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Fred's Views

The Retirement File - Installment # 1

I've been retired for a month. My wife claims that I have been semi-retired for years, and she's right. I was fortunate enough to have a job that gave me a great deal of discretionary time. That doesn't mean that it was free time or vacation, although one or two of my colleagues often used it that way. It just meant that I was able to pick and choose what I would do, where I would do it and when I would do it - within reason. If the mood struck me, I worked through discretionary time and then through my own time to complete some task. If the muse was not with me, I dawdled away discretionary time or used it for some more personal task. So, to some extent I was master of my time - and that's what retirement is all about, isn't it?

Unfortunately not. Retirement is what happens to you when you no longer have an excuse not to do the things you've been avoiding doing for the last 35 years. Okay, I haven't been worked to the bone, if only because it's been so d**n hot this July that it would have been insane to do any real work for most of the month. No, we don't have air conditioning - which my computers miss very much. But there is a list, if not yet on paper, of a whole slew of things to be done, many of which I don't want to do, but have not as yet come up with an excuse not to do them. If it sounds like I'm a tad lazy - okay, a lot lazy - so be it. I admit I have never been fond of physical labor.

I would have thought, however, that after spending a good part of the month playing the old war game Empire Deluxe that I would be so sick and tired of it that I would never want to see it again. Not yet. There are three games that have survived the test of time for me. I'm sick and tired of playing Free Cell, but I still play it when I want a quick break. I think the reason I enjoy it so much (even though I'm tired of it) is that it is always winnable. I don't win every time (about 75%), but I know there is always the chance of winning and that keeps me interested. I've adjusted the controls of Empire Deluxe to the point that I am not only virtually assured of winning (against five stupid opponents), but that I should win in less than 125 turns. In a normal game, one would barely get started in 125 turns. I once won in 76 turns, but most of the time I am lucky to break 100. Even so, after about an hour or so, the games starts to get boring. I have often thought what the game needed were paratroopers. I've beaten three of the five opponents, the fourth (and sometimes the fifth) is/are on the ropes, but still have one or two cities left. Unfortunately, the only way to capture the city is with an army or tank unit. The only way to move an army across water is by a slow moving transport ship. So, my enemies don't stand a chance as I have 50 cities for each of theirs, but my transport ship won't reach their city for another ten turns! Oh, the boredom! If only I could fly a few paratroopers over the city and let them attempt to capture it! Once all but one of the enemy has been vanquished, that last enemy may have the good sense to give up. But, as long as there are two or more, they will keep going despite the odds. But I still keep coming back for more mind-numbing conquests. Lest die-hard Empire afficianados barrage me with wicked barbs, let me point out that I deliberately play a very simple, almost strategy-free game. That's the way I like it, but I realize the game is capable of much more strategic game play.

Finally, there's M.U.L.E. It originated with the classic Atari computer way back in 1983. I have never seen it re-released for any 16 or 32 bit game console or computer, but every now and then, we dig out the old Atari 800 and play a game. One thing that the old machines and games had that their modern computer counterparts do not is the ability to have multi-player games. Sure, some games allow you to play over some kind of network in a multi-player scenario, but none allow four people to play on one machine. Then, again, few, if any, of today's games offer the same kind of infectious playability that the classic games did. There are a few exceptions: notably, for me, The Incredible Machine - Contraptions, and The Incredible Machine - Even More Contraptions. But, as usual, I'm straying off topic.

Where was I? Oh yes, retired. Before I was officially retired, I built an octagonal picnic table for our deck. We chose to build just the table, no seats, and have used good-old resin chairs. Lately, I've started working on preparing and repainting some windows that needed it done years ago, when I couldn't find the time. (Or, in plain English, when I could think of an excuse not to do it.) I only spend an hour or so at a time working on it, not only because it's so d**n hot (do you suppose anyone young enough to surf the net would actually be offended if I used that word outright?), but because it cuts into my nap time. Okay, some times I do lay down for a short nap, but only once in a while. However, it does take me as much as three hours to straighten up the kitchen, wash any dishes that need it (as opposed to not washing any dishes that look clean), and preparing supper. Sometimes I even find time to do a load of laundry - though I usually forget about it and don't finish the job once they're dried. Still, as long as it looks like I did something, my wife seems to be satisfied - so far. (As I reported earlier, she is continuing to work for another year or two.)

There is one thing about being retired, really retired: There's no clock to punch, no deadline to meet. If I don't get it done today, I'll just work on it again tomorrow. Or the day after. Unless, of course, I can think of a great excuse that will put it off for a week - or a month.

Copyright © 2002 by Fred Oldfield. All rights reserved.

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