Old Habits Die Hard!

We’ve all heard the saying “old habits die hard”. Some habits take longer to kill off than others. For example, I have a kitchen broom which I keep in the space between the fridge and the cupboard. There must be thousands of households who put their broom in exactly the same convenient place. Nothing unusual there! However, in my kitchen, there is also a small railing which I use to hang up my oven gloves. Every time I get the broom out, I invariably knock the gloves off the rail and have to pick them up from the floor. 

Maybe not every time but eighty per cent of the time and it’s been like that since I moved in eight years ago! Talk about a habit being hard to kill off! 

In a bolt of problem-solving wizardry, I realised the fridge had two sides and there was a broom-sized-glove-free gap on the other side of the fridge.

Problem solving at its best!

I moved the broom.  

EUREKA! 

What a groundbreaking change!

Mind you when it’s time to sweep, I still automatically look on the glove side. D’OH! Eventually I’ll become habituated to the new habit and look on the other side as a matter of course. 

This may be a tongue in cheek look at my reluctance to change a simple process in my life that was not functioning well. A simple change that was glaringly obvious but not executed. 

I am very certain there would be many more things like this in the world that suffer from the “that’s just the way we do it around here” syndrome. Things that could be changed with little effort but pay big dividends, like working from home

Numbers of people WFH skyrockets!

The number of people working from home has increased dramatically during COVID lockdowns. Once COVID is under control and most of us are vaccinated the necessity for working from home will be removed. But there are plenty of good reasons for it to continue. 

Less commuting is one such reason with a triple win pay off. The employee gets more time in their day, the environment wins especially if it’s car commutes that are reduced and the employer wins because they could rent smaller spaces and hence save money. Not all jobs are of course suitable for working from home, but many “office” jobs are very much suited to it and employees are expressing their preferences.

Some companies are adjusting to a hybrid model where you can combine both working from home days with office days. Another bonus being the “extra” time now available to employees can be used for family or community-based activities enriching our lives. 

On the other hand, all those coffee shops and cafes in the city will have no customers unless they move out to the suburbs and then hey! Guess what? They don’t have to commute either. 

Let’s hope we keep these positive new habits of COVID in play. It will take some adjustment just like me searching for my broom, but it will be worth it in the long run!

a train station with empty platforms
Empty platforms are a part of Lockdown!

Is life a Rube Goldberg Machine?

I’m feeling overwhelmed at the moment. Life is still locked down – this week is the 13th week I think and there’s another four(?) to go. I’m tired and feeling anxious. The anxiety stemmed in part from job hunting. In my quest to live more intentionally and move closer to family, I am looking for a job in Armidale.

Job Hunting

I haven’t had to look for a new job for a long time but a suitable temporary job came up and I applied. It was only a six month placement but it was a foot in the door. I felt confident that it was a good match for my skills. Same job in a different school. The investment of time and emotional energy used in writing the application was draining and the wait was excruciating! Not helped by the said family asking every day if I had the job! The job was shortlisted last week, and given the silence, I assume I am not going to the next stage.

The emotional drain spilled over into a very unproductive cycle of rumination. IF I had been successful it would have triggered a cascade of events, none of which could have been started in advance.

The rumination generated a number of unanswerable questions that would have needed answers in a very short time frame and would be exponentially compounded by a Statewide lockdown! 

The list of unponderables

The list was long and included (but was not limited) to:

  1. Finding suitable and affordable accommodation in Armidale
  2. Finding tenants for my current place
    1. Leading to do I rent it furnished?
    2. Unfurnished?
    3. And what do I do with my stuff!
  3. Actually physically packing up my stuff and
    1. OMG! How did I get so much freaking stuff?
    2. Move all my stuff or some if it – and then
    3. Do I move it or store it?
  4. Handing over for my current job (while we are in lockdown) to my successor
    1. Finding a successor at such short notice
    2. And finding a successor for the successor!
  5. Saying a hasty online goodbye to colleagues – some of whom I have worked with for close to 20 years.

Shit! No wonder I was anxious! No wonder I still feel like I’m recovering. 

Rube and his machines.

Being the sort of person who loves a good analogy this cascade of actions reminded me of a Rube Goldberg machine. You know, those chain reaction contraptions where one rolling marble bumps against another to set off a chain of events.? There is an old Honda ad which if it’s real, and not CGI, is amazing! 

I think life is just one big Rube Goldberg machine where you tinker with the bits and hope you put them in the right place so they all work together in a nice steady series of movements towards a satisfying end. The pieces in life’s Rube Goldberg machines are the time, skills, resources and people you have built your life with and have available to you.

What happens if it doesn’t work?

I explained my analogy to a colleague. He asked what happens if you don’t put the things in the right place? If your bits don’t line up and the motion comes to a halt? I hadn’t actually thought out the analogy that well, and I didn’t know how to answer so I just shrugged.

I guess you just keep experimenting? It’s not as if you can go back to the beginning. You just restart from where you are. Perhaps you would be able to re-purpose or recycle some of the parts and use them again?  You might even change your design altogether.

But you just keep moving forward. 

At least it was spring!

Spring in Australia

It’s September 1st and downunder in Australia, we call that spring! As a scientist, I pedantically wait until the spring equinox around the 21st – 22nd of the month to claim it Spring. This seems more in line with the way humans may have done it before calendars. When all they had were huge massive stone structures that were perfectly engineered to allow light to enter a tunnel or shine on a particular inscription on a particular day at a particular time. Nothing special at all. And we use a paper calendar, or even more likely Facebook wishes us a Happy Spring!

How far removed we are from nature! I notice the day length increasing. I notice the few deciduous trees in my neighbourhood re-greening, but I’d be hard pressed to place a rock in a spot to catch the sun on a particular day.

Neolithic knowledge sharing

This line of thought led me down the path of

“How did Sven, the Neolithic engineer, share his ideas on how and where to erect the standing stones. How did he tell his “team” how deep, long and wide the tunnel needed to be so light entered the tunnel and struck the wall in an earthern Broch?”

Robyn eating breakfast…

How indeed? No way to simulate the result before starting. Not even a slide rule! No way to write down the calculations and no way to communicate other than speech. How did the Svens do it? If the tunnel was off by a few centimetres they’d have to wait a year to find out. Did they start with a stick in the ground?

Even with our modern technology and computer simulations we get it wrong. Even with our international teams of technicians and aerospace engineers, a spacecraft bound for Mars failed because one team used SI units, and the other imperial measurements!

Neolithic people must have told their stories and hence they would have to remember them. They would have to remember everything. Can I eat that plant? Without PlantSnap app to give you clues it might be a game of Russian Roulette. [Whispered aside: I feel that Ugg (Ugg being my quintessential Neanderthal archetype), might have done the ground work in passing down the knowledge of which plants killed other Uggs]

Driven to distraction

As humans we still have that capacity to remember great wads of knowledge. Yet we don’t. Instead we are distracted with social media and other forms of mass entertainment. We are kept passive and locked into a white patriarchal capitalist hegemony. We are literally cooking in our own pot yet we are too distracted to get out and turn off the stove. (The lobster analogy is of course not my own original work. I’ve seen it written in many places). Mind you I’m rather pleased we have progressed to the point that we know about hygiene and vaccinations!

This is not exactly where I wanted to go with this post. It was meant to be an exploration of ancient knowledge systems. But these ideas of being deliberately trapped in a consumerist hot pot have been on my mind for a while in case you hadn’t noticed.

Down a different sort of tunnel

As part of my quest for intentional living I have been falling down some deep tunnels myself and widening (or is it narrowing) my information sources. I have recently tapped into a few new podcasts, and subscribed to some online newsletters. You might like to check them out too.

Futuresteading – the byline “living like tomorrow matters” wraps it up. An interview style podcast which explores the greener side of living. One of the hosts, Jade Mills has just released a rather lovely although very gendered book about her rural life in Victoria.

Galaxy Brain. My newest internet vortex find! I subscribe to Future Crunch which is a good news site. It publishes good news that usually gets lost in the regular doom and gloom news cycle. They referred to Galaxy Brain in one of their micro-stories. While not about the environment per se, Galaxy Brain raises ideas about interesting modern issues, like should we work everyday for 40 years in a job we hate to make someone else rich? You can see why I like it!

Orkney Island Neolithic Sites

The images in this post were taken in the Orkney Islands around Skara Brae. In 2019, I was lucky enough to spend a wonderful week walking on the islands as part of my Scottish Roadtrip. I have written some other posts about the travel aspects of this trip elsewhere in my blog.

I still haven’t answered my Sven question but just so the post is not completely off topic, here are some spring flowers!

This is wattle – the Australian National Flower. Sweet-scented and loved by bees but hated by those with hay fever!