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Archive for the ‘Thinking/thought’ Category

Without question, what happened in Manchester, England is beyond comprehension. “Evil losers,” as Donald Trump has called those responsible, perhaps begins to describe those responsible, and yet, I’m not certain there are any words in the vocabulary of any peoples that adequately describe the mindset of what we now classify as “terrorists.”

We are attempting to ascribe to others our own morality, and we are attempting to apply our own cultural mores, ie, “the essential or characteristic customs and conventions of a community,” to those who are completely different from any of the characteristics, customs or conventions of any community. Their moral compass is 180 degrees from that of Western Civilization. What these “radical jihadists’ have done is to cannibalize all of the beauty of the religion of Islam and turned it to their own egregious ends. In effect, they are completely ignorant of the Quran, its teachings, or even their own end game. Their ultimate goal appears to be killing for the sake of killing and terrorizing those more culturally developed nations into fearing them purely for the sake of fear. I have yet to hear anyone in any leadership position within ISIS, ISL, Al Qaeda, Taliban, or whoever happens to be calling the shots these days, issue any statement of purpose or what it is they wish to achieve.

As I understand it, Salman Abedi used to be a “lovely kid” when he first attended Didsbury mosque with his father. Something changed. What was it? Was he confused by his family, his schools, the study of business management, his friends, what? We will never know. Perhaps this was a young man who turned to radical Islam as an escape from pressures that he felt, but that others didn’t. We will never, ever know, why this man/child exploded a device that, so far, has killed 22 and injured more than 160 people of all ages.

I have a theory. It goes something like this: I believe that all of these people who blow themselves up in the name of something they don’t fully understand are weak-willed and ignorant immature sheep. I would classify them as lemmings, but we all know that that is a myth created by a Canadian film crew back in the 50s. I’d say that they should be driven out of the Middle East the way St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland except we also know that never happened. No, these people are sheep, searching for a shepherd to lead them and give them some direction. Unfortunately, the leadership they find is with arrogant, ultra-conservative groups and individuals who brainwash the sheep into believing that they will live a much better life after death, and that their ‘ultimate’ sacrifice will please the god they worship. All of this, of course, is pure fabrication consisting of half-truths and outright prevarications.

Following a religion is a bitch. Seriously, being tied to a single faith, whether it’s Christianity, Judaism, Muslim, Hindi, or any one of a million other faiths, only tends to create problems with those of other faiths. As stupid as it may sound today, I was banned from having a serious relationship in high school because my girlfriend’s family were strict Roman Catholics and I, god forbid, was a Protestant. As life would have it, I married a woman who was Roman Catholic by religion, and our children were raised as ‘they’ wished to be raised. We took them to a variety of Christian churches and were allowed to make their own decisions regarding faith. Would we have blessed an inter-religion or inter-racial marriage? I don’t have an answer for that, largely because it never became an issue. Look, if you will, at the restrictions imposed by the Holy See. They may not lead to war, but there are some pretty strong “Oh, no, you don’ts’ in that faith. It appears that the Muslim faith, as practiced by some sects in the Middle East is akin to, “My way or the highway,” and in this case it’s the highway to death. Can you imagine, for example, a minister, priest, or rabbi telling his or her congregation to stone a woman to death because she went out in public without her hajib or because she wanted to divorce her unfaithful husband? The people who are putting forth laws created in the time of Caesar or before have no concept of gray for anyone other than themselves. It’s fine for them to rape, rob, and pillage wherever, whoever, and whenever they so desire, but they do so in the name of their god without fully comprehending the messages of their god.

There will be more attacks, particularly on Western Civilizations, particularly on countries that are predominantly other than Muslim. On the other side of that coin, however, there are millions upon millions of Muslims who understand perfectly well what Allah’s teachings were and are. They are at peace with their religion and religions as practiced by others. Do they understand these other religions? Perhaps so, perhaps not. Do those of us in other religions understand Islam? Perhaps so, perhaps not.

I’m quite certain that there are some people in the Middle East, Taliban, ISIS, and all of the others, who consider themselves to be “freedom fighters” as opposed to terrorists. I don’t know what freedom they are fighting for, nor do I really care. I’m certain also that they believe those who are attempting to exterminate them are, in their own right, ‘terrorists,’ and that includes the American and other nations’ soldiers who are shooting at them. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Most important of all, how do we prevent these extremists from continuing to kill innocents. If you have an answer to that one, I’m all ears.

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So, there I was, comfortably ensconced in my favorite chair on the back patio, admiring the containers of potatoes, garlic, onions, peas, and yes, even carrots, looking at the eight pots of impatiens we had just purchased from Lowe’s and wondering how I was going to transplant them to the containers on the fence (whew, long sentence), when a fly landed on one of the posts of the raised bin and asked me what I was doing. Yep, you heard right…a bloody fly landed on a support post and had the audacity to ask me what I was doing. Seemed to me that he had a lot of nerve…well, I thought it was a he at the time…to ask a question of someone sitting on their own patio. Heck, I could hardly understand him, the way his wings were flapping so loud. Guess he was probably yelling. What? Oh, you don’t speak fly? Guess you’re not from New England then. Hey, look, if Harry Potter could talk to snakes, you know, well New Englanders – least I haven’t met one yet who can’t – well, we communicate with all sorts of animal species…’cept cats. I’ll be damned if I can figure out what cats are saying. Most of my friends feel the same way. Cats just give you that smirk that says, “I hear you, slave, but don’t think I’m going to dignify what you have to say by answering you…go, go away before I do something evil…which I will do later anyway…when you least expect it.”

Speaking of anyways, this fly and I, we got into a conversation about why we’d started some of the garden but not the whole thing. He was rather funny looking, blue eyes, glimmering wings, and a little yellow spot just above the eyes. I said, “You’re not from around these parts, are ya?” and the fly allowed as that he was from Virginia and was really just stopping off for a while before he flew on to Maine for the summer. Seems the South gets a bit too hot for him and his family during the summer. “You got kids,” he asked, and I said they were all grown up and had kids of their own. “So, you’re a family man,” I queried, and he nodded his beady little head up and down, actually rising an inch or two above the post before settling back down. “How many kids you have?” I asked. He seemed to ponder that question for a moment, then responded, “At last count, I think she told me it was around six-point- two million…but that’s just a guestimate.” “Your wife told you that?” I asked. “Oh, no, no, no, no, no,” he said quickly. “Heck, the wife only knows about a couple million. No, my girlfriends told me about all the others.” “So you’re what one might call and adulterous fly, is that right.” “C’mon, man,” he said, “It’s what flies do everywhere. It’s no big deal. You should see what the mosquitoes and grasshoppers do. Wow, it’d kill me to try and keep up with them.”

Juli came out with a cup of coffee. “Who you talking to?” she asked, but then spotted the fly. “Oh, hi,” she said, “You going to Maine again this summer?” The fly nodded, and I looked at Juli. “You know this fly?” I asked. “Met him last year,” she intoned. “Really,” I said, “you know how many kids he has?” “Well, last year, I think he said around five million…is that right?” she asked, looking at the fly. By now, of course, even though it was only 7:15 in the morning, I’m thinking it’s time for a couple of fingers of Glenlivet or at the very least, a strong Bloody Mary. But, by the time that thought passed through my brain, Juli and the fly were involved in what appeared to be deep conversation.

“You never mentioned that you had a fly friend,” I said. “Would you have believed me?” she asked. “Hell no, I wouldn’t have believe you,” I responded and continued, “I probably would have called your brother to take you to the funny farm. Matter of fact, when he leaves, I might just head there myself. I mean, I know we can talk to flies and stuff, but this sure as hell is a first time for me!” The fly flew over and landed on my knee. “Look,” he said, “it may seem strange at first, but you’re the one who told me that New Englanders can talk to us and others. We’re cool with it, and Juli and I were just talking about the compost bin over there,” and he turned and nodded at our bin in the corner. “She was kind enough to put some rotting food in there last fall so we could stop for a snack on our way back home.”
“Well, I gotta buzz off,” the fly said, “Nice meeting you, and Juli, don’t forget, the oranges were really good last year. Gave us a lot of energy for the rest of the flight.” With that, he hovered, did a couple of loops around our heads and headed north.

Juli and I just stared at each other. She finally broke the silence. “Don’t forget to write oranges on the calendar around Labor Day,” she said. “They come back a day or two after.” What could I do? I just nodded, went into the house, and looked for the calendar. Now where the hell’s that scotch?

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I find it difficult to understand why Senate Democrats would block Neil Gorsuch’s nomination when they all know that it will just lead to the ‘nuclear option’ that will allow the man to be confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice. This is just the child-like behavior that Republicans showed over the past eight years of the Obama administration. It seems to me that the two-party system in America has degenerated into a bunch of name-calling, infantile, assholedness that we often attribute to police state countries in other parts of the world. Perhaps the part that bothers me most is that the American public appears to be content to tolerate this behavior on the part of our national law makers…and that my friends is no less than absolutely frightening.

Are the Democrats so fearful the Justice Gorsuch will sway the balance of power that they have to use anything they have to prevent his nomination from passage? Yes, of course it’s true that he will be a voice of conservatism on the Court, just as Merrick Garland’s appointment would have made the Court one that would lean more to the liberal side of the aisle. However, I have to assume that the successful block of Garland’s nomination was nothing more than a cry-baby attempt by conservatives to further their agenda of diluting any kind of legacy that would be left by Obama. Certainly, Trump’s executive orders and the House’s idiotic attempt to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act seem to be designed to ensure that there is no Obama legacy to be undone.

Call me naïve or dumb or whatever you wish, but I find it absolutely ridiculous that 435 men and women, sent to Washington to do the very best for this country by composing, comparing, and enacting legislation that will benefit this nation as a whole, cannot do so. Sure, I understand that what the people in Maine want, the people in Mississippi want, and the people in Montana, Minnesota, and Massachusetts may want, but goddammit, somewhere along the line, there should be things that people in our 50 states can say, “Well, yeah, I’m not crazy about it, but I can live with it.” This is not the case today in the Houses of Congress. It’s “my way or the highway, and fuck you very much!” and that does not serve the best interests of anyone in any part of the country. Congress has become too self-absorbed with what it considers to be its own importance. To top it off, we now have a person in the White House who encourages this type of discord, although for what reasons, it’s hard to imagine. Congress can censure its own members, but the only way that America can benefit is if we throw some of these people out of office and let some new folks attempt to understand the word, “compromise.”

I can hear the politicians now…”Oh, you don’t understand how government works. You don’t realize the pressure we’re under from our constituents to stand our ground.” Perhaps not, but what I do realize is this: Too many of you have been in office too long, and you have turned government into your own political play thing, that does nothing for the nation, but that lines your pockets in ways that are unimaginable to the vast majority of your constituents. Do you think I’m joking? Time Magazine, in a January, 2014 story, wrote, “The Center for Responsive Politics analyzed the personal financial disclosure data from 2012 of the 534 current members of Congress and found that, for the first time, more than half had an average net worth of $1 million or more: 268 to be exact, up from 257 the year earlier. The median for congressional Democrats was $1.04 million and, for Republicans, $1 million even.” In that same year, the median income of Americans was $51,939. Doesn’t that make you stop and think that perhaps members of Congress cannot possibly understand what it’s like to be an average American citizen? They listen and nod their heads and commiserate with their folks back in East Bumfuck or wherever, and then they return to Washington, dining at Fiola Ware, Bourbon’s, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, or The Source, usually at the expense of some lobbyist or other who will get them to vote for a bill that is actually at odds with what the interests of their constituents happen to be…but they tried…they were just overwhelmed by their fellow Congressional leaders or members of their party…and it’s all a bunch of bullshit…just so they can pocket a few more bucks or increase their portfolios.

Am I a cynic? No, that’s not cynicism, it’s realism. I’ve been on this earth for over eight decades, and in that time, I’ve learned one or two things about political leaders. The first of these things is that they are overly impressed with their own self-importance. A second thing is that they may have begun their political careers hoping to change things for the better, but that they soon become corrupted by those who were in office before them and took them under their wing, and if they refused to be taken “under a wing,” they were soon out of office and never even saw the bus that they had been thrown under by their ‘friends.’ Remember what Mark Twain said, “We have the best government that money can buy,” and by God, he was absolutely right.

My political ambition never carried me farther than being vice president of a Little League, and seeing the back-biting and chicanery that happened in something as low-level as that was enough to convince me that getting into the real political arena was somewhat akin to shoveling shit against the oncoming tide…you just won’t win.

I love America with all my heart and soul. It is the greatest country on earth. It’s a land where people are free to pursue their dreams, and whether they succeed or fall flat on their collective faces, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because they are free to get up and start their pursuit all over again. Yes, I love my country, but sometimes I wonder just how we ever came to this sorry impasse that we call the United States Congress.

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We all know that there are inequities and inequalities in this world. Well, at least anyone with half a brain knows these things. I’m a big believer in this funny little thing called equal pay for equal work, which makes me just a wee bit pissed that women, on average, receive only eighty-two cents for every dollar that a man makes for doing the same job. When Mary Barra took over as head of General Motors, I’m told, she received a compensation package one million dollars lower than that of her predecessor. Her compensation package last year consisted of a $1,750,000 salary and other compensation that brought her package up to $28,576,651. Admittedly, this is probably one of the few cases where a CEO has earned every penny. Even within the male population, there is inequality. Tell me, if you can, why the head football coach at the Air Force Academy is making eight times more money than the Secretary of Defense of the United States? When one considers the international considerations of each position, it would appear reasonable to assume that the roles really ought to be reversed. Additionally, if the president of the University of Michigan is making $750,000, and the head football coach is making $9 million, how does one justify that inequality…and please, don’t tell me that old saw about the alumni fund depending on a winning season. It may be true in part but is it really true to the extent of such imbalance?

What does one have to do to earn millions of dollar each year? It certainly helps to have a history of achievement and demonstrated leadership qualities. According to Chief Executive Research, executive compensation is a “strategic tool.” “…having the right senior executives on the team and aligned are key drivers of business success, yet far too many companies don’t approach executive compensation strategically.” It seems to me that far too many companies hire more based on ‘old boy networks, school ties, or religious affiliations. After that the 300 multiple appears to take effect, that is, the CEO makes about 300 times what the average worker in his/her company earns. Is this fair and equitable? The answer is complex.

If you hire the very best person for the job as CEO, everyone benefits. The new ‘boss’ plans strategically for a five, ten, or longer period – one Japanese executive created a strategic plan 150 years out. If the plan works, the chief executive should certainly be compensated appropriately. Should the compensation be 300 times what the worker in the factory, on the floor, in the sales office or the secretarial pool? My answer to that is an unqualified, “No!” What if the chief executive increases the profits of the company by 300 percent of his/her strategic plan? The answer is still, “No.” We have allowed executive compensation to get out of control, according to Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, but, “Corporate apologists say CEOs and other top executives are worth these amounts because their corporations have performed so well over the last three decades that CEOs are like star baseball players or movie stars.” This is nonsense. The economy has grown. The stock market has grown. People have either amped up their spending or gone into greater debt just to “keep up with the Joneses.” CEO’s aren’t any brighter today than they were in 1965 when that multiple we talked about earlier was 27:1. In addition, legislation – until Trump came along, but it still will – favored big companies that wished to outsource, either to other states with more favorable tax rulings and lower labor costs, or overseas where labor costs were markedly lower.

In 2015, “The SEC passed a new rule for large corporations: Starting in fiscal year 2017, they must disclose their “pay ratio,” the multiple by which the CEO’s pay exceeds that of the median worker’s.” In his article in Politico, Michael Dorff states, “The point of the rule is to both bring down CEO pay and to improve the compensation of rank-and-file workers. The theory is that CEOs and boards of directors will be so embarrassed when they have to admit just how much more they pay their chief executives than a normal worker—300 times is typical, though some companies’ ratios may stretch into the thousands—that, in their shame, they will simultaneously lower the CEO’s paycheck and grant their workers a raise.” Personally, I have strong doubts that CEOs and boards of directors that are currently paying outlandish compensation packages give two hoots in hell about their workers, are too narcissistic and self-centered, and it will not become effective until labor unions and workers themselves take action against those same CEO’s and boards of directors.

The idea that a CEO and his/her top four or five executives bear a responsibility only to their boards of directors is ludicrous, although it appears that many of the S&P 500 still adhere to such a belief. You figure it out. If the CEO reports to the board of directors, it figures that he/she also has some input regarding who sits on that board. In an article in The Atlantic, they cite, “…Lucian Bebchuk and Jesse Fried, [who] in their 2004 book Pay Without Performance, argued that this procedure is a comforting fiction. They wrote that skyrocketing executive pay is the blatant result of CEOs’ power over decisions within U.S. firms, including compensation. Being on a corporate board is a great gig. It offers personal and professional connections, prestige, company perks, and, of course, money. In 2013, the average compensation for a board member at an S&P 500 company—usually a part-time position—was $251,000. It only stands to reason that board members don’t want to rock the CEO’s boat. While directors are elected by shareholders, the key is to be nominated to a directorship, because nominees to directorships are almost never voted down. Bebchuk and Fried showed that CEOs typically have considerable influence over the nominating process and can exert their power to block or put forward nominations, so directors have a sense that they were brought in by the CEO. Beyond elections, CEOs can use their control over the company’s resources to legally (and sometimes illegally) bribe board members with company perks, such as air travel, as well as monetary payment.

In other words, get your foot in the door as CEO of a major corporation via the old boy network, make the shareholders and your board of directors your primary concern, and you could well be set for life. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but I believe you get the general idea.

Truth to tell, CEOs and their organizations owe a far greater debt to a larger audience than their shareholders and boards. These stakeholders, as they are known, can also exercise some control over the pay of the CEO. Stakeholders include workers, product consumers if a product is involved, suppliers, creditors, and many others. R. Edward Freeman introduced the concept of stakeholders in business in 1984 in his book, Strategic Management. “The book proposed that effective management consists of balancing the interests of all [of] the corporation’s stakeholders – any individual or group who can affect, or is affected by, the achievement of a corporation’s purpose. The stakeholder concept provides a new way of thinking about strategic management – that is, how a corporation can and should set and implement direction.” Only by involving, completely involving, all stakeholders in the decision making processes, will CEO compensation, a major component of directing the organization be brought back into line. It seems to me that as long as CEO’s have any ability to influence who is on their board of directors or that the boards’ only interest is in lining their own pockets, this idea of multi-million dollar compensation will not be curbed, but will, in fact, flourish. The losers in this situation are too many to mention, and it only further grows the gap between the one percenters and the rest of the nation.

In the second part of this two-part series, I will take a look at the health care industry and the compensation of those in it.

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I am a man, just a man. I bear the burdens of all other men. I have the flaws of all other men. And yes, I even have some of the assets, skills, and intelligence of all other men. I have seen my grandparents die, and I loved them both. I have watched cancer kill my Dad, and I loved him. I loved my Mother, but we had quarreled over a period of time, and I was not there when she died. I watched my wife die at home of the same disease that killed my father. I loved my wife as only a spouse can over a fifty plus year period. I still speak to her every night as I’m quite certain other spouses speak to their own loved ones who are deceased. Love is love is love, and loss is loss is loss.

There is one loss that I have not experienced, nor do I believe I could ever survive. It’s the loss of a child. Yes, Joan and I lost three children before our first was born. However, these were miscarriages. We never knew our child or even its gender. Our first is now in her fifties and has three of her own. Our second is a year behind her, and he and his spouse have three of their own. Our youngest is also blessed with three. If any of these twelve people died, I know I would soon follow. The spouses? Yeah, they’re great, but they aren’t mine. My children are mine. My grandchildren, strange as it may sound, are mine…and I would die.

Where am I going with this? I’m going where, perhaps, I should have gone a long time ago. We see on television and in the newspapers that this 16-year old was killed walking on the railroad tracks, and we, or at least I, wonder, “What the hell was he doing walking on railroad tracks…oh, well.” And I think little more about it. Then my eldest calls and asks if I saw the news. “Oh, shit,” I think, and she goes on to explain that he was the only child of a young woman I knew very well when she was a student. She goes on to explain that the boy’s uncle and his wife were at dinner with my daughter just a couple of nights before. I knew the uncle, too, as a student. Then it dawns…what are these people going through? What could possibly be said to comfort them? The answer, of course, is nothing. There is nothing you can say to someone who has lost a child. There is no “closure,” oh God, how I hate that word. “Closure” implies to me that something good is going to come of what happened. A child is dead, not just that, but in this case, an only child, and I sincerely doubt there will be another for this family. What will they do? What can they do? How the hell will they get through the rest of their lives together? Will this make their bond stronger or will it turn into a blame game ending in divorce and two more lives destroyed? Pause for a moment and consider this…every time, this young couple sees a train while they’re out driving, every time they hear the mournful whistle of a train as they are going to bed or getting up in the morning, they will probably be reminded of their son’s untimely death. Not a particularly pleasant thought, is it, to have such an obvious reminder of this terrible tragedy.

If this is all too morbid for you taste, tune out now because I’m just getting started. Over 20 years ago, friends of this same eldest daughter lost their first born to SIDS. He was under a year old. I had held that child and then he was gone. I guess I was just trying to be a good Dad when I accompanied my children to the funeral. I remember thinking that I was going to have to be the ‘good’ one, the one who held my family tight as the funeral progressed. Pall bearers carried the tiny white casket to the front of the church. The Mass began. Everything was fine. My kids were weeping and I had my arms around their shoulders in comfort. “Stay strong,” I remember repeating to myself, even though I was fully aware of just how close I was to not staying very strong. Then a soprano in the balcony began to sing Michael Joncas’ On Eagles Wings. That was the end of my ‘stay strong’ period. It’s one of my favorite hymns, and, frankly, I fell apart. When the service ended, it was my kids propping me up as we made our way to the car.

Children who die before adulthood, think of what the parents have actually lost. There will be no pictures of high school or college graduations. There will be no pride of having a son or daughter join the military because it’s something they had always dreamed of doing. For Dads, there will be no walking her down the aisle or the joy of seeing him standing at an altar, watching his life partner walk toward him. There will be no grandchildren to love and to hold…and, of course, to spoil rotten. No, all of those things will be denied, and that means that the word, “closure,” is a nothing word. It connotes nothing to the parents who have lost everything.

Perhaps this is my way of saying that I will never, ever, take the loss of a child quite the same again. Whether it’s because the kid was speeding and he/she survived while others were killed, or because all were killed because the 17-year old had found someone to buy booze and was drunk at the wheel. It just doesn’t matter. It’s a child or children who are lost and cannot be reclaimed. The SIDS death mentioned above was, in its own way, favorable in that the couple went on to have two more kids who are now young adults, but that’s just not always the case. So whether it’s a child shot in a drive-by, or a teenager who overdoses on fentanyl, it’s still a child who is lost to this world, and that’s a burden that you or I never wish to shoulder. To every family who has ever lost a child, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry that it took me so many years to understand the depth of your loss.” May the Good Lord find other ways to bring positive blessings into your lives.

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“From the day you’re born, you begin to die.” I have heard this so often from so many bloody pessimists, that I’m rather disturbed by the statement itself. Furthermore, nothing could be less truthful. It would be better if it was said that, “From the day you are born, your destiny is to die.” Not one of us can foretell whether or not we will be a great chemist or teacher, mathematician or bus driver, doctor or physicist, but we all know that from the moment we begin to understand life, our final destiny is death.

Obviously, I think about death. What 82-year old do you know who doesn’t consider it to some degree or other? Oh, don’t know any 82-year olds? Hell, you don’t know what you’re missing. We are, alternatively, joyful, cynical, hypocritical, positive, negative to a degree you wouldn’t understand unless you were 82, and at times, we are absolutely youthful and playful. In other words, we’re just about as screwed up as the rest of the world’s population…but we can be one whale of a lot of fun at a party…as long as it ends by 7 pm.

So no, we do not begin to die when we are born. In fact, we begin to grow. As usual, I’ve bounced around the Internet to learn when we actually do begin the process of dying. It appears that our brain, lungs, and skin are the first to go. According to a column in the London Daily Mail, and confirmed by a few others, “As we get older, the number of nerve cells – or neurons – in the brain decrease. We start with around 100 billion, but in our 20s this number starts to decline. By 40, we could be losing up to 10,000 per day, affecting memory, co-ordination and brain function.” Now, I don’t know about you, but the math would indicate that it won’t be long before I become a blithering idiot. No, of course that’s not true. Our neurons can regenerate, if only in certain portions of the brain. Hey, and guess what helps this ‘neurogenesis?’ There are a couple of things, and one of them is physical exercise. I’m not going to ask my neurologist why this is so, but I would add this: On days that I exercise really hard, I have more energy and can attack with greater success such things as crossword and jigsaw puzzles, and have more interest in taking on new challenges. In addition, I find that my attitude is more positive than on those days when I don’t make it to the gym.

Like the brain, the lungs also mature at about age 20 – 24, yep, even those that haven’t been messed up by smoking. Since I happen to be one of those jerks who didn’t heed the Surgeon General’s warnings when they first appeared in 1975, you can just imagine how bad my lungs are. Hell, I didn’t quit until 1998. I now have emphysema as well as COPD, and I can tell you firsthand, it “ain’t no fun!” If you happen to be a smoker, give quitting a chance. I know it’s a bitch, I’ve been where you are, but believe it or not, you will feel better in about three weeks.

As far as our skin is concerned, let’s face it, most of us treat our skin brutally. We’re sun freaks; we don’t ‘lotion’ up to keep the skin soft and supple, particularly men, so it really is no wonder that our skin, by the time we’re 20, is ready to rebel…can ya blame it?

Let’s talk about the heart. The heart begins to age at around 40. Referring again to the article in The Daily Mail, The heart pumps blood less effectively around the body as we get older. This is because blood vessels become less elastic, while arteries can harden or become blocked because of fatty deposits forming on the coronary arteries – caused by eating too much saturated fat. The blood supply to the heart is then reduced, which can result in painful angina. Men over 45, the time of my first heart attack, and women over 55 are at greater risk of a heart attack. What can you do to prevent becoming a victim of the number one killer in the US? This one’s going to hurt so hang on tight. The first thing you can do is to watch your diet. I didn’t, but I sure as hell do now. The second thing is exercise…yes, I know I’m beginning to sound like Bob Harper or the male equivalent of Jillian Michaels, but it’s truly impossible for me to tell you just how much better you’ll feel. Yes, it’s a pain in the ass to begin a regime of daily exercise, but it works. I didn’t begin regular workouts until four years after my first heart attack. I didn’t have the time. I didn’t want to join a gym. It was too much work. You think of the excuse and then recognize it for exactly what it is…you’re lazy. Start off by taking a walk around the block three times a week. Okay, so you have to get up half an hour earlier to do it. Your loved ones as well as your heart will thank you. Oh, by the way, before you do it, check with your Doc. After all, he’s the one who’s been telling you for years that you don’t get enough exercise.

I’m not going to go through each and every organ in the human body, but I was a bit surprised that our breakdowns occur a bit earlier in some cases and a bit later in others. Our hair begins to leave us after age 35. The eyes begin aging at 40. Men, you can expect your gut to become noticeable by 55, and ladies, sorry but the boobs begin to age at 35. All in all, while death may be our final destiny, it’s probably a good idea to take care of what we’ve got while we’ve got it. But whatever you do, enjoy life; far as I know, it’s the only one we’ve being given.

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I dunno, I sort of got pissed off at Bill Shields yesterday. Bill is a reporter for Channel 4 television – a division of CBS – well, shit, that’s what they always say, so why shouldn’t I? Anyway, Bill was out in the ‘first blizzard since 2015’ – BFD – and he said that he felt he was slowly losing his mind. Now, I like Bill. He’s a damned good reporter, sort of the modern day Shelby Scott, for those of you who can remember back that far, but his comment was bothersome. Bill has beaten cancer, but his comment about slowly losing his mind was rather deleterious to those of us who are actually going through the process of doing just that. I don’t need any public broadcast of what I’m going to become.

Let me start at the very beginning – according to Julie Andrews, a very good place to start. Last year, at my annual “turn your head and cough” visit to the doctor, I experienced a spate of dizziness while getting dressed…no, he wasn’t smiling and smoking a cigarette. He helped me retain my balance, but suggested I see a neurologist whose office was one floor below where I was. Sure enough, down I went and talked to the good doctor. He told me that he’d like to schedule some tests, and we did. A few months later, I was sitting with electrodes attached to my head as images were shown, and all sorts of other, little testy things were done. Following the tests, I met with the neurologist. “Everything okay?” I asked. His well yes and no answer temporarily made me forget that I was in a neurologist’s office and not sitting with a shrink. It seems that the tests indicated that while my body is a temple, my mind is becoming akin to the privy behind. It also appears that while I do not now have dementia, there are some signs that say I’m a pretty good candidate.

“I want you to begin using a cane,” he told me. When I asked, “Why?” he indicated that my episodes of dizziness or losing my balance could be aided by the use of a cane…I haven’t bumped into a wall since I began using the damned thing, something I would occasionally do when walking down the hallway of our house…aha, the light dawns on Marble-head. Here I thought that I was just being clumsy. It was good to learn that it was something a bit more than me being me.

I guess I shouldn’t be taking it out on Bill Shields, but like most humans, I’m just looking for a scapegoat. The thing that is most bothersome about this whole diagnosis is that it isn’t actually a diagnosis. There are signs. Well, what does that mean? According to a picture of my brain, there are three little white spots that indicate my propensity toward some form of dementia. I watched my mother-in-law slowly die of Alzheimer’s disease. It wasn’t a pretty picture. I have a dear friend whose husband has frontal lobe dementia. It’s very unsettling to see him, and I don’t know how the hell she manages it. I have another friend who has become forgetful and is in the early stages of I’m not even certain what to call it. Am I going to be joining these people? I don’t know, but it’s a bit wearying to consider. Perhaps the most irritating thing about it is the idea that I wouldn’t be able to continue writing this blog. As I’ve said on many occasions, writing brings me tremendous joy…yeah, and I’ve got over 1,100 essays on this sucker to prove it! I love the idea of reading about or seeing some topic on which I can do Internet searches, to learn about someone or something, to be intrigued by some mystery or other, and then to gather information and present it to you, the one or two of you who actually read the blog…it’s just a hell of a lot of fun, and to be deprived of that is to take away a big part of my reason for being. Heck, I’m no threat to real writers, but I sure do have some fun.

Stay tuned for updates as the old man gets older and, with any luck, loses some white spots!

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