Loneliness vs. Being Happy. A choice?

“When a man of Scotty’s years falls in love, the loneliness of his life is suddenly revealed to him.  His whole heart once throbbed only to the ship’s engines.” – Star Trek

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The Boy at six.  How much fun is Christmas?

This week the Internet has been aTwitter® about loneliness.  It’s part of the cycle – it’s Fall, so it’s time for peak talk about being lonely.  Weight loss stories go year ‘round, but they peak after Christmas.  And the stories have a kicker.  “Loneliness is worse than ______ (obesity, high blood pressure, smoking, or, heck choose your own favorite disease to fill in the blank).”  The most recent article that I read seemed to focus on middle aged men, but I think it goes much deeper than just loneliness.  I think the roots are back to Hope.

When was the last time you were so excited that you could hardly sleep because of the day ahead?  That’s Hope.

I’m old enough I enjoy giving stuff more than getting it, but I’ve observed that kind of Hope, that level of anticipation most recently in The Boy and Pugsley.  The Boy is seventeen, and really surprising and delighting him at Christmas is difficult, now.  But Pugsley is twelve and would have the Christmas tree up in early September if we’d let him.  Pugsley dearly loves Christmas, and that spirit is alive in his heart, even when The Mrs. and I play Scrooge and Grinch®.  The Christmas Spirit (which is really just super-concentrated Hope) is naturally strong in the young.

I’ve recently discussed Scott Adams’ Formula for Happiness (LINK),

Happiness = Health + Money + Social + Meaning.

How does it apply to the young?

Health is (generally) a given.  When a child is sick enough that he leans over the side of his bed and throws up in his brother’s pants (which just happened to be on the floor there because they shared a room), he tends to remember that.  (My brother, John Q. Wilder, was not happy.)  Youth and vitality go together, since they haven’t had time to wreck their health yet.

Money is a hit or miss.  But (generally, again) money issues don’t weigh heavily on the mind of a kid.  They know that times might be tight, but they have no perspective to keep them up at night worrying about money.

Social?  In all but the extreme cases, kids have plenty of chances to interact with other kids and make friendships that last a lifetime.  Even shy kids.  They might not be friends with the popular kids, but they can have friends.

Meaning?  Yes, but like kids, it’s pretty shallow.  Being good is near enough what constitutes meaning for the younger set.  Meaning often comes from adequate performance and parental praise.

But as people get older (past their thirties), the equation changes.

Health:  Yearly you are reminded of increasing limitations, stronger eyeglass prescriptions, and less hair (except on the back, where it grows thicker than an Amazon rain forest).  Ow.  My hip hurts.

Money:  Generally people are better off financially as they get older, with the caveat that their peak earning potential may be in the past.

Social:  Friendships may have worn away through long hours and distance – most social contacts might even be at work.

Meaning:  Meaning likely comes from work, spouse, or volunteer organizations, or, in some cases, just making it to another birthday.

What role does hope play?  Hope is looking forward to time with friends and family, having goals big enough to be worthy of chasing, having plans of things you want to do and experience.  These things lead to enthusiasm and excitement in life.

What does the opposite side of the Adams Equation look like?

Despair=Poor Health(No Hope)+No Money(No Hope)+Alone Socially(No Hope)+Meaningless Existence(No Hope)

Despair leads to all the bad issues:

  • Loneliness
  • Depression
  • Disappointment
  • Sadness
  • Pain (real, not like needing a safe space in college because spaghetti is cultural appropriation)

It’s a lot like being a fan of a California NFL© team.

A sudden cratering of any one of the factors in the Equation of Despair can bring about a vicious cycle, leading to spiraling sadness.  This despair is dangerous – fatal if long enough and deep enough.  How many widows die within a month of their husband?  How many men die a month after retirement?

Whereas Hope can put you in a bad place and make you stay for too long (bad job/bad marriage/Raiders® fan), Hope is of then the only thing that will keep you alive when things go horribly wrong, as they absolutely will from time to time.

I think the key might be in being able to look at the world, not through the jaded eyes of experience, but by being able to maintain that sure Hope of a six year old on the night before Christmas . . .

Tom Petty, AM Radio, Heavy Metal, and Motivation

“If you ask me, you are both off the mark.  Last night was about two people ruled by very powerful superegos, tortured by them, who found a chance, however misguided, to break through and rediscover their ids together.  Call me an old softy, but that’s how I see it.” – Frasier

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The Boy and Pugsley dancing in the rain, which makes my id sing.

I’m not sure exactly when I first heard a Tom Petty song.  Where I grew up was media vacuum.  On TV, we had three channels, plus PBS® (Who watched PBS©?  Nobody.).  Unless it was nighttime, we only got two radio stations, and both of them were AM stations.  One played country music, so, for me it might as well not have exisited.  The other played a complicated mix of top 40 from four years previously, news, and an hour of mariachi music at lunchtime.  It signed off (shut down) at 11PM.

But at night . . . at night the mighty KOMA blasted out 50,000 watts of rock and roll at 1520 on the AM dial, the ionosphere conducted the signal hundreds of miles and back toward earth and over the mountains to my house.  It’s probable that I first heard Tom Petty on some cool summer night (down to 50 ˚F most summer nights).  Maybe it was “Don’t Do Me Like That.”

But Tom was always a bit older than I was, both in age and in the issues he raised in his musical themes.  Me?  I gravitated toward metal, mainly hairy metal, Ozzy™.  Mötley Crüe®.  The Scorpions©.  Despite the previous list, what I liked wasn’t all hair metal.  I liked “normal” music, too.

I ended up on a strange quest:  I’d heard a song, once, and I’d try to tell people what it sounded like, and say intelligent things like “it goes Da Da Dadum dadum de-da dum Ohh-Aiii-Uh . . . Uh.”  The record store clerk would nod knowingly, and point to a cassette or album.  It would turn out to be Judas Priest™.  Which I really, really liked.  Or Molly Hatchet©, which was kinda okay.   I would dutifully buy the tape or album, zip home (first on my ten speed, later in my pickup) and then listen to the album.  Normally, in the first song I would know if it was the same singer.  Always the answer was it wasn’t.  But these mistakes were beautiful – I can still remember sitting on the couch on a dim, overcast day, the clouds pregnant with snow that had yet to fall, blasting “The Hellion” and thinking . . . “okay, life is really cool.”

Imagine that this song played every time you entered a room.  I imagine Google® is working on that.

Again, none of them were the band I was looking for.  I think I spent $300 or so on every single album that featured leather, scantily clad females, and Spandex® that I could find.  For reference, I had all of these as either cassettes or albums.  Album cover copyrights belong to their respective corporate overlords.

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Funky font?   Check.  Picture that looks like something the disturbed kid drew in art class?  Check.

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Satan?  Check.  Priest in glasses being thrown into a pit of fire?  Check.

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Hmmm.  I don’t know about you, but something screams, John Wilder, BUY THIS ALBUM NOW!

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Spandex®?  Check.  Leather?  Check.  Canadian?  Check.  But . . . they’re dudes.  I bought this on cassette, so, thankfully, the picture was tiny.

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Swords?  Check.  Giant flying leathery chicken?  Check?  Leather . . . on a girl this time?  Check.

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Wow.  Just . . . wow.

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I never could figure out what sort of naughty thing they were supposed to be doing.  In the day.  At a drive in.  With both feet out the window.  Probably ripping the labels off of pillows?

Until . . . like Columbus I discovered what was already there (and broken up by the time I found them): Led Zeppelin.  True Fact:  Christopher Columbus first discovered Robert Plant picking onions in a Nevada prison camp, and introduced him to Jimmy Page at a ballet class, but would take no credit because he wanted Led Zeppelin to do disco music.

So, I listened again to Zeppelin. “Yeah, it might be that guy singing?”

It was.  It was this song:

This was the song.  Yay! 

But I’d have to special order the album, since they didn’t have Led Zeppelin III in stock.

Nope.  Too much commitment.

As you might have been able to tell by the artists and album covers above, my musical tastes were driven by my id.

If you don’t remember your Freud, he broke the brain into three bits:

  1. The Super Ego, which, like your dad, is for criticism and moralizing.
  2. The Ego, which is the organized human who lives on the main floor and deals with society in a realistic manner, and
  3. The Id, where all base instincts (Sex, PEZ® and Rock and Roll) live in the basement of your brain.

I listened to a lot of rock that was id driven.  And why not, I was working on a multi-decade winning streak.  Sad songs were for people who occasionally lost stuff.  But Tom Petty’s music was deeper.  It spoke to the conflict between the Super Ego and Ego, an intellectual and emotional conflict I really didn’t have.  I was riding high on year after year of success, slaying dragons and charging the castle.  Why would I question anything?  Party on, dudes!!

It wasn’t that Tom and I didn’t get along – he was no Bruce Springsteen or Johnny Depp, who are both dead to me.  They know why.

Really, it took life kicking me in the teeth more than once to move me from the normal reckless abandon that I attacked life with to a person who asks the kinds of questions that Tom Petty discusses in his songs.  I still recall having a conversation with The Mrs. when I began to realize that I liked Tom Petty:

Me:  “You know, the older I get, the more I understand Tom Petty.”

The Mrs., shaking her head, raising her voice a little:  “Can’t hear you . . . blow dryer on.”

But now Mr. Petty is speaking to me again – he died.

It’s not unusual for rock stars to die young – it’s like we pick an unstable, talented personality and then shove massive amounts of cash at them.  I’m just surprised that 90% of them aren’t dead by 30.  Just my luck that after the apocalypse the Twinkie®, the cockroach, and Johnny Depp will still be around.

But Tom Petty won’t be around, even though The Postman (movie) promised me that he would be.  His death hit me (oddly) harder than I’d anticipated.  He hadn’t been my life’s soundtrack, though I’d clearly been listening to him more recently.

He made it to 66.  According to the CDC, 83% of white non-Hispanics will make it to 67.  Only 1% of 66 year olds die.  If you make it to 66, your mean life expectancy is to make it to 86.  So, from this data, he died early.  But he didn’t look out of shape.  Far from it – he’d just finished a part of a concert tour comprised of 50 dates in five months, which can take a toll on 26 year olds, though I presume at 26 it’s the Jack Daniels® and late nights and not the (presumed) warm tea, oatmeal cookies and obligatory cellophane wrapped butterscotch hard candies that old people like that filled the Heartbreaker’s dressing room.

Though Mr. Petty was quite a bit older than me, I guess his death hit me like it did, because even at 66 it seemed he should be too young to die, just as his voice entered my soundtrack with a greater frequency and volume.  It makes me feel that much more mortal, and therefore more committed to getting into the best shape possible now so I can be in the 50% that make it to 82 years.

Tom Petty inspired millions in many ways – through emotional ups and downs.  He inspired artists everywhere that they could pick up a guitar and play and that their music would, like his, give them a slice of immortality.  And guys like me who want to keep runnin’ down our dreams.  I think this is the part where I get the dragon, right?

Thanks, Tom.

Insulin 🙂, Glycemic Index and Weight Loss: Not so simple?

“Lord Walder let me choose any of his granddaughters, and promised me the girl’s weight in silver as a dowry. So I have a fat young bride.” – Game of Thrones

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I wonder what the glycemic index of ALL THE CAKE is?  Probably pretty high.

One thing I love about writing this blog is that I always learn something.  My favorite times writing are when, in the middle of the research that I’m doing that I find out something new that changes my conclusion.  Or, like today, when I think I’m pretty up on a subject but I end up finding out something that doesn’t change my conclusion, but changes the way I got there.  So, spoiler alert – I learned a lot, but my conclusion didn’t change.

When it comes to weight loss, it still comes down to what you eat.  For the last two and a half months(!) I haven’t been practicing what I preach – I strayed pretty far from the Paleo®/Primal©/Atkins™ low-carb type diet.  I’d give you my reasons and excuses, but I’m not in junior high anymore and am not really worried about stuff like that.  I’ve mentioned plateaus (LINK) before, and have decided to research the whole diet mess in greater detail.

Like junior high, it’s all about hormones.  Just not exactly the same ones as junior high.

The first and most critical hormone when it comes to weight loss appears to be insulin.  What is insulin, besides expensive?

Let’s take a step back before we answer that.  What’s a hormone?  A hormone is a messenger chemical that the loose agglomeration of organs that your body is made of use to signal each other.  They probably don’t have as much information as, say, a text message.  Think of hormones as the emoji’s of your body.  Keep in mind, these emoji’s don’t just go to one place – they go everywhere.  And do different things in different combinations.

The primary triggering mechanism (but not the only one, as we will see) to flood your body with insulin is the blood sugar level.  Your body actually can see the quality of your blood as it goes through your veins, probably through telepathy.  When the blood sugar level increases, the pancreas releases insulin.  Insulin is the 🙂 of your body.

So, let’s pretend you’re six years old, and the idea of eating a cup of sugar appeals to you.  Your blood sugar content rises, your body sends out a batch of insulin 🙂 .  This insulin allows the sugar (specifically glucose) into the cell to be converted into energy – unless your cells have plenty of energy already, in which case the glucose is converted into glycogen for storage in the muscles for when it’s needed.  If the cells and the glycogen storage are full?  Game over.  Let’s turn all that spare sugar into fat.

So, let’s eliminate insulin 🙂.  That seems easy enough.  No insulin, no fat.

Without insulin 🙂, your cells wouldn’t allow the sugar through the cell wall, and the sugar would continue to increase in concentration until your blood took on the consistency of maple syrup.  Just kidding – your body would dump the sugar through the kidneys, which the kidneys totes do not like – the ancient Greeks even had a name for this:  diabetes, from the words for “pass through” and “sweet.”  Really.

This is actually what happens with type one diabetics:  their pancreas stops making insulin 🙂 and then they get really skinny.  And then, if not diagnosed and given injections of life-giving insulin 🙂, they die.  Elevated blood sugar for long periods of time is really bad for you.  The Mrs. is a type I diabetic.  I tell her that she should stop being dependent upon drugs.  She hits me.

Insulin 🙂 is anabolic – it signals the body that it’s time to build stuff – in this case, fat or glycogen.  Fat is an especially potent storage form, it has about twice the thermal energy per pound or gallon (I could say gram, but I’m not a communist) as sugar does.  But, we should all recall that a calorie is not a calorie – your body uses them differently (LINK).

So, the insulin 🙂 wants to do something with your blood sugar – it has to or else it will kill you.  Part of the choice is yours – eat a batch of potato chips and lounge on the couch?  Right to the fat conversion.  Eat a batch of potato chips and go exercise?  Creating that caloric deficit is required to lose weight, but remember, you can’t outrun your teeth (LINK) even on a low-carb diet.

This forms the basis for the strategies in the Paleo®/Primal©/Atkins™ diets.  In Atkins™ the focus is entirely on elimination of carbs.  In Paleo®/Primal©, the focus is on eating things that are in tune what a hunter gatherer would have consumed back in the day, and a greater understanding of “insulin 🙂 reality” is a component of the diet.

It turns out that there is a list (a very long list that you can find here (LINK)) of what the Glycemic Index (I’ll just call it Index) of food is.  In this case, the Index is a comparison of how the food compares to just drinking 100 grams of glucose, the sugar that goes straight into the bloodstream without alteration.  So, glucose has an Index of 100.  White bread?  70.  Baked potato?  69, nearly the same as bread.  Carrots?  35.  Rocks and twigs?  0.  The Index tells you how much your food is going to go immediately to your bloodstream as sugar.

It’s a complicated system, and there appears to be no evidence that glycemic index values by themselves are a very good basis for a diet.  It does, however, provide a clue as to what causes an insulin response in your body.

A nice, juicy ribeye is composed of protein and fat (along with some garlic . . . mmmm).  The glycemic index of a ribeye is zero.  It doesn’t raise your blood sugar at all.  Let’s say you ate nothing but ribeyes and water for a week.  Wonderful idea!!!  You would not die, but you’d probably start to get sick of ribeyes.  After a year.

But when you ate the ribeye, your body would toss out insulin 🙂.  Well, it wouldn’t do just that.  It also tosses out glucagon (another hormone), which allows amino acids (protein) into the liver to be turned into . . . glucose.  It’s an example of how one hormone does many things, and, in combination with other hormones, does yet a different thing.  Maybe instead of emoji’s, hormones are more like a Rubik’s Cube® which each hormone turns the cube a different way and nobody understands except for Eastern European kids who have no social life.  Limiting this to just insulin 🙂 or even insulin/glucagon can’t tell all of the story, but it is a start.  If you overeat while on Atkins®?  Yeah, you can gain weight.  Thanks, a lot, insulin 🙂.

In a person who hasn’t developed diabetes (type II, the kind that old people get) this insulin/glucagon situation balances itself out.  And our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t have a Dairy Queen™ to go get a Blizzard© at.  So, they ate their mammoth, some nuts, and berries.  Pretty low carbohydrate load and the insulin/glucagon balance didn’t create too many fat cavemen.

But we have Dairy Queen™, so modern us uses a lot of insulin 🙂 dealing with that sugar.  And the pancreas keeps pumping it out.  The response to that is that the cells start to ignore the insulin.  Oh, him again.  And then the sugar is stored as fat . . . and the negative cycle repeats, and the person slowly develops diabetes (type II).

But low carb diets improve insulin 🙂 sensitivity.  Working out hard and sleeping well increase sensitivity.  The best cure of all is to lose weight, though that’s not a guarantee to remove all negative aspects of loss of insulin 🙂 sensitivity.  Mark over at Mark’s Daily Apple® has a big list of suggestions on how to increase your insulin 🙂 sensitivity (LINK).

But it’s still a question of thermodynamics, and you’d have to eat a bucketful of broccoli to get to 2,000 calories a day.  Low carb diets just help you not be as hungry and are (in one respect) natural portion limiters, especially if you throw in lots of low carb vegetables as would be common with a Paleo® or Primal© diet.  (Fruits are harder, since we’ve bred them to be much sweeter over thousands of years.)

In the end, my advice is to treat life as you grow older like you treated life in junior high – work out hard, don’t ignore your hormones, and get used to hair showing up in weird places, like your back.

John Wilder is not a doctor.  Do NOT the take advice of anyone without first consulting with your physician, swami, healer, metaphysician, lawyer, and guru.

Who Wants to Live Forever? Ray Kurzweil, for one.

“No one lives forever.  No one.  But with advances in modern science and my high level of income, it’s not crazy to think I can live to be 245, maybe 300.  Heck, I just read in the newspaper that they put a pig heart in some guy from Russia.  Do you know what that means?” – Talladega Nights, the Ballad of Ricky Bobby

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This might be my best shot at living forever (that’s Pugsley and The Boy) – the apple isn’t too far from the tree.  And the tree has roots.  And those roots are me, and I need nourishment.  As in a glass of wine.  Hmmm, I’ll stop this metaphor right here.  And, yes, Alia S. MacWilder, and Zelda Wilder, you count, too.  I’ll be looking to all of you when I need organ transplants so I can live forever.

The past week had two posts about the debt:  (LINK) and (LINK).  The reason that I put those on Wednesday was that’s the day that we post about Wealth and finance related stuff.  Those posts were intended to work with this post and Monday’s post, since all of them serve to illustrate the aspects of the future that’s arriving quickly and will absolutely impact you, perhaps in most everything you do, and sooner than you might think.  You were expecting flying cars, but the future is much, much stranger than that.  Pig hearts!  Do you know what that means?

I think that one of the things that differentiates humans from animals is that from an early age we know we are going to die.  This shadow looms over us our entire lives, and there are constant reminders of mortality around us, from the seasonal shedding of the trees, to the passing of loved relatives – reminding us that we too are mortal.

And, in one sense, this mortality might be one of the greatest gifts to mankind:  it changes out the old for the new.  Imagine where our current and past politicians are the best we’re ever gonna see.  Regardless of where you sit politically, I know you barfed just a little in your mouth when you read that.  Death forces us to innovate, and to try to create a legacy that’s a capstone to our lives, because we all know that we only have so many days and, like a mayfly, we must do our work quickly lest it forever remain undone.  In the end, our lives are made up only of that precious, limited time.

But Ray Kurzweil wants to change all of that.  One of his obsessions (there appear to be many:  inventor, author, programmer, Sith Lord, PEZ® dispenser collector) is figuring out a way to extend human life.  And by “extend” he means “live longer,” but he’s attempting to change “live longer” to “live forever.”  As he’s about 70 right now, he has a vested interest in working as fast as he can to get progress . . . right now.

Right now one thing he is attempting to do is reprogram his biochemistry.  Kurzweil is attempting to do this by taking supplements.  Sure, like a multivitamin or two?  No.  At one point he was up to 200 pills a day.  Rumor is that he’s now down to under 150 supplements a day (LINK).  At that level of supplementation, do you even need to eat anymore??

I think I had the green pattern shirt that the goatee guy is wearing when I was in kindergarten.  It was a hand me down (back in the before-time, we wore crap our brother who was seven years older than us wore seven years before, because that shirt wasn’t worn out).

One of Kurzweil’s obsessions appears to be his company (LINK) (note:  I get NO compensation for any link on my site as of this writing, but Ray certainly does from his site) that sells his vitamins and his book.  And I have no problem with the man making a few bucks, and Ray seems to be committed to his lifestyle, so, be an informed consumer if you decide you want to buy some of his stuff, though I will warn you that his anti-aging multi-pack will set you back about $90 a month.  Which is not bad if it works.  I just ordered like $80 worth of stuff.  I’ll let you know what I think after I try it out.  Ray, if you’re reading this, take the $20 you just earned and buy yourself something pretty.

Going back to the list of supplements Kurzweil takes, one of them caught my eye:  metformin.  Metformin is a diabetes drug that appears to be gaining ground as a . . . wonder drug, but by accident.  The diabetics that take it get cancer only 40% of the time as their diabetic counterparts that don’t take it.  Additionally, they seem to stay well longer . . . they’re not as sick as the people not taking metformin.  They die of the same stuff (proportionately) but when they get cancer or heart disease, they’re older.

But, metformin only costs a nickel a pill since it comes from some French weed or something, but you have to have a prescription to get it.  There are a few dedicated doctors working to document the longevity benefits of metformin, but the FDA doesn’t consider aging a disease that you can cure with a pill . . . even though this one appears to have some pretty substantial positive effects.  My cynical mind says that this therapy faces headwinds – it’s cheap, it reduces very lucrative medical conditions (how much does chemotherapy cost???), medical research is not very good (LINK) and there’s nearly zero profit in bringing this off-patent drug to market.

But the promise of metformin is just one example of the breakthroughs that Kurzweil is anticipating.

His theory is that, right now, longevity treatments/knowledge/medicine are adding about a year of life for every year that goes by.  His goal is simple, live long enough to live forever.  And there has been interest in treatments like blood transfusions from young donors (I wrote about that here (LINK)) and a host of tech billionaires, like Peter Theil, are now treating longevity as a personal mission for their investments.  And to me that makes sense – if you’ve got billions of dollars that you made from making the world (and yourself!) wealthier, what better legacy to leave the world than longer life?  If you’re Mark Cuban, I’m not sure if you can spell any of that, but, hey, maybe his kids will invest well.  I’m hoping they can read better than him.

Kurzweil also has a contract to have his head frozen (or his body, my Magic 8-Ball® is unclear) after he dies.  No, not for fun, even though I hear that’s all the rage in Canada.  The theory is that, should they get to you fast enough and freeze you completely enough (and manage to minimize cell damage) that you’re still somehow in there.  Kurzweil was fairly optimistic in an interview about 20 years ago that we’d be able to bring back people from Popsicle™ Land© in 40 or 50 years, if they can peel the foil off and deal with the freezer burn.  And remember to pull the foil completely off the apple-cherry dessert thing.

If you translate that timeline to today, that would be only 20 or 30 years into the future, which seems optimistic to me, but just might be on time for reasons that we’ll go into on Monday (promise).

Why does Kurzweil want to go to all of this effort?  He preaches not only the gospel of living a long time, he wants to combine life extension with life enhancement.  Not only will your life be longer, it will be better.  I think this mainly involves being healthier, but one personal fear of mine is living on because I’m just too afraid to die.  To me, a life should be worthy of living.  If you’re not doing that?  You’re dead already, and no amount of Bookface© or Grand Piano Theft VII® will make up for it – you’re living a programmed life.  If it involves meaning, helping others grow, and killing alien invaders, dying gallantly like Randy Quaid in Independence Day® as we secure our victory against them?  Count me totes in.

But on the other hand?  Living because you’re afraid to die?  One case that I saw was someone who lived on for years merely because they were afraid of death – they liked pizza but wouldn’t eat it.  They like bourbon but wouldn’t drink it.  They like smoking but wouldn’t smoke.  It wasn’t pleasant to watch.  Me?  I’ll quote an earlier post (where I ripped off someone else’s line – it might be Stephen Wright):  I don’t ask for much – I just want to go out of this life like I came into it – screaming and covered in someone else’s blood.

And where does all of this end?  With, ultimately, uploading your mind, your consciousness into a machine.

Would that be you?  Would you still have feelings if your body was made of metal, your circuits gleamed?  Would a rose still look like a rose through tearless retina that could store exact HD memories forever?  Will Judas Priest sue me for paraphrasing “Electric Eye”?

True story:  I emailed Wozniak (who funded the US Festival, which is the featured concert venue above) and told him we needed to do it again, since I was too young to go.  As I understand it, the US Festival lost money.  I’ll give Woz credit, his folks responded:  “Ummm, thanks.  We’ll get back to you on that.  If we don’t, please understand that we did hear you, but just found your idea profoundly stupid.”  Actually they were polite.  But my idea was stupid.  Unless Woz really wants to do it again . . . .

I can’t really answer if machine you would even be you.  All the episodes of Star Trek® I watched when I was a kid would say, “No.”  Roger Korby created a machine to house his consciousness, but he wasn’t Roger Korby anymore.  Ray Kurzweil . . . is it a coincidence your initials are the same as Roger Korby?

Man, Shatner could tear up the screen.  And Korby’s hand.

There’s a lot more coming on Monday.  Stay tuned!!

Superpowers, Stress, Ben Franklin’s Nails

“I’m not stressed beyond the stress induced by telling you how stressed I am.” – House

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The Boy took this selfie.  Not sure what he was upset about.  Maybe it was the stock market? 

I think too much.  I know, I know, it hurts.  The Mrs. tells me I should just relax and not think so much.  But perhaps my superpower is that I think about the future, so to not think about the future would be like Superman® not flying or Aquaman™ not . . . talking to fish, or whatever it is that he does.

To me, the future is a set of probabilities, branching at intervals.  And what I can do is imagine branches from decisions in the past reaching into the future, starting at the single, solid limb of now, and moving forward, getting smaller, as larger probabilities stay thicker, but smaller possibilities branch out into tiny limbs.

The tiny limbs are real, though, and they represent things that can happen based upon both the choices made today as well as some element of chance (either random or not).

As we’ve discussed in the past, Taleb taught us that all probabilities and all risks aren’t equal (LINK).  And Seneca said it’s always easier for things to come crashing down than to hold them together (LINK).

 

But we are active in creating our future.  I can place myself (mentally) in that future to understand what that situation looks like.  I can imagine a future where I cooked a cherry pie.  I can then map it out and see what I can do now to make a better then.  Like buy whipped cream for the top.  And I can imagine a future where we’ve all forgotten about Warrant:

Is it wrong that sometimes I sing the lyrics “She’s a hairy guy?”  I swear this isn’t about Jenner.

My Superpower is a little like chess, but with more showering than the last chess tournament I was in.  Also, the variables are not as well-known as chess, but in most cases I’ve done really well with at work and at life with this ability, though I cannot yet hover or make adamantium claws spring out from my knuckles, which would be even better superpowers than fish-talking.

But when we finally get to a decision point, most of the time it’s like coming home to a place I’d already been on my imaginary branch so I’m generally not surprised.

One advantage to this power is that I look at the risks around me on a regular basis and try to figure out ways around them, measures that mitigate them, or better yet, insurance that I can get that allows someone else to take the risk (insurance is not always an Allstate® product, sometimes it’s a contract where somebody else owns a risk, which can often be gotten for asking).

Of the things I do at work (besides being snarky and obscure), this is probably the best one.  Way better than my coffee consumption skill, though I’ve been told that’s legendary.

And frankly, I like the pressure when the ball is in my hand and I have the ability to think, to perform and to achieve.  I like the odds on me performing well, because I think like this:

 Diz ſagent uns die wîſen, ein nagel behalt ein îſen, ein îſen ein ros, ein ros ein man, ein man ein burc, der ſtrîten kan.

-Freidank (Which is a dude’s name.) via Wikipedia

I know, a knee-slapper, right?

The English version of that is:

The wise tell us that a nail keeps a shoe, a shoe a horse, a horse a man, a man a castle, that can fight. – Now a translated Freidank, still via Wikipedia

And, know that Freidank lived in 1230 A.D., long before Ben Franklin collected a version in his book “The Way to Wealth” that most of us are more familiar with:

For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse the rider was lost,
For the want of a rider the battle was lost,
For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.

Thinking this way is stressful, but not the bad kind of stress, but rather the excitement, the exhilaration of having a real problem, a meaningful problem to be solved.  Are there exciting challenges?  Sure!  Are there horrible, frustrating setbacks?  Also, sure.  But when everything comes together and we light up the cigars to celebrate, it more than makes up for anything “stressful” along the way.

A Stanford® professor (LINK) has been doing research and agrees.  “Good” stress is . . . not bad for you, and, in fact, may help you perform at your peak.  It’s a challenge.

That same article noted that stress was bad mainly if you thought it was bad.  If you thought it was okay, exciting, just a challenge?  It tended to not have the bad long-term consequences we associated with stress: the heart attacks, the stress hormones, the late night peanut butter and tuna sandwiches, etc.

But for me, the downside of this thinking was still this thinking.

I can see bad things.

My job (in many cases) has been literally looking at the worst case and pulling back from there.  I once looked at tornado frequency in the Midwest, and made a half-hearted attempt to quantify the likelihood of civil war changing our government (this was only for about six months of my career, but it was an interesting six months).  Since that was my job and I got paid to do it, it tended to bleed over into home life, so I thought about worst case scenarios even when I was off the clock, and related them to myself and my family.  The upside?  The last time we needed duct tape, paracord, a socket set, and a knife on a family trip (this really happened) we had it in the emergency kit in the trunk.  I only wish I had packed the goatskin – we could have used that.

So I think.  It used to be worst at night when I was ready to go to sleep.  The possibilities would branch out and I would end up going down decision/probability trees (of my own personal life) and, being night and all, often end up in some dark places.  I’d start with, say, needing to pay the mortgage, and then end up penniless and panhandling to pay for new shingles after a storm that never happened.  Yeah.  Silly.  Now I play the radio so other people think and I can listen – it distracts me so I don’t end up on paranoid rabbit trails.

The downside of this is that thinking down chains of causation, I used to build up a big amount of worry in a hurry about personal stuff.  It’s not that I’m scared of the future, it’s that the future can be so uncertain – understanding that a risk exists doesn’t tell you very much about the risk.  For that, experience and mathematics are key, but we’ll have that on a Monday post some week.

One thing leads to another, and I ended up with?  Stress.

Not the good kind.  I’d worry about aspects of my future that were difficult to control.  Research indicates that the key to removal of stress in life is having control.  In psychological speak, believing that most outcomes depend on things that you can do and control is called an “internal locus of control” and is just a fancy way to show that you like having the ball in your hands on a 4th and five with 30 seconds left on the clock.  You believe you control your own outcomes.

So I turned parts of that into challenges.  I challenged myself to have enough money so that I didn’t have to worry about next week’s mortgage, or even next year’s mortgage.  I took my money stress and put it in my hands, and thankfully had the opportunities to make sufficient money that I’m not scared about tomorrow.  I did my best to take what was a (bad) stress and turn it into a good pressure to achieve.

Tough times along the way?  Yeah.  But way more wins than losses.

I think that’s why it’s exhilarating to quit a job – it’s the ultimate demonstration of control when you can move to a situation where you think you’ll be happier.

I think that (in part) is what Jordan Peterson means (LINK) when he says “clean your room” – take control of some facet of your own life so that you feel you’re able to fix your own situation before you burn out.

I’ve switched from being fixated at looking down long dark halls and now I see the light coming in from the side rooms.  And I like to think that I take some time to play there – because on a long enough timeline, all of our mortality rates are 1.0.

And I’m committed to taking control and ownership of my issues.  Like Mark Twain said, “Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe.”  And, as I noted on an earlier post, that’s at least part of what keeps me writing.  I’m taking control, taking the garbage out, and making sure I have enough nails.

Somebody might need that horse after all.  Better yet?

Let’s saddle up Ben.

For heaven’s sake, if you’re really stressed out, go see a doctor, not an Internet humorist!

Jordan Peterson, Being Healthy, Slaying Dragons (where legal)

“Why don’t you get a life Rick? Why don’t you go to community college like Julian here? Hey, I got a good idea. You could teach, ‘Living in a Car and Growing Dope 101.’” – Trailer Park Boys (Which, in the editor’s opinion, are another Canadian menace)

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William Shatner and Pugsley.  Pugsley was thrilled.

Discovery Channel© has Shark Week™, and we here at Wilder, Wealthy and Wise© have already had Elon Musk Week™ (LINK).  Given the great response to Elon Musk Week®, my editor (me) has assigned my writing staff (also me) and my graphics staff (again me) to Jordan Peterson Week™.  This is the first post in the series.  My second post is here (LINK).  And my final post is here (LINK).

Jordan Peterson is fascinating to listen to, and you can certainly do that, unless you live in 1995 or Arkansas, where video isn’t yet a part of the Internet.  YouTube has devoted a massive amount of computer disk space to cover the hours and hours and hours of Dr. Peterson’s fascinating lectures.  How much disk space?  Almost enough to cover 30% of The Simpsons episodes, or 571,231 hours.

I kid.  But Dr. Peterson is exceptionally popular despite the fact that some of his videos are an hour or two long, and the typical attention span is measured in fifteen second chunks, and he’s still popular tells you he’s saying something pretty important.  Heck, Dr. Peterson is Canadian and despite that, people take him seriously.

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You know who else is Canadian?

There is quite a lot of information content in his videos – they’re very dense, and often he will drop an amazingly wise bit of information and leave me to back the video up whilst I’m Stairmastering® with my hands and face covered in yogurt to catch his point again.  Why are my face and hands covered in yogurt?  To keep the cucumber slices in place, silly!

Peterson drops a truth grenade in every video.  In one, he indicates that most of his psychological practice cases don’t have any sort of a mental issue.  No real psychotherapy is required.  No years of sitting on a couch discussing cigars or tunnels and their meaning.  Nope.

And sometimes a cigar is just a cigar?  Audio only, but a classic.  I had this on cassette when I was a kid and it all went WAY over my head.

Dr. Peterson indicated that most problems were problems in living.  He brought up six areas where he would gently (or not so gently) counsel his patients to “get a life.”

“Get a Life” must be a course they teach in Canada.

Peterson indicates that there are six areas where his patients need to focus on getting a life (interpretations past the bold are mine, not Dr. Peterson’s):

  • Friends/Intimate Relationships – These are crucial relationships, and it seems (LINK) that the earlier they are formed, the stronger they are. I guess we hadn’t learned to pretend to be something we’re not, so those relationships are more authentic.  Everyone I went to High School with knows what well developed sense of self I have (though they called it “egomaniac”) and I don’t have to pretend to be humble (important in not scaring a boss to death).
  • Being a Part of a Career/Dominance Hierarchy – Having a career is important, in that it provides a sense of significance to what you’re doing. You have the opportunity, each day, to jump in and do your very best within the confines of a social network that doesn’t require BookFace® (unless you work at BookFace©).  Dominance Hierarchy is a term used by Peterson a lot.  This is driven by the notion that it is hardwired into us by a lot of years of biology and evolution.  In the past, (pre-monogamy) most human males didn’t get to mate and leave an offspring (think harems).  This (depending on your mileage) may have left a LOT of angry males only marginally attached to society, and a bargain of monogamous, single marriage in return for angry unmated males not rioting and breaking everything.  So, want to be the most dominant person in the room?  Sure you do.  Like a love for gluten, it’s hardwired.  And studies have shown that this is important (LINK).  Please remember, however, all the recent retirees that have this as their primary purpose and expire six months after retirement.  This can be a dangerous solo focus.
  • Have a Schedule/Routine – Pick a time, any time, and get up at that time, all the time. Every day.  This stabilizes your body’s innate circadian rhythm, which has a direct relationship on your mood.  Hmm, I’ve worked to make this better, but . . . (LINK)
  • Eat Something in the Morning – Dr. Peterson talks about a nice woman who only ate ¾ of a cup of rice every day and was starving herself. My breakfast looks a lot like dinner.
  • Personally Regulate Drugs and Alcohol – Peterson said “regulate” but by context he meant personally regulate. His other comment, “especially alcohol.”
  • Have a Spouse/Family – Family is important. Besides creating another group of people that should have your back no matter what, it also provides an anchor in time.  It is a link to the past from your parents.  It is a link to the future from your children.  And, it’s a link to BookFace® if you do it wrong.

Dr. Peterson said that being solid in three or four of these was absolutely necessary to by psychologically thriving.  I imagine that an extreme stress on any one of these by itself (think the retirees mentioned above) can be a pretty debilitating experience.  Keep in mind, also, that these presuppose a normal life in good times in Western Civilization, and not times that would make Dr. Maslow grin with the grim anticipation of NOBODY winning at his self-actualization game (LINK).

Looking at the list I can see from my personal experience that having three of these going for you is crucial to not being a neurotic moron appearing sane.  When times were tough at work?  I leaned on family and on friends.  When I was going through my divorce a zillion years ago?  I threw myself into work and leaned on friends.

What else does Dr. Peterson say?

Lots.

One big one is “Clean Your Room.”

And it’s not a metaphor.  It’s literal.  The act of cleaning your room – of making your place tide – provides a basis of stability.  It’s also symbolic – it’s hard to argue that you know the solutions to all of the world’s problems and need to organize a protest when you can’t even keep your room clean.  The simple symbol of slaying the tiny dragon (that’s a metaphor, unless you live in Westeros and are plagued by actual tiny dragons) of chaos in your life shows that you can be conscientious enough to actually get something done.  And you get a boost when you’ve actually achieved something.  Hey, I haven’t won the Nobel® Peace Prize™ (now on stick!) but, by golly, I don’t have to step over a rack of magazines to get to my bed!  Your work leads to something besides futility.

That last part is important.  I once had a conversation with a friend at work where we talked about the different ways that people view tasks:

“John, you and I get up in the morning and think, yup, I have got to shave this morning.”  He rubbed his chin for emphasis.  “Those guys,” he gestured in the direction of the group we were talking about, “get up in the morning and look in the mirror and think, ‘You know, I’m going to have to shave every day.  Every single day for the rest of my life.’”

And life can seem like that – a bit of constantly encroaching chaos.  Maintaining the discipline of cleaning your room keeps that sense of being a victim of life at bay.  “I can’t clean the room – I don’t have time,” and “I’ll get to cleaning the room on a long weekend.”  Those are statements of someone who has voluntarily made themselves a victim, and, really, is avoiding the truth.  Even five minutes a day, over time, will lead to a clean room.

My cleaning method is to pick a spot on an area, and then make that area perfect.  Then, the area adjacent to my “perfect” area looks . . . awful.  My favorite spot to start in the kitchen is the microwave.  The Mrs. chides me because, “Who is going to come visit our house just to look to see how clean our microwave is?”

Well, nobody.  But the microwave is truth.  Regardless of who sees it (or doesn’t see it), the microwave is now clean.  And I know the truth.

And this week, each morning before work I’ve cleaned on the master bathroom about three minutes.  In two weeks, that’ll be half an hour.  That I’ll never notice, partially because zombies on The Walking Dead have a greater self-awareness than I do when I first get up in the morning, plus their breath smells better.  But I’ve done something a bit different.  I’ve started the day having slain a tiny dragon; starting the day with a win.

And that’s legal in my state, as long as I have a permit.

Join me for more of Dr. Jordan Peterson on . . . Monday.  Get a life.  Or slay a dragon.

Lonely? Ditch Facebook, Find Real People. Live Longer.

“When a man of Scotty’s years falls in love, the loneliness of his life is suddenly revealed to him. His whole heart once throbbed only to the ship’s engines.” – Star Trek

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Why, oh, why does it not say Texas Pain RELIEF Institute?

Daniel and I were friends from second grade onward, until I moved away.

I’m not sure if it was our mutual love of Mad® magazine, parody, or wearing army fatigues that we found here and there and the unearned ranks, units, and qualifications we’d poorly sew onto the faded olive drab fabric (I’m pretty sure I was a sergeant of a unit that never existed).  We’d regularly sleep over at each other’s houses, throw up poorly breathing nylon tents in the back yard, and then go on maneuvers with our toy rifles; fording quickly flowing rivers or assaulting fortified hills.  Daniel even managed to find a Korean-era K-ration we were too scared to eat.  I mean, it smelled okay, but . . . .  And we each shared magazines we certainly didn’t want to let our parents know we had (hint: boobies).  And I still have one book he made me promise I’d return to him because it wasn’t his, this really has weighed on me, and I’m not kidding.

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What magazines we looked at may or may not have looked like. I plead the fifth.

During the school day we skipped lunch together, talked science fiction together, and told bad jokes together.  Our conclusion on Mel Brooks and Hogan’s Heroes?  The best things on television, ever.  Carrie Fisher and Sigourney Weaver?  Our goddesses, along with Madeline Kahn.  Especially when we saw Carrie in a bikini one night at Daniel’s house.  Wow.

It was also Daniel who taught me that in Tom and Jerry, Jerry was the evil one.

When I visited him at Easter I knelt and did the novena, even though I wasn’t Catholic.  We were brothers.  Daniel and I belonged to the same tribe, until time and distance pulled us (mainly me) away.

This week a study (really, a metastudy, or summary of other studies, which is like a summary of Game of Thrones for your friends who don’t watch Game of Thrones) was released about loneliness and how being lonely negatively impacts health.  (Hint, being lonely is worse than being obese, drinking too much, or not having enough Pez® to stick to your eyebrows on St. Johns’ Day in Nova Scotia.)

AARP commissioned a study that says that 42 million people older than 45 suffer from “chronic” loneliness.  Since there were only 120 million people older than 45 when they did the study, that means that over 35% of those people over 45 are . . . sad.  And it’s very sad when that many old people with that many wrinkles are sad.

What does chronic loneliness do to you?

Nothing good.

It increases your odds of death by . . . 50%.  That sounds like a lot, and it is.  That’s almost worse than the wrinkles.

So in the age of Facebook®, people are less connected to one another.  In fact, in another study they found that old people who relied less on email and social media for their social connections were . . . happier.  Let me write that in blazing letters across the sky:

Facebook® is no substitute for calling the people you know and love and talking to them.  Period.

I’ve watched Facebook™ grow, and I’ve viewed social media with skepticism.  I tried to get on Facebook®, but it never was able to engage me.  Facebook® seemed so much shallower than blogging.  Also, I’ve always thought that Facebook© was a tailor-made infidelity machine – putting people who used to have sex back together, while removing all of their bad qualities in a haze of boozy memories.  There is no way that I wanted to fight off all of the girls who were chasing me like I was a Roadrunner®.  Heavens, who has that energy??

Let this be a reminder, the people on Facebook™ have bad morning breath, have bad armpit smells, and leave their socks all over the place (except, of course, me).  But to a lonely spouse, or worse, and idealized memory?  Not so much.

Let’s pretend that Facebook© was really, really good at helping people really connect on a spiritual level?  They’d disable that feature in a second.

Why?

Facebook® makes money when you’re dissatisfied, and makes money upon your dopamine receptors which are always looking for novelty.  Facebook™ makes money when you hit refresh and scroll through more updates and see more ads, or look to see how many people “Liked” you.  Facebook© is free to you because your attention is the product.  And your dissatisfaction is the way to maximize their return.  Thank heavens for youtube videos of cats!!!

Why are older folks getting lonely?

Well, my parents had dinner parties.  When they were in their 50’s I was still a pup, and had to got to go to their dinner parties, at least when they were at our house.  The couples would get together, and they’d immediately split up.  The ladies would go the kitchen and drink whatever Mom made for ‘em, even though it smelled like something that would catch on fire if a stray spark veered by.

The men would retire to the dining room (nobody smoked anymore) and drink bourbon, scotch and talk about elk hunting, war (real, actual war) stories, or how the weather was, or what the crops were like.  Someone would make an off-color joke, and give me a wink and a nudge.  Really, it was always Vern that did that.  Honestly, most of the jokes were right over my head unless they were directly and obviously about boobs, but at least I was part of the game.

After drinks, there would be dinner.  Which would also include drinks.

Afterwards?  Cards and a communal gathering, until the time came that people would head home.  The game of cards itself was meaningless, merely a reason to sit around the table and talk more.  And drink more.  It was a good thing that they mainly left before Star Trek©.

The gatherings were even more wide ranging than that – on occasion we’d go spend the night, for instance, at a cabin deep in the mountains that one of the families owned.  During the course of that weekend we built a mountain road with a road grader, rode horses, and I outshot all of them with Pop Wilder’s .222.  Oh, I and won a game or three of Risk®.

We hunted together with Pop Wilder’s friends.  We went on wide-ranging 4×4 trips deep into the forest at 12,000 feet.  We rode snowmachines together.  Although I was certainly the junior member, more than anything it looked like a tribe – a group of friends that supported each other and shared in each other’s joys and sorrows as we snacked on ziplock-fresh sandwiches at 12,000 feet.

And today I don’t see that.  Although I know a zillion adults, most of them don’t get together like this.  Most of the adults I could get together with like this (there’s a pretty big implied trust) live very far away.

In our current world, we spend our time chasing our children on their adventures (wrestling, football, academics, Boy Scouts, etc.) and focusing on our spousal relationship, and finally, work.  I know that sounds like the best way to spend your time, but . . . is it, really?

Right now, as a family, we depend upon the iron triad of children, work and spouse.  All of my adult friends (locally) come from either my children or my work, or, IS The Mrs.  What happens when work changes (this is a minority of friends we see, so not much) or the kids get older?  Two thirds of the local social network dries up.  That day.

And, I recall that the social network for my parents lived on with them after I graduated.  After Pop Wilder retired.  It was a durable network.  They may have been alone, but they were never lonely.

In some weird way, we seem to have taken the informal support networks from men and women.  We seem to have replaced them with the evanescence of work and children.

We have, when those support networks crumble over time, ignored those left over.  And they get lonely.  They don’t have Vern attempting to turn the butter into my thumb when he passed it to me (it never worked, I was young and fast, and he was older and a bit inebriated).

Where are they now?  Are they in our past, those who trust us with their very souls?

There is an endless summer.

That endless summer contains every single day young boys spent together in a world bound only by imagination, in a world where each barley field represented a chance to crawl on our bellies toward enemy lines to stop the Germans in their tracks, or to stop the Cylons® before they could hit our main base.  One last swig from the canteen before we braved the minefields and tried to take out the German 88mm gun before it savaged our boys to pieces.

We played at life, at courage, at understanding where we fit in our tribe.  We discussed love before we knew what it was.  We discussed right and wrong when we were living it.  We displayed strength because it was intertwined with our being.

I called Daniel’s number tonight for the first time in years.  I remember their house, and I know right where they were when they picked up the phone, heck, the number was familiar with me.  They remembered me through the fog of ages.

I’ll talk to Daniel soon.

Why did I wait so long?  Guilt.  I felt (and still feel) that I’m the one who killed our endless summer with the starting of my car and the loss of my virginity.  I’d left the fields of play behind.  I’d left the best friend that I’d ever had or will ever have behind.

Tonight I gathered up the courage to make the call back towards summer, the call back to the innocence of boys bound together in blood, in bad comedy, in Steve Martin, in mutual, total trust.

And we’ll go back to the summer, where we belong.  At least for a few minutes when we talk.

Did it get dusty in here?  My eyes seem to be watering.

Nobody gets to be lonely in summer . . . especially not an endless one.