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Category Archives: nonfiction


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BOOK REVIEW

Living energetically and working on a second and third career are within our reach, working and supporting ourselves into a late middle age — 80-100 — is nearly within our grasp, but we are not quite there yet. Medicine has a ways to go, especially medicine for the currently aged. Sometime in the next ten to twenty years this may change.

But, before it does, disparaging social security for those who will need to depend on it in the next few years by the well-heeled, who will not need it, is a bit cold, and a bit too fashionable. 

In his book Ageless Generation, author, Alex Zhavoronkov explores the current social thought about social security, and its negatives, and the economics of biomedicine and how it impacts longevity and worker productivity. It’s sometimes controversial, sometimes relevant.

The Ageless Generation  is a book about the business of biomedicine, not a book about the biomedicine of aging. Ageless is not so much about the latest advances in biomedicine, as it is about behavioral economics. The title seems to infer that managing to live a longer life through future biomedical advances is it’s main topic — instead, Zhavoronkov writes too often about money, and the cost senior citizens put upon society in general.

Zhavoronkov uses pejorative phrases like senior welfare, old age welfare, senior welfare programs, state welfare, when referring to programs for the retired. Citizens pay into social security – it’s incorrect to refer to social security as welfare. And to put it all in perspective, after the Federal Reserve misplaced nine trillion dollars, social security could have been replenished with a few trillion dollars that has disappeared.

Zhavoronkov’s book is more like a slant view of our social history written by someone who echoes his personal bias rather than actual history. Nevertheless, renowned theoreticians in the field of longevity wrote blurbs for The Ageless Generation; so he does have professional gravitas.

Zhavoronkov writes about compliance or conformity to a health regimen, overseen by an employer. He talks about getting “compliance” from the middle aged worker. Compliance is similar to the happy theory of government just now, or the “nudge” tactic, which is behavioral economics, that for instance, nudges the middle aged worker to do the right thing, the thing which is economical in the long run for a company or government, and as a side affect may be good for the worker.

Zhavoronkov seemed to be saying that doctors, pharmaceutical companies, and the corporations have nearly all the answers to our upcoming aging problems, and everything will be okay if workers just do as they say  —  perhaps  go along or lose their jobs or their promotion? The worker of the future may need to ask do I trust my health in the hands of my employer, which might be Walmart or Verizon or any corporation for that matter?

Do these ideas empower the aging or aged person – empower them because it’s a human impulse, a good thing to do, is it an idea that will increase their happiness, health and well being. Or is the customer of the health policy a distant vision, removed from the picture where only the economics become important.

Most of what we believe about aging and health will be turned over within a very few years, much of what researchers think now most likely will not be true even in five years if indeed Moore’s law works for longevity medicine. So, what if compliance amounts to bad health advice or advice that cannot realistically be achieved?

What if the all-knowing experts are wrong? Someone will always know what is best for you; if you will just let them, they will make better decisions than you or so they believe. Problem is, you, the aging person is the one who has to live with those health decisions that look a lot like they are cookie-cutter shaped, meant for the masses not customized for an individual and their personal DNA structure. What if the experts are wrong?

Zhavoronkov seems to be saying that he, the expert, has seen the future and knows what is best. He seems to make these financial and health decisions about seniors from his apartments in Moscow and Los Angeles, which sounds like a lofty financial position to make decisions that affect the mass of less wealthy seniors.

Zhavoronkov did discuss the proton therapy machine, an interesting treatment for cancer. The proton machine is not widely available. Apparently, it’s very effective. It “treats cancer with a thin beam of protons with an accuracy of less than 1 mm, or the width of a pencil lead,” which might be a mind saving treatment for someone with an inoperable brain tumor or breast cancer.

The proton machine requires a cyclotron the size of a football field. “As a result, there are only 13 such machines in the United States, so there is a long waiting list for patients to utilize proton beam therapy.” A website for the National Assoc. for Proton Therapy says, “The patient feels nothing during treatment. The minimized normal-tissue injury results in the potential for fewer effects following treatment, such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.”A lot was lost in translation. The proton therapy information was buried in paragraphs of political thought.

 

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NANOWRIMO DAY 4

Put the Kettle on

Never start anything on a Monday. Began with good intentions. Put the kettle on, sat down to write, got distracted cause the Internet bill was four days late. Forgot the water. Put the kettle on, the kettle boiled empty, lights flashed all over the Cuisinart. Impending meltdown.

Paid the Comcast bill over the phone. Bill paying they make easy. Service is good unless you ask a question. They don’t like that sort of stuff. Sat in the sun on the patio tweezing hairs from my big toes. Everyone needs vitamin D. Washed my face with the all purpose handmade foamy soap that smells like lemon grass, massaged in cream on my face and neck.

Sighed deeply. Intention to write on a Monday morning is a serious way for me to get nothing done.

I Did What?

Read two percent in the Amazon book on Africa. Downloaded it for inspiration [procrastination]. It has some good pages and some okay. I’d like it if it had a bit more complexity. Style is lacking. I like style in prose. [insert profanity] WTF am I saying?

The non-African author wrote better than respectable prose, shared the inner workings of his Hippocampus, finished, published, and got money for those three-hundred pages, sacrificed a year of his life, most likely, and it’s not so bad a book that I don’t learn something every few pages; it just that it simply shuts down my hippocampus  [similar to G-spot]  the opposite of which, when I find a damn good book to read, bonfires are set off in my neurons.

This morning I said bonfires be-damned I’m gonna fill up that spot in my hippocampus with writing; the little sea horse in the brain, the one that London cabbies grow larger by taking different routes for faster and faster ways through a hulking metropolis pulsating with tiger passengers who are already late before they flop on the back seat.

Fire in the Mind

I’m gonna build a cache full of writing, irrelevant, mundane, serviceable-if-it must be cache. I’m gonna fill it with words that taste like milk chocolate. Oh no I didn’t! There I go again, playing in the word patch instead writing. [yet another form of procrastination]

That African book mightn’t held my interest if it had helped me build a cache of tiny words with bite: tart, sweet, gingery words that rich up sentences, or a sublime sentence structure that makes the heart palpably happier.

The born elsewhere, African author/teacher touts intimacy in his preface; instead his sentences are impersonal, he stands at the back of the room mouthing words from where it’s emotionally safe to write. But then maybe he’s only a surface, he can’t write any deeper, like a John Irving character, scratch his surface and there’s another surface under that. Or maybe he was afraid he might say what he really felt. I get that.

Not that I’m not learning from his deep knowledge of the continent of Africa, but the plebeian prose hurts my stomach. I crave “fire in the mind” prose, convoluted thinking parsed like a knitting needle picking at yarn, subtle colors woven through textury yarn sheered from a genuine ruminant.

But who takes time to knit brilliant socks in brilliantly subtle colors, easier to buy a consistent thread woven by questionable laborers. I like a good pair of socks. Socks can be functional, full of perfectly recurring patterns that don’t challenge my beliefs, my favored reading threads, though, better not be.

Dear Mr. Grisholm It’s Not You It’s Me. Seriously, it’s me.

Yeah, ya know, I’ll read the Africa book in short visitations – piecemeal – like the latest John Grisholm, who I’d like a word with about our reading relationship. Dear Mr. Grisholm it’s not you it’s me. Seriously, it’s me. Your 1980 setting for your latest book is an echolocation of a distant last century that I barely believe I lived in and a small community mindset that drives me nuts. That said, had I written your book, and not you written it, I would be so proud, to know that a lot of people do love your latest book, and read it breathless to the end.

But, I don’t want to revisit that time with its racist worries about how mixed race in Mississippi reacts to scandalous money. The personal genome challenges the concept of race in this century. Whatever skin color, we are all junk yard dogs, a hardy breed. Race discrimination conversation is updated, now, and very much alive. So, Mr. Grisholm, forgive me if I don’t want to revisit last century; the eighties were not my best decade.

Since it seems I’m not writing a novel this morning or maybe any morning, here’s my pared down goal: write a thousand words for thirty days, design an eBook, plunk it down for sale on Google Books and Amazon clouds. I am rusty at design but my skills are serviceable enough to publish on Google Books and Amazon. Decide at the end of thirty days whether to publish a 30K non-fiction novelette or write a 60K book in two months.

Sounds so doable when the prose is from stream of consciousness and not “fire in the mind.” Decide whether to publish on WordPress  [rewrite, second draft country] first or wait for the big book to come out. In reality only a half-dozen readers will catch it on WordPress. If I publish it on Google Books maybe a dozen more might read it. I think I’m safe to publish what amounts to dumping my plebeian output on the Internet. Anonymity in the midst of the crowd is my preferred outcome. I can live with that. Whisper so I can’t be heard at the front of the room.

Found Essay

The “found essay” worked for me yesterday. “Write it Slant” writing book suggests that the writer find an object from the past and free associate. It’s a technique that rated over one thousand words in a not so bad memory of my Commodore 1541. At least, the quantity of words is going up steeply from nothing to 4000 words by dropping the quality or the “fire in the mind” essaying. But if I forget to pay attention, to hide my most inner thoughts, the strangest thoughts sneak into a harmless essay about my first computer.

Before writing a few paragraphs the helplessness and hopelessness of my marriage bled through a story on code and computer classes. It’s hard not to write about him, he’s entwined in every struggle I made to become a person in my own right. Computers were entwined with writing, he was entwined with stopping me from finishing what I started, becoming a journalist.

He stood over me when I typed the title “Tracking Snow,” the name of a short story that I  didn’t grow to a full book. He screamed and I typed, he jerked the cord from the wall, and enunciated each syllable, “I’ll grind you to dust, WHORE if you don’t stop.” And as I those words sneak into my story, I’m right back there, my heart beating faster, like an Iraq veteran it never wholly leaves me.

Oops! Uh mm, have to whip that 1980 history out of my essay. Getting into Grisholm story telling. It is me not you Mr. Grisholm who doesn’t want to read about the eighties. Human dignity is important to me, and you serve it well when you write. I don’t want to look back at the eighties lest I turn into a pillar of salt, and no longer write. The wounds of marriage are fresh. The African book hovers above the surface denying the individual African mind for the universal African, for which there is none. My brain in marriage felt like Africa, the gold and minerals taken, the humanity denied.

There I stand beside the author who tried to stand at the front of the room and be heard but didn’t have the courage. I see that filling a page with one thousand words encourages that which is below the surface to come up. Not sure I like that but I made a promise to write one-thousand words and that I’m going to do. I’m going to publish these words whether they sound odd or not because who will read them? It is illogical to think writing practice could upturn the customary routine of a life. There! I’ve written my quota. It’s somewhat readable. I swear Mr. Grisholm it is me not you.

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Virtual Wallet

TSF

Bitcoin & Ripple used by everybody?

It’s really difficult for the average person to understand how digital money works if only because it’s unfamiliar. The average person has conquered complex technology before, though, and digital money is getting better. In that case, Bitcoin and Ripple may become household words.

My feeling about Ripple is that it, or something very like it is going to be used for micro-payments for the average person worldwide. It may be that in the near future Bitcoin and Ripple will run in parallel channels, mutually beneficial to one another. Yes, it might be commercialized just like the web was when .com was added at the end of web sites rather than .org. The wealthy may gravitate to one and the rest of civilization gravitate to the other. Commerce has shifted many times in history.

I agree with Charles C. Mann

I’m reading a book titled 1493. It’s about ecological globalization. It tells about how quickly the world globalized after Columbus landed in the Carribean, which led to the Spanish trading with the Chinese in the Philipines from the new route. The book is by Charles C. Mann. He says, “Nothing like this worldwide exchange had existed before…nor had they operated on a scale large enough to disrupt societies on opposite sides of the planet . . . the worldwide network is still viewed w/ unease, even by many of its beneficiaries anti-globalization . . . In the end, though, they lost, each and everyone of them.”

I’m guessing that we are watching a seismic globalization of commerce. Merchants need speed in the money exchange, frictionless transactions. Google and Amazon-like businesses are hungry for territory, the poor are hungry for opportunity. Give them a phone and some Ripple XRP, and watch them acclimate. Today’s commerce is far behind what the market can handle. This won’t be linear; it will be exponential technological change. It won’t be just one technological change. When one change erupts others come along. I think what we are seeing is strong emergent system that ignores borders.

I disagree with Jon Matonis.

“Ripple’s trusted pathways are unlikely to be formed between people who are not already connected socially, he added. “Someone in Japan is not going to care about someone’s reputation in California,” he said. “I see Ripple being used more in localized, regional community environments rather than as a global international application like gold or Bitcoins,”

Does Matonis forget about the students in colleges and Universities the US, and Canada, worldwide for that matter, who have connections in Japan and other places, the student who needs money for an emergency, now, not in 48 hours or not in a week? Does he forget about the refugees from Africa and Egypt, and the immigrants from Mexico who have family who could use their help or vice versa?

Does Matonis forget about our military strewn about the world who have trust relationships? Walk through Union Station in Washington DC, that’s almost what the US population looks like now, it’s international. The average American is a myth. There is a trust network far greater than he imagines. And the trust from that group that will branch out will be exponential. Each family will bring friends of friends of friends.

Could it be that Ripple is going to be larger than Bitcoin, and actually be the unexpected concept that changes the world? This remark on reddit about the average person caught my attention.

We Are the Hosts of the Let’s Talk Bitcoin! Show! We just spent 4 days at Bitcoin2013, Ask Us Anything!

Bitcoin is important for the average person. We just forget who the average person is.

*The average person is a South-East Asian male, aged 22 without any bank account, access to credit or ability to participate easily in the global economy.

The reason Bitcoin fascinates me is that it embodies the possibility of bringing the other 6.5 billion online into the global economy on a level playing field.

Even in the US, 18% or more of the population are “unbanked” – lacking credit, legal status, or access to banking services. In the rest of the world, the unbanked are much higher percentages of the population. Some estimated by the UN and others put them as high as 6-6.5 billion.

Bitcoin can change all that and make it possible for anyone with a cellphone or an Internet kiosk or share computer to acquire the means to transact internationally with very small fees. It changes everything

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This guy’s book will cost 0.1 Bitcoin or approx. 2700 ripples if you care to convert your hoard to Bitcoin, which is about $11.64 (amirite or amiwrong?) When the book debuts on Amazon June 3, 2013,  it will cost $4.99 on Whisper net. It’s available pre-order on Amazon, only.

If anyone orders this book would you please let me know how easy (difficult) it was to buy the first book w/ Bitcoin.

BIOGRAPHY

CHOOSING YOURSELF by James Altucher, James Altucher is an American hedge fund manager, entrepreneur, and author. He has founded or cofounded over 20 companies, including Reset Inc. and StockPickr. Wikipedia

Found “Choose Yourself” review in a BUSINESS INSIDER story.

ALTUCHER QUOTE

I’ve made money, I’ve lost money. I’ve lost my home/family/friends. I’ve made some of the above back. I’ve gotten really lucky. Several times. With determination I’ll make it stick, and I think you will also.

 

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BURNING THE PAGE: THE EBOOK REVOLUTION AND THE FUTURE OF READING. It shows us how magic came to be. It tells the story about a modern day sorcerer, Jason Merkoski, who spent his life working on the “front lines of the ebook revolution.”

Like FAHRENHEIT 451 the page was burnt, destroyed in the most anarchic invention in the twenty-first century, the Kindle book. To save the page it was deconstructed from atoms, and resurrected to bits.

From paper to zeros and ones. From print to Kindle, and later from bits to bits, conceived on a screen and published onscreen. James Merkoski and the Amazon team quietly changed our lives, and changed a world-wide paradigm that’s been the thread woven into our daily life for centuries – the bound book.

It’s a narrative about the Kindle-dot-com – Amazon, about “Google, Jeff Bezos, and the ghost of Gutenberg. It’s a true story of the eBook revolution—what eBooks are and what they mean for you and me, for our future, and for reading itself,” but mostly it’s the intimate memoir of an inventor entwined w/ the memoir of the Gutenberg invention, the book from beginning to present.

It’s a love letter written to the book as we’ve known it and an elegy to it’s passing. It’s an imaginative glimpse into the new technology that has revolutionized reading and writing books; it is the socialization of books.

Digital books were available before the Kindle; only the Kindle caused a revolution in reading. Before that digital texts were the province of disparate publishers of history books, technical manuals, and fiction books, mostly from established writers like Stephen King. eBook publishing was reserved for the few forward thinkers, sometimes self-publishers, the techno-savvy who, early on, published eBooks in the digital space as a PDF file, a file both awkward and serviceable. The personal Kindle reader, and app, and the flexible-format MOBI file revolutionized eBooks.

The Kindle incarnation proved it could almost displace the much-loved book bound in leather, paper, and cloth with distinct smells and feels, and an almost living presence to bibliophiles. It begrudgingly won us over.

Burning the Page carries forward this astounding history that has happened right under our noses, in writing, story, and a style that begets “pastness, presentness, and futureness, joined by association” tying all these concepts together. It’s a complex style that works as best I can describe it.

Amazon Kindle books have breached the “third digital revolution” described by Neil Gershenfeld, “in which matter and information merge”, where things are turned into bits and bits are turned into things. James Merkoski captured a Gutenberg moment in his book just as one epoch is ending and another beginning. Book lovers and Technosociofiles will not want to miss this one.

HACKING YOUR EDUCATION: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will

HACKING YOUR EDUCATION: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will

REVIEW: Hacking Your Education: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will


Dale Stephens says he wants to teach you how to navigate the Kafkaesque educational bureaucracy. If you are twenty-something buy this book, or if you are fifteen, and thinking about going to college read this book. If you feel helpless to find a job in this economy this book will have something concrete you can try like his “52 cups of coffee” focused networking, which isn’t anything new until Stephens tells his story, and why you should do the same.

In fact, the book was so full of new strategies and new ideas it wore me out reading about them. This isn’t your parent’s self-help book. This is real world stuff. If you can’t afford college, definitely read Hacking Your Education: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will.

Stephens talks about education like someone treading lightly through a mine field gingerly avoiding the financial education trap. He says that “there is a bubble in education and it is on the brink of bursting.” I agree.

Stephens says that “Universities do not train you for the real world: they exist to make money”; that an “MBA program is worthless”; that “schools can only teach what is settled”; that it “takes years for knowledge to become a part of formal curriculum.” And by then the expiration date on your education is stale.

Dale Stephens offers a path for the upcoming generation to get an education that is relevant, and not stale, and debt free, or at least less so that of those recent graduates who’ve spent a fortune on their masters degree, and work in the service industry when they graduate. He calls it UnSchooling or UnCollege.

UnSchooling is an educational philosophy that values learning over schooling. Dale Stephens says you need to “stop giving a s*** about grades and start building things.” He says ” Project-based learning is a style teaching in which students define problems they are interested in and then solve them with guidance from their teacher.” He talks about collaborative work groups instead of competition, creating a website and a personal portfolio, and networking with people who are interested in the same things you are interested in. He says make something.

Stephens says “hiring managers want to see experience. He says business has changed but education hasn’t kept up. He wants college age people to take their life into their own hands rather than handing it over to an institution that is trying it’s best to keep up in a fast moving century.

Stephens persuaded his parents to allow him to drop out of school in the fifth grade to school himself. It seems to have worked. He dropped into college then dropped out, again, forming a group to school himself. He founded UnCollege for non-traditional higher education. Stephens says he “agreed to write a book, never having written more than twelve pages.” The book is well-written. It’s more than readable, it’s enjoyable.

If Hacking Your Education . . . had a shortcoming it is that the book is ahead of it’s time. Degrees are still the currency that is valued, too often. The educational system is in flux. This might be the last decade for traditional education, but it is, yet, here. And, yes, Universities are a business first, but some are there to teach, to put the maker ideas into the curriculum.

Stephens probably had more financial and family resources available than a lot students heading for college, but he talks about strategies that work whether a learner has resources or not. He’s ingenious in his own life, and wants to teach others how to be ingenious. He asks for help from a friend or relative who works at Google, and gets a foot in a door he’s after. Too many will not have an uncle or friend of a friend at Google, or network connection in a high profile firm, but even that might surprise the ingenious student who buys 52 cups of coffee.

RDIO APP

TV is last century. It might hang around like radio. I cut the cord long ago. Ah, forgot about RDIO! compliments of Nick Bilton’s tweet for his Bits column, Test Run: Rdio vs. Spotify in the New York Times. Installed the PC and the Android app yesterday. It will clean the air pollution. TV pollutes the air. RDIO masks the sound, blunts it. New music.

The Writing desk

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My white cup has black tea in the bottom. I’m at my desk, I can hear them. I know her, Isabella, our cat, and I know him, and I know Sunday mornings in the in-the-routine way that peaceful households are alike. She’s wrapping herself around his legs; he’s pattering to her, something inconsequential. The artist among us is still dreaming in abstracts.

My tax stuff sits in sight. Speakers lay sideways, collapsed on the desk entwined like a set of crossed fingers. Dvendra Banhart song plays on RDIO. A twenty-two inch monitor, a purple, half-inch storage cylinder for my tooth cap that came off w/ a caramel hard candy, a clotted canister coated with lotion, a bottle of bilberry sups to forestall the loss-of-light cones in my green eyes, hard bound notebooks to scratch notes in from books I read, short story ideas, and tasks to complete, mundane everyday stuff done over and over.

DVDs in a stack, spring water in plastic at hand on my right like a flask protecting me from thirst on a prolonged journey, the bottle beading drops of dew on mom’s oak desk, her long gone DNA captured in hand-applied varnish. My feet crossed at the ankles resting beside my laptop that’s switched on less and less since owning a tablet. A black HP keyboard w/ the stuck shift key damaged when it took a tumble when I got my toe tangled in the cord.

All the clutter I collect around me claims me. I have to see this stuff. It comforts me. I don’t want matching objects. I prefer asymmetry to balance. I prefer intermittent chaos to stagnation. I prefer change. Change is lop-sided. Even change doesn’t stay that way. It gets more symmetrical as stability rolls in.