Shake, Rattle, and Rolling Along

 I’m beginning to see the effects of aging on my proficiency in much of my work; not just the slow and inexorable deterioration of mental acuity, but the slight discomfort I sometimes experience when either writing or typing. Due to my essential tremors, and the loss of flexibility and dexterity that can’t be avoided with aging, I frequently find there are times when I can barely do either. I have experienced instances when the shaking has been so bad I had to stop, stand up, and walk away until the shaking subsides.

For many years I’ve believed as long as I had the ability to type and use a computer, I would be able to communicate and, more importantly, work and earn at least a bit of income to supplement what retirement income I have. Now I’m faced with the possibility a time will come – perhaps not for another decade – when I will not easily be able to do so. I’ve experimented over the years with apps like Dragon Dictate, but I’m so much more comfortable actually having my fingers on a keyboard. If I am forced to do it, I suppose I’ll adapt. The prospect isn’t terribly exciting though.

Where are all the aliens?

Rick Ladd:

There are so many excellent thoughts, revelations, ideas in this post I have no idea where to start. So, instead of quoting anything, I will merely urge you to read this in its entirety.

I take it back. Here’s what may be my favorite part:

“An even more advanced civilization might view the entire physical world as a horribly primitive place, having long ago conquered their own biology and uploaded their brains to a virtual reality, eternal-life paradise. Living in the physical world of biology, mortality, wants, and needs might seem to them the way we view primitive ocean species living in the frigid, dark sea. FYI, thinking about another life form having bested mortality makes me incredibly jealous and upset.”

Originally posted on Quartz:

This post originally appeared at

Everyone feels something when they’re in a really good starry place on a really good starry night and they look up and see this:

The Milky Way is seen in the night sky over rocks in the White Desert north of the Farafra Oasis.

Some people stick with the traditional—feeling struck by the epic beauty or blown away by the insane scale of the universe. Personally, I go for the old “existential meltdown followed by acting weird for the next half hour.” But everyone feels something.

Physicist Enrico Fermi felt something too—“Where is everybody?”

A really starry sky seems vast—but all we’re looking at is our very local neighborhood. On the very best nights, we can see up to about 2,500 stars (roughly one hundred-millionth of the stars in our galaxy), and almost all of them are less than 1,000 light years away from us (or 1% of the diameter of the Milky Way). So what we’re really looking at is…

View original 4,294 more words

Old Fart Kicks It Up a Notch

When I first returned to work, I could barely make it up the two flights of stairs to the office area above the factory building where I was to work. I was forced to walk more than I had in quite some time, just to get from my car to my desk or to go to the cafeteria and buy my lunch. It had been over four and half years since I had retired and I had been mostly sedentary.

A little over two and a half months later, I purchased a pair of Rockport walking shoes. A month and a half after that I purchased a Fitbit One and began quantifying my exercise, as well as most of my caloric intake. I set some goals and paid attention. With the Fitbit I was able to get a good idea of how well I was sleeping too.

Three weeks ago I upgraded to the Fitbit Charge HR, which I can now wear on my wrist as both an exercise tracker and a timepiece. It also constantly tracks my heart rate (that’s the HR part). Despite not being in the greatest of shape, my resting heartrate is consistently in the low 60s, which I believe is pretty good.

As of last week, I was fairly effortlessly walking well over two miles and climbing 10 flights of stairs each day (not at once; in total over the course of the workday). I’ve also been stretching each morning as I’m getting dressed. I have such a long way to go and, at 68 years old, I don’t expect miracles – nor do I expect to improve rapidly, like I could when I was much younger. However, I am determined to get in far better shape, which includes losing another 10 -15 lbs.

I don’t know if I’ll ever run. The problems created by being born with club feet and the subsequent corrective activities, including surgery on my left foot, make running quite problematic, as well as painful. I’m thinking of other activities I can indulge in without dealing with the impact running would have on my ankles, hips, and back, all of which are about an inch out of alignment because of my left foot.

I also pushed myself a little bit too hard, by running up those flights of stairs. My right knee has since admonished against such early foolishness and I have little choice but to heed its warning. So, I’ll still climb the stairs; I just will take them a tad more leisurely in deference to my (no doubt) age-related deficiencies.

Our Work Lives & the Relevance Imperative

Rick Ladd:

This post is from a former manager and colleague of mine; currently a fellow Rotarian and someone I like to think of as a friend. Don was one of the more thoughtful and kind people I ever had the pleasure to work for and with (and he always made sure it was far more “with” than “for”). These are some of his thoughts on relevance; a concept the organization we both retired from – and we both have returned to in one capacity or another – seems to be struggling with nowadays.

Originally posted on Don McAlister's Blogsite:

Relevance1I’ve spent a lot of time recently, thinking about our psychological need for relevance, and the huge impact it has on the way we live our lives. I’m speaking here about personal relevance, which I will define as the degree to which we feel connected to others in a meaningful and valued way.

The pursuit of relevance is a fundamental, albeit sub-conscious, driver in what we think and do in our personal and work lives. All of us have this relevance imperative wired in to our brains. It is a characteristic of human life, and perhaps all life. I claim no expertise in psychology or neurobiology, but it makes sense to me to think that our brains relevance imperative probably started as desire to belong to a group or tribe as a strategy for safety and survival. Over time, it has evolved, adapting to the demands of increasingly more complex…

View original 394 more words

Why I’ve Seldom Written On Paper

I work in an engineering company and engineers like to write things down, as well as illustrate their points when describing why they did something or how a component/tool/machine works. To that end, just about every one of them carries around a hardcover journal. I, on the other hand, have seldom written things down. In my entire school career, which includes two postgraduate degrees (but no undergrad school), I may have taken a few pages of notes, but that would be it.

White boards are also the domain of engineers and scientists, and every conference room generally has numerous illustrations and equations written on the boards on their walls. As a southpaw who writes backhanded, I’ve never been comfortable writing on a chalkboard or whiteboard. I just end up smearing everything. In fact, even on paper I’ve been known to fill out a form from the bottom up, just so I wouldn’t smear the ink before it had time to dry.


It’s so elegant, it almost feels like a crime to write anything in it. Weird, huh?

Still, just recently I decided to carry around one of the ubiquitous journals the company provides for everyone to use. Not only that, I purchased a really nice Moleskine Folio Professional Notebook, a leather pencil/pen case, and am seriously thinking about some high-quality pens. I did this in an effort to force myself to write more frequently. Unfortunately, I still have a problem getting anything down.

It’s really been bothering me as, at 68 years of age, I’m not sure how much time I have left, either in my life or in my ability to write coherently . . . and to remember what it is I’m doing. I have managed to write a few things down and, especially at work, I’ve found it helpful to keep notes about what I need to do in a journal, rather than on separate sheets of paper, which is what I’ve been doing for a while.

The problem for me is multi-faceted. As a leftie, I’ve never had terribly legible handwriting. Since I had no intention of becoming a physician, a profession where legible handwriting doesn’t seem to be a prerequisite, I gave up years ago and only print, in CAPS. When I actually write something down, that is. I learned to type in the seventh grade and during my second year of law school I got a job as a legal secretary, where my typing speed steadily improved until I was at about 85 wpm. Not blazing, but much faster than I can write/print. The attorney I worked for got an IBM memory typewriter, for which I spent a full day in class at one of their offices. I was enamored of word processing and, shortly afterward, he got a somewhat more sophisticated computer called an Artec Display 2000. It used 8″ floppies and I assembled wills, trusts, pleadings, and interrogatories with it. Keep in mind, this was in 1974 or 75 — forty years ago.

Since that time I have worked with quite a few word processing tools: Wordstar, with which I wrote many a module in dBase II; WordPerfect, which I learned on-the-fly when I answered the call for a temp job at a law office and again at an insurance agency; Lotus Word Pro and a homegrown (Rockwell International) competitor, with which I wrote reports at Rocketdyne, my alma mater and current place of employment (though it’s now Aerojet Rocketdyne – after being Boeing and UTC’s Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne); and, Scrivener, with which I hope to write my memoirs soon, providing I can remember anything clearly.

The thing is, when you write something down on paper it’s very difficult to do much editing whereas with a computer (or even a phone or tablet) editing is essentially a piece of cake. Hence, the problem I have with physically writing anything down is my belief that if it’s anything useful, I’m going to want to save it electronically so I can both edit and post it (if it’s worthy and, frankly, maybe even if it isn’t). That will require a duplication of effort my experience in knowledge management makes it very difficult for me to contemplate. Yet, I will try and find those circumstances where writing something on paper makes sense. So far I’ve put about a hundred words in to my Moleskine.

How about you? Do you take notes? Do you ever write anything down except the occasional phone number when you’re hurriedly listening to your voicemail?

Another Letter Regarding Our China Adoption

Had I been paying closer attention, I likely would have realized I sent this email the day before I sent the one I posted yesterday. Nevertheless, they are closely related in both time and content, so I want to share this one as well. I know I also have a file with the emails I sent from the sports bar in the China Hotel in Guangzhou, while we were there completing our adoption of Aimee and, eventually, I’ll post them here as well.

This particular email was in response to a post by another adoptive parent who, in seeking to understand adoption from her child’s POV, wrote “Maybe some of the referrals come with information that stretches the truth, but I think that the act of being placed in our loving arms is not quite as wonderful for these girls as it is for us. Give them time.” Here’s what I wrote:

This has to be one of the most important, and profound, statements I have read on China33* in some time. We must, repeat must, remember what these children have experienced. Each of them has had to suffer two major, life-changing upheavals. The first was being separated from their birth mother (no matter the circumstances under which it took place); the second being taken from either a foster family or the only real home they have known.

We have to control the tendency to see our good fortune in finding them as the only interpretation of these events. We must fight against trying to impose our perception of reality on them. I believe the wisest thing we can do is try and understand their lives from their perspective. They may not be able to give voice to it, and their memories are almost always pre-verbal, but that doesn’t negate the powerful emotions these events evoked.

I have watched our Aimee nearly shut down in situations that were similar to the evening she was placed in our arms. A room full of children, adults, noise, and pandemonium. Even an open house at pre-school has greatly unnerved her. However, with every day she has grown a little more secure in our existence as a family and now, at over four years old, she is finding her place and blossoming like we hoped for her.

The most important thing we can give our children is the knowledge not only that they are loved, but also that they are respected. I can’t emphasize this enough. Remember the concept of “walking a mile in their shoes”. By all means, revel in the joy of finally having her in your arms; the ineffable depth of emotion you feel when holding or even just watching her (or him). Just keep in mind that you are the lucky ones. If our children were truly lucky, the conditions leading to their abandonment would not have existed, and they would still be with their birth family.

Remember, one day they will be all grown up, and they will almost certainly be at least curious about why they were separated from their birth family. You will be doing both them and yourselves a great service by keeping that day in mind – always.

Rick Ladd

* China33 was the name of the Yahoo group we used to stay in touch during those times. When we adopted, the wait time was nearly two years and the time spent in China was three weeks. For some, the anxiety was overwhelming, though it was significant for even the most sanguine among us.

Some Thoughts From Our First Adoption

I became a first-time, adoptive father in August of 2002, when my wife and I traveled to the People’s Republic of China to meet our new daughter, Aimee. I have been loathe to write much about the experience as I didn’t feel it was my place to wave her life, and the circumstances (as I knew them) of our adoption, in public. I did, however, spend the first few years communicating a great deal with other parents of internationally, and transracially, adopted children. I’ve decided now is the time to start sharing my thoughts and recollections. This is an email, dated October 13, 2005, I sent to a Yahoo group used by most everyone who used the facilitator we did – U.S. Asian Affairs – to help us with all the issues our adoption from the PRC required addressing. Most of the people who adopted Chinese children are white, and the issue of racism was even more difficult for many to discuss back then than it is now. Anyway, here’s what I wrote in response to a statement by a fellow AP (adoptive parent):


As my father used to say, “you hit the head right on the nail”. While abandonment issues are the most obvious, they exist because of something that happened at a time certain. That isn’t to say they don’t continue to affect our kids in numerous ways as they grow; just that the fact of abandonment is something that happened in the past and must be dealt with in that context.

Race, on the other hand is (unfortunately) an issue our children will almost certainly continue to deal with all their lives. How we approach it is of paramount importance in how they will cope with it. My research tells me (as do my gut instincts) that parents who choose to believe they can ignore it, or that it really isn’t a major issue, are setting themselves and, tragically, their children up for some major problems.

Once again, I urge all adoptive parents and all prospective adoptive parents, especially families where both members are Caucasian, to learn as much as you can about the realities of racism. I am talking here not merely about the most obvious aspects (such as outright bigotry) but also about the institutionalized and insidious aspects of racism. Those of you who have not given it much thought (this is not an indictment, merely a recognition of reality) will be shocked at some of the things you learn.

Additionally, I can’t stress enough how important it will be to let your children lead the way with respect to their lives. I believe love consists of two major components; affection and respect. I know you will show great affection for your child. It’s important as well that you show them deep respect and you can do this by learning how to listen to them. Children should not be seen and never heard. They should be heard first and foremost. Trust them; listen to them; make sure they will always talk to you and you will become their allies in a battle they will have no choice but to fight.

Know also that you are not in this alone. There are numerous resources out there for you to learn or gain strength from. We should all be thankful for Rick, Karin, and all the folks who contribute to the discussions here on China33. Traveling to China to receive your child is just the beginning of a lifelong journey and you have the opportunity to take it with a large, supportive community. Take advantage of it. Your kids will thank you.

Rick Ladd

Social Media, White Privilege & Why Black Folks aren’t Too Sensitive

Rick Ladd:

I want to share this post, along with the comment I left for the author. My comment comes first:

“Thank you, Vanessa, for your voice, your love, and your strength. As a white (although left-handed, atheist, commie) man I agree with you completely. I was fortunate to be involved in the Peace & Justice movement back in the late 60s and early 70s and, prior to spending two months in Cuba with the Venceremos Brigade, was heavily schooled in racism and cultural chauvinism. Our instructors were from the Black Panther Party, the Committee to Free Angela Davis, and the Brown Berets. I also read many of that time’s dominant black voices: Eldridge Cleaver; Julius Lester; George Jackson; Malcolm X, etc.

“I have tried to share what I learned, and what I have continued to learn, with my friends, family, and a long line of people I came across over the years who were desperately in need of getting a clue. Of course, it has branded me as somewhat of an outlier, which is fine with me and, occasionally, I too am accused of being too sensitive.

“I am now 68 years old and I use Facebook (plus a little Twitter, some LinkedIn, and a tiny bit of Instagram) to continue educating my friends and family. Most of them don’t respond to my posts; some of them are enthusiastically supportive. I will never stop spreading the word and keeping my eye on the prize. I wish you nothing but the best.”

Originally posted on BLK GRRRL:

By Vanessa Leigh Lewis

Graham Case Fuck Racism graffiti October 2006 Graham Case
Fuck Racism graffiti
October 2006

We live in a country where white is the default; beauty is measured in standards defined by whiteness. Racial controversies can appear small, but are common place.  Remember the racist backlash from white fans (largely millennials), when Amandla Stenberg, a young mixed race actress who plays Rue in Hunger Games discussed race in her Tumblr video, “Don’t Cash Crop my Corn Rows”?

Social media racial backlash often gets brutally ugly —very quickly.

When these issues come up on my Facebook feed the “discussions” quickly turn into a battleground. Those discussions turn personal quickly and the argument becomes “I’m not racist,” or “This isn’t about racism.” People throw out that there is another reason, another way, another issue, but those reasons or issues are never racism.

White people don’t like to discuss racism unless they are assured that they are…

View original 1,194 more words

Let’s Bite Off Our Noses To Spite Our Faces

It seems to me that anyone who really cares about their country, who is a genuine patriot, has to care for everyone. Life is NOT a zero-sum game, where the gains enjoyed by others are a loss to you and yours. No, life and human society are highly complex, interdependent systems where every part has a role to play, and when we don’t provide optimal conditions for the health and well-being of some of the parts, the whole body suffers. Would you want your car’s engine to go without one of its spark plugs? While it would still get you to where you were going, it wouldn’t do it as efficiently, nor as effectively. In the end, it would almost certainly cost more to deal with the results of an imbalance in the engine than it would to ensure all its components were kept in good working order.

Yet many approach life as though they are living on an island. It’s difficult to fathom the level of insensitivity, blindness to reality, and the callous lack of empathy it takes to turn one’s back on people who may not directly affect your life in a way you can feel immediately, but who nevertheless impact the organizations and institutions you deal with all the time.

For instance, by not ensuring all children receive healthcare, adequate nutrition, and early education, we ensure our up and coming workforce will be less prepared than they otherwise could be for the kinds of jobs that will be available in the near future. The net result is we not only handicap those children, we also handicap their families, their friends, and the entire nation. By guaranteeing they need more help for far longer than might otherwise be the case, we add to both their burden and ours.

We hobble ourselves with mistaken, outdated, unsupportable notions that give far more importance to diversity as a bad thing; as something that takes away from our sense of worth, of self. Instead of understanding, celebrating, and taking advantage of all the ways in which we complement and enhance each other, too many of us turn those virtues into imaginary vices and use them to divide and separate us. What a pity.

Halleluiah! The Seeing Is Truly Spectacular.

It’s been exactly one week since I had my cataract surgery and I thought I would share the experience. I wasn’t terribly worried about it, but the combination of it being surgery and the thought of having a knife cut into my eyeball wasn’t the most relaxing set of circumstances I could imagine. The reality was that I really needed the surgery, as my eyesight was becoming more and more problematic. I’m happy to say everything went off incredibly smoothly and I was actually able to go outside two days afterward and see the Moon, Venus, and Jupiter clearly for the first time in years. I nearly cried with joy.

Moon Venus Jupiter

This is similar to what I was able to see after the surgery. Previously, there would have been one fuzzy Moon and two ghostly ones accompanying it. Venus had become a dark circle with multi-colored, spectral rays emanating outward.

I was due at the Woodland Hills campus of Kaiser Permanente, in California, at 2:00 pm. The hospital isn’t too far from where I live and my wife was able to pick up several of our oldest daughter’s friends and ferry them to Girl Scout camp, then make it to Woodland Hills in plenty of time. We also had our youngest, who is not very good at a thing called patience, and I knew there was no way she would sit in a waiting room for at least a couple of hours without driving my wife (and everyone else, no doubt) crazy. I had her drop me off so they could go elsewhere and do something other than sit.

I got out and walked the short distance to the entrance that leads to the Ophthalmology Department and took the elevator up the one flight to the Surgi-Center, right down the hall from where I had been examined previously. I checked in and sat down to wait. There was no cell service so I opened up my Kindle app and continued reading one of the many books I have loaded on my phone. About ten minutes later my name was called and I went into the Center.

I was led to one of the many hospital beds that sat on each side of the room, each with its own monitoring equipment and privacy curtain. The nurse who was getting me prepped introduced herself and started me on the routine she has likely gone through dozens, if not hundreds, of times. I only needed to take my shirt off and put on one of those wonderful gowns every hospital has. I also had to take off the gold chain I have worn for nearly twenty years. At her suggestion, I put it in my pocket.

She had be get in the bed, sort of high up so my head was resting on a special pillow. I didn’t even have to remove my shoes! I lay back and, as she began to ask me some questions, another nurse came and started an IV on my right arm. A blood pressure cuff was placed on my left arm. The first nurse asked me my name and date of birth. She had me look at the info, which included the consent form I had signed, and asked me if it was correct. She asked me which eye was to have the procedure. She put an indelible, purple mark just above my eyebrow on the side it was supposed to be.

She also explained she was going to put drops in my eye to anesthetize it a bit in order to make me comfortable with the small sponge containing a chemical designed to dilate my eye. She was very concerned that I not experience any discomfort and repeated her offer to make me comfortable should my eye bother me. She then left me alone.

Shortly afterward, a young man came in and introduced himself as the anesthesiologist. He asked me the same questions I had been asked a few minutes previously and, being a big believer in the old adage, “measure twice; cut once”, I was more than happy to give him my answers. He checked my chart, apparently was convinced I was unlikely to die in the OR, thanked me, and disappeared.

Finally, about a half hour after I climbed into bed, my doctor appeared. She put a few more drops in my eye and carefully removed the sponge. It was the first time I realized there was a sponge in my eye. The nurse who put it in hadn’t mentioned what it was, just that she wanted to be sure it didn’t make me uncomfortable. My doctor then took a large syringe — kinda like a turkey baster — and filled my eye with a warm, gooey substance. She told me that I would be close to sleep, but they needed me to be awake at least enough to follow some instructions during the procedure. They then began moving my bed.

I remember nothing after that, save for a moment when I heard someone telling me to “look directly at the light.” Others have pointed out it was good they weren’t saying “go to the light.” I followed the instructions, especially since they had told me that’s what would be happening and I had been anticipating it . . . sort of. The next thing I knew, I was back where I had been prepped and my wife and daughter were coming in to see how I was doing.

I had a clear plastic, protective “patch” taped over my eye. I was able to get up, put my shirt on, and prepare to be driven home. I was also give a pair of sunglasses, a roll of tape, and printed instructions on what to do next. Although I was still a bit groggy, I was able to walk with my family out to the front of the building, where I sat down while my wife went to get the car. I noticed immediately, despite my eye being considerably dilated, that my sight was clearer. I was done with the hard part and everything seemed fine, which it was.

I had been using two different ophthalmic drops (one anti-inflammatory and one antibiotic) for four days and now had to start a third, another anti-inflammatory). The drops had caused a bit of discomfort, as they burned after I instilled them. However, the first couple of times I put them in after the procedure it felt like someone stabbed me in the eyeball. It was the most painful part of the whole ordeal.

I had to return the next day, Thursday, so I didn’t go into work that day, but I was able to comfortably return to work on Friday. I had my final post-op exam today and everything is going swimmingly. I’ve been putting drops in my eyes nine times a day for the last week, but now only have to put two of them in three times a day for the next week, then a week at two times and another at once a day. Then I’m done.

I’m told there’s a possibility my eye could, in time, develop a membrane that will act like another cataract, but it can be removed with a simple laser procedure. I am extremely grateful for the existence of this procedure I just had and the manner in which it was performed. I am nearly ecstatic to have my eyesight back. It’s better than it’s been in many years. If you’re having a problem with cataracts, which nearly everyone develops if they live long enough, I highly recommend you have the surgery performed. I now have a serialized, registered implant in my eye (my card says so), but I can’t feel it and the difference in my world is like . . . well . . . night and day.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,039 other followers

%d bloggers like this: