Just yesterday I encountered the idea of how our primitive behavioral immune system fuels the bizarre fear, disgust, loathing, and anger that accompanies the COVID-19 vaccine debate, which I wrote about in my review of Norman Doidge's excellent article on the subject.
Today I ran headlong into a prime, and terrifying, example of just that, in a New York Times opinion piece by Paul Krugman, entitled "What to Do With Our Pandemic Anger." In my innocence, I assumed the article would be about the mental health crisis that has arisen from nearly two years of restrictions on normal human interaction.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
You may or may not be able to access the article—with the Times I find no rhyme nor reason as to when I can, and when I can't—so I'll quote a bit of it below and you can get the idea.
First, a reminder of what Doidge said about how the behavioral immune system [BIS] has hijacked our reason.
Many people’s mental set for the pandemic was formed early on, when the BIS was on fire, and they were schooled by a master narrative that promised there would only be one type of person who would not pose danger—the vaccinated person. Stuck in that mindset when confronted by unvaccinated people, about half of whom are immune, they respond with BIS-generated fear, hostility, and loathing. Some take it further, and seem almost addicted to being scared, or remain caught in a kind of post-traumatic lockdown nostalgia—demanding that all the previous protections go on indefinitely, never factoring in the costs, and triggering ever more distrust. Their minds are hijacked by a primal, archaic, cognitively rigid brain circuit, and will not rest until every last person is vaccinated. To some, it has started to seem like this is the mindset not only of a certain cohort of their fellow citizens, but of the government itself.
And now for a taste of what Krugman has to say.
A great majority of [New York City's] residents are vaccinated, and they generally follow rules about wearing masks in public spaces, showing proof of vaccination before dining indoors, and so on. In other words, New Yorkers have been behaving fairly responsibly by U.S. standards. Unfortunately, U.S. standards are pretty bad. America has done a very poor job of dealing with Covid. ... Why? Because so many Americans haven’t behaved responsibly. ...
I know I’m not alone in feeling angry about this irresponsibility.... There are surely many Americans feeling a simmering rage against the minority that has placed the rest of us at risk and degraded the quality of our nation’s life. There has been remarkably little polling on how Americans who are acting responsibly view those who aren’t ... but the available surveys suggest that during the Delta wave a majority of vaccinated Americans were frustrated or angry with the unvaccinated. I wouldn’t be surprised if those numbers grew under Omicron, so that Americans fed up with their compatriots who won’t do the right thing are now a silent majority. ...
I don’t claim any special expertise in the science, but there seems to be clear evidence that wearing masks in certain settings has helped limit the spread of the coronavirus. Vaccines also probably reduce spread, largely because the vaccinated are less likely to become infected, even though they can be. More crucially, failing to get vaccinated greatly increases your risk of becoming seriously ill, and hence placing stress on overburdened hospitals. ... You don’t have to have 100 percent faith in the experts to accept that flying without a mask or dining indoors while unvaccinated might well endanger other people—and for what? I know that some people in red America imagine that blue cities have become places of joyless tyranny, but the truth is that at this point New Yorkers with vaccine cards in their wallets and masks in their pockets can do pretty much whatever they want, at the cost of only slight inconvenience. ...
Those who refuse to take basic Covid precautions are, at best, being selfish—ignoring the welfare and comfort of their fellow citizens. At worst, they’re engaged in deliberate aggression—putting others at risk to make a point. And the fact that some of the people around us are deliberately putting others at risk takes its own psychological toll. Tell me that it doesn’t bother you when the person sitting across the aisle or standing behind you in the checkout line ostentatiously goes maskless or keeps his or her mask pulled down. ... Many Americans are angry at the bad behavior that has helped keep this pandemic going. This quiet rage of the responsible should be a political force to be reckoned with.
For someone who admits being no expert, Krugman is far from reluctant to make pronouncements based on questionable data. To his credit, he attempts to direct this "simmering rage" to political action, but the tone of the article is straight from, and speaks directly to, the behavioral immune system's primitive response of fear, disgust, and loathing. That cannot end well.
Believe it or not, I have left out the most vitriolic statements, which I deemed unnecessarily distracting.
In January of 2015 I began a walking tour. Not a literal tour, though the walking was real enough. I've been keeping track of the steps I take each day, and used that information to take a virtual walk from home here in Central Florida to our family in New Hampshire. That took most of a year to accomplish: I "arrived" on December 16. 2015.
From there I took on a bigger challenge: letting my steps take me on to our family in Switzerland. I picked up the pace and reached that goal in a mere year and a half, on June 30, 2017.
Finally, I turned around and made the long journey home. That was a tough one, but nearly three years later, on May 31, 2020, my weary feet crossed the threshold. Home at last! (And now I find I must remain here for an indeterminate time!)
I began keeping track of my walking in mid-July 2014. Since then I have walked over 10,000 miles, a figure I find totally astonishing, even if most of them were accomplished walking around and around our backyard pool.
My 95 by 65 project is complete. The two and a half years have flown by, and suddenly I am an official senior citizen, with all the discount privileges thereof. (Along with the thrills and expense of being on Medicare, but that's another story.) The details are in a companion post, 95 by 65 - The Tally. Here I want to ruminate about the purpose of my 95 by 65 project, and what it has accomplished.
I went into this adventure simply with the idea of focussing my efforts and providing some documentation for my accomplishments, though as time went on, the purpose of the project took on a more coherent form. The items on my list were chosen, some purposefully, some almost randomly, from a "to do before I die" list so overwhelming it would make me live forever if I had anything to say about it.
Then there were the activities I put on the list because I knew that they were things my husband wanted to do. That worked out better than I had imagined. As is true for many women I know, I had looked forward to my husband's retirement with mixed feelings. Sure, it would be great to have him happier and more available, but while retirement meant more time for him to attend to his own projects, it meant less time for me to work on mine. The 95 by 65 list turned out to be a great way to get us on the same page for a number of activities, which was a mental health boost for both of us.
Another very useful, unanticipated side effect was the project's value in establishing habits. True, this slowed down my progress through the list, because when I completed, for example, #59 Achieve 40,000 DuoLingo points, I did not stop doing DuoLingo lessons, thereby freeing up time to work on something else. I had established the habit. I hope to use this leverage more purposefully for next year's list.
Yes, there will be a next year's list, and my sister-in-law plans to join me again with one of her own. We both feel the need of a shorter time span than two and a half years, and have chosen July - June as the period. There's to much else that goes on near the end of the calendar year to want to go from January through December. Besides, I want to get going on the new list! Not that the new list is complete yet, but I have enough to get started.
I'm convinced it was to my advantage to have the list. I learned a few things about making such goals, such as that "do something X times" allows for procrastination leading to failure (as with #52 Write at least 10 letters to political officeholders), but usually works well and is much less stressful than "do something every month," which leads to fear of missing a deadline and doesn't allow for working ahead.
I also learned that several of my goals were impossibly large, such as #92 Organize photos 2012-2016. Despite the huge amount of time I poured into the project, I managed to complete only one of those years (2015), though I did make some organizational progress on the others. And while all this was going on, we did enough travelling to add far more new photos to the processing pile than I had succeeded in removing. Of course, I did know at the outset that this would be a big project; it was foolish to lump all those years together in one goal, but I did so because I had run out of the "95." I was only fooling myself.
When I began, I really thought I had a chance to reach all of my goals; certainly I didn't expect to be happy having accomplished just over half. But I am. It's nothing short of miraculous how the list helped me—helped both of us—focus. I accomplished many things that I know simply would never have been finished without the list (e.g. #57 Experience all 37 of Shakespeare's plays), and others that would have been hit-or-miss or procrastinated to death (e.g. #51 Write an encouraging note each month to someone other than family). Would we have still made our visit to The Gambia if it had not been on the list? I like to think so, but I also know how easy it would have been to let the months fly until the window of opportunity had passed.
Without this list, it would be too easy to focus on what I have not (yet) accomplished. Even with it, I'm painfully aware of projects (and whole areas of projects) that have been sorely neglected in the past two and a half years. But without the list, that's all I'd see; with it, I can say to myself, "but look at how much else I did." What's more, several of the items inspired similar non-list accomplishments.
It's an experiment worth refining and repeating. Onward and upward!
When I began my 95 by 65 project, my 65th birthday seemed distant, but the time has come. How did I do? I completed only 50 of the 95 goals, but to my surprise am quite pleased with that. It was an intense list! Here's the breakdown.
I had divided my 95 goals into four sections, based on Steven Covey's "To Live, To Learn, To Love, To Leave a Legacy."
To Live: completed 11/33, 33.3%
|Create the Leon Project||1/12/2015|
|Create 95 by 65 list||1/24/2015|
|Research and purchase food processor||1/30/2015|
|Practice deliberate relaxation twice a day for a month||5/16/2015|
|Find a GPS distance tracker that works for me||11/11/2015|
|Walk/run the equivalent of home to Hillsboro||12/16/2015||Greatly exceeded; also "walked" from Hillsboro to Swtizerland; averaged 38 miles/week.|
|Get a working back porch sink||8/24/2016||Thank you, Porter!|
|Swim 5 miles / Brachiate 1 mile (cumulative)||9/12/2016||Exceeded: swim 10 miles, brachiate 2 miles|
|Design 5 Life Playground stations||4/1/2017||Pool Track, Pool/Braciation Ladder, Balance Board, Juggling Balls, Mini Trampoline, Exercise Ball|
|Create an herb garden||6/15/2017||I hope to expand this.|
|Develop a quick system for travel prep and packing||7/3/2017|
|Create/tweak/finalize/codify 60 family recipes|
|Develop and sustain a system for making bread regularly||Developed a new cookie recipe instead.|
|Develop and sustain a system for making yoghurt regularly|
|Experiment with making kefir|
|Finish Janet's birthday 2009 recipe book||Maybe by 2019?|
|Go through all recipe books, digitizing what looks good, getting rid of all but essentials/favorites|
|Complete a biking challenge|
|Develop a stretching plan and execute at least 3x/week for a month|
|Execute 50 pushups nonstop on the higher bar at the park||An injury broke my steak, and I never got back to it.|
|Reach desired weight goal|
|Run nonstop 3 times around the park trail then participate in a 5K race (any speed)||So close! I made the three times around nonstop in May of 2016, but again an injury broke the momentum. It healed, but the momentum was broken and I'm just starting over now.|
|Declutter and organize phone||Ah, yes ... decluttering was definitely a casualty.|
|Declutter blog template files|
|Declutter marked items in Janet's room|
|Declutter my office|
|Declutter our filing cabinets|
|Declutter sewing supplies|
|Recycle collected ink cartridges||Partially done|
|Set up identification system for files to grab in an emergency|
|Create another goal-oriented project for when this one is complete||Working on this.|
To Love: 22/23, 95.6%
|Visit King Arthur Flour||2/12/2015|
|Visit a state I've never been to||4/9/2015||Missouri|
|Try at least 5 new restaurants||4/10/2015||Greatly exceeded|
|Visit Universal/IoA four times||5/15/2015|
|Share at least 20 meals with others||8/13/2015||Greatly exceeded|
|Watch NCIS LA from the beginning||10/23/2015|
|Convert our Christmas card system to postal plus e-mail||12/5/2015|
|Visit a country I've never been to||1/15/2016||Belgium (airport), Senegal, The Gambia, Spain (airport), Mexico, Cuba|
|Visit either Costa Rica or the Gambia||1/15/2016||The Gambia|
|Attend 15 live performances (e.g. music, drama, lectures)||1/31/2016|
|Keep up a 10 posts/month blogging schedule for 20 months||8/17/2016||Exceeded: 30 months, often more than 10/month.|
|Visit our friends who live in Arizona||8/26/2016||Instead of our visiting Arizona, they came to Florida.|
|Refrain from negative speech for 1 day. Do this 30 times.||10/24/2016||This is a whole lot harder than it looks.|
|Visit with all immediate family members at least once per year||11/22/2016|
|Write at least 75 physical letters to children/grandchildren||1/13/2017|
|Send at least 4 care packages to each of our freshman/sophomore nephews||2/3/2017|
|Write at least 5 notes of encouragement to each nephew||4/6/2017||This did not turn out to be ask I had expected -- brief, friendly, USPS notes of encouragement. This generation has little use for physical letters, unless they have cookies attached. But there were so many other forms of communication --visits, e-mail, SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook -- that I consider this goal met.|
|Write an encouraging note each month to someone other than family||6/5/2017|
|Write at least 10 letters to political officeholders||I managed one....|
To Learn: 13/17, 76.5%
|Read the Koran||4/14/2015|
|Listen to all of Pimsleur German I (30 lessons)||5/30/2015|
|Finish chronological Bible reading plan||7/29/2015|
|Achieve 40,000 DuoLingo points||11/3/2015||Exceeded: over 81,000 points.|
|Start and keep up with other daily Bible reading plan(s)||11/25/2015||Exceeded: completed six plans total.|
|Complete 100 Great Courses lectures||12/30/2015||Exceeded: over 300|
|Make 30 museum visits||4/21/2016||Exceeded. but I stopped counting.|
|Read The History of the Renaissance World||7/5/2016|
|Read 130 books (new or old, print or audio, any level)||10/19/2016||Exceeded: 175|
|Complete George MacDonald reading plan (50 books, 14 completed in 2014)||10/24/2016|
|Experience all 37 of Shakespeare's plays (attend, watch, and/or read)||10/25/2016|
|Set and attain Khan Academy goal||6/3/2017||Complete Math Missions from Kindergarten through 8th grade, plus Algebra 1 (refreshing my own experience through 8th grade). This took longer than expected because Khan kept adding requirements.|
|Read 26 existing but as yet unread books from my bookshelves||6/7/2017|
|Set and attain BrainHQ goal||Instead of these three I concentrated on Peak and WordChums.|
|Set and attain Memrise goal|
|Set and attain Sporcle goal|
To Leave a Legacy: 4/22, 18.2%
|Rocket boost genealogy work by end of January 2015 (40 hours of work in segments of 1 or more hours, over approximately 2 weeks)||2/1/2015|
|Make 2 baby blankets||5/14/2015|
|Rocket boost photo work (40 hours of work in segments of 1 or more hours, over approximately 2 weeks)||9/29/2015|
|Convert WRL memorial PPT to video||6/9/2017|
|Copy LPs to CDs|
|Copy tapes to CDs||Partially done, thanks Porter!|
|Complete conversion of bits PPTs to videos|
|Create 20 new GTC shows|
|Create a form of GTC independent of YouTube and useable offline|
|Create scent bits|
|Make new family bits||Modified from "for Heather"--Janet needs them, too.|
|Print bit back labels for Heather|
|Clean up, expand, and document the lines I currently have in my genealogy database|
|Enter unentered genealogy data|
|Publish revised editions of Honor Enough volumes 1-4|
|Update Phoebe's Quilt and print in "final" form||I made a lot of progress, even though it's not complete.|
|Create one photo album with Picaboo||Since I tied this to Phoebe's Quilt, I made progress here, too.|
|Organize photos 2007-2011|
|Organize photos 2012-2016||I completed 2015, and made some progress on other years.|
|Research and purchase scanner suitable for prints and slides|
I'm happy with the "To Love" and "To Learn" categories, and okay with "To Live" though it needs work. "To Leave a Legacy" was sorely neglected, and there are two clear reasons. First and foremost, this category is where most of my gargantuan personal projects ended up. Projects like "Organize photos 2012-2016" and "Clean up, expand, and document the lines I currently have in my genealogy database," each of which requires far more time than most of the other 95. They are also complex, and require a lot more focussed and continuous thought—and decision-making—than, say, reading a book or inviting someone over for dinner. This is the kind of work I do best when I can put on my Li'l Writer Guy persona:
He rather likes to imagine he’s seated in some academic cloister, inhaling the intoxicating scents of polished wood, leather, and books old and new. On the table before him are the paraphernalia of his profession: stacks of books, pads of paper, writing implements, bookmarks, his laptop computer. Lost in thought, he stares out the window, but he’s not seeing the cityscape. Now and then he rises, and paces between the table and the stacks. At the end of the day, he reluctantly packs up, puts on his coat, and steps into the outside world, blinking owlishly and realizing dimly that time has not stopped for others as it has for him.
It's a lovely way to make progress in one area, but it leaves the rest of life at risk of disintegrating around me. Clearly, I need to figure out how to divide these projects into tiny parcels, in addition to giving them higher priority for next year.
Still, as I said, I'm overall very pleased; that is, inspired to begin another such project immediately, with modifications based on experience. Further ruminations are in a companion post to this one: 95 by 65 - The Analysis.
As part of my 95 by 65 program, I set the goal of walking the equivalent of from here to the home of our grandchildren in New Hampshire. This I completed in December of last year. At that point, I was so much in the habit of keeping track of my steps that I naturally chose a related goal for the continuation: walking to the home of our other grandchildren. This was a lot longer, and a little trickier, since they live in Switzerland. But since I was using the "crow flies" distance for my calculations anyway, I freely ignored the problem of walking on water across the Atlantic.
It has been a long trek, but I'm nearly there. Just 205 miles remain. Apparently I'm enjoying a long stroll through the Parc naturel régional de la Forêt d'Orient in France's Champagne-Ardenne region.
Will I arrive in time to celebrate my birthday? It will take some concentrated work, but that's my goal!
Goal #12 of my 95 by 65 project was to design five Life Playground Stations, inspired by Stephen Jepson and his Never Leave the Playground program. Five easily-accessible places and/or pieces of equipment that would combine exercise and fun. Others may prefer sports for that purpose—but this is my playground. It has to work for me. It has to be something I want to do.
The Pool Track This is by far the most used of all my Stations, and I'm surprised it took me this long to discover it. I've been walking for exercise for a long time—walking, and sometimes running. Occasionally I would walk in our neighborhood, but mostly my habit had been to join Porter and his running buddy at a nearby park. The park is pleasant enough, but the whole process was enough of an effort, and took so much time, that I only went three times a week.
Enter the Pool Track. I had started walking around the edge of our pool as a break for body and mind after a long session at the computer, and it grew from there. It really took off during a Personal Retreat when Porter was out of town, when I had determined to isolate myself at home for better focus.
Walking around and around the pool may sound boring, but it's not at all. I'm never just exercising. I've always been able to think, write (mentally), pray, or listen to lectures/audio books while walking (though not while running), but with the Pool Track I can do so much more. I can read books, I can do DuoLingo lessons, I can watch videos, I can talk on the phone. I can even play Word Chums games, though most Peak exercises require too much coordination. In short, I can do much of the work that I would otherwise be doing sitting down, but I'm not sitting, I'm walking. And most of the activities I do while walking can be done day or night.
Suddenly I found myself eager to take breaks from the computer. Because the Pool Track is right there, just a step out of my back door, there's no travel time, and best of all no prep time or recovery time. Even on the hottest Florida days, because I can exercise in short bursts, and go from air conditioning to air conditioning, I don't need to get miserably hot. And because I don't get miserable, and don't feel I'm wasting time, and find it easy to start and stop, I do it. A lot. Several times a day, every day. If it's not an especially busy day, my usual total is at least five miles, every day of the week. That's far, far more weekly exercise, and with more consistency, than I've done in years. For next year, Porter's going to make me a ramp/step combination for part of the track.
There's just one aspect of the pool track that makes me nervous: there's always the risk of a misstep plunging me into the water. I don't mind for myself, but I'd hate to test out my phone's water resistance. Perhaps the tiny thrill of risk adds to the fun, however.
The Pool/Brachiation Ladder This is a seasonal station, but a longish workout around the pool on hot days (half the year or more) makes it easy to jump in and do a few laps. At the end of our pool a horizontal ladder set up on cinder blocks serves as a brachiation ladder (monkey bars to the uninitiated), and between the two I manage to get in some regular upper body work.
The Balance Board This was a gift from Swiss friends, and I love it. It not only improves my balance, but gives my legs and core a workout, and it's easy to do while conversing or watching television. Whenever the challenge becomes too easy, I simply close my eyes for a whole new level of workout. I also view as an extension of this station my habit of balancing on one foot at random times, particularly if I'm waiting somewhere or standing around in conversation. This, too, becomes much more of a challenge with my eyes closed, though that exercise won't do in conversation—people think they're boring you.
The Juggling Balls I'm a bit reluctant to mention this because even though I purchased juggling balls two years ago, I still can't juggle. Acquiring skills requires practice, and even though I enjoy playing with the balls, it's been too easy to get out of the habit. But when I do remember, it's great fun. I still don't work much on the actual skills of juggling, but just tossing and catching them gives an all-round body workout, especially since I stoop and pick up much more than I catch.
The Mini Trampoline This is another station I don't make as much use of as I wish, but I have good hopes for it. We picked up the trampoline at a garage sale, and it's big enough for good exercise yet portable enough to fit in my office (barely) if I want to bring it in to the air conditioning.
The Fitness Ball Janet had a version of this ball, which she used as a desk chair. It is the latest addition to my Life Playground, and even though the instructions specifically insist it's NOT a chair, that's what I use it for. Not all the time; often I just want to relax in my comfortable swivel chair. But when I do use the ball, I keep moving, even while sitting, which exercise my core and keeps me from being so stiff when I get up again. They say that sitting for long periods of time is very bad for your health ("sitting is the new smoking") but let me tell you, an ageing body makes that point abundantly clear.
Am I completely satisfied with my Life Playground progress? No. It's far, far from what Stephan Jepson does. And as with most forms of exercise, I need to use them more frequently. But the setup is there, I enjoy them, and some have made a significant difference in my life. That's a very good start.
This was another good reading year, not a new record for quanity, but my second highest since beginning to keep track in 2010. Granted, it squeaked into that position because I counted one children's picture book (King Ron of the Triceratops), but it was my son-in-law's first published book, so it deserved no less.
Looking at the chronological list (which has rankings, warnings, and review links), you can pretty much tell the months that we were travelling overseas. There was no month in which I read zero books, but some had only one or two. Summer was my best time for reading: over half the books fell into July, August, and September.
Here's the alphbetical list. Once again, I'm pleased with the variety, even though it's pretty heavy on George MacDonald because of my goal of reading all of his books in order over a period of three years. Titles in bold I found particularly worthwhile.
- The Bible (Holman Christian Standard Bible version)
- The Black Star of Kingston by S. D. Smith
- The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel
- Clouds of Witness by Dorothy Sayers
- The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
- Cure by Jo Marchant
- Daughter of Liberty by Edna Boutwell
- Dere Mable by E. Streeter
- A Dish of Orts by George MacDonald
- Donal Grant by George MacDonald
- Early Tales of the Atomic Age by Daniel Lang
- The Elect Lady by George MacDonald
- Ember Falls by S. D. Smith
- Far Above Rubies by George MacDonald
- The Fatal Tree by Stephen Lawhead
- The Flight of the Shadow by George MacDonald
- George MacDonald: 365 Readings by C. S. Lewis
- The Green Ember by S. D. Smith
- Guild Court by George MacDonald
- Heather and Snow by George MacDonald
- Hidden Secrets Revealed by Wallace M. Campbell
- Hiroshima by John Hersey
- Hiroshima Diary by Dr. Michihoko Hachiya
- The History of the Renaissance World by Susan Wise Bauer
- Home Again by George MacDonald
- The Hope of the Gospel by George MacDonald
- Into the Atomic Age edited by Sholto Watt
- King Ron of the Triceratops by S. S. Paulson
- The Light Princess and other Fairy Stories by George MacDonald
- Lilith A (first draft of Lilith) by George MacDonald
- Lilith by George MacDonald
- The Lion of St. Mark by G. A. Henty
- The Lion of St. Mark by G. A. Henty (re-read after visiting Venice)
- Main-Travelled Roads by Hamlin Garland
- Mark and Livy by Resa Willis
- Men of Science, Men of God by Henry M. Morris
- My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
- The New Testament (King James version)
- Old Granny Fox by Thornton W. Burgess
- One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
- Poetical Works, Volume 1 by George MacDonald
- Poetical Works, Volume 2 by George MacDonald
- The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
- The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald
- The Road to Character by David Brooks
- A Rough Shaking by George MacDonald
- Salted with Fire by George MacDonald
- Sidney Chambers and the Forgiveness of Sins by James Runcie
- Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night by James Runcie
- Sidney Chambers and the Problem of Evil by James Runcie
- Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie
- Stephen Archer and Other Tales by George MacDonald
- There and Back by George MacDonald
- They're Your Kids by Sam Sorbo
- The Tragedie of Hamlet by William Shakespeare, a study by George MacDonald
- The Tragedy of Coriolanus by William Shakespeare
- Unnatural Death by Dorothy Sayers
- Unspoken Sermons Series II by George MacDonald
- Unspoken Sermons Series III by George MacDonald
- The Village on the Edge of the World by A. T. Oram
- Weighed and Wanting by George MacDonald
- What's Mine's Mine by George MacDonald
- What's Wrong with the World by G. K. Chesterton
- Whose Body? by Dorothy Sayers
- Wild Animals I have Known by Ernest Thompson Seton
- Will Rogers (Hallmark)
My 95 by 65 swimming goal was very modest: Swim five miles, and brachiate one mile. The reason brachiation was part of the swimming goal will be more obvious when you see the ladder configuration, here demonstrated by some neophytes who are much more fun to watch than I am.
I didn't officially start till July of this year, when I realized that both travel and winter weather would take away a large chunk of the months remaining till my 65th birthday and I'd better pay attention to this goal. But as of yesterday, I'm up to 5.4 swimming miles and 1.3 brachiating. More important, I've established a daily habit: eleven laps (0.1 miles) of the pool, and six of the ladder (0.025 miles). Little steps add up over time!
Now we'll see how long the habit lasts, as the water temperature drops. Thanks to my encouraging daughters, who gave me the new perspective, when I do stop for the winter I will not think of the habit as broken, but rather seasonal, ready to begin again in warmer weather. After all, one does not consider the "skiing habit" broken just because the skis are put away at the end of winter!
Many of you know that we recently returned from a two-week trip to the Gambia, that tiny country within Senegal in West Africa. Since I never fully appreciate an experience until I've written about it, I've started a new category here, in which I'll put both travel memories and Gambia-inspired musings. Expect it to be rather random; if I wait to get it all organized I'll have forgotten too much. (Lots of thinking to do, many activities, and over 1600 photos.) In the meantime, here's some background.
After a couple of false starts some 45 years ago, I finally found a college roommate who became a friend for life. (Realize that in those dark ages, even smokers and non-smokers were often paired up to live together!) Kathy went on to get a Ph.D. in mathematics and enjoy a long career as a university professor with a well-deserved reputation as an excellent and caring teacher. Several years ago she embarked on a different sort of adventure altogether, and is now a math professor (and department chair) at the University of the Gambia, with an even stronger reputation for both excellence and caring. She's not there for the adventure (although there is plenty of that), nor for the salary (meagre), and certainly not for the working conditions, but to make a difference in the world. Yes, she's a saint, a fact of which I'm all the more convinced since our visit. (You can ignore this part, Kathy, assuming your flaky Internet connection lets you see it. You and I both know you're still the crazy person I knew back in college.) Perhaps it's more useful—since labelling people as saints tends to put them out of reach—to say that she's a Christian called by God to use her skills and experience in an unusual place. However you look at it, she's there, and is making a difference. The world, Africa, the Gambia, even the University—these are too large to exhibit visible change. But without a doubt she has for a number of years been changing the lives of families and individuals for the better.
However, despite the University's state of denial, she won't be in the Gambia forever. Hence our determination to seize the year (and the presence of this trip on my 95 by 65 list). The only reasonable time to make the trip was in January, which is during the dry season and between semesters for Kathy. Coming during the dry season turns out to be very, very important: the weather, though still hot (90's) is much more pleasant, the mosquitos are much less numerous, and transportation tends to be through a few inches of dust instead of a foot or more of garbage-and-water. Definitely the time to go!
So we went.
Some people travel for adventure. Others for the educational and cultural growth. As much as I value the latter, the primary importance of travel for me is still being with family and friends—and specifically, seeing them in their native habitat, as it were, so that their stories and experiences have more meaning when I hear them from far away. The educational experiences are a great bonus thrown in, and on this trip we even had a few adventures.
2015 turned out to be a good year for reading: I set a new record (since I begain to keep track in 2010): 72 books, on average six books per month. The smallest number of books read per month was two, which occurred in both June and August; between those two months, July had the most: eleven. By some standards that's not a lot of reading, but it's a good deal more than I was accomplishing before I made reading a priority, and started measuring.
Here's the list, sorted alphabetically. A chronological listing, with rankings, warnings, and review links, is here. It's a good mixture of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry; old books and new; short books and tomes. I enjoyed most of them, and regret none.Titles in bold I found particularly worthwhile.
- 1066 and All That by W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman
- Artemis Fowl (Book 1) by Eoin Colfer
- Artemis Fowl (Book 2): The Arctic Incident by Eoin Colfer
- Artemis Fowl (Book 3): The Eternity Code by Eoin Colfer
- Artemis Fowl (Book 4): The Opal Deception by Eoin Colfer
- The Bible
- The Billion Dollar Spy by David E. Hoffman
- The Black Star of Kingston by S.D. Smith
- A Book of Strife, in the Form of the Diary of an Old Soul by George MacDonald
- The Call of the Wild by Jack London
- A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson
- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
- Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin
- England's Antiphon by George MacDonald
- Exotics by George MacDonald
- Food Foolish by John M. Mandyck and Eric B. Schultz
- Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill by Gretchen Rubin
- The Gambia in Depth by the Peace Corps
- Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story by Ben Carson with Cecil Murphey
- The Green Ember by S.D. Smith
- Gutta-Percha Willie by George MacDonald
- It All Started with Columbus by Richard Armour
- Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth E. Bailey
- The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
- The Kids from Nowhere by George Guthridge
- Legally Kidnapped by Carlos Morales
- Life of Fred: Goldfish by Stanley F. Schmidt
- Life of Fred: Honey by Stanley F. Schmidt
- Life of Fred: Ice Cream by Stanley F. Schmidt
- Life of Fred: Jelly Beans by Stanley F. Schmidt
- Life of Fred: Kidneys by Stanley F. Schmidt
- Life of Fred: Liver by Stanley F. Schmidt
- Life of Fred: Mineshaft by Stanley F. Schmidt
- Life of Fred: Pre-Algebra with Biology by Stanley F. Schmidt
- Love Does by Bob Goff
- Malcolm by George MacDonald (much Scottish dialect)
- Malestrom by Carolyn Custis James
- Manjiro by Hisakazu Kaneko
- The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson
- The Marquis of Lossie by George MacDonald (some Scottish dialect)
- The Martian by Andy Weir
- Mary Marston by George MacDonald
- The Mind's Eye by Oliver Sacks
- Old Peter's Russian Tales by Arthur Ransome
- Paul Faber, Surgeon by George MacDonald
- The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall
- The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
- The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall
- The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall
- Pioneer Days by Laura Ingalls Wilder, annotations by Pamela Smith Hill
- The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald
- The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
- The Qur'an translation by M. A. S. Abdel Haleem
- St. George and St. Michael by George MacDonald
- The Second Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
- The SHARP Solution by Heidi Hanna
- Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie
- The Six Fingers of Time and Other Stores from Galaxy Magazine
- Sir Gibbie by George MacDonald
- The Story of Western Science by Susan Wise Bauer
- Stiff by Mary Roach
- Thomas Wingfold, Curate by George MacDonald
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Tremendous Trifles by G. K. Chesterton
- The Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal
- The Village on the Edge of the World by A.T. Oram
- Warlock o' Glenwarlock by George MacDonald
- Weathermakers to the World by Eric B. Schultz
- West Africa Is My Back Yard: Ex-Pat Life in The Gambia and Beyond (Part I: Where on Earth is The Gambia Anyway?) by Mark Williams
- Wilfred Cumbermede by George MacDonald
- The Winged Watchman by Hilda van Stockum
- The Wise Woman by George MacDonald
I've reached the end of the first year of my 2.5-year 95 by 65 project, and I'm thrilled. It has given structure and focus to my work, helped me set priorities, and provided joy in activities that I have in the past seen as distractions.
In 2015, I completed 25 of my 95 goals. Others I'm well on the way to finishing, and still others I haven't even started. Some of those I completed were one-time events: check it off, done! The completion of most, however, hasn't gained me any time, since it has been the catalyst for creating new habits. That's a good thing: it's part of the point behind the 95 by 65 project. But hasn't left a vacuum to fill with work on the remaining goals.
If there's any downside to this project, it's that I have enough other goals to create a new 95 list. Some of them need to be done anyway, even if they're not on the list. The others I'm thinking of accumulating on an overflow list. I don't want to distract myself from working on this one, but after all, Goal #31 is "Create another goal-oriented project for when this one is over."
Completed In Progress
- To Live
- Create 95 by 65 list—Completed 1/24/15
- Create the Leon Project—Completed 1/12/15
- Create/tweak/finalize/codify 60 family recipes
- Develop and sustain a system for making bread regularly [I know what to do, and have all the equipment, but need to make it a habit.]
- Develop and sustain a system for making yoghurt regularly [Again, I know what to do, and have all the equipment, but need to make it a habit.]
- Experiment with making kefir
- Finish Janet's birthday 2009 recipe book
- Go through all recipe books, digitizing what looks good, getting rid of all but essentials/favorites
- Complete a biking challenge (details to come)
- Complete a swimming challenge (details to come)
- Walk/run the equivalent of home to Hillsboro, NH—Completed 12/16/15 [But I haven't stopped; I'm now working on the much longer trip to Emmenbrücke, Switzerland.]
- Design 5 Life Playground stations [I'm nearly done with this, it just needs some tweaking.]
- Develop a stretching plan and execute at least 3x/week for a month
- Execute 50 pushups nonstop on the higher bar at the park [This was sidelined by an injury, but I'm slowly coming back.]
- Find a GPS distance tracker that works for me—Completed 11/11/15
- Practice deliberate relaxation twice a day for a month—Completed 5/16/15. [Frustration: This is definitely a habit worth keeping. But I lost it in June, during my month in Switzerland, and haven't managed to reclaim it. My hope is to revive the habit in 2016.]
- Reach my desired weight goal [Ever. So. Slowly. Not giving up.]
- Run nonstop 3 times around the park trail then participate in a 5K race (any speed) [Barring injury, I should be ready for the 5K soon. I could probably do it now, but have some other interim goals I want to meet first.]
- Declutter and organize phone
- Declutter blog template files
- Declutter computer
- Declutter garage
- Declutter marked items in Janet's room
- Declutter my office
- Declutter our filing cabinets (with Porter)
- Declutter sewing supplies
- Develop a quick system for travel prep and packing
- Recycle collected ink cartridges [I know this looks easy, but I'm trying to do it in a way that I use the credit I get for recycling them. I miss the easy 1 cartridge = 1 ream of paper days!]
- Research and purchase food processor—Completed 1/30/15.
- Set up identification system for files to grab in an emergency
- Create another goal-oriented project for when this one is over
- Create an herb garden
- Get a working back porch sink
- Attend 15 live performances (e.g. music, drama, lectures) [Just one more to go!]
- Convert our Christmas card system to postal + e-mail—Completed 12/5/15
- Refrain from negative speech for 1 day. Do this 30 times. (Since sometimes negative things must be said, this will include recasting negative things in a neutral or positive tone.) [This is so much harder than you'd think. I've managed six days so far. It has at least increased my awareness, helped me clarify what I really mean by "negative," and inspired me to hold my tongue on occasion.]
- Share at least 20 meals with others (home or restaurant, but not counting multi-day visits or shared meals already in place)—Completed 8/13/15 [But of course this continues.]
- Try at least 5 new restaurants—Completed 4/10/15 [Clearly I set this goal 'way too low; I'm up to 18 now.]
- Visit Universal/IoA four times—Completed 5/15/15 [Dr. Doom's Fear Fall, fish & chips and butterbeer! We did not renew our passes, but were then inspired to get annual passes to Disney World for this year.]
- Watch NCIS LA from the beginning—Completed 10/23/15
- Watch Unbroken—Completed 4/24/15. [Worth watching, though it doesn't do justice to the book.]
- Join in the choir trip to Austria [This had been planned for 2015, but fell through. Will it happen at all?]
- Visit a country I've never been to
- Visit a state I've never been to—Completed 4/9/15. [Missouri—St. Louis. Great visit with family. New museums, new restaurants, and a genealogy breakthrough.]
- Visit with all immediate family members at least once per year [Complete for 2015.]
- Visit Arizona
- Visit either Costa Rica or the Gambia
- Visit King Arthur Flour—Completed 2/12/15
- Keep up a 10 posts/month blogging schedule for 20 months (not necessarily consecutive) [Modified from "two posts/week" to make record keeping easier. Twelve months complete so far (60%).]
- Send at least 4 care packages to each of our freshman nephews [25% done]
- Write an encouraging note each month to someone other than family [12/12 so far. This turns out to be one of the more challenging goals, not because it's hard to write the notes, but because I have to remember before the end of each month. I didn't give myself any leeway with this one.]
- Write at least 10 letters to political officeholders [Only one so far.]
- Write at least 5 notes of encouragement to each nephew
- Write at least 75 physical letters to children/grandchildren
- Join Google+—Completed 12/10/15
- Join Twitter—Completed 2/9/15
- To Learn
- Finish chronological Bible reading plan—Completed 7/29/15
- Start and complete other daily Bible reading plans—Completed 11/25/15 [I'm currently on my fifth plan (of varying lengths) since beginning this project.]
- Achieve 40,000 DuoLingo points (average 1,000/month, split between French and German)—I'm 'way ahead of schedule on this one—Completed 11/3/15 [This was successful in establishing the habit; I'm now over 45,000 points.]
- Listen to all of Pimsleur German I—Completed 5/30/15 [The next step is German II, but I haven't started yet.]
- Complete George MacDonald reading plan (50 books, 14 completed in 2014) [60% done]
- Read 130 books (new or old, print or audio, any level) [55% done]
- Read 26 existing but as yet unread books from my bookshevles [35% done]
- Read The History of the Renaissance World
- Read the Koran—Completed 4/14/15
- Complete 100 Great Courses lectures—Completed 12/30/15
- Experience all 37 of Shakespeare's plays (attend, watch, and/or read) [30% done]
- Make 30 museum visits [40% done]
- Set and attain BrainHQ goal
- Set and attain Khan Academy goal
- Set and attain Memrise goal
- Set and attain Sporcle goal
- Copy LPs to CDs
- Copy tapes to CDs [Porter is working on this]
- Convert WRL memorial PPT to video
- Complete conversion of bits PPTs to videos
- Create 20 new GTC shows
- Create a form of GTC independent of YouTube and useable offline
- Create scent bits
- Make new family bits (was just "for Heather," but now Janet needs some, too)
- Print bit back labels for Heather
- Genealogy: clean up, expand, and document the lines I currently have in my family tree
- Enter unentered genealogy data
- Publish revised editions of Honor Enough volumes 1-4
- Rocket boost genealogy work by end of January 2015 (40 hours of work in segments of 1 or more hours, over 2 weeks)—Completed 2/1/15 [I made great progress, but I need to make a habit of steady progress.]
- Update Phoebe's Quilt and print in "final" form
- Create one photo album with Picaboo
- Digitize photos
- Digitize slides
- Organize photos 2007-2011 (subgroups 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010)
- Organize photos 2012-2016 (subgroups 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015) [I've done most of 2015 and a good part of 2014 so far.]
- Research and purchase scanner suitable for prints and slides
- Rocket boost photo work (40 hours of work in segments of 1 or more hours, over 2 weeks)—Completed 8/29/15 [As with the genealogy, I made great progress, but I need to make a habit of steady progress.]
- Make (at least) 2 baby blankets—Completed 5/14/15. [Two new grandbabies! Hooray!]
To Leave a Legacy
Onward to 2016!
Having finished YouVersion's Cell Rule of Optina read-through of the New Testament by Thanksgiving, and planning to start a new chronological plan at the end of the year, I wanted something short to take me through Christmas. I chose Before the Cross: the Life of Jesus, which was billed this way: "This 80 day reading plan takes you through the four Gospels, in chronological order, walking through the life of Jesus from His birth to His ascension into Heaven." That's almost true, though they did leave out some of the less action-oriented passages. I easily compressed the 80 days into one month.
I also switched versions of the Bible for this reading. My favorite versions are either the old New International Version or the old Revised Standard Version, neither of which is often accessible in online form. I had been using the English Standard Version on my phone, which is a little modern for me but not bad. This time I decided to try the New King James Version. I'd heard a lot of positive talk about the NKJV, but I was not impressed. I was expecting a reworking of the beautiful-but-outdated King James Version that takes into account all we've learned in the field of Bible scholarship since the early 1600's. Maybe it's not outdated anymore, I don't know—but I do know it's no longer beautiful. Why produce yet another Bible stripped of its poetic language? We had plenty of those already.
Now that I've finished the Before the Cross plan, I've committed to another year-long chronological plan. Not the chronological plan I started with; that was a great one, but why not try another one, since there isn't completely agreement on chronology? This is called Reading God's Story: One-Year Chronological Plan, and this time I've chosen to use the Holman Christian Standard Bible.
I'm still gung-ho about the YouVersion system. Granted, most of their reading plans are not what I'm looking for (too short, too slow, too embellished, too disjointed), but I still find what I need. And having it right there, on my phone, easy to access, easy to keep track of—priceless.
My 95 by 65 Goal #11 was initially a "to be decided later" walking challenge. Yesterday I decided it was about time I set that up, and determined that it would be fun to aim for the distance between here and our family in New Hampshire. The "crow flies" distance is 1130 miles. Since the middle of 2014 I've been letting my phone keep track of the steps I've taken (walking or running). That's only if I have the phone on me, so the recorded numbers are lower than my actual steps, but quite good enough for this purpose.
The app keeps track of the raw data, but not in a form useful for "walking to New Hampshire," so today I set up a spreadsheet to analyze the data, starting from the beginning of this year, and keep track of my progress as I head for the goal.
SURPRISE! I'm already there! I arrived two days ago.
It blows me away to realize how much I've walked in under a year. I guess small steps do make for great progress over time.
Continuing the trip to "visit" our other grandkids adds 3747 "crow files" miles and involves walking on water. I guess I'd better get going!
On the face of it, July - September was a slow quarter for my 95 by 65 project. I completely only three goals in the three-month period:
- #57 Finish chronological Bible reading plan
- #37 Share at least 20 meals with others (home or restaurant, but not counting multi-day visits more than once or shared meals already in place)
- #94 Rocket boost photo work (40 hours of work in segments of 1 or more hours, over approximately 2 weeks)
To complete my goals by age 65, I need to average slightly over three goals per month, not per quarter.
Maybe I'm being overly optimistic, but I'm still not worried. Not by the numbers, anyway, because I know I'm making progress on many goals that by their nature take a long time to complete.
I do, however, continue to be ever-cognizant of the preciousness of time. When I look at the imposing quantity of time necessary for some of my projects, and watch the calendar on my phone tick over another day with such relentless frequency, it's hard to shake a minor but persistent panic. I'm keep in mind the following quote from George MacDonald, but have yet to succeed in working it out in my daily life:
He that believes shall not make haste. There is plenty of time. You must not imagine that the result depends on you, or me. The question is, are you having a hand in the work God is doing? It shows no faith in God to make frantic efforts or lamentations. God will do his work in his time in his way. Our responsibility is merely to stand ready and available and to go where he sends us and do what comes our way.
Another problem is that crossing goals off my list doesn't necessarily cross them out of my daily life. Completing my "try new restaurants" goal doesn't mean we stop going out to eat, and finishing one Bible reading plan merely means beginning another. Recently I completed Goal #65 Achieve 40,000 DuoLingo points. Yet that completion won't gain me any time, at least I hope not, because I'm finding the DuoLingo lessons both enjoyable and valuable and plan to continue the work. I can't let that suffer the fate of #16 Practice deliberate relaxation twice a day for a month, which did me so much good I intended to keep up the practice after meeting the goal, but.... I do intend to restart it, I do.
I have always disliked the "bucket list" idea. I'm not sure why; perhaps my deep-seated anxiety about time as a limited resource rebels at the name—as yet another, mocking, reminder. The 95 by 65 list serves me well as a way to achieve the concentrated attention of a bucket list with a more immediate and optimistic focus.
My 95 by 65 Goal #58 is "Start and keep up with other daily Bible reading plan(s)" (after completing the Chronological Plan on YouVersion). Yesterday I finished their 30-day Gospels Plan. Of course it was good to read through the Gospels, but that particular plan I don't plan to use again. Each day it had me reading one chapter from each of Matthew, Luke, and John, adding in Mark after John finished. If it had been coordinated in such a way that I read on the same day each Gospel's version of the same events, I think I would have loved it. But as it was, the jumping around damaged the flow of the narratives.
Today I began the 89-day Cell Rule of Optina Plan, which covers the entire New Testament. This, too, is broken up, each day reading one chapter from a Gospel and two from the rest of the New Testament, but at least the two sections are each done in order. I'm hoping that the fact that they're different types of books will make the reading seem less disjointed. But I still wonder why I can't find a simple, straight-through-the-New-Testament sequence on YouVersion, not embellished with commentary or stretched out over too many months.