Why not plunge in?

Years ago I used to buy non-commercial CDs from a nifty new website, CD Baby. It was bought out eventually, making a small fortune for founder Derek Sivers.  Now he’s put out a compact book of his wisdoms: Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur. He is direct, engaging and often interesting, but my read didn’t yield much for my purposes, except for one para of advice. It’s advice that speaks to a future project that I can’t seem to begin, and his words jibe:

If you want to be useful, you can always start now, with only 1 percent of what you have in your grand vision. It’ll be a humble prototype version of your grand vision, but you’ll be in the game. You’ll be ahead of the rest, because you actually started, while others are waiting for the finish line to magically appear at the starting line.

A big year idea: Why not walk half an hour every day in 2018?

I appreciate that my geeky obsessions don’t appeal to most, but really, a Big Year is nothing more than instilling a habit. And if you’ve become alarmingly sedentary, if your balance has worsened, if age seems to be creeping up faster than you’d like, why not try a Strolling Big Year?

The idea: on January 1, 2018, set a timer and walk your streets for half an hour, then repeat this 364 times until December 31.

Based on my experience, I reckon you’d go through a process something like this:

  • The first stroll is a cinch and you feel virtuous, so you ponder making it an hour instead. Resist that temptation!
  • In January the days are long and light, so you’ve a wealth of half-hour time slots to use. But one day, busy family affairs mean you need to squeeze in your stroll, and that leaves you a bit stressed, and that’s not enjoyable. My experience? Walk the same time every day; better still, go early every day.
  • A forty degree summer’s day? You walk early and guess what, it’s not so bad.
  • Take the dog? Definitely not (unless yours is an uncommonly obedient at-your-side pooch). Walking a dog benefits the dog, not the human. Ignore his/her pleas and treat them later in the day.
  • A few weeks in, you get a niggle with a toe or an ankle. Don’t stop! If you have to, go see a physio (not a doctor, at least at first) and ask what to do in order to to keep walking. This is a good sign: at last you’re reshaping your limbs. Perhaps you should invest in some cheap hiking boots.
  • In March, you fret that you haven’t lost weight yet. My experience? Keep checking the scales but just walk. You can’t expect a stroll to use more than a few calories, so it’s no magic bullet for weight loss, but the medical/ psychological benefits of regular walking are abundantly proven.
  • Boring, you mutter in May. That’s easy: vary your routes, give them names.
  • I’m betting that one day in June, you’ll rise for your pre-breakfast constitutional and suddenly, irrationally, feel wonderful and marvel: “I’ve walked 175 times!”
  • A dose of the flu? Walk. You shouldn’t overstress your poor sick body but half an hour of slow meandering is no stress at all.
  • It’s early August and pouring icy rain? Walk. Keep adding layers until you’re toasty warm, wear a raincoat. A day in that downpour would be silly; half an hour, a cinch. Imagine the hot shower afterwards!
  • By September, your friends look at you with new eyes. “Walking is easy,” you tell them, and you’re entitled to tell them, having 300 walks to your name.
  • In October, you find you’re enjoying your strolls (hey, they’re no longer strolls but proper semi-brisk walks!) so much, that you contemplate longer hikes. If you’re going to increase your duration, go ahead now, make each one an hour, but still remain wary. The most important aspect is regularity.
  • Come December, when planning summer holidays, you search for walking tracks. Nothing too serious, mind, just enough.
  • Christmas Day is a test. So busy! Okay, up at 6:30 and get it done. You’re especially, delightfully hungry at the Christmas table.
  • For some reason, the final days of 2018 walking stress you out. You’ve invested so much emotional capital into this one act. But you’re looking at anywhere between 500 and 750 kilometers under your shoes over the year, so just keep it up those final few days.
  • You won’t want to rise on New Year’s Day, 2019, feeling empty. Just keep walking, no need to call it anything like a Big Year, just call it “my daily walk.”
  • Of course, given the uplift in your physicality over 2018, given your raised confidence, you might, just might, order a Christmas bike in preparation for a Cycling Big Year!

A publishing Big Year?

The Dying Detective by Leif G.W. Persson, tagged as quintessential Scandi-noir, was a fabulous read. And what did I adore most? The book’s incredibly complex, tortuous plot, that’s what drew me on. Amongst the book group tackling The Dying Detective, I’m betting over half of them shall decry the plot machinations, but, hey, I lapped them up.

Ancillary but vital thought: my unpublished mysteries, two in a possible series, attracted a little agent/editor interest but never got published, and I’ve always felt it’s because my plots are super-dooper gnarly. A new seed: let’s publish them and be damned. Those that loves plots, like me, maybe they’ll fall for my books.

Crowdfunding experiment

Crowdfunding fascinates me, and I’ll need some financing for at least one of my Big Years, so I went onto Kickstarter and ended up supporting a new wearable, the Moment, and soon enough, my wrist was graced with one. Check out the website – it’s an intriguing concept that gives you tactile buzzes for different occurrences.

My Kickstarter experience was delightful. What’s most interesting is that if you’ve got something to sell, a high bar is set in terms of interaction with your funders. I was smothered with love from the Moment team, thoroughly enjoyed it.

Cranes Big Year? When oh when?

One year soon, before too long, I’ll allocate a year to go see each of the fifteen crane species. It’s a daunting project of ill-shaped intent but its persistence inside my head confirms its reality.

In 2015 English author Horatio Clare took a commission to search for a bird even rarer than the most threatened crane species, namely the Slender-billed Curlew. In fact, although once common on a European migratory path, it was last sighted in 1999! So Clare’s quest turns out to be to talk to those who last saw it (or thought they saw it) in Greece and Bulgaria.

In Orison for a Curlew, Clare does a wonderful job of capturing the sadness of the extinction, or optimistically the near extinction (might it still be found in remote Siberia?), of the Slender-billed Curlew, and what this means to him and maybe to humanity.

He laments:

I wish I had seen one or heard one of these beautiful, delicate birds. A world in which only the robust survive is a dulled and blunted planet; all crows, no colour. But if the reaction of those who did see it . . . is a guide to what it feels like to glimpse one, then perhaps it was better not to have seen it. . . . Perhaps it will live on for many years in unconfirmed sightings. I hope so.

What questions will I ask of the elusive, mythical cranes?


My friend Kevin nailed a Big Year!

Months ago I wrote about Kevin’s determined photo-a-day practice . . . the quality of his shots, the way he kept his creative dreams alive. At the time, it wasn’t clear to me what the time span of his project was; somehow I’d assumed it was ongoing.

Checking his Flickr album for this project, I now see that he in fact executed a 2016 Big Year, exactly as I would. He called it “366 Project 2016” and it’s swoon-worthy. Not a single photo of the 366 misses the mark (I’ve headed this post with his December 19 filing).

Most inspirational!

Defiant Earth by Clive Hamilton

Clive Hamilton always writes cogently and passionately. His latest book, Defiant Earth, is a more difficult read, more technical philosophy than science exposition or polemic, and I confess that although I worked my way through the arguments, my overall takeaway is limited. Nonetheless, it does caution me away from two philosophical/political stances commonly witnessed. Beware the geoengineering gung-ho guys: messing with the atmosphere, for example, is just another iteration of “humans rule,” something they patently never did and don’t now. Be careful also with recently traditional environmentalist fixations on “Gaia,” “the biosphere,” “one species among many,” etc.: we are the only species now walking hand in arm with the planet towards a new future. In other words, the new Anthropocene Epoch is a geological phase in which planet Earth and the only sentient influence, the Human Race, interact. (I’m sure I mistate Hamilton’s formulation, so if interested, read his book.)

The birding big year that isn’t

A day off on Monday. Of course such a drastic step provoked feelings of guilt but we soaked up six hours birding at Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve, seventy kilometers east of Darwin. Swoon! Wonderful species of Flycatcher, the lovely Arafura Fantail, so easy in a new state to accumulate lifers.

If only 2017 was a birding big year, I’d be doing this each day!

A 21st century fear: Have you backed up your data?

After a few days away, I boot up the desktop. It hangs in limbo. I switch it off at the power point. On reboot, all is fine.

A power outage plunges desktop into blank-screen limbo. Restart looks fine except the mouse and keyboard don’t work and panic hits when I don’t have access to any of my files. Googling eventually points out a kludgy solution – maybe the new Windows version snarls up some software, eh?

I cannot describe the terror of losing all my data. I’d rather watch the home burn down. Do I back up often enough? The answer is yes. Are my backups diverse enough? The answer is yes. Is recovery certain? The answer is yes.

Does my fear abate? No.