with sand and pebbles first, there is no room for the rocks.”

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, mow the lawn.

Take care of the rocks first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand and gravel.

With this parable in mind, my focus is now more firmly on my goals. So if you drive by my house and see the lawn overgrown, paint peeling and a gate swinging on its hinges you will know. I’ve finally got a handle on my rocks. Either that or the Cialis finally kicked in.

Change is Tough!

1280px-Neon_sign,_-CHANGE-

Change is positive, change is good. Change is what allows us to grow, to expand our horizons, to seek out new opportunities, to boldly go where he have not gone before (for all you Trekkies).  All true. Without change we would turn inwards, wither on the vine. And yet, every time we change we leave a little something behind. We turn our backs on a part of what made us who we are. You see, every change, no matter how desired, requires sacrifice.

Equally, every change, no matter how well planned and thought through, will never be implemented with the ease or simplicity it should. No matter how much we might crave the change we bring upon ourselves, it never seems to work out quite as effortlessly or as smoothly as we’d imagined. Did you ever notice that? Fitting new into old always seems to require more adjust than it ought, whatever the change we are bringing about.

Let’s start with the simple material changes. Try redecorating. Start that process and you are painting the Forth Bridge (Canadian readers – google here). Do the walls and the ceilings need doing; start with (more…)

The Boiled Frog

I’m sure we’ve all heard the story of the boiling frog – place a frog on cold water and then heat the water gently. The frog will adjust its body temperature to the warming water until the water gets too hot for him to control, and then he will die. Utter fallacy scientifically but it serves as a very effective metaphor for life. Just replace the boiling pan for a nice cozy hot tub, containing all the material things we value. Look inwards and life is good – we have our soft comfort of life, few tough challenges and a soft, safe existence. Over the shoulder is the cold, harsh reality of life and opportunity. Sure, there might be fantastic experiences and golden opportunities – but they are out of sight from where we lie – and they might not actually exist. Far easier to stay in the safe, warm comfort isn’t it? But the water is slowly heating up. One day the safety and security we crave might actually cause our demise if we don’t take the opportunity to step out of the pool from time to time, check the temperature and readjust as necessary.

Lots of metaphor there – so to bring this back to reality – who here has seen the pounds slowly creep upwards on the scale with the passing years? Who has seen their physical activity slowly decrease year on year? Who here regularly spends their income on the essentials of life – toys, vacations and ‘stuff’, secure in the knowledge that there will always be another paycheque to top up the coffers? Who has allowed their relationship to drift into the ‘comfortable shoes’ stage? We all know that every one of these examples is not sustainable for the long term. Those extra pounds keep on piling on until we get into health problems – same with the lack of exercise. The spending can carry on, sure, but actually how secure is that job? What would happen if it suddenly disappeared due to a takeover or a life event that stops us working? What happens when one in the relationship doesn’t like the comfortable shoes anymore and wants to live life more fully? None of us wants any of these things – not going to happen to us is it? We are all charging into an action filled retirement adventure full of travel, exotica, fitness and good health, and with a passionate relationship to boot. But unless we step out of that steaming hot tub to reassess what is really important to us now and in our future, then we are not controlling our destiny – it is controlling us.

It’s not easy – most folk will usually only step out of the pool when forced, be it through a job loss, relationship failure, medical emergency or something equally as drastic. And even then, most of us do not or cannot make the life changes these life events require. Lost your job? First thing to do is jump right back into another pool. Sure, the unexpected heat in the fresh pond might make us squeal, but we quickly adjust to the new reality of more responsibility / less pay / different people etc. Relationship on the rocks? All too easy today to set up an account for one of a dozen Ashley Madison copycats. Medical emergency? Ah, well we all know we could make those life changes if we had to, we just don’t need to yet, right? But well over half of all people given a critical diagnosis can’t make even one of the necessary life changes – and less than 5% can make them all (typically lose weight/change diet, exercise and give up smoking are the top three).

Given the choice, pretty much everyone will just slip back into the warm waters, even knowing that’s what is slowly killing them. And that’s normal because change is tough. Change involves letting go of what we know, the apparent safety and security of the present. It involves taking action and beating a new path with all the inherent risk. It might lead to failure, embarrassment or worse. Yes. Yes it might. But it might also lead to personal, financial or spiritual freedom and success. That new path might lead to incredible new experiences and new friendships. It might start you on a journey of health and vitality that will certainly add life to your years, if not years to your life.  So I believe it behooves us all to step out of the pool once in a while and do a life balance check. Make sure that the path we are on is the one we want to be on, for all the right reasons. Because in the words of the great Mark Twain:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

A Walk with The Old Man

The words could be written for Milo. Miss that old fella as much as ever.

Insecurely Confident

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Overcast, but warm

The perfect day to share

We have always enjoyed our walks together

He and I

 

No longer young

He struggles to keep up

But the trail is clear and gently rolling

 

We used to traverse the woods

Over stumps and deadfalls

Ridges and marshes

 

These days we simply stroll

Enjoying each other’s company

And the sweet musky scent of the forest

 

Soaking up the moments we have left

For he is getting no younger

I see it in the gray of his whiskers

And the hitch in his giddy-up

 

He’s always there for me

And I am always there for him

** One of the best dogs I’ve ever had…. 

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Orange

We all know the old riddle: which came first, the chicken or the egg.

The more intriguing question is this:

Is the fruit named for the colour, or the colour named for the fruit? And why are there no rhymes for orange? It’s the strangest thing.

And what’s even stranger is that this website managed to find 29 facts about oranges. Weird. And in case you don’t feel like browsing over to some random website you’ve never heard of before, here are those 29 facts.

Pucker up and suck a navel.

 

1.) In Afghanistan, oranges are customarily used as a seasoning at the dinner table; oranges are squeezed over the food to help cut grease. (Not sure how this might go on fish n chips. I prefer vinegar myself)

2.) In Jamaica, people clean their floors with an orange cut in half; mechanics there use oranges to clean away grease and oil. (And leave behind a nice sticky mess)

3.) Spain has over 35,000,000 orange trees.

4.) In Switzerland, oranges are sometimes served smothered with sugar and whipped cream.

5.) Europeans sometimes eat oranges with knives and forks. (If you are Royalty)

6.) English children make “orange-peel teeth;” they wedge a piece of the peeling over their gums on Halloween. ( as a former English child I can categorically declare this fact to be untrue. I have never heard nor seen ‘orange peel teeth’)

7.) It wasn’t until after the Second World War that commercial orange-juice concentrate became available in America.

8.) Oranges were once considered the fruit of the gods; they were referred to as the “golden apples” that Hercules stole. (I heard that Diana often referred to Hercules’ ‘golden apples’ but I’m fairly sure she wasn’t referring to his oranges)

9.) The taste and aroma of oranges differ by season, county, state, and country, and even in the position in which it grew on the tree.

10.) The outside color of an orange has no absolute correlation with the maturity of the fruit and juice inside.

11.) Oranges were used in cosmetics by ladies of the French court in the 17th-century. (Sexy)

12.) The navel orange is one of the oldest varieties of oranges.

13.) About 25 billion oranges are typically grown in the United States each year.

14.) Not all orange varieties mature in the same season. Valencia matures in the spring and summer; the Washington Navel doesn’t ripen until the fall or winter.

15.) Although Florida is the leading orange producer in the United States, they produce very few Navel Oranges, one of the most popular varieties.

16.) Varieties of the Temple Orange and the Murcott Honey Orange are not true oranges. They are natural hybrids: half orange, half tangerine.

17.) Many orange varieties float when placed in water; very sweet varieties, however, sink to the bottom.

18.) In the 19th-century orange blossoms were regularly shipped to Paris in salted barrels, because no French bride wanted to be married without wearing or holding them.

19.) After Francis I saved Marseilles from a Spanish siege, the ladies of Marseillaise pelted him with oranges as a token of their love and gratitude. (Strange way to show affection, but each to his own)

20.) Temple Oranges were native to the Orient and thought to be sacred.

21.) Some oranges turn orange when they are still unripe; others turn to green again as they ripen.

22.) An orange tree in Europe referred to as the “Constable,” is said to be four hundred and eighty-eight years old.

23.) Lightning kills as many orange trees as any disease.

24.) 17th-century Frenchmen liked to pour orange juice over their roasted chestnuts (I’m seriously hoping this is actually a euphemism. So much funnier that way)

25.) Oranges and orange blossoms have long been symbols of love. (See 19 I guess)

26.) Many societies once believed that the worst thing that could happen to an orange tree was the touch of a woman, which — it was believed — would make the foliage wilt and drop. (Yet they are a symbol of love? Or just man-love? Or self-love?)

27.) Some ancient civilizations used the juice and peel of oranges as antidotes for innumerable poisons.

28.) Oranges were so esteemed in Florence that paintings of the fruit cover the ceilings of the Medici’s Pitti Palace.

29.) To make oranges a more appealing orange color, oranges are sometimes gassed. Some oranges are also dyed in a vat, dried, then coated in Johnson’s Wax. ( Mmmm so appetizing)

 

Ooooo, here’s your O my friends.

King & Lion

I’m not cheating. Much. This post is not about Lion King and I’m reversing the words just to get K and L in the right order, so we are good there. But yes, I am cheating by wrapping two posts into one but I’m allowed a little lee-way. Daily posting takes its toll, you know?

Anyhoo, the idea for today’s post was originally King, and the tie-in to the King of the Jungle seemed too good to pass up. BTW – did you ever wonder how Leo came to get the title ‘King of the Jungle’ when lions don;t actually live in jungles? They are animals of the savannah, the open grass lands across Africa. There is no jungle out there that I’m aware of.

Sorry – I digress, which is kinda the point of the blog in the first place. Digression, I mean and random wanderings. So back to King. Did you ever wonder how the King in Chess came to be the ultimate symbol of victory yet is the weakest, most ineffectual piece in the game? The King has to be protected by all the other pieces, including the sacrificial pawns. He hides behind the skirt-tails of the Queen who is the one who yields awesome power across the board. He will hide himself away in the Tower rather than face death in a noble way. He expects everyone else to sacrifice themselves so that he can stand tall as Victor, even if he is the only piece left standing. Reminds me of the Presidential roles around the world in many ways – figureheads who are protected at all costs, yet yield no real power. The true power brokers operate behind the scenes, manipulating the politicos as if they were glove puppets, and their manipulators have a hand shoved up their jacksies.

Same is kinda true for the Lion out there on the grasslands. He is seen as the powerful one, the symbol of the pride. Yet it is the lioness who does all the work. The Lion sleeps away the day whilst his lionesses are hard at work. The lioness is the true hero – she hunts, she protects, she bears the future leaders (ringing any bells, ladies?). So how did the Lion get to be the Big Cheese? Is there more to gender inequality than meets the eye, maybe? I don’t know. And maybe that’s the lid of a big old can-o-worms I shouldn’t pry off. Just seems like the females of the world got a raw deal whether human or not.

Floodgates Pandora's box Can of worms photo FloodgatesPandorasboxCanofworms.jpg

Just struck me, is all. In Chess, the most important piece on the board is also the weakest. They hold power only because their protection system is strong enough and they are willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. Same goes for many natural environments – Leo being the most obvious one that came to mind.

Still, if we don’t like this status quo there’s always another. We could base our society on the Praying Mantis.