Tag Archives: Health

Intelligent Design is Really Stupid

Unintelligent Design

The Intersection of Stupidity, Religion, & Politics

I had an experience this morning that reminded me of something Neil deGrasse Tyson said, which I’ve read in many places. I’ve also had the experience many times in my life and consider myself somewhat lucky so far having managed not to suffer the final indignity the experience portends.

I’m speaking about nearly choking to death because I fell victim to the inherent – as Neil points out – stupid design of my body that has me breathing, eating, and talking through the same hole.

I was at my weekly QBN (Quality Business Network) breakfast meeting. We meet each week on Tuesday, at 7:00 – 8:30 am at The Junkyard Cafe here in Simi Valley, CA. Most of what is on a breakfast menu I can’t conscientiously eat if I want to keep my blood sugar under control. Pancakes, waffles, french toast, regular toast, potatoes, syrup, jam . . . they’re all verboten. I can have a plate of bacon, eggs, and cheese . . . and sometimes do.

However, today I asked for a salad, with ranch dressing and balsamic vinegar. I don’t have a cholesterol problem, so I don’t worry about the dressing too much. I’ve long liked ranch and Italian, which the vinegar substitutes for nicely.

No sooner did I start shoveling food in my mouth than a stream of vinegar squirted off the salad on my fork into my throat. I inhaled it slightly and immediately started coughing; nearly choking. It was so bad others started to get alarmed for my safety and I had to leave the room to keep from interrupting the presentation that one of our members was giving.

Obviously, I made it. It wasn’t the first time this has happened. I once inhaled some hot sake at a sushi bar in Venice Beach. The owner was horrified. He thought I was going to die right there in the restaurant and indicated how much he would like me to die outside on the sidewalk. I ignored him.

Anyway, back to Mr. deGrasse Tyson. I thought I would share this lovely video of his explaining – by pointing out how stupidly we, and the universe, are designed for life – how there is no such thing as intelligent design. Keep in mind, please, I’m not attacking religion, faith, or spirituality. I don’t care what you believe in. However, if it’s intelligent design, I (and Neil) maintain there is absolutely no evidence for it and only someone who refuses to face reality would entertain such a belief. Here’s the video:


Say What? When Did That Happen?

The Long Slide

Don’t get me wrong. Most of the time it’s like this.

Aging is an interesting subject to write about. After all, it happens to all of us and, as a Baby Boomer, my cohort is a rather large one. My experiences aren’t exactly unique . . . at least not in the grand scheme of things. However, I do bring a few wrinkles to the table. Perhaps the thing that stands out for me the most is the fact I still have rather young children.

If you read my blog or follow me elsewhere you should know by now my wife and I adopted our oldest child shortly after I turned 55. Not finding that enough of a challenge, we went and did it again when I was 59. I should point out my wife is younger than I am; not by a huge number of years, but the difference isn’t insignificant. It means when my oldest graduates high school I will be in my early seventies. Not unheard of, but surely a bit unusual.

Lately, I’ve found myself wondering if our journey wasn’t a little selfish. It’s all related to aging and my fear I will soon leave my children without a father, which will be the third (and probably most traumatic) time it’s happened to them. The first was losing their biological parents; the second their foster parents. I realize most of their memories of those two losses are pre-verbal and visceral, but I don’t think that makes them any less real and I don’t want to leave them until they’re full-grown and capable of taking care of themselves. I owe that to them.

Right now there is a confluence of events that’s causing me to think about my mortality a little more than I normally do. My retirement is far more devastating to my self-esteem than I anticipated. I’ve written about the separation I’ve felt and it hasn’t become any easier in the interim. It’s a bit difficult to feel competent when you don’t have the opportunity to test your skills and, given my propensity to continuously question my capabilities, I find myself struggling to find relevance.

Then there are the physical things. Oy! When I was a young man the only thing I was really interested in was wisdom. I wished to one day be seen as a wise person. I knew that would take time and that I would not be the one to determine when I had reached whatever level that might be. You don’t, after all, hang out a shingle advertising “Wise One Here”! For that reason I looked forward to getting older. Not that I wanted to rush anything, but the aging process was a necessary precondition to attaining my goal.

When I hit about forty it suddenly dawned on me I had not considered the physical consequences of aging. I was not pleased with knowing how naive I had been. Clearly, wisdom was still a long way off. Each year now brings new challenges: Essential tremors, deteriorating vision, and a host of other areas in which I experience physical deterioration, the inexorable acceleration of my downhill slide. They all seem to be converging on the next big milestone – my 65th birthday, now a mere four weeks away.

I’m not sure it would affect me as much as it has were it not for the end of my COBRA health insurance six weeks prior to Medicare kicking in. Actually, I planned on it and I’m not really all that worried about bridging the gap. However, I don’t recall ever being uninsured in my life . . . so it’s a bit weird to realize I am totally uncovered right now. I’ve suggested to my friends I might spend the six week transition entirely in bed, but I’m sure that would just give me a heart attack.

I’m not entirely certain what I’m writing now is all that coherent, as I sometimes feel I’ve lost a few of my cognitive faculties. Normal driving can be cause for concern on occasion, as I don’t seem capable of anticipating three steps ahead like I used to do so effortlessly. I suspect, at times, it’s all relative and what I’m experiencing isn’t objectively as bad as I feel it is, but how do I know? Again – Oy!

So . . . I promised I would write a little about how I’m dealing with the aging process. This is it. I believe I’ll have more to say but, in the interest of getting something out there (a skill I am still struggling mightily with) I want to post this. Please don’t hold me to anything. Clearly, these are the ravings of an old man who, having awakened one morning to find his youth behind him, is seeking to understand what the fuck just happened.

Tomorrow I’m going to address why I chose to incorporate professional and personal posts into the same blog. TTFN :)


Sometimes It Feels Like Borrowed Time

Today marks, if not a special day on my calendar, at the very least an interesting one in my mind. Today is the fifth anniversary of the day I became older than my father was when he died. Does that seem like a strange thing to be commemorating? I suppose it is. Maybe a little context will make it more intelligible, if not less silly.

For most of my life, up until his somewhat untimely, if not surprising, death I had been told “You’re exactly like your father!” Frequently as an admonition for some behavioral trait I had exhibited. All-too-frequently it was something my mother found neither amusing nor endearing. I also looked like and was built like my father, adding to my perception that I was somewhat predestined to follow in his footsteps. This was exacerbated by our culture, which is based on and continues to exhibit vestiges of primogeniture. Being the first-born son of a Conservative Jewish family, I know I was doted upon and received far more attention than I’m sure I deserved. It also added to the perception of inevitability I both relished and rebelled against.

When my father died in 1984 I had just turned 37. My metabolism, which is now obviously quite unlike my father’s, had yet to change and I was still pretty thin; still physically similar to my father when he died. He was less than two months shy of his 60th birthday and you can bet there were lots of conversations with my mother and my brother over what that turn of events might mean for my and my brother’s future health.

These conversations continued occasionally throughout the years and, as I grew older, it became more and more apparent I was not really “exactly” like my father. Not the least of these revelations was when I reached the age he was at his first heart attack (around 50) and not having one myself! I’m sure that moment was made more important by the memories I had of being the one to recognize the symptoms and driving him to the hospital late at night at over 80 miles an hour, running lots of red lights in the process.

The Last Supper by Arum

Friday the 13th Can Be Very Scary For Some Folks!

So, what anxiety I felt slowly dissipated over the years. However, I had done one thing that set a landmark and, having done so, it was  impossible for me to ignore or deny it. I had entered my father’s birthday into an electronic spreadsheet and subtracted it from the day of his death. By formatting the result as a number I had the exact number of days (give or take ~ 24 hrs) he was here and alive on this planet. I then added that number to my birthday and converted the result into a date. Ironically, the day on which I would match the total time my father had lived occurred on a Friday the 13th. Though not superstitious, I have to admit the date had a little extra “spice” attached to it.

As it turned out, that date – April 13, 2007 – coincided with the first night of the In2:InThinking Conference I was attending. Since the weekend’s classes, seminars, etc. were to take place in the Woodland Hills Hilton’s conference rooms, many of the out-of-town speakers and leaders, as well as all the people who were working on the conference and its many ancillary activities, would stay at the Hilton beginning on Friday night. In addition to being an attendee, I was a co-presenter that year for one of those ancillary activities, but that’s another story.

As part of the package the In2:InThinking Network had negotiated with the hotel, we occupied the Presidential Suite where there was traditionally a big party. The suite was open to all the participants and there was food and drink; a merry time to be had by anyone who wished to show up and be a part of it. Fortunately, partying has always been one of the things I do quite well, thank you very much, and I spent the evening until well past midnight. I was gratified, as were my friends, I didn’t drop dead at the stroke of midnight and, since that day passed, I haven’t thought much about it.

I spent the evening (after which I would be older than my father when he died) drinking and eating and enjoying myself immensely. It was, for me, a two-fold celebration. I was happy to get what was a bit of a monkey off my back and I was happy to have known my father as long as I did. I was happy he and I had squared away our mostly rocky relationship and were well on the road to being friends when he died. I was happy he was my father and I celebrated his life, knowing that he would have wanted me to have a good, long one. I intended then, and continue to expect, to do just that.

Today is five years to the day and, as a special treat – a lagniappe, if you will – it’s also Friday the 13th; just like it was on that day. Even though it became obvious long ago I wasn’t “exactly” like my father, the realities of genetics and the similarities in our personalities always kept the limit of my father’s time on Earth in the back of my mind. It was never an obsession, but it was a bit of a pastime for a while :) I do, occasionally, feel like I’m living on borrowed time which, in many ways, makes every day just that much sweeter.

ADDENDUM: I have long known of the word triskaidekaphobia, which means “fear of the number 13″, but just discovered the existence of a word for “fear of Friday the 13th”, paraskevidekatriaphobia, which is far more specific.


Can I See You Now?

Reading Glasses

Life Savers for a Bibliophile

A little while ago I wrote about one of the “interesting” challenges I’m facing as I grow older. I was reminded the other day of another challenge; one that’s been around for a while but is taking on a slightly new dimension.

I have been wearing bifocals since I was about 40. Many people need glasses early in life, but almost everyone eventually suffers from Myopia as they age and need reading glasses. At the beginning I really didn’t need much more correction but, since reading was so important to me and an exercise I indulged in quite frequently, I decided to forego them in favor of full size spectacles. I did have a very slight astigmatism, which my lenses corrected for, but I would have been fine without them. This way, however, I didn’t have to wear something around my neck or have to continuously reach for a case to take out – and replace – my glasses in order to read.

As the years went by, I reached a point where my astigmatism was such that I needed the regular lenses as well and by then I was used to wearing glasses all day long; had been for years. I never even considered contact lenses as I didn’t think the extra work was worth it for whatever convenience (and vanity) it might afford. I even had a special pair of glasses made specifically with only my regular prescription, which I used exclusively for practicing and playing golf.

About a year or two ago, while I was driving (a car, not a golf ball) I happened to look at what I thought were a couple of birds flying in an amazingly tight formation. I remarked to my wife about the incredible closeness in which those two birds were flying. She looked at me like I was a bit nuts and pointed out there was only one bird. It wasn’t long before I realized my vision had finally begun to deteriorate a little more.

Unfortunately, by then I no longer had vision insurance and I just wasn’t prepared to spend a lot of money on a new prescription and new glasses. I resolved to deal with it for as long as I could, but I’m getting tired of seeing every star and planet in the night sky with a small companion to its lower left. The Moon is now a somewhat featureless circle too. The other day, while driving to pick up my daughter from gymnastics, I noticed two women jogging closely together as I glanced down a side street I was passing. I knew there was really only one person, as they were both wearing the same exact clothing. I guess it’s about time to fix this before I become dangerous.

Photo via Flickr by Mr. T in DC


Heavenly Bacon . . . or Sky Bacon?

Sizzle, baby, sizzle

Death strips or Yummy Lozenges?

This blog is hosted by WordPress.com. I love it. It’s easy to maintain an organized, continuous presence on the web (assuming I post fairly frequently) and I have found it to be a continuously improving Content Management System as well, i.e. more than just a blog for me. This year the folks at WordPress launched a sort of challenge to those who use their services. It was to blog every day, if possible, or at least every week. I chose to accept the latter challenge, though I have declined to use the subjects they suggest every day.

However, today they suggested writing something about bacon and I just couldn’t resist. Having been raised in the world of smoked and luncheon meats (bologna, ham, hot dogs, head cheese!, liverwurst, and bacon – to name a few) I have a long-standing love/hate relationship with them. I am intimately familiar with almost all of them (head cheese was never a favorite of mine, but I’ve sold and delivered a fair amount), and I am pretty familiar with the health consequences of eating them, though there are lots of conflicting viewpoints; some with merit.

That said, I spent the summer between my first and second years of Law School (1974) working at a butcher shop in Gardena, California. We had a large, automated bacon-slicing machine and kept several hundred slabs of bacon around, which we sliced fresh each day. On Saturday, I would keep my eye on the case the sliced stuff was in and, when I noticed we had revealed a particularly lean part of the tray we laid out, I would snag a pound to take home for next day’s breakfast. My girlfriend at the time was from Vermont and we always had blueberry pancakes made on a Vermont Soapstone, drizzled with the best Vermont Fancy Maple Syrup. The bacon was thick-cut and the rind (skin) was left on, making each piece crunchy. These were incredible breakfasts, the memory of which has stuck with me all these years.

Now what does the title I’ve used have to do with anything remotely involved with bacon? There is a dessert found in many Mexican as well as Central and South American cuisines. It’s called Flan and, if you have not experienced it, think custard and Crème caramel for somewhat of an analogy. There are similarities. Like many dishes, there are numerous variants and the skill of the person baking it can change a delightful experience into a ho hum downing of a reasonably tasty sponge. Texture is quite important with this dish, IMO.

The type of Flan that stands out in my mind, however, is the Cuban version. It’s called Tocino del Cielo and it is – I guess – at least twice as rich as the kind I favor the most. For my tastes, it’s a little bit too rich. Nevertheless, it is clearly savored by quite a few people. Now to the title. I have always translated the name of this Cuban Flan in two different but related ways. The first is Sky Bacon or, literally, Bacon of the sky. My favorite translation, though, is Heavenly Bacon. Given that bacon is probably the richest meat you can purchase and cook without any preparation, I think attaching the word to an incredibly rich dessert makes some sense and, even though I find it a bit overbearing, adding heavenly kind of makes sense as well.

Do you know me (or someone who knows me)?

Six Degrees Probably Won't Cook This Dude

Do you like bacon, or do you think it will kill you to eat it? If the latter, do you eat it anyway?


Transportable Medical Records

Being at the Doctor’s office (routine visit) reminds me of a pet peeve. I am all in favor of any move toward digitizing and sharing my medical records with my providers; present & future. I hope that our sensitivity – I might allege hypersensitivity – over medical privacy isn’t crippling us from moving forward with an effort to save us from repeatedly filling out the same histories every time we go and for every new provider. Just a thought!

Rick


Reflecting on Some Other Reflections

Two posts got me thinking today. I’m not usually one to see the year as abruptly changing when December rolls over into January; I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions and stuff like that and I am more prone to celebrate the Winter Solstice than to celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah. Yet, it is the end of a calendar year, and there is some sort of change that always seems to take place when the year rolls, so I thought I’d take a crack at looking back just a bit at the previous 12 months. Having said that,  I’d also like to look a little forward as well, but that will come just a bit later.

The two posts I’m referring to are by Andy McAfee and Susan Scrupski, two people I have come to know better this year due to my work as an internal evangelist on Enterprise 2.0.  Andy’s writings on E2.0 and Susan’s tireless work on establishing and greasing the skids of the 2.0 Adoption Council have made my job much easier. I have learned a great deal from them and expect next year to bring even more knowledge, enthusiasm, and innovative ideas and practices I will no doubt benefit from. The post I refer to by Andy is very upbeat and strikes an optimistic note. The one by Susan is more hopeful than optimistic, but is definitely upbeat. Nevertheless, they’re both wonderful posts that look forward to bigger and better things. You can read them here (Andy’s) and here (Susan’s).

This last year has been a year of transition for me. Our fairly new President (I’m talking about where I work, not the country) recognized the value of E2.0, as well as numerous other efforts I was engaged in, and began leading the company in a new direction at the beginning of the year. He even christened our direction PoWeR 2.0 (PWR is an acronym for Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. Since our main business is Rocket Engines and Energy Systems, PoWeR is a decent way to characterize who we are internally). In addition to E2.0, PoWeR 2.0 includes the continuing integration of Program  Management, Knowledge Management, and Enterprise Thinking, the latter of which is our approach to the Systems Thinking propounded by people like W. Edwards Deming, Russell L. Ackoff, Peter Senge, and Edward de Bono, to name a few. To my way of thinking it will ultimately (I can dream) result in a relatively holistic, portfolio approach to the management of the entire enterprise, ridding us of silos of knowledge and performance in order to more efficiently and effectively meet the challenges of a fast-moving and demanding economy.

This very positive direction came at a time when our parent company announced our merit increases would be postponed by six months and that we would be given five days of unpaid “furlough” during the year. To their credit, when the six months expired we were given increases and the furlough days were designed mostly to intersect with holidays so we would get four day weekends. The financial hit was also spread through the remainder of the year once the decision had been made. This made it a bit more palatable and easier to assimilate financially. For that I am grateful. I’m not blind to the difficulties of the economy and we’re in a sector that can be hit pretty hard. Frankly, I’m pretty happy to still be employed and have a challenging and exciting job to do.

This year I also managed to complete my Masters Degree in Knowledge Management at CSUN. For me this was a major accomplishment. Not only was I working 46 – 50 hours most weeks, but I also have two young children and I’m no spring chicken, having arrived in this world back in 1947. It was sometimes grueling work, especially the last trimester when all I wanted was to get on with my life and put more attention into what I was doing at work. Nevertheless, I now have another degree to add to my accomplishments. Maybe some day I’ll get a Baccalaureate as well.

I’m almost embarrassed to say I became a Cancer patient and survivor all within the space of less than a month. I say embarrassed because I didn’t suffer at all. I must admit to being a bit concerned when I discovered I had a malignant melanoma on my back, especially after doing a little research and coming across descriptions that referred to it as the deadliest form of Cancer. Nevertheless, it was caught early, surgery was successful (and proved it hadn’t metastasized), and the Doctor’s say the chance of recurrence is around 3% – less than the chance I’ll have a heart attack or stroke in the next decade or so.

So, for me this has been a pretty upbeat year – all things considered. My kids are healthy; my wife, though still unemployed, is doing a great job of organizing the children’s education and extra-curricular activities, and (for the most part) I’ve been pretty healthy. Now for next year.

I’m really looking forward to next year. I believe I will be involved in some very exciting and innovative activities at work and, through the 2.0 Adoption Council, will be learning more and more about how to help my company reap the benefits I believe the development of what Andy calls emergent social software platforms (here for more info) will provide for any company willing to work at their adoption and profitable use. I have made plans to attend the next Enterprise 2.0 Conference, though I have already been working on methods of using social software (like Twitter) to allow others to virtually attend many conferences and possibly provide for far greater participation while saving money on travel expenses.

If I don’t post before the New Year I wish everyone a wonderful, joyous holiday season shared with friends and family in relative peace and comfort, as well as a happy and healthy new year. BTW – Susan, 2010 is the end of the decade. It won’t be over until 2011, but who’s counting?


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