The dream of rejuvenating the aged by the infusion of young blood is much older than anyone living. It is said that the Scythians thought to make themselves strong by drinking the blood of their enemies killed in battle. And Dracula kept himself youthful by drinking the blood first of young maidens visiting Transylvania and later of maidens in England once he had moved there.
Blood is not the only tissue that has been thought to protect and rejuvenate the elderly. In the 1920s a Franco-Russian surgeon named Serge Voronoff transplanted monkey testes into men (some of them eminent, for example Kemal Ataturk) whose virility had declined, and claimed that it worked. He made a fortune but soon became the object of mockery and scorn, dying in prosperous obscurity in Switzerland in 1951.
There is always an air of charlatanry about those who claim to be able to turn the biological clock back (it is easy to find smooth-talking promoters of recaptured youth on the internet, for example), but a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that some of the old ideas about the rejuvenating qualities of young blood may not have been quite so far-fetched after all. It is early days to proclaim that eternal youth is around the corner, and personally I am not sure I would want it even if it were, but according to the author a technique known as heterochronic parabiosis has retarded or reversed the aging process in mice. It is, of course, some distance from Mouse to Man.
You don’t normally think “cultural commentary” when you watch a Paul McCartney video. But, with his latest video release for the song Appreciate, the septuagenarian King of Rock continues to pull new tricks from up his sleeve. This time, a catchy song and dance number transcends the usual McCartney fantasyland, providing some smart commentary on human culture in an increasingly technological environment. In McCartney’s museum, the humans doing everyday things are the displays to be studied by a robot known as “Newman”. An artistic interpretation of left and right brain segments is displayed as McCartney walks this New Man (get it?) through the exhibit, counselling him on human behavior and how to groove. By the end of the video, even the humans are getting into the act, dropping their technological fancies in favor of dancing to the beat.
The robot itself shouldn’t come as a surprise to hardcore McCartney fans. Back in October, when he graced the cover of Rolling Stone McCartney commented on visions of a robot, possibly influenced by one of his favorite stories shared with his 10 year old daughter, Beatrice, is The Iron Giant. In press for the video’s release, McCartney commented:
“I woke up one morning with an image in my head of me standing with a large robot. I thought it might be something that could be used for the cover of my album ‘NEW,’ but instead the idea turned out to be for my music video for ‘Appreciate’. Together with the people who had done the puppetry for the worldwide hit ‘War Horse,’ we developed the robot who became Newman.”
Having developed a keen interest in filmmaking when he was still one of the Beatles, McCartney has come a long way with his films from his first directorial foray, 1967′s Magical Mystery Tour. Far from the acid-induced country bus tour, Appreciate provides an up-tempo perspective on the 21st century from the guy who, not long ago, was singing about his Ever Present Past.
Yet it isn’t Microsoft that’s keeping Macca relevant among Generation Hashtag; cultural commentary aside, McCartney still knows how to rock a beat. Dubbed a “remarkable album” by POPMatters, NEW was ranked the 4th best album of 2013 by Rolling Stone. Transcending the pop fluff that perpetuated so many of his hits in the 70′s and 80′s, McCartney has entered a new era as much motivated by experimentation as reflection.
McCartney is set to tour with Newman in Japan. Perhaps a Godzilla mashup is already in the works.
Recent surveys highlight the fact that seniors lag behind the younger generation in the adoption and usage of technology. Based on interviews with more than 1500 adults age 65 and over, Pew researchers found they could roughly divide senior citizens into two groups. The first group is “younger, more highly educated, or more affluent.” They are far more technologically connected and demonstrate more positive attitudes toward the benefits of the modern digital world. In fact, this group uses the internet at rates approaching — or even exceeding — the general population. The second group is “older, less affluent, often with significant challenges with health or disability.” They are less connected and more wary of the Brave New World of digital platforms. Internet use drops off dramatically after age 75.
Here are some other facts about seniors and technology use:
1. 59% of Seniors Use the Internet
In 2012, 59% of seniors were internet users, up six percentage points from the previous year. In 2014, 47% of seniors have a high-speed broadband connection at home and 77% have a cell phone (up from 69% in 2012). According to the Brookings Institute, seniors spend most of their time online communicating with friends, shopping, and searching for health information.
In Which The Writer Takes A Curtain Bow.
You’ve probably noticed a marked lack of updates on the getting healthy in thirteen weeks post. At least I hope you did, because otherwise I’m going to go in the backyard and eat worms.
Okay, let’s suppose you did notice I was gone (“How can we miss you, if you just won’t go away?) and were wondering where this series had gone.
First let me explain how things have been going: we’re three weeks in. I’ve lost six pounds, slept better and not gotten sick. The last is a bit of an achievement.
I’ve cut down on carbs, except for today (there’s a long story behind that, but let’s just say today was a bad day. Tomorrow is not defined by today and I’ll get back on that horse.) I’ve taken a walk every day that’s been at least 20 at a time I can walk (unfortunately, that’s about 3 days in the last three weeks.) I have tried to do stuff around the house that can be considered “exercise.” This has not included formal exercise, more’s the pity. And I’ve done exactly zero relaxing/fun activities, though I’ve tried to persuade one of my best friends that doing covers actually falls under that category. It does, I think, or at least it “pulls from the same side” and is fun – sort of – because I’m learning so much new stuff. It’s not exactly or fully relaxing though, because it’s stuff that must be done.
And here we come upon the purpose of this post.
I’ve mentioned before that when my husband and I were first married, we were so ridiculously, so profoundly broke that we couldn’t make a budget. Whenever we made a budget we always came to the same conclusion “there’s no way we can survive this month.”
But we always sort of did. Because one month when we’d hit rock bottom, had an empty fridge and $5 in the bank, they had a sale on chicken in the nearby supermarket. We bought two chickens, roasted them, and lived on chicken for a week. Another time Dan’s company had a party, and he brought back enough sandwiches to last us for two weeks. (They’d seriously overbought food.) Another time the store I worked for threw away a whole bunch of candles and knick knacks while clearing a back storage room. So, I told Dan to drive around back, and we had a garage sale, which allowed us to replenish food AND (very important and how you know we were newly weds) toothpaste until the next pay check.
So we coasted from pay check to pay check, dependent on miracles, until we started making a little more, and we could survive without these harrowing incidents. Then we budgeted, but it was so tight that if we had to buy saline solution one week, it threw us off.
Anyway, I’ve jokingly said that’s how tightly budgeted I am on time. This is part of the whole “Taming the workmonster” thing with Charlie.
There is nothing quite as difficult to predict as the future. In my lifetime I have already lived through an “inevitable” ice age that never materialized and “inevitable” mass starvation (through overpopulation) that also never happened. When I was in Central America I remember reading a book called Inevitable Revolutions by the historian Walter LaFeber, but more than a quarter of a century later the inevitable still had not taken place. By now, according to predictions, most of us should have been dead from AIDS, that is if variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease or Ebola virus had not got us first. The repeated failure of confident predictions is therefore almost enough to make one sceptical of dire visions of the future. Only the sheer pleasure of contemplating catastrophe to come keeps the market for apocalypses alive.
One of our present concerns in the western world is the rapid aging of the population. Never have so many people lived to so ripe an old age, and this at a time when the birth rate is falling. Who is going to support the doddering old fools who will soon be more numerous than the energetic and productive young?
A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine points out that something unexpected has happened to confound the gloomy prognostications of epidemiologists and demographers. As the percentage of people surviving into old age increases, so the proportion of them who suffer from dementia decreases. People are not only living longer, but living better. This is a phenomenon that has happened across the western world.
The article states that “in 1993, 12.2% of surveyed adults 70 years of age or older [in America] had cognitive impairment, as compared with 8.7% in 2002.” Similar results have been obtained elsewhere. In the light of this unexpected and unpredicted trend, estimates of the prevalence of dementia in England have had to be revised downwards by 24 percent. The burden of the elderly on the economy will therefore not be as great as was feared.
What accounts for the decline in the prevalence of dementia?
The Most Controversial Voice Ever in in the History of Recorded Music, Steve Taylor, is Back. And He’d Better Behave. (UPDATE)
Since I gave up hope of ever expecting to hear from Steve Taylor again, I felt a lot better. Because I blame Steve Taylor for pretty much everything.
Sure, I could blame myself for picking up his Meltdown record back in 1984. That was a fateful choice. But I was a kid. How was I to know how damaging that record would turn out to be?
Steve Taylor was already controversial back then. He had debuted in 1983 with a mini-LP (that was a thing in the 1980s, Google it), I Want to be a Clone, that made an awful lot of people mad at him. They had every right to be. In “Bad Rap” he seethed “You save the whales/You save the seals/You save whatever’s cute and squeals/But you kill that thing that’s in the womb/Would not want no baby boom.” Green Peace denounced it, but they couldn’t deny it. In the title song, he mocked “Be a clone and kiss conviction good night/Clone-liness is next to Godliness, right?/I’m grateful that they show the way ’cause I could never know the way/To serve Him on my own?/I want to be a clone!”
Then he did it again, in “I Manipulate.” There was pretty much no one and no issue that Steve Taylor wouldn’t write about. He’s arrogant like that.
To a 14-year-old Christian, Taylor’s mix of art, humor, rebellion, truth and nasal vocals was just too much to resist. “We Don’t Need No Colour Code” beat up on Bob Jones before it was a mainstream thing. The haunting “Hero” took the nice-boy notion of being something more than another corporate type and turned it all on its head. “Meltdown” burned the rich and famous long before the Kardashians showed up to beg for every thinking person’s derision.
Then, there was this hideous cover photo on CCM. It set the magazine publishing industry back 10 years. The music industry almost never recovered.
Steve Taylor taught me that it was possible to be right with God and still have a healthy skepticism for those who claimed to speak for Him, and that it was possible to make a difference in one way or another. What a jerk. I’d probably be rich and own a Gulfstream if not for him.
Taylor’s entire career is littered with wickedness. He ripped amoral state-run education in “Lifeboat” decades before CSCOPE and Common Core showed up. He tore up celebrity cults in “Jim Morrison’s Grave.” Then he got lost in “Sock Heaven.” I followed him the whole time, and even saw him wear a bizarre confetti suit in concert once. But it’s all his fault.
The reason I started caring about issues more than just having a regular job? At least partly Steve Taylor’s fault. The reason I started wanting more from the artists I support than just a good back-beat I can badly dance to? Also partly Steve Taylor’s fault. My collection of Flannery O’ Connor books? His fault too. Have fun Googling that one. The two years I wasted in the Hindu Kush searching for the perfect backup band? Totally Steve Taylor’s fault. The money I blew on yodeling lessons because he made the Swiss mountain call rock star cool? Absolutely, 100% Steve Taylor’s fault. I’ll never forgive him. Neither will anyone who’s ever heard me yodel.
So now he’s at it again. After 20 years of producing hits like “Kiss Me” with Sixpence None the Richer, being the shadowy hand behind the Newsboys (yep, they’re both his fault) and making movies, Taylor is going to inflict himself on the music world again. And I’m ashamed to admit that I’ll be right there with him. I’m already backing his next album on Kickstarter. I can’t help myself. If you know what’s good for you, you won’t join in. But I’m living proof that people who like Steve Taylor never seem to know what’s good for them.
Update: I’m not sure yet who deserves the most blame, but they’ve made their goal. There WILL BE another Steve Taylor album.
We're all slightly in shock at the size and speed of your generosity. I'll send out a video update later today. http://t.co/Am5B7kGwgh
— Steve Taylor (@theperfectfoil) November 27, 2013
I have not set foot inside a Blockbuster during this century — and apparently the same was true for just a lot of former customers:
Blockbuster, the video rental chain that’s been pummeled by the rise of digital and on-demand entertainment, said it will close its 300 remaining U.S. stores by early January.
The Blockbuster By Mail service will end in mid-December.
Blockbuster’s current owner, DISH Network Corp., said there will be about 50 U.S. stores operated by franchises not affected by the announcement. But DISH said it is also closing all its U.S. distrubution centers.
Talk about bad management. Blockbuster was late to the party on three new forms of video distribution: mail, internet, and kiosk. They got trounced once by Redbox and twice by Netflix. They were slow to change, apparently figuring that people really liked standing around on cheap carpet under bad lights where the whole world could watch them trying to decide between Mack Chestwell Blows Everything Up Real Good or Bikini Girls III: Revenge of the Sling.
Netflix came along with a nifty web front-end for a mail delivery-and-return rental service. By the time Blockbuster had a decent copy of that, Netflix was busy moving into digital streaming. Where’s that Blockbuster app for your Apple TV? Um… they’ll get back to you on that.
While Blockbuster was spiffying up their stores, the smart folks at Redbox figured out that vending machines could do 80% of what Blockbuster’s stores do, for a fraction of the cost and at an even smaller fraction of the real estate footprint. Easier to move around to hotter retail spaces, too.
Thanks to Redbox and Netflix, watching what you want when you want is far easier than it ever was when Blockbuster was still king.
Now that’s capitalism’s creative destruction at work — and it didn’t require any government mandates whatsoever.
Canada has death panels – and that’s a good thing. So reads a headline at Slate, where author Adam Goldenberg defends letting a government committee intervene in healthcare to decide who lives and who dies.
The death panel Goldenberg refers to is Ontario’s Consent and Capacity Board, a unique institution among Canada’s jurisdictions which holds the legal authority to supersede healthcare decisions made by next of kin when a patient lays incapacitated.
The Supreme Court of Canada recently ruled in favor of a family seeking to sustain the life of Hassan Rasouli, who fell victim to complications from brain surgery and has remained comatose for three years. Goldenberg writes:
In Canada, with our single-payer health care system, Rasouli’s situation has a very public bottom line: Should taxpayers foot the bill for his family’s indefinite goodbye?
But American critics of Canadian health care will declare that merely asking this question is unacceptable, unethical, even unthinkable—and that it proves that the Canadian system gives doctors a dangerous incentive to kill off their patients as quickly as possible. They are wrong. The Hippocratic Oath’s promise to do no harm still applies. But they are also only wrong in part. When taxpayers provide only a finite number of acute care beds in public hospitals, a patient whose life has all but ended, but whose family insists on keeping her on life support, is occupying precious space that might otherwise house a patient whose best years are still ahead.
The incentives in the American health care system point in the opposite direction. In the United States, keeping an all-but-dead patient alive on life support in a hospital bed generates income for the hospital, for as long as its bills get paid.
Everything wrong with the Left’s view of economics, morality, and healthcare in particular can be observed in that passage. Goldenberg’s analysis ignores any consideration of individual rights.
“Failure to adjust.” That’s what Becky, the cheerful optician, said my problem was with the new progressive lenses. “Failure to adjust” sounds like it should be in the same category as “doesn’t play well with others,” or “runs with scissors,” so her words stung a little and I inwardly berated myself for not making more of an effort to make the new glasses work.
For the last few years I have been getting by with dollar store reading glasses as my near vision deteriorated, apparently in anticipation of my 50th birthday. Twenty years ago I had surgery to correct my distance vision and had enjoyed a blissful, lens-free life until about five years ago, when I began to squint when reading small print. Then came the embarrassing stage of holding everything at arm’s length. I avoided reading glasses as long as possible, but eventually, my arms became too short and I could no longer read anything smaller than a STOP sign without glasses.
My dollar store reading glasses, if not fashionable, were cheap enough that I could have a pair handy at all times. Well, at least, I owned enough glasses that I should have had a pair handy at all times. I had a pair in my purse, my car, the living room, the kitchen — even the bathroom. Nevertheless, I could never seem to locate a pair when I needed them. It seemed I had a pair for every room except for the room I was in. I’d find myself at Walmart, unable to read any of the prices and straining to find the English print sandwiched between the French and Spanish warnings. I’d fumble around in my purse looking for the reading glasses, only to remember that I had taken them out of my purse at home because I couldn’t find the pair that had somehow migrated from the living room to who-knows-where.
It could be worse. Recently my husband and I we were at a restaurant with friends — Bob Evans, where people my age are supposed to eat, I’m told — and my friend’s husband had to borrow my reading glasses because he didn’t have his handy. Right there in Bob Evans! At least I haven’t sunk that low yet.
I mean, not completely. I recently returned home from a trip to Kohl’s (Kohl’s is where almost-50-year-old women like to shop because they jigger the sizes so that it looks like you wear a size 4 when you really wear a size 6) and told my husband about how much trouble I had trouble shopping without my glasses, which had mysteriously disappeared from my purse. Again. His eyes widened as he contemplated the prospect of his wife loose at that store with a Kohl’s charge, oblivious to the price tags she was unable to read. But I had a 20% off coupon! (Or maybe it was 10%. It was a little blurry.)
Nobody can say that the Journal News of Westchester New York doesn’t cover the Big Stories of Our Times:
Willie’s got his armadillo back.
The mounted armadillo that was stolen from Willie Nelson’s road crew after a Sept. 19 concert at the Capitol Theatre was returned unharmed Friday morning, the theater happily reported.
“The artists who play at the Capitol Theatre, we try to treat them like family, and no one messes with our family,” Tom Bailey, the Capitol’s manager, said.
Shortly before noon, someone (Bailey did not describe the person, but said it was not the suspected thief) walked up to the theater and handed a sealed box to the attendant working at the box office. Inside — his signature blue-glitter hat still fixed to his leathery head — was Ol’ Dillo.
“Everyone is relieved and delighted to be able to get the thing back to Mr. Nelson,” Bailey said.
No word yet when Ol’ Dillo will be appearing in pro-ObamaCare PSAs.
The 67-year-old starred in numerous cult films (Wham! Bam! Thank You, Spaceman! Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks) but is best remembered as one of the femme fatales in Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, which is widely considered the Citizen Kane of crap.
If you imagine that female trio as a kind of unfunny Marx Brothers who know martial arts, Haji’s “Rosie” is the girl gang’s “Chico,” a second
banana tomato with dark, exotic looks, unplaceable “foreign” accent, and the least inclination to do bodily harm.
I came visiting here with my family from another galaxy, and we landed in Quebec and Montreal. I never ate when I was a child. I lived off air.
Haji also claimed she’d dropped out of school at age five, and started stripping at fourteen.
About her most famous role, Haji recalled:
You just didn’t see women taking over and beating up men in those days. Russ did something no one else had the imagination to do. And he was smart to use three bodied-up women, so whether the picture’s good or not, you still sort of stare at it.
Haji wasn’t a fan of the spotlight, and only made rare appearances at fan “cons” in her later years.
According to my correspondent, Haji was quite happy living quietly in Malibu, on the “good side” of the Pacific Coast Highway, along the beach she loved.
She is survived by her daughter — and her many fans.
The magnificent Theodore Dalrymple, writing in The Telegraph about David Cameron’s back pain (and yes, you should read the whole thing), starts by empathizing,
As an occasional sufferer from lower back pain, I sympathise deeply with David Cameron, whose lumbago currently prevents him from pursuing deer on Jura. A bad back is an utter misery: there is no position that one can adopt for long that remains comfortable. It is like a nagging spouse: it demands attention and cannot be ignored.
But soon transcends that, going into an area often, justly, feared by modern medicine:
Regarding myself as psychologically robust rather than fragile, I was once rather humiliated to discover that my bouts of back pain had a considerable, not to say overwhelming, psychological component. I was in India, and due to return home in a few days, when I was stricken by severe pain that made it almost impossible to walk. There was concurrently a problem with my ticket, but I did not connect the two. The ticket had disappeared into the maw of the airline office (no internet then).
As someone who suffers from both eczema and asthma, I’m often reminded that very real ills of the physical body can come from stress or other emotional states. So why do I say that area is justly feared?
Because there is a great temptation to consider ills as psychological if the symptoms are baffling. A doctor once attempted to diagnose an infection I was suffering from as depression because of certain baffling symptoms. So this type of illness needs to be approached with care.
But does it happen? That is undeniable. Doctor Dalrymple mentions that many world leaders have become addicted to pain pills and other substances while trying to treat vaguely defined “somatized” complaints. Men under great stress show it in their bodies.Nothing to be surprised at. As Dalrymple says
In a giant textbook from 1917 entitled Malingering, dedicated (ironically?) to the author of the National Insurance Act, Lloyd George, we read: “Our views as to the nature of [backache] sadly lack precision, and up to now the condition has not been correlated with any anatomical lesion… It is easy to complain of ‘pain in the back’, difficult to establish the truth of the assertion – a fact of which the fraudulent-minded are well aware.” To this day private detectives are probably better at discerning the truth than radiographers.
Between anatomical lesion and fraud, however, there is a large no-man’s land, probably inhabited by Mr Cameron – and by me. Perhaps also he suffers from that well-known phenomenon, illness that comes on when busy people relax. They have had no time to be ill before.
I know that I, personally, get end-of-novel flu, something that is well known in the writing community. When I let go I get ill. Now think of the myriad situations in which this could affect world leaders, and you’ll see the need for better understanding emotional conditions that manifest on your body.
An article at the Wall Street Journal yesterday reported that baby boomers are snapping up cars that are marketed towards younger buyers. To some, this is weird and unexpected, similar to that odd conundrum when moms and daughters fall in love with the same pair of tight, hip-hugging jeans — thankfully cars are a little more forgiving. But what’s the deal? Why/how could something marketed towards 20-somethings attract 60-somethings?
Let’s start with the economy.
With the economy in a rough place, the automotive industry has been cautious. Auto makers have been targeting the younger generations with cool, sporty cars in hopes of securing their brand loyalty: you buy a Corolla at age 20, and, hopefully, you’ll love it and buy Toyota for the rest of your life. That’s the theory anyway. Companies hope to lure first-time buyers with Bluetooth, Pandora, navigation systems, and touchscreen everything. The real problem with this whole theory is that the younger generation is poor. Nice to meet you Mr. Recession and Mrs. Debt!
This is where the baby boomers come in…
The baby boomers are still pretty cool. These men and women of the mid-20th century are looking for something other than the “senior citizen mobile.” They are drawn to the smaller, sportier sedans and hatchbacks on the market — think the Scion line up, the Mini Cooper, Fiat 500, and the Kia Soul… the cars meant for their grandkids.
I’m not surprised that the baby boomers are buying up these little cars; nobody should be denied a fun, cool car due to age. Nobody puts Baby in a corner! I think the auto makers might be overlooking two things when it comes to surviving in this tough economy…
In the fall of 1971, when I was in twelfth grade, I started to grow my hair long. A failed basketball player, still loosely socially affiliated with the athletes, I knew that the next fall I’d be in college. There, I thought, I could really fit in—and find a great girlfriend or two, unlike anything that had happened in high school.
At that time the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War was winding down. The draft was on the way to being abolished, so guys my age didn’t have to think about what they would do if they were drafted.
But “the war” was still a hot topic. In my school, it was a social marker: if you were “for the war,” you were more likely to be with the jocks and cheerleaders, an assertive patriot; those “against the war” were more likely to be on the “freak” side of the spectrum, more into loud music than sports, marijuana than beer. As for America, it was “Amerika,” venal and “imperialist” if not worse.
As part of the change I felt myself to be effectuating, I started to say things like, “It’s not our fight.” “I don’t know what we’re doing over there, wasting all that money when we could be spending it on social programs.”
It did not come out of genuine, deep thought or engagement with the issues. Once I had wanted to be cool by being a star basketball player; but I was only a mediocre one. Now I would be cool by being an intellectual firebrand, a scourge of the establishment.
Demographically speaking, that strategy made more sense. Though I didn’t yet understand it in such terms, I was a secular Jew with a strong yen for the arts and humanities. In most places in the world where Jews live, people of that description are overwhelmingly on the left; indeed, a good many people in the colleges I went to belonged to that description.
There was only one obstacle to my march toward—so I thought—coolness, popularity, and success with the girls as an “establishment”-basher: Alfred Hornik.
Submit your questions to PJMBadAdvice@gmail.com or leave a question in the comments section, and I’ll answer it in Bad Advice!
Happy birthday, spring babies! I’ve just rounded the corner on a quarter century, and here’s a question from another Millennial, with a birthday problem…
Dear Bad Advice,
Three years ago, I had the best and worst birthday of my life. I was turning 21 and I had a spectacular party at a bar with a big group of friends the night before, and was showered with gifts and cards the next day (including a cake my mom sent me in the mail!). Sounds pretty good, right? Well, that day I also broke up with my boyfriend of three years, whom I’d been hoping to marry. It was the product of a long, painful wind-down that had taken place over the preceding months, but the final straw was when I opened up a box of flowers, and all my friends assumed it was from him…but it wasn’t. He was there when I opened it, and when one of my friends asked what he had done for my birthday, she found out he hadn’t planned anything special at all, not even a card or a nice dinner out. I know some people don’t make a big deal out of birthdays or holidays, but we had always been very thoughtful about celebrating special occasions, making each other hand-made gifts and cards and going out of our way to create a special evening for each other. So the fact that he hadn’t done anything at all had to have been a deliberate move on his part, to send me a message.
I still feel conflicted about that day, because I can’t seem to separate the great parts from the miserable ones. I had one of the most fun, memorable birthdays ever with a group of people who remain some of my closest friends — but I also ended a relationship with a man that I was utterly convinced I was going to spend the rest of my life with (how naive we are at 21). Ever since then, I sort of dread and look forward to every birthday, wondering if it’s going to be just as great, or just as bad. I’m turning 24 this year and I don’t know what to expect. How do I shake this foreboding feeling and just enjoy my day?
- Minerva K.
This sounds like bad advice, but you need a rebound.
As an early teen in the early ’80s, it was just about impossible not to like Michael Jackson’s music. It was certainly impossible to avoid it. With Thriller, Jackson and producer Quincy Jones set out to make the ultimate crossover album — one that would gain black and white audiences in equal measure. And equal airplay, too, back when radio stations were even more racially targeted than they are today.
And boy, did they succeed.
But Michael Jackson the person? It was pretty obvious even then that he was one strange dude. What happened though is what happens to too many child performers: The weirdness went up and up, while the quality of the performances went down and down. By the time Dangerous came out in 1991, the magic was pretty much gone. It sold in the millions, yet nobody was buying it. And by that I mean, nobody was buying Jackson’s pseudo tough/tender/ladies man act anymore. The weird was just too weird.
Then came the obligatory-yet-somehow-disappointing greatest hits collection, the horrifying-yet-believable stories about his sleepover parties with kids…
I shudder even to think about it. His last studio album, ironically named Invincible, came out after years of delays and way over budget — and to a tepid response.
It was around this time he was dangling babies off balconies and looking like a bad drag queen version of Elizabeth Taylor. Oh, and he’d somehow managed to go broke buying giraffes and rollercoasters and stuff. The music had hit bottom and the weird was at the top of the charts.
The amazingly talented and abused little boy who never had a childhood, never really had an adulthood, either. There’s so much blame to go around, you barely know where to start.
Does practice really make perfect? Does it even lead to improvement? One feels instinctively that it should, that the more experience a physician has, the better for the patient. Much of the skill of diagnosis is pattern-recognition rather than complex intellectual detection, and it follows that the longer a physician has been at it, the quicker he will recognize what is wrong with his patients. He has experience of more cases than younger doctors to guide him.
But the practice of medicine is more than mere diagnosis. It often requires manual dexterity as well, and the ability to assimilate new information as advances are made. These may decline rather than improve with age. Too young a doctor is inexperienced; too old a doctor is past it.
A recent paper, whose first author comes from the Orwellianly named Department of Veterans’ Affairs Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion, examined the relationship between the years of an obstetrician’s experience and the rate of complications the women under his care experienced during childbirth. The authors examined the records of 6,705,311 deliveries by 5,175 obstetricians in Florida and New York. No one, I think, would criticize the authors for the smallness of their sample.
They examined the rate of serious complications such as infection, haemorrhage, thrombosis, and tear during or after delivery, divided by obstetrician according to his number of years of post-training experience. Reassuringly, and perhaps not surprisingly, experience reduced the number of such complications decade after decade. The rate of complications was 15 percent in the first ten years after residency; it declined by about 2 percent to 13 percent in the first decade thereafter, by about 1 percent in the subsequent decade to 12 percent, and by half a percent in the next. In other words, improvement continued, but less quickly as the obstetricians became more experienced; the authors appear not to have continued their study to the age at which the rate of complications started to rise again (if indeed there is such an age).
That’s the question asked in the 1st chapter of a book I am reading called Escaping the Endless Adolescence: How We Can Help Our Teenagers Grow Up Before They Grow Old. From the description:
Do you sometimes wonder how your teen is ever going to survive on his or her own as an adult? Does your high school junior seem oblivious to the challenges that lie ahead? Does your academically successful nineteen-year-old still expect you to “just take care of” even the most basic life tasks?
Welcome to the stunted world of the Endless Adolescence. Recent studies show that today’s teenagers are more anxious and stressed and less independent and motivated to grow up than ever before. Twenty-five is rapidly becoming the new fifteen for a generation suffering from a debilitating “failure to launch.” Now two preeminent clinical psychologists tell us why and chart a groundbreaking escape route for teens and parents.
Drawing on their extensive research and practice, Joseph Allen and Claudia Worrell Allen show that most teen problems are not hardwired into teens’ brains and hormones but grow instead out of a “Nurture Paradox” in which our efforts to support our teens by shielding them from the growth-spurring rigors and rewards of the adult world have backfired badly. With compelling examples and practical and profound suggestions, the authors outline a novel approach for producing dramatic leaps forward in teen maturity, including:
• Turn Consumers into Contributors Help teens experience adult maturity–its bumps and its joys–through the right kind of employment or volunteer activity.
• Feed Them with Feedback Let teens see and hear how the larger world perceives them. Shielding them from criticism–constructive or otherwise–will only leave them unequipped to deal with it when they get to the “real world.”
• Provide Adult Connections Even though they’ll deny it, teens desperately need to interact with adults (including parents) on a more mature level–and such interaction will help them blossom!
• Stretch the Teen Envelope Do fewer things for teens that they can do for themselves, and give them tasks just beyond their current level of competence and comfort.
The authors point out that even young people who appear to be succeeding by conventional standards wake up in their mid-twenties clueless about how to find a job, manage money, cook, or live on their own. They are educated but unable to care for themselves. “Twenty-five is now becoming the new fifteen.”
According to the authors, teens are living in a “bubble” that is undermining their development. They have their room at home, school, the shopping mall etc. but it,
“cuts them off from meaningful roles in the adult world, cuts them off from close day-to-day contact with adults, and it hyperexposes them to peer relationships, which become their primary socializing influences.”
The last chapter of the book points out that the staples of the Adulthood Diet are Challenge and Feedback. Teens don’t get much of it in their lives. We have done away with competition (too masculine, I suppose) and real-world feedback (kids need high self-esteem!) and therefore they never learn to master the larger world.
The book instructs parents and adults in how to teach kids to grow up and be an adult in today’s modern world. That’s no small feat. But better late than never because twenty-five should never be the new fifteen.
Week 10 of my second 13 week season: low carb diet and more exercise, tracking my weight, blood glucose, and body fat. You can follow me at my 13 Weeks Facebook page for daily updates, and you can join Fitocracy (free!) and follow my daily exercise, and maybe even start tracking your own.
On Tuesday the 9th of April, about 2PM, I was at work and feeling very strange. I was sleepy, felt sick and shaky, and couldn’t think clearly. I decided to take off early. But driving home, not more than a mile from my house, well, something happened. I zoned out, I fell asleep, I fainted — whatever it was, I was looking at a green light at the interesection and then I was looking at a red light with traffic starting to cross the intersection. I hit the brakes, I swerved to drive around the front of the CenturyLink truck in front of me, and I almost made it. But not quite. I caught the front bumper of the truck with my left rear fender. I bumped my head against the door frame, and came to a stop crossways in the intersection. After a minute, I pulled off the road.
At first I felt — considering the circumstances — okay. I made sure the other guy was okay (he was) and went to stand by the car and wait for the police.
Then I realized I was feeling really really cold, and even shakier than I had felt when I left the office. I went to sit down in the car and when the police arrived told them I thought I needed the EMTs. Or else it was someone who was calling 911, I don’t remember it very clearly.
Anyway, both an ambulance and a fire truck arrived, and a rather cute female firefighter interviewed me for about 30 seconds before trotting to the EMTs, who came and walked me to the ambulance. I’m somewhat proud of myself for resisting my initial urge, which was to tell the firefighter “Hey, I’m just sick, I’m not on fire.”
The unexamined life, said Socrates, is not worth living; but sometimes I wonder whether the too-closely examined life is not worth living either, for examination uncovers dilemmas where none existed before.
Two articles in a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine ask the question of whether employers should, or have the right to, refuse to employ smokers, as increasing numbers do in the 21 states that permit such discrimination against them.
As is by now no secret, smokers are more likely to suffer from many types of illness than non-smokers, and their health insurance is therefore considerably more expensive than that of non-smokers. They impose costs on their employers which weigh upon all workers, smokers or not. (The authors do not take into account that smokers not only contribute to taxes by their habit but, by dying early, reduce pension costs.)
The authors worry that refusal to hire smokers would be discriminatory against people of lower social class, since it is among the latter that smoking is most prevalent. I am not sure that this is right: the majority of people in all social classes now do not smoke, while people who apply for jobs at any particular level are likely to be of the same social class. Except in the case where there is only one applicant for a job, then, it is likely that there will always be an applicant of any given social class who does not smoke. The discrimination remains against smokers, therefore, and not by proxy against members of lower social class.
It may be too stark. If it’s true, there are legions of blockheads out there — people who publish works in literary journals that pay in contributor’s copies; people who publish on websites that have considerable readerships but do not pay their writers for their efforts (there are not a few of those).
I would modify it to: No man but a blockhead ever wrote short stories so that he could send each one to ten or twenty literary journals until one accepts and publishes it, and then have no sense at all that anybody is actually out there reading it.
At least, that was the dictum I arrived at after years of doing just that. As I’ve described, about a decade ago I decided I’d had enough and stopped writing fiction.
That is, “I’ve” stopped; but that doesn’t mean my subconscious has. It still comes up with stories and presents them to me, requesting that they be written.
In most cases these notions quickly fade and are almost totally forgotten. Some, though, persist — in some cases even for years. It’s a standoff: the idea remains somewhere in my head, and I know it’s there but keep declining to execute it, to translate it into typed words on the screen and see what grows from that.
I can think of three of these ideas that particularly won’t go away, like a stray dog who parks himself on your doorstep and mournfully refuses to budge. I thought it would be worth giving a peek at these. They’re probably representative of a larger phenomenon—people who have given up certain kinds of writing but whose “minds” haven’t.
Life does not come with a reset button. That truth struck me whenever I glimpsed the face of my Nintendo Entertainment System. Reset was always there, lurking next to Power, ready to erase both my sins and the virtual world in which they had been committed. A fresh start, another try, Reset offered them free.
Moments like that, moments where some shadow of philosophical truth peaked through the veil of this childish pastime, came often over the years. The most recent occurred while I was playing Fable II on my Xbox 360. Set in a fantasy world with swords, sorcery, and muskets, the Fable series contains many game mechanics above and beyond the traditional hack and slash quest. Among them is the ability to purchase real estate and manage rental property, which maintains a steady stream of gold for upgrading weapons and other items. As I purchased one property and saved up to invest in another and yet another, I quickly realized I was mimicking a truly productive task. Why can’t I do this in real life? Oh yeah, I don’t have any money to start.
The experience of the game inspired me to revisit methods for creating wealth and fostering upward mobility. I won’t go so far as to say Fable II changed my life. After all, I’ve yet to buy that first investment property. However, it did plant a seed which may someday germinate.
Other games have offered real life lessons in ways both subtle and overt. Here are 7 for your consideration.
Trying to locate people I knew long ago through Google and other searches is something I seem to engage in when I’m at a standstill, unable to come up with something else to do. And that situation, since I’m excessively busy, tends to occur late at night, when I should be going to sleep but feel the day is not quite finished, still lacking something.
The problem here is that late at night, before going to sleep, is not the best time to engage in searches that may be emotionally risky.
As a few nights ago when — rather suddenly, without really thinking about it — I Googled “Bill Wiley” (not his real last name) and the name of the high school we both went to, Shenendehowa. It’s in Clifton Park, New York, a small town a bit north of Albany.
Boom — I found his obituary. Shown on the original page of the newspaper of the small California town where he’d been living. Dated March 21, 1994.
So his death was not exactly breaking news. Bill no longer played a huge part in my thoughts, but memories did come up occasionally, and I had even told Tami some stories about him. Memories and stories, it turned out, of someone long gone from this world.
So, as far as my own progress goes, the last couple weeks were kind of boring: I wasn’t losing any weight, my glucose was coming down, but nothing very dramatic was happening.
Since the last time, though, I’ve done several things: I got “after” pictures taken for the first 13 weeks, I have started tracking bodyfat as well as weight, and best of all, I got my post-13-weeks bloods done.
Those are the most fun, so let’s hit them first.
Glucose. My A1c is now down to 5.9 percent, from a starting A1c of 7.5. That means I’ve lowered my average glucose from roughly 170 mg/dL, or just over 100.
My doc was more or less slack-jawed. I had to talk her into doing the A1c, as she didn’t think it could have changed much since the one I had in January.
I’ve cut my metformin to 1000 mg/day from 2500 when I started this.
Cholesterol. Or more generally, blood lipids. Now, remember that I’m following what is, by traditional medical measures, the perfectly wrong diet for cholesterol — heavy on meats, no grains at all, and with roughly 60 percent of my calories coming from fats.
My total cholesterol is down to 123. That’s the bottom of the normal range; that’s a score that the ultra-low-fat Ornish diet would be happy to reach.
Low-density lipoproteins — LDL, the “bad cholesterol” — is down to 70.
High density lipoproteins — HDL, the “good cholesterol” — is up to 26 (up in this case being the good direction.) Although it’s still low as an absolute number, what’s perhaps more important is the ration of HDL tot total cholesterol. HDL of 26 makes my total cholesterol over HDL ratio about 4.7. This is now well under the boundary the American Heart Association recommends.
In other words, while my HDL could be better, I am now in the “good” to “very good” range.
Body fat. I’ve just started tracking this, so the numbers don’t mean a lot yet, but as you can see from the chart, it is showing a real down trend. I’m somewhere around 30 percent right now, and obviously I hope it’ll drop significantly in this 13 weeks.
So far, I’ve mainly been tracking Fitocracy points, which are a kind of arbitrary measure of various kinds of exercise, but handy because it converts various exercises into one easily-tracked number. (I hope to have an interview with some of the Fitocracy people in the near future; in the meantime, if you want to follow me, you can sign up for Fitocracy here.)
Since this 13 weeks season has started, i’ve accumulated 2800 Fitocracy points.
Of course, David Steinberg is doing his own series on this. I sent him some videos which didn’t work out, but I’ve just taken another set. Have a look at his piece this week, in which he makes some entirely unsubstantiated suppositions about how I’ve managed to practically break every bone in my body over 57 years. It’s pretty funny, and good advice.