Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!

Now that I actually own Tim Ferriss’ new book Tools of Titans I’m going back through it in an effort to absorb the content better. I’m trying some of the products mentioned by Tim and/or his subjects. I’m reading the recommended books and plan to watch the recommended TV shows and movies.

I’m not going to get obsessive about it. At least I don’t think so. The first book I read was one of the most enjoyable reads in a long time – Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character).

I laughed out loud so many times. I kept interrupting Jay to read parts to him. No wonder it was one of the most gifted books of Tim’s Titans. I can’t believe I’d never even heard of it before.

I wonder what young people would think of it? I’m sure hard core feminists wouldn’t be impressed, but I found him very lovable and the times were very different back then. It makes me a little sad for Gen X and Millenials. There’s not nearly as much freedom, adventures, active participation, or  human interaction these days. Everything is so ridiculously PC. Of course, much is improved. We aren’t in the middle of a huge war. TB is all but eradicated. Gay people don’t feel forced to stay in the closet. I’m not oblivious to how much better it is in many arenas. But this book made me yearn for the days before iPhones and Google.


The 4-Hour Workweek

I’m reading an exceptional book right now, Timothy Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek.

It’s kind of mind blowing to be honest. And it makes me a little sad. Because Jay and I are the people who’ve lived the kind of life he advocates escaping – the life of 9 to 5 with a “big” retirement at the end. Jay especially. And his union job isn’t one that lends itself, in any way, shape or form, to the telecommuting strategy Timothy describes. Besides, we’re almost at retirement age whereas this book is most valuable for those in their 20s, 30s and 40s.

Despite this, there’s still a ton of value in reading it. It’s not too late to implement some of his plans/strategies even if I really like our “small” life. There’s no question that it can be improved and I agree so wholeheartedly with many of his observations and opinions. I feel like a kindred spirit, which is hilarious as our lives couldn’t be more different.

Plus, he’s funny as hell.

I’m getting it for my brother. And probably for the kids for Christmas. They’ve already made it clear they have no intention of following in our footsteps! 😉 It makes me a little nervous, because the lifestyle Ferriss advocates is SO different from ours and I’m not sure how achievable it actually would be.

The Antidote

I recently finished reading The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman.

Unlike Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder (Incerto) it was a breeze to read.

Like Antifragile I got a lot out of the book. 😉 It really resonated with me. I’ve often reflected on how the “positive thinking” movement seems a little shallow and simplistic. While I do believe that a little “fake it til you make it” and saying “yes” to things can be helpful, I also think that a little negativity can go a long way. As in, low (or just reasonable) expectations can be a good thing. You are much less disappointed, many fewer times!

Life is tough. It’s really tough for most people and has been so since the dawn of civilization. The idea that life “should” be easy is relatively new and I think it’s the source of much anxiety. Life is much easier than it used to be, comfort and survival wise. But it’s still hard. The more we get used to the idea that security and stability and control are often elusive, and not the norm, the more content and antifragile we’ll be.

Petal by Petal

petalsIn one of the latest (and best) books I’ve read, Lit: A Memoir (P.S.), Mary Karr describes her elderly mother ‘She’d quit painting, quit buying pretty clothes. Petal by petal, she’s been shedding herself.’

Wow.

This really hit home and I brought it up the last time my friends and I went for a walk. All of us are dealing with aging parents in some stage of decline. I lost my father about 14 months ago and, luckily, my Mom is doing pretty well. Very well, actually, when compared with my friends’ remaining parents. But the metaphor is still applicable and I hope to keep it in mind as I age.

I already see signs of it creeping in. For example, I judge my Mom’s almost total disinterest in cooking while, in the next breath, congratulate myself for only having to prepare 3-4 meals/week now that the kids are out of the house. As far as my Mom goes, it seems that every effort that can be cut out is being cut out and I worry I’m destined to take the same route? I’m already thinking about moving into a house low maintenance home. I’m somewhat obsessive about saving money. 😉

Hopefully, not. I will try to remember Mary Karr’s line ‘Petal by petal, she’s been shedding herself. ‘ and keep it from being so. It will require some vigilance. Maybe I’m overreacting. For me, saving money is a very active pursuit. I might even go so far as classifying it as a hobby. A low maintenance home will make it easier for us to travel. It will probably make it easier for Jay to keep working. (And, speaking of, I recently got a job – quite the opposite of retiring!)

In other areas of our lives, I’m planning to take a more active role – for example, babysitting our niece once a month so my brother and sister-in-law can go out, driving up to Boulder, Vail or Fort Collins every month to take one of our kids out for dinner. I’m contemplating getting a FitBit, and taking golf lessons, and signing up to learn how to play PickleBall at the rec center where I work, swim and go to yoga class.

Another thing that might keep me engaged longer is the fact that I’m an older mother than my Mom. At 29, she’d finished having her kids, while I’d just started. I’m about 12 years behind her and, hopefully, that will force me to stay on my toes!

Christmas Books – Again

amazonIt’s that time again! Last year I purchased my Christmas books at Amazon.ca and posted that I would try to be organized enough in ’14 to buy the books earlier and buy them from Amazon.com where they are substantially cheaper (eg. The Stone Carvers is $10.07 US vs. $15.16 CDN). Plus, I don’t get hit with GST (Canada’s goods and services tax). Plus, I can use Amazon gift cards purchased at a discount online, or at Office Max, using my Ink BOLD to earn 5x points – things I cannot do if I buy from Amazon.ca. I’m betting I’ll save at least $30-$40 this year.

I don’t think I’m going to Calgary until January this year, so they will be belated Christmas presents. And they should all fit in my suitcase, which I can check for free when I pay with my Explorer card.

I’ve started my list and have added some of the books into my cart in preparation. I’m buying a couple for one of our sons. One of them is a large coffee table book and I’m going to buy it used, at a considerable discount (ie. $7 vs. $26). It will leave more money for his other presents (or cash). 😉

Christmas Books

stack of booksThe books I ordered from Amazon.ca have arrived at my Mom’s house in Calgary. I’m going to be there in early December and will wrap them. It’s got me thinking. Next year I’m going to try to be organized enough so that I can order the books as early or even earlier. I compared prices on Amazon.ca vs. Amazon.com and found that the prices are about 10% cheaper on Amazon.com. I can also use Amazon gift cards purchased at a discount online, or at Office Max, using my Ink BOLD to earn 5x points – things I cannot do if I buy from Amazon.ca. The majority of the books I buy order paperback. They’ll fit in my suitcase, which I can check for free when I pay with my Explorer card.

Or, maybe I’ll decide it’s too much of a hassle and just do as I did this year…

Today I Started My Christmas List

xmas listIf you’ve read (m)any of my previous posts it will come as no surprise to you that I keep a spreadsheet for my Christmas gift lists. I started this in ’02. They are very basic. The first column is the name of the person I’m buying for, column C has a line for each gift I’m considering, column B is where I put an X if I’ve actually purchased the gift, column D is the cost of each gift, column E is where I keep track of the totals for each person, with a grand total at the bottom for everything.

It’s bittersweet to go over some of the older lists. In ’02, when Harry Potter was all the rage, each of the kids got Bertie Bott’s Beans. 😉 And why would I have given Casey shaving cream that year? He was only 11! The 2006 list is the hardest to look at. There’s no longer a line for Matthew. And in ’07 my father-in-law’s name was gone. On a happier note, in ’10 our Denver niece made her appearance. Over the years significant others have been added. A couple have been deleted. 🙁 And there are now even a quasi step-niece and nephew on the list.

Anyway, I’m working on my 2013 list today – specifically, on the list of books I send to my family in Canada. These days, that’s 15 books to buy. (I keep a separate spreadsheet just to keep track of “books already given” so that I don’t repeat myself.) I started getting everyone books in ’06, when we stopped going to Calgary for Christmas. I buy them on Amazon. Some years I’ve waited MUCH too long before selecting and ordering, resulting in the either late Christmas presents or having to tailor my choices based on a book’s availability. But this year I am organized and I should be able to avoid the stress of ordering at the last minute. I will have to say, though, that I’ve been amazed at Amazon’s ability to come through in those last days before Christmas. If the books are all available, I’ve seen them get delivered in two days! (Note: I order from Amazon.ca when the books are going to Calgary, not Amazon.com)

When Making a Tough Decision, Pretend You Are Giving Advice to a Friend

decisiveHere’s another good strategy from the book Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work. The next time you’re stuck on a decision, the single most effective question you can ask yourself may be:

What would I tell my best friend to do in this situation?

According to the authors, “The adice we give others has two big advantages: It naturally prioritizes the most important factors in the decision, and it downplays short-term emotions.”

Another strategy, one I’ve used numerous times, is to just stop agonizing over a decision. I find that overthinking something can lead to total indecision; paralysis. If I stop actively thinking about it, the decision usually presents itself to me within a few days – in a clear, “aha” moment, and I will wonder why there was ever even a question about the choice in the first place.

Low Carb Recipe – Brussels Sprouts, Garlic and Bacon

brussel sproutsAs I’ve recently reported, I’m eating low carb (or at least lower carb) and I thought I’d share some of the recipes I’m making.

This is another of my favorite dishes. I make LOTS because it disappears quickly. Again, per the rules in Jorge Cruise’s The 100 this qualifies as no carbs/sugar calories!

INGREDIENTS

  • lots of Brussels Sprouts, chopped, or quartered or separated into leaves
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic, chopped up
  • 2 pieces of bacon
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

DIRECTIONS

Heat oil in large skillet. Add garlic and bacon when hot. Add Brussels sprouts and stir around until coated. Reduce heat and sauté until tender, stirring occasionally. I like to cook mine until the leaves and the garlic get crispy. Salt and pepper to taste. Decide who gets the bacon…

Today I Tweaked My Breakfast

oatmeal steel cut oatsI used to make oatmeal for breakfast almost every morning. Last summer, when I was in Calgary for a couple of weeks helping my mom, post surgery, I started eating steel cut oats. She had a massive bag of them in her pantry and hadn’t even opened them up. I became an instant convert. They are fantastic! I’ve eaten them virtually every morning since then.

Recently, however, I’ve read Gary Taube’s and Jorge Cruise’s books and have been trying to cut back, substantially, on carbs. In Cruise’s book The 100 he explains how to calculate the number of “sugar calories” in a food item by multiplying the number of carbs X 4. The goal is to limit the number of “sugar calories” you consume in a day to 100. This was never going to work for me – I don’t have much weight to lose and I don’t do deprivation. So I skipped immediately to his less dramatic “The 100 Plus” plan, which limits the number of “sugar calories” to 300. This is more like a maintenance plan and something I could probably do on a regular basis. (You need to read the book. They aren’t literally calories – just a simple way of counting your carbs.)

Anyway, I know from experience and experimenting, that I need to cook 1/2 cup of oatmeal or 1/2 cup of steel cut oats for breakfast. But, it turns out, steel cut oats are significantly more carb dense.

Per the label on my oatmeal, a serving size is 1/2 cup and it has 27 grams of carbs which is 27 x 4 = 108 sugar calories.

Per the label on the steel cut oats, a serving size is 1/4 cup and it has 29 grams of carbs which is 29 x 4 = 116 sugar calories.

I wouldn’t fuss about the difference between 108 and 116 but, the trouble is, 1/4 cup of steel cut oats doesn’t cut it for me at breakfast. I’ve tried and it’s not enough. I eat 1/2 cup or two servings, meaning 2 x 29 x 4 = 232 sugar calories.

So, my breakfast of regular oatmeal has 108 sugar “calories”, while my breakfast of steel cut oats has 232. That’s a BIG difference.

As a result, I’ve switched back to oatmeal. I still have some steel cut oats in my pantry and I’ll allow myself to go through them, maybe by having them once/week. And I may buy more, so I can continue to treat myself from time to time. But, I’ll be sticking to regular oatmeal 80% of the time from now on.

I’m pretty sure I’ve already lost weight since I started counting my sugar calories a couple of weeks ago. My waist definitely looks and feels more defined. In fact, within a week, I lost the “flubby” feel I had due to some extra pounds I’d gained in my stomach. It would drive me nuts at night. Grrr! And that’s gone. I hesitate, though, to weigh myself. I rarely, if ever, do and tend to get disappointed and lose momentum if I expect to see a loss and don’t. Plus I’m terribly suspicious of my scale! 😉