The Funny Thing About Productivity

The summer break has passed and so too has most of my free time. Normally, this would upset me but this summer was a bit different than the last three or four.

I have never taken any courses over the summer break, initially because my college had made cuts and consequently did not offer any of the courses I need over the summer semester, and I have kept to this rule even after I transferred to a four-year university. I took the summer breaks, and the free time they afforded me, as an opportunity to focus on personal projects, such as reading books, writing for my blog or other things, and social engagements.

I typically get a lot done over the summer but last summer was a different matter. I wasn’t nearly as productive as I usually am during the summer break and I failed to  complete, or even begin, some of the projects I wanted to work on. I felt very disappointed in myself but, on the other hand, I got plenty of rest and saw friends and family frequently. Sometimes the simple things are enough.

Productivity is a funny thing. I know a lot of it comes down to commitment and perseverance. You can’t just wait for inspiration to motivate you. You have to motivate yourself. I often find this to be a problem for me and a especially difficult problem during the long summer break. The other problem is the illusion of time. Whenever I have lot of time on my hands to do things I tend to put them off, thinking I can always do it later because I have so much time, but in actually, this lends itself to perpetual delay.

Oddly enough, I often feel like I can get more done during the semester, when I have more work to do and much less time for anything else, and I believe this comes done to how I perceive time. Because time is strictly limited and I want to work on personal projects, it is easier to motivated myself because I can’t really procrastinate, and when I need ti put off my personal projects it is typically for very sound reasons. I can be productive even when I’m not working on my personal projects because I have also important work to do for school but during the summer I don’t have this to fall back on.

Next summer may be  a different story. One of the courses required for my major includes a internship, which I suspect (but have as yet not confirmed) may be off-campus, and rather than take it during the Fall or Spring semesters, where the demands on my time and energy are strong, I may take it during the Summer semester. I don’t know whether it will help to improve my productivity but I intend to make it so.

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Hollyhock

The architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright has been a subject of great personal interest for more than a decade. In the last few years I have been fortunate to visit several of his California structures. Today, however, was a special treat because I finally was able to see the Hollyhock house in Los Angeles!

The house recently underwent an extensive restoration and the result is quite stunning. Unfortunately, they don’t allow visitors to takes picture of the interior–so you’ll have to venture there yourself to see just how beautiful it is. You would be better off doing so anyway because a photograph can’t quite capture the experience of being within and moving through a Wright-designed space. Everything detail is worth seeing!

Upon crossing the threshold, I was immediately struck by the low ceiling over the foyer, loggia, and connecting corridors. (Pun intended.) I’m fortunate not to be any taller than I am (6’1″) because the ceiling was, quite easily, only three or four inches above my head! The entryways and foyers of Wright homes frequently feature low ceilings. This as done to increase the visual impact upon entering the large central spaces of the house, which typically feature high ceilings. Normally, I don’t like low ceilings because they seem to make a space feeling uncomfortable more often than not but in Hollyhock they felt well-attuned to the other spaces and perfectly proportioned.

Despite its rather formidable appearance and intricate design, the house feels surprisingly cozy.

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One view of the house.

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One of several decorate urns featuring the hollyhock motif.

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This highly decorated niche once housed a statue of the bodhisattva Tara. She has since moved into the interior of the house.

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This abstract hollyhock motif can be seen all throughout the house, inside and out.

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A view of one side of the house.

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The reflecting pool by the “bridge.”

Cat People, Dog People, and Me

Most people know me as a dog person. This does not mean that I hate cats; it’s just that I find their aggressive non-commitment to me very disturbing. That and they always abuse my kindness. My aunt owns (or rather puts up with) a large Persian cat. In the hallway outside the guestroom there was a dresser, atop which was placed a dish for cat food, and every morning he would sit in front of it and meow mournfully. My heart ached for him, so I filled his dish, and he seemed pleased. The next morning he was sitting on the dresser again, so I filled his dish again, but he wouldn’t eat it. Not knowing what else to do, I petted him for a while, and he began to eat. Stupidly, I thought that might put an end to it. For the rest of my stay he expected me to pet him while he ate his kibble. I suppose he thought his duty to give me some employment.

Don't be fooled! Behind that adorable facade is a being of pure malevolence.

Don’t be fooled! Behind that adorable facade is a being of pure malevolence.

My husband loves cats. Accordingly, his appreciation for dogs is unreservedly negative. He respects the callousness of cat but I can’t quite abide it. Dogs never withhold their love. Well, except for my parents pugapoo, who I suspect was raised with cats before we adopted her. She never wags her tail unless she is about to something. She hides in dark places and springs out of nowhere just to wrap her legs around your ankle and sink her teeth into your tender flesh. She treats my room as though it were her own private den; when we give her a treat, she runs off to my room but without even taking the treat, as if to say, “I’ll take it in my study.”

Obviously, not all dogs are sweet, adorable things. It is for this reason that I consider myself less of a dog person and more of a spaniel person. In 2008 I adopted one from a local shelter and she has proven to be one of the sweetest dogs I have ever known. I would even say she is the sweetest dog.

My adorable little Spunkles.

My adorable little Spunkles.

I decided to call her Spunky, after the dog in Rocko’s Modern Life, and she more than lives up to the name. The people at the shelter told me she was a very vocal dog and indeed she was when she was at the shelter but ever since we brought her home she has been surprisingly quiet. She’s very playful and very affectionate, loves to run around my parents’ large back yard and chasing toys.

She’s very friendly with other people but she tends to ignore most other dogs. When a friend and I took our dogs to a local park, Spunky hardly seemed to notice my friend’s golden retriever. This may have been partly due to a language barrier because my friend and her boyfriend use only German commands with their dog and Spunky uses English commands.

The one exception to Spunky’s standoffish attitude towards other dogs are spaniels. Whenever she sees another spaniel she never fails to take an interest. One of our neighbors once had a spaniel and frequently allowed it to lounge out on the front lawn. Spunky never missed an opportunity to see her little friend on our weekly perambulations. That fact that the other spaniel no longer appears to reside there (after all, we have seen it in many a moon) has not discouraged her from peering into the yard in hopes of seeing it again.

She also likes cats very much but cats don’t really like her. Once, while we were on a walk, she caught the scent of one. She sniffed around eagerly in search of it and found it sitting on the wall framing the yard we were passing. The wall was only about a foot tall, so she was almost face-to-face with it. The cat immediately batted her noise and ran off into the yard. Since then Spunky has had several opportunities to make contact with the various elusive felines that treat our back yard as though it were their own but has as yet had no success.

My husband does not share my love for Spaniels and openly mocks my dear Spunky. It’s not that his remarks are incorrect. She is very stupidly happy and will affectionately love anything that moves. This is why my husband and I have concluded that Spaniels will love anyone, no matter how good or loathsome they may be. If they couldn’t, how else could a man like Richard Nixon have a spaniel named Checkers! Still, while this might seem like a fault to some, it is a quality worthy of the highest praise to me. She is the perfect embodiment of unconditional love. Cat’s are a different matter. They regard their owners with lordly disdain and are only too eager to bite the hand that feeds it … and that’s if you’re lucky! They adore doling out bodily harm with malicious playfulness. It hardly matters whether you deserved it or not. In fact, I rather suspect that cat lovers have a masochistic streak in them. It certainly seems true about my husband’s relationship with his childhood cat. Even though it has long since passed on, it’s memory stills haunts his dreams.

When my husband and I have our own place, we plan to adopt a cat at some point, provided of course that my husband becomes the primary caregiver for it. I can put up with many things but cleaning a litter box is not one of them. Besides, I will likely be able to take my dear Spunky with me and she will offset much of the horror of cat ownership with her sweet, loving, affectionate, adorable self.

Futons Aren’t Forever

I didn’t believe my aunt when she told me that futons are a phase … but, having now used one for seven years, I can wholeheartedly concur with her opinion.

It’s not as if they aren’t useful–in fact, the dual purpose as sofa and bed are quite useful. It’s just that one has to convert it manually and it’s just one of those things one might describe as “easier said than done.” It’s not like I did not have ample warning, not only from my aunt but from the agonied demonstrations of the sales clerk who sold it to me. Perhaps it was because she was petite and I am decidedly not petite but I resolutely believed I would not struggle with it as much as she did.

Nevertheless, I’m not against the futon–but in the future I will use it primarily as a sofa and force my future house guests (and possibly my husband) to the torments of its coily mattress.