2118 Thinking

Easter service at Good Shepherd Lutheran brought a surfeit of babies. One particularly endearing one craned her neck to look up at the ceiling lights one minute and head butted her grandpa the next. The red-headed one, sadly, didn’t get quite as much attention as the blonde head butter.

Those babies may live until 2118, which prompted me to think how differently a President might govern, a Congress might legislate, and a Judiciary might rule if they focused their attention on the later years of Good Shepherd’s littlest Easter service congregants.

What if our news cycles were ten years long and all of us adopted 2118 thinking?

We’d reign in our federal debt, we’d conserve natural resources, and we’d focus on reducing global poverty. In contrast, the Associated Press reports, “The Trump administration is expected to announce that it will roll back automobile gas mileage and pollution standards that were a pillar in the Obama administration’s plans to combat climate change.”

Is that what he means by “Make America Great Again”?

 

 

Living Healthily By Feel

As I wrote recently, modern life requires some dependence upon expert recommendations, but when it comes to our health, we’re too dependent upon scientists; when it comes to our money, we’re too dependent upon financial planners; and when it comes to our spirituality, we’re too dependent upon religious professionals.

A recent Wall Street Journal story described a study of older recreational athletes. The conclusion, past age 50, running more than 15-20 miles a week at faster than 7:30 per mile is associated with higher mortality rates. That makes sense since fast long distance running is a form of stress. So far, I’ve ran about 1,470 miles this year or almost exactly 30 a week. Most of those miles were in the 7:30 neighborhood (well, not the last 8 in Canada). In addition, I’ve swam about 185 miles and rode 5,272—all personal highs thanks to my Ironperson Canada prep.

According to some scientific experts, I’m killing myself in the predawn perpetual light rain, in the sense that I’m shortening my life. If you listen carefully, you can hear couch potatoes everywhere cheering lustily.

So do I dial things back? I accept the studies’ peer-reviewed conclusions, but I’m too skeptical to change my overly active lifestyle as a result of the study. When determining how far and fast to run, swim, and cycle; instead of living purely by science; I choose to live mostly by intuition or feel.

I know myself better than the scientists who conducted the study. Consequently, I’m just arrogant enough to think their study doesn’t apply to me. I’ve slowly built my endurance base over the last twenty years, I eat well, I prioritize sleep, and I’m pretty good about minimizing everyday stress. Regularly going semi-long contributes to the excellent quality of my life. I’m convinced I’m physically, mentally, and even spiritually healthier than I otherwise would be if I cut back based on this study’s recommendations.

I would like to live a long life, but I’m even more interested in maintaining a good quality of life. Late in life I want to remember my past; read The New Yorker; write regularly; and walk without falling down.

I could be wrong. About one of the most important decisions imaginable. The horrors, I may not be special. If some of you are at my funeral in two or twenty years, I give you permission to laugh one last time at me.

Saturday morning, I extended myself for only the second time since Ironperson Canada (the other was the Seattle Half Marathon two weeks ago). I ran 10 miles with my favorite right wing burners, inhaled a large bowl of oatmeal, and then celebrated Hob’s 52nd birthday by swimming 52 100’s. Dear longevity researchers, stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

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Light a Candle or Curse the Darkness?

Is quality of life improving? Depends on the person or people and the place right? What about your quality of life, your family’s, your friends’, the majority of people who live in your community?

I’m conflicted. I believe the U.S. is in decline. And because both political parties approach government as a zero-sum game making bipartisanship a relic of previous centuries, I have no confidence that government will slow or reverse the decline. Health insurance and higher education inflation are major negatives.

Also, Edward Conrad aside (short rebuttal), growing inequality is a definite negative and there are still serious cracks in the global economy. Social security funds are supposed to dry up in 2033, right when yours truly will be 71. Wars and security threats abound and our military spending is unsustainable. And if Romney pulls off the upset, he promises to increase it in the short-term, inevitably adding to our unprecedented debt. And finally, my hair continues to recede like the world’s rain forests and UCLA hasn’t beaten USC in football since 2006.

But there are lots of positives for the other side of the ledger, the “light the candle” side. Medical research continues to march on, extending our lives and improving quality of life. Life for many in the poorest countries is gradually improving. Baby apps and my late-adaptor skepticism aside, personal technology has made life better. Writing on this laptop is a marked improvement on the typewriters of my college years. Watching t.v. without commercials, reading electronic newspapers on my iPad without getting ink-stained hands, the value of these things can’t be overstated. Cars keep getting safer, more efficient, and relatively more affordable. Appliances and homes are more energy efficient. Alternative energy technologies make energy independence and reduced military spending a possibility.

Related to that, wise consumers, in many sectors of the economy, are getting more value for their dollar than ever before. A personal example of that. Everyone is complaining about the cost of gas and related things like summer air fares. I just bought a plane ticket to visit Mother Dear mid-summer. I put the time in to get a great fare, $391, Seattle to Tampa. Let’s add in $80 for airport parking and $15 for in-air groceries (to and from) for a total cost of $486. Translating that to time spent working, at $50/hour, that’s 1.2 work days, at $12.50/hour, 5 work days.

What if I drove the 3,200 or 6,400 miles roundtrip? Let’s assume 32mpg for 200 gallons at $4/per for a subtotal of $800 in gasoline. Plus four long days means, 12 meals (@ $10/per) and 3 hotels (@ 90/per) x 2 (for the return)=$780 for a total of $1,580. And let’s add in $120 for an oil change, depreciation, and tire wear and tear. So I could spend eight days on the road at a cost of $1,700 or fly for $486. So I get to spend seven extra days with MD for $1,214 less.

The older most people get the more they succumb to selective perception. They get nostalgic for a Golden Age when young people had shorter hair, fewer tats, read more, and life in general was better. I don’t buy it. I’m not sure there’s ever been a Golden Age of anything. My goal is to light candles more and curse the darkness less.

That’s me in the second row excited to see Mother Dear

Think Legacy not Longevity

I think it was my ten year high school reunion somewhere in Orange County, California where I reconnected with one of my best friends from the 6th or 7th grade. At the start of junior high we were tight. I learned to ski on trips to Big Bear with his family and I spent a memorable week backpacking with them in the Sierras. He was a stud, a good running back and hurdler who gave both up for surfing and partying which he also excelled at. In high school, I was his designated driver.

Must have been the drugs, because at 28, he was pretty whacked out. Despite not looking especially healthy, he pigeoned-holed me and was going on and on about living to something like 125. I should have humored him and told him I was really looking forward to our 100th reunion. Pills; 1,000 calories a day; filtered carrot juice, can’t remember all the bullshit stuff he thought would get him to triple digits.

Granted, my childhood friend is more extreme than normal, but most of us don’t like thinking about dying. Many people spend lots of energy trying to delay it as long as possible.

In hindsight, I wish I had encouraged him to think legacy not longevity. It’s not the length of our lives, but the quality of them. Whether 40, 60, or 80, do you leave your world—whether it’s your family, the places you worked, the physical environment, or your community—better off?

I have to credit Peter Whybrow, author of American Mania, for this reminder. This sentence of his stopped me dead in my tracks. Pun intended:

In a collective denial of aging. . .we employ all available technologies to simulate youth, misunderstanding that the secret to immortality lies not in the individual but in the society we leave behind.

I can’t express it any more clearly than that.

Stop Exercising

If you’re not saving for your seventies, eighties, and nineties.

Olga Kotelko is considered one of the world’s greatest athletes, holding 23 world records, 17 in her current age category, 90 to 95.

From the NYTimes Magazine:

At last fall’s Lahti championship, Kotelko threw a javelin more than 20 feet farther than her nearest age-group rival. At the World Masters Games in Sydney, Kotelko’s time in the 100 meters — 23.95 seconds — was faster than that of some finalists in the 80-to-84-year category, two brackets down. World Masters Athletics, the governing body of masters track, uses “age-graded” tables developed by statisticians to create a kind of standard score, expressed as a percentage, for any athletic feat. The world record for any given event would theoretically be assigned 100 percent. But a number of Kotelko’s marks — in shot put, high jump, 100-meter dash — top 100 percent. Because there are so few competitors over 90, age-graded scores are still guesswork.

Suspected of doping by some of her competitors, OK borrows from Lance’s playbook and repeatedly points out she’s never failed a test. Kidding of course.

Scientists researching the linkages between exercise, fitness, and longevity are busily studying OK and are finding the linkages are even stronger than suspected.

This type of fitness news is always heralded by the exercise community of which I’m a part, but is it really good news? I wonder because of another steady stream of stories about the elderly today—that they’re not saving nearly enough for their post-retirement lives. What if thirty, forty, and fifty-something spenders are also committed exercisers and then have to live through their sixties, seventies, eighties, and nineties on reduced Social Security benefits and their meager savings?

If you’re not saving for your distant future, maybe you should stop exercising.

Sometimes I wonder what a Saturday morning 10 miler with the team costs. Setting aside our time (it’s Saturday morning after all), let’s assume we’re wearing $100 shoes that last for 500 miles. That’s 2% of $100 or $2 in shoe wear and tear. Next, let’s assume we’re wearing a shirt, shorts, and socks that cost $70 new. They last at least 140 runs so another 50 cents. Then I eat and drink a lot more throughout the day than I otherwise would if I was sedentary, so approximately $2.50 for a total of $5. This is where if I had a contract with MasterCard I’d write, “And the raunchy, witty banter, priceless.”

But I’ve never factored in the hidden “Olga Kotelko” cost. Of course there are no guarantees, life is fragile, but the odds are the team and I are extending our lives each Saturday morning. I’m not sure how to quantify that.

That’s okay though because I’m choosing to think positively about my longevity and saving for the distant future. Which is why I’m going to continue training for the 2052 Senior Games.

Swim Meet Addendum

At the Rudolph’s Plunge swim meet I also won the 50 fly, 50 back, and 50 free. The 13 year old girl who touched me out in the 50 breast looked like she was on the juice. And she left right afterwards before any samples could be collected.

I’m just sayin’.

I also was the only person disqualified in an event (200IM),  and I did it with style, actually earning a double DQ. Apparently, you’re not allowed to roll onto your stomach during backstroke turns. My excuse was I’m a triathlete. I thought I had won a Dairy Queen coupon.

Despite my victories, I was not the swimmer of the meet, not by a long shot. That honor had to go to Evelyn a 90 year old dynamo who did the 25 fly, then the 25 back, then the 25 breast, then the 25 free, then to cap it off, a 100IM. She’s beyond inspiring. Best of all, she had to leave right after swimming to get up to Seattle for a dance competition. Her partner is a young man in his early 70’s.

Evelyn is intelligent, personable, and friendly as all get out. Longevity, we’re talking triple digits, runs in her family. Given her present physical and mental health, her fitness routine, and her joy, I expect her to continue rewriting the Masters swimming record book for years to come.

Keep moving.

Damn, where did that old lady come from?

Damn, where did that old lady come from?