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In Erice, Sicily, Italy4:00 PM. If I don't drop dead in the next eight hours, I'll reach my 71st birthday at 00:00 hours, January 11, 2013. To the left, a relatively recent photo. If I post a photo every birthday, you can review them annually and watch me slowly going downhill. Note 1 

The photo was taken about three months ago, in the town of Erice, in Sicily (Italy). Since in this entry I'm going to talk a bit about my retirement activities, and one of them is travel, I might as well start by saying a little bit about the photo. It shows me in full tourist mode.

The blue jeans I'm wearing are from the TravelSmith catalog. They have a hidden zippered security pocket inside one of the back pockets. Wearing jeans used to mark you as an American tourist, but no longer - we have exported the wearing of blue jeans to the entire world. On the other hand, I probably still am not likely to be taken for a native Italian.

Notice my black "fanny pack", although I wear it in front, not in back, for security. The waist strap is slash-resistant, containing two steel cables. When traveling, the pack holds my camera, my smart phone, and my European cell phone. The smart phone, a Samsung Galaxy S III on the Verizon network in the US, should eventually have GSM capability in Europe. But that feature awaits a software update, yet to arrive five months after the phone was purchased.

If I'm heading to a museum, the fanny pack has room for my computer glasses, which focus at around 60 cm (24 inches). It also holds a pen, small guidebooks, and other information that I might have on paper. Note 2 

Note my flip-up sunglasses, useful in mountainous areas where I drive in and out of tunnels. My fleece jacket from Eastern Mountain Supply is the sort of layering garment that's useful for travel. It was handy that day in Erice, a town high on a rocky outcropping. The cold wind and fog came and went. For most of our tour of Sicily, it was quite hot, and no jacket was needed.

Finally, my Filson hat, with a snug band that conforms to my head, and allows it (the hat) to stay on even in high winds. It presses flat for packing.

Because I started my blog on my birthday in 2010, this entry marks its third anniversary. This is entry number 162, and last year's birthday entry, entitled 70, was number 113, for a total of 49 entries during the year. So I posted one a week, missing only three (September 27, and October 4 and 11) while on vacation.

It's hard to believe that I've now been retired for more than nine years, my last day at work having been October 31, 2003. Before retiring, I thought long and hard about how I would occupy my time, and whether or not I would find myself bored. I put a lot of time into that decision, because I viewed it as irrevocable. As an electrical engineer working, in the latter part of my career, mostly in software, I knew that after a year or two away from work, I would become technically obsolete.

I'm happy to say that I have not regretted my decision. I spend my time primarily on three things. First, I've continued my study of foreign languages, keeping up with French, Spanish, and Italian. Second, I now spend quite a bit of time writing this blog, although as noted above I've only been doing that for the last three years. Third, I volunteer at my Alma Mater, MIT (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology). I volunteer at MIT's Venture Mentoring Service, helping startup companies, and I'm president of the MIT Class of 1963.

To say a few words about the above three items: French is the best of my foreign languages, and I keep it up by participating in a discussion group called Le Cercle Français every two weeks. Click the next link to see my blog entry on how I came to join Le Cercle Français. Margie also studies French, and we typically vacation in France every other year.

My Spanish and Italian are weaker, and I maintain them by taking lessons. I study Spanish every Tuesday evening with a Spanish conversation class at Concord-Carlisle Adult and Community Education. And I'm currently taking small group Italian lessons through Italian with Sabrina. We typically vacation in Italy the years we're not in France. See my blog entry Tyranny of the clock if you want to understand why we seldom vacation in Spain, although Margie does want to visit Barcelona.

I haven't been putting a really major effort into any of these languages recently. My efforts are primarily to simply maintain the level of proficiency that I have, since with foreign languages, it's "Use it or lose it".

Writing my blog entries often takes a day or so of work for each one, but apart from vacations, I haven't missed a week.

I've gotten a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction out of my work with MIT's Venture Mentoring Service. I've helped mentor a number of startup companies - see for example my blog entry Sleep deprivation - scroll down to the section on Clocky.

My MIT class presidency will occupy quite a bit of time in the first half of 2013, because my class has a fiftieth reunion coming up in June. And I'm currently also acting class webmaster, so I'm maintaining the Class of '63 web page, which you can see by clicking that link.

One activity I thought I might get into in retirement is commercializing some of my inventions, of which I have quite a few. I even asked for help on some of my ideas from the Venture Mentoring Service. Although I normally work with them as a mentor, I made myself into an entrepreneurial venture, and took advantage of their services myself. The session reminded me how much work it is to start a small company, something I should have remembered well, but had managed to minimize in my thinking.

In the end, I decided that I really like being retired, and don't want to go back to a 40 hour a week job (let alone the 80 hours a week usually required for a brand-new company). Thus, so far, I haven't pursued any of my ideas. And of course, you can't sit on these things for very long. If you think of something, others are thinking of it as well. New ideas often have a fairly narrow window in which they can be commercialized.

I've noted that in retirement, one's approach to time changes a bit. I always relaxed by doing a daily crossword puzzle, and then when they came along, Sudoku and KenKen puzzles. But I now spend even more time on these pursuits, as well as that potentially infinite time waster, the Internet. I can spend hours surfing the web, jumping from one interesting article to another. I don't feel under any pressure to accomplish anything. This is both good and bad.

Of course, it goes without saying that I also spend quite a bit of time on personal, family oriented activities, spending time with my wife Margie, and my children, other family members, and friends. And there are always things that need to be done in life - preparing meals, paying bills, making repairs, cleaning, and so on. I enjoy my weekly trips to the Wayland dump, technically called the Wayland transfer station. It has an interesting give-and-take area, and I find some of my books at their book exchange.

These more personal aspects of my life are due for a major change. My older daughter Elissa got married in December, 2011, and is now expecting a baby girl. Thus I'm looking forward to becoming a grandfather for the first time in March, at the age of 71. Since Elissa and her husband Ryan live nearby, and welcome our involvement (within reason, I assume), this will open up a whole new world of retirement activities. Between my new granddaughter and the MIT reunion, 2013 should be a busy and interesting year.

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© 2013 Lawrence J. Krakauer   Click here to send me e-mail.
Originally posted January 10, 2013

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Footnotes (click [return to text] to go back to the footnote link)

Note 1:   I first came across this concept in the book The Last Hurrah, by Edwin O'Connor. It was based on the career of Boston Mayor James M. Curley. The book was later made into film that starred Spencer Tracy.

Towards the end of the book, when the mayor (called Frank Skeffington in the book) is in the hospital, one of his political cronies shows up with a new invention at the time, a Polaroid camera. He proposes taking a picture of the patient every day, so that by comparing them over time, he can see if the subject is improving, or gradually getting worse.   [return to text]

Note 2:   Margie generally carries one credit card that I don't carry, and I carry one that she doesn't carry. That way, if one of us is robbed, but not both, we retain at least one card that doesn't have to be canceled. I also carry a list of bank contact numbers, and any other information that would be needed to cancel credit cards and ATM cards. This is a bit tricky, since it seems to be a good idea to be able to give the bank the number of the card you want canceled. But it's not a good idea to carry a printed list of all your card numbers. I do carry such a list, but the numbers are encrypted.

My concern with security when traveling is not because I think that the risk of theft is much higher overseas than it might be in, for instance, Boston or New York. It's because if you are the victim of a theft while overseas, the inconvenience is much greater than if you are at home. It's generally a good idea to take reasonable precautions, and then not worry excessively about the possibility.   [return to text]

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