Sunday, December 30, 2012

On Resolutions and Bucket Lists

A friend recently posted on Facebook: "My Bucket List excludes any activity that might result in the premature kicking of said bucket." His examples of excluded activities included bungee jumping, skydiving, and running with the bulls.

"He's such a tease," says Virginia, "saying what he's excluding. What's left?"

May I suggest:

1. Run a marathon. Oops. A recent study suggests that folks who run more than 25 miles per week risk cardiac abnormalities that shorten lifespans. Check out:

2. Run a 6-minute (or 5-minute) mile. Whoa. Another recent study mentioned in the same Wall Street Journal article indicates that runners who move faster than 8 miles per hour also risk shorter lifespans. Bummer.

3. Travel the world. Gosh, I don't know. Airplanes crash, so do bicycles and cars. Consider the risks to the general population -- motor vehicles, 1 in 7700; bicycles 1 in 410,000; and airplanes, 1 in 206,900. Of course, that's not me, I'm not the "general population." OK, think risk based on exposure -- motor vehicles, 1.3 deaths per 100,000,000 vehicle miles; airplanes, 1.9 deaths per 100,000,000 aircraft miles; bicycles, unavailable but anecdotal evidence suggests if you bike regularly you'll have an accident. (See

4. Walk every day. Heck, sometime that every day may bring icy sidewalks, lurking muggers, unseen pothole ankle-twisters.

5. Read the best 100 novels of all time. How dangerous could that be? I suppose it could depend on your state of mind. The Stranger by Camus might persuade certain people to murder. Les Miserables might suggest it's commendable to filch a loaf of bread.

I could go on, but by now you probably get the picture. What's on your bucket list, my friend?

A year ago I set a goal of running 40 miles per week for 2012. In early December, when I read that Wall Street Journal article about cardiac risks, I had to face the music -- live or die. I continued toward my goal. Every single week of 2012 I ran at least 40 miles, for a grand total of 2214 as of this morning (with one day to go)...BUT....

For 2013, I choose life (I think), cutting back to no more than 25 running miles per week and no faster than 8 miles per hour. Problem is, when do I become eligible for the lower risk, right away or does it take awhile?

"Come on now," says Virginia. "You've read Freakonomics. Don't confuse correlation with cause and effect."


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Kindness II

Virginia says, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." Or was it Thumper?

Someone posted on Facebook a Barbra Streisand quote about Obama being the most fiscally conservative president in recent times, except for Bill Clinton. The suggestion was "click Like if you think she's an idiot."

That's how too many conversations go these days, idiot being one of the more gentle expressions. If that's all you have to say, silence should be golden. Do a little research so you can at least say, "Maybe the first President Bush was more fiscally conservative." After all, Forbes magazine isn't known for publishing the views of idiots ( Nor is the Atlantic ( Look up the meaning of the word "idiot" if you have doubts about this.

Meanwhile, I'm tempted to read up on economics. I have a feeling the mainstream economists, bankers and politicians of all kinds are pulling the wool over our eyes. They say it's okay to print money to bail out the banks or to pay for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but not okay to pay for Social Security. I'd like to argue the opposite, that it's okay to print money to pay for Social Security but not okay to use it to bail out the banks or to pay for wars and giant military budgets, particularly when so many of our citizens are hurting. But I'm not an economist so no one would pay me any mind.

"You're an idiot," says Virginia.

Could be.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

New Year Kindness

This morning, as I ran along our road, about a half-mile from Elk Cliff Farm, a woman driving from the other direction slowed down and stopped. I opened her passenger door to see what she wanted.

She said, "Would you like a ride or are you jogging?"

I smiled and said, "Jogging, thank you."

As she drove on, Virginia asked, "Do you think she would have turned around and taken you where you wanted to go?"

I think so.

Several years ago, our son called to say his car had conked out on the same road near our house. We said, "Wait a little bit. Someone will help you."

Sure enough. Within 5 minutes, strangers helped push his car into our driveway.

"Strangers?" says Virginia. "Maybe other places, but not here."

I'm reminded of a New Year's resolution: "Be kind."

Also, a Washington Post article on the end-of-the-world craze comes to mind. According to its author, Mayan elders did not view Dec. 21, 2012 as the end of the world, but rather as the completion of a 5,125-year cycle in the Mayan Long Count calendar, and the beginning of a whole new cycle. The new cycle would signal "the end of the dark ages, when toxic sludge from our misguided civilization has gunked up the main evolutionary chamber of the species, and the dawn of a new era, when humanity comes into its own."

Maybe so, but it is up to us to make it so. Strangers offering rides to walking strangers might be a step in the right direction.

Be kind.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Customer Service

"Am I supposed to wait?" says a patient on her return to the Women's Imaging Center reception area.

"Well, did they do what they were supposed to do?" says a receptionist.

"I don't know if she wanted me to wait or not," the patient says.

"Well, usually once they send you out, they're done with you," says the receptionist.

"I don't know if she said to stay or not," says the patient.

"You don't remember what she said?" says the receptionist.

An employee working at a computer asks, "What's her name?"

"Ms. ABC, she just went in and came out," says the receptionist.

"I'll go check," says the other employee.

"Thank you," says the patient.

The employee returns almost immediately, "She'd like you to wait a little bit."

"Thank you," says the patient.

If I were the patient, I think I would have been happier if the conversation went like this:

"Am I supposed to wait?" says the patient.

"Oh, she didn't tell you?" says the receptionist. "I'll check."

Virginia says, "I imagine the patient had enough to think about and those extra words didn't help."

Receptionists are people, too, but they're paid to be receptionists.