Washington: Musk, Patton, and Jack Daniels all Rolled into . . . the ONE

“I, George Washington, born in 1492, freer of the slaves, and the first president of this, our country, though savagely impeached for the shooting of Abe Lincoln, I will lead us into the demise of all humans!” – Home Movies

Washington

General George Washington, 1776, when he was about 44 years old.  44 years old, a billionaire, a war hero from the French and Indian War, and now commanding a rebel group fighting the largest superpower in the world.  Hmmm.  Maybe that’s why all that stuff is named for him?

There is a time for fighting valiantly and dieting.  Then there exists the Thanksgiving/Christmas nexus.  I’ve been generally trying to minimize the carb content of what I eat, but Thanksgiving?  Yeah, I’m having pumpkin pie.  And stuffing.  And mashed potatoes.  And might drink a bit of gravy.  Just a quart or two.  Not from the gravy boat – I have standards.  I have standards . . . and a mug.  A great gravy mug.

Yes, I have willpower, but Thanksgiving and Christmas are more difficult times to stick to diets.  So, I don’t.  And I don’t spend a lot of time feeling guilty about it, but it’s also a good time to reflect that eating different things changes my mood.

If I’ve had enough potatoes to feed the Soviet Army, I know that I’ll feel differently both physically and mentally.  Sugar is similar. Ditto with bread.

So, how do I feel different physically?  For me, when I eat carbs I tend to retain a LOT more water.  It’s my theory that it’s used to think out my blood so it flows better than maple syrup.  When I jump back into the low carb regimen, I know that for the first few days I will dump water faster than the democrats dumped Al Franken.

I’m pretty sure that the extra water does NOT do anything really good for me.

How do I feel different mentally?  Again, for me the low carb (very low, like none) zaps me into a state of clarity and stability.  Stuff just doesn’t bother me as much.  And I seem to get better sleep.

But one thing that’s wonderful about the Holidays is . . . George Washington.

George was really tall for his time and place, and strong enough that he could crush walnuts in his bare hand.  British walnuts.  And he was known to party (from teachingamericanhistory.org):

First Troop Philadelphia City
Cavalry Archives, 1774
City Tavern
George Washington
Entertainment of
15 Sept., 1787

Light Troop of Horse, September the 14th 1787

To Edwd Moyston .. Dr.
To 55 Gentlemans Dinners & Fruit
Rellishes, Olives etc………………………………………..  20  12   6
54 Bottles of Madera……………………………………….  20   5
60 of Claret ditto……………………………………………  21
8 ditto of Old Stock…………………………………………   3   6   8
22 Bottles of Porter ditto………………………………….   2  15
8 of Cyder ditto……………………………………………..  16
12 ditto Beer…………………………………………………  12
7 Large Bowels of Punch………………………………….   4   4
Segars Spermacity candles etc………………………….   2   5
To Decantors Wine Glass [e]s & Tumblers Broken etc..   1   2   6
To 16 Servants and Musicians Dinners……………………   2
16 Bottles of Claret…………………………………………   5  12
5 ditto Madera……………………………………………….   1  17   6
7 Bouls of Punch…………………………………………….   2  16   
£89   4   2

 

If you study the above, you’ll see that George Washington and 54 of his best buddies had 114 bottles of wine, plus cider, beer, and 8 bottles of hard alcohol.  I’m thinking our Founding Fathers were knee-walking drunk at this point – you can see that they got well into the “smashing the bottles and glasses” part of the party.  And it was the equivalent of something between $15,000 and $20,000 that he spent on the party.

George liked to party.

And he liked to party at Christmas, which brings us to eggnog.

Now, I must tell you that I really, really hate eggnog.  Hate it with a passion.

Or I did, until I had George’s eggnog.  And it just so happens I’ll share his recipe with you (this will be the 306,001st place on the Internet that you can get it):

“One quart ye cream, one quart of ye milk, one dozen tablespoons of ye sugar, one pint of ye brandy, ½ pint of ye rye whiskey, ½ pint of ye Jamaica rum, ¼ pint of ye sherry—mix liquor first, then separate yolks and whites of 12 eggs, add sugar to beaten yolks, mix well. Add milk and cream, slowly beating. Beat whites of eggs until stiff and fold slowly into mixture. Let set in cool place for several days. Taste frequently.”

And it’s amazing.  It tastes just like Christmas.  And George was right – making this stuff and drinking it on day one is NOT advised.  It tastes . . . strong.  But after three days in the fridge?  Amazingly smooth.

So, not only was George a billionaire president general that defeated the world’s largest and best trained armed forces?  He knew how to party.

Here’s to you, George!

Soviet Genetics, Mangoes, Your Momma, and Swedish Weight Gain

“The only difference between Señor Chang and Stalin is that I know who Señor Chang is.” – Community

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This duckbilled dinosaur could have been a kitten, if only it had been loved.

When I start a blog topic, most of the time I know where I’m going, and, generally where I’m going to end up.  Most of the time.  Sometimes I end up learning something completely unexpected that changes my conclusion.  Sometimes I learn that we, as humans, are only scratching the surface of how really, deeply weird the world around us is.  This post is deeply weird.  Hang, on, buckle up and enjoy my favorite health post ever . . . .

Trofim Lysenko was born in Ukraine in 1898.  Apparently the baby name books in Russia includes the name “Trofim” even though to me it sounds like a fitness product advertised on an infomercial at 3AM on The Discovery Channel® – get fit with new Trofim™!  Frankly, Lysenko sounds like a bathroom cleanser – so poor Trofim was destined for failure, right?

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Would you buy a used economic theory from this man? – photo of Lysenko, public domain, via Wikimedia

Trofim studied agriculture, and, apparently came up with a bunch of ideas about how plants could better grow around the time the Soviet Union was starting up.  His theories included the idea that cows that were treated well would give more milk, and that plants could cooperate somehow to make more wheat.

Joseph Stalin LOVED Lysenko.  His theories dovetailed exactly with Stalin’s Communism – the importance of genetics went to zero.  With proper nurture, you could create a True Soviet Man – people weren’t just created with equal rights – they were BORN equal.  If you could create the right conditions, everyone would BE equal, just like George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and me.  Oh, wait, that’s observably false.  Brad Pitt could never get my SAT score, even if he studied.  Clooney?  Let’s see him go bald, huh?

stalin

Unrecorded in the West is the fact that Stalin’s giant head was carried in local parades by men in white suits up until 2003, when it was retired to a farm outside of Minsk where it now lives with gently treated cows and monkeys. – photo of MegaStalin, Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R78376 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Lysenko singlehandedly destroyed genetic research in the Soviet Union for forty years, as well as being responsible for the jailing (and sometimes execution) of everyone who disagreed with him.  Certainly no one in the West would do that about people who dissent scientifically . . . right?  Anyway, Lysenko set the standards for political correctness in research, and yes, the Soviet Union is where the term Politically Correct came from – the idea that ideas themselves couldn’t be discussed unless their politics were in vogue at the moment.  And if you brought up politically incorrect ideas?  Gulag for you, comrade.

Mao Zedong proved that this point could be taken to extremes when the Pakistani ambassador gave him a case of mangoes.  Mao didn’t like mangoes.  So  . . .

In the afternoon of the fifth, when the great happy news of Chairman Mao giving mangoes to the Capital Worker and Peasant Mao Zedong Thought Propaganda Team reached the Tsinghua University campus, people immediately gathered around the gift given by the Great Leader Chairman Mao. They cried out enthusiastically and sang with wild abandonment. Tears swelled up in their eyes, and they again and again sincerely wished that our most beloved Great Leader lived then thousand years without bounds … They all made phone calls to their own work units to spread this happy news; and they also organized all kinds of celebratory activities all night long, and arrived at [the national leadership compound] Zhongnanhai despite the rain to report the good news, and to express their loyalty to the Great Leader Chairman Mao.

August 7, 1968 People’s Daily

Yes.  The Chinese people worshiped (for 18 months) mangoes so they didn’t disappoint Chairman Mao.  And it had lasting consequences for some.   A dentist was executed for saying the mango touring his village looked like a sweet potato.

Don’t believe me? A lot more about it here (LINK).

But, we were talking about Lysenko.

He killed genetic science because of the laughable idea that everything was nurture, not nature.  We do know that there are lots of things that are totally genetic:  intelligence, likelihood of being criminal, eye color, hair color, blood type, et cetera.  For example, you can stunt a smart person’s intelligence through poor nutrition.  But their overall capacity to be intelligent is about 70%-80% genetic.

So Trofim (snicker) Lysenko was entirely wrong?

No.

We’re learning a lot more about something called epigenetics now.  Epi in this case means “over” or “over-genetics.”  If you remember, DNA is a double helix molecule that stores all of the information about how to make a copy of you.  One gram of DNA can, according to folks at Harvard, store 700 terabytes of data, or about as much information as 14,000 Blu-Ray® discs of Geostorm© when it comes out.  Which will also be 13,720 more discs than Geostorm© sells.

DNA stores lots of information, but at a cost.  DNA is information dense, but it is looooooooooong.  Each cell has about 2 meters of DNA if you stretched it out.  Take all of the DNA in your body and lay it end to end?  (Do NOT try this at home, it’s kinda messy – if you’re going to do this, at least use the garage.)  There’s enough DNA, laid end to end, which would be roughly diameter of all of the planets in our Solar System.  That includes Pluto – we’re gonna take it back.

DNA is long.  And since our cells aren’t 2 meters long, something happens to the DNA in your cells.  Rather than tossing the DNA into the cell like The Boy and Pugsley throw extension cords onto the garage floor, the cell has little cord winders that wind up the DNA so it’s not all tangled up like Johnny Depp’s finances.  So, the DNA is tightly wound around the cord winders.  In my garage.  In your cell.

But it turns out that the cord winders themselves (I know this analogy is getting a bit stretched) are very much impacted by your behavior.  And, the scary part?  Potentially your mother’s behavior.  Scarier?  Even your grandmother, and we all know what a tramp she was.

I recall reading a story about a Native American tribe in Arizona that experienced famine that killed off a significant portion of the tribe.  The result?  A bunch of really, really fat Native Americans two generations later.  My theory had been that the people with the skinny genes had all died out, and that the remaining Native Americans had all had genes that were really, really efficient with calories.  And liked Twinkies®.  Makes sense?  Sure.

But then?  Epigenetics.  Turns out that this phenomenon was repeated in Sweden, where in some really northern town, named “Rejëllyfaarnøørthernplåcedüde” there was a periodic starvation, because they didn’t live where any food was, except seals.

All the kids from Rejëllyfaarnøørthernplåcedüde got fat.  Really fat.  Turns out the operative theory is that the environment that the mothers grew up in changed not the DNA but the cord winders and how the DNA was wound up.  Because of the changes to the cord winders (which are really enzymes) certain parts of the DNA were exposed that changed the way the cells work.  This is entirely necessary, because when you’re a baby, your eye cell needs to know that it’s an eye cell and not a lung cell, otherwise you could see your guts and have to remove your glasses to breathe, which would make dating . . . complicated.

The end result of this epigenetic change was it made the kids more likely to burn off energy slowly – which is a great adaptation if you’re starving.

But it looks like there are a whole host of other adaptations that may be driven by epigenetics:  addiction, depression, anxiety, fear conditioning, and that’s just the bits we’re beginning to understand.  Yes.  What scares you might be related to what scared great grandma.  One experiment with mice shocked the feet of the mice when a cherry blossom smell was introduced.  The mice babies from the mothers . . . who had never been shocked . . . were scared when they smelled cherry blossoms.  The impact on the baby mice from the experience of their mothers was transmitted . . . without genetic change.

So, Lysenko was not totally wrong.

The health implications are stunning.  Can there be a pill that you take that switches “on” a weight loss enzyme?  Maybe.  What other conditions can we change?  Can we make Kardashians attractive?  Sadly, no.

But beyond that, it may go to explain weird things . . . motherly love?  The baby’s DNA is floating around inside the mother (you can determine a baby’s sex through a blood test of the mother, so, the DNA is there).  How does this impact the way a mother bonds with a baby?

What about surrogate moms?

What about all of the things that we can change?  We can’t make ourselves smarter through epigenetics, but . . . can we make ourselves better?

Like I said – this is weird territory, and we have a LOT more questions than answers.  And, fortunately, we have plenty of mangos to worship.  Just don’t compare epigenetics to Johnny Depp’s sweet potato.

Medieval French, Medieval Warm Period, Medieval Volcano, Medieval Weight Loss Pill

“This is Jenny.  She and her family are having a picnic at the foot of a volcano.  Oh no!  The volcano has erupted!  What do you do now Jenny?  That’s right.  Duck and cover.  What do you do Jimmy? Duck and cover.  Duck and cover!” – South Park

DSC01794

Thankfully the volcano killed off the giant ice crabs.

On July 17, 1315, Roul returned to his home from a hard day’s farming.  He was very tired.  He was dirty.  He didn’t rank highly on the social scale – he was a serf, and could be bought and sold with the land he lived on.  They didn’t call Roul a serf – his social class was called “villeins” in the local language of northern France.

I was very cold – especially strange since it was July.  The sunsets, when Roul saw them, were more colorful than any he remembered in his life – he was 28 – but the weather was cold, and wet.  At the best of times his wheat harvest might produce seven seeds for each one planted.  Subtract saving one seed for next year’s planting, 10% of them for the Church, and 50% of them for the Lord whose land he farmed and taxes and out of each 14 seeds in a good year Roul could keep, at most, five for eating and trading.  In 2015 the same field, plowed using modern machinery, planted with hybrid seeds, and with fertilizer levels closely monitored would bring over 30 seeds for each one planted.

But Roul could see none of that.  His life was smaller.  Not only was a tractor unimaginable, but the amount of real wealth it represented would be greater than the wealth of an entire province in 1300’s France.  His income was small.  But combined with the barter they got for his wife’s sewing, it was a good, but very tough life.

This year?  This was the worst year he had ever seen.  And the old graybeards in town said that they had never seen a year like this – ever.

And they hadn’t.  The Medieval Warm Period ended around 1300A.D., with temperatures greater than today’s during much of that time, quite optimum for growing plants during the long growing seasons and the population of Europe had expanded.  But the Warm Period ended.

But 1315 was even more special:  Mount Tarawera erupted.  Although Tarawera was almost exactly on the other side of the world from Roul in what would be named New Zealand by Dutch navigator Abel Tasman 320 some years later, its impact on his life was profound.  The volcanic dust and ash filled the atmosphere and cooled the Earth for more than two years.  The Great Famine followed.  Over the next seven years at least 5% (and perhaps as many as 12%) of all northern Europeans died.  The world for them contracted and became hungry, mean, and criminal.  The Black Plague found easy purchase in the wasted land.  The combined impacts of famine and disease caused Europe to experience a significant depopulation during the 1300s, which led to labor being more valuable, which led directly to the values that formed the Renaissance.  The birth of modern culture was forged in famine and pestilence.

But we were talking about Roul.

In the bitter cold of winter of 1315 and 1316, Roul and his wife, Cateline resembled hibernating bears more than a farmer and wife in the prime of life.  During the intense cold of the winters, they spent most of their time huddled under blankets on their straw bedding trying to do as little as possible to conserve every bit of energy – the harvest had been poor and food was in very short supply.  Most days they got up to do the minimum of chores required, and ate very sparingly.

Roul and Cateline didn’t starve.  It was a near thing.  But the society they saw a decade later scarcely resembled the one that they had left behind in the spring of 1315.

So, how far have we come as a civilization?  Right now hunger is still a world problem, but hunger is less prevalent now than at any time in recorded history.  Ever.  Obesity, however, is as bad as it has ever been, and been getting worse.  Stupid Skittles®.

I’ll admit, some dead Roman was right when he said that a pleasure repeated too often becomes a punishment.  But being fat is still way better than starving to death.  Like a joke The Mrs. loves:

A guy was talking to his dog.  “No more food for you, or you’ll get fat.”

The dog responds, “Fat?  What’s that?”

The guy:  “It’s when you eat and drink too much and sit on the couch and don’t exercise and gain a lot of weight.”

The dog:  “Ohhhh, that sounds good.  Let’s get fat.”

What people really want is to sit on their couch, eat chips, drink beer, play video games, and look like The Rock after a particularly challenging workout.  And there are billions of dollars available to anyone who can make that happen.  And people are working on it right now:  The Exercise Pill.

They even found one that was awesome:  GW501516.  Sexy name.  All the cool kids call it 516 (really).  In the subjects that the scientists gave 516 to, they found that nearly immediately exercise endurance went up by double digit percentages.  They lost weight without working out any more than usual.

A perfect pill!  With 516 you could have it all.  Endurance, an athletic bod, and lower weight.  516 even released the hormones and all the good stuff associated with strenuous exercise.

So, where can you get some?

Well, your doctor won’t prescribe it for you because all the test subjects came down with megasupereverything cancer.  Whatever 516 did, it really did a number on the test subjects, giving them every cancer one can imagine.

Thankfully they were mice.

But people are taking 516 right now, body builders and dudes looking to lose weight while getting strong.  Seems like you can buy the stuff, it’s just not approved, and it has been banned by multiple sports (I think there’s a Lance Armstrong joke in there, but I’ll skip it).  So you can get it, but you’re not supposed to take it, just like animal antibiotics, which people do take, since they can skip going to a doctor and just get the stuff online.

Work hasn’t stopped on bringing 516 (and some other exercise pills) to market, but they’re hoping with 100% less cancer, and the New Yorker (LINK) has a pretty good article on it.  I won’t spoil the ending.  Okay, I will.  We don’t have an exercise pill.

But . . . should we?  I guess that, from a perspective of having people live healthier lives, I’ve got to say, yeah, we should.  But the very discipline required to keep and maintain a weight, the hard work, the sacrifice, isn’t that part of what makes us stronger, so when life is tough, we know we have the internal strength to stand up to challenges?

Nah.

All that sounds like work.

They’ll have a pill for willpower and inner strength, won’t they?

Creative Destruction and the Fight For Your Eyes

“You know what it is?  You’re always attracted to someone who doesn’t want you, right?  Well, here you have somebody who not only doesn’t want you, doesn’t even acknowledge your right to exist, wants your destruction! That’s a turn-on.” – Curb Your Enthusiasm

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Behold, the chainsaw of Creative Destruction. This one will take care of those pesky optometrists!

There were vast periods of human history where . . . absolutely nothing happened.  If they had a newspaper, it would be blank for decades at a time.  Our Neanderthal (many of us) and other cave-dwelling hominids (all of us) ancestors lived for tens of thousands of years with little or no innovation, and that innovation that did show up was not all that exciting.  My bet is that most of them were fairly stupid, and it took generations of stupid people not having kids until humans were smart enough (and eloquent enough) to make an attempt at civilization.

Even with that first civilization, things changed only very slowly.  A thousand years of Egyptian dynasties (the pharaohs ruled Egypt for three thousand years) could pass and no one invented Cool Whip®.  You an Egyptian forward in time a thousand years and the only thing that had changed was that the music the kids listened to these days was too loud and just plain awful.  To put how very stagnant these civilizations were in perspective:  Jesus is closer in time to the people living today than He was to the time of the construction of the pyramids.  This statement will be true for another FIVE HUNDRED YEARS.

The Egyptian empire lasted a really long time, and since nothing changed, like a televised baseball game, it seemed even longer.  But then?  The Romans began to change the world, with a much shorter period of dominance.  And things keep changing faster, and faster.  More perspective:  an 85 year old has lived through 37% of the history of the United States.  An Egyptian 85 year old would have lived through less than 3% of the total length of the 3000+ year span of the pharaohs.

But scientific progress undid the pharaohs in what economist Joseph Schumpeter would call “Creative Destruction.”  Schumpeter originally derived Creative Destruction from his readings of Marx (Karl, not Groucho).  Creative Destruction is predicated on technological innovation coupled with entrepreneurial spirit in an effort to make money by disrupting previous economic structures and replacing them with new, more efficient structures.  An example:  Live performers were replaced by records.  That were (briefly) replaced by 8-Tracks.  That were replaced by cassettes.  That were replaced by compact discs.  That were replaced by .mp3 files.  That were replaced by . . . streaming music.  Each innovation replaced and (mostly) eradicated the previous iteration, making music more easily and reliably available.  Unless you have our mobile phone service:  streaming doesn’t work so well, since our wireless phone provider uses a series of wire coat hangers where we live to broadcast signal.

On Friday (LINK) I wrote about the coming Optopocalypse™.  This is another example of Creative Destruction in action.  Records destroyed local bands – you could hear better at home anytime than the local talent.  mp3’s destroyed record companies.  And 75%+ of optometrists will be looking for work soon enough because technology will have made most of what they do irrelevant.  And, outside of their families, the “Destruction” part of Creative Destruction results in greater value to all of society – more people will be able to see, since there’s hardly anyone that won’t be able to afford the low cost of the EyeQue®.

Another example is Zenni Optical (LINK).  I got great glasses from them (via my new prescription from EyeQue™).  I was testing out that prescription, and wanted to get some glasses.  I put my order in, and was even allowed to pay via Amazon, so they didn’t get credit card information.  I ordered my glasses on a Thursday, and got them the following Saturday (nine days later).  They were perfect in every way!  I then put in a new order for three more pairs.  Total cost, including express shipping?  About $200 for the three pairs, with the best lenses they offered, plus extra slip on sunglass attachments (and bifocals).

I ordered them on Saturday, and tracked progress.  By Sunday they were complete.

Here’s the shipping:

Origin Scan
CN
10/25/2017 9:49 P.M.
Order Processed: Ready for UPS

Shanghai, CN
10/25/2017 11:16 P.M.
Departure Scan
Arrival Scan

Anchorage, AK, US
10/25/2017 3:26 P.M.
Brokerage released the package. It will be processed through a clearing agency before final release to UPS.

Anchorage, AK, US
10/25/2017 4:46 P.M.

Departure Scan
10/26/2017 2:54 A.M.

Arrival Scan
Louisville, KY, US
10/26/2017 5:32 A.M.
Departure Scan

10/26/2017 5:51 A.M.

The glasses hit my hands about 2pm that day.  And, just like the first order, they were perfect.

If you look, it appears the package goes back in time a bit, but remember about the whole date-line thing.  Regardless, I’ll go with the story that my glasses came from the future.

Well, they did come from China.  Express, for $18.

This is certainly a great way to add value, and it (by definition) changes the price that many people will pay for glasses.  It’s Creative Destruction on a grand scale – Zenni will make billions.  But it cuts off another revenue stream that will add to the Optopocalypse™.  If you look online, optometrists are out in droves complaining about both EyeQue™ and Zenni®, some of which take the form of reviews that I think are less than honest.

And the optometrists are also fighting by trying to make innovation illegal – at least innovation that hurts their profit margin and their monopoly over information about your eyes.  They typically will call the bill a “patient protection act” or something similar, so it makes it sound like it’s really for the benefit of the patient.  I’m picking on optometry not because they’re unusual – they’re much the same as everyone else who is facing having their entire life and livelihood replaced by a disruptive app or Silicon Valley startup.

These regulations and laws actually end up hurting the economy – they make it more likely that companies like Zenni manufacture outside of the United States and not subject to US or state law rather than creating an eyeglass factory in . . . Kentucky, or Illinois.  I’m not unsympathetic to the 55 year old optometrist – and I don’t have a good answer for what he should do.  Becoming a roustabout in North Dakota in the oilfield is probably not a reasonable answer.  In times past, however, people displaced by technology and Creative Destruction have found new things to do.

Maybe they could ascend to that highest throne of prestige and power.

Blogging, anyone?

EyeQue, Tom Cruise, Ben Franklin, and the Coming Optopocalypse

“J-Roc, I’m not a pessimist, I’m an optometrist but you gotta keep your eye on Randy, he’s doin’ stuff. I don’t trust that guy, I don’t.” – Trailer Park Boys

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The Boy with his first pair of glasses.  He might be ready to be an NFL® referee. 

If I were an Optometrist, I’d be afraid, very afraid?

Why?

The Optopocalypse is coming, and it’s coming fast.

What’s the Optopocalypse?

To get to that, you have to start at the beginning . . . .

Optometry was originally the practice of figuring out which glasses went with which eye.  The first pair of glasses for corrective vision were most likely used in Europe about 700 years ago.  They were Ray Bans®.  Tom Cruise (who never ages) may or may not have been the first customer.

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Tom Cruise, circa 1284 AD.  You should see this movie if you’re 18 and haven’t.  (Image via Wikimedia, ©Warner Brothers) 

Books mentioning how to fit people with eyeglasses date at least as far back as 1623, with nary a mention of Johnny Depp, who, to be fair, only smells that old.  And Benjamin Franklin saw that there was a LOT of real estate left on the eyeglass, and he invented bifocals so he could stare at the ladies both far away and up close.  Franklin was a genius, and his invention (probably around 1784) was the most significant invention in optics up to that time.  All so he could see the ladies.  And the Constitution and stuff.

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So, ladies, swipe left or right? (Image Courtesy Federal Reserve)

And that brings us to the most significant innovation in optometry since Franklin’s bifocals.  EyeQue™’s Personal Vision Tracker®.

I might be overstating it, but I don’t think that I am.  EyeQue™ is a system . . . and it’s a pretty cool one.

I have worn glasses since I was about 20.  My original pair were round gold-rimmed glasses, because Indiana Jones® wore those, and it partially made up for the fact that they wouldn’t let me carry a bullwhip and a pistol around the college campus.  It was amazing (the glasses, not the lack of bullwhip, that sucked).  I remember looking out over a valley in winter the day I got them, the outline of the mountain was so crisp in the winter air.  And trees!  They had individual branches that had edges and everything!

My prescription hasn’t changed much since then.  It’s been stable for decades.  Most recently I’ve been wearing glasses that were made before Pugsley was born (Pugsley is 12 now).  They work fine, but they’re twelve year old glasses that are scratched a bit.  I’ve been to the optometrist more recently, but my glasses were getting pretty bad.  One pair was eaten by a puppy (you could still use them but the lenses had little teeth craters in them), one was scratched up and the nylon that kept the lens in place broke.

I’d been meaning to go to the optometrist two years ago (just for a new prescription, no other problems) but she had cancelled my Saturday appointment.  My choices?  Take a day off of work to go see an optometrist, or . . . wait.  Waiting always works.

I waited.  And then one day I saw the ad for EyeQue™ (LINK) Personal Vision Tracker©™®.  Hmmm.  It was available on Amazon®.  The reviews were mixed, but at $30 and at least half a day of my time?  Worth it to take the risk.

Second day air brought me the EyeQue™.  It’s pictured.  It consists of a small plastic cylinder with a rotating eyepiece.  It straps to your phone screen.

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After you get the physical diagnostic piece (which I’m assuming contains prisms, mirrors, elfin magic and a small piece of dark matter) you have to download an app.  Once you’ve done that, you use the serial number that came with the EyeQue™.  The app, curiously, asks if you have a screen protector, but doesn’t ask you to remove it.

I tried it on my cell phone, but since I’d not updated my Android operating system since 2015 (really), I used The Mrs.’ updated phone and logged into the app.

The device/app combination is ridiculously easy to use.  The eyepiece is dialed between 1 and 9.  You start at 1, and use the + and – keys on the screen to make a green line and a red line merge into a gold line.  Most boring video game ever.  The only difficult part (and it isn’t very difficult) was to make sure that you could see both lines at the same time.  After you merge the lines, you tell the app that you’ve done it.

You then turn the eyepiece on the EyeQue™ to 2 (I assume this rotates the elfin dark matter, but if you don’t rotate the eyepiece it won’t work.) . . . and repeat until you’ve gone through all 9 settings.  Then Gandalf’s voice comes on and says, “You shall not pass.”

That’s one eye.  Repeat for your left eye.  Unless you’re a cyclops, in which case Odysseus would like a quick word with you.

Done, right?

No.  You might be not very good at easy tasks, or drunk or something.  EyeQue™ makes you do the same nine measurements at least three times on each eye, for a total of a (minimum) of 54 measurements.  I’m pretty sure this is to make sure that your readings are consistent, as you have to have a minimum cumulative score prior for it giving you the measurements of your eye required to order eyeglasses.  I got the max score each time, so only had to repeat the process three times.

I wrote my EyeGlass™ Number (that’s what EyeQue™ calls it) down.  They looked pretty close to my last prescription, but my last prescription had probably been through the laundry, eaten by prescription-moths, or taken by Russian operatives to be included in the Trump dossier.  Whatever.  It was gone.  But the numbers looked right.

I got online.

I went to Zenni Optical (LINK) and bought a relatively inexpensive pair of glasses to test out the numbers (I won’t call it a prescription) that I got from the Personal Vision Tracker.  I waited nine days, and got my new glasses.

Wow.

Wow.

I’d never had a prescription so good.  My go-to test required the stars to be up . . . I looked at Orion, and, boom, you could see that the third “star” in his sword was really two stars.  I’d read once that this was a test the Sioux had used to see if a young man could be a hunter – he had to be able to see the two stars.  And I could!  Even the bifocals were awesome!  Now I must get ready for the hunt.

I’ve since ordered three more pairs of glasses from Zenni (more on that on Monday).  All of them work stunningly well.  All of them are amazingly inexpensive.

The Boy is similarly nearsighted, and has a fairly recent prescription, but is pretty sure his isn’t as accurate as it could by – he thought my glasses were better than his.  I can buy another subscription to the Personal Vision Tracker® for him (LINK), and will do so tonight so he can get some better glasses.  The cost of the subscription is a bargain – and is fair, reflecting the tremendous amount of time, research and effort put into programming this wonderful App.

The idea that I can, in twenty minutes or so of easy work in my home, get a stunningly accurate set of numbers that I can order cheap glasses online is amazing.  It is revolutionary, Ben Franklin level (but with less time in France).  Let’s be honest – the only reasons anyone goes to the optometrist is:

  1. Because they need glasses,
  2. Because they have other vision issues/symptoms, or
  3. Because they are married to the optometrist.

And you should go to an optometrist regularly for b., because going blind isn’t a laughing matter.  But there is no reason to go (anymore) just for an eyeglass prescription, which is the revolutionary part of what EyeQue™ has done.  (Contact lenses are different – and the Personal Vision Tracker® is NOT calibrated for those.  And you people who stick your fingers in your eyes make me shudder.)

Right now there are only 23 colleges that graduate optometrists in the United States.  That’s probably too many.  If you take the ENTIRE population of the United States and say they should get a checkup every four years (young people longer, older people more frequently) and it takes 15 minutes for a checkup, you only need . . . (working 40 hour weeks) 3,500 optometrists.  A visit should cost a little more than $25 for the fifteen minutes for $200,000 of revenue per optometrist.

Currently there are 40,000 optometrists, and they’re trying to sell you expensive glasses, and vision data that you can get very accurately now for a fraction of the cost of even the $25 visit, I can see this profession going down by 36,000 in the coming years.  Maybe if I’m off it will come down a bit less, but even a reduction of 30,000 at an average total compensation rate of $120,000 yields a savings to the economy (and consumers!) of $3.6 billion every year.  And people will see better!  It’s a win-win, unless you’re an optometrist.

So, the Optopocalypse is coming – and I predict a 90% attrition rate.  This type of dislocation always happens with professions where technology changes a profession, just like Ned Ludd (LINK) leading the frame-breakers in response to the industrial revolution.  You can’t stop the tech.

Ned Ludd

Yup, this is a drawing of Ned Ludd.  Great fashion sense.  Also, a giant.  (wikimedia, public domain)

I’ve not been compensated (yet) for any relationship with EyeQue™ or Zenni Optical®.  And I might never be.  But any link that gets me compensation will be noted as such on the page, should that ever happen.

Also, I’m a blogger, NOT A DOCTOR.  THIS IS NOT MEDICAL ADVICE.  The only thing “blogger” has in common with “doctor” is that they end in a similar sound.  Do your due diligence on this or any other advice you get from the Internet.  Heck, there’s one site that says you should avoid setting yourself on fire! 

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.

iron_maiden_killers_frontal

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

dio

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

twisted-sister-under-the-blade-1

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

raven

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

heavy-metal-soundtrack-album

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

AliceCooper

Wow.  Just . . . wow.

heavy pettin 2

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.