Archive for January, 2012

How to Age Exhuberantly

January 27, 2012


  OK kids, you’ve got to check out this book: 30 Lessons for Living –  Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans.  It is the distillation of 300 interviews undertaken by a professor at Cornell University with elderly Americans deemed by outside consensus to have lived a good life.

The lessons are spread over several different areas of concern, but “there was no issue about which the experts were more adamant and forceful” than work.  The title of that chapter is “Glad to get up in the morning – Lessons for a successful and fulfilling career”.  And it ain’t about the money, bub.

“You know those nightmares where you are shouting a warning but no sound comes out?  Well, that’s the intensity with which the experts wanted to tell younger people that spending years in a job you dislike is a recipe for regret and a tragic mistake”.  Big money may not accompany one’s bliss, but following it is the only way a happy denouement might.

And there’s a related lesson in this week’s Economist: “Exercise and Longevity – Worth all the sweat”.  Doctors (including Dr Brother) have long known that regular vigorous exercise helps thwart all kinds of ailments, from headbone to footbone to decrepitude.

Research is beginning to suggest that exercise helps by enhancing ‘autophagy’ which is the body’s own process of scrapping and recycling surplus, worn-out, or malformed proteins.  It thus slows down the biological clock.

Combine a fulfilling career and vigor and you just might get, well, somebody like Lucien Freud, pictured above in his eighty-third year.  He died last summer at 89, but for the nearly sixty years leading up to two weeks before passing he worked with a subject for several hours in the morning, a different one in the afternoon, seven days a week, standing up.

“And the moment he lifted his hands, most of his ailments seemed to melt away.”  Big money did follow his bliss, but to him it mattered not.  The only manner in which wealth changed him was that it diminished his love of gambling: “It’s not fun when you have the money…”

*30 Lessons for Living, Pillemer,Hudson StPress, 2011

The Lessons are for: Happy Marriage, Fulfilling Career, Parenting, Ageing Fearlessly and Well, Living Life w/o Regrets, and Happiness (Time spent worrying is time wasted – Your choice).

*Economist Jan 21 – 27, 2012

***Psychoanalyzing Lucian Freud, Vanity Fair, Feb 2012

****CF Blogpost October 12, 2010

*****And, uh, Freud didn’t read the part of the book about marriage and parenting.  He fathered at least sixteen children with six different women.  And though he clearly enjoyed himself, I guess I do not commend to you his particular brand of exuberance…

Samurai Had Knee Problems Too – As Well As Physical Therapists

January 20, 2012

Katsumoto: “Do you believe that a man can change his destiny?”

Algren:  “I believe that a man does what he can until his destiny is revealed.”

  What I’ve been doing while waiting has been to run and work out and after nearly sixty fairly intense years my knees sort of blew.  Should have noticed the symptoms earlier, but at the time it seemed like all of a sudden I was unable to run another step.  They burned while lying in bed.

  Tried to wait them out for like a month, but just got more morose and lame by the day.  Went to an orthopedic surgeon who x-rayed, said that there was nothing heinously out of order, gave me a few hits of Celebrex, and offered that “God gives us pain for a reason.”   Uh, thanks for that.

  Pills didn’t help much.  Kids suggested I go to a physical therapist which seemed to make sense and doc’s nurse gave me a referral.  I showed up at the appointed hour expecting some sort of Teutonic weight-lifter type.  “Ve vant to pump you up” and all that.

  Well, no.  A feminine voice calling my name drew attention away from The Economist and I looked up.  “I’m just back from maternity leave and you’re my first patient” she said as she turned and arched her back like a cat getting ready to prowl.  A cat in a snug yellow lycra top.  “Come this way”.

  “Knees, huh?” She took me to a small consulting room and gave me a pair of flimsy disposable shorts and told me to put them on and “I’ll be right back”.  It definitely felt weird waiting in a dark room, nearly naked, for an attractive woman younger than either of my daughters.  What the world would I tell wife?

  She returned.  “Let me watch you walk back and forth a few times.  Hmm.  Now lie face down on the table.”  I did and she grabbed my rear with a firm grip and said that she was “going to give [me] buns of steel”.  I arched my back, my eyes opened wide, and I worried more than usual about the next bit of my destiny to be revealed. 

  She massaged and probed around a bit while explaining that after doing the same sorts of exercises for six decades some sinews had stretched while others had drawn more taught putting my joints out of alignment. Finding myself composed, I asked about a few other aches and pains that somehow came to mind. 

  She felt around a bit more, gave me a new ameliorative exercise  routine, told me to get dressed, and left.  In the parking lot I called my brother to see if his knees were bothering him.  At home that night, well, I described a Teuton.  Now some months later, with mixed feelings, I can report that I’m again ready for battle.

Thank God for Kutta-Joukowski

January 13, 2012


Know that a bird’s flight feathers are analogous to the blades on an airplane’s propeller?  It is actually the other way around of course, birds came before airplanes after all, but that is the manner in which the astonishment came to me.

And I’m not the Lone Ranger.  Long before Kitty Hawk there were attempts at manned flight designed around the avian wing.  The problem was propulsion.  Wright Brothers, or someone else, would have been aloft sooner had they understood how birds do more than just glide.

OK, you’ll remember that the mechanics of flight revolve around a curved surface – an airfoil.  As it moves through air (or water – think penguins) the molecules flowing over the curved top must move faster than those with the shorter path to travel below.  This creates a drop in air pressure above and lift*.

Well, the outermost part of a wing – the hand wing – is composed of stiff slightly pointed primaries which are longitudinally asymmetrical.  When a bird in flight flaps downward the narrower portion of the primaries curve creating airfoils and voila forward ‘lift’ occurs.

The several primaries on both wings of a bird combine into an analogue for a multi-blade propeller.  One on each wing.  Try it yourself next time you find a feather.  Hold it by the bare part of the shaft and move it through the air as had its original owner.  You won’t take off, but you’ll get the idea.

My favorite bird?  Cooper’s Hawk.  It is incredible to watch them Top Gun song birds.  Cuts bird seed budget line item way back.

*Bernoulli’s principle, developed in the eighteenth century, explains the ramifications of the pressure differential, but not why the air moves faster on top than underneath.  Explanations of flight and lift always bothered me because I was unable to get that part.  I’m happy to report that the Kutta-Joukowski theorem, developed in the twentieth century addresses that aspect.  It is complicated and I don’t completely understand, but feel better to know that I might one day.


January 6, 2012


  Last weekend while discussing politics in general and the (then) up coming Iowa caucuses in particular a friend offered that President Obama is a Moslem.  I didn’t know which response should come first: who cares or no he’s not.

I guess it is elementally a case of an evolutionarily natural wariness of the ‘other’, but isn’t the internecine conflict between and amongst the three closely related Abrahamic religions crazy?  Obviously Islam would not be the subject of so much attention but for Bin Laden et al.  But, uh, Hitler was born into a Catholic family.

And was confirmed, and sang in a choir in a monastery.  Stalin was born Eastern Orthodox and attended seminary.  Stalin became an atheist and Hitler sort of backgrounded his own religion, but, still, why don’t horrors perpetrated by Christian soldiers come up in polite conversation while recent violent jihads do?

One’s personal belief system aside, we all have amongst our friends observant Christians, Jews, and Moslems.  And there is beauty in each tradition.  The case in point: in Arabic the word for beauty, virtue, and goodness is the same.  Thus in the Muslim mind they are not separate concepts.

On NPR’s fascinating “On Being”** the prominent Muslim scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr said that “There is a very deep nexus between beauty and happiness.  And happy is the person who realizes inner beauty.  And ugliness in Arabic also means evil.”

On the same program were other clerics including the Dalai Lama who said: “One of my Muslim friend explained to me one interpretation of Jihad, not only sort of attack on other, but real meaning is combative attack your own wrongdoing or negativities.”  To which Dr. Nasr responded: “The greater Jihad, the bigger Jihad, is to combat your own negative forces within you.  Yes, yes.”

And back here in the caucuses was the struggle to appear to be the least tolerant – xenophobic even.   A leader in the current issue of the Economist reads re runner-up Santorum: “Now is the time for consenting adults to lock their bedroom doors”.

Jeesh.  On this subject therapist James Hollis writes***: “One oppresses what one fears.  Fear is responsible for the oppression of women and gay bashing, the latter most notably by young men insecure in their own psychological reality”.

Scratch the New Year’s resolution in my last post.  Jihad!

*The Arabic calligraphy above reads: “God loves beauty”

**Show broadcast Sunday January 1, 2012

***What Matters Most,Gotham, 2010