Conscious Aging: June 20 #1

Here’s where we are so far. I had a biopsy, which we think revealed a tumor. It will take a week or so for the pathology to come back, tumor board to convene, decide on next steps, and meet with us to move forward. Right now there are six or seven teams involved: Neurology, Neuro Oncology, Infectious Disease [Panama TB exposure 50 years ago], Pulmonology [uncles’ farms in Iowa 50 years ago with bare feet in hay that might have funguses], Hematology [IgA] —  you get the idea. Each team comes with an Attending [50-ish], a fellow [close to 40?],  then in descending order a resident, intern, and medical student. The UW is a good teaching hospital and the docs are whip smart, many of them young women. The nurses are uneven — probably all baseline competent, but some stars and some merely well intentioned. Because of the very remote chance of latent TB I was in an isolation room with negative air pressure and everyone on staff who came in had to wear protective gear. Due to HIPPA rules the people who had access to my charts had extra work gearing up but were unworried. The food people and cleaning staff and people who drew blood were terrified. I could have had a 50 year old positive TYNE test or current Ebola or Aids. When I went down for CAT scan everyone looked at me, masked, as if I was Typhoid Mary.

In a week or so, one of these teams will be primary and we will have a plan.

My focus writing about this will be my experience of being in a very new and unknown place. Some will be medical details, but most what I think and feel. Starting this weekend we will password-protect posts related to this journey. We’ll be sending an email with the password information to friends and family. We will include a post here on how to request the password for any blog followers who we might accidentally miss.  The protected password for kids is the same. I still will write occasional political and random posts as I can, but I’m sort of done with Trump. I agree with Nancy Pelosi. He’s not worth it.

The Dems races interests me, though. I have three male friends whose political instincts I trust, and we’re back and forth on Biden. I think he will fade. They think he will win the nomination and defeat Trump and Mitch McConnell will walk from the dark side into the light.

When pigs fly, I say.

So, three possible posts on any given day: #1 kid pics, restricted to those who already have that password.  #2 General, open posts like this. And, #3, my health — password coming.

Writing My Blog Posts: A Little Off-Schedule

When in Seattle I usually write my blog posts for the next day in the evening, and then post before I go to bed for early east coast readers.  At this time of year, if I post after 10pm I get the next day’s date — which means the WordPress server is on central time. In Panama, I posted in the early morning because I would have had to stay up until midnight to get the next day’s date.

I got yesterday’s posts in during the trip and after my arrival home, but here are today’s posts. Hope to be back on regular schedule by tomorrow, with early posting of new material.

Writing Life: My Year in the Blog

At the end of each year I take a look at my blog stats, to get a year-long overview of who came, from where, in what numbers, and for what posts. I worked all of my adult life to metrics. Seems as if taking note of the metrics is just something I can’t give up. I don’t earn money from my blog, or even attempt to, so I’m not trying to demonstrate anything to anyone, much less to an advertiser. I just like taking a look. Here, in case you’re interested, is your window into a blog author’s view.

I’ve been writing daily since 2009. I started on my first long trip to Panama, having found Minga again in 2008 while in Panama City with daughter Sara on a consulting trip. Writing the blog, especially in retirement, is a key organizing principle of my day. The way I find something to write about hasn’t changed since I started. During our working years, interesting things come to us unbidden. In retirement, we have to pay attention. If I don’t see three or four things every day interesting enough to write about, I’m not attending to my life and the preciousness of being here. Put in a more positive way, finding the beauty and mystery and humor of life is my personal spiritual discipline.

I’ve written 10,828 posts since I started, and had 625,030 page views. That means my 75,547 viewers read multiple posts. Some readers come every day, some occasionally, some binge now and again, and some come only once for a particular topic they found through a search engine. My biggest single day of readership was March 11, 2011, when there was a tsunami warning off the Pacific Coast and people were frantically trying to get news online to see if their Panama relatives and friends were safe. They found my blog, and I posted numerous times during the day, answering what questions I could.

I have 623 followers, who are people who’ve signed up to be pinged when a new post appears.

My top five commenters are Phyllis, Katie, Ada, J., Joyce.

I had 82,277 page views, slightly up from last year.

My top five countries from which readers came are the U.S., Panama, Germany, U.K., and India. Those countries are followed by Canada, France, Mexico, Australia, Switzerland, Hong Kong SAR China, Brazil, Japan, South Africa, Italy, Czech Republic, Russia, Romania, Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, Poland, Philippines, China, Austria, Indonesia, Viet Nam, Turkey, Thailand, Chile, Hungary, Malaysia, South Korea, Sweden, Cayman Islands,  Singapore, Greece, Bahamas, Finland, New Zealand, Portugal, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Ireland, EU, Croatia, UAE, Israel, Bangladesh, Norway, Pakistan, Argentina, Denmark, Colombia, Nepal, Bulgaria, Nigeria, Dominican Republican, Venezuela, Kenya, Serbia, Azerbaijan, Slovakia, Puerto Rico, Lithuania, Qatar, Honduras, Congo, Libya, Peru, Armenia, Sri Lanka, Ghana, Slovenia, Paraguay, Georgia, Iceland, Taiwan, Belarus, Jordan, Cameroon, Costa Rica, MacauSAR China, Jersey, Lebanon, El Salvador, Jamaica, Morocco, American Samoa, Luxembourg, Bolivia, Albania, Trinidad & Tobago, Cambodia, Macedonia, Palestinian Territories, U.S. Virgin Islands, Ecuador, Estonia, Cypress, St. Lucia, Faroe Islands, Iraq, St. Kitts and Nevis, Kazakhstan, Cuba, Oman, Brunei, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Sint Maarten, Rwanda, Guatemala, Tanzania, Belize, Myanmar, Sudan, Gabon, Antigua & Barbuda, Uruguay, Aruba, Cote d’Ivoire, Bahrain, Senegal, Uganda, Mozambique, Laos, Malta, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Barbados, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Moldova, Curacao, Mongolia, Zimbabwe.

I think that list is very exciting. It still amazes me that someone in Zimbabwe can not only find my blog, but find something interesting there to read.

These are probably the most interesting stats. There are others, like what search engines people use, and what are the most popular posts: the Panama stuff, grand-parenting, and aging.

I love writing, and I love that you continue to read. Thank you for being part of this writing adventure, for sharing your thoughts with me either in the Comments or privately, and for being part of my reading/writing community. Looking forward to our reading/writing life in the new year.


Writing Life: Booming Stats

WordPress notifies me when my stats are booming, and I can usually figure out what’s happening. Yesterday when I woke up I had 76 page views — a little light. Within 2 hours I had 196 page views. By day’s end the page views topped out at 331 — a good bit over my normal 200, give or take. Yes, that qualifies as “booming stats”. What caused the spike? Someone found my Fremont Solstice Parade naked biker pictures, and took time to look at them all.

I haven’t actually gone to the Solstice Parade in a couple of years. To get a spot good enough to take pictures you have to go by about 10am, and the parade doesn’t start until early afternoon. There are lots of great things to do here in Seattle in June, and standing around for a couple of hours in clouds of pot smoke awaiting the parade has fallen in my list of top choices. But the old pics are still up there, and apparently as interesting as they ever were. 🙂

Writing Life: Booming Stats

I typically get between 200 and 250 page views a day, mostly driven by a cadre of loyal daily readers and equally loyal binge readers — people who come onto the site every few days or weeks and catch up on all the back posts.

Occasionally, I have a day when my page views spike, as I did on Wednesday. I had 376 page views. I can see how many readers click on each post, although not who is reading. From my attempts to figure out from whence the big spike came, it looks as if a lone reader came on and read over 100 posts.

Whoever you are, come back!!!!

Password Protected Content

Those of you who have access to the password protected content on the site may notice that you’re needing to put in the password more often — perhaps every time you  try to open a protected post.  I’m having to do that too. It’s nothing I did — must be a change instituted by WordPress, the platform I use. Just letting you know.

Conscious Aging: Talking with a Discobot

The Atlantic, to which I subscribe, has a new-ish premium pay service called Masthead. The have calls with interesting and relevant contemporary figures to which Masthead subscribers can log in and participate, various online forums, and other such benefits. They are trying to create an online community of thinkers and readers.

Most recently, we subscribers were invited to enter a forum where we introduced ourselves. I did, and got an answer from a discobot, represented by a cute little blue icon.

The message asking if I wanted to chat sounded quite human, although the discobot made clear that responding was entirely up to me and if I didn’t respond it would be fine because the writer was, after all, a robot and wouldn’t feel rejected.

I’m not responding because I think engaging in communication with a robot is a little weird — like talking to Alexa. That said, I confess to some curiosity about how far an email exchange with a robot might go.

Am keeping the email around, and if I decide to engage, will let you know. 🙂

Contemporary Life: LongReads

There are certain journals — Foreign Affairs and the Economist come to mind — that require time and attention and intellectual focus when you turn to an article. The content is long, dense, and requires a more advanced vocabulary, ability to reason, and level of critical thinking skills. The antithesis, I suppose, might be something like People magazine. You might pick up People in a doctor or dentist’s waiting room, because if you get interrupted it hardly matters. You got the gist in the first few sentences. Whatever you read is probably forgotten by the end of your appointment, and it’s nothing you are going to go back to because what you read is, well, little more than gossip.

Judgmental, I know. My apologies to fans and subscribers of People.

We’re all aware of the opioid crisis, at least on some level. We know that too many pills are floating around. We probably know that fentanyl is dangerous and can kill you. We know that opioids come in a medicine bottle, often with a doctor’s prescription, so middle class people can become addicted without feeling like junkies. We may know that opioid addiction seems worse in the Rust Belt, in coal country, in the hollowed out heartland where people in small, once-thriving communities are left with little to do.

But to really understand the opioid crisis, you need to do a long read — something like the journals I described in the first paragraph. New York magazine has just the right piece, by Andrew Sullivan. You can’t read this article quickly. You need to take time. Here’s a sample, to entice you:

“It is tempting to wonder if, in the future, today’s crisis will be seen as generated from the same kind of trauma, this time in reverse.
If industrialization caused an opium epidemic, deindustrialization is no small part of what’s fueling our opioid surge. It’s telling that the drug has not taken off as intensely among all Americans — especially not among the engaged, multiethnic, urban-dwelling, financially successful inhabitants of the coasts. The poppy has instead found a home in those places left behind — towns and small cities that owed their success to a particular industry, whose civic life was built around a factory or a mine. Unlike in Europe, where cities and towns existed long before industrialization, much of America’s heartland has no remaining preindustrial history, given the destruction of Native American societies. The gutting of that industrial backbone — especially as globalization intensified in a country where market forces are least restrained — has been not just an economic fact but a cultural, even spiritual devastation. The pain was exacerbated by the Great Recession and has barely receded in the years since. And to meet that pain, America’s uniquely market-driven health-care system was more than ready.”

Even the quote is long, longer than I usually include.

Take time to read this article. It puts the opioid crisis in a wider context that we all need to know.

Writing Life: Looking for Something Upbeat and Funny

My most widely read and shared and commented upon blog posts aren’t the thoughtful political commentary, or the series on aging, or the Panama stuff or even my experience of grandparenting, to which not all readers have access because of the pics of the kids.

My most popular blog posts are those which are upbeat and funny. An example is the time a long while ago that I bought two similarly colored pairs of sneakers to alternate for my workouts, and found out mid-day — by looking down at my feet — that I’d put on one shoe of each pair and not noticed. I agree — that was pretty funny. That post drew tons of readers.

I’m having trouble coming up with funny. Maybe it’s that we’re in February, the dead of winter. February is a birthday month for my sister Wendy and my friend Louise, but it isn’t a funny month, not like October which hosts Halloween and offers things like usually sane grownups parading around CVS in a gorilla suit. February is hopeful, because the days are getting noticeably longer and we often have a few warmer-than-usual days as a harbinger of spring. February is short; we’re barely into the month and then we’re on to March. Can May be far behind? February is spring break for a lot of schools, which means that working parents have yet another challenge: occupying children home for a week. February is all of those things. But February isn’t funny.

Maybe I can do upbeat. My amaryllis is just about to pop with a triple bloom, and there are a couple of other blooms coming along in slower time. The amaryllis is a Christmas gift from my brother and sister-in-law, Jeannie and Paul. I’m no great shakes as a gardener, but I manage to tend an amaryllis without killing the thing off. I’m actually headed to Maine next week to see Jeannie and Paul and attend the Camden Conference, so I hope the amaryllis bursts forth before then. Pics for sure.

A triple amaryllis bloom is definitely upbeat. Even if you’re not a gardener, wouldn’t you say?

Writing Life: “Oodles”

I’m always more aware, on the verge of a trip to Panama, how difficult it is to master the nuances and idioms of another language.

I read a piece earlier today saying that the Weinstein companies have “oodles of debt”. I know what an oodle is, and you probably do too. But try explaining it to a non-English speaker. “A lot of debt” doesn’t quite capture the nuance.

How might you explain to Lily what “oodles of debt” means?