My Retirement Diary 2024

Go to: My Retirement Diary 2023

My Neighborhood v2: Some of the flowers seen on my 6/5/2024 walk through my neighborhood. One of the flowers is not real, it is an ornamental flower in front of a home.

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June 20, 2024: My Father’s Day email to my son, who is a new dad.

I do not usually celebrate holiday’s that I believe where created for “other” people. For example, when Mother’s Day comes around, I expected my kids to take the lead in celebrating my wife’s hard work as their mother.  I know this is a minority opinion. Knowing this, my daughter Sierra suggested I make an exception and celebrate my son’s newly assumed investiture into fatherhood. So I sent my son the below email.

 

Dear Calder,

Last night at 3 AM, during my usual journey to the bathroom, the word “bubala”* unexpectedly came to mind. I do not know why.

You probably haven’t heard the word bubala* before. The last time I heard it was likely when I was 5 years old and Tessie (my maternal grandmother) was tenderly talking to me. Just thinking about this makes me emotional.

It reminds me of the many, many generations of predecessors who worked so hard to escape the pogroms of eastern Europe, moving to a country they only knew in their dreams, to afford me the possibility to get where I am today. To all of them, I owe a huge debt of gratitude, which I obviously cannot repay.

And thinking backward in time makes me also think forward in time, which brings me to you and Father’s Day.

When kids turn 18, they think they are adults. While this is technically true, they are not, in my opinion, really adults.

When they are in college, they begin to believe everyone should treat them as adults, even when they continue to live a very un-adult lifestyle. As before, they continue to have essentially no adult responsibilities other than ensuring they do not flunk-out. They continue to be provided with food, housing, clothing, transportation, emotional support, and money. And now they begin to party late into the night and engage in many other un-adult behaviors; not necessarily bad or harmful behaviors, but certainly not behaviors one sees in most “adults.”

Upon graduating, they are certain they are adults and expect everyone to treat them as such. While some have become financially self-sustaining, securing their own food, housing, and spending money, many continue to live an un-adult lifestyle. Some may party late into the night and others may over-prioritize immediate pleasures over long-term happiness. And still they know that if everything falls apart, they can still “call home.”

In my opinion, many people are not truly “adults” until they have their first child; for it is at that moment when all the un-adult behaviors melt away and new parents re-sort their priorities, with the new baby as priority number one.

While I had always thought that I had successfully instilled good, moral values into my children, and I never had a reason to believe otherwise; when I watch you father [name redacted, my granddaughter], I am amazed and proud. You are so kind, patient, moral, thoughtful, and considerate. In every way, you have become the adult every parent would be proud to claim as their own.

I am so proud to call you my son, proud of the adult you have become, the father that you are, and all that you have accomplished. And I look forward, with whatever years I have left, to watching in awe as you navigate your journey in life.

Happy father to Father’s Day.

Much love,

Dad

*bubala is a Yiddish term of endearment meaning “sweetheart”, “darling”, “close to one’s heart” or “dear”. It is often used by grandparents to affectionately address their grandchildren.

 

In hindsight, my daughter’s suggestion was an excellent idea. Thanks Sierra.

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June 11, 2024: A memory issue, and a list of events

Since my last entry, I have:

5/23: On our way to Maryland, Gail and I first drove to B & S’s house in Westchester (suburb north of NYC.) We have been my friends since middle school, and we stayed at their house for one night. We sat around the pool and talked. The landscaping around the pool and backyard is beautiful—all the plants are fully matured and meticulously maintained. We talked about our kids, politics, hallucinogenics, retirement, and how we are aging. They spend a tremendous percentage of their time grandparenting (11 grandkids, all within driving distance). We are all seeing the effects of age; some have experienced problems resulting from wear and tear on the body (as I told my patients, the body is a mechanical device and the parts wear out). I told them that I am aware of a decrease in my short-term memory, which I will discuss below.

5/24: Gail and I left Westchester in the morning and drove to Maryland for the wedding of Gail’s niece and to see our 9-month-old granddaughter, son and daughter-in-law. Gail’s family is large, and the six sisters are very close. Whenever there is a family gathering, they alone are sufficient to ensure the party will be a PARTY! After the wedding dance, the band played “We Are Family,” which is the family’s “theme song,” and on cue, all the sisters, spouses, and anyone who is close with the clan migrated onto the dance floor, and the party was ON and remained ON until the band played their last note at 10 PM. Sierra also attended the wedding in Maryland and had a great time playing with her cousins, but her spouse did not.

The service took place outside, overlooking the water, and into the setting sun.

During the party, I was the designated driver and, more importantly, was entrusted with the care of my 9-month-old granddaughter. I carried her around, just she and I, as I strolled through the house (mini-mansion), the curated gardens, along the edge of a wide river–a tributary into the Chesapeake Bay, and “back stage” among the party’s support crew. I had her to myself for about 3 hours. It was delightful, especially when she fell asleep on my shoulder during the wedding ceremony. Her parents got a bit of time to forget their parenting responsibilities and simply enjoy the family and the party. It was a win all around.

5/25: I drove back from Maryland to Massachusetts by myself—Gail was visiting friends in Annapolis—and it took me about 8-8.5 hours. It wasn’t bad, as Tesla’s auto-drive makes long-distance driving much less stressful and tiring.

6/1: I gave my “Designing Your Retirement” lecture to the MIT Club of Boston.  I have given this lecture several times previously but was looking forward to giving this lecture to the MIT community as I needed some critical feedback. According to Gail, who attended, it was the best version of my lecture to date, and the audience definitely enjoyed the lecture, complimenting me on the quantity and quality of data, and the organization of the material. Unfortunately, I forgot to turn on the microphone to record the lecture, as I had intended. Maybe I’ll remember next time. The syllabus and a video of another presentation are here.

6/3: In the evening Gail and I went to my local bar, The Burren, which had billed the musical event as a three-saxophone playoff. The first set was entirely dance music along the lines of big band/swing. Unfortunately, I am defective and incapable of dancing, which frustrates Gail to no end, as she absolutely loves to dance. But she knew this when she married me. We had dinner and left after the first set; maybe the saxophone playoff was going to occur during the second set. 

6/4: I created the first sample of a technique that I’m going to use for my next frame, which I referred to as my “layered ripple frame.” I have already selected the photograph for this frame and sent it to be printed on aluminum in a glossy format.

6/5: I created a photo collage while walking in my neighborhood in the morning.

My Neighborhood v2: Some of the flowers seen on my 6/5/2024 walk through my neighborhood. One of the flowers is not real, it is an ornamental flower in front of a home.

In the afternoon, we euthanized our dog Antigone, a very sweet dog. We got her from her former owner when she was about 5 and had her for a decade. She had been in failing health for last several months, but took a turn for the worse and it was time. We both cried when she was euthanized. I think this was harder on Gail.

Afterwards Gail created a list of all the dogs we’ve had over the years, which turns out to be 9 or 10 dogs. We usually had two dogs at a time. Gail doesn’t count Logan as he was in our possession for less than two weeks. We returned Logan to the rescue league after a possible aggressive interaction between Logan and one of Calder’s neighborhood friends. At the time, Calder was about 10 years old.

6/6: Sierra and her spouse came to our house and stayed with us overnight, on their way to a wedding in Connecticut.

6/8: Gail and I went to see the musical Gatsby: An American Myth at the American Repertory Theater with J & B, and we then had dinner with them. They all loved the show but I thought it was good but not spectacular. The staging was impressive, but, in my opinion, it overwhelmed the story. The ART likes “big” staging as the send many productions on to Broadway. Seeing the play has convinced me that I need to re-read the book, The Great Gatsby, which I last read in high school. I have added it to my reading list.

6/9: Gail and I attended the MIT Club of Boston’s barbecue for volunteers. I was invited because I created and organized the first MIT COB Social Pickleball League which took place in MIT’s Rockwell Cage.

As I mentioned above, I am pretty certain I have a short-term memory problem. There have been many incidents which have led me to this conclusion. 

Recently, I had decided to stop listening to the audiobook, “Jumpnauts,” when I was about 30% into the book, as I thought the character development was unrealistic and there was a gratuitous and over-reliance on science fiction to keep the plot moving forward. So I downloaded another audiobook, “The Saint of Bright Doors.” I can’t say I thought it was a great book, but I intended to keep listening to it. After listening to only 6%, I downloaded the audiobook “Nettle & Bone” and began it, forgetting I that was listening to The Saint of Bright Doors.

I do not have an explanation for what happened. Maybe this occurred because keeping track of audiobooks on the iPhone is a bit confusing. There are several lists, including Want to Read, Finished, Books, Audiobooks, Continue, Downloaded. But I don’t think that’s what happened.

I am now 75% through Nettle & Bone and will finish it. Then I will return to and finish the audiobook The Saint of Bright Doors. Then one of the free audiobooks I recently downloaded: Journey to the Center of the Earth, Treasure Island, The Great Gatsby, or I will continue reading (not audiobooks) The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes or review parts of How to Change Your Mind.

Another example of my failed memory: in generating the below list, I initially had no recollection of the audiobook “Kinds of Minds,” purchased on 2/6/2024. It wasn’t until I investigated a bit that I realized I had listened to a third of the audiobook before I decided that it wasn’t quantitative enough for my liking—it’s a book written by a philosopher at Tufts University–and decided to stop listening to the audiobook.

There really isn’t much one can do to significantly improve or significantly stem the decline in age-related cognitive function. There is exercise, cognitive activities, creative activities, and wearing a hearing aid, but nothing has a major impact. Time will tell if it is, or will be a significant problem.

Recently purchased audiobooks:

  • 1/12/2024 The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron- did not finish. Too religious for my liking.
  • 1/18/2024 The Sense of Style: The Thinking person guide to writing in the 21st-century, by Stephen Pinker
  • 1/19/2024 Gratitude by Oliver Sachs
  • 2/6/2024 Medgar and Myrlie, by Joy-An Reid
  • 2/6/2024 Kinds of Minds: toward an understanding of consciousness, by Daniel C Bennett – did not finish. Not sufficiently quantitive. 
  • 2/24/2024 Why We Remember: Unlocking Memory’s Power to hold onto what matters, by Charan Ranganath
  • 4/1/2024 Childhood’s End, by Arthur C Clark
  • 4/11 The Undoing Project, by Michael Lewis
  • 4/20 On the Road: the Original Scroll, by Jack Kerouac
  • 5/1 Timequake, by Kurt Vonnegut
  • 5/17 Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, by Oliver Sachs, M.D.
  • 5/26 Jumpnauts, by Has Jingfang – did not finish. Too unrealistic.
  • 6/2/2024 The Saint of Bright Doors, by Vajra Chandrasekera
  • 6/5/2020 Nettles & Bone, by T Kingfisher

Gail has decide she does not want to drive cross-country with me, visiting parks, museums, and whatever attracts our attention. It was my plan to arrive at my grand-daughter’s home in time to attend her 1st birthday party. Maybe I will fly with her, or maybe I will drive. TBD.

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May 22, 2024: Predawn ride

Delightful predawn bike ride this morning on the Minuteman Bikeway, Lexington, MA. The bird sounds and the sun’s rays dancing across the morning mist in the Great Meadow were beautiful and unexpected.  22 seconds video of sunrise 5/22/2024 ~5AM

I created a montage of some of my photos which I call My Neighborhood Version 1

My Neighborhood Version 1

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May 17, 2024: Musing during a bike ride…

A Physician’s Obligation to the Next Generation

My primary care physician is retiring, so I need a new PCP. I’ve decided I will become a patient in of the internal medicine residents clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital. For those unfamiliar with the US’s medical education system, after four-year as a medical student, one enters a residency program in fields like internal medicine, family practice, surgery, psychiatry, etc for a 3-7 years. Some new physicians will go into practice after completing their residency, while others pursue further medical education in a “fellowship,” training in subspecialties such as endocrinology, cardiology, pediatric endocrinology, nephrology, and more.

To many, it might appear illogical that I would choose a young, relatively untrained doctor as my primary care physician, someone who has yet to complete their basic medical education. However, as a former physician, I believe I have an obligation to help train the next generation of doctors. At this stage in my life, my only option is to allow the new physicians to learn their trade using me as their patient, rather than “learn medicine” while treating patients who are unfamiliar with the medical system. And, of course, the medical resident will be supervised by a fully trained physician.

Serial Reading Coincidences, An Unexpected Trilogy

As I mentioned previously, I recently finished reading “Timequake” by Kurt Vonnegut, in which he commented that Arthur C. Clarke’s book “Childhood’s End” is a masterpiece of science fiction. Son on Kurt’s recommendation, after finishing “Timequake,” I read Clarke’s book, which was fantastic, especially the unexpected ending—I could not put it down. In the story, aliens (referred to as the Overlords) take control of Earth, then end all wars, famine and generally make life better for all. In the course of the story, it becomes clear that the super-intelligent Overlords could not understand why Homo sapiens listen to music.

After I finished “Childhood’s End,” I decided to read nonfiction and chose Oliver Sacks’ (Sack was a neurologist at Columbia University) audiobook “Musicophilia, Tales of Music and the Brain.”

In the first paragraph of the Preface, Dr. Sacks references the Overlords from Clarke’s book…

Preface 

What an odd thing it is to see an entire species, billions of people, playing with, listening to meaningless tonal patterns, occupied and preoccupied for much of their time by what they called music. This at least was one of the things about human beings that puzzled the high cerebral alien beings, the Overlords in Arthur C. Clark’s novel Childhood’s End. Curiosity brings them down to the Earth surface to attend a concert. They listen politely, and at the end, congratulate the composer on his great ingenuity, while still finding the entire business unintelligible. They cannot think what goes on in human beings when they make or listen to music because nothing goes on with them. They themselves as a species, lack music. We may imagine the Overlords ruminating further back in their spaceships. This thing called music, they would have to concede, is in someway efficacious to humans, central to human life…

Dr. Sacks goes on to discuss how music effects our brains, in a multitude of ways we do not fully understand. Nevertheless music is clearly part of being a member of the Homo sapiens species.

So…

Timequake —> Childhood’s End —> Musicophilia, what a seemingly odd trilogy!

I do not know why music makes me feel so much better, but it does. Cycling under a canopy of green while listening to music cleans my mind and soul.

30 second music video: Cycling the Minuteman Bikeway – What a Wonderful World

Also see: The Joys of Cycling the Somerville Community Path / Minuteman Bikeway
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May 12, 2024: Keeping busy and more

I had my 15 minutes of fame as a result of The Boston Globe article which discussed my Somerville Community Path creations. This fame was  extended by 30 minutes when I was interviewed for a podcast called Innovation Showcase. It was a fun interview.

“and if the above effect is not obtained, waste no more time on it.”

I enrolled in an online class to learn the nuances of using a smart phone camera–I was very much looking forward to the class. Unfortunately, there were too many people in the class who required basic smartphone camera training.  Taking Leonardo da Vinci advice, “…and if the above effect is not obtained, waste no more time on it.” So I will move on.

MIT’s Writers Group

I continue to attend the Monday’s MIT’s Writers Group session but it is very clear to me that I do not have the imagination and skill-set to write fiction at the level of the other attendees. Nevertheless, I will continue with the zoom class, as I learn from others. For now, I will continue to focus my writing in the non-fiction realm.

MIT Social Pickleball League Comes to an End

It took several months of effort, negotiating between MIT Club of Boston and MIT before the Social Pickleball League came into existence in February 2024. Three days ago was our last session, the tenth of ten sessions. Now, with the warmer weather upon us, I have decided to end the Pickleball League, so we can all enjoy the outdoors and maybe, after the first of the year–when the winter doldrums engulf us, I will attempt to resurrect the League.

Designing Your Retirement

On May 3 I gave a 90 minute Designing Your Retirement lecture at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. Although the attendees seemed enthusiastic, I’m not sure if they thought it was a useful lecture. The talk was a little bit rushed as there were 30 minutes of unexpected questions. I recorded the entire presentation, edited the 90 minute talk down to 54 minutes and posted it on Youtube, a link to the video can be found here.

I finally obtained a date to give my Designing Your Retirement lecture to the MIT Club of Boston (6/1/24), and a session at each of the two locations of the Cambridge Council On Aging (5/30 and 6/10/2024). Hopefully some people will attend the sessions. Links to these talks, and possible others, are here. After I get through these talks, I’ll decide if I want to give more lectures.

I have continued with my thrice weekly 2 hour cycle on the Minuteman Bikeway.

Audiobooks and Books

As I have discussed previously, I sometimes listen audiobooks when I ride. I recently finished listening to:

    • Timequake, Kurt Vonnegut. In the book, Vonnegut defined What is Art?
    • On the Road: the Original Scroll. Jack Kerouac. The reader was fantastic.
    • The Undoing Project, Michael Lewis. About two psychologist who work together, and then were unable to work together. One of the two, Daniel Kahneman won the Noble Prize in Economics.
    • Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke. Kurt Vonnegut, in Timequake, said that Childhood’s End is one of the few masterpieces in the science fiction genre. I am about 75% through this book, and am enjoying it. Classic science fiction.

Free Palestine from Hamas   – and –   Free Israel from Bibi

I again feel compelled to make a brief comment about Israel’s military tactics in Gaza, which I previously addressed in my entry below of February 22, 2024 and January 1, 2024.

Yesterday I got into a discussion with a supporter of Israel who argued that Hamas needs to be eliminated and Israel’s response to Hamas’ October 7, 2023 atrocities was a reasonable and legal response.

I explained that the Israel’s inflicted civilian casualties has so far crossed the line of morality that Israel has forever damaged its ability to interact with the rest of the world, and this damage will surely work to Israel’s disadvantage, for decades.

As I, and many others have noted, there are only two paths that the Israelis and Palestinians can jointly tread; perpetual war or a two-state solution. There is no third path.

There are two political entities, Hamas and Benjamin Netanyahu, that need to be rendered politically irrelevant before a two-state solution can be forced on the combatting participants; as they have both stated that they will never agree to implement a two-state solution. 

Although I have no influence over Hamas, I can, as an American, attempt to influence my country’s foreign policy. Thus, a few weeks ago, I sent an email to President Biden asking him to stop sending weapons to Israel until Prime Minister Netanyahu has been removed from office. 

If these two actors can be removed from the political stage, then there is reason to believe a lasting peace can be implemented.

In September-October 2023, it looked like Saudi Arabia was about to formally recognize the State of Israel, as there would subsequently accrue financial advantages to both Saudi Arabia and Israel. This impending geopolitical shift, occurring immediately prior to (and possibly precipitating) Hamas’ October 7, 2023 war crime spree against Israeli civilians, raises the possibility that Saudi Arabia would be willing to fund the creation of a Palestinian state, if it could be done in a way that had a high probability of creating an enduring peace. And if an enduring peace can be had, and if it creates a robust Palestinian middle-class, the probability for a subsequent conflict will be markedly reduced for generations.

It is now abundantly clear that it is in America’s self-interest to force Israel to adopt a two-state solution.

The Israeli public must recognize the new political reality with all due haste as fewer and fewer American Jews now blindly support Israel; and this decline in support coincides both with Netanyahu’s tenure in office and has been accelerated by Netanyahu’s military tactics in Gaza.

As the American body politic will soon be unwilling to shoulder the fiscal responsibility of protecting Israel at historic levels, it is in Israel’s short-term and long-term interest to rapidly seek a permanent peace, which can only be had by enacting a two-state solution.

Israel must accept this new political reality TODAY, if it wants to survive in an increasingly hostile geopolitical world; as the hostility will assuredly get worse the longer the Palestinians do not have their own homeland.

The first step in this long path to a permanent Israeli-Palestinian peace is for the Israeli public to remove Netanyahu from office while the Palestinians (or the Israeli military) eradicate Hamas.

Then a two-state solution can be created and the long, hard work of building a Palestinian middle class can begin, with, hopefully, Saudi Arabia’s help.

 

A Rippley Frame

I have been working on a new style frame, I call it my ripple frame, and it explores the effect of adding texture, ripples to the traditional frame. If done properly, when the lighting is somewhat tangential, the frame contains shadows that look very cool. 

Ripple Frame, v1

And my other my other creations

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April 21, 2024: A fun day

As I mentioned in my entry of 17 April, there was article about my interactive sculptures on the Somerville Community Path that appeared in the online version of the Boston Globe. Today, that article was on the front page of the Metro section of the Globe.

BostonGlobeMetro

The colorful photographs that accompany the article nicely complements and enhances the joyous nature of the article.

Needless to say, I have received many compliments from family, neighbors, and friends about the article and the sculptures.

I think the author, Spencer Buell, did a remarkable job finding a “hook” in the story and creating a narrative which was entertaining to read and made the reader want to read the entire article.

As I discussed in my Designing Your Retirement syllabus, it was to be my “purpose” in retirement to create things (objects, writings, other) that led people to smile or cause them to ponder ideas they had not previously considered. Clearly, these two sculptures hit the mark, in that (nearly) everyone who interacts with them smiles.

I can’t say that prior to their creation I had an epiphany that the sculptures would have this effect, I only knew that I wanted to make them. I thought they would be entertaining to create, challenging to build, and, if I could do build them, they would make me happy.  

So these sculptures turned out to be a big win for me: they were fun and challenging to create, they end product made me happy, and their creation helped give me “purpose” in retirement as they made others happy.

I still smile every time I see the joy the sculptures bring to others. Sometimes, when I am down, I walk over to watch people interact with them; and I leave happy.

Yesterday evening we had our semi-annual Somerville Neighborhood Pot-luck Dinner at our house. It was delightful gathering of 25 people, 3 dogs, and transiently attended by a neighbor’s 4 and 6 year-old. This was the largest number of attendees in the 15 years.

The evening was a lot of fun, as it is an interesting group of people, with a diverse range of interests and ages, ranging from ~30 to ~70. As I had learned during my research for the Designing Your Retirement syllabus, intergenerational interactions like this are healthy for all involved, especially seniors.

There was too much food, which is exactly the right amount. I am told the food was great. While I enjoyed the food, my sense of taste had been greatly diminished as a result of my loss of sense of smell (anosmia) which occurred early in 2020 from Covid. Thus my opinion of the quality of a beverage or food  should probably be ignored.

For the price of a cookie, I was able to get the 4 and 6 year old to try out the child’s rocking chair that I recently finished building.

Although the chair is not perfect (the center of gravity should shifted back a couple of inches), it’s perfect enough, and completely functional. My daughter, for whom I built the rocking chair, will be very happy with it and I will be happy to see her child, my grandchild (if/when she has a kid) sit in the rocking chair.

During our dinner, I had an interesting conversation with Ben’s uncle regarding the difference between an “artist” and a “maker”. I didn’t know this at the time, but he was/is an artist who makes sculptures. To me, the difference between an artist and a maker is that an artist is spontaneously and persistently creative, it’s simply in their DNA, whereas a maker, like myself, becomes creative in response to an external stimuli. Maybe I will explore this topic at sometime in the future.

Our neighbor, K, finished the Boston Marathon 6 days ago in time of 3:14:52, AMAZING. He is still recovering. When I asked him if he’s going to do it again, he states that it will depend on many factors, including whether his wife’s opinion, as she had to sacrifice a lot so he could train for this as event over the preceding months.

Most people stayed around for about 3.5 hours. By 9 AM the following day, everything was cleaned-up. And then the Boston Globe article came out in the physical newspaper.

Now that most of my “projects” are done (Designing Your Retirement syllabus, Rocking chair), it is time to think about some new projects. Maybe I’ll make a bookcase or a chest of drawers based I this design I created many years ago.

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April 17, 2024: My 15 minutes of fame…

Everybody gets their 15 minutes of fame.

Mine happened today when the on-line version of The Boston Globe published this article.

For those without access to the on-line version of  The Boston Globe, here is the PDF version: TheBostonGlobe_20240417

As the article indicates, I had not obtained “permission” from the City of Somerville or the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; so this may yet comeback to bite me at sometime in the future. (Recall, No good deed goes unpunished.)

But for now I’m smiling.

As an aside, I don’t think of myself as an “artist” but as a “maker.”

To me, an artist is recurrently and spontaneously creative: creativity is in the artist’s DNA. In distinction, and speaking only for myself,  a maker becomes creative in response to an external stimuli, such as a problem that has to be solved with a physical solution or an idea that must be made tangible.

Maybe this is a distinction without a difference or maybe it doesn’t matter. 

And for the other things I created

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April 10, 2024: Being present in the moment vs documenting the moment

On April 8, Gail and I drove 220 miles north so we could witness our first and last solar eclipse in full totality. Yesterday I added an essay and photographs to my blog in which I chronicled this adventure: Totality’s Duel Dawns: My Great Eclipse Adventure of 2024

Reflecting on the events of April 8 from the vantage point of today, an interesting dilemma arose which merits discussion.

Prior to the eclipse’s arrival, I had decided I wanted to be “fully present” for this singular celestial event and would not take any photographs during the eclipse. This seemed like a rational decision as I had neither the equipment nor the requisite expertise to take high quality astronomical photographs, and was certain that hundreds of skilled photographers would freely distribute high-quality images of the eclipse.

As soon as we passed the point of the first diamond ring and entered totality, I was mesmerized by an unexpected sight: two “dawns,” one to the east and the other to the west of the encroaching lunar shadow (umbra). 

I was so excited to see this unanticipated and unique phenomenon! 

Immediately I turned to Gail to ensure she too saw the “dueling dawns.” Then, without thinking–irrationally–I picked up my iPhone 15 Max and began to photograph the full panorama, encompassing the two dawns flanking the total solar eclipse. The photographs of the dueling dawns inspired me to write my essay, Totality’s Duel Dawns: My Great Eclipse Adventure of 2024.

On reflection, I find myself torn between frustration and exhilaration. Part of me regrets not staying true to my intention to be fully present and allowing the experience to envelop me without the distraction. On the other hand, I am thrilled that I photographically documented the “dueling dawns” a phenomenon I had not seen captured in photographs and was unaware even occurred. Indeed, without these photos, I wonder if I would have trusted the authenticity of my memories. 

Although being “in the moment” needs to be prioritized, I’ve come to realize that there are moments in time when capturing an event photographically should be given an even greater priority. 

Perhaps, then, there is wisdom to episodically allowing our “irrationality” to dictate our priorities.

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April 7, 2024: Need more projects

Tomorrow is “the eclipse” and we’re planning on driving up to Burlington, Vermont, assuming cloud cover will be minimal–right now it looks promising. This should be a spectacular eclipse as solar activity is currently near a solar maximum, and this will result in a larger solar corona than was seen in the 2017 eclipse, when the sun was near a solar minimum activity.

I am very concerned about “eclipse” traffic between Boston and Burlington, Vermont

March 20: Gail and I attended MIT Club of Boston’s first annual TEDx-like conference in which 5 people discussed their academic work. After the presentations, Gail and I chatted with some MIT alumni over drinks and hors d’oeuvres. It was an informative and enjoyable evening.

March 21: I attended my weekly MIT pickleball league (typically 8-10 people attend each session.) Yesterday I committed to a second 5 week session (10 people signed-up) that will run thru mid May.

March 22: I gave my Designing Your Retirement lecture to the Somerville Council On Aging and it was very well received. And it was a lot of fun. 

March 24: I flew out to Napa, CA to see our granddaughter, now 7 months old. Gail went two days before me and returned 1 day after I returned. I came back on the redeye on the 26th. I find that 2-3 days is enough time for me with an 7 month old, after which I start to get fidgety. Gail needs more time with our granddaughter.

March 28: Jean read a section of her new book, Mother Love, at Porter Square Bookstore. It was very well attended and the discussion was interesting.

March 29: I helped Manny with his health IT website, Healthful Data. It seems like he’s got something that is probably going to be of value although the endgame is not yet clear. Also on March 29, I remotely attended Gail Leondar-Wright’s talk about Stephen Sondheim, the lyricist for Westside Story. He was a 25-years old at the time, at the  beginning of his music career, working with Leonard Bernstein, who was about a decade older but already a legend. How do you tell a legend that his music score or  lyrics need to be revised?

March 30:  Gail organized a book party at our house for Jean and her new book. Unfortunately, I was sick so I remained upstairs while the party of about 30 people proceeded downstairs. Both Jean and Gail were very happy with how it turned out

March 31, Easter, we visited Allison and Leo at their house, also in attendance were two of Gail’s sisters, their progeny, spouses and friends. And the Easter bunny.

April 1: I continue attending my weekly MIT’s Writers Group although I’m not sure I should do this for the long-term. It has become clear to me that if one wants to write fiction, they need to write every day for at least a few hours. I don’t think I have the discipline or interest to do this. I get a greater satisfaction out of doing the research on a subject I am going to write about. Maybe I will (mostly) stick to nonfiction. I also have other things I would prefer to do instead of spending 2-3 hours every day writing, or attempting to write. But for now, I’m enjoying the interaction with others in the MIT’s Writers Group and will continue to attend.

April 2: I attended the MIT Museum Song of Extinction play reading, done in conjunction with Central Square Theater. I liked the play but thought it was a little slow in the midsection.  By the end  it was clearly emotionally resonant. The play dealt with “extinction” as well as the ending (and changing) of relationships.

April 3: Gail and I attended Central Square Theater Beyond Words, which was about Irene Pepperberg and her parrot Alex. (For those with an interest, there is a lot online.) The play dealt with misogyny in academia, interpersonal relations, and how we treat animals.

I am absolutely convinced that animals have emotion and we should treat them accordingly. Anybody who has a dog knows that their dog has emotions and also knows that the dog can read our emotions. There is no reason to believe that dogs and Homo sapiens are the only species that experience emotions. As I discussed in my Designing Your RetirementDesigning Your Retirement syllabus, many animals have the same U-shaped happiness curve that is seen in every society in the world; very happy as a young adult, less happy in the mid-life years, and again very happy as an older adult.

April 5: Gail, Barbara and I visited Mudflats studios where Barbara had a cup she made accepted into a juried show. Some of the clay cups were very impressive. 

April 6: I finished the rocking chair for a five-year-old and I’m happy with how it turned out.

Rocking chair for a 5 year old

April 7: Went for a 2 hour bike ride. There were remnants of plowed snow in Lexington and Bedford, MA.  Built a dog staircase from the floor to the bed and created this diary entry—which took too much time.

I’m beginning to think I need to begin some more projects–the child rocking chair is done and my Designing Your Retirement syllabus is essentially done–it is time to create some new projects, so I remain busy. I am scheduled to give a Designing You Retirement talk to the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, and the Cambridge Council on Aging would like me to give the talk to their audience, and Tufts Life-long Learning group may also be interested. Maybe more talks will follow subsequently. But I need more projects.

I have been toying with the idea of setting up, through the MIT Club of Boston, a weekly or monthly brunch for retired men (?men and women), but for reasons that are not yet obvious to me, I’ve been reluctant to implement this plan. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to commit to another weekly event. Or maybe because I am uncertain if it will succeed or because I have not decided if it should be uni-gender. Or maybe there’s a subconscious reason which has caused me to hesitate.

On the political front, recent polling data on the Presidential election is bleak–maybe it will change as Biden begins to get his message out. This poll from the WSJ proved to me that the MAGA people are primarily motivated by tribal affiliation.

As can be seen in the poll’s question 32 and 33, the vast majority of respondents believe the US economy was neither good or excellent, (despite the fact that it is objectively the best economy in the world,) while 50% believe the economy in each of these battleground states was “good or excellent”.

600 registered voters in each state. Would rate the..

AZ

GA

MI

NC

NV

PA

WI

Total

…the U.S. economy as Excellent/Good (Q 32)

35%

32%

34%

33%

38%

38%

41%

36%

…the STATE’s economy as Excellent/Good (Q 33)

51%

59%

46%

64%

52%

47%

57%

54%

This “discontinuity” proves to me that the Trump supporters simply parrot the MAGA tribe’s espoused dogma, i.e. “the US economy is bad”.  As there is no MAGA tribe dogma regarding the status of the economy in the individual states, the majority rated the state’s economy as “good or excellent”, as it is. This is cognitive dissonance is best explained by Homo sapien’s need to be a member of a tribe. Unfortunately Homo sapiens have been unable to move beyond our Pleistocene brains.

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March 18, 2024: Again, nothing important, other than I like making things.

For several months I have been intermittently trying to create a device to suppress the wind noises which are generated by cycling. I refer to this as a cycling wind muffler.

I have tried items that are sold for this purpose and found them to be somewhat effective, suppressing wind noise by ~25%, but they were not as effective as I had hoped.

Last cycling season, I made my first version of my cycling wind muffler from a piece of leather that was left over from my credenza,  kitchen cabinet, and front door projects. I manually sewed the leather to the front and rear helmet’s chin straps, covering my ears with a piece of leather. While my cycling wind muffler was more effective in suppressing wind noises than the commercial devices, it had some problems. It was difficult to hear ambient noises through the leather and I could not easily removed/reinstalled my cycling wind muffler. After a few rides, I removed it from the helmet and gave up on the project.

With a new cycling season beginning, I decided to try again, but with a different fabric. Gail had a pair of discarded hiking pants; the fabric was 86% nylon, 14% elastane. This is a very thin, quick drying, and durable fabric. I sewed velcro strips to the external surface of the front and rear helmet chin straps. I then cut-up the pants and used a sewing machine to secure velcro strips to my new cycling wind muffler. The third iteration worked the best.

This version of my cycling wind muffler is transparent to ambient sounds, reduces wind noises by ~50%, and can easily be removed and reinstalled as needed. Preliminary testing leaves me optimistic that this will work.

Three days ago, Gail and I went to Sculler’s Jazz Club in Boston and listened to Nicholas Payton. I know very little about jazz or, for that matter, music. For this reason, one of my goals in retirement is to learn more about music, thus I have taken classes about Stephen Sondheim and Verdi’s Requiem, discussed in my March 15th entry below.  While I enjoyed the music, and was able to find a “beat to tap my foot,” I found my self wishing that  the songs were longer, as I was caught up in the music and did not want the song to end. It was a good evening with Gail.

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March 16, 2024: One more (unimportant) thing

I stumbled upon this interesting tidbit of data, which I added to “Designing Your Retirement.”

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March 15, 2024: I have been busy doing other things

I have made no entries in this journal since my last entry of January 18, 2024, as I was otherwise engaged.

I began this journal on December 26, 2023, a few days after I retired, with the intent of documenting my activities and obtaining a better understanding of my motivations and interests during the early phases of my retirement. I needed this information so I could create a cogent lecture about retirement for my Regis College Lifelong Learning group lecture (click here and look for “Video.”) This endeavor led  to the creation of my free booklet “Designing Your Retirement.” 

During the months of January and February I became so engrossed in the research and writing “Designing Your Retirement” that I was too busy to write in this journal. When it was completed on February 29, 2024, I had little need for additional “retirement data” so I stopped writing in this journal, until today.

So what have I done since January 18, besides creating Designing Your Retirement? Am I having fun in retirement? How could I make retirement better?

For the record, I watch relatively little television/Youtube; maybe I watch, on average, 1-1.5 hours of tv/YouTube per day. When I do, I watch PBS Newshour, a movie (rarely), or a YouTube video about woodworking, cycling, science, a technical contraption, or animals.

Fun or interesting Youtube videos I have seen in the last 2 months include: 

I have attended weekly zoom groups at the Tufts Lifelong Learning lectures on Stephen Sondheim’s and Verdi’s Requiem. 

The Sondheim class was led by Gail Leondar-Wright who has committed her retirement to understanding and teaching everything that’s been written about Stephen Sondheim. She is a font of information and is incredibly enthusiastic. As a result of this class, my understanding and insights into Stephen Sondheim’s music, lyrics, and life increased several orders of magnitude–and we only discussed a few of Sondheim’s plays. If you want to know more about Sondheim, take one of her classes.

I also attended a weekly lecture on Verdi’s Requiem given by Elke Jahns. This too was eye-opening, especially because my understanding and insight into classical music is so limited. For me, the highlight of the class was watching the movie Defiant Requiem, which demonstrated the power of art to transcend and defy the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp. 

Rafael Schächter, a brilliant, young Czech conductor who was arrested and sent to Theresienstadt (Terezín) Concentration Camp in 1941 … his most extraordinary act was to recruit 150 prisoners and teach them Verdi’s Requiem by rote in a dank cellar using a single score, over multiple rehearsals, and after grueling days of forced labor. The Requiem was performed on 16 occasions for fellow prisoners. The last, most infamous performance occurred on June 23, 1944 before high-ranking SS officers from Berlin and the International Red Cross to support the charade that the prisoners were treated well and flourishing.

This is a movie that should be widely seen.

I have continued to attend the weekly MIT’s Writers Group. While I haven’t presented any of my writings since I read them my His Story, Her (The Turtle’s) Story, I enjoy reading/listening to the writings of others, as I try to acquire a better understanding of the writing process.

So what else have I been doing:

January 19:  I stopped reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron as it was too “spiritually inspired” for my taste.

January 20: Dinner with M (my former nurse and a role-model nurse with the highest of ethical standards) and S at our home. I enjoy their company and it was fun catching up with them about their life, grandkids, and work. 

January 23: Gail and I visited our granddaughter, now 5 months old in Napa, CA . While there I went on a 24 mile cycle through the vineyards on my Klein road bike (which I gave to Calder some years ago) which is a least 23 years old. It was a joy to ride and very different than the gravel bike (Priority Apollo) that I now ride. 

January 28: I attended a politico-environmental talk at Porter Square Book Store where my friend, B, was one of the four speakers. Unfortunately, the event was not well choreographed.

February 2: I finished listening to the audiobook The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st-Century by Steven Pinker. This is a writing manual that’s firmly grounded in the principle that language changes with time and writing should reflect those changes. Much of it was too technical for me but overall, I enjoyed it and am glad I listened to it. Typically, I listen to audiobooks while cycling, but this book was listened to on my walks, mostly to Mamaleh’s delicatessen in Kendall Square, as it was too cold to cycle in Massachusetts during the months of  (December), January, and February–I don’t like to ride if it is less than 40°.

February 3: I attended a concert at Somerville Armory given by Peter Mulvey, which was fun, with my former NP, M and her husband, D (software engineer who transitioned to a happier and more fulfilling career as a master woodworker.) The venue has been massively improved and the acoustics are good–and it’s walking distance from our house.

February 4: Gail and I had dinner with two of our neighbors, R & R, during which we had serious conversations about life and that too was a lot of fun.

February 5: I had another echocardiogram to assess my aortic insufficiency (or aortic regurgitation).  As there have yet to be any changes in the shape of my heart, deterioration in the functioning of my heart, or symptoms of heart failure, it remains classified as severe and stable AI or AR. Should any of those things happen, as is likely to occur at some unpredictable time in the future, it will then require surgery–a major operation likely associated with a risk of cognitive decline. So, it is best to delay surgical intervention until it is absolutely necessary but not so long as there is significant structural changes to the heart. For now, I remain essentially asymptomatic (without symptoms).

February 7: Gail and I and B & J attended Central Square Theater’s production of Machine Learning. This was an interesting play which I saw as a play reading at the MIT Museum in 2023. It explores the use of artificial intelligence, including the risks, benefits, and ethics, wrapped in a compelling story of a relationship between a son (the developer of the AI) and his father. Definitely worth seeing although I think the play still needs more work to enrichen the emotional impact of the characters on the audience. Then, on to Broadway.

February 9: Gail and I took an Amtrak train from Boston to Washington DC to visit and stay with our friends D & R. I did my internship and residency at Vanderbilt with D & R. R has retired but D has not, and I’m not convinced D’s ever going to give up being a physician. Needless to say this creates problems for R, who would like to travel but D’s academic, clinical, and administrative obligation make extended travel problematic. In the two days in DC, we visited the Phillips Collection, the Smithsonian Museum of America Art, the Smithsonian Museum National Portrait Gallery, and the Smithsonian Museum of American Indians, which has a very cool building. The city is awash in free, cultural venues.

February 14:  Valentine’s day. I made a digital card for Gail.

February 16: Again, I acted as a sounding board to help M in his development of his app Healthful Data. I think this project has potential given its ability to provide people with an understanding as to how their health compares to others. But like any health information technology product, bring this to market is going to be an uphill battle, with long odds.

February 17: Attended paint night at a bar with Gail, where I created a horrible rendition of van Gogh’s Starry Night. Pretty obvious who has facility with a paint brush, and who does not. But we had fun. 

I also listened to a zoom conference “Psychedelic Intersections: Cross-cultural Manifestations of the Sacred Conference 2024” at Harvard. I was not overly impressed with the quality of the “science” and I didn’t learned anything that was interesting or useful.

February 19: Finished listening to Medgar and Myrlie, an interesting and informative book about Medgar Evers and his wife Myrlie. Medgar Evers was the first major civil rights leader who was assassinated (1963), followed by Malcolm X (1965) and Martin Luther King, Jr. (1968). Medgar attempted to rectify racial injustice in the most racist state in the country, Mississippi. Both a Herculean and heroic task, requiring a level of courage and perseverance that few could match. His wife, Myrlie, ultimate came to head (and save) the NAACP, the oldest civil rights organization in the US and was a powerhouse in her own right. The book was read by the author, Joy-Ann Reid.  It was a great combination of historical facts (I did not, but should have known) and a very personal story of Myrlie. Well worth one’s time. 

This is the type of literature that the red states are banning from the classrooms because it makes some residents “uncomfortable” to learn what their grandparents and great grandparents did and they don’t want to other to know how this racist history impact’s America today. This new form of racism (ignorance is bliss) and the harm it does to the concept of “truth,” is now promoted and condoned by the MAGAmaniacs and their deeply-flawed messiah, cannot be underestimated. Maybe, if these people were consistent in their philosophical proclivities, they would also insist that we stop promoting the Bible, given the horrible consequences that religion have had on millions of people around the world.

I have continued to work on my new, child’s rocking chair, more on that later.

February 21: We had another Rembrunch (retired elderly men’s brunch) meeting attended by M, M and me. T was in his NH house as his Somerville house is undergoing construction. We had a great conversation. M and M bonded over kayaking–one does lake kayaking and the other does ocean kayaking. Both are certified by the state of Maine as instructors in their relevant interests.

February 22: I attended an MIT conference “Israel and the Middle East after October 7th massacre. Threats, Challenges and Hopes.” Unfortunately, members of the MIT Palestinian community refused to participate and they tried to prevent the conference from taking place. The speaker, “Ms. Tzipi Livni, former Israeli Vice Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Minister of Justice. Ms. Livni was recognized by TIME magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world,” was immensely knowledgeable and could potential become prime minister of Israel if the liberal wing assumes control of the government. Unfortunately, the issue of the massacre being done to the innocents of Gaza was not adequately addressed, other than for her to say that, paraphrasing, “Israel follows the international rules of war and those rules state nothing about what is considered acceptable civilian casualties.” I have no idea if this is true. 

Despite the fact that Hamas uses civilians as shields, has a contemptuous disregard for human (Israeli and Palestinian) life, and is dedicated to the killing/removing all Jews from Israel, Israel has far crossed the line as to “acceptable” civilian Gaza casualties and is now also causing harm to Israel (per Biden,) the Jewish people’s standing in the world, and America’s reputation in the world. And this damage will last for decades.

The status quo solution to  the “Middle East problem” is for Israel to repeatedly beat down Hamas after a Hamas attack, only to have Hamas arise again, stronger and with a more outlandish and hellish attack. This is not a rational longterm solution and is adamantly not in the interest of America, nor will America’s body politic be willing to provide the resources to Israel indefinitely into the future. Unfortunately this is the only solution that is acceptable to Netanyahu’s. So he must go. 

Recently I have tweeted and wrote to Biden saying: “Biden should go over the head of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, appealing directly to the Israeli populous that the only durable solution is a two states solution. As that cannot happen if Netanyahu remains in power, the US should pressure Israel by stating that future weapon transfers from the US to Israel will be contingent upon Netanyahu being removed from power.”

I started to write an essay on this subject, complying two pages of notes and then two things happened. First, eight senators issued a statement to the White House that says funding to Israel needs to be stopped until they allow America to deliver food into Gaza unhindered, as per American law. Yesterday, New York Senator Schumer stated that Benjamin Netanyahu should be voted out of office by the Israeli populous as he is adamantly opposes the two state solution, which is the only solution other than perpetual conflict. 

I no longer need to write that  essay as the  idea is already part of our national dialog. Not surprisingly, the Republicans have chosen to play politics with this issue, while offering no alternative solution (their modus operandi).

February 24: Gail, J, B and I saw the play “Becoming a Man” at the American Repertory Theater. This play far exceeded my expectations. I thought the characters failed to elicit the emotional resonance that I hope to experience in theater, but this deficiency was made up for by the intellectual ideas explored in the play. Thus, I would put this play on my list of “well-worth seeing”. After the play we went out to dinner with J and B and had a fruitful conversation about issues raised in the play.

February 26: I listened to a zoom lecture called “The Art and Science of Happiness – Arthur Brooks” given at the Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics. Arthur Brooks teaches Harvard Business School’s Managing Happiness class. I took the online version and used the information from the class in the “happiness” section of my Designing Your Retirement booklet. While his discussion of happiness is firmly grounded in social science research, IMHO, the rigorousness of much of the social science research is not on-par with medical or basic science research.

February 27: I attended a session of the Lexington Pickleball league for beginners. A fun sport.

March 2: Gail and I had dinner at our house with M & D, S & D, and an interesting conversation ensued.

March 3:  Gail and I had brunch with M (from my Rembrunch group) and his spouse E, at their apartment in Somerville. This was a lot of fun for all involved.

March 4: I was interviewed by a writer for the Boston Globe regarding my sculptures on the Somerville Community Path, Elly the Elephant and George the Giraffe and Big Poppy. I have no idea if the interview is actually going become an article–time will tell.

March 6: Gail and I had dinner with S & D for S’s birthday at a restaurant in Belmont. Always fun to talk with them about politics, science and our kids.

Over the last few days I wrote and have now posted another essay about the Supreme Court: Handcuff Our Rogue Supreme Court. I can tell by the lack of response that most people don’t like this idea. I’m reasonably certain that with time, many people will come to recognize that it is an idea that needs to be considered. This will definitely happen if Trump takes over the White House and tries to impose his backward, anti-science, religious agenda on Blue America.

March 7: Attended my inaugural MIT Club of Boston Spring Pickleball League event. Twelve people attended, and PK (of Lexington Pickleball fame) taught us everything we need to know about getting started with pickleball. Everybody seemed to have fun. We have four more sessions over the next four weeks and long-term planning is TBD.

March 9: I sat for Gail in a dark room with a spotlight on my face while she painted me as an exercise in understanding shadows and geometry.

March 13: I saw a urologist at MGH for BPH. I will try one or two medicines, but the problem is not severe enough for me to  consider surgery, at this time.

March 14: Today is Pi ( π ) Day – a big event at MIT. 

Pi ~= 3.14159…, is the ratio of the circumference of a circle divided by its diameter. 

pastedGraphic.png

I attended the second MIT Club of Boston Spring Pickleball League–10 people attended. Some asked if we were going to continue after our five sessions. I’m going to need to reach out to MIT to figure out how we move forward. After pickleball, some went to Flour Bakery, I couldn’t join them as I had other obligations. Next time I will.

March 15: I have but 1-2 more steps before I can assemble and finish the child rocking chair, which I have been working on intermittently since January of February 2023. I really like how it looks: Video of child rocking chair, incomplete

I have begun cycling again as the temperature now is consistently above 40°, riding two hours, three times a week, from Davis Square, Somerville to Bedford and back. I am eagerly waiting for the plants to come into bloom, which should happen any day now.

So far, I am happy in my retirement although it does require a lot of planning–activities do not happen organically. I still feel like I need more “meaningful” friendships and I may try to create a second retired, elderly men’s brunch group using the MIT Club of Boston as the advertising vehicle. Or maybe it should be for men and women. I’m not sure.

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January 18, 2024: Contributing something of value to society

I have decided that it is important that I adhere to schedule, and lately I have successfully done so.

Typically, the dogs wake me up about 6 AM. I then let them out back, empty the dishes from the dishwasher, clean up the kitchen and then sit down with a cup of coffee.

I proceed to review my  schedule for today, read my incoming emails looking for new events I might want to attend, and peruse the NYT and other online sources for anything that might interest me.

About this time Gail comes down for her morning coffee and I  begin to tell her about all the horrible and wonderful things I’ve read and learned in the last hour. Her usual response is “not before my coffee.” Why can’t I remember that!?

I then go for my morning walk, about 2 miles, listening to an audiobook. Today it was, Oliver Sacks’s book Gratitude, four short essays, he wrote just before he died. Excellent!

When I get home, I shower and then sit down at my desk and begin writing.

For the last several weeks. I have been working on my book/PDF/curriculum, (I’m not yet sure what to call it) about retirement. It is an enhancement and expansion of my essay “Designing Your Retirement” and the associated lecture I gave it Regis College. This new book/PDF/curriculum version is now about 130 pages, but half of that is pictures.

Yesterday morning, I was working on the section about volunteering and I discussed the benefits which accrue to the altruistic volunteer. I was struggling with my final paragraph, in which I mentioned that I was not doing volunteer work, and it dawned on me that it may appear hypocritical for me to recommend that others engage in volunteering when I was not. 

Ultimately, I thought back to an earlier section in mybook/PDF/curriculum, where I defined my “purpose and meaning in life” which was to create things that engage others emotionally or intellectually, or are valued by others. I went on to explain that I experience a sense of gratitude when a person who looked at/read one of my creations reacted to it in someway and that makes me feel like I had contributed something of value, at least to one person in society.

In his essays, Oliver Sack’s explains that when he received feedback from his readers it made him feel that he lived a good and fulfilling life. (I am paraphrasing.)

I like that.

________________________________

January 14, 2024: Some recent ruminations and laments

I recently visited The Clark, Mass MOCA, The Metropolitan Museum, The Cooper Hewitt Museum. Every time I visit a museum, I lament my lack of creativity.

The Cooper Hewitt Museum’s ES Devlin exhibit included models of staging she created for various theatrical performances and concert venues. It was a tour de force of creativity.

After I see stuff like that, I again become convinced that I am not as creative as I should be and I need to immediately run home and start creating something. 

Gail thinks I’m very creative, but she always says good things about her relations.

I know that the only time I am creative is when I encounter a problem that needs a resolution or a situation that could be made better. Once I have this external stimulus, I can be very creative but in the absence of that external stimulus, I do not seem to be able to generate creative ideas de novo.

Larry gave me the book “The Artist’s Way” which was written in 1978. I have started to listen to the abridged audio version, read by the author.  It appears to be a series of exercises that need to be done over a few months and it will help improve one’s creativity.  The audiobook is only 3 hours long, so I will listen to it while cycling or walking. I’m not certain I have the discipline to complete all the assignment of the book, as I have other tasks I would also like to accomplish. I’ll make a decision after finishing the audiobook.

I have been working on my retirement essay/lecture and decided to create a free book or PDF (The Designing Your Retirement Book) which will include all the slides and the ancillary text that goes with each slide. This has been a prodigious effort as it requires me to find a fair number of primary source academic articles. It has been fun to locate and read these hard science and social science articles, and organize them in a way that (hopefully) will make sense to others. For some articles, I can only access the abstracts due to a lack of an institutional affiliation, but the abstracts are sometimes, but not always, sufficient.

I will use “The Designing Your Retirement Book” as a source of information I can consult when I create future iterations of Designing Your Retirement lectures. I plan to modify the content in the lectures based on the allowed time and the educational level of the audience.  Right now I am scheduled to give the lecture to the Cambridge Center for Adult Education in May and to the Somerville Council On Aging in March.

I will make The Designing Your Retirement Book available to everybody from IHaveAnIdea blog. I’m not convinced very many people (anyone) are going to want to look at it, nevertheless, I’m going to continue to develop it.

The second “slide” in the “Designing Your Retirement” lecture addresses the subject “Who Am I?  Why Should You Listen to Me.” At this point in the lecture I mention that everybody has at least one superpower. I now realize I have two superpowers.

My first superpower is that I can be very creative when presented with the situation/problem that needs a solution or needs improvement, as discussed. This can be seen in my essay discussing ways to improve our political system.

My second superpower is that I have the ability to take a large body of technical information and organize it in a way that affords new insights or is otherwise helpful to the reader/listener.

In hindsight, I think my first display of this superpower occurred when I was a medical resident at Vanderbilt and I wrote an article “Does exogenous magnesium suppress myocardial irritability and tachyarrhythmias in the nondigitalized patient” which was published in 1987 in the American Heart Journal, a major cardiology publication, as an editorial. I was the sole author. Apparently it has 51 references and has been cited 43 times including multiple citations as part of American and European “guidelines for management of patients with ventricular arrhythmias and the prevention of sudden cardiac death.” I guess that was the high point (and the end) of my academic medical career.

I finished my online Harvard Business School lecture “Managing Happiness,” which I took because I needed information about “happiness” for me Designing Your Retirement essay/lecture. Clearly, this was not the typical hard science class which I was expecting. I lament the fact that the lecturers didn’t critically review any of the primary articles that formed the basis of  their statements. I am also suspect that much of the soft science data will be contradicted in future publications.  But this is social science and psychology, not math and physics.

I regret that I have not yet heard back from MIT regarding the alumni pickleball league. I will ping them again soon. 

I am also uncertain if my Rembrunch group is going to survive as one of the participants is moving, which leaves us with only three participants, and other two travel and have second home up north. We only meet if we have a quorum of three, so if one is away, we do not meet.

I think I am going to try to set up a monthly brunch for retirees drawn from the MIT Club of Boston if the pickleball league doesn’t materialize, or maybe even if it does. 

My online Tufts classes start in 1-2 weeks, one 4 session lecture on Verdi’s Requiem and another on Sondheim.  Looking forward to this and seeing Josie in 2 weeks in NAPA.

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January 1, 2024: Maybe 2024 will be geopolitically better than 2023, I need more meaningful relationships.

2024 is upon us. Despite our oppressive geopolitical reality, I am hoping against hope that 2024 will be better than 2023; but I am not optimistic.

America faces an existential political crisis. The Republican Party has actively adopted the tactics and policies of fascists and abandoned any fealty to America’s norms of political behavior and adherence to the values of the US Constitution. Existing Republican members of the Senate and House of Representatives have been unwilling to stand up to their putative presidential nominee, despite his blatant adoption of Nazi propaganda, anti-democratic values, and worse. In fact, many Republican members of the Senate and House of Representatives now trust and promulgate Putin’s statements and policies over the statements and policy positions issued by the US State Department, CIA, FBI, NSA, DOJ, and US Military. It is amazing how quickly and far the Republican Party has fallen in its 5-decade spiral as it kowtowed to their most extreme constituents, and there is no reason to believe they have hit bottom, as the “bottom” keeps dropping lower. If Trump wins in 2024, I suspect the Republican Party will get renamed the Trumplican Party.

The events in Israel and Gaza will continue to impact the world (and Jewish) history for decades. Failure of the Arab and world community to condemn Hamas’ rape, kidnapping, and mutilation of innocent Israeli children and women is horrific and an ominous omen of the future. That is not to suggest that what Israel has done to the innocents of Gaza is morally acceptable – it is not. But at least many American Jews and some Israelis have acknowledged the immorality on both sides whereas the vast majority of Hamas supporters have been unwilling to condemn Hamas’ rape, mutilation, and burning of innocents, while calling for the annihilation of all Jews in Israel (“from the river to the sea”).

Hamas will never defeat Israel because, as Golda Meir, Israel’s 4th Prime Minister said in 1970s, “We have a secret weapon – we have nowhere else to go.” So it can be expected that the entire Middle East will go up in a massive conflagration before Israel’s Jews concede to their own extinction. Hopefully, more rational Arab and Israeli politicians will soon rise to the challenge and choose to seek a lasting and mutually beneficial peace between Israel and the Arab world. This will require the elimination of Hamas and the replacement of Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, as his entire political career has been predicated on a refusal to allow the establishment of a Palestinian state on the West Bank while he continually confiscated the property of an ever increasing number of West Bank Arabs and gave their land to his far-right political supporters.

I am now one year into my retirement. While I am still happy, I have concerns that I have failed to create the quantity and quality of meaningful friends that I think are necessary for a healthy and fulfilling retirement. I will continue to work in that direction.

I am having fun with developing my “Designing Your Retirement” curriculum. I have recently integrated some data from the social science literature about “happiness” (Positive psychology) as well as data from elsewhere in the social science world. I am looking forward to my next presentation of “Designing Your Retirement” and hope that my lecture will not have too much of an academic spin, but just enough to convince the listener that my suggestions are supported by the data.

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Go to: My Retirement Diary 2023

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