Home

Tech Time Machine… You’re On A Rocket…

Leave a comment

Marty McFly… let’s hop into your DMC DeLorean time machine and juice up the flux capacitor.

OK, set the time back by 30 years to 1990 (if this takes you into prenatal times, please please tell me what that looks like, I want to know the answer to that as much as I’d like to see into my post-life times).

I’m thinking about time travel right now for a reason.

Looking back with today’s eyes, 1990 was a “foreign country” for us all.

Thirty years ago this week, I stood in chilly Okanagan Lake waters at 7 am on a Sunday morning with nearly 1,000 others clad in wetsuits.

Supportive family members and friends came from near and far to give me a cheering boost for an event I had trained so hard for in the year leading up to this day.

My heart was pounding in my throat, both in exhilaration and terror (the good news is that in the lake, you can pee your pants and no one knows better other than the swimmer directly behind you. Sorry… TMI?)

We participants were all ready to dive in at the sound of a booming cannon – the cannon that starts the Ironman Canada triathlon race, a 3.8k swim, followed by a 180k bike, finishing with a 42.2k run. Great way to spend a relaxing Sunday.

But today, I’m not only thinking about the gruelling race, but also about the huge changes to our world in these oh-so-short 30 years.

Here are a few other things that cross my mind.

It’s about our world and technology.

I’m thinking about how many folks pulled out their cellphones and snapped photos of their friends and loved ones jumping into the water that August 1990 morning. How many photos got posted online for the world to see within seconds…

Here, let me answer that for you… pull out my calculator… hmmmm, 960 participants multiplied by an average of 4 or 5 relatives and friends watching from behind the barriers…

… and the answer is???? ZERO. None.

Huh? Why not Larry?

Well, a myriad of stuff has changed for you and me in 30 years… call a taxi… right! Wait until next Tuesday to watch your favourite TV show… hardly! Meet your life partner-to-be at a bar… *cue laughter*….

A few more examples…

1990. No smartphones… a few cellphones (owned by 4% of North Americans in 1990) sure, but pretty much no such thing as a smartphone with a camera embedded. The first early versions were still 12 years in the future.

These days, when I enter even the tiniest running or other athletic race (in non-COVID times)… camera phones are everywhere, all the time.

In 1990, there were no smartphones, no text messages… no Tesla’s or other electric cars… no BlueTooth, no Facebook, no YouTube.

In 1990 you paid your utility bills at the bank or by snail mail with a personal cheque.

Watch a movie in 1990? Just run by your local VHS rental store or Blockbuster and make sure your neighbours aren’t there when you sneak into the “ADULT” section in the back.

In 1990, you answered your landline phone (usually corded) because it was someone you knew calling (although no call display told you who), no telemarketers or scams.

In 1990, when you wanted to find a street address or your way through a strange city, you hauled out something called a map and found the location with your fingertips, not your GOOGLE.

In 1990, people read books. I mean books made of paper and glue and hard and soft covers that had pages you turned and needed a flashlight to read under the covers. No eReaders, no Kindles (first released in 2007), no Kobo’s. Bookstores were popular “social media” gathering spots in 1990.

In 1990, did you drive through your local Starbucks for a Sexagintuple Vanilla Bean Mocha Frappuccino? Of course not. Starbucks had barely 100 stores in 1990, probably none in your area. Just Mary & Joe’s Cuppa Joe House (or Timmy’s for us Canucks) was on your corner in those prehistoric coffee days. Espresso drinks were something Europeans drank.

In 1990, a blog? Is that something stuck in your toilet?

In 1990, when you listened to recorded music, it was usually from a cassette tape, a big step up from 8-track tapes! Your choices were vinyl or cassette. CD or mp3? Huh??

In 1990, a restaurant meal or a plane trip usually involved breathing in someone else’s secondhand smoke. In my province of B.C., smoking was legally allowed in restaurants until 1996. Smoking on flights within Canada was first banned at the beginning of 1990.

Feel free to tell me some other things I’ve missed.

And finally, in 1990, when I crossed the Ironman finish line (below) as the evening sun set and my muscles cried, my kids were 5, 3 and 1 years old. It’s so long ago that I can barely picture them in my head. They were so cute.

Right McFly, bring me back to 2020.

Those little kids are older and smarter than me now. Yes, that’s right, they are older than me… I was 19 years old in 1990 and today I’m still… 19. (I turned off my time machine long ago. That’s new math for you.)

More importantly though, they were healthy then and they are healthy today.

I’m a lucky man to return to 2020 in my older DeLorean body.

OK Boomer…

Cock-A-Doodle-Do! A Productive Morning Has Broken!

Leave a comment

Early Bird or Night Owl.

To which camp do you belong?

Are you reading this at 6 a.m. or midnight?

My Mom was a night owl, her RedBull energy kicked into gear at around 11 p.m. That’s Snoresville for me.

Welcome to this Hemingway’istic short post (goal: fewer than 500 words) about productivity and time of day.

Honestly, I love to get sh*t done… my TO-DO list is really a “I-GET-TO-DO-LIST” (IGTDL)...

… it’s like my daily mantra and goody bag blended into a kid’s bouncy castle.

Since my earliest days in then-tiny Stoney Creek, Ontario (yes, I was born in Stoney Creek but grew up in Hamilton without ever changing addresses), my IGTDL list has always been front-loaded…

… that is, if it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen in the dawn’ish early hours of any day… writing, garden or construction projects, exercise, food prep, bowel movements, reading, bowel movements and reading combined… my eyes are at their energetically-widest aperture in bright a.m. sunshine. Holy Cock-a-doodle-do!

I have to remember that I’m fortunate to rise and enjoy a productive day with good health and financial stability, and a 2nd vaccine prick hopefully floating its microscopic immune magic in my veins.

Waiting for a brilliant burst of energy or some mind-blowing idea?

Hell no. Forget it… real life means real effort, something I should have learned before my first day of kindergarten instead of “why I shouldn’t trip little girls intentionally as a flirty and surefire pick-up approach“.

Productivity may be in the eye of the beholder, but my keenest observation over many years is that productive inspiration (like learning) is a verb and not a noun…. getting things done is best summed up by NIKE… JUST DO IT! Take a nibble and soon the whole muffin is gone…

At the beginning here, I waxed enthusiastically about my early-morning productivity rule… but now I’ll slam into reverse a wee bit because there’s an exception… yup, there’s ALWAYS an exception…

… like any language we learn, there are exceptions to rules, and productivity in my world is no exception to the exception rule *please stop saying exception Larry*…

Music, whether playing or writing is that exception.

Music as a creative force is a nighttime, darkness dweller. For unknown reasons, the Muses fear the daylight hours, and deeper emotions are best accessed in the quiet stillness of night.

OK, I mentioned real effort, and now I’ll leave you with one more wee golden nugget of Larry Wisdom… it’s a one-word mantra we should all adopt – FOCUS … multi-tasking effectively is a myth.

If you want something done, if you wish to accomplish something truly worthwhile, something important… drill in and do it… with singleminded focus… with focus comes flow…

OR … you could simply pass your numbered days sipping a glass of scotch on the ship of La Vida Suave.

That’s it…

WHEW! 493 Words (sure, I’ll wait while you count)… thanks Mr. Hemingway.

Now, what’s next on your IGTDL?

A Man With A Shrug…

2 Comments

Yes, I shrug… maybe I’m the wrong colour…

My last name should be Grey, not Green.

I see grey everywhere in a world that is often painted and presented to me in binary form… yes or no… black or white.

I change my mind at almost every corner.

You could call me Mr. Wishy-Washy, but you know, I take this as a point of pride.

I’d even humbly suggest it’s a sign of later-life wisdom.

In my late teens and early twenties, my favourite book was Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, a book promoting Rand’s political philosophy of individualism. I bought her whole storyline of Darwinian survival of the strongest individual, screw the rest of the weak world. I was strong. I was invincible. I was just like Helen Reddy, minus woman parts!

OK, I lied… my favourite “read” was actually A Man with a Maid, an early Victorian porno version of 50 Shades of Grey.

For a young dude it was erotically titillating with the use of shackles and seductive feathers in a man’s quest to rape women, although it was never laid out as rape; girls really just needed an education in how their bodies could be pleasured.

Seen exclusively through a man’s eyes, women in this tale came around to loving him and embracing their hidden sexual soul once they learned the charming and sensuous ways of his lust. *Nope, sorry fella, it’s just rape*

Today, neither Atlas Shrugged, nor A Man with a Maid find an exalted place on my book reading list. They’re in my remainder bin because…

I’ve changed.

I almost shrug in embarrassment to think that I enjoyed either novel, or welcomed things into my head that I now see as repugnant.

But, along the unending road to understanding, compassion, and seeing the world through the eyes of others, I can take some satisfaction in knowing that maybe, just maybe, I’m smart enough and flexible enough to change my opinion, any opinion, based on new insights or facts brought to my attention.

At times the metamorphosis I undergo is just so GD clear and obvious, while at other times it happens with me flailing on the floor, kicking and screaming. Whichever way it occurs doesn’t really matter so long as the change takes place.

Whether its Rand’s individualism, A Man With A Maid’s rape culture, drug laws, or LGBTQA+ rights, … whether it’s politics or philosophy, science or climate change, human rights or economics, or anything else you might name, the critically important point I aim for is to keep an openness to ideas.

An openness to saying… I think I’m right, but I might not be; I need to consider the issue from many angles.

A wide-eyed openness to scrutinize and question, evaluate and internally debate…continually learn… it’s too easy and lazy and bullheaded to merely rationalize with this is what I’ve always believed, or this is what my parents or teachers or clergy taught me.

And of course, to be fair, it’s equally important to recognize, after reflecting as calmly as a Hindu cow, when a change truly isn’t necessary or desirable when the only good reason is… because… it just is.

Because is kindergarten thinking.

Sure, I’m Mr. Wishy-Washy.

I even get frustrated with myself at times because of my vision of “greyness” in so much of the world.

Oh well…*shrug*… sucks to be ME!! Or does it?

Once Upon A Bromance

Leave a comment

Like Butch and Sundance, I’m in a Bromance.

My man and I have an especially unusual bromantic connection that spans international borders…

… by language, religion, ethnicity, age, cultural traditions… just about everything about us is, or was, different.

Although we’ve “been together” now for almost 4 years – getting together a couple of times a week – over the past year and a half we’ve spent even more time together than previously.

Depending on the rules of the COVID day, we’ve shared cups of steaming coffee or tea via ZOOM or at the local college or at 6 a.m. in a Tim Hortons’ coffeeshop, me and my Syrian bro (student/friend)…

… to study with intent for the Canadian Citizenship test.

We read and discuss, laugh and tease, he’ll go off topic like he did yesterday with an excited story about his daughter winning a new bicycle in a school contest, or even sometimes grousing over our problems.

This gentle man and his wife (and 5 beautiful, enthusiastic young kids) are exiled refugees that have been living in Canada for close to 6 years.

Each day they become just a tiny bit more “Canadian”… no, not yet by law or official decree, but for sure by custom and language.

I can perceive this change intently when he speaks in idioms to me: “Oh Larry, you’re Over The Hill!”, or, “Are you pulling my leg?“, or, when he casually orders a “double-double” now at Tim Hortons.

He’s not the only one who’s changed… yup, he’s changed me too.

I greet him each time we meet, As-salamu alaykum… (Peace be upon you)… my understanding and knowledge of Syria, the Middle East, Arabic language, and the Muslim faith have all bloomed too.

In much the same way that I learn about myself by writing these blog posts, I find that I learn about myself by working and chatting with a man who has been tossed across the globe to live in my country, my culture, so that his family can be safe from bombs and bullets and torture.

Never in his wildest dreams did he see a life in largely white-skinned, Christian-dominated, English-speaking North America as part of his future.

Never in my wildest dreams did I envision spending hundreds of hours explaining what it means to be Canadian to a young, Arabic-speaking, brown-skinned Muslim man.

He looks to me for learning, cultural understanding, and even basic knowledge that eluded him in his homeland. I shook my head in disbelief when I realized he had no idea there was an ocean (what’s an ocean?) separating Syria from Canada.

It’s clear that he’s had an awakening… BIG TIME!

I can tell because… long ago… I had one too.

My awakening came over 40 years ago when I left my hometown of Hamilton.

My eyes were opened by seeing different geographies and histories, architectures, ideologies and politics, and and and… I was wearing translucent blinders (and still am no doubt) because I had never had the opportunity to see and experience what was behind other doors.

If you spend your whole life only seeing the colour green, red has no meaning.

These new experiences were a little like a hallucinogenic LSD trip. Colours and textures were changing, my understanding rose bit by bit. The light rainbow had changed and would never go back to where it was… ever.

Today I know to actively look for other “colours” in the world.

I see this same vision of new light and colours in my Syrian friend. It’s scary and exciting for him. I get it.

OK, back to where we began this post.

What is it to be Canadian?

For those who’ve not studied or seen a citizenship test (Canadian or otherwise)… it ain’t a walk in the park for a native-born Canadian, a university graduate from another country… and certainly not an elementary-schooled Syrian.

Citizenship isn’t handed out like pre-wrapped candies at the door on Halloween.

One “earns” citizenship by working hard to understand the history and culture of this young country, this Canuck land painted one stroke at a time with thousands of years of indigenous history and millions of immigrant stories.

I have my fingers crossed that my young “bromantic” partner and his family will soon wave the Maple Leaf as new Canadians and become sewn into this quilt of many colours.

Looking Towards A New Me… When I’m 64!

4 Comments

Jim Ferguson is an old and very good friend of mine (and the MAN ON THE FRINGE).

For a second time this year, I’ve asked Jim if he would consider contributing a guest post and he has generously taken me up on this.

I always enjoy Jim’s insights as he possesses an extraordinary vision into the combination of science, religion, and human compassion. These can be challenging subjects to mix and marry, but Jim has a talent for bridging the gaps.

Today, Jim is striking into a lighter and perhaps… more fun arena – his upcoming “retirement”. I’ll let him tell you his story:

The Man Behind the Curtain aka Man On The Fringe – Sir Lawrence Green – has once again asked me to contribute a guest blog focusing on the theme of my impending retirement from a medical career spanning the better part of 44-years.

It all started in Canada’s Arctic region, Yellowknife, NWT, in 1977 when I trained as a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) and then worked with Larry at Stanton Yellowknife Hospital until spring, 1979.

I then married an American girl and was off to medical school in the States a decade later, graduating as a Physician Associate and getting a Master’s degree in Public Health and completing a fellowship in Integrative Medicine along the way. The rest, as they say, is history.

As I approach my retirement, it really is all about history-where it all started and the journey to where this phase of my life will conclude.

It seems that this journey has passed in the twinkling of an eye to the point where I feel a bit numb and dizzy as I view the course of the past 44-years…sort of like a retirement version of benign positional vertigo.

As I have been reflecting on this major life-change I have found myself defining my retirement by some of the major retirement songs of our era. I’ve been thinking of some of these songs and whether any of these might be apropos as I board the retirement ship to “sail off into my golden years”. 

Here are a few examples and some musings. Maybe those of you reading this who are retired will find some common threads.

Glue your dentures in and make sure the Depends are nice and snug…here we go:

– Johnny Paycheck is known for the song Take This Job And Shove It. The opening refrain is recognizable to many- “Take this job and shove it, I aint workin’ here no more”.

While I love the feistiness of the song, I would have to say that this song doesn’t reflect my attitude towards my work or my employer as I wrap up my career as a family medicine provider.

I entered medicine seeing it as a vocation or even a calling. I love being of service to others and what better career path to follow than medicine where you work with people at their most vulnerable i.e., when they are ill.

I have loved my work for that reason and have had great employers over the years whether in Yellowknife in the early days, in remote Alaskan villages during the middle of my career, as a public health officer, and finally for Providence Medical Group here in Oregon.

While I am retiring from my job with the medical group, I am not retiring from medicine completely. I will seek ways to recreate myself in service to others using my medical knowledge and talents and I look forward to those opportunities.

– The Beatles had a hit with Sir Paul McCartney’s light and fluffy When I’m 64.

While I tend to favour Lennon’s more gritty rock and roll sound, this particular “bubble gum” attempt at a rock tune strikes a retirement chord.

As it turns out I will turn 64 in December a month or so after I pack it in at my current place of employ. This song has some definite influence on my retirement.

I’ve long lost much of my hair, I’ve been handy (thanks to Red Green who has told millions of men: “If women don’t find you handsome, at least let them find you handy“), I’ve spent more hours than I can count in the garden on my 5.4-acre farm in Oregon.

Bottom Line regarding this song: been there…done most of that!! I guess I could throw this CD in the player as I walk out the door at work for the final time and it would seem appropriate.

– If anyone is expecting me to live up to the message in Steppenwolf’s Born to be Wild, well you have another thing coming.

My version of wild these days is to down a bottle of Geritol, chase it with a Fleets Enema, and hit the hay by 8 PM.

OK… maybe I’m not that far gone BUT the wild days are behind me. Larry can attest to the fact that our Yellowknife days were about as wild as they come- who else here can chug a Molson Canadian standing on their head in under a minute…😊

Those days are long gone and while retirement will be nothing like the days of yore, they will be filled with opportunities to be of service to my community and I do welcome the change from having a set schedule day in/day out and being more flexible in determining what I invest my time in.

I do have hobbies that I will pursue. I still enjoy watching my beloved Habs (Montreal Canadiens hockey team) when I can. I also enjoy my mandolin and playing music. I love being outdoors and hiking and running. There will be lots to keep me busy as I move forward.

– As I have alluded in this blog post, I see a beginning in the end.

As one career ends another exciting phase of life begins. What better song to portray this than We’ve Only Just Begun by The Carpenters featuring the silky-smooth voice of Karen Carpenter.

Don’t tell Larry that I told you this BUT he and I would occasionally sprawl out on the two chesterfields in his apartment in Yellowknife and semi-doze off listening to Karen and Richard performing their magic.

That song is a great segue towards retirement. As one door closes another opens, as one window closes, another window opens, etc. You get the point…Insert your own cliché here:___________________.

Karen sings “so many roads to choose, we’ll start out walkin’ and learn to run…sharing horizons that are new to us…” A great inspiration as I head into the unknown.

I am also aware that maybe I’ve peeved off a few folks in my work life along the way, so I am a firm believer in the adage that if you are being run out of town, get in front of the crowd, and make it look like a parade…😊 That’s my plan on my last day. It’s a win-win for me.

– I will leave you with one last song that I have always loved…. Five for Fighting’s 100 Years.

It is a touching tune of the passage of the years from the age of 15 to 99. Go listen to it…you’ll recognize the song when you hear it.

I can especially appreciate the verse where he sings: “Half time goes by… Suddenly you’re wise…Another blink of an eye…Sixty-seven is gone…The sun is getting high…We’re moving on.” Man ‘o man…how true it is.

Where have the years gone? I feel as though I am there now. Two-thirds of my life has flashed by and yet I am thrilled at the thought of what is to come and look forward to the great adventures that await.

Well…if you are near retirement or have already moved beyond that point in life, what songs best describe your retirement journey? Let’s see them in the comment section below.

Peace,

Jim Ferguson

Are You Bloody Serious?

4 Comments

To: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson.

Billionaires to the Stars Head Office.

Rocketship Central.

………………………….

Dear Sirs:

Please refund my $10 million dollar deposit forthwith as I am officially withdrawing my application for the All-Inclusive Rocketshot Excursion to Mars.

Upon return of said deposit, I’ll immediately FedEx back the supercool spacesuit you sent. I’ve had it dry-cleaned, and also sewed a small tear in the armpit (hardly noticeable).

Why you ask… after months of intense training and sacrifice and expense… why now?

It’s simple and I’ll tell you why.

I’m willing to play my guitar and sing songs about Major Tom while 140 million miles away from earth.

I’m happy to float like a butterfly from chamber to chamber of your Roman-Candle-to-Mars.

I’m even… yes, I’m even willing to eat potatoes grown in my own poop…

but here’s where I’ve reached the end of my tether…. get it, tether, like spacewalk tether? Forget it.

You want me to – have I got this right? make bricks from my blood? Bloody hell… surely this is FAKE NEWS, or maybe just some “truthiness”, yes?

Sadly, I gather not. I guess reality really is stranger than fiction.

These bricks even have a name?

AstroCrete!

3D-printed brick made from human blood.

Really? REALLY?

I’m truly a giving kind of guy. Altruism could be my middle name.

I’ll happily give a pint of my lifeblood to keep an unfortunate victim alive after a car accident, or a major OR bleed, or even a haemophiliac crisis, but…

I don’t care that scientists at The University of Manchester have developed a concrete-like material made from mixing extra-terrestrial dust along with the blood, sweat and tears of astronauts.

I don’t care that their study, published this week in Materials Today Bio, suggests that albumin, a protein from human blood, combined with urea, a compound from urine, sweat or tears, could glue together Mars soil to produce a material stronger than ordinary concrete, perfectly suited for construction work in extra-terrestrial environments.

I don’t care that it saves you bucks because it costs an exorbitant $1 million to transport a single conventional brick from our planet to Mars.

I really don’t care that over 500 kg of high-strength AstroCrete could be produced over the course of a two-year mission on the surface of Mars by a crew of six astronauts.

And yup, I don’t care one tiny erythrocyte that each crew member could conceivably produce enough AstroCrete to expand the habitat to support an additional crew member, doubling the housing available with each successive mission.

This was NOT included in the fine print of the contract I signed for this Vacuous Vacation of the Millennium.

I think technological innovation is getting too carried away, because all of these things that looked like science-fiction in my boyhood (did the Jetson’s ever make a blood brick?) are becoming science NON-fiction!

And also, a small point pulled from my personal rudimentary-science background. Please set me right if I’m wrong Elon. I’m not the brightest astrophysicist in the cosmos.

Matter can’t be created or destroyed, isn’t that correct?

My blood liquid volume consists mainly of good ole H2O, right?

Sooooooo…. if we don’t find a source of water on Mars, each brick produced – à la ME – to make this wonderful new condo unit is gonna suck me dry like the prune I’m already becoming in my latter years. Oil of Olay won’t solve THAT problem, Jeffy!

OK, rant over. I’ve had my say gentlemen.

I’m out. I wish you the very best of success in your Sanguineous Scheme… your Bloody Blocks… your Corpuscular Cravings.

For the time being, for all its troubles and faults, I’m just gonna stick it out here on Earth and keep my blood locked inside this vessel I call my body.

May All Your Fluids Be Vital… Larry

Is All This Talk About Aging Getting OLD?

1 Comment

As Peter Attia, Canadian-born physician whose medical practice focuses on the science of longevity, asks in his lectures:

What is the greatest risk factor for atherosclerosis (deposition of plaques of fatty materials on arteries inner walls?“) …

… the answers from students and laypersons alike rebound back at him in rapid fire: smoking!… high blood pressure!… apoB!… LDL!… inflammation!…

These are all good logical answers.

And then he responds, “… the number one cause of atherosclerosis is age, hands down.

Yup, aging kills.

Welcome to Part 3 (Parts 1 and 2 are here and here) of my occasional dive into the science and maybe… science-fiction-like discussion of AGING, LIFESPAN, and HEALTHSPAN.

Yes, aging, and what we can do to slow it down. Or heaven forbid and glory be… reverse it!

We’re in the opening innings of a long game versus the profound effects of aging that could go well past the 9th inning before we declare something resembling a winner.

But this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take a few swings of the bat when some tempting pitches come floating across our plate that auger well for a single or a double, ie. a potentially longer lifespan and healthspan.

So, this week, I’m cherry-picking another one of the 9 Hallmarks of Aging that I find particularly interesting.

Please remember, this is written in very simplistic terms. This topic is a very deep hole with exhausting complexity.

But first, as always… the fine print.

(I spent my professional life working in the sciences, but I am not a scientific expert. I am an interpreter with an interest in this stuff, so I’ll share with you what I’ve found and provide some links for you to follow if you have a deeper interest too. Also, science by its nature is incomplete and evolving, meaning that what I share today may be replaced tomorrow by newer research that sounds different. It’s science but it’s not omnipotent… )

Part 3, let’s go…

Senescence… my name is Cellular Senescence

It’s like we live in the world of The Walking Dead except internally, in our guts and cells, we have The Floating Dead… yes, Zombie cells…

Cellular senescence … way back in 1961, a couple of researchers by the names of Hayflick and Moorhead tried an experiment (here) to see if human cells could multiply over and over indefinitely in a lab dish.

The answer? Nope, these cultured human cells do not replicate forever but start to slow their divisions and just kind of nod off into a Zombie Zone. This is called cell senescence (the term senescence comes from the Latin “Senex”, which means “old man” in Latin).

But these cells don’t actually die.

In fact, they have an increased resistance to cell death by finding pathways that allow them to escape our immune system clearance and survive. They also begin to do some weird things, like changing their shape and size as well as secreting inflammatory molecules, which, in turn, can cause other cells to become senescent.

Scientists suggest that one of the main reasons that our cells have gained the ability to cause cells to stop dividing and doing their “job” is that senescence prevents the replication of cells that contain damaged DNA. This serves a critical function in preventing cancer and limits tissue damage by stopping the multiplication of faulty cells.

The link between aging and senescence has been well established. Simply, as we get older, our cells continue to be exposed to a cumulative stress (of many internal and external forms), which, ultimately, leads to an increase in the number of cells that become senescent.

On the bright side, Cellular senescence may play an important role in tumour suppression, wound healing, and protection against tissue fibrosis…

… but, there’s increasing evidence that the accumulation of senescent cells as we age may produce harmful effects and can contribute to tissue changes, biological aging, and many age-related diseases.

Senescent cells secrete hundreds of factors that include pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, growth factors, and proteases (Kuilman and Peeper, 2009), some helpful, while others are nasty.

So, do senescent cells actually cause us problems as we grow older? It would seem, yes, according to this summary in December 2020 from the journal, Aging Cell.

Senescence is likely a double-edged sword.

Can we do something about this to increase our lifespan and healthspan? Anything?

There is really only a little we can actively do right now… but… we also have a lot to look forward to as research lifts the cover off some of these aging mysteries.

Strategies against cell senescence that can be used as “therapy” in humans can be classified into the following 3 groups:

  • non-drug interventions that prevent the accumulation of senescent cells, such as avoiding excessive UV radiation, and healthy dietary habits that include foods with anti-oxidation activity. Also, calorie restriction would appear to be beneficial as restricting calories is known to suppress oxidative stress (here), a major cause of DNA damage and cancers.
  • pharmacological therapies aimed at reducing the amount of inflammatory molecules secreted by already existing senescent cells.
  • pharmacological therapies aimed at reducing the number of senescent cells (or what researchers call senolytics). In early studies, senolytics appear to delay, prevent or alleviate frailty, cancers and cardiovascular, neuropsychiatric, liver, kidney, musculoskeletal, lung, eye, haematological, metabolic and skin disorders, as well as complications of organ transplantation, radiation and cancer treatment (Journal of Internal Medicine, 2020.)

LAST WORD: If you intend to participate in the Centenarian Olympics, your and my chances should be significantly increased if the quandaries of cellular senescence can be better understood and alleviated.

While you’re waiting for this to happen, maybe try working on your handstands!

Jagmeet Singh (Canadian NDP Party Leader) can walk on his hands at 42… will he still be able to do this at 100??

What’s In YOUR Name… LARRY Untethered…

2 Comments

HURRICANE Larry… Seriously?

Yup, the big nasty blow striking the Canadian province of Newfoundland this very weekend is called LARRY.

I’ve never LOVED my name… I’ve even almost hated my name at times…

… but today, it’s like Larry has become a sad cartoon’ish character chosen as the nom de plume for anyone too embarrassed to use their real name, or a buffoon *OMG, maybe I AM well-named!*

While life gives us plenty of choices, realistically, the name we run around with and answer to every day is ONE huge decision where we have no real choice, regardless if you’re a democracy-devotee or a commie-lover.

To be named is the very first life decision after we pop out. It’s made on our behalf and we aren’t included in the discussion (hmmm… seems circumcision came in here too!)

Sometimes I wonder how many children born into this world were NOT called Larry because one (or both) of their parents said, “we can’t call him that, I knew this Larry (“me”) once, and he was a jerk-off, absolutely no child of mine will be called Larry!“.

Have you ever thought that maybe… maybe… you were given your name because it was the only one that your parents could finally agree upon that didn’t have a rotten smell associated with it? YOU may have been a big post-coital compromise…

Frankly (Frank, there’s a good name!), some names are just better than others…

Some good ole WASP male names that command respect? Grant, Atticus, Gregory, Arthur, James, Charles, William, and even, finally… Lawrence.

Lawrence is my REAL given name. Larry is usually a shortened version of Lawrence or something spelled similarly like Laurence. Hail Lawrence.

Lawrence has heft and dignity and commands respect… think Lawrence of Arabia (T.E. Lawrence), Lawrence Welk, Laurence Fishburne, Laurence Olivier, Lawrence Gowan, would you believe Yogi Berra’s real first name was Lawrence?

Larry and Lawrence are names of the past.

You would be hard-pressed to find a child born in the last 30 years, named Larry at birth. Can you think of even one?

And yet… right now, on any typical week in the past few years while watching TV, a movie, listening to an advertisement on radio… you could easily believe that Larry is the most common male name in the English-speaking world.

But, sadly, Larry is rarely, if ever, associated with a character with “character” or dignity like the ones I mention above. Nope. Like Rodney Dangerfield, I Don’t Get No Respect.

C’mon Larry, that’s an exaggeration, why so sensitive?

Fine… here are just a few samples:

Larry the Cable Guy

Larry the Cucumber (Veggie Tales)

“I’m Larry and this is my brother Darryl and my other brother Darryl” (Newhart TV show)

The Zebra TV commerical (insurance) – Larry, Serial cat-rescuer.

Robbert the Burglar in SimpliSafe home security ad… admonishing another burglar, Larry the Loser “you’re losing your touch Larry

Crash Test Dummies (Vince and LARRY) commercial…

The Three Stooges (Larry, Curly & Moe)

A few other Larry’s?

Larry Flynt (Hustler Magazine), Larry Nassar (Women’s gymnastic team sex offender), Larry Linville (Major Frank Burns on TV’s MASH), Larry Quinn (Cat In The Hat character), Larry & Steve (animated characters).

After all of this, it’s just piling on to add a hurricane to my Larry list of indignities…

But, to find a silver lining in this sad story, I suppose I should take contented solace knowing that we didn’t end up with a Larry Hitler, Larry bin Laden, or Larry Trump (close, we do have a Lara Trump).

The next time you hear my name used in vain on TV or in a movie, know that I’ll be here… to just take a deep breath, smile, and accept… again… another 15 minutes of infamy!

Should We Kill Our Fallen Angels? What’s In Your Hero Plan?

2 Comments

Slay the Heroes!

Grind them up and feed them to the swine!

COVID Round 4 is messing with my HERO Plan

Lance Armstrong, Julie Payette, Bill Gates, Andrew Cuomo, Bill Cosby, Aung San Suu Kyi … all modern-day fallen angels… have all, to greater and lesser degrees, stumbled downwards into the devil’s lair, shamefully shifted to Santa’s Naughty List.

I’ve loved and kissed the feet of them all at some point.

Surprisingly, Mahatma Ghandi, Winston Churchill, and yes, even Mother Teresa had their critics and criticisms, but checking back in our rearview mirrors, they made lasting impressions, and most folks will agree, left a positive mark on the world.

It won’t shock me if one day Barack Obama plummets from the heavens over something we uncover, a distasteful chink in his armour. Even Canada’s cancer hero,Terry Fox, had he lived long enough, would likely have crashed from some “undiscovered-til-now” weakness.

Despite all of this, I just don’t care.

I’ve said it before and will say it again… I still love heroes, frailties and all.

When I wander my local supermarket, I pick and choose *er… squish and taste* the produce that excels in the bins – the ones with the perfect Mona Lisa smiles – I don’t gather everything indiscriminately.

Similarly, when I look at choosing a hero, I select and attempt to model myself on the best of their character or performance, not the entirety of the person.

In books and movies we cherish superheroes. I’m sorry to tell you this but, Superman doesn’t exist in reality.

In real life, we only have human heroes. There are no heroes without flaws; real people who’ve tried to overcome their fears and weaknesses to accomplish something meaningful.

They may look like hapless heroes today, but they’ve given us good reason – even if only for a short time – to see them as heroes nonetheless. 

We’re all just human is an obvious expression of our fallibility, but it sums up the nature of humanity and its lack of perfection.

They say (eg. two famous John’s: JFK and the Bible, John 15) that with privilege comes responsibility… I’m hearing this over and over right now in the whole VAX debate (No, I won’t jump on this persistent itch here and now!)

I can only YODA-try to be a hero myself if I accept some responsibility. Hero’dom vehemently insists on it.

COVID days have brought a good deal of my world to a standstill… while I can’t truly solve the larger problems of the world, my esteem is lifted when I help others… sometimes only one other, sometimes 10 others.

And this is the big thing that I miss in all of this isolation. I crave responsibility with a small “r” and COVID is messing with my HERO plan.

My value, my worth, my “hero’ness” to the planet is solidified if my inherent privilege is utilized in a positive way. A selfish side-effect? My contentment increases alongside my generosity.

Like the fate of so many statues of the once infallibly fallible, let’s park our former heroes in museums of our mind, cherry-picking the best of their powers and attributes, while learning from their errors.

Almost like happy little accidents, personable heroes like Mr. Rogers or Bob Ross can lead our eyes and efforts over the lofty bar they set …

… for if we don’t have the azure sky to look towards, then what keeps us from sitting idle and letting the world merely happen to us, like dominos set in a row, awaiting our unavoidable and ultimate fate.

Right now… today… is a great time to get prepared and revive your Hero Plan.

Are You In The Prime of Your Genes?

3 Comments

A few weeks back I wrote a post about Aging, Lifespan, and Healthspan.

… at least I think I did. Or did I? Yes I did… (here it is)

I’m so forgetful these days.

How we can stay healthy as long as possible is a HUGE topic (War and Peace HUGE) and I merely skimmed the surface of this story of how and why we age.

How are you aging, would you say?

Every day there is more and more talk and research into aging as science-based technology thrusts us forward into a future with a promise of healthful longevity.

There are a number of reasons you or I might be interested in understanding aging, but for me, it’s all selfish.

I’m a one-note singer…. *Me me me me!

First of all, my parents died quite young by today’s longevity standards: Mom at 61, Dad at 73.

This would have been considered old, generations back… from the book Ageless: A 20-year-old today has better odds of having a living grandmother than a 20-year-old in the 1800s did of having a living mother.

Secondly, as an atheist who believes that an afterlife for me is a very remote possibility, I’d really like to make my life last a bit longer (no guarantees, I know) so that I can bug my family – esp. grandkids – and friends for longer, as well as see the monumental and exciting (and scary) changes coming to our world for as long as possible.

Yup, I like living.

Now, to understand the concept of aging is interesting, but truly, the bottom line is that I want to know how it can be slowed (or gasp, even reversed) so that I can have a longer lifespan than I might otherwise. Critical also is to have an increased HEALTHSPAN… the ability to live all my days in reasonably robust physical and mental health.

(OK, before I jump into this, here’s the fine print: I am not a scientific expert, but rather an interpreter. I have an interest in this stuff, so I’ll share with you what I’ve found and provide some links for you to follow if you have a deeper interest too. Also, science by its nature is incomplete and evolving, meaning that what I share today may be replaced tomorrow by newer research that sounds different. It’s science but it’s not omnipotent… )

… only I AM OMNIPOTENT (*oh Larry, get off your high horse…)

Today I thought I’d skim a level deeper by delving into just ONE of the Hallmarks of Aging.

Do you recall that I mentioned the 9 HALLMARKS OF AGING in my earlier post? NO? OK, here’s a quick summary:

  • 1. genomic instability
  • 2. telomere attrition
  • 3. epigenetic alterations
  • 4. loss of proteostasis
  • 5. deregulated nutrient sensing
  • 6. mitochondrial dysfunction
  • 7. cellular senescence
  • 8. stem cell exhaustion, and
  • 9. altered intercellular communication

This is enormously complex stuff but what the hell, let’s just leap off the cliff and dive into GENOMIC INSTABILITY as it relates to aging.

WHAT IS GENOMIC INSTABILITY?

At its simplest, it’s all about damaging our DNA (the stuff that makes up our genes) daily, monthly, yearly.

There are a lot of ways for DNA to become damaged. Just a few examples of these “gene damagers” are things like sun exposure, X-rays and CT scans, exposure to chemical toxins and carcinogens, tobacco use, and internal virus interactions with our genes.

We have lots of fix-it crews running around our bodies 24/7 replacing and repairing all the wear and tear in our genes and cells, but genomic instability is damage that the crew just can’t seem to get to for various reasons, like aging ie it’s not repaired.

David Sinclair, author of the book: Lifespan:Why We Age- and Why We Don’t Have To, states:

DNA damage accelerates epigenetic aging and the loss of information at the epigenetic level and the genetic level [causing genomic instability]. We know that breaking a chromosome is the best way to accelerate aging. We’ve done this in mice and it’s not pretty. Even just a few DNA breaks can accelerate aging. To avoid breaking DNA, try to avoid using microwaves, don’t have too many x-rays done unnecessarily, or CT scans; I think CT scans are essential, but don’t have CT scans done every year just because you’re curious what’s going on inside. That’s my view. Avoid radiation of the type that will break DNA.

The odd dysfunctional cell inside of us is not really a huge problem. But, as we get older, an increasing number of cells succumb to DNA damage and begin to accumulate.

Eventually, the number of these damaged cells reaches a point where they can compromise our organ and tissue function.

Normally, the body removes these problem cells via apoptosis (normal programmed cell death). Unfortunately, as we age some cells evade apoptosis. These rogue cells take up space in our tissue and send out harmful signals that damage the local tissue.

All these forms of DNA alterations may result in dysfunctional cells that, if not eliminated by apoptosis or senescence (loss of a cell’s power of division and growth), may jeopardize tissue and the body’s stable equilibrium. (Jones and Rando, 2011; Rossi et al., 2008)

Another possible outcome of damaged DNA is cells that mutate but do not destroy themselves. If a mutation damages the systems that regulate cell division, or disables the tumour suppression, cancer is the result.

The unchecked and rampant cell growth of cancer is probably the most well-known consequence of DNA damage.

Even chemotherapy agents designed to kill cancer can potentially damage DNA.

Finally, even if we craftily sidestep all the external threats to our DNA, the body still damages itself.

Oxidative stress produced by our metabolism can damage our DNA and mitochondrial DNA. Double strand breaks are often the result of this metabolic damage and can be lethal to the cell.

This is where the clean-up crews play their part. Humans have evolved a complex network of DNA repair mechanisms and enzymes that are collectively capable of dealing with most of the damage inflicted to nuclear DNA (Lord and Ashworth, 2012).

Unfortunately, this repair process is not perfect, and, sometimes, our DNA is not repaired. This can lead to the cell replication machinery misreading the information contained in the DNA, causing a mutation.

Many studies have demonstrated all of these genomic “damages” accompany aging.

Less DNA damage hopefully = less aging.

But here’s the big question for you and me:

What reasonable steps can we take to minimize this damage to our genes?

The simplest things are avoiding risks, such as: excessive sun exposure, industrial chemicals, too frequent X-rays, and smoking; also, stay away from radioactive waste, as there are no comic book superpowers from these mutations!

Beyond this, no drugs or therapies are definitively shown to prevent or repair DNA damage. The good news is human trials for DNA repair are well underway.

Example: there is a good deal of evidence to suggest that caloric restriction (CR) can help combat DNA damage, along with other beneficial effects.

From a 2007 American study (here): Over the last three decades, numerous laboratories have examined the effects of CR (Caloric Restriction) on the integrity of the genome and the ability of cells to repair DNA. The majority of studies performed indicate that the age-related increase in oxidative damage to DNA is significantly reduced by CR. Early studies suggest that CR reduces DNA damage by enhancing DNA repair.

Practically, cutting back our calorie consumption by about 30% through dieting or intermittent fasting is difficult, and for many, nearly impossible. as we know from all the failed diets out there.

A lot of research is ongoing into “magic pills” that have the ability to fool our bodies into thinking that CR is happening.

A 2020 Canadian study sums up much of this discussion. Compounds such as Resveratrol, Metformin (common diabetes medication), and Rapamycin show a lot of promise, but further human-based research is still needed.

(Disclosure (but not a recommendation): I take 600 mg of resveratrol daily. This is a personal choice for me based on my age and my family history. In concentrations below 1,000 mg, resveratrol exhibits anti-oxidant properties, but above 1,000 mg. may actually be a nasty pro-oxidant. It’s all about risk vs reward).

That was a lot to absorb. Are you still awake? Are you still alive?

Maybe… just maybe… you’ll cross the finish line after your Centenarian Olympics, eh?

In a future post, I’ll likely strike out into another of the Hallmarks of Aging.

Are your genes singing a song of longevity? Hopefully your inner genes are as tough as your blue jeans!

Do Astronauts Eat Cold Oats?

Leave a comment

Have you ever had a wet dream over cold oatmeal?

I know I’m a bit old for this, but I think I’ve come close.

Yes, Cold Overnight Oats are THAT good (here’s a simple recipe).

Remember last week when I said I was having difficulty in unearthing subject matter to write these posts? I will totally forgive you for thinking that this post might perfectly exemplify that statement.

OK, moving forward…

… Food, glorious food…

In the 1960’s, I grew up on simple, new-age chemical foods. The wonders of modern laboratories. Tinned peas. Astronaut drinks. Spam. TV dinners. All eaten to the soundtrack of Honey (Bobby Goldsboro) and I Heard It Through The Grapevine (Marvin Gaye).

Even babies were fed “nutritionally superior” food from a can or bottle. Women no longer needed breasts, while some of the chemicals we consumed helped men grow breasts, go figure.

When I look back on my childhood and compare it with today… well… the food choices, l’idée du moment, the sheer variety of ingredients, and exposure to ethnic foods has exploded in 50 plus years.

In the early to mid-1960’s I had yet to lay eyes or teeth on a green pepper… a dragonfruit, a passion fruit, a kiwi, a mango, a yam, sushi, turmeric, yogurt, cumin, soybean anything, wild rice, couscous, rotis, lentils, the list continues on to the horizon.

Here I am, half a century later… 50 years in the life of edibles and… food has changed BUT so have I. (A small aside: in 1960, the average Canadian consumed about 2800 calories daily, today it sidles in at close to 3400 calories per person (International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).)

For most of us today, the health consequences of what we eat is far more front-of-mind than it was 50 years ago; the impact that we have on animal life and the health of soils and eco-systems that grow our sustenance is increasingly more important to us.

Ultimately, what we eat, what we enjoy… are flavours, colours and textures that tempt our senses. While some eat to live, most days I live to eat. Sorry Socrates…

Enjoying, savouring food is one of our greatest human characteristics. The popularity of food shows on our TV’s is a pretty fair testament to our love of delicious foods and the company of those we love to be around while eating.

Time for a gustatory journey…

Let’s go on a small time-travelling tour of the evolution of my food half-century and peek in at some of the changes both to the world I live in now and how I too have changed.

CAUTION: Some of the things I once consumed are a bit scary… PSYCHO of the Cuisine Scene!

13 of My Favourite Foods of 1971 and 2021

.

1971

  • 1. Peanut Butter and Jam sandwich on white Wonder Bread
  • 2. Chicken à la King
  • 3. Sweet & Sour Chicken Balls with Egg Rolls
  • 4. Roast Beef with Oven-roasted potatoes
  • 5. French Onion Soup
  • 6. AlphaBits cereal
  • 7. Lipton Onion chip dip
  • 8. Tang orange drink
  • 9. Spaghetti-O’s
  • 10. Jello 1-2-3
  • 11. Cheese Fondue
  • 12. Tuna Noodle Casserole
  • and my all-time favourite 13. Tomato Aspic (YUK!)

2021

  • 1. Peanut Butter and Banana on Crusty Whole Grain
  • 2. Chicken Rogan Josh
  • 3. Steamed Dumplings and Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry
  • 4. Moroccan Tagine
  • 5. Squash Veloute
  • 6. Cold Overnight Banana Blueberry Oats or Bran Flakes
  • 7. Tangy Mango Salsa with Tortilla Chips
  • 8. Freshly Prepared Fruit Salad
  • 9. Pasta E Fagioli
  • 10. Fruit Pizza
  • 11. Chicken Enchiladas
  • 12. Seafood Paella
  • 13. Greek Salad

Back to the future: It’s almost as if I’ve returned from space after 50 years like a modern-day Marco Polo with a cargo bay full of new, pungent spices, and fresh produce, and a lot less chemical additives.

Going forward, I think I could be happy blasting off to Mars with Elon, exploring the cosmos but only so long as I can take along my cold overnight oats (and lattes!) and leave the Spaghetti-O’s and Tomato Aspic behind!

Older Entries