The City of Sophronia

The city of Sophronia is made up of two half-cities. In one there is the great roller coaster with its steep humps, the carousel with its chain spokes, the Ferris wheel of spinning cages, the death-ride with crouching motorcyclists, the big top with the clump of trapezes hanging in the middle. The other half-city is of stone and marble and cement, with the bank, the factories, the palaces, the slaughterhouse, the school, and all the rest. One of the half-cities is permanent, the other is temporary, and when the period of its sojourn is over, they uproot it, dismantle it, and take it off, transplanting it to the vacant lots of another half-city.

And so every year the day comes when the workmen remove the marble pediments, lower the stone walls, the cement pylons, take down the Ministry, the monument, the docks, the petroleum refinery, the hospital, load them on trailers, to follow from stand to stand their annual itinerary. Here remains the half-Sophronia of the shooting-galleries and the carousels, the shout suspended from the cart of the headlong roller coaster, and it begins to count the months, the days it must wait before the caravan returns and a complete life can begin again.

Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

How to save time

Try one of the following:

  1. Learn how to programme the TV recorder in the quickest way. Two buttons, three steps. Take four minutes, not five.
  2. Use a TV recorder to save your favourite TV shows and skip through the ads. Save 30 minutes every two hours.

Or… stop watching the damn TV. Save two hours every two hours.

Don’t save time. If you choose your activities wisely, time saves itself.


See also: https://www.ted.com/talks/laura_vanderkam_how_to_gain_control_of_your_free_time/up-next

Two stories

Today was an awful day. It started with me waking up a little later than hoped. I’d planned to go in earlier, get a head start on the tons of work I’d left outstanding from the previous day. But by the time I managed to get to the station it was peak and the trains were packed, and I barely made it into the first that came my way. An important project I was working on felt impossible; for hours I sat on end looking for solutions, probing but not finding. I left work feeling stressed, exhausted, and defeated, thinking to myself there had to be easier ways to earn my keep. Back at home I decided a run would do me good, loosen me up a little. Putting on my new shoes I headed out. Within 15 minutes the unseasoned shoes rubbed into my skin so badly it started to bleed. Coupled with the fatigue I took home from work, the run was far slower than expected and a complete waste of time.


Today was a great day. Though I’d woken up a little later than I’d hoped, I managed to catch the first train to work despite it being peak (missing two, three trains in a row wasn’t uncommon). I continued my work on that important project – something that’d been causing me a lot of stress of late. And despite spending hours on end I made almost no progress today. No, wait, I lie. I developed 23 solutions that didn’t work, so I’m 23 solutions closer to the one that will. And you know what? I felt great – this was what I signed up for. This is what progress and learning looks like. At the end of the day I was spent and had nothing left to give. I’d given my all, and in a funny protestant-ethic-kind-of-way it made me feel good about myself. Back home, I decided to go for a run. After a day like this, I needed to get out. I put on my new shoes — a great past-season pair that was 40% off retail, can you believe it? — and headed out. 15 minutes into the run they chaffed a little, but it was to be expected; so I went a little slower, taking in the scenery. Halfway along I ran past this 70-something Malay lady on a wheelchair, watching the water, ships, and the opposite shore, while a young man prepared his fishing line and a young woman held the lady’s hand. It was so peaceful; so serene. I had half the mind to just stop and ask if I could join.

Then I realised — I already had.