Monday, July 6, 2020

I brought home over $100 worth of fresh vegetables today from Safeway. I bought these because Glenda has decided she wants to follow a vegetarian diet. I thought I had enough veggies to last us a week. I came out of a meeting today at abut 2:30 to find that Glenda has chopped and is frying all of the new fresh veggies.

SMDH.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Cannot anything be EZ?

TLDR: See my rule of thumb at the end of this post.

I absolutely hate that meteorologists have now decided that the amount of moisture in the air should be reported in dewpoint rather than in relative humidity. Prior to the 1990s, the dewpoint was considered an arcane and generally useless data point for public reporting. Relative humidity was widely used and reported and the general public had an instinctive understanding of the impact of any given relative humidity number reported. For some reason, which I’ve not yet been able to fathom, the ‘experts’ determined during the last decade of the last century that reporting the dewpoint would be more helpful than reporting relative humidity. Why and how?

Warm air can hold more water vapor than can cold air. Thus the relative humidity (RH) in a given environment can change with temperature with no change in the amount of water vapor being held in the air in that environment—RH is a relative measure, not an absolute measure—as indicated by the naming convention used. So, if an RH of 50% is reported at 70 degrees Fahrenheit (F), the RH will be lower if the temperature increases to 80 F with no change in the amount of water vapor in the air. Regardless of that, if the RH is 50%, we know that the air is holding half of the water vapor that can physically by held by the air at that given temperature regardless of what that temperature is. Given an RH measurement and a temperature, we could calculate the RH for any other given temperature assuming the physical amount of water vapor remains constant. Most people are comfortable at 30% to 50% RH. Above those values, and certainly at and above 70% RH, most people note that the air feels ‘clammy’ or ‘sticky.’ This human perception of moisture in the air is irrespective of temperature. An RH value is easy to understand. Humans generally like that 30% to 50% RH—and here’s the key point—REGARDLESS OF ACTUAL TEMPERATURE. 80 F and 30% RH is comfortable. 80 F and 80% RH will feel sauna-like. On the other end of the scale, 80 F with 3% RH will feel like you are in an oven.  30 F and 30 % RH may not be comfortable (because it’s cold) but 30 F and 80% RH is going to feel even worse.

The dewpoint (dP — not to be confused with DP) is the temperature at which the air has been sufficiently cooled such that the RH at that cooled temperature would be 100% assuming no change in the amount of water vapor physically in the air. Remember that warm air can hold more water vapor, thus, by inference, cool air must hold less water vapor. As the temperature drops to and below the dP, there will be condensation of moisture out of the air resulting in dew, or frost, depending on the air temperature.

So, the TV weatherman, probably a Certified Broadcast Meteorologist—a credential governed by the American Meteorological Society, reports the conditions with a dew point of 40 F. Or 65 F. Or 30 F. So what? What does that even mean? What I want to know is, how wet, how sticky is the air. Reporting the dP sort of tells me. A higher dP means more water in the air and thus more stickiness. But, how much is how much? How do we interpret a dP reading into practicable and actionable knowledge?

In reading information from the American Meteorological Society, they explain that a higher dP will generally be less comfortable. OK. Higher than what and less comfortable than what? If the air temperature is 80 F and the dewpoint is 50, will that be comfortable? Does anybody know? Can the dP be too low for comfort? What if it’s the same 80 F and the dP is 12 F? Is that going to be comfortable? How the hell do I know? Is there a chart somewhere that tells me what dPs provide human comfort at a range of temperatures? If there is I’ve not found it.  Here is what I did find courtesy of Wikipedia. EZ? I think not!


Chart by Easchiff - Own work
CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3334334

So, after spending some time with the chart above and doing some calculations in Excel, here's my rule of thumb: If the dP is more than about 20 degrees cooler than the current temperature, the RH is probably within the comfort range.

Friday, June 12, 2020

EZ Time.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Glenda and I are vacationing at a cabin in the White Mountains of Northern Arizona about 20 miles east of Payson. As a retiree without employment, I’m learning a lesson that I think I needed: How to take a break from doing nothing.



I noticed this morning that time seems different here and now. It has less meaning. I arose at first light and watched the eastern horizon become bright with a new day’s sun. I had a light and easy breakfast and prepared Glenda’s protein shake. I did my 20-minute yoga routine. I took a shower and dressed. And through it all I didn’t care what time it was. I not only don’t need to be anywhere else, I have absolutely no plans to go anywhere else. Other than the small necessities of living (preparing food, cleaning up afterward) there is NOTHING I must do. Nothing that needs done. Nothing that calls for my attention. The cares of the world could be light-years away. And that truly does make time feel different.

I haven’t had any deep thoughts nor epiphanies nor do I feel like I need any.

The word ‘vacation’ has an etymology and a heritage: Empty time; a time to be unoccupied. I’ve taken many ‘vacations.’ Today seems to be the first time I’ve ever truly experienced what empty time feels like.

It feels good—really, really good—to just BE and to breathe. For this I am thankful.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

We are complicit


The article began, “White people of America, take a moment to reflect on the reality that many of you have and continue to witness black people brutalized and killed for the better part of the last decade. #YouAreComplicit” (You Are Complicit, @Shaft, Medium.com, May 28, 2020)
@Shaft is surely right. He quotes David Crossman as saying, “When you turn a blind eye to atrocities, you are complicit in them.”

How can anyone believe themselves to be human while ignoring so many major and minor abuses of our brethren regardless of their skin color? How can one believe themselves to be caring while not speaking up?

I know I have biases, both explicit and implicit, both conscious and unconscious. I try to be aware so that those biases do not unfairly impact my behaviors and responses—I sometimes fail. I am that worst-of-all character: A white aging balding Christian male. My upbringing was rather insular. I have things to work on. I know I have lived and still live in a privileged position. I was born into a financially-poor family, and I’ve worked hard for my position in life, but I know that my skin color has not impeded my success—and that gives me privilege.

But am I wrong to think that ‘white people’ are not alone in possessing biases? I hear, “You wouldn’t understand.”

One incident remains in my mind. About five or six years ago I was driving out of my close-in suburban neighborhood in San Antonio to run an essential errand. Backing out of my driveway that clear and cool morning, I could hear the brassy sounds of the marching band at their Saturday morning practice over at St. Mary’s Hall, the exclusive and expensive private school a few blocks West of my home. Bronzed by the South Texas sun and toned by exercise in backyard pools or home tennis courts of the mansions that surrounded the school, these high-school band members would hardly be breaking a sweat in the mild weather today. Resting my arm on the driver’s door at the open window of my 10-year-old GMC pickup, I slowly drove away from my home. Down the block, I waved a greeting to my neighbor, Dr. Anna Karlsdotter, as she unlocked her Mercedes sedan. Noticing that she was dressed in a conservative light-blue pants-suit, I imagined she was headed for work at Northeast Baptist Hospital near the I-410 highway near the southern-most entry to our neighborhood. I thought about Dr. Karlsdotter and her family and hoped they would stay in their current home, but had my doubts. The homes on my street were a little old and a little small for an up-and-coming OB surgeon.

Several families were already outside working on their suburban yards. Taking a left on Barrington Drive I noted a line of cars already along the curb by the Episcopal Church of the Reconciliation. A few church ladies in colorful hats were lugging bags and boxes toward the church’s cultural hall for a spring-time event. As I rolled slowly past, their priest, Bishop Washington, purple scarf hanging from his neck, greeted me with a fist-wave. At the far end of the oak-lined paved parking lot, a group of young men, mostly a mix of Hispanic and black, were playing basketball under the outdoor hoops and I could hear their trash-talk. It’s a good bet that most of these youngsters were residents of one of the many apartment complexes between the church and the nearby freeway and that they didn’t attend St. Mary’s Hall. Bishop Washington and his congregation provided a lot of good services for those young men and their families, including breakfast and lunch for the youngsters that they probably wouldn’t otherwise get when school was not in session. Further along, the suburban homes turned to townhomes in tight rows with contracted landscape men at work. Serna Elementary School, ranked one of the most diverse public elementary schools in Texas, wasn’t in session, so the schoolyard and playgrounds were empty. I took another left at the Rahman Mosque and pulled up to the stoplight at the corner by the Lighthouse Baptist Church.

So there I was, a stereotypical white guy driving a stereotypical white pickup truck in Texas, windows cranked down on a balmy spring morning. I had been listening to some Fleetwood Mac. As I pulled to and waited at the stoplight to turn right where my neighborhood street exited onto the feeder road, I noted several people at the covered bus stop waiting for trusty Via Metropolitan #14. My wife often rode that bus to and from her gymnasium and had reported a generally congenial mix of riders. As I watched, a big guy finished his 32oz Circle K drink and tossed the paper cup, plastic lid, and straw to the sloppily trimmed lawn area behind the bus stop. Allow me to emphasize this: HE WAS STANDING NEXT TO A CITY-PROVIDED TRASH CAN. I was appalled. How can we keep our neighborhoods and streets nice under the insult of such behavior? I hate littering. I had just read that local peer pressure is more impactful against littering than rules and signs. I quickly escalated from appalled to incensed.

Window down, I shouted, “Hey, you, soda drinker! Pick up that damn cup. Trash can’s right there. Don’t trash our neighborhood!”

The light turned green and I drove away. Within seconds it hit me. “Oh, no! Damn.” The guy, the litterer, was black. He will think my verbal admonition was motivated by race.” I felt bad, and I still do, about this. I did not yell at him because he was black. I yelled because I hate slothful littering and trash. Anywhere, but especially near my home.

I know I have biases—but here I assume that he was biased too in thinking my rant was race-based. I have no way of knowing what he actually thought, but my imagination hears him responding in kind but with a racial component that probably had something to do with honky or cracker. What did he think of my use of “our neighborhood?” I meant OUR neighborhood – his and mine – but I fear he thought I meant MY neighborhood. “What are you doing here, ‘boy,’ anyway?” may have been, to him, implied in my words. Did I commit a microaggression? I felt bad then, and still do, that he may have felt attacked for his skin color. Would it still have been a microaggression if I had been black? Or if he had yelled at me? Or can only white people commit microagressions?

What should I have done? Nothing? Accept that some people just don’t care about litter? Should I just give up any and all attempts to shape the world around me in what seems to me to be a positive way for fear that I might offend someone? Should I just shut up and color if I perceive a wrong in the hands of someone of a different ethnicity or culture? Our taxes pay for picking up litter and we have to live with the garbage until it is picked up—I often pick up litter from others.
I struggle to understand: There was a trash can right there! This was a ship-in-the-night incident. I never saw him at the bus stop or in our neighborhood after this. I have had no chance to apologize or to discuss the event.
What should I do now in the time of George Floyd? I simply don’t know. I try not to discriminate in business and in my personal life.  I’m very willing to discuss this and try to learn. “You wouldn’t understand” does not help. I am trying to understand and to know how to help. From what platform should I speak? I have no broad audience.

I only ask that you bring to our discussions the possibility of considering that it is not only white people who have biases and that it is not only people of color that are harmed by them. I strongly agree that people of color have for much too long carried a much heavier, unbearably heavy, load in this regard—but the distrust, the fear weakens and harms us all. We can talk and maybe work together if we don’t simply condemn one another out of hand due to our skin color.

I can go birding (#ChristianCooper)
I can go jogging (#AhmaudArbery)
I can relax in the comfort of my own home (#BothemSean and #AtatianaJefferson)
I can ask for help after being in a car crash (#JonathanFerrell and #RenishaMcBride)
I can have a cellphone (#StephonClark)
I can leave a party to get to safety (#JordanEdwards)
I can play loud music (#JordanDavis)
I can sell CDs (#AltonSterling)
I can sleep (#AiyanaJones)
I can walk from the corner store (#MikeBrown)
I can play cops and robbers (#TamirRice)
I can go to church (#Charleston9)
I can walk home with Skittles (#TrayvonMartin)
I can hold a hairbrush while leaving my own bachelor party (#SeanBell)
I can party on New Years (#OscarGrant)
I can get a normal traffic ticket (#SandraBland)
I can lawfully carry a weapon (#PhilandoCastile)
I can break down on a public road with car problems (#CoreyJones)
I can shop at Walmart (#JohnCrawford)
I can have a disabled vehicle (#TerrenceCrutcher)
I can read a book in my own car (#KeithScott)
I can be a 10yr old walking with our grandfather (#CliffordGlover)
I can decorate for a party (#ClaudeReese)
I can ask a cop a question (#RandyEvans)
I can cash a check in peace (#YvonneSmallwood)
I can take out my wallet (#AmadouDiallo)
I can run (#WalterScott)
I can breathe (#EricGarner)
I can live (#FreddieGray)
I CAN BE ARRESTED WITHOUT THE FEAR OF BEING MURDERED (#GeorgeFloyd)
#BlackLivesMatter

Monday, June 1, 2020

The Twenty-First Century is not turning out to be EZ.

June 1, 2020

As the world burns around us with rage boiling over and the coronavirus lurks, I cannot help but be reminded of the ancient curse: "May you live in interesting times." I didn't want to live in interesting times. In fact, this is NOT the twenty-first-century that I was expecting. No one expects what we are getting this year. I only hope and pray for good health, peace, and justice for all.

Please, may we learn from the despicable dumbness of Ms. Cooper vs. Mr. Cooper in Central Park. May we reform our policing to honor the life and needless deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. May we show compassion and kindness to one another. May we honor the noble words of our Constitution and allow, nay help, all enjoy the liberties enshrined therein.

If. If we can, then we can work on fighting disease, deprivation, and disaster. We can protect our fragile Earth. We can distribute our bounty more equitably. Conquest, war, famine, and plague need not destroy us. We can look each other in the eye and say, "Brother; Sister."

Why else are we here, folks?

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Beating the Odds - Never EZ!


A sleeve gastrectomy removes about 80% of the stomach, reducing the capacity for food in one sitting to about four ounces. Intended benefits of a gastrectomy include weight loss and remittance of diabetes. Short-term complications can include bleeding, pain, and blood clots while long-term complications may include failure to lose weight, the eventual regaining of weight initially lost, intolerance to certain foods, dyspepsia, addictions (believed to be transfer reaction from overeating), GERD, abscesses or ulcers, gallstones, diarrhea, and, believe it or not, divorce. Some studies have shown that over 80% of marriages end in divorce after gastrectomy surgery.

Nearly 68% of gastrectomy patients have regained all or nearly all weight lost by five years post-surgery.

My wife had laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy surgery performed in the summer of 2014 by Dr. Lisa D. Brostrom, Chief, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.

Pre-surgery, her weight was 234 pounds and she was a diagnosed type 2 diabetic. Her body mass index (BMI) was over 36. Six-months post-surgery, she weighed 145 pounds. Her fasting blood sugar levels and A1C (average blood sugar levels over three months) were normal. By the middle of May 2020, six years post-surgery, her weight remains 145 pounds with a BMI of less than 23 and there is no sign of the return of diabetes. She has had no gastric distress or problems of any kind, with the possible exception of a small but noticeable increase in stomach gas, which has not caused her any distress. To this non-medic, the operation seems to have been successful and well worth the cost and healing required.

During the pre-discharge briefing, Dr. Brostrom stressed that with her decreased stomach size, it was essential that we modify her diet to ensure that she got sufficient protein. After discharge, she was to be restricted to a liquid diet for a few weeks. After that she was to eat six to eight very small meals per day, and also ensure adequate water for hydration.

Considering her need for protein and her newly-limited stomach size, we determined that a protein supplement may be helpful. As she was on a liquid diet, at least short-term, we decided that making her a morning protein shake would be a wise thing to do. After some thought and research, I decided that just dumping a package or scoop of protein powder into some water or plant-based-milk would not provide the optimum solution (no pun intended). Accordingly, I developed the following recipe.

1 package* Carnation Instant Breakfast Light Start™ (Sugar-Free)
¼ cup raw rolled oatmeal
1 20-gram scoop of no sugar added whey protein powder*
1 medium not over-ripe banana
3-4 ounces unsweetened plain yogurt
3-4 ounces in-season fresh berries
6 ounces of unflavored, unsweetened soy or almond milk
I place the dry ingredients into a blender, add fruit, yogurt, and plant-based milk then blend until smooth and creamy. This makes about 22 ounces of creamy shake which she enjoys through a straw for breakfast, mid-morning snack, and (most days) lunch. She generally snacks on fruit and/or whole-wheat toast in the afternoon and we enjoy a normal dinner with a protein entrĂ©e (which may be fish, poultry, meat, or vegetable protein such as lentils or beans), a vegetable side or salad. An evening snack often consists of about 2 ounces of ice cream or some buttered popcorn. I have observed that she normally drinks about 48 ounces of water per day. She does not drink coffee, beer, liquor, or caffeinated tea. A sugared soda is a rare treat – her preference is ice-cold root beer.

Here is something that is probably key to her success: she has stayed active. She normally gets about 40 or more minutes per day of light exercise, either in the community pool or walking. Her balance and vision no longer allow bicycling, but we have added some 1- and 3-pound weights and some stretchy bands to her routine for arm and wrist resistance work and a large body ball for balance.
Making the shake is quick and simple, but it does require some time and effort and some planning for shopping to ensure ingredients are always on hand. To me, it would be inconvenient to try to carry the ingredients and a blender for travel, so we rely on products like Boost™ or Ensure™ for times of travel or if I were to be unable to prepare her concoction.

The table below presents the estimated representative nutritional values for the morning shake. In compiling this table, I noted that the amount of total sugars is higher than I expected, and exceeds the recommended daily allowance for sugars. We are using no-sugar-added and unsweetened products where possible; the largest contributor to the sugars is the banana. In defense, those sugars are ‘natural’ and mostly in the form of fructose. Less-ripe bananas have lower sugar content.


Values are approximations
(a) 0.8g per Kg body weight

Oh, and did I mention: We are still married. We will celebrate our 52nd wedding anniversary on August 16, 2020.

For more information on sleeve gastrectomy surgery, see the World Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery, April 27, 2017, National Institutes of Health, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5406732/ .

DISCLAIMER: I am not a physician and this article is not providing medical advice. I am simply relating our success story with my wife’s gastrectomy. Always seek competent medical advice from a licensed professional before selecting any course of action regarding your health.

*She prefers chocolate

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Stay-at-Home makes it EZ to rant!


In the United States, our current politics stink. There is much rotten in Washington. The politicians there have forgotten who sent them there and what we sent them there for.

Photo credit - Rats! by ricardo on Flickr. Used per Creative Commons License.
They are supposed to be our representatives. They work for us and are to serve our ‘common welfare’ yet they call themselves our ‘leaders’ and expect us to kowtow to them while they ensure their nests are feathered with pay, benefits, travel, a fat retirement, and health care while we the people slave for them. Many of them have never worked in the private sector or even served in the military. The United States has become a feudal society supporting a few oligarchs. Some of the oligarchs are powerful businessmen or women. More are in our Congress. Many of them have become wealthy while serving in Congress while complaining that they can't live on their Federal pay and benefits.

We badly need to fix our system.

1. Term limits for Congress. I recommend six years for Representatives and eight for Senators. No exceptions. Members of Congress need to know they will have to live with the laws they create.
2. Establish fair, transparent, enforceable standards for obtaining ballot access. You want to start a party and back a candidate? Sure. Here are the rules for getting your candidate certified and listed on the ballot. The same rules apply to all. This may be the weakest link in my reform proposal – It will be especially essential that money must be prevented from ruling supreme here – I’m not sure how to accomplish that. Party primaries will have to be considered and solutions found.
3. Limit public campaigning for any federal position to 120 days prior to the election date (180 days within states where a primary is required). Incumbents are NOT allowed to hold rallies or partisan events of any kind prior. No campaign funds may be expended prior to 240 days before the election date (this allows for travel, communications for planning, and to meet requirements to get a candidate on the ballot). Money spent in the party selection process during the period between 240 and 180 days before election day must be accounted for and meet federal rules for campaign funds and donations. All other political donations are made to the Federal fund to be spent equally by the candidates. There will be NO private-source money spent to support any candidate or any party after the campaign process begins in any way for any purpose, including in-kind contributions with the exception of labor donated by campaign volunteers. Money remaining after a candidate is certified and the campaign process begins must be returned pro-rata to the donors or donated to the Federal fund for elections.
4. Repeal Citizens United – it will be mostly moot anyway, if items 2 and 3, above, are enacted.
5. Eliminate lifetime stipends and benefits for representatives. Provide a 2 – 4-year post-service period where pay and benefits continue at a reduced rate to aid in transition back to civilian life, but end payments and benefits completely after that period. All elected officials participate fully in the Social Security (and any socialized medicine program) exactly the same as civilians.
6. Once campaigning starts, fund all campaigns for all certified candidates for all federal offices with public funds. All certified candidates get the same amount (which amount may vary based on position—House vs Senate vs Executive). No other money may be spent from any source at any time for any reason. Political donations are made to the federal fund to be spent equally by the candidates.
7. Re-enact some form of the “Fairness Doctrine.” This is an area that needs thoughtful action. Media can be too unbalanced with no checks in place.
8. Enact legislation limiting each action of either house of Congress to ONE ITEM per bill and per vote. Disaster Relief Bill? Take out those non-related items tacked on or added as riders. One bill, one topic. No funding of the arts in a transportation bill, etc. Limit the page count for bills. No 800-page bill will ever by thoughtfully considered by our representatives anyway.
9. Enact legislation to make it a felony for any representative to vote on any legislation that they have not personally read. In its entirety. No more of this, “We have to pass it to learn what’s in it.”
10. Voting fairness. One person, one vote. Make registration and voting easy, safe, and secure for every person 18 and over. Require some form of personal identification but ensure that all who are eligible to vote can quickly and easily obtain such. If they can do it in Afhanistan and in Ghana, we can do it in the U.S.
11. Reform the electoral college – eliminate the possibility of “faithless” electors.
12. Mandatory retirement from the Supreme Court bench after 20 years of service.
13. Enact sunset legislation for all federal rules and regulations (note: Not laws – just the rules and regulations that are implemented and enforced by non-elective agencies – laws remain in effect until revoked or replaced). Perhaps 12 years would be a reasonable sunset limitation? Rules and regulations die at their sunset date unless renewed – there must be a reasonable public comment period prior to the renewal effective date.
14. Make the Post Office profitable. Home delivery reduced to three days a week – geographic routes get Monday, Wednesday, Friday OR Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday pickup and delivery. Allow PO personnel strength to diminish to right-sized counts as people retire or die. Raise rates as necessary – make the service competitive and worth any increased cost.
15. Improve medical care in the U.S. by fixing Obamacare, one step at a time. Consider allowing states to implement their own rules so long as they provide at least the minimum benefit as the federal plan. Remove federal restrictions, but not standards, so health insurance can work across state lines.
16. Remove the ‘cap’ on Social Security contributions. Keep long-term capital gains taxes low, but include all income, to include ‘non-earned’ income in the Social Security program taxation (dividends, rents, stock profits, etc.) Every dollar of net income or salary is subject to the SS tax. Remove gender-based discrimination from SS. If a man dies, his widow can choose the greater of his (before death) or her benefits. If a woman dies, her widower has no such option.
17. Make the heads of all Federal agencies subject to Civil Service rules.
18. Public Service unions, by definition, are a huge conflict of interest. Find some transparent way to ensure fairness and representation for Federal employees without the COI of a union. Ensure that employment rules do not unwisely protect marginal or worse employees but do provide fairness for all.
19. Repel or fix the Patriot Act and FISA. Ensure the Bill of Rights is respected and enabled.
20.  Outlaw (or severely restrict) paid lobbying.

"If a law is unjust, a man [or a woman] is not only right to disobey it, he [or she] is obligated to do so." Thomas Jefferson: Papers of Thomas Jefferson as presented by the Jefferson Monticello project at monitcello.org.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness… it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” The Declaration of Independence, 1776. From the works of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 2, as presented by the Online Library of Liberty at oll.liberty.org


Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The golden years may not be EZ.

I really, really want to rant. I know this has to be near the acme, the epitome of a privileged, first-world problem. I know I should sit down and shut up. I know how blessed we are, still, this hurts.

Photo credit - Heather Cowper, Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.


The number one item on my bucket list of earthly delights has been, for some time, a Danube River Cruise with my sweetheart. Deluxe top-of-the-line service on a world-class ship, an upgraded stateroom with a balcony, evening drinks watching the sunset over the river from the shaded upper deck, guided excursions in Southern Europe's historic capitals and art musea, dining with the locals, symphony concert in  Vienna's  Musikverein Orchestra Hall, first-class air travel round trip, two nights in a luxury hotel in Budapest before the cruise.

Photo credit - Alex Talmaciu, Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.


Importantly, to be most enjoyable, this trip needs (or needed) to happen while Glenda and I still enjoy good enough health for the travel, the walking tours, and such.

I have saved my pennies for years for this trip. YEARS.

Finally, in 2020, we can do it, we thought. Over a year before the trip, in July of 2019, we sought out a travel agent to help plan and arrange the travel. I have normally done all of our own travel arrangements, but this trip is complicated, with many international requirements and connections not to be missed. With the agent's help, we selected and booked a cruise with Avalon Waterways. We would leave Phoenix on August 3, 2020, and fly by Delta's best class of service to Budapest, Hungary. There we would spend two nights at the JW Marriot hotel, giving us time to overcome jet lag and to enjoy the relative luxury of the surroundings. After two nights of rest, we booked an escorted private tour of Budapest, concluding with a formal catered candlelight dinner for two on a balcony overlooking the 17th Century Chain Bridge crossing the Danube between the sister-cities of Buda and Pest. The next morning would begin our 8-day cruise with Avalon, visiting a new European treasure of a city each day with appropriate tours and such. Nights aboard the boat as we sail to a new city.

Then came Covid-19.

Today, May 12, 2020, Avalon notified us that all operations are canceled through August of 2020, including, of course, our August Danube Cruise. They really have no choice, as the government of Hungary is not allowing any international travel into the country right now, anyway, and it's unknown how long that will go on. They are allowing us to use our paid fares, along with an additional $400 credit, through 2022. Delta has also said that our airfare can be used as a credit for rescheduled travel through, I believe, September of 2022. So while the money is tied up with Avalon and Delta, it is not lost.


Photo credit - Krisijan Brkic, Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.

So nothing is lost but time, right? Yes. But time...time becomes so precious when most of your time is certainly behind you. Or, as Bonnie Raitt puts it, "Life gets mighty precious when there's less of it to waste." Nick of Time (1989)


Tuesday, May 5, 2020

It is EZ to be afraid!

Some people just have to stir up fear. China has been investing internationally for at least four decades. We DO need international law that provides a level field so that U.S. businesses can fairly invest in China, too. If our "leaders" could get off their asses and stop fighting each other so they could work laws and treaties, that would be a good thing. Fear doesn't fix anything. Last year the *add-to-your-fear meme* was: we will all soon be forced to live under Sharia Law. In the '90s, it was that the Russians will own all of the beach-front properties by the turn of the century. In the 1970s it was the Mexicans will take all our jobs. In the 1960s it was those hippies and their damn marijuana and free love. In the 1950s it was Hollywood is all Communist. In the 1940s it was the Japanese are all traitors and must be locked up. In the 1930s it was the Jews will own everything! In the 1920s it was that devil liquor. In the 1880s, it was the Irish will take all of our jobs. In the 1870s it was the Italians will take all our women. Just stop spreading fear. It doesn't help.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

EZ Yoga Thoughts

At the end of my morning yoga routine, I was cooling off in the ‘corpse’ pose. While there I found myself pondering death for some reason. Was I influenced by the latest pandemic scare, perhaps? May be.

It occurred to me that someday in the not-too-distant future (I will be 70 next month) my body will be assuming that position for real; when any movement is beyond my control. I will enter into eternal rest.

When that happens, when the body becomes a shell and the pose is not posing – where, if anywhere, will I be? My being? My consciousness? My memories? My self? Me?

It’s OK to have a belief in life after death. It’s OK to have faith. I have some. Many have more. But the fact is that none of us KNOW. To avoid insanity, it is important to make peace with death.

What we do know is that pandemic or not, death will come for us all at some point. More important than making peace with death, I think, is to make peace with life. Now. While we can.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

EZ promises

He made her three promises;
only three promises.
I will never lie to you.
I will never hurt you on purpose.
I will never forget you.
They were all she needed.
He kept two of the three
faithfully.

An EZ Quote from a Master



“I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all, I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.”  Agatha Christie

Monday, April 20, 2020

Baking in the time of Corona - More EZ Than I Thought


Twenty-four days ago, the 13th day of mandated social distancing here in Arizona, I found that I had turned in my man-card and turned to the act of baking to fill the time (and my enlarging tummy.)  On that day, I posted to FaceBook about my first-ever attempt at a quick-bread from scratch. 

A sliced home-made loaf of beer bread.
Beer Bread - Photo by Dan Moyes

This is a beer-bread, where the carbonation of the beer, along with a little baking powder, replace the yeast. It's a quick-bread because it doesn't have to raise and be kneaded. You just mix it all up in a bowl, pour it into a greased baking pan and throw it into a 350-degree (F) oven for an hour. My first attempts were made using Michelob Ultra (left in my garage fridge by visitors a few weeks ago). I made several loaves over a week or two and they were all quite good. 

I shared a loaf with our cross-street neighbors and got thankful raves!!

But now, the Michelob is all gone...No problem, there are other things that have been left in that garage refrigerator. And I'm an experimenter anyway.

First, I tried a can of raspberry-flavored seltzer water from Kroger's. It worked -- the texture was good and the flavor was OK. The berry didn't come through and the bread lacked a certain degree of bitter which probably comes from the hops in the Michelob Ultra. I probably won't try that again. 

The next thing I found in the refrigerator was a bottle of Hop Knot IPA from Four Peaks Brewing in Scottsdale. Well, if the berry-seltzer mix lacked the hops bitter, this IPA should fix that, right? In mixing the dough, I found that the Hop Knot presented a prominent fragrance of citrus (grapefruit?) with a touch of pineapple. "Well," I thought, "This should be good!" As in the case of the berry-seltzer loaf, it baked well and exhibited a good texture. The first heel piece, plated while still, warm soaked up a pat of melting butter attractively. My mouth watered. 

About then, my beloved Glenda asked for a moment's help with her iPhone. I can't say no to her! Finishing the tech task, I turned to find our bichon-frise dog, Dak, walking out of the room with MY slice of buttered bread in his mouth. Damn! Four stars from the dog! Oh, well, back to the bread knife.

Once I got the second piece buttered, I found the flavor of the bread made from the hoppy IPA to be fine, but not outstanding. The fragrance of the citrus carried through to the finished bread. I did not notice a citrus flavor. The hoppy bitter was there -- and perhaps just a touch too strong. The bread didn't have the sweet wheat finish of other breads; providing a light bitter after taste. Like the berry-seltzer recipe, I probably won't try this one again. But, like the berry-seltzer loaf, we certainly will eat all of this one!

What to do in this time of quarantine? I know, for my next loaf I think I'll try Corona --  without the lime.

Here's the basic recipe:


Quick and easy beer bread

One and one-half hours
Prep time: 10 minutes
Baking time: 1 hour
Cooling: 20 minutes

NOTE:   Not intended for the gluten intolerant or those on carbohydrate-restricted diets

INGREDIENTS

2 cups all-purpose flour (or bread flour -- NOT self-rising)
1 cup whole-wheat flour
¼ cup granulated white sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
*¼ cup old-fashioned oatmeal (optional)
*¼ cup cracked wheat (optional)
*1 TBSP powdered milk (optional)
¼ cup melted butter
1 egg
1-12 ounce can or bottle of beer

DIRECTIONS

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Lightly grease or non-stick spray a standard loaf pan (glass or metal)
In a large bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients ensuring a complete mix
Add egg and beer and mix well but don’t over-stir – don’t “beat” the mix
                A proper dough mix should be thoroughly “wet” but not “creamy.” It will be heavy and sticky
Pour/scrape dough mix into loaf pan
Drizzle melted butter over top of loaf
Bake at 350 F. for one hour - when done, a table knife inserted to the loaf will come out clean
Cool on a rack – slice - enjoy

As this is not a yeast bread, it will be somewhat heavy, but with the CO2 from the beer and the added baking powder, it should raise nicely while baking and have a chewy, bubbled interior and a crunchy crust.

You can get a less crunchy crust by stirring the melted butter into the dough mix rather than drizzling it over the un-baked loaf.

*The optional grains and dry milk add character to the loaf and may be omitted if you don’t care for them. If you do add the optional extra grains, you may need to add a tablespoon or two of room-temperature water to the dough mixture for your desired consistency.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

The Modern Ethical Dilemma of COVID-19


As anyone who has ever spent more than five minutes considering it knows, economics is an extremely complicated matter. It's been called the dismal science. Maybe the most simple rule of the economy is that any transaction that leaves both participants happy is a positive thing and enriches the overall economy.

Some hold out that we should now open the economy fully to stanch the financial bleeding. Yes, they say, some will die, but mostly the old and ill anyway.

The loss to society of illness and premature death has been studied and written about in great detail. I'll give you just a couple of links, later, so you can ponder this question.

But, first -- even if all the deaths were those receiving social security -- do you think those recipients stuff the money in their sofa cushions? No. As a retiree, I can tell you that the money gets spent on housing, utilities, food, clothing, transportation, medical care, and recreation (to include gifts for children and grandchildren). Every dollar they spend is good for the economy. All the vacation travel canceled due to COVID-19? Much of it by seniors. Ask any airline executive what that's worth to the economy.

But the elderly and sick won't be all of those taken. When a person in mid-life (20 to 45) is taken, there are somewhere between 1/2 and 2 million dollars of value lost, forever, to the economy. They won't fill a job. They won't raise a family. They won't spend their earnings. They won't pay taxes. They won't invent the next big thing. Imagine if the cancer that took Steve Jobs life had done that when he was in his 20s, or if Alexander Fleming had died young.

But, wait, there's more! Even if this illness killed nobody, even if the illness didn't close a single business, there is a horrendous cost from the illness. I've read that COVID-19 runs 8 to 16 days from onset to death or recovery. What does that illness cost? My most recent 3-day hospital stay for surgery cost nearly $150,000.00; so $50K a day. Maybe that's high. Maybe the average is more like $20K a day--and that does not include the loss to the economy from that person being off the job. Every dollar spent on health care that could be prevented is a dollar that isn't spent in restaurants, stores, bars, and entertainment venues.

In the 1918 flu epidemic, 20% of Americans were stricken. Let's be conservative and work with only 1/4th of that as possibly needing hospital care -- if only 5% of our populace of 300,000,000 is stricken by COVID-19, that's fifteen million people. If their average hospital stay is half the sixteen days, 8 days at $20K a day, that's 2.4x10^12 dollars--$2.4 TRILLION. Pure, direct cost to the economy, not including the loss of their productivity. The total, true cost is much higher and beyond the scope of this discussion to calculate. If 2% of the fifteen million ill will die, that's 300,000 deaths -- news flash, we are already over 100,000 world-wide -- how long till just the U.S. reaches that.

So if by closing and quarantining we can reduce the illness by only half, that's a savings of at least $1.2 Trillion just from the avoidance of the illness.

It has been said that those who will not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. OK, look at history: Again, in 1918, the jurisdictions that quarantined early, stayed long, and enforced it suffered MUCH, MUCH less than the jurisdictions that did a poor job of quarantining. They had lower mortality, lower morbidity, less overall impact to their economies and recovered MUCH, MUCH faster and fully. Minneapolis tightened early and long: 388 deaths per 100,000 people. Pittsburgh didn't: 1,244 deaths per 100,000 people. And the financial recovery was strikingly different. Minneapolis tightened early and long: Growth in employment in 1919 over double the rate Pittsburgh saw in 1919.

Pittsburgh: 1,244 dead per 100,000. That same rate would mean 3,732,000 deaths in the U.S.; nearly 25,000 deaths in just the San Antonio, TX area. 25,000 fewer to work, spend and live in one city. About half of COVID-19 deaths have been people younger than 65. What would the loss of 12,500 full-time employed do, long-term, to the economy of San Antonio? And the human cost – are we ready to allow this kind of carnage without doing all within our power to fight it? I believe we have a moral imperative to do all we can to prevent illness and death. This is our real-life ethical dilemma of the trolley problem (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem)

The illness, the cost of care, the deaths, the lost productivity has the potential to impact the economy in a much more negative fashion than the quarantine. And for much longer -- literally, forever.

There is something called the parable of the broken window, introduced by Bastiat in 1850, that considers the impact of negative events on the economy. A broken window in a storefront, good or bad? Good for the glazier, bad for the storekeeper. No, in the long run, it is bad for everyone because it causes resources to be expended just to maintain the status quo -- there is no advancement when the window is repaired -- things are simply returned to their earlier status.

For further reading:

Friday, March 27, 2020

The Times They are A'Changing...but not EZily.

My eldest son posted a link on our family Slack channel this morning for a YouTube video of old-school dancers reset to very modern music. That video reminded me of one I had seen earlier, available, as of this date, on YouTube as Old Movie Stars Dance to Uptown Funk (https://youtu.be/M1F0lBnsnkE). Both videos are very well crafted, but I must admit I like the Old Movie Stars video better, and I watched it through its nearly five-minute play-time several times.

I have a few take-away thoughts after watching the video. Primarily, I was surprised to note the sensuality of the dress and the movements, some clearly erotic in intent and presentation, of the dances and the choreography of these moving images--most from the first half of the 20th Century. These would have been the images that I would have been introduced to as acceptable, and even lauded, 'entertainment' and 'dancing' as I grew up, along with my cohort of boomers born between 1946 and 1964.

The '50s are called a conservative, family-oriented time. And they were. But much less prudish than most may think. Then, we came of age with Elvis-the-pelvis, the Beatles, Chubby Checker and the Twist, Lenny Bruce, and into the tumultuous world-shaking year of 1968 and the "sexual revolution" of the '70s and '80s.

Nineteen Sixty-Eight was especially shaking. The History Channel, on its Website, says, "The year 1968 remains one of the most tumultuous single years in history, marked by historic achievements, shocking assassinations, a much-hated war and a spirit of rebellion that swept through countries all over the world."

Some say we lost our innocence in the fall of 1963. If so, 1968 was the year that our youth vocally demanded something in return for that loss.

In that year alone we watched and listened as Czechoslovakia overthrew the Stalinists only to be reinvaded and occupied by the Soviets. North Korea captured a U.S. Ship, the Pueblo, and its crew. The North Vietnamese launched the Tet Offensive against the South and our supporting forces while T.V. brought the horrors of that war into our living rooms on the evening news. February 18th, 1968, my mother's birthday, the U.S. announced the deadliest week of combat during the Vietnam War: 2,547 wounded, 543 dead in one week. On March 16th, Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) announced that he would run against President Lyndon B. Johnson for the Democratic nomination for president -- that same day U.S. troops murdered over 500 Vietnamese civilians in the My Lai massacre. In March, Johnson announced that he would not run for re-election. On June 5th, RFK was assassinated. Of course, his brother, President John F. Kennedy, had been assassinated in 1963. Martin Luther King had been assassinated in April, putting a horrible exclamation point after nearly two decades of work and some progress in Civil Rights in the U.S. Throughout the spring and summer of 1968, students around the world demonstrated demanding civil rights and government reform. Perhaps nothing sums up that summer better than the events at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Turning, again, to the History Channel's Website, we find the following description: "In August, thousands of students, antiwar activists and other demonstrators—including groups like the Yippies, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Black Panthers—poured into Chicago, where they were met with a violent police response called out by [Democratic] Mayor Richard Daley. As TV cameras captured the bloody clashes between police and demonstrators, the chaotic convention ended in Humphrey’s nomination as the head of an embattled Democratic Party." The year was especially traumatic in Mexico, host of the Summer Olympics, itself a site of dramatic televised political protests. In October of that year, Mexican police opened fire on a group of demonstrating students and other civilians in Mexico City. The actual death toll of the Tlatelolco massacre is unknown but is widely estimated to be around 400. Indeed the Mexican government's "dirty war" on its own citizens may have cost thousands of lives in 1968 alone. In November Richard Nixon beat Hubert Humphrey in the presidential election by a sizeable margin in the electoral college but a razor-thin popular vote win. On Christmas Eve, Apollo 8, with Jim Lovell in charge, orbited the moon. Glenda and I had married on August 16th, 1968. On November 22, 1968, the fifth anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination, my father died of a stroke and my mother entered her 20-year widowhood. One year--1968.

From 1968 and on into the sexual revolution of the '70s and '80s. These years saw an increased acceptance of sex outside of traditional heterosexual, monogamous relationships and the wide-spread use of oral birth control. The normalization of contraception and the pill, public nudity, pornography, premarital sex, homosexuality, masturbation, alternative forms of sexuality, and the legalization of abortion all followed. Society changed--marriage rates declined and divorce rates climbed. Cities and campuses nationwide saw large demonstrations against traditional rules involving nudity and public sex. Some of these were called "Love-ins" and focussed on meditation, love, music, sex, and psychedelic drugs. The Kent State shootings and Woodstock happened. Feminism became an open topic, and women burned their bras. It was in the summer of 1969 that I first saw a young-adult woman walking nonchalantly down a public street bare-breasted.

So...how did we get from there to here?

Here being now when progressives are showing themselves to be essentially prudes while still supporting a libertine lifestyle--but that lifestyle must be hidden or covered. Members of the younger generation are uncomfortable with nudity and shocked to find that Americans used to regularly and without drama see and be seen naked in gymnasium dressing rooms and showers. They are frankly unbelieving when told that swimming in the nude (generally in gender-segregated fashion) was the norm in the U.S. until the end of the '50s. They avert their eyes quickly as in shame when shown a picture of a large tiled shower with plumbing for six or more. Many seem to feel incomplete without shaming others (as the un-woke) while assuring that they arrogantly signal their virtue to all around. Many of their earlier heroes and stars have been found wanting, with feet of clay--as proven, for example, with those who (rightfully) fell to the #MeToo movement.

We of a certain age find all of this confusing and incomprehensible. Blogger Nathanael Blake says, "Our cultural elites are embracing libertine prudishness in an attempt to rebuild a culture. But they lack a culture to build around. They are trying to establish a sense of sacrilege without anything being sacred. They want us to seek the good of others while denying any doctrine of the common good or idea of human flourishing beyond self-indulgence. The result is an ideology that is a mashup of occultist Aleister Crowley (“Do as thou wilt”) and Emily Post." Anything goes, as long as it's hidden. We, your elders, don't see the culture being rebuilt in a constructive manner.

The turn of the Century: 9-11; wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; 2008; the Arab Spring followed by severe government oppression; Clinton, Trump, and Coronavirus. I've said it before, and I must say it again: This is NOT the Twenty-First Century I expected to live in.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

EZ Thoughts in the Time of Contagion.

Death should have taken me sooner.

I find myself solidly within the cohort that is supposedly most at risk of death from a COVID-19 infection.

I am taking reasonable measures--suitable social distancing, hand washing, monitoring my body for symptoms--but I am NOT living in fear of the virus.

It may kill me. I won't say I don't care, but I will say I am not afraid of death. He and I have danced several rounds, already, over seventy years of life. I know he will take me in the end, but I feel that it will, at worst, be a draw. I am several hands ahead in the game of life and I'm not folding, yet.

I have faced death directly and obliquely.

Directly through dealing with cancer (twice) and heart problems (two kinds). Medical science has told me that neither of these ailments or threats is known to be related to my diet or habits. Still, my diet and habits have been mostly for my pleasure and comfort--not for the good of my long-term health. And, OH! How I have enjoyed the pleasures and comforts of life. My body has always been better to me that I've been to it.

Obliquely by being a motorcycle and auto enthusiast. I have ridden far and driven fast. When I first started these activities, we didn't even use helmets or seat belts as a defense against death himself. I have traveled broadly by air, sea, and land. I have eaten street food in Latin America and Asia. I have saunaed naked with strangers. At least twice, my training and experience have enabled me to extend the lives of others. I have stood on the plain and looked up into the eternities. I have stood near the cliff and looked into the infinite. I have been in foreign lands during times of war. I often complete travel with the phrase, "There. Cheated death again."

He will take me. But I am still here.

And I've been here. I've not built nations nor huge edifices. Unlike Cromwell, I have not drained any swamps. It is unlikely anyone will ever build a monument to me. Yet I will remain. The laughter and tears of friends and family will echo forever. The lessons I have watched my children learn live on in what my grandchildren are now learning. I have looked into the wondering eyes of a great-grandchild. Times may get hard. Times may get worse, but the wonder will remain.

For this life I have lived, I thank God or the Universe or whatever truly is the Great Power -- I believe there must be one. I think of him as the Great Scientist, a God who would not be complete without the Goddess next to him. I have been blessed by having my Goddess next to me for these many decades.  I thank death, himself, for being so weak.

So when he takes me, he will do so over my laughter. To win, he should have taken me before I was three years old!

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Memoir writing is not EZ - 001 of 127

At our last writers' group meeting, one of our number handed out a device as an aid in writing memoirs. (Memoirs have been our focus for the past couple months.) The handout consists of a list of 127 questions and is titled, "127 Writing Prompts to Finish Before You Write About Yourself." In looking at the 127 questions two things stand out to me: (1) By writing answers to these questions you ARE writing about yourself, and (2) It's a long, long road from number one to number 127. I've decided to challenge myself to complete the entire list and I'm going to publish them here. I'll first quote the question and follow that up with my written response. So here goes: Number 001 of 127 naval-gazing posts:

1. What is your best physical feature? Why do you like it? Describe it.

To determine which physical feature is my best I would like a bit more detailed definition of best. Best for what purpose? Everyday living? Accomplishing unusual tasks? Attracting a love interest? Further, this question may have been easier to write about many years ago before all of the physical features in question began to deteriorate due to advancing age.

Were I to stand in front of a full-length mirror in my pink and untanned birthday suit I wouldn’t see much that I would like. My body shows the ravages of life: scars from youthful adventures; excess fat from an easy and plentiful life; a couple of reminders of medical procedures. My feet are OK—not badly calloused or distorted from tight shoes. My legs are strong and always have been. I walk a lot and these legs have to carry a heavy load contributing to their strength. On the subject of legs, I’ve been blessed with very little trouble with knees or ankles. Going back to the mirror, though, those legs just look too chunky – too short and heavy to call my best feature. Upper body strength is something I’ve never had. My biceps are not well-defined, my chest is flabby, so let’s not write any more about that portion of my anatomy. Face? No—I’ve often been told I have a great face for radio. My teeth are straight and have been relatively trouble-free, but who wants to write about their teeth? My eyes are blue, and I like that, but my vision is too weak to call the eyes my best feature. Wearing glasses improves my appearance because they hide part of my face! Because I’m writing this for an undefined audience that will likely include mixed company let’s not even consider any more personal bodily real estate.
Having ruled out most everything, where does all of this leave us? What’s left?
Well, let me tell you…

That’s it! I can tell you. The voice! My favorite physical feature is my voice. A speaking voice, not a singing voice. I have always wished I could sing, and everyone who has ever heard me try to sing wishes much the same. But speaking! Oh, I do like my voice and I have received kudos for the sound of that voice and my use of it. It’s not an incredibly deep, bassy voice nor is it overly shrill and high-pitched. When I pay attention I can modulate the sound with good effect, though the range falls far short of the three octaves that were showcased so well by Roy Orbison in his work. In my career, I have, by request, served as the voice for public service announcements, promotional videos, entire instructional courses, and the introduction of Top-40 music hits on the radio (does anyone remember radio?) I’ve also been asked to sit down and shut up at Karaoke events. There is a great difference between speaking and singing!

So, there you have it. My favorite physical feature cannot even be seen in front of that full-length mirror. That’s probably a blessing to all.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Keeping in touch means knowing your losses

Just a personal journal entry today.

An old friend, John Dugger, called yesterday bearing sad news -- a mutual friend from 50 years ago, Walt Eichin, passed away February 13, 2020, in Tennessee where John now lives.

John and his wife will be visiting the Phoenix area in April, with plans to see us on the 23rd or 24th of that month. I don't know the name of John's wife--his wife of many years ago passed of cancer some years back and John has since remarried. John, himself, is a fellow prostate cancer survivor.

This past week, our son Joel and I shopped for a classic car. We eventually bought a restored 1970 American Motors Corporation AMX from a consignment dealer in Mesa, Streetside Classics. The prior owner was Dave Hefflestein of Gilbert, AZ. Joel invested, by far, most of the cost to purchase the car. I have another 'hobby' car that I will sell and the proceeds of that sale go to Joel for my participation in the ownership. A 50-year old car is a time machine--one does not recognize how much automotive technology has changed until you experience the older model alongside our current high-tech mobile vehicles. The AMX has no power steering, a manual transmission, no air conditioning, and hand-crank window rollers. It is a beast to drive. I took the car to Queen Creek early this morning for the weekly Cars '&' Coffee event, where Larry, the organizer, collected information regarding the car and took photos for his log.

Today we will visit the home of our Son, Benjamin, in Gilbert so that I can spend some time with grandson Tyler. The plan today is to get his bicycle operational and my role is to be instructor and mentor. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

It's not EZ to stay humble!

I only managed to maintain my fast today until 1:00 pm. However, I did learn today that Robert I 'the Bruce' King of Scotland was THE HUSBAND OF MY 11TH COUSIN FOUR TIMES REMOVED!  

I made it EZ-ily.

I made it through my partial daily fast to 4:00 pm, at which time I consumed a small plate of leftovers followed by a quarter-cup of cashews as a treat. Nothing, then, until dinner at 6:30 pm, which was about three ounces of roast beef and some vegetables in brown gravy from Sunday's pot roast--no seconds, no dessert, and nothing but water afterward. I met my goal for the day! While not EZ, it wasn't as hard as I expected, and I surely consumed fewer calories and less bulk than I normally do. Yay, me! I'm going to try the same tomorrow. I think I'll plan a regular breakfast and light lunch on Thursday then another partial fast on Friday. Saturday is likely to be a heavy eating day as we are having family over and I plan steaks and baked potatoes.


Monday, January 20, 2020

Breakfast was the EZ part.

Reference my last post: I have decided to try a fast. Nothing fancy or too challenging; just skipping two meals today then eating a (hopefully light) dinner at or after 6:00 pm. I want to start easy and work my way up to more significant fasting.

My plan for today was to drink only fluids (water, black coffee--nothing with sugar) and perhaps some bone broth mid-afternoon. If I make it to mid-afternoon. I have defined mid-afternoon as 2:00 pm. Right now, it's 1:00 pm. I have successfully skipped breakfast and, so far, lunch. Breakfast was easy (probably because I ate so much over the weekend.) Lunch, not quite so easy.

By 10:22 am I was beginning to feel hungry. By 11:00 am the hunger was VERY noticeable. 11:00 am is my normal lunchtime, so--habit. Plus, I happened to be in the grocery store at 11:00 am. Oh, my! The food looked and smelled so good! Poor planning on my part, but I was able to resist the snacks and sweets on offer there. I did probably buy a bit more for later than I would have otherwise, but not too bad.

I'll report back later to document my level of success or failure!


Friday, January 17, 2020

Fasting? But eating is so EZ!


Of late, much has been written about the benefits of fasting. You can easily find an embarrassment of riches of opinion and stories extolling the sweeping and unexpected benefits of fasting. Such is available online at sites such as Medium, Pocket, and Facebook as well as in scores of books and articles, both electronic and print. A recent perusal of Amazon found over 4,000 books available on the topic of fasting—a Google search identified over 50,000 references to fasting on Medium.com. Healthline.com lists six popular ways to fast: 

  1. The 16/8 method: you fast for 16 hours each day. I've often used the inverted 16/8 method where I eat for 16 hours each day;
  2. The 5:2 method: you fast for 2 days per week;
  3. Eat-Stop-Eat: you do a 24-hour fast once or twice a week. If you do it twice, does this also count as an application of the 5:2 method?
  4. Alternate-day fasting: you fast every other day;
  5. Warrior fasting: you fast during the day, eat a huge meal at night. This is particularly popular in the Middle East during Ramadan. and, finally;
  6. Spontaneous meal skipping: you fast when it's convenient to skip a meal. This is also known as the "I've got a life" method.
Depending on what you read and who has written it, the possible benefits are broad and deep. Claims include that fasting:
  •          Reduces insulin resistance;
  •          Fights inflammation;
  •          Improves blood pressure and controls lipids;
  •          Boosts brain function;
  •          Prevents neurodegenerative disorders;
  •          Reduces calorie intake while boosting metabolism;
  •          Increases growth hormone secretion;
  •          Delays aging; and
  •          Aids in cancer prevention and increases the effectiveness of cancer treatments.

Note that the listed benefits are “possible.” The science around fasting is not yet settled. And while there is a ton of anecdotal evidence and there are apparently supporting studies for many of the benefits from prestigious bodies such as the University of Michigan, Harvard Medical School, the National Institutes of Health, and Dr. Phil. It is also easy to find published studies and opinion that claim that fasting can be harmful as well as unpleasant and can even worsen your breath and body odor. These negative claims come from prestigeous bodies such as the University of Michigan, Harvard Medical School, the National Institutes of Health, and Dr. Phil. 

I don’t know if there has been an unusually large number of such articles directed to me in 2020, but it certainly seems that way. Perhaps it’s just the annual New Year’s Day resolution rush. There’s a good chance I’d find a similar spike in the publication and discussion of the benefits of less alcohol, regular workouts, running, meditation, ample hydration, and safe sex as well. For this New Year, I have made my usual resolution. I’ve even written it down: “Don’t make promises you can’t or won’t keep.

Still, my reading this year has me pondering fasting. Should I try it? Could it be right for me and my health? There are lots of reasons for and few against fasting.

Arguments For Fasting:

Since my retirement at the end of 2017, my weight has continued to creep upwards. I now weigh in the vicinity of 236 pounds and that’s too much. My muscles, bones, and joints as well as my heart, would be happier if there were less of me to carry around. Fasting may help with some weight loss. In a study published in December 2019, Harvard found that intermittent fasting, defined as severely limiting caloric intake for about two days a week, may be as effective for weight loss as long-term calorie-restrictive diets.

It could be good for others for a couple of reasons: (1) My professed religion teaches the value of fasting for a 24-hour period once each month. We are asked to abstain from food on one Sunday of each month then donate the cost of meals not consumed to a fund used to provide assistance to the less fortunate. The church uses these funds to operate a huge international welfare program which PBS called “the world’s best” in 2016. We are taught to fast with a spiritual purpose and to pray and study about that purpose during the fasting period. Other beliefs, spiritual and secular, also ask for self-denial, giving to others, and meditation, so this is not an unusual teaching. (2) In August of 2019, NBC News published an article by Dr. Samantha Cassetty claiming that the best way to protect the planet from the scourges of overpopulation is to simply eat less. CNN and the BBC have published similar popular science pieces. Lose weight and do good for others at the same time.

Fewer dishes to wash and reduced time grocery shopping.

So if I could lose weight, improve my health and my spirituality, and help others all in one action, why wouldn’t I? Irresistible!

Arguments Against Fasting:

The discomfort of hunger. That’s about it. A day of fasting isn’t going to have negative health impacts. Humans don’t starve to death that quickly. An old survivalist saw called The Rule of Threes said something along the lines of, “A person can survive three weeks without food, three days without water, three hours in extreme heat or cold, three minutes without oxygen.” I wouldn’t plan a fast of anywhere near three weeks in duration.

Still. I hesitate. Remember that poor impulse control I mentioned earlier? A lot of that plays very closely with my enjoyment of and appetite for food. I’ve never even been very faithful at fasting the one Sunday each month as I’ve been taught to do since my youth. And my New Year’s resolution? I don’t care for the idea of trying something that I’m not convinced I can succeed at. I’ve always been a believer that success builds success so I have often limited myself to things that I’m pretty sure I can succeed at. Why would I want to promise myself a fast if that is setting me up for failure? I ate today’s breakfast three hours ago and I’ve had a snack of cashews since then. And I feel hungry. And there’s food available…