Monthly Archives: February 2018

Vacation is a break from the routine

Marketing tries to create the perception that vacation consists of consuming goods and services. In my experience, some of the most interesting vacation activities are those that constitute work for some other people. In other words, production, not consumption, is restful. For example, I find fixing bicycles interesting, because the problems encountered are quite different from each other. If the fixes only consisted of patching flat tires, then that would get boring quickly. Similarly, if I had to fix bikes all day long, it would be onerous. But as an occasional break from my usual work (sitting behind a computer), bike repair is interesting and actually restful. Another example is planting trees and removing invasive plants from a woodland – this would get boring and tiring after half a day, but 2-3 hours every few months provides variety. Growing vegetables and fruit is a productive activity that many people do for fun in their garden. Cooking for others is also productive and often done for fun.
I would pay to operate a tractor, an excavator or a crane for a few hours, because I think it would be very interesting. Unfortunately, safety regulations probably forbid an amateur from operating heavy machinery. For the same reason, I cannot drive a truck or weld a ship for fun. Neither can I be an assistant at surgery, handing tools to surgeons, because the job requires training and probably some kind of licence. If it didn’t, I would be interested in observing a surgery first hand. Underground mining would also be interesting to try.
Some work is legal for (mostly) untrained people to undertake, but requires a long-term commitment, for example being a deckhand on a commercial fishing ship. After the first day, the work would get boring, so would not constitute vacation any more. The same may happen after a few days as a field research assistant of biologists, archaeologists or anthropologists in remote areas. The remote area may have its own discomforts and dangers, which are mostly not adrenaline-rich experiences that extreme sports fans would pay for. An example of a boring danger is catching a disease, getting heatstroke or frostbite.
A person who does the abovementioned activities for work would not find them restful. But quite possibly, such a person would find parts of my work fun and would be willing to do them briefly during vacation, for example drawing graphs on a computer or solving a math puzzle.
In summary, a vacation is a break from the routine. Because people’s routines differ, one person’s usual work is another’s interesting vacation activity.

Suit and posture

Suit manufacturers produce for the average body, so for those who are close to that average, off-the-shelf suits fit well. However, the asymmetrical, extremely thin or fat, or otherwise unusually-shaped people either need their suit tailored or must change their posture to compensate, for example bend to one side or pull their stomach in. A compensating posture is often difficult to sustain for more than a few minutes with muscle tension alone. Even a not particularly strenuous posture is forgotten and omitted while doing other activities. One time-honoured solution for keeping a posture is to use mechanical devices to assist – the corset is an old example. A more modern instance was used by Chinese soldiers marching on parade: they put needles in their collars with points toward their neck, as a reminder of the correct head posture.
Someone whose spine is too curved backward or whose shoulders are too far back can compensate by deliberately slouching his posture forward, and thus fit in an off-the-shelf suit. The slouch is not a strenuous posture, but tends to be forgotten. A device that enforces a slight forward bend in the spine is a string with one end tied to the neck and the other to the… down below.