Color Film from 1922

Here, via Jason Kottke (via clusterflock), are a series of Kodak Kodachrome color film tests — from 1922.

If my Vintage Pop blog weren’t dormant dead, you can be sure I’d feature this video prominently. I love it. I love looking at the styles and mannerisms, I love the ethereal music, and I love knowing that this footage was shot some years before sound became prominent in film (I’d always thought sound came before color).

Also from Kottke today, this fascinating Slate story about the most isolated man on the planet.

Piglets

It’s been a l-o-n-g time since I had fun with photography, but I’ve been using my cameras more and more recently. I like it. And while my “photography eye” hasn’t quite returned yet, I am beginning to see possibilities.

For instance, today at the Clackamas County Fair, I spied a litter of piglets. I knew right away that I wanted to photograph them. And I even knew how I wanted to compose the photograph. I waited a couple of minutes for their pen to clear of people-lets and then worked to compose a shot. I still have no sense of lighting, but I ended up with this, which both Kris and I like:

Piglets

“You should enter that photo in next year’s county fair,” Kris told me tonight. Maybe I will.

(p.s. As you’ll read at Get Rich Slowly in the morning, Kris’ triple-berry jelly was awarded “class champion” this year — it was the best jelly in the county!)

The Hundred in the Hands

My brother Jeff dropped me a line the other day: “Just heard this song on the radio this morning…thought it sounded kind of like JD music.” Why, yes it is. Here’s the song “Pigeons” by The Hundred in the Hands:

It’s not available on iTunes yet, but as soon as it is, I’ll be picking it up. It’ll fit well in my 2010 mix. (Plus, that video is kicky.)

Note: Jeff and I had a chance to chat about this song and others like it. We feel this has a vaguely 1980s sounds, as do many of my favorite songs lately. (Check out Dragonette!) This trend seems to have started with the Postal Service about seven years ago. I like it.

Jumping Rope: How to Do Double-Unders

This probably of little interest to anyone other than me (and perhaps Paul Jolstead), but I wanted to bookmark this video for future reference:

This video describes how to “double-unders”, which is a jump-roping technique common in Crossfit. Instead of jumping and letting the rope pass under your feet just once, you spin the rope so fast it passes under your feet twice per jump.

I can’t do this.

I’ve been trying for months, and I can’t get the method down. I’ve landed a few double-unders, but can never successfully transition to the next jump. But one of my goals for the next few weeks is to learn how to do this. I’ve already done my first pull-up (and almost strung two together), and have finally learned how to kick up to a handstand (which I can hold for 45 seconds), but I can’t do a double-under, and I want to.

And that concludes today’s edition of J.D.’s Crossfit Journal.

Cats Are Strange

It’s been a while since I’ve written about our cats. I know that disappoints many of you, so let me remedy that now.

Our cats are strange.

During the summer, we keep a window open for them so that they can go in and out at will. Last year, this window was in the dining room, and all of the cats (except Toto, who is old and frail) used it. The window was like a cat highway, with furry beasts shuffling in and out at all hours.

We did the same thing this year, but opened a window at the back of the house. Nemo — who I usually think of as stupid — is perfectly happy with this. He jumps in and out whenever he wants (although usually he’s asleep on the bed, or tormenting Max). But Simon? Simon won’t jump out the window. He’ll come in the window, but he refuses to go out, even if we carry him to it. He wants to go out a door. And Max? Max refuses to jump in the window. He’ll jump out the window, but even if we carry him to the back porch, he won’t jump in. Goofy beasts.

Meanwhile, Nemo is a complete jerk to Max. They used to get along great, but somewhere along the way, Nemo scared Max, and now it’s this terrible, terrible relationship. When Nemo sees Max, he bolts at him, and tries to take him down. Kris thinks Nemo is playing, and this is probably true (though he does use his claws), but Max doesn’t think it’s play. Max is truly frightened, and he cowers or runs away. In fact, he often runs out into the street. Nemo chases him straight out the door to the edge of the property, stopping to let Max cross to the neighbor’s yard.

While all this is going on, Toto isn’t dying. She was dying earlier in the summer, but she seems to have recovered. Now she’s just a colossal pest. I had been cuddling with her a lot because I love her and was sad that she’d soon be gone. Well, now she wants that all of the time. In fact, she just got up from her heating pad and ambled over to me at my keyboard, and she’s paw-paw-pawing my face, asking for me to pet her. She wants me all of the time.

On the food front, I’ve been feeding Toto wet food. She loves the food when it’s a new can and the food is warm. But if it’s been in the fridge? Or is a couple of days old? No way. She won’t eat it. Max will eat it, though. He’ll eat anything. That cat is a garbage disposal. Almost literally. He spends a lot of time in the kitchen sink, pulling out the rubber stopper that leads to the disposal, and then he’ll dig around inside to see if he can find any good morsels. What a meatball! Simon, who used to not like wet food, has decided that it’s actually pretty good stuff. He scavengers for anything Toto and Max haven’t eaten. And Nemo? Well, Nemo never eats anything. He always begs for fresh dry food in his bowl (never mind that the bowl is full and that the stuff in the bin is no fresher than the stuff that’s already out), but then he only eats a few morsels before tracking down Maxwell to thump on.

Goofy animals.

Stuck in a Moment

I’ve been stuck in a strange mental place for the past month, and I can’t seem to get out of it. During the second weekend of July, I traveled to Breckenridge, Colorado to be a speaker at a blogging conference. I had a great time and I learned a lot, but was relieved when the conference was over — it was the last large commitment looming on the horizon.

The following weekend, I met a life-long goal: I biked 100 miles in a day. I was a little short on training before the ride (having logged only 500 miles), but I felt fit. My weight loss was on-track, and I was exercising nearly every day, sometimes for hours at a time.

The first half of the century ride was, theoretically, the most difficult; it had all of the elevation gain. But I loved it. When I stopped for lunch at the 54-mile mark, I felt great. I felt like I could ride forever. Ha!

Unfortunately, the next 46 miles weren’t as easy as I thought they’d be. Sure the terrain was flat-ish, but I hadn’t counted on the wind. (As most bikers will tell you, we’d much rather bike uphill against a visible enemy than to bike into the wind against an invisible enemy.) Plus, the sun came out from behind the clouds and beat down on me with what seemed like searing coals of rage. Plus, whereas there were water stops ever ten miles in the first half of the course, there were only two water stops on the second half, with a gap of 28 miles between lunch and the first stop. Ugh.

I finished my 100-mile ride, but I did so a broken man. I was exhausted. I was sunburned. I was in pain. I was mentally shattered, and to such an extent that I still haven’t really recovered.

I’m not kidding.

In the month since that ride, I’ve biked a total of 73 miles, including a 53-mile ride from home to the box factory and back. (That ride included a nasty hill climb into the back side of Oregon City, which just made me even more resistant to get on a bike.)

Worse, my diet has been terrible since the century ride. Well, that’s not true. Mostly, my diet is fine. I’m eating lean protein and fruit and vegetables about 75% of the time. But it’s the other 25% of the time that’s frustrating me.

Take today, for example. I was exhausted, so I slept late, which meant I missed my Crossfit workout for the second time this week. When I woke, I craved donuts. I mean I craved donuts: It’s almost an ache for an apple fritter. Several days over the past month, I’ve caved; I’ve driven to get donuts. (Come on, at least I could walk or bike!) I’ve also eaten ice cream sundaes and other junk. Again, not a lot of it, but enough.

As a result, my weight has stayed very stead for the past thirty days. I’m not gaining weight because I’m still doing Crossfit four or five times a week. But I’m not losing weight, either, and my body composition has stayed roughly the same (25% fat, 35% muscle). This would be fine if I’d reached my target weight and body, but I haven’t. I still have a ways to go.

And another thing: Along with my physical stagnation has come a sort of mental stagnation. For the past month, I’ve been worthless at the office. I find it difficult to write about anything. I stare at the screen for hours, surfing aimlessly. It’s as if I’ve checked out of life. I don’t like it.

Again, this all goes back to Cycle Oregon Weekend and the 100-mile ride. It all started then. (I can even trace it to a particular stretch of road where I just sort of snapped. I was biking into the wind on a long never-ending straight-away and the sun was beating down and I was thirsty and I knew I had 30 more miles to ride before I was finished.)

So, what’s the point of all this? I’m not sure. I feel like I just need to get this out there so that other people know I’m stuck. Paul Jolstead saw it early on — within days of the ride — so he walked to lunch with me one day and we chatted. Kris is very aware of it, but doesn’t really know what to do about it. I don’t know either.

I’m trying to make slow progress by regimenting my life. I’m making lists of things that need to be done, and I’m trying to use my calendar extensively. This is working…sort of. I’m also doing my best to clean everything around me. I’ve heard that an ordered environment fosters and ordered mind, and in my case, I’ve found that’s true. So, I’m trying to keep things tidy.

But the real key is for me to start doing the right thing. When I crave donuts, I need to eat something else. In April, I adopted a policy that if I craved something bad for me, I could give my permission to eat anything in the world that I wanted that was healthy. So, instead of donuts for breakfast, I’d have a filet mignon for breakfast. Expensive, yes, but much better for me, and strangely satisfying. And I need to attack my to-do list with vigor.

What about today? I woke late and missed Crossfit, and I’ve had a palpable urge to eat two or three donuts. Well, I think I’ve found a solution. I still haven’t eaten breakfast (it’s 10:11 am), but as soon as I finish writing this, I’m going into the kitchen and I’m serving myself some roast chicken and watermelon. No, it’s not donuts, but I’ll be happy once my belly’s full. And then, at 11am, I’m going to get on my stupid bike and I’m going to ride to Lake Oswego for the noon class at Crossfit.

This won’t bring me any closer to getting my other tasks done, of course, but it will be a mental victory. And right now, that’s what I need. I need a bunch of mental victories so that I can get out of this funk I’ve been stewing in for the past thirty days.

Update: It’s been nearly an ideal past four hours since I posted this. I ate a breakfast of grilled chicken and salsa, with some cherries on the side. Then I got on my bike and pedaled ten miles to the gym, taking the cemetery route for the first time in two weeks (That means a 1.5-mile steep hill.) I did the Crossfit workout: back squats, hand stands, and some very clumsy L-sits/tucks. Then I biked ten miles home. Now I’m eating an apple and some ham. I’m at the office now, and I stink — I can barely stand to be in the same room with myself! — but I’m a lot happier than I was this morning.

What is Retirement?

I just returned from my annual weekend trip to Oregon’s Opal Creek Wilderness area. Every year, I join five other friends to hike into the forest, pitch our tents on the banks of the creek, and sit around the fire talking about life. We drank a lot of whiskey this year, and spent a lot of time at the swimming hole.

Paul and Tim at rest above the Opal Creek swimming hole
Paul and Tim at rest above the Opal Creek swimming hole

 

This year, we also talked a lot about where we’re going in life. All six of us are about 40 years old, and we’re all dealing with career transitions of some sort. We chatted about “talkers and doers” (a topic I hope to write about soon), about building social capital, and about retirement. I mentioned that my wife hopes to retire when she’s 52, and that caused a lot of envy. It also prompted an interesting discussion on Sunday afternoon.

Paul, Tim, and Andrew chatting around the campfire
Paul, Tim, and Andrew chatting around the campfire

 

“How do you define retirement?” Paul asked as he and I climbed into his truck to start the long drive home. “And when do you plan to retire?”

I thought for a moment. “Are those rhetorical questions?” I asked. “Or are you really asking me when I plan to retire?”

“I’m asking you when you plan to retire,” Paul said. “Because in a lot of ways, you already seem retired. You do what you want when you want. You have time to travel and to pursue your hobbies and that sort of thing. Yet when I think of you, I don’t think of you as retired — I think of you as working.”

I had to think about this some more. “I don’t know,” I said at last. “I’m not sure I know what retirement is, and I don’t know when I plan to retire.”

“The thing is,” I said, “none of my family ever retired. Well, that’s not true — my mother’s father retired, but I didn’t know him well. On my dad’s side of the family, the side I really know, nobody retired. Part of that was because so many of them died young. They never got a chance to retire. But I remember that when my grandpa — who worked as a janitor at the high school — when he ‘retired’, he still worked. He didn’t work for money, but he ran a working farm until he was 75 or 80 years old.”

Then I realized I could be clever. If I couldn’t define retirement, if I couldn’t say when I wanted to retire, maybe Paul could. So I asked him. “What does retirement mean to you?” I said.

“Well, to me retirement is not having to do something for money,” Paul said. “If I was working at one thing and wanted to do something else, I could do it and not have to worry.”

“That sounds like Financial Independence,” I said (though I couldn’t capitalize the “F” and the “I” while speaking). “Actually, that’s a good way to look at retirement. In many ways, Financial Independence and retirement are the same thing. They both mean that you have enough money that you can afford to do what you want, right?”

Paul nodded. “Sometimes I think that retirement isn’t about the money,” he said. “The thing I wish I had is more time. I spend too much time doing things I don’t want to do for money. I guess I could have time to do the stuff I want, but to do so would require more sacrifices than I’m willing to make. I’m frugal, but I have limits. If I could make money doing something I enjoy, I wouldn’t have to retire. And that’s what it seems like you do.”

Ahhh…” I said. Now I could see why Paul had asked the original question, why he wanted to know my definition of retirement and when I planned to retire. To him, I was already living the sort of life that he wants when he retires.

Paul continued: “I’ve been talking with Tiffany” — his girlfriend, and my wife’s sister — “and I’ve been wondering: What if I got to a point where yes, I had to work, but I could choose any job I wanted, even if it paid minimum wage? Maybe I could work in a music store.”

“Right,” I said. “I know what you mean. And actually, you’ve sort of hit on something that’s in one of my favorite books. It’s called Work Less, Live More by Bob Clyatt. It’s all about what he calls ‘semi-retirement’. Semi-retirement is like early retirement except that you’d continue to earn money from sort of work. I think it’s much more realistic for most people than a traditional retirement.”

“I’ll have to check it out,” Paul said.

“You know, I’m going to have to write about this conversation,” I said. “And when I do, I’ll add a bit of detail about semi-retirement from the book.”

A bit of detailIn Work Less, Live More, Bob Clyatt explains the advantages of semi-retirement:

 

“With a modest income from part-time work, early semi-retirees may not have to face the dramatic downshifting in spending and lifestyle that so often confronts those who live only on savings or pensions. And semi-retirees learn that a reasonable amount of work, even unpaid work, keeps them energized, contributing, and sharp.”

 

Though semi-retirement is more realistic than early retirement for most people, it’s still not for the faint of heart. You have to be dedicated and work hard to make it happen. Semi-retirement usually requires ample savings, frugal living, ongoing work, exploration, and a sense of purpose.

 

“I don’t know when I want to retire,” I said. “But I don’t think of myself as retired now, though I can see why it might look that way. To be honest, I don’t want to retire. I have purpose now, and I like it. For so long, my life had no purpose, and I think that’s why I struggled with depression. Having purpose has changed my life, has giving me a sense of meaning.”

Paul quickly noted my flawed logic. “Wait a minute,” he said. “That pre-supposes that retirement has no purpose.”

“Good point,” I said. “You’re right. And actually, I think it’s very important for everyone to find some sort of purpose, whether they’re retired or not.”

Just then, we reached the Gingerbread House, our pit stop for lunch. We went inside and ordered our burgers and malted milkshakes (Paul ordered double malt), and as the rest of the group arrived our conversation turned from retirement to more mundane things. Plus, we all hunched over our iPhones, catching up on 48 hours of e-mail and text messages.

Later in the day, I thought more about our conversation. The more I think about it, the more it seems that the traditional notion of retirement is something like a mirage. It’s not real. When I think about the people I know who have “retired”, I see that they’ve really just gently transitioned into some other phase of life, usually pursuing something they’re passionate about.

Ultimately, deciding when and how to leave the workforce isn’t about some number in a retirement account. It’s important for each of us to think about our goals and what makes us happy. So, when will I retire? Maybe if I’m lucky, I never will. I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing because it makes me happy and gives me a sense of purpose.