Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Saturday, December 31, 2011

How Beer Saved the World

It seems only fitting that the last posting of the year be something celebratory.  I was assisted by a friend who sent me a very entertaining and educational copy of a program on Discovery that was titled “How Beer Saved the World”.  It is worth every minute of the forty-three necessary to watch all three segments.

I was sharing my experience with a group of friends who have run, walked or ambled with me for about twenty-five years.  Collectively we are called the Hash House Harriers and I posted an earlier blog about the group (ad one member who passed away, much too young) almost a year ago on 1-29-2011 called Fungus Amongus.  I was surprised when I mentioned the show that several had seen it.  One female Hasher said she was aware of one factoid from the show, namely that the Egyptians discovered beer, from a chemistry course she took in college.  Her instructor dropped that fact on students more for the reaction than for the education value.

But how and why beer was so important in Egyptian history is just a small part of the presentation.  If you watch you will learn that Pasteur was more interested in beer than milk, and why.  You’ll learn that were it not for beer much larger number of people would have dies in the Black Plague.  The show ends with a prediction that beer will be one of the first exports into space.

My particular interest in beer at this time stems from a recent birthday present, a kegerator.  Mine is not one of the $2500 ones I saw recently when viewing appliances for our kitchen renovation, but was a CostCo impulse purchase, which I felt would tell me whether I drank beer fast enough to justify having the appliance.

My Florida-based sister-in-law has a friend who keeps one on her deck and I have always found it nice to share a glass or two along with his hospitality.  He stocks it pretty much with Budweiser.  My tastes are more eclectic and I have enjoyed, in my first three purchases, testing a favorite, Sierra Nevada, a Hash member brew, Green Flash, and what I now am pouring, O’Shea’s IPA.  This latter is larger than the first two and has provided me with about a month’s consumption with probably a week or two left in the keg.  I’m unsure if I’ll repeat with it or more likely, try a new one.

I’m fortunate to be living in Southern California where I can leave my keg on my deck, as does my sister-in-law’s friend.  I put a tarp over it when we get the occasional rain and now store both the glasses and the pitcher inside.  I have an oven thermometer that helps me keep the temperature in a suggested range (34-47 degrees) and half a dozen 12-ounce glasses for family and friends.

The big test will be our annual charity Super Bowl Party where the chili screams out for good beer, even with our aging crowd.

While I am tempted to raise a glass of brew this evening, I’ll more likely succumb to tapping into a supply of bubbly as Mary and I bang pots and blow horns in the safety of our home.

For about forty years we have followed pretty much the same routine, go to a movie, then to dinner and then home for a fire, champagne and television.  This year it is Warhorse and a new, intimate restaurant called Bru, which just opened in Lake Forest.

My next post will share with you a book I recently finished about Hela cells, the woman they came from, and how they truly changed the world.  Another fact that had escaped me until recently.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

At Least You have the Memories

Recently I attended a memorial service for a dentist in the Long Beach area.  The notice of the service said that it would span twelve hours, from 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM.  I initially attributed this to some sort of religious custom, but when I arrived I realized it was because the man’s life had touched so many people that a more traditional setting and service would have failed to allow those wanting to pay their respects time and place to do so.

The receiving line for the widow stretched from the opening foyer of the Long Beach Yacht Club, up the stairs and into the opening section of the main gathering room.  I estimate there were close to 300 people in various attitudes of coming and going when I arrived at 11:45 on a Monday.  There was little diminishment when I left ninety minutes later.  I knew only half a dozen of those who were there when I was there, and even they were friends I made through my activities in several companies and community and social organizations.  The variety of age and background of the attendees spoke to this man’s eclectic life.

I couldn’t believe, as I listened to the slide presentation his friends and family had compiled, how close our lives paralleled: dentist, Soccer Coach, Sailor, wine aficionado, gourmet cook, and of retirement age, although neither of us chose to very effectively do that.  The slide show depicted events that carried us through about 50 years of togetherness between him and his wife , family and friends.

I was reminded of a recent show on NPR where Susan Stamberginterviewed Joan Didion whose book, BlueNights chronicled the lingering passing of her 39 year-old daughter Quintana Roo Dunne.  Although I had not read the book or its predecessor The Year of Magical Thinking, my wife had read both and discussed with her book group and me Blue Nights.  What tied the two books together and what made the interview memorable, was the fact that Ms. Stamberg shared the common theme of the books: the passing of a loved one. Ms. Stamberg lost her husband and, although his passing was not as unexpected nor as sudden as that of John Dunne, it did provide a framework for the closing interview question, “What do you say when people say to you ‘At least you have the memories’?”

“I have never really come up with an answer.” was her response and there was a long moment of silence when the listener could almost see the two minds reflecting on the bittersweet fact of memories we carry of a loved one.  Memories that remind us of what we shared, but also remind us that there will never again be the smell of him or her, or the joy of sharing a thought or impression, or the construction of a “new” memory.

It took me more than a year to cope with the death of my father, which happened when I was thirty-four and I still find my mother alive in my thoughts, although she passed away almost twenty years ago. Some memory would and does pop into my head.  I can taste the food, or smell the kitchen odors, or see a scene where what I am doing with my grandson or child was done to and with me by my father.

I find myself smiling…or crying…for no explainable reason.  And I find myself thinking, what am I building that will provide memories for those I love when I am gone?

I think I may read the books.

I promise a lighter mood on my nest blog as I plan to share a Discovery Channel presentation of How Beer Saved the World.  If you missed the show I can catch you up.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Trying to Save the Postal Service

Reading and hearing this week about the drastic steps the Postal Service is taking to save themselves from bankruptcy, I was reminded that for years my wife has been doing all she can to single-handedly save the Service.  For instance she sends birthday cards to about twenty relatives and friends a year and, in spite of my subscription to Blue Mountain, wouldn’t know how to do so electronically.

For my part, I have resisted paying any bills electronically, choosing instead to write checks and stick them in the mail, in spite of the fact that every month or so, one gets buried on my desk and I end up having to pay late fees.

Sending all these bills and cards and the occasional letter or thank you note means we go through a lot of stamps.  The process of choosing those stamps (and sending our request by mail) has become a ritual.

My stamp supply starts the process.  When she runs low she checks my supply to see if I am ready for a new batch.  If not, she raids my supply until I need to order.  Then she brings me the book with the most current issues.  I choose those I want and then she picks hers.  We have been doing this for years, much before the Forever stamps.

The other day I asked her why this stamp selection was a tiered process; why we didn’t hunker down together over a glass of wine and select our stamps.  Her response was that we didn’t have the same choice of stamps and she needs to know if there is overlap between my choices before she made her final decision.  That surprised me enough to ask for an example.

“You pick people. I, on the other hand, am inclined to events.”

I knew she had stamps for birthdays.  “Celebrate!” is the current choice.  And she has “Love”, now in one of its several morphed forms as a floral motif.  And she has a New England scene by Dennis Hopper that just came out.

I have the Pixel series.  Not out of respect for Steve Jobs so much as I think they’re cute and show that I am in touch with my warmer side.  If they don’t, then surely the “Sunday Funnies” collection does.  And I have some  “Legends of Hollywood”, currently featuring Gregory Peck and Katherine Hepburn, in case anyone missed the fact that am an Actor, soon to get a SAG card.  Looking through my stamp drawer I also find Kate Smith, Mark Twain, Ronald Reagan, and Mother Theresa.  Mary will probably raid those when her supply runs low.

About the only stamps I have that are not “people” are those for The Merchant Marine and Go Green.

I read an article not too long ago where the author was using how you loaded your toilet paper on the roll as an indication of personality.  I saw another where your favorite colors determined whether you were extroverted or introverted.  Whether you favor your right or left hand has many indications for your life pattern, including susceptibility to diabetes, according to the W SJ.

So, maybe there is meaning about our differences in what stamps we choose.

I just don’t know what it means.  Do any of you have a clue?

Joan Didion recently came out with a book about her daughter’s death.  That prompted me to think about survivors.  Next posting will take a look at that condition and I’ll cover a very interesting interview she gave.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Daylight Savings Day, the Need for a Holiday

It started as a joke more than ten years ago.  It struck me that one should do something productive with the time gained or lost when we “Spring Forward” or “Fall Back”.  Inspired by this thought, I decided that I would donate the extra hour that Spring to “Doing Good”, whatever that meant.

It was only the germ of an idea.

But I dutifully went to Hallmark online and looked for an appropriate card to send to select friends to begin a movement.  Not much there, but there were a few.  The ideas began to get legs.  If more people agreed to do something with the time they gained, then Hallmark would be inspired to develop more cards.  Maybe some would be sent though the Postal Service (This was more than ten years ago).  More stamps would be sold and mail would remain meaningful.

Spring presented a new set of problems.  If you lost an hour in a nanosecond, of what value could that lost hour be?  Perhaps, I reasoned, one could crowd all the bad things into that nanosecond.  That would be when I would stop smoking for an hour.  Stop consumption of drugs and alcohol.  Stop being mean to my sister.  Just for an hour.  Instantly, I felt better.  And I’m sure my friends who joined me in that movement felt better too.

As the years have gone by, I have become more imaginative in my doing “good” and stopping “bad” habits and traits.  I have actually taken the money from the extra hour and donated it to a charity.  It would have been nice if there were a charity tied to time, but those that deal with agriculture (one of the industries that suffered early-on when the cows couldn’t be persuaded to change when they thought they should be milked). Or to the energy industry (which was one of the reasons we would want more of our high energy consumption time in daylight).

BTW, most would agree that the energy saving aspects of the program don’t work.  And I have yet to hear a good explanation as to why we now include March and November in the program.  The latter is probably due to William Willett, a British Subject whose pamphlet on what he called “SummerTime” went through more than a dozen publications.

I probably receive as many reminders to set my clock now as I give out.  But there was one heroic day seven years ago when I was still working in the corporate world.  I had about 12 people on my immediate staff and after sending them notices for four or five years, I came to work in the morning to find my cubicle decorated for the holiday.  This on a Monday.  I took them all to lunch and then realized that I had been going on the wrong tack.

These should be National Holidays!  After all, the bill that brought DST to the United States in 1918 was a National Bill.  If legalized, the holidays would always fall on Monday.  This would allow lots of occasions for celebration, including by people who stay up until 2:00 AM to bring in the new time.

And the resolutions would be just like New Years, only you would only have a second or at the most an hour, to be faithful to them.  It may be too late to save the Postal Service, but there are other good reasons to make them holidays. 

This year I am leaning towards supporting the “we are 99” movement, at least at 2:00 AM Sunday.  Next post I will tell you about my latest discovery as to why “Men are from Mars”, and how I think I could lick the problem.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

OWS and Related Events

I can remember when, as a high school student, my parents tolerated my wearing a Fidel Castro guerilla cap to school, essentially without comment.  I was young, impressionable, and philosophically directed against the two-tiered society of Cuba, where organized crime was prevailing over the needs of the people.  My parents looked beyond my misguided support of half-truths, trusting that time would work its magic and I would turn out to be the conservative supporter they had educated and raised.

I was thinking about that as I followed yet another story about the OWS movement (Occupying Wall Street…and various other world venues).  The movement, and I guess if you have over 900 demonstrations thought the world, 600 in the U.S., it qualifies as a movement, has grown to those numbers in little over a month.

I went to a class in LA this Sunday and the teacher, who has been in the casting world for more than thirty years was talking of going to LA at Christmas time, assuming that Mayor Villaraigosa will fail to control the demonstrations.  Her comment, “What they did in Oakland is criminal!”  Looking at the YouTube coverage, she may be right.

If you have the time, look up OWS in Wikipedia.  For an ongoing event the coverage is current and interesting.  I found it particularly interesting with the demographics (one third are over 35, half are employed fulltime, 13% make over $73,000, some are even in the 1% that they are protesting against.

I remain troubled that they are so vague in their demands.  Proponents say they are intentionally vague so as not to lose support from their diverse factions, choosing instead to gather and demonstrate power, before they choose issues to change.  In a survey only 4% professed that they wanted a “radical redistribution of wealth.”

What bothers me is the position of the occupying group that they are entitled to affordable health care, free college education, public employment on a level of the WPA and CCC programs that brought us out of Recession and alternative energy in a green environment.  Although these are all lofty and worthwhile goals, reality seems to indicate they are unattainable without unacceptable revisions in our society.
Crapping on Car

Bill Whittle speaking on Afterburner makes a great point in a clip entitled 3 ½Days.  His point is that the movement started by people who have never know want, and have no appreciation for how food gets on their table, or water gets purified, or how their iPads, iPods, DS games,  get to the stores they buy them from.  Others have similar positions, feeling taking a crap on a police car is not meaningful protestation.

Today my wife did extra duty in putting out our recyclables and trash.  She put out our son’s too, from the house across the street.  It seems not to get placed at the curb unless Sean does it: this in spite of the fact that he has three children living in the house, ranging in age from six to twenty-one.

My grandchildren seem to take little responsibility for what goes on around them.  I wish I had the same trust that they will assume the philosophy and traits of their Millennial peers that my parents had when I put on my Castro hat.

In my next post I will explain why I think we need a new national Holiday, Daylight Savings Day!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Corporate Dentistry

I just returned from the annual American Dental Association where I had the privilege of being an Alternate Delegate to the House of Delegates, the ruling body of the ADA.  For the last several years the ADA has been hosting an intense discussion group on a topic of the future.  This is attended on a volunteer basis by as many of the 450 delegates and alternates as the room can hold; this year about 250.

The topic was “What will be the dentist of 2034?

Part of the relevance for the subject stems from the fact that the ADA is losing membership; due to age, the economy, and failure to attract the new dentist.  The latter deserves some thought.  The biggest problem is school debt.  In California a recent graduate would begin paying on from $200,000 to $500,000 unless he or she was able somehow to have found a parental way to pay as you go.  The interest on those loans has escalated dramatically in recent years and can now approach 8%.  Do the math and you can see it is a career decider.

So, the new dentist no longer can afford to set up a solo practice and, while independence is one of the great motivators to enter dentistry, most have to work for someone else on some sort of salary, often tied to production.

This concerns the ADA and they have labeled this career choice as becoming a “Corporate Dentist”.  The general opinion is that this dentist has less concern for the ethics of good dentistry, less concern for the needs of the patients, and fails to establish the doctor-patient relationship so important in patient satisfaction for the subjective services of dentistry.

My personal experience is different.  Of course I was a corporate dentist for my entire career: first, as a Navy dentist for 25 years, and subsequently as Dental Director for at least five Health Plans.  In both arenas I witnessed dedicated young dentists who, if anything, were free to practice good dentistry without concerns for who was going to pay for it.

On the other side, especially on the insurance side, I saw patients making bad choices of service and failure to accept responsibility for their own care: quick to blame the dentist for failure of treatment not appropriate to their needs.

One of the speakers in the preliminary presentation to the discussion was Jack Dillenberg, Dean of the Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health.  Jack is an evangelist to Public Health and has dramatically incorporated the curriculum of his school to include service to the community, previously underserved.  Of the last class graduated, sixty percent went into Federally Qualified Community Health Centers, a topic I covered in an article titled "Will Change in Dentitry Come from Within?"

Which leads me to a proposal I made to the California Dental Association in a presentation I gave more than ten years ago: Find a way to set a career path for dental graduates that mimics their non-dental peers.  Perhaps a three year obligation in community health or research with an accompanying major forgiveness of their debt, then a three to four year stint in underserved areas with a salary supported by Third-party Payers who have need for dentists in those areas, finally, assistance in setting up a solo or group practice in an area of their choice, supported by loans from the dental materials industry.

They would have had six or seven years of doing needed dentistry without concern for revenue and they might have established the ADA hoped-for ethics by the time they enter general practice.

This solution would work equally as well for specialists, since they are also needed in the areas I mention.

Alternatively, the country might embrace what I observed when we visited Ireland about five years ago: secondary school was free, paid for by the government as long as skill and merit goals were met.  They did this for immigrants as well as naturalized citizens and within 15 years they had a labor force that met the technological needs of the country.  Immigrants to the United States began to return and, if the new middle class had not fallen into the housing trap of the rest of the world, they would probably continue to prosper in the European Community.

In my next post, whether they are ongoing or not, I will give you my take on the OWS movement.  Like it or not.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


I read or heard recently that the Baby Boomers are the first generation in America who, as a group, have no plans to leave an inheritance to their children. Not to imply that they are selfish or that times are so tough that there is nothing to leave.  More, that they are essentially planners, who have ensured their children’s education and, having done so, feel their obligation has been met.

 And perhaps it has.

 I remember in my own case, when my father died, he left my mother about $300,000 in equities and a house with no mortgage.  My mother, who at the time had no income other than social security and a small pension from the Navy, pretty much burned through that in the next seventeen years; selling the house to move into a condominium, which she eventually sold to me and rented from me.  All would have been gone had she lived long in long-term care.

 And that threat, of living dependently for a long time, is what I think drives the Boomer’s decision.

 There is also the case on how to make division of wealth even among their 2.3 children.  I have two children, now grown, and got them both through college and into the work force free of debt, as my father had done for me.  I certainly hope that Mary has some reserves when she passes on; assuming I pre-decease her, but if not, then I feel my children have been well-provided for.

 Perhaps for no apparent reason other than the news, I began in this context to think about Steve Jobs.

 In all the stories, little was said about distribution of his 8.3 Billion dollar estate, or for that matter, of his four children.  What was said, and is relevant to inheritance, is that he quit Stanford because his parents were mortgaging everything they had to keep him in school, and he thought that was unfair to them.  Clearly he felt they had given him enough.  After all they adopted him.

 Seemingly he never knew much about his biologic parents until he found his mother and eventually his sister, Mona Simpson, in 1984.  While he respected his mother, he was less impressed by his father who had gone from Political Science professor at St. Norbert to owner of a Bay-area coffee shop, which Steve frequented on occasion without recognizing his father.  Steve’s affection for his adopted parents, “the only real parents I ever knew” was public and deeply-rooted.

 So, one way to think about the inheritance his children were left is to repeat what Steve said in a 1995 interview.  “I want to have been as good a father to them as my father was to me, something I think about every day.”

 I could make the same wish.  Anything else they get would just be icing on a very good cake.

 My next posting will cover a new definition I heard about, the Corporate Dentist.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The O’Reilly Factor

 A year ago or so, Mary and I visited some Wisconsin friends who have the TV set turned on to Fox News literally 24/7.  We found that odd, but not disturbing and found it stimulated some interesting conversation along the way.  I don’t know if that is when Mary started watching O’Reilly or not, but she is now a faithful fan and, in fact, we have tickets for a rare visit he will soon make to Orange County.

 In trying to analyze what attracts her to the show, I moved from politics to content to guests and think I have it figured out.  While she was hooked by the guests, she is mesmerized by the Factor Word of the Day.  For those of you who have recently returned from another planet, Bill ends almost every daily session by leaving the audience with a word, which he uses in a sentence, for them to use, look up or both.

 I remember a similar exercise from my sixth-grade nun and credit it with the fact that most people think I have a pretty good vocabulary.  This would not seem surprising, since O’Reilly was a teacher before he entered the commentary field.  My older son today reminded me that my use of the word “embrasure” could be considered ostentatious, as he had never heard the word before I used it in talking about his son, and doubted  if anyone in the pool hall had heard it either, a fact I conceded might be correct.  This from a boy/man who took Advanced Vocabulary from a teacher who would leave high school teaching to become Elizabeth George.

 Recently O’Reilly hit Mary on three successive days with words she couldn’t find in our dictionary:  Blooter, Broozle and Niding.  I could have guessed pretty well only on Blooter (bumbling idiot as in, “Don’t be a blooter.”) and truthfully could care less about knowing that broozle means to perspire profusely and niding means a coward.  And as for not find the words in our dictionary, I chalked that up to the fact that the dictionary remains the only wedding gift still in regular use after fifty-plus years together.  I note as I write this that Bill Gates also seems not to be familiar with any of the three words .

 I suggested to Mary on our fifth anniversary that we acknowledge those gifts still in regular use with another thank you note to which Mary replied, “I sent out the last ones.  If you want to do it, be my guest.”  They never got sent.  Nor have I mentioned  the idea on any successive anniversary

 As I write this post, I am reminded that words change and get added (and sometimes subtracted) from dictionaries all the time.  My Elizabeth George-trained son said my six year old grandson impressed his Principal when his mother passed on the comment to Ms. Norman that Ethan thought his first-grade teacher, Ms. Feeney “owned”.  This stymied the Principal and prompted Ethan’s mother to comment that she thought it meant, “totally smart” (which she is) and in any respect was a compliment.  The Principal was going to see if her children knew the term.

 I am not as surprised with what the new words are and how they come into being as I am about how they seem to become verbs from nouns (“Let me Google that.”) or how specific items become the category of the item: Xerox, Kleenex, or Tablet.  Intellectual property rights are beginning to blur.

 I wonder if some of you share my feelings of inadequacy in maintaining pace with the changes in our language.  Maybe time will bring an App on my iPhoneto keep me from being a blooter.  Or maybe there already is one for me to download.

 My next blog will contain some interesting information on inheritance that I picked up on in the last few weeks.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Small Treasures under Our Noses

Mary and I went to an opening exhibit at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana.  The Bowers is one of those small, originally private museums that always seem to have something interesting to see along with their standard collection of pieces.  This time it was an exhibit called Warriors, Tombs, and Temples, featuring some of the Terracotta soldiers from the Han period in China.

We had seen the tombs when we visited China some twenty-five years ago, and the exhibit brought back several pleasant memories.  I also learned several new things.  The Han Period was roughly from 200 BC to 200 AD and encompassed the period where the very developed Asian countries flooded the emerging Rome with items such as precious jewels from India and food, animals and silk from China.  In return the Roman Empire exposed Asia to gold and glass and porcelain art.

The route originally was a land route called the Silk Road.  Eventually, when ships became seaworthy, the route had an alternative route through the South China Sea, the Pacific, and eventually the Mediterranean.  That sea option did not become common until the time of Christopher Columbus who was inspired by the land travels of Marco Polo.  So the Silk Road had a history of some 1600 years.

We celebrate the history of Christopher Columbus this next Monday, remembering him not for opening the seas to trade with Asia, but rather for his four trips to the Western continents in an unsuccessful effort to find China.

A little known commodity of the travelers along the Silk Road was Bubonic Plague.  The rats with their fleas accompanied the traders and were responsible for wiping out more than a quarter of the European population in the Middle Ages.

One of the nice things about the Bower Museum is the fact that you can see the exhibits in a relatively short time.  The night we visited 250 people were assembled in four shifts to view the items on display at their own pace.  There was music, entertainment and wine for purchase to occupy one’s time until their group was allowed in.

We belong to other museums, some large and some small, including the Orange County Museum of Art (small) and the LACMA and LA Natural History Museum (large).  While we do not go to all on a regular basis, we mostly find at least one exhibit a year to make our membership worthwhile.

In my book “Harnessing a Heritage” I devote one chapter to museums and call for parents and grandparents to expose their children and grandchildren to the experience from an early age.  I repeat that in this post and hope that some of you will take it to heart.  There are few things near to us that provide a greater value for a short period of time.

In my next post I intend to share with you why Mary has a fondness for Bill O’Reilly.  Her reasons may surprise you.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Wedding Anniversaries

It was almost like a scene from a commercial.  There I was, on the fourth tee, making some smart-aleck retort to a friend’s comment that he had been married thirty-four years; a comment like, “To the same woman?”  Followed by, “I’ve been married fifty, soon…in five days…to be fifty-one.”  Realizing, with a sudden revelation, that I almost forgot my anniversary.

Anniversaries for Mary and me have always been a special occasion.  Our first was dinner in Tijuana after attending our first Jai Alai match.  That was when the Dollar was literally worth its weight in gold in exchange currency and a poor Lieutenant Junior-grade Dental Officer could more easily impress a new bride outside the country than in San Diego where we lived.

Through the years there have been many changes from that first celebration.  One, I especially remember was also in a foreign country.  This time the Philippine Islands, where we celebrated our twenty-fifth on the shores of Subic Bay, sharing a bottle of pretty good champagne with a navy couple also married in October.  This year, as we have on several occasions since that evening, we met with Judy and Larry Donovan for dinner in San Francisco and spent three hours catching up on events since the last time we met.

Last year, the afore-mentioned fiftieth, our grown sons, arranged a special dinner at a favorite local restaurant, Lucca’s, where the owner-chef Cathy Pavlos and her husband Elliott planned a menu of our favorites and treated a dozen of our friends and us to an evening, unsurpassed in elegance and personal touches.  The evening culminated in a toast, long for our sometimes reticent son, Tim, waxing on about his and his brother’s memories of our long-lived marriage.

Tonight, will be quieter.  A meal for two in an elegant and very romantic Italian restaurant, Il Fornaio, after a mass where we won’t ask to be recognized.

The celebration of an anniversary is a time to reflect on the past, as well as a time, to anticipate the future.  What prompts a couple to live together for fifty-one years?  I may have said this in last year’s post, but Mary and I have slightly different explanations.  I contend that the glue for the union is mutual respect, where change in the partner’s life is greeted with the expectation that the change is for the better, and a tolerance is made anticipating the good effects of the adjustment. 

Mary contends that love or habit allows a tolerance for things that are not quite the way we would do them, knowing that what we cannot change is better tolerated than confronted and that enough love will get us through the rough spots.

My friend Sonia Marsh in her blog Gutsy Living recently discussed needs and wants and probably would suggest that those little flaws in our partner are things we might want changed but do not need, to have a rich and lasting relationship.

Perhaps the simplest explanation is captured by Alexander McCall Smith in his most recent novel of The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, TheSaturday Big Tent Wedding Party.  Precious, the lead character suggests, at the end of the wedding party that perhaps all those vows and promises at a wedding should be replaced by a much simpler declaration.  Where the Priest, Minister, or other official would ask only one question of the couple, “Does your partner make you happy?”  To which, one would hope a reply would come, simultaneously, loud, and in unison, “Yes!”

I know what my answer would be, and I think I know what Mary would say.

Next post, as a change of direction, I think I’ll discuss the origins of the Silk Road.  See you then.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Professional – Noun, Adjective or Adverb

I have a friend who dabbles in cooking.  Not just the occasional meal, but research into what goes into constructing a dish, writing about food, and catering for small to medium-sized groups.  I met her through an AIWF program called Days of Taste, where Title I fifth-graders are introduced to healthy food choices and incorporation of food into society.  We spent two days arranging foods on tasting plates and cutting and cleaning, with little to no recognition.

That’s why I was surprised when she didn’t follow through on an offer by another mutual friend to design and prepare the meal for a small restaurant.  So I asked her, “Why didn’t you do The Factory thing?”

She responded that she had a falling out with the owner because, “She just wasn’t Professional.”

I had met and chatted with Natalie Gutenkauf, the resident chef, on several occasions and had just the opposite opinion.  So, I concluded that my friend had somehow been slighted.  Unprofessional?  I began to reflect on what Professional really means.

My father was a dentist, graduating in 1924 and practicing in the same small Iowa town for almost twenty years before he volunteered to be a dentist in the U.S. Navy during WWII.  He taught me, when I was literally at his knee, that to be in a profession was an honorable thing, but to be a Professional in that profession was something you earned.  As I remember it, a Professional is a continuous student in his or her craft, using knowledge and experience to lift the profession as a whole.  He never said a professional would be appreciated.

He did say that there would be rewards, certainly internal, and usually material.  And, as I have made my way through at least two careers as a dentist, I have found his observation to be true, at least in my case.

And the number of professions has grown.

My younger son, older now than my father was when he went to war, is a teacher, and I believe is a Professional in that profession.  From my time in the Navy, I found that military service is a true profession for many, a fact simply stated by Senator John McCain at a recent Tailhook Convention.

I have a niece who has become a Professional in Cosmetology.  I have other relatives who are teachers, nurses, and finance managers, all arguably professions.  I have friends who are writers, actors, and entertainers, many of whom make a fulltime living from these professions.

So, I have concluded that my friend more accurately meant, by her comment, that Natalie had not acted professionally by some comment or failure to compensate, and therefore did not encourage someone in her profession to better herself, possibly a professional failing, but as an adverb, hardly a serious breach.  That professional failing to encourage, now I am using professional as an adjective, is more serious, because it implies a lack of understanding of the “continuous student” requirement.

But earning Professional, the noun, remains a worthwhile goal.  As I prepare to attend my third dental related meeting in four weeks, in Atlanta, San Francisco and now Las Vegas,  I remind myself that the financial investment to attend these meetings is compensated by the knowledge and networking opportunities I receive.  I’ll have to remind my friend of that the next time I see her.

My next likely Blog date will coincide with my 51st wedding anniversary.  It seems a fitting time to comment on what that means to me.  I hope you will be interested.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


“I’m thinking about going to my High School Reunion.”  This was the topic raised by a friend as we sat around the pool on Labor Day sipping champagne.  For some reason, probably personal experience, I always associated reunions with summertime, but this time of year, with students returning, seemed appropriate.

“What reunion would that be?” I asked.  “Twenty-five,” she said.  I thought I detected a little amazement in the response.  My favorite high school reunion was the twentieth.  I returned to Mason City intending to re-check old memories.  For one, I wanted to see the Big Hill that we used to sled on.  Mason City is more than casually flat.  From my father’s sixth-floor office I could see the buildings in Manly, some 15 miles away, so I wasn’t anticipating Mt. Everest or anything.  However, I was unprepared for the slight gradient, barely more than the incline of my California driveway.  I recalled the stories my father used to tell about trudging to and from school in snow up to his knees.  He was probably shorter then.

I also was anxious to see my old classmates, many of who had not been back for our tenth reunion.  In particular I wanted to see what had happened to Gail Grippen, who was Valedictorian, but who graciously suggested I be allowed to also give a graduation speech, perhaps believing as I did that I wrote the better speech.  We had both been on the Debate Team.  Besides being a brain, Gail also had the largest set of breasts in the class.  I hoped my memory of them was more accurate than that of the Big Hill.

It was.

I had flown in for the celebration from California with only two slight disappointments: first, my wife chose not to accompany me and second, while on the flight to Iowa, a classmate chummed me up and we wiped away the years until he returned to his First Class cabin, reminding me that we had fared differently through the years.

When I arrived at the reception I was surprised at how many or the 100 or so attendees were from California, including the class Vamp, who had aged remarkably well.  I approached her and commented on both those facts and she explained that she almost didn’t come.  “I was making plans and my husband reminded me that, if I went to the reunion I would miss our fifth wedding anniversary.  I explained to him that I was still going since I had had fifth wedding anniversaries, but had never had a twentieth high school reunion.”

I have since returned to a smaller group for a fiftieth, for which Mary joined me.  A mutual friend, with whom we have remained in contact, was there with his wife.  Howard and I were fraternity brothers at the University of Iowa and both served in the military for some time.  We have skied together and partied together on several occasions since.  Two things stuck out from the fiftieth: each of us in small groups were interviewed and asked what one event we remembered.  Those in the group I ran with were in several different sessions, but each of us remembered most the evening we pretended to steal one friend’s father’s car, and how embarrassing it was when we were caught.  The second thing was when I received back the group picture.  I remembered almost everyone in the class, and had selective memory of how well we knew each other.  This was especially evident when one woman, whose name was the only strong memory, told me how nice I had been to her when we went to the Junior Prom together.

So, remembering so many, I was surprised when the group photo was mailed to me to see all the gray hair.  When had we grown old?

So, I told my Labor Day friend she should certainly go; that she would find the years just dissolved when conversations started, and that all that petty stuff was less remembered than the true affection we find on occasion in high school.  I hope she took my advice.

In my next Blog I think I’ll discuss my take on the morphing of the word “Professional” and why that bothers me.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Rite of Passage

Fifty years ago the conventional wisdom of dental professionals was that Third Molars were on the way to becoming vestigial organs: like the eyes of moles or the vermiform appendix. The thought was that through evolution our jaws became smaller and could no longer accommodate a third, much less a forth, molar

Not surprisingly, there arose in the profession a group of dentists who specialized in their removal.

My father was a general dentist who, because he was at one time the only dentist in a small Iowa town, learned how to remove Wisdom Teeth pretty well.  From his early days when he would call his Oral Surgeon brother, sometimes while in the process of removing one or more of those molars, to a later time when he took out my teeth and eventually my fiancĂ©e’s, he muddled through forty years and thousands of teeth with no serious consequences.

Fast forward to  time in my naval career when I was at a duty station for sixty-plus days between Oral Surgeons where I acted as the clinic surgeon and removed more than a thousand teeth myself, some with general sedation assistance: also with no major negative consequences.  Forward some more to a post-navy insurance career where I had the opportunity to be feted with a group of similarly employed managers by AAMOS, the American Association of Maxillo-Facial Oral Surgeons, where they explained the results of a three-year program evaluating the negative consequences of keeping even asymptomatic third molars beyond adolescence.  These included: periodontal problems behind second molars, cysts and abscesses in later life, neoplasms around the crowns of unerupted teeth, and a variety of other issues, not the least of which was complications when the inevitable extractions happened in later life. 

I have personal experience in observing all of these conditions, but they are rare, so I and my colleagues, remained unconvinced that the insurance companies were wrong in demanding a reason to remove teeth.  I thought we were on a philosophical island, but I was wrong.

On September 5th the New York Times ran a rather lengthy article by Roni Caryn Rabin, who writes an article on consumer health.  Ms. Rabin commented on her dentist’s recommendation that her daughter have her wisdom teeth removed prior to going to college so her education wouldn’t be interrupted in recovery, should she have a problem while away at school.  While this may be a concern for some students, this mother was unconcvinced.

Ms. Rabin did her research and found little to justify the removal of asymptomatic teeth.  In fact, she found a study quite similar to the AAMOS study that showed an opposite conclusion for patients in Greece.  She and her husband have adopted a “keep them clean and watch and wait” policy for Emma’s wisdom teeth.

I found the Greek study particularly interesting because when I was in the navy, and we were treating retireds, I had a sixty-something patient appear, who was Greek.  I asked what brought him to me and he replied that he was getting married and wanted to make sure his teeth were healthy.  I didn’t bother to ask whether he would be picking tables up with his teeth at the reception and instead checked out his mouth to find, twenty-eight perfect teeth.  No restorations.  No decay.   No periodontal problem.  Just four, missing, molars.

When I asked him about the missing teeth he relied that they were removed about six years prior.  “Why, did you decide to take them out?” I asked.

“The dentist told me I should have them removed before they gave me trouble,” he said.

I have always wanted to meet that dentist, who must be a hell of a salesman.  I hope, and am almost sure, the dentist was not a navy dentist.

As I read the NY Times article, I pondered, “Maybe my Greek patient should have read the Greek study.”

Next blog I think I will share some thoughts and experiences about High School Reunions.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


One of the nice things about belonging to a Book Club is that you read books you otherwise might miss.  An even nicer thing is that you can share the books with other people.  That is what happened to me when my book club wife got caught up in a National Book Award memoir, titled “Just Kids”, by Patti Smith.

I doubt if Mary recognized the name, Patti Smith, and, although she knew the name, Robert Mapplethorpe, the other “kid”, she knew it more in relationship to federal support for the arts, than for the relationship he shared with Ms. Smith.  As she discovered more about these two, seemingly so different, personalities, she couldn’t help sharing her newfound knowledge with me.  It was a return to our courting days when we used to comment that” Some people talk about people, others about things they see or do.  We seem to talk about ideas, and things we will do.”

Only in this case it was their ideas and the things they went on to do.

When first they met in 1967, Robert was a student at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, majoring in Graphic Arts.  The twenty-one year old Patti was working in a New York City book store and writing poetry.  It’s safe to bet that neither could guess at their eventual fame and fortune.  In the book, Patti mentions that they were caught up in the excitement of the New York scene of the Seventies, where the likes of Andy Warhol, Deborah Harry, Peter Gabriel, Richard Gere; all of whom would eventually be subjects for Robert’s photography, were making their way into the limelight. And it was association with these friends and a common interest in the arts that led to their friendship and eventual strong, romantic relationship.

They lived together in a New York hotel from 1967 to 1974, struggling, with little money, exposure to a drug culture, and Robert’s awareness that he was gay.  They began to become different people from those they were when their friendship began.

Robert picked up his first camera in the mid-seventies, a Polaroid, no less, and rapidly displayed a talent for composition and lighting.  Patti didn’t move into music until she broke “Horses” in 1976, an early, angry, album that introduced a world to what would be called Punk.  And there is the lesson I think we can learn from them.

They met and became friends because they had dreams in common, but as the years went by those dreams morphed into quite different forms, his to open homosexuality and photography and hers into using her poetry muse to make music.  Both accepted roles of almost iconic leadership and the controversy that brings.

In spite of drifting apart physically, geographically, and professionally, they remained in contact and remained friends.

I have perhaps three dozen what I call “friends of long standing”, maybe twice that number since many are couples who are friends of both Mary and me.  I see some of them only once every several years and correspond with many only by Christmas card.  Lately I find I have half that number who I correspond with by regular email.  I find that the years wipe away when we meet or talk, and conversations pick up where they were the last time we met.

I consider myself fortunate to be so blessed.  Many people I know watch friends walk out of their lives with reckless abandon.  Many more have problems making friends since they find so few who have enough in common to warrant conversations of depth and duration.

Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, for all their controversy could teach us the value of friendship.  They were complements to each other.  We all could benefit from similar relationships.

Next blog I will lighten up and talk about a subject I should know something about: wisdom teeth.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

New News about Alzheimer's

A couple of recent comments in news and emails cause me to reprise an earlier blog on Glen Campbell and his June announcement that he was diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s symptoms.  The news was that his Glen Campbell’s Last Tour started September 2nd and that his record, “Ghost on the Canvas”, was released last week.

The email came as forwarded from a friend and included comments by Gary Small, M.D., Director of the UCLA Center on Aging that focused on factors that can positively and negatively affect the onset of Alzheimer’s.  He was impressed by a recent book titled, “100 Simple Things You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer’s” by Jean Carper.  The book suggests that many lifestyle factors, which we can control; like cholesterol, blood pressure, obesity, depression, education, nutrition, sleep, and mental, physical, and social activity can be adjusted to prevent the onset of the disease.

Doctor Small summarized the book by listing his favorite 10 suggestions:

1.      Drink coffee or other non-sweetened caffeine drinks

2.      Floss (as a dentist, this has special appeal)

3.      Google and other internet activity (as a blogger, this is up there with flossing)

4.      Aerobic exercise and strenuous mental activity

5.      Drink apple juice

6.      Protect your head (never too early to start this)

7.      Meditate

8.      Pump up your Vitamin D uptake

9.      Fill your brain with a rich level of life experiences (Harness your Heritage)

10.  Avoid infection (back to number 2)

He also captures several suggestions from the book on nutrition and specific lifestyle actions.  But I was surprised at one omission: Social contact and support.

More than twenty years ago I was made aware of what was then a longitudinal study of nuns, wherein they took ongoing cognitive tests and then when they died, their brains were examined for evidence of dementia.  The surprising results were that the tests seemed to indicate much less brain deterioration than the physical evidence would suggest should have been the case.

Several conclusions suggested themselves.  Perhaps, the community support allowed members to “lose” some mental activity and concentrate on other areas that were tested.  Perhaps the religious surrender took some of the stress out of their lives.  Or now, after reading about Ms. Carper’s book, perhaps their lifestyle was Alzheimer’s preventive.

In any case, I’m going to lobby against my 13 year-old grandson playing tackle football.  He gets in enough contact trouble with his basketball activity.

Next blog I think I share with you a book that my wife recently read called, “Just Kids”.  This is not what the title suggests.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Having written more than ninety Blogs since I started on this adventure, I was sure I must have learned something about them.  However, when I went back to read some of my early efforts, what I began to realize is that I took a fork in the road sometime after the first month or two and have travelled on a completely different journey from what I expected.

Originally I thought I would pass on to other aspiring writers some lessons I learned from self-publishing “Harnessing a Heritage”.  Mostly I found out that what I learned wouldn’t be all that valuable.  It was too me-specific.  I have, however compiled five lessons I have learned that might have more general appeal to readers of my blog who may want to write their own blog.  So here, just in time for World Blog Day, is my list:

·         Have an “end” in mind before you start your Blog.  Then write a story with a beginning, middle, and end to accomplish what you intend.

·         Stay focused.  Resist the temptation to bring in irrelevant points, no matter how humorous or interesting.

·         Listen and read, to catch items that are relevant to the general theme of your Blog.

·         Provide a hook in your Blog to tease your reader into watching for the next Blog.

·         Follow other Bloggers.

My first blogs all began with the desired “end” of the blog being passing on a lesson I learned in preparing my book for publication.  Almost immediately I found I had not enough information of value to sustain a twice-a-week presence.  Mistakenly, I then began to use the blog as a conduit to pass on things I thought were interesting.  But there was no continuity, not only between blogs, but between the start and end of any individual blog.  As I began to correct for that and treat each blog as a complete story they became more interesting.

I have chosen to make each blog between 450 and 750 words.  There is no way to stay within those guidelines unless you focus on the one or two things you want to impart.  Keep It Simple, Stupid is a good guideline.

I now keep a list of facts or ideas that I could use as material for a blog.  The yellow post-it notepad on Windows 7 usually has two or three ideas in the wings.  If I haven’t used something that is current within a month, I drop it.  Similarly, if I forget what the tag line on my post-it referred to, the topic is toast.  The interesting thing is, I now read and listen more attentively, knowing that I may find something that would be of interest to others.

I’m unsure which of the blogs I now follow because of my friend Sonia Marsh ( ) had this piece of information, but someone passed on to me how you can miss a chance of repeat readers by failing to tease them with the future.  Most times now I have something specific in mind and post a teaser about the next blog.

In addition to Sonia, I routinely follow a dozen bloggers.  Interestingly, some of them are famous and have responded to comments I posted.  It’s exhilarating to get a personal note from a NY Times best-selling author.  I like to think that some of them will follow my blogs, at least on occasion.

I just found out some interesting stuff on Alzheimer’s.  I’ll share it and an update on Glen Campbell when I get back from Chicago.