Thursday, February 14, 2019

Valentine's Day

Our half anniversary falls on Valentine's Day which makes it noteworthy despite its origins.  I'm sure he was saintly, and setting aside a special day for a special person has its merit too.  Card, some candy, nice dinner.  We have togetherness regularly but don't take note of it regularly.  Worth a day for that purpose alone.

Happy Valentine's Day to my special lady.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Finding Them

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As notes for preparation of the Fiftieth Reunion of my high school class appear from time to time, my initial enthusiasm has largely petered out.  The most recent note shows about two dozen confirmations, a couple I was reasonably close to then, about the same number that I've grown closer to now as electronic media has made distance largely irrelevant.  Instead of sharing classes, we share cyberspace.  While the organizers worked hard with attention to detail on making attendance memorable, I think they made a grievous error in their insistence on capturing everyone via world of mouth and email address, each far less reliable a means of contact than other opportunities that our electronic advances have brought upon us and the reasoning skills that our alma mater should have imprinted upon us.  From time to time a list arrives with missing people.  When I suggested that they look the people up and mail them, I got a rather snide reply from one of the principal committee members asking me to defer for ten years.  While I still considered attending until more recently, the Respect Meter deflected negatively, and the fairly schvok response that they have gotten probably reflects that in another form.

But while the Committee did not want to be bothered with a tedious but likely fruitful task, I recently challenged myself to see what this would actually entail.  Setting a timer for 55 minutes, which is what our library allows for each session in cyberspace, I divided the list by letters, starting with B/C then M/N.  I figured men would be easier to find than women, common names shared by thousands largely beyond my skill.   It turned out not to be that way.  Since whitepages gives address and telephone number, and I knew everyone's age within a year, and that they had once lived in our school district, that seemed like a good starting point.  It wasn't, especially for the women.  What worked a lot better was simply to type the name on Google with a comma and 67 as the age.  I got Facebook references, LinkedIn Profiles, a lot of whitepages and spokeo with a less useful mylife list.  Maiden names were largely crossed referenced or still shared by fathers and brothers.  I got a fair number of parent obituaries in the local paper or from Florida which would give me the daughter's current name as a survivor living in an identified place, which largely confirmed the identification and allowed me to search separately.  Some became licensed professionals, MD's, dentists, or attorneys with at least office address and phone numbers as well as biographies.  One fellow of very common name that I did not expect to find, had a military career that took him hither and yon, with our high school name and class among his educational achievements.  And that is all from a list that the committee which I would reasonably expect to do this didn't want to be bothered with the effort, which turned out less than I had anticipated.

Moreover, I think it changed my perspective of what is likely our final gathering.  Why reassemble?  Our preparation for adulthood came from there but our destinies did not.  We should be taking a measure of delight in everyone's achievements, the many places our otherwise obscure military classmate got to live, how somebody with a very common African-American name could migrate to Alabama, the businesses people started as the highlight of their LinkedIn Profile,  We had some 400 graduates which would make for 400 stories.  Getting those present and those from afar to donate $50 each to offer a meaningful remembrance of our class to those who maintain our school now in more difficult times than when we attended.  That's the output of 50 years of personal achievements multiplied and a single class achievement unified.  It doesn't seem to be the product being presented to me.

The communications seem devoid of this glory.  We seem to have more of a reception, a Bar Mitzvah perhaps with people you were once closer to than you are now, celebrating the schools 50th birthday, as we were the first class, with an elaborate catered affair and some post-Beatles era music replacing the hora.  For those nearby, be a sport and say hello.  For those not nearby, the cost seems to exceed a value that slipped away.  If  they want to give a gift to the school, I'm in.

I still have all those other alphebetized letters of unlocated people.  They have stories too.  Since I'm the only one interested in them, I'll see what cyberspace has to tell me about their destinies.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Back to School

Classes at the Osher Institute of the University of Delaware begin tomorrow.  All four requested courses came through.

  1. Christian Roots of Anti-Semitism
  2. Basic Woodcarving
  3. Advanced Writers Workshop
  4. Spin on events from a male mind
Three have contacted me, requiring a notebook, writing samples, safety equipment, wood carving tools, and a ruler.  I put a small first aid kit in the bag as well.  Tuesday courses take me through lunch.  I've not packed a lunch in a long time but think I'm up to the task.   And try to appear stylishly retired too.

Monday, January 28, 2019


Been feeling inexplicably down for a few weeks.  Not despondent or hopeless.  Just not motivated, which can be a big impediment if there are no assigned tasks, one of the realities as six months of retirement approaches.  I force myself to do things:   get up at the assigned time, stay awake until the assigned time, read a chapter of the book I am working on each day.  I go out each day, sometimes purposeful like grocery shopping or taking advantage of the $1 coffee promotion at WaWa, sometimes get out for the purpose of getting out to a regional mall to walk around.  I've gotten desperate enough to set time aside for television.  Extracting pleasure from any of this has not gone very well.  Exercise has been on schedule and I feel decent, just with an overwhelming ennui.  Chronic SSRI has tamed my compulsivity.  Not a good time for a drug holiday.  Tasks on my daily list just stay there.  Best option might be to focus on a few things that have a defined end point and see if finishing them adds to an inner satisfaction, if not to pleasure.

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Thursday, January 24, 2019


It had been my intent to attend Grand Rounds at the Medical Center this morning.  My inner clock awoke me overnight, though.  I did a Review of Systems on myself, which tends to work more effectively  than counting sheep, but to no avail.  I just got up with some pretense of either watching television or being productive.  Sipped a small amount of zero calorie cherry-cola, then remembered that I hadn't yet paid my COBRA dental premium which was coming due soon.  I retrieved the statement, which I just have to remember with no assistance as one of the carrier's purposes is to drop participants as best they can,  Wrote a check.  Signed another check issued to me six weeks ago.  Scanned the remote to see if there is anything on Cable worthy of watching.  There wasn't.  I have a very successful self-imposed mandate not to use the computer or tablets from 11PM to 5:30AM so that diversion was off the table.  I do not eat from 8PM to 6AM as pretty good research has shown that restricting one's hours of feeding is the easiest passive way to achieve weight control.  That has been less successful.  Could have made brownies, as mixes are on sale each week making my supply excessive.  Risk of falling asleep with the oven on just seemed too high.  Our cat, a nocturnal predator, was also awake but didn't seem ready to play.

While the news cycle and time zones when people are normally awake and functioning has gone 24/7, I have not.  If no laudable TV and other screens forbidden, I may as well give sleep another go.  Next thing I knew it was usual wake time, or a half hour later.  I could still have rushed myself a little to Grand Rounds where they serve coffee when the doctors sign in but the motivation was gone.  Just start the other morning activities, get some catch-up sleep later, and allow today to go wherever it is headed.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Delayed Trip

Image result for short tripOne of the realities of being retired after a productive but demanding career has been too much discretionary time.  I did a lot better as an employee where somebody set tasks for me and created my work schedule than I did as an independent practitioner where I set the schedule.  I have very few times recently when I have to be in this place at this time doing that.  If I did not create tasks and deadlines I might be so fundamentally lazy as to not do much.  But I have an exercise schedule that I have maintained with observable benefit to my well-being.  Shabbos arrives at the time the Chabad calendar says.  Come next month, I expect to have scheduled classes at the Osher Institute of the University of Delaware.

Making my own schedule has been challenging.  I do not want to be like my patients on Medicare whose life's highlight often seemed to be their doctors' appointments.  I arrange a series of trips, mostly day trips to museums or places not far away that I've not been to before.  This year I went to see The Mummers Parade on New Years Day.  This morning it had been my intent to drive the four hours or so to the Pennsylvania State University where I have never been before, staying two nights at a hotel.  To my great disappointment, the weatherman indicates two days of heavy rain or wintry mix starting tomorrow and continuing to my drive home, so as much as I'd like to escape my house for a short while, traveling it drier weather seems more compatible with being a tourist.   I had the good sense to get a cancellable reservation and will reschedule shortly, hopefully for next week.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Exposing Truth

My friend and his daughter started a consulting firm called Critica.  It's has been to take the public controversies of science, which are often more controversial to ignoramuses or people with political agendas to pursue than they are to scientists themselves, and promote accuracy in its public reporting.  There are legitimate machloket's, Hebrew for disputes, among scientists, which is how science advances, and there are distortions intended to achieve a desired end.  Lest we think this is new in the form of evolution deniers or anti-vaxxers, in another era our history books tell us of scientists revered today being threatened but high level authorities over things like geocentrism or a flat earth.

Their editors asked an interesting question to their readers recently, how could their service be advanced?  While they focus on physical or biological science, which for the most part has demonstrable end points. their interface is journalism, how the truth or its distortions are presented to people who lack the technical background to permit their own analysis.  It is not all that hard to demonstrate that pediatric vaccination advances public health and that the world is warmer than it once was.  Those same processes of analysis and presentation are adaptable to other forms of demonstrable truth.

After World War II General Eisenhower on discovery of concentration camps had the saichel, good judgment, to bring witnesses and newsreels to disclose what he saw.  Despite many technological advances in documentation, I've yet to see anyone marching Gazans through Hamas tunnels or interviewing the people who built them.  No question that those tunnels are there and what they are intended for, but nobody with Eisenhower's looming stature, security, and integrity seems ready to make the disclosure.  Not even journalists who would like a scoop.

One of the audiobooks that I listened to while commuting was Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Nomad in which she described the textbooks given to her as her curriculum with blatant anti-Semitism whose content those students would be expected to master for their exams.  I've never seen one of those textbooks, but there is nothing to keep it from being translated and posted on the web in its original form.  These are pretty binary truths, they are either there or they are not.

Some are more nuanced.  People of my era have some recollection of Edward R. Murrow's Harvest of Shame documentary, where he reported on the dark side of the farming that becomes our food supply.  How the migrant farmers lived, or how the Appalachian people get by, has its element of truth, though with more of a "yes but" than we would get from analysis of physical sciences.

We also have things that do not lend themselves very well to analysis and finite answers.  There is a certain folly to proclaiming a true religion but people have been trying for a thousand years.  Perhaps exposing the folly is also part of exposing truth.

Whether science, geopolitical circumstances, or the plights of different people, all have that common link of reality.  While science disclosure generates less controversy than the others, they also have that common link to good journalism to create a proper public presence.  Clark Kent, that mild-mannered reported from a Great Metropolitan Newspaper, sought truth, justice, and the American Way.  The order on the Superman series seems more correct than the reverse order that we seem to have now.

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