Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Instant Communication

“What’s a telegram?” my grandson asked recently when I mentioned the word. While I explained that it used to be an efficient way of communicating important information, it dawned on me that while now defunct, its life was decades-long in contrast to the speed at which the newest and the latest in communication is forever being replaced by the newest and the latest. But do the methods of communication that have evolved since the telegram of (what seems) only a few years ago always good for us?

I worry that in our rush to be in constant communication with the rest of the world we may be in danger of having too much information. Are we able to distinguish the truth among all the information instantly reaching us?

Those of us who still read newspapers know that they exist by their reputation and that news stories have been checked and rechecked for accuracy before being thrown at the world. And those of us who read newspapers online are assured that this high standard also applies there as well. But what about all the other information, comments, ideas on countless websites and blogs? Can we recognize the real grain among all the half-truth circulating in cyber space?

Another danger looms in instant communication. The constant bombardment of images may make us immune to feelings. Somewhat like the horrific images of the Vietnam War, the first “televised” war which made the news daily, today’s images of the unspeakable horrors of terrorism are instantly seen by millions all over the world on all sorts of devices. And we get used to them.

After a while, all shock value is lost. Unless it’s personal, of course. In the olden days, if someone was injured or killed, the family received a telegram and were spared the visuals. Today, chances are family members will see a video of the actual event someone has posted on line before anyone has time to officially inform them of their loss. The telegram was kinder.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

The North American continent has been dealing with another slap from Mother Nature this season. In the northeast especially, the amount of snow that keeps falling is breaking records and the thermometer is also a little mad when it comes to daytime temperatures.

We’re used to harsh winters, so while we may complain that this season’s snow and cold are becoming irritating, we make the best of it. Of course, the fact that it’s so cold this February that winter sports have been put on hold almost makes me cry. I’ve always enjoyed cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, however this year my winter exercises have been limited most of the time to walks inside the local mall. But I’m not the only one. Last Sunday my son, the avid skier, called me. Nothing unusual in itself except that while he normally spends most winter weekends on the slopes, he stayed home because of the “ridiculous” cold. Hopefully, going outside will soon be more pleasurable.

The hardest hit people are certainly those who seldom if ever encounter harsh winters. They don’t have proper clothing, snow tires, etc. so I imagine that they suffer a lot more than we do. Luckily, spring is just around the corner.

Really! Think about it. It’s only a matter of weeks before the snow disappears completely and spring flowers begin appearing. And only a few months before we start using air conditioning again. The human body has to be pretty resilient to go from one extreme temperature to another. Of course, it happens gradually, nevertheless it is quite a trek.

But I wonder if we ever recover as we get older. When I visited an older relative last summer, she was sitting outside wearing a sweater over her blouse, while I found it quite warm in a sleeveless top. Although I certainly feel the cold in winter, it does not prevent me from enjoying the outdoors when the temperature permits it. On the other hand, older people seem to stays inside most of the time in the colder months. I suppose, age makes us less and less able to adjust to changes in temperature. In my case, in summer I can’t wait for the cooler days of fall.

It just goes to show that a perfect world, this ain’t!



Wednesday, February 11, 2015


A Choice for Fun

It used to be people retired and did little—little planning, little exercising, little smiling. Things have improved, thank God. It used to be you were old at sixty while now seventy is the new fifty. Baby boomers are more active than ever and, because of advances in health care and wide information dissemination, can look forward to a long retirement. In fact, it is predicted that most of today’s boomers will live well into their nineties. That’s a lot of years to do little.

I firmly believe that, like any other stage of life, retirement has to be planned to some extent. We certainly cannot plan every minute of every day, but there should be a guiding desire toward a goal. We are all different so goals will be different for everyone. But I don’t know that I have goals, Bob told me recently. He is about to retire and has not planned anything beyond playing golf as much as he can. That’s certainly a nice enjoyable goal, but there has to be more to fill all that free time.

Just as we chose careers that appealed to us, that fit our personalities, our choice of activities in retirement should be based on what moves us, makes us feel good, not what friends or family feel we should be doing. I know a man who turned to photography in retirement and is having a grand old time. He was a chef all his life so his children thought he would spend his retirement preparing meals for them. But he wanted out of the kitchen to embrace a new passion. He’s the perfect example of a fulfilled retiree. Good for him, I say. A retiree’s mantra should be change for the new, the fun.










Wednesday, February 4, 2015


Health Management

As the years add up, remaining pain free is a priority for many of us. There are, of course, myriad painkillers on the market. Many are geared to specific conditions, for example backache or arthritic pain, but most of them come in strengths that vary from baby dosage to mega potency. However, there are other options.

            I am of the opinion that when alternative treatments are available, they should be investigated. Case in point, a few years back I was plagued from time to time by excruciating pain which encompassed one ear and one side of my head. No matter how strong the painkiller I used, the relief was temporary at best. I saw a bunch of doctors, got all sorts of tests to rule out things like a brain tumor, and was told there was nothing wrong with me. One doctor had the gall to tell me I should stop complaining like a baby, that the pain could not be as bad as I was describing it. For a fleeting moment, I had trouble resisting the urge to punch her in the face.

            At that point a colleague suggested that I should consult an acupuncturist who might be able to provide relief. She said that her eighty-something mother saw one every few months to control her arthritic pain. I followed the advice out of desperation, not expecting results. The acupuncturist was a Chinese man with a medical degree who said he could cure me. Prove it, buddy, I told myself.

The good doctor proceeded to put needles in all sorts of unexpected points in my face and ears, then told me to relax for a few minutes. The pain began to subside and I quickly fell asleep, not surprising since the pain had prevented restful sleep in the previous forty-eight hours. He let me sleep for a couple of hours, and when I woke up the pain was completely gone.  The problem returned a few months later, but the pain was not nearly as severe, and I haven’t had more in years now.  Touch wood, of course!

I recount this story, to make the point that sometimes going away from traditional medical treatments can have very positive results. That doesn’t mean that I believe all the claims made by non-traditional “experts.”  Every case is different, and a variety of sources should be investigated before submitting to any form of treatment.

            A case in point is certainly the vitamin/supplement sector. As we remember, a few decades ago, those who took vitamins were rare and considered a little weird. In the ensuing years, research has gone on non-stop. Today we know that we can benefit from taking certain supplements, such as calcium and vitamin D to help ensure bone health, for example. That does not mean that we should consider taking all the supplements available at the local pharmacy or health-food store. Many experts consider most of these products a waste of money. Before buying supplements, we should be very clear about what they do and don’t do, and not rely solely on the hype.

            Another point is that so-called “natural” remedies, whether herbs or supplements, can have unwanted and even disastrous effects if they interfere with prescribed medication by reducing or amplifying desired results. This is something many people do not seem to take into account. It’s always a good idea to consult a doctor before considering taking any type of supplements.

            Nevertheless, many remedies outside the traditional medical realm have definite benefits. At a particularly stressful period in my life, I developed stomach ulcers which responded poorly to traditional medication. After consulting a naturopath, I was able to heal them with raw cabbage juice.  While some years ago it was considered a bizarre remedy, today cabbage juice is being touted more and more in traditional medical literature as one element to consider for the treatment of stomach problems.

            All this to say, we need not avoid remedies outside traditional medical wisdom, but neither should we use them blindly.  Look before you leap certainly applies here.