Thought Leadership

I am entertained

By Colin Walls

I am not very good at doing nothing. I do not mean that I work all the time. I need relaxation, but the term means different things to different people. Some years ago, we were on vacation and I spent a large part of the day exploring along the coast. I posted a screenshot from my phone on Facebook that showed that I had done 28,000 steps. A friend commented: “What are you doing? You are supposed to relax on vacation!” He was right, but did not realize that, for me, this was relaxation …

So, if doing nothing is not a relaxation option for me, what is?

There are times when I might appear to be doing nothing except looking at a view. I will be thinking. My mind will be skipping from one thing to another. I am reminded of the joke about the old country yokel who says: “Sometimes I sits and thinks. And sometime I just sits.” My mind is almost never clear, which probably explains why I am not a good sleeper. This also means that I do not have a great attention span. Recently I have found that, while doing yoga, I can just about “switch off” and be in the moment, but even that does not last very long.

One of my great pleasures in life is reading. Getting lost in a book is about the best relaxation that I do. Having said that, reading for more than 30 minutes at a stretch is, for me, unusual. On long-haul flights I ensure that I board with a well-loaded and fully charged Kindle, as with such enforced relaxation, I need to cope and reading does it.

I am not so good with broadcast media. I like [talk] radio, but that only really works for me when I am doing something else – cooking or driving, for example. TV is just ridiculous. I do watch some TV, but 2 hours in a week would be a lot. I occasionally peruse the schedules to seek something worth watching, then turn to catch-up services and Netflix/Amazon and commonly give up. I think the worst case is TV news, which is [IMHO] a great way waste your life. In a 30 minute show they seem to deliver, at most, 90 seconds of information; the rest of the time is filled with the ramblings of people, who are no more qualified than I am to have an opinion, giving their [often annoying] opinions.

I like almost any kind of live performance – typically music or theater. I do not mean that all performances are good – we have left a few things early over the years! – but, as a genre, I find they can often hold my attention. As a result of this preference, we took out “Gold” membership of our excellent local theater. For the annual fee, we get 30 tickets to plays etc. and various other perks. When we first joined, I created a spreadsheet to track our activity to check whether we were getting good value for money. We actually get very good value! The theater tickets alone are typically worth around twice what we pay. The other thing, which initially seemed a “nice to have”, that we have grown to value, is movie tickets. We get 2 tickets free for every movie they show – and they show [I estimate] around 100 per year.

We do not go to every movie, but I have become increasingly enthusiastic about the medium. Somehow, I can usually maintain attention for 2 hours or so in a dark movie theater [though I am told that I did take a short snooze when we were there yesterday]. I wondered how many movies we have seen lately. My spreadsheet provided the answer:

  • 2013: 14
  • 2014: 15
  • 2015: 37
  • 2016: 29
  • 2017: 32
  • 2018: 40
  • 2019: 48

Apart from the slight glitch in 2015, we seem to be on a steadily increasing curve. I guess that this year might come out to be one per week!

I try to avoid reading reviews of movies before we go; I prefer to make up my own mind. But I do enjoy delving into IMDB when I get home. As a precaution, I always book aisle seats [I think that F1 and F2 may have our names on them] in case we want to make a quiet get-away. We have yet to exploit this possibility.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at