Jul 22, 2013

A Quick Happiness Test

OK, so we're all past that whole "seeking happiness" thing, right?

We know life is hard, the human condition includes suffering and despair, and our brains aren't interested in making us happy, only in ensuring we survive? And that life is difficult and absurd with fleeting moments of bliss?


Even so, every now and then comes a reminder that, during times not marred by horrible circumstances, it is indeed possible to choose to be happy, or at least not to be miserable.

Professor Ed Diener is one of the founders of positive psychology and a leading researcher into happiness and well-being. He is profiled in The Age today in 'The Happy Medium' (Michael Short, The Zone).

It's not really news to read that "Happiness is caused by relationships, goals and habits –and not by lots of money", that "happy people are healthier", and that "one of the best ways to be happy is, paradoxically, to not worry too much about being happy, but to focus instead on a goal".

We generally already know that "happiness" (in the sense of contentment or fulfillment), is a combination of a positive outlook, good relationships, having a purpose or goal and/or skill, and acceptance of circumstances.

But even if most of that is fairly familiar to us now, what I liked about this article was the reminder that we can and should seek these things - even while we know, of course, that awful circumstances can and do prevent happiness, and life can be cruel and unfair. But for most of us, life is a combination of good times and bad, so we do have the ability to seek contentment in some form.

The other thing I liked was this quick test to measure how happy you are (in case you are not sure):

Quick happiness test suggested by Michael Short and Ed Diener:
It's this: ask yourself or someone else what are the top 10 things you like to do. Then ask when you last did those things. While there can be compelling reasons why we are not doing what we like - caring for someone, investing time in study or other intensive projects - it's often the case unhappiness is caused by neglecting to do these things.  Crucially, almost without exception those lists contain an overwhelming majority of pastimes that do not require money.
Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/lifestyle/life/the-happy-medium-20130721-2qcrg.html#ixzz2ZlwGJKg9

For example, if you were me your ten (or eleven) things might look something like this:
  • walking
  • reading
  • writing
  • art
  • talking with my kids - especially ideas, theories, how people are, how life is, etc
  • cartoons / humour
  • family gatherings
  • coffee/dinner with friends
  • spending time with or watching animals
  • sitting on grass
  • looking at the sky / stars

I do about half of these often, and the rest quite rarely, though I used to do them often.

It's an interesting point.

Personally I think being "happy" comes from relationships, having enough money so that life is not constantly stressful, being busy without being overly stretched, doing a job you don't hate, and having enough room/time for some hobbies. Sometimes, with luck, we may even manage all those things at once.

There's not much else. We're animals seeking to live, accumulate resources, and if we want to, to procreate. Everything else is a bonus.

What do you think about the happiness test?


Jul 16, 2013

I must confess... I'm trying something I don't know if I can do

I must confess... I am a bit poorly today. The family has been sick with this bronchial thing that has been sweeping Melbourne, and though I thought I had escaped it is now my turn.

I should be sleeping instead of blogging, so I must confess I am going to tap this out FAST and get into my bed.

For those who know me it's no secret I have long harbored writing ambitions. I must confess, those who know me have long stopped expecting me to do anything about it.

But a couple of months ago I started toying with a young adult novel, and I have written... half of a first chapter. I must confess I have become stuck, and am easily distracted reading writing tips and saving writing websites to my new writing folder in my browser favorites. I must confess I spend too much time 'researching' my central theme and plot points and too little time writing.

I must confess I follow writers on Twitter and try to glean wisdom from their tweets and websites, and I spend too much time trying to work out their age and incomes and free time relative to mine. I must confess I know full well no one else is swimming in money and free time and the only real difference between them and me is they are actually WRITING.

I could write if I had a river

However, I must confess I have AT LAST taken some small steps. I fired off a 25-word fiction story to a magazine (baby steps...) and have entered the Australian Writers' Centre Shortest Short Story Competition. You can too - it's here.

I also found inspiration from the Write On linky at BabyBaby, and have started two short stories based on her word prompts. Alas, they are not finished, so I haven't been able to link up anything. But one day...

So that's my confession. What about you? Go on - confess. 
The link is here:  I must confess...

I must confess

Jul 9, 2013

Best Jokes (including one NSFW)

My daughter is currently going through an interest in jokes and pranks, and our house has been hosting joke books from the school library over the last few weeks.

Most of the jokes are terrible, but some are quite funny (and terrible).

Such as:
Little Monster: "Mum, can I eat my fries with my fingers?"
Mummy Monster: "No, you should eat them separately!"

What do you need to know to be a lion tamer?
More than the lion.

Knock knock.
Who's there?
European who?
European in the bathroom and I need to use it!

What do you call a fake noodle?
An impasta.

Knock knock?
Who's there?
Euripides who?
Euripides pants, Eumenides pants.

A guy walks into a diner and sees a horse behind the counter. The guy can't stop staring, which prompts the horse to ask, "What's wrong, you've never seen a horse serving coffee before?"
"It's not that," said the guy. "I just never thought the bear would sell this place."

And my personal favorite:
A man went to the vet to collect his his sick dog. The vet came in carrying the dog and said, "I'm really sorry, but I'm going to have to put your dog down."
The man burst into tears. "Why?"
"Because he's too heavy."

Some of these needed some explaining to the kids, whose favorite joke at the moment is that childhood classic:
Why shouldn't you play Go Fish in the jungle?
Because it's full of cheetahs!


Reading all these jokes reminded me of a couple of my favorites.

This one is on a Reddit thread What's the most intellectual joke you know?, and got quite a laugh at work. For those who work with (not in) IT:
A programmer's wife sent him to the shops with this instruction: "Get a loaf of bread, and if they have eggs, bring back a dozen."   The man came home with 12 loaves of bread. 

This one I saw on TV from a comedian who I had never thought was funny, and I laughed out loud, and then couldn't stop laughing, for two days. Warning - it is RUDE:
A man goes to his doctor for a physical.  The doctor says, "You're going to have to stop masturbating."  The man says "Why?"  The doctor says, "Because I'm trying to give you a physical."

And finally, the piece de resistance: here is my favorite joke, my "go-to" joke (do you have one?) for when people ask you to tell a joke. This won me a hamper in a work competition a couple of years ago, and it was apparently voted somewhere some time (where I first read it), the funniest joke ever.

It is the funniest joke ever!
A city guy went to visit his farmer friend in the country.  His friend met him at the gate and said he still had some work to do, but suggested, "Why don't you take my gun and my dogs and go hunting?"  So the city guy took his friend's rifle and whistled for the dogs, and they set off.  Five minutes later he was back.  "That was great," he said.  "Do you have any more dogs?"

Got any good jokes? Share in the comments!

Jul 8, 2013

I must confess... I love your blog

Oooh, tricky. I've been looking for a linky I can get into for some time, since a couple of my favourite ones wound up, and have decided to try out this one.

The linky is "I Must Confess..." by Kirsty at My Home Truths, this week hosted by Rhianna at A Parenting Life.

But, I suppose fittingly enough for a confession theme, this week's topic is a bit difficult.

It's "blogs you love".

I like lots of blogs, but I can't list them all here. I also don't want to hurt anyone's feelings or have anyone whose blog I read think I don't like it.

(Fact: if I read or comment on your blog, I like it).

My blog reading and tracking is also a bit of a mess at the moment. Here are all the ways I am following blogs at the moment:

  • updates on my Blogger dashboard
  • blogs I've liked on Facebook
  • blogs I've subscribed to by email
  • blogs I catch up with via Twitter
  • blogs I've followed on Bloglovin
  • blogs I've linked to on Networked Blogs
  • clicking on blogs listed in my sidebar
  • clicking on blog shortcuts I've saved to my phone's home screen
  • clicking on links I've saved to my browser favourites

So I'm a bit all over the place, and not all the blogs I follow/like are even listed on my sidebar.

I'm also not going to list ALL my favourite ones here - it would take too long. So here are just a few, that I tend to read most often.  In no particular order:

Cranky Old Man - Joe worked in finance and is cranky, so I relate to a lot of his thoughts. He is also prolific, posting every day and always good, funny, thoughtful stuff.
 You Learn Something New Every Day - I really like this premise (as it's true) and the way Emily has structured her blog, each post reminding us of this simple, pleasing fact.
My Unwelcome Stranger - Denis blogs about life seen through the lens of living with serious illness. As he is also a historian his blog is beautiful with memories, culture and history, as well as general observations. 
A Patchwork Life - Tracey does beautiful crafts and takes equally beautiful photos, making me realise for the hundredth time how crap I am at photography. She is also often parenting alone - like me!
 Adventures of a Middle Aged Matron - Anna writes about life as a vicar's wife and parent to teenagers and her writing is absolutely top-notch. Lovely blog.
 AMFYOYO - Meggsie's blog is simple, very well written, and great. She doesn't write as often as others, but every post is a gem. She's also honest in a real way, with complaints about her husband and kids that make you gasp, laugh and nod all at once. Great reading.
The Plastic Mancunian - makes me snort out loud. Read his latest on email.
Blurb From the Burbs - come back, Kath!
Princess Pandora - life from a (usually) different perspective to mine
Decoding the New Economy - the kind of economic analysis I love

Blue Milk, Science of Mom, Caro and Co, Life in a Pink Fibro.... but really, I must stop.

What are YOUR favourite blogs? 
(Apart from this one, of course..!)

Link up to A Parenting Life here

The usual location of I Must Confess:


Jul 7, 2013

Do discounts exist?

There is a joke about economists that goes like this:

A man walking down the street finds a twenty-dollar bill on the ground. He pockets it and tells his friend, an economist, about his good fortune:  "I found twenty dollars on the street today!"

"You couldn't have," the economist replies. "Someone would have picked it up already."

I tend to think like that economist. I'm skeptical of discounts and think most are a waste of time; it's a rare occasion to truly get a discount win.

For this reason I've never bought an Entertainment Book - until this year. I temporarily shed my grumpy cynicism and forked out $65, thinking at least it helps the school fundraising, and at least it may get us out on a few good memory-making family expeditions.

So yesterday we went to the Melbourne Aquarium. This, like the zoo, is a once-every-two-years kind of expedition for us because while great, it's pretty expensive.

I looked up the Entertainment Book coupon ("good for one general admission when another general admission is purchased"), then looked up the ticket prices online.

You can buy tickets cheaper than at the door by buying them online and printing them out; this would have cost us $83. A family ticket at the door costs $92.

The Entertainment Book coupon cannot be used for online tickets, so it is only a discount on the door price. Which we would not have paid, because without the Entertainment Book we would have bought the online tickets.

Our other option was for me to take the kids when Y. was working, which would have been a fair bit cheaper, but would have blown the whole "family day memory building" thing. Also, would the Entertainment Book coupon have let me take in one child free? It wasn't clear if "general admission" included a child ticket, but I assumed they'd allow it.

Here is how the ticket prices stacked up:
  1 Adult Walk-in price 35.00  
  1 Adult Online price 28.00  
  1 Child Walk-in price 21.50  
  1 Child Online price 17.50  
  Family (2 adults, 2 children) Walk-in price 92.00  
  Family (2 adults, 2 children) Online price 83.00  
2 adults and 2 children priced separately instead of as Family,
  plus discount for one adult with Entertainment Book coupon:  
  1 adult @ 35, 1 adult free with Entertainment Book, 2 children @ 21.50 78.00  
  Actual price: Family with Entertainment Book   72.00  
  1 Adult and 2 children Walk-in price 65.00  
  1 Adult and 2 children, bought separately online (not a special online) 63.00  
  Hypothetical: 1 Adult and 2 Children with Entertainment Book:      
  1 adult @ 35, 1 child @ 21.50, 1 child free with Entertainment Book coupon 56.50  

So all four of us went and we paid $72 with the Entertainment Book. Although that's officially $20 off the walk-in price, it's an effective discount of only $11, since without the Entertainment Book we would have bought the online tickets for $83.

If I had gone with the kids, the Entertainment Book would have given us only an effective discount of $6.50, being the difference between the cheapest online tickets ($63) and $56.50

So, no huge discount for us in this case.

Of course $11 is better than nothing. But at this rate, and if I'm looking at the Entertainment Book in purely financial terms, that's a lot of family expeditions to make the $65 outlay "pay for itself".

Oh I know, I know - family tickets are already a "discount" over 4 single tickets. But are they really? Or are single tickets overpriced to make the more commonly purchased family tickets seem cheaper?

But anyway, we had a nice time, and the fish were pretty. 

And the penguins are most excellent. In fact, I resolve to spend the rest of my life looking at penguins and feeling happy.

What do you think? Can you get a good discount? 

Jul 4, 2013

Pictures From Thessaly, Greece

A year ago we were in Greece, having the BEST family holiday.
I am still to make up photo books to send our relatives there, so I'm organising my photos now to get that done.

Meanwhile, in the midst of winter here in Australia, here is a little bit of remembered summer from Thessaly, central Greece.

Elassona, Olymbos

Drymos Elassona - Y's village, and family home

My mother in law's front porch where we sat and drank coffee and whiled away the mornings and late afternoons

View across neighbor Marianthi's house to Olympus

The back garden 

Approaching Drymos from Elassona

views from the road to the village

approaching Drymos

My mother in law's front yard and sister in law Vicki's beloved cats

The family's old sheep run, where we collected pears from a tree. Unfortunately, they were awful.

Drymos is from an old word for "oak forest" and has about 750 residents. It is known for agriculture and goat herding and the festival of the prophet Elijah on July 20 - which, thanks to my broken arm delaying our flights home, we got to stay for last year.

Afissos, Pelion

Afissos is near Volos in the Pelion region. Y's friend has a restaurant there - Selini - which is featured here in the photos of blue check tablecloths and the first photo below.

Selini restaurant

For some unknown reason I didn't get any photos of Mt Pelion itself, or the beautiful mountaintop village of Tsagarada which has a spring with the purest and most delicious water I have ever had anywhere, in the world.  But you can see and read a bit about them here.

Leptokarya, Pieria

 From Y's village we drove up and over Mt Olympus...

... with a stop at the mysterious "magnetic" area that appears to make water and cars in neutral run uphill (but which may just be an optical illusion)...

...and into Leptokarya, which is a beach resort which doesn't look like much at first glance but is a gateway to other beautiful beaches and a different side to Greece than I had seen before.

It also has a summer carnival, which was fun for the kids.

Pantelimona, Pieria

The spot I immediately wished we'd stayed in instead of Leptokarya. Tiny, very very quiet, and beautiful.

Scotinos and Platamonas, Pieria

Beautiful, vast quiet beaches and lovely scrubby nettly roads all around.

Until next time, glorious Greece... Filakia! (kisses)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...