My Retirement Diary 2024

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Minuteman Bikeway January 2024

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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.

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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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