Friday, March 30, 2012

book review: the Power of Habit

This is how much I liked The Power of Habit:  I borrowed it from the library, and I took notes.  I decided notes are not enough, so I bought a copy for myself.  I've been enthusiastically sharing this book with friends, and I'm making my husband read it.  This book melds two things that I love:  science  and translating that science into life.  

The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg, is a book about habits-- what they are, how they are formed, the consequences of habits, and (most interesting to me) how you can change habits and create new ones. I came across an excerpt of this book for this online NYT article about how Target uses statistics to figure out the exact buying habits of each customer, and then predicts future buying habits.  This sounds dry, but Duhigg makes it fascinating.   It is quite eye-opening as to how much humans are creatures of habits-- Duhigg says one study found "more than 40% of actions people performed each day weren’t actual decisions, but habits."   40%.  That is a lot of life to be floating through on automatic. Habits can be little things, such as always turning right when you enter a store, or more complex, such as backing your car from the driveway.  They can be harmless, such as always buying the same toothepaste, or destroy your life, such as gambling. Habits shape our individual lives, public lives, and lives in a community.  Sometimes, changing even one habit (called a keystone habit) can influence everything else we do in our lives without our conscious effort.  The point of this book is to teach us to recognize the huge impact habits have on our lives.  Duhigg emphasizes although we might not consciously perform our habits, once we learn about them, we are no longer blind and we can choose to change them.  

This book is just good. It is an interesting subject, well researched and supported by studies.  Duhigg provides fascinating case studies and examples to illustrate each point.  Most of all, it is a useful book.  I  love the last chapter, in which Duhigg provides a step by step plan to change habits, summarizing all the points throughout the book.  I am a person who loves my routines (which is not necessarily bad), but it is too easy for me to fall into familiar patterns and never try anything new or fix things that need work.  This book opened my eyes to how many things in my life have fallen into routines-- especially things such as how I interact with others, or what I do when I have free time.  I've taken notes and plan on using the methods he explains to create better habits for myself... up first-- a clean house! 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

a visit to the museum of belize

I've wanted to visit the Museum of Belize for a while, mostly because I'm fascinated by the fact that it used to be a prison.  Look how gorgeous this old building is! You would never suspect it was a prison.  Besides the Mayan ruins, there aren't many historical buildings in Belize.... probably because wood doesn't last too long in the tropics, especially when said buildings get hit by hurricanes.

The bricks were brought over as ballast in ships, then recycled into buildings.  I haven't seen many more brick buildings in Belize, so perhaps all the bricks were used here?  Who knows.  But it held up well during hurricane Hattie, when most of Belize city was flattened.

This was a cell.  I could stand in the middle and touch both walls.  Apparently for punishment the window was covered, and the cell would be dark.
I found this prison menu from 1870 quite interesting-- apparently they weren't big on fruits and vegetables back then, which seems strange because of all the fruits and veggies that grow so easily here.  The only veggie was the onions added to the soup on Sundays!
The museum also has some Mayan artifacts, though the majority of things are in museums in other countries (I was actually quite surprised at how few artifacts there were).  Mayans valued jade-- but I had no idea they actually inserted jade into their teeth.  I cringe just thinking about the anesthetic-free drilling that must have been involved.   

This is cool- it is a prehistoric GIANT SLOTH leg bone, found about 15 minutes from where I live.  I wish we still had giant sloths here.

The other reason why I've wanted to visit this museum is their bug and butterfly collection.  It is impressive-- made even more so by the fact that all of it was collected by a mom and her 3 sons.  The only disappointment was that the labeling was very general, and didn't give specific names.

I would love to know what these are called.  They were beautifully iridescent.

These are some of the variations of the Sulfa butterfly.  They are very common here.

And some of the many, many bugs that can be found in Belize.  For my amusement, I put a little butterfly stamp on those bugs that I have personally encountered.  See the one on the bottom with a purple stamp on it?  That is a tarantula wasp.  It eats tarantulas. I saw one dive bombing a tarantula in my front yard once.  And we won't talk about my encounters with scorpions (marked with a green stamp), I have to mentally block it else I'd probably run screaming to the airport. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

what to do for entertainment when there is no cable

"listen have you considered getting Netflix?  Cause I'd really like to watch Downton Abbey, like all the other chicks..."

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


So did I say we have 2 chickens???

Yeah, make that 7. 

Needless to say, we were a bit surprised to find our hen herding her babies into the yard.  She had sneakily hidden her nest, and we didn't know anything about it.   The count as of today is 6 chicks, 6 baby goats, 1 baby horse and 2 baby cows in the fields surrounding our house.  It feels like some strange daycare facility, complete with regular bottle feedings. 

Meanwhile, the chickens are plotting.....

that's right human, just come a liiiitle bit closer.....

Friday, March 16, 2012


Despite my well documented dislike of chickens, we now are the owners of two bantam chickens.  And even though he is 1/3 the size of a normal rooster, this guy is the king of our yard.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

spring babies

We have a new crop of baby goats, two sets of twins and one rather large singleton.  They are, of course, the cutest things ever.  My 6 year old niece put herself in charge of naming the goats.  Therefore, all my nieces and nephews---Mary, Mark, Michael, Johanna and Rafael-- now have fuzzy, bouncy namesakes.

We are bottle feeding the smallest two.  They stay with their mom during the day, but the second we come home they run to us for a bottle.  If you don't immediately comply they latch on to any available body part.... which is usually the top of a boot, since they are only about 12 inches tall.  

It never stops being funny to me when I look out the window and see Daniel, followed by a string of baby goats.  Adding to the fun is our miniature rooster, who runs after Daniel all morning as he does chores.  A rooster running is one of the funniest things you will ever see.  We may not have tv, but we always are entertained....

Friday, March 9, 2012

belize election results 2012

In the States, you always hear that every vote is important, make sure to vote!  but it's hard to believe that one vote means that much.  Belize's elections are different.  The political system is based on the England's, so instead of voting directly for the prime minister, people vote for their local representative.  There are 31 spots for representatives, and the party with the most representatives gets it's party leader as prime minister (the party leader is selected by high up party members, not the people).  This year the UDP (who was the party in power) won 17 representative spots, and the PUP won 14.  One UDP candidate won by 17 votes.  In addition, voter turnout was low.... I think most likely because it rained all day (Seriously. Belizeans across the board hate going out in the rain). Who knows what the results would have been if it was sunny :)  We will have to see if anything changes because of the almost- split results.  The prime minister here has tons of power, but now with so many opposition members as representatives, I think things will be a little less easy for him.  It is an interesting time politically for this small country-- issues such as legalization of homosexuality, offshore drilling for oil, institution of trials without a jury, and nationalization of companies owned by foreign investors are some of the bigger current issues.   The next few years should be quite interesting...

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Prince Harry in Belize: Succotz visit

The thing about small countries is that there aren't that many roads.  So if you know where someone started, and where they are going, there is only one road to stake out.  Which works out nicely when you want to see a Prince.

 I arrived home from the market this morning to a very enthusiastic, flag waving British mother-in-law.  We knew Prince Harry had stayed the night at Chaa Creek resort, which is right up the road from us (this wasn't announced, but when you refinish a road to a resort right before a royal visit, people are going to figure it out).  So we knew the Prince would have to pass by our driveway to get to his scheduled event in Benque in the morning.

Sure enough, he went right by- and waved right at us!  That's his silver range rover in the bottom left corner.  I dropped my camera in surprise when he waved, so  sadly no pictures of that.

Since the next scheduled event was Xunantunich, we decided to stake out the ferry crossing and see if we could catch another glimpse.

On my way in I saw these two little ones, washing old cans in the river to sell for scrap.  They weren't quite sure about a visiting prince.

Lots of people had the same idea I did.....

Including this chicken, who caused some swerving in the royal motorcade.  Welcome to Succotz....

Then Prince Harry arrived.  I was surprised at how casual it all was-- no barricades or anything, and the Prince just got out of his car and walked down to the ferry.

oh, hi!

The media followed. I had some zoom- lens envy.

Prince Harry was scheduled to "christen" a boat for next week's Ruta Maya, which was sitting right in front of me.  They painted on the Queen's Jubilee year logo, pretty neat.

We decided to try and get a bit closer for Prince Harry's return.  The police didn't seem to be very worried about people, so we headed down to the river bank, as close to the ferry landing as we could get.  And it turns out as close as we could get was about 15 feet away from the landing... cause this is Belize, and we don't do "boundaries.'"

Prince Harry christened the boat.... with a bottle of Belikin (Belize's beer).  I find that very appropriate.

Then he crossed back on the ferry with his entourage....

And walked right in front of me.  I might have been waving and yelling hi while taking these pictures.

Evidence that I am not a professional-- Prince Harry walks 15 feet in front of me, and somehow the only post around ends up in my picture:

This one is better :)

And off he went.  The Prince only spent 23 hours in Belize, so I guess he went straight to the airport.  I felt a little bad for him-- the weather is gorgeous and hot today, a perfect day for some swimming, but his schedule was packed (with non-swimming events). 

So that was my first encounter with a prince.  He was so.... normal.  I would never have picked him out from all the other tourists if it wasn't for the motorcade.  I'm not sure how I feel about that, it does shatter some childhood illusions about princes, I think :)

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