Author: Summer Bird

Routines II

Getting a routine to stick takes at least two weeks.

Is it worth the bother?

I think so. Knowing what’s coming next brings a feeling of safety in uncertain times.

Routines don’t have to be strict schedules. Those are really hard to stick to. It’s easier when they’re adaptable. In my experience, routines need:

to have purpose. Decide what you really need or want to do each day/week/month.

to have order. Fit your planned activities around the set points of your schedule (meals, regular appointments, etc.) in an order that makes sense. I like to vary my activity level—active chores before/after a lot of sitting down, for example.

to have breathing room. Don’t cram your schedule too full. Life happens. You don’t have to do everything every day.

to change when they aren’t working. Get input from those around you. Think about what things you aren’t enjoying—or keep skipping. Check in regularly.

Do you have a routine? How do you make it work for you?

A Love of Numbers

Have you ever heard about the sculptor that fell in love with one of his creations? It’s perhaps more common than you’d guess. For example, there was a baker who fell in love with her gingerbread recipe. She built an entire house out of gingerbread so that she would never be separated from her dearest love. It didn’t turn out well.

Luckily, this story is not about her. Instead, this is the story of a mathematician who fell in love with a math problem. It wasn’t a particularly lovely equation. It wasn’t the theory of relativity or the Pythagorean theorem, or even Euler’s equation.

But it was a fun problem to spend time with. Sometimes it made him laugh out loud. He’d sit on the couch with a pencil and paper, pick a random number and start computing. If it was even, divide it in half. If it was odd, multiply it by three and add one. Repeat with the new number. Eventually, you always, always return to one.

His colleagues didn’t understand. “Isn’t it a little odd to spend all your free time with that one problem? You aren’t going anywhere or learning anything new.”

“And yet no one knows if there’s an exception to the rule. Isn’t that mysterious? Maybe I’ll stumble across it someday. It would be like the discovery of penicillin. I wouldn’t want to miss out on that because I stopped looking.”

His friends didn’t understand. “Why are you spending so much time writing down that whatever-it-is? You should spend time with us. We’re your real friends, not that stuff.”

“The Collatz conjecture has never let me down,” he protested. “It’s always there for me. It’s dependable and loyal, and yet it still surprises me along the way. What else would I want from a friend?”

“But can the Collatz conjecture make you chicken noodle soup when you’re sick?” they asked.

“No, but I can buy soup at the store. Where can you buy loyalty?”

His mother didn’t understand. “But darling, numbers can’t listen to your problems. Aren’t you lonely?”

The mathematician sighed. “Numbers are excellent listeners. They never interrupt, and they are very reassuring. The Collatz conjecture constantly tells me that everything will work out in the end. It’s always there for me. How could I be lonely?”

His dog didn’t understand. It was jealous of the numbers and tried to eat them up. He didn’t have a dog for long. Luckily, it was much happier living with his mother, anyway.

And while the mathematician grew old, his beloved Collatz conjecture remained timeless and constant. One day, the mathematician had to face the facts. Someday, he would die, and his favorite math problem would go on without him, and it wouldn’t miss him at all.

He looked down at his most recent string of numbers and sighed. How loyal was something that didn’t really recognize your existence to begin with? His love for the Collatz conjecture was one-sided.

The mathematician looked around at his empty house. He contemplated his empty calendar. He looked down at the page full of numbers. “Collatz conjecture,” he said sadly. “I will always love you, but I don’t think this is going to work. Can we remain friends?”

And the mathematician, older and wiser, learned that being friends with people was rewarding in ways that being friends with a math problem was not. Even if sometimes it was more difficult and confusing. Luckily, the Collatz conjecture was still there to reassure and console him when times were tough.

He lived happily ever after. Unlike that poor baker. I won’t say that math is always superior to baking, but in this case, maybe it is.

Flashback Video: Little Peter Bluecoat

This story was originally posted on August 10, 2017. It has some references to a few of my favorite Beatrix Potter stories. I really love her stories and illustrations! However, this story has people as the main characters, instead of animals. It seemed to fit the story better.

Charlie’s Room: Space Cats

“Tell me a story,” Charlie said. He leaned on Isaac’s desk, and a pen rolled off onto his keyboard.

Isaac picked up the pen and set it in the jar of pencils. “I’m working right now. Maybe later?”

Charlie slumped further and some papers crumpled under his elbow. “But I want a story now. Please? I’m bored.”

Isaac turned to look at Charlie. He knew that Charlie had homework to do, and books to read, and a yard to play in. But, he also knew that since the quarantine started everything was different and strange, and Charlie wasn’t the only one feeling unsettled. “Okay. I’ll take a break and tell you a story. How about some cocoa, too?” He shut down his computer.

Charlie followed him into the kitchen and started handing him the ingredients he’d need. He leaned in and watched the small bubbles form on the surface as Isaac stirred. “Is it done yet?”

“Almost.” Soon enough, Isaac was pouring the cocoa into mugs. He left the pot in the sink to soak. Marianne was in the bedroom on a phone call, so Isaac set her mug aside for her. He and Charlie took their mugs to the living room, sat on the couch, and turned to face eachother.

“What do you want a story about?”

Charlie thought for a minute or two. “Space cats.”

That was different. Space cats? “Alright. Space cats. Are they cat astronauts from earth? Do they live on the space station?”

“No.” Charlie frowned. “They always lived in space. They’re space cats.”

“Okay.” Isaac sipped his cocoa while he thought for a moment. Still no ideas. He needed more information. “Do they look like regular cats? What do they eat?”

“They look like regular cats except they’re purple. And they eat shooting stars, if they catch them. They chase them really fast.” Charlie waved his hand back and forth. “Really fast, like that, see?” He waved his hand back and forth a few more times.

“Got it. I’ll see what I can do.” Isaac set his mug down.

“Once, there was a family of space cats. There was a mom space cat, and a dad space cat, and a brave and smart little boy space cat. They lived in space and took naps on asteroids, unless they were in a hurry. Then they napped on comets and got where they were going really quickly at the same time. They were very smart space cats. The mom space cat was the smartest one of all, of course, so it was probably her idea.”

“But what about the shooting stars?”

“I’m getting there.” Isaac took another sip of cocoa, very slowly.

“Daaaaaaad,” Charlie said. “Finish the story.”

“Oh, alright. Let’s see, the space cats liked to nap on asteroids best, because that’s what they ate, so it was nice to stay close to their food. The type of asteroids they liked best were the ones that were fiery hot. They tasted better that way. They heated up when they go too close to a planet and were pulled through the atmosphere really, really fast.”

“Shooting stars!”

“Yup. But they had to catch them before they burned up all the way, and they couldn’t fly as fast in atmospheres, because gravity made things difficult. The little boy space cat was the best at catching shooting stars because he was the fastest. And then, one day, he had a great idea. He thought that they needed to think of a way to heat up asteroids without going into the atmosphere. And then he looked at the bright, shiny, sun”

“The sun is too hot for space cats,” Charlie said. “They’d melt.”

“Yes, and it wasn’t the same thing at all. But it was on fire without any atmosphere at all. He told his parents that they needed to find a way to set asteroids on fire without chasing them into the atmosphere all the time. They needed to find a way to steal a piece of the sun and carry it around with them. The mom space cat had an idea. She said that she remembered seeing a crystal on the other side of the galaxy that was strong enough to hold a piece of the sun. They rode a comet over and found the crystal.”

Isaac took a long sip of cocoa.

“Daaaaaaad.”

“Sorry, sorry. Let’s see. They got they crystal. And then the dad cat thought that if they sent it through the atmosphere and it got hot like a shooting star, it would be like having a piece of sun to carry with them, but not too hot. But they would have to catch it at just the right time. And who was the best at catching shooting stars?”

“The little boy space cat?”

“That’s right. So they sent the crystal into the atmosphere, and he caught it at just the right time, when it was shining its brightest. Then they took it back to an asteroid and used the crystal to cook dinner. A long time later, when it stopped glowing as brightly, what do you think they did?”

Charlie bounced on the cushion in excitement. “They sent it into the atmosphere again and caught it when it was just right!”

“That’s right. And they lived happily ever after.”

Charlie grinned and drank the last of his cocoa in one big gulp. “That was a good story.”

“I think it turned out well. You had a great idea.”

“Like the little boy space cat!”

Isaac nodded. “Just like him. You should write down our story so you don’t forget it. We can make it into a book.”

Charlie jumped up. “I’ll draw pictures, too. It’ll be the best book! We can put it on the shelf with the dinosaur books, and you can read it to me at bedtime.”

Charlie raced away, and Isaac finished his cocoa. He stood to take his and Charlie’s mugs to the sink. Just then, Charlie peeked around the corner. “Dad?”

“Yes?”

“Thank you for telling me a story.”

“Of course.”

And Charlie raced away again, apparently no longer feeling bored and unsettled. Isaac took the mugs to the sink, and smiled when he saw that Marianne’s mug was gone. He hoped her phone calls were going well. Then, feeling less unsettled himself, he went back to work.

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