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Showing posts from April, 2015


Recently a friend came to me wanting to break his diet coke addiction. "I drink at least a six-pack of diet coke a day," he told me. "Some days as many as twelve."

Since this friend is also a medical doctor we didn't need to go into the many ills associated with aspartame use, including neurological disorders and paradoxical weight gain, or with the added phosphorus which can lead to weakened bones and kidney stones.

So I told him to drink more water, but said friend drinks no water. He can't stand the taste of it. Weird, since water has no taste. So I suggested he eat fruit. Which he said he could try. He has a huge sweet tooth and his diet includes several chocolate bars a day (in addition to the red meat and refined bread he normally eats for dinner).

I took him to the store and we bought melons and bananas and berries. I taught him how to make smoothies. A week later he came to me saying he had ditched the diet coke habit altogether, but was having 5 lit…


The other day my brother's secretary came over to collect some photos. Lizbeth is a sweet gal who's probably in her late 20's but could pass for sweet 16. We chatted for a few minutes and she told me that in September she had given birth to her second child, a daughter. I congratulated her. The daughter was unplanned, Lizbeth said. She didn't think she could get pregnant again since this is what the doctors had told her, and voila, 9 months later out popped Autumn. Life is filled with pleasant surprises.

"So Adam," she said. "How about you? Marriage and kids any time soon?"

I paused a moment. How straightforward do I want to be with this virtual stranger? It's a pretty personal question. "You know, I always thought that I'd be married with children by the time I hit 30," I finally said.

And I thought about adding a line used more than once by the world's most eligible bachelor (that is, until recently) George Clooney, when he sa…


They say you should try everything at least once, but I draw the line at heroin and homoeroticism. Just not my cup of tea. But if you want to live the proverbial full life, do as many of the following ten things as you can before your time's up.
1. Live Abroad - preferably where they speak a language other than your native tongue. This will do two things.
First, as author and philosopher Susan Neiman notes, living in another country will make you more mature. As she says, "The best way to understand your own culture is to see it from the outside. Otherwise you simply take issues for granted." Like toilets that flush, and running water and reliable electricity. It was in Brazil I learned that unlike in America Brazilians use the same bath towel for the whole week. And it's actually quite sanitary. You really save on laundry, not to be dismissed in these dry times in which we live. It was in the West Indies that having nothing else to do but study I learned to spend all …


Last week was my mother's birthday. Listening as the steady stream of Happy Birthday messages came in - first her friend Maria, then her sister Gail, then finally my grandmother called to sing her that oh so familiar song - my first thought was, how sweet. Then I couldn't help but think, how derivative! Who on their birthday has not picked up the phone to someone singing happy birthday (usually off-key, and often rushing to the end or leaving the song unfinished)? Who has not sung it herself? You say it's just the thing people do. But when did this singing to each other begin? Or like so many other things, did some pioneer first break into tune on a friend's day of all days and a tradition was born for a string of copiers to follow?

In the good book Gone Girl, the protagonist has a secret joke with her husband, Nick, about how everything is derivative. Even saying everything is derivative is itself derivative because someone else has said it before you. There is nothin…


We live in a sexually liberated age. Porn is free. Prostitution is (largely) legal. And the way we define sexuality and gender roles is changing rapidly. There are now more than just gays and straights. There are transgenders, cross-dressers, a name for every mood and varying fetish. There's even a Gender X. Did you hear about this? It's big in Germany. These "intersex" individuals no longer have to fit in the traditional gender framework, as the current two options of "M" for male or "F" for female in a passport gender field are now joined by a third option. That's right, X.

I've officially seen it all.

But it wasn't until I came across a review for the book Spinster that I read about a group that I for a long time have identified with, a group that before seeing the review I thought was made up of only me.

The book's author (Kate Bolick) celebrates the fact that she is a spinster, which for those too far removed from SAT days to…


Over lunch with my sister one day not long past, the conversation turned to the nature of personal identity. Point-blank I asked her, “Who are you?” As Dani (that's my sister's name, short for Danelle) proceeded to catalogue a rather lengthy list of her personal preferences, talents, passions and pursuits (while, it's worth mentioning, leaving out certain quirks and idiosyncrasies I knew her to have, from having known her all my life and lived with her a few years in my teens, and because we all have our little quirks and idiosyncrasies, don't we?), and as she was about to tell me her taste in music, and how it had changed since she was a teenager, my eyes glazed over and my attention wavered, but I said nothing till she finished with “Oh, and I recently discovered I enjoy Jacuzzis. Paul and I have gotten into the habit of taking them together three nights a week, four if he's not too busy with work. Always over wine. Red wine. Which Paul has. Because I don’t drink…


I first came across the term observer effect in 2001, while watching the popular and critically-acclaimed film A Beautiful Mind, with Russell Crowe playing schizophrenic genius John Forbes Nash.

As a scientific term, specifically in physics, the observer effect refers to changes that the act of observation will make on whatever (or whomever) is being observed. The example classically used is measuring a tire's pressure. The act of inserting a gauge lets out some air and thus alters the value that appears. At the microscopic level, the mere act of examining particles behaving changes the way they interact. In fact, recent research suggests that reality does not even exist until it is measured. Talk about the power of observation!

In a broader sense, we can say that the observer effect refers to the influence of the observer, who can be said to interact with whatever she is looking at. Consider that when you look at a person, a stranger even, and at a distance - say, from across th…


This month's Scientific American features an interesting article by Dina Fine Maron. "The Science of Health," addresses some of the factors involved in the increasingly earlier onset of puberty seen over time and across certain ethnic groups (whites, blacks and Mexicans are mentioned in the article).

Breast development, typical of 11-year-olds a generation ago, is now occurring in seven-year-olds and in some cases even in children as young as three. Boys too are starting puberty earlier than before, perhaps by as much as two years. This is a problem, since early puberty can set a child up for cancer and other diseases later in life.

Maron points the finger at obesity, "which appears to be the major factor sending girls into these uncharted waters." After all, in the past three decades the rate of childhood obesity has more than doubled. Yet while it is clear that obesity is part of the picture - fat cells secrete estrogen, which is the major hormone involved in p…


The Srimad Bhagavatam offers concise advice on the life well-lived. It follows here:

"Therefore the aspirant should, by steady effort,

1. establish control over the mind, which is infatuated with the objects of the senses, by intense application to devotion and the development of profound distaste for the world.

He should:

2. look upon all creatures with an equal eye,

3. abjure violence

4. and renounce all attachments,

5. practice celibacy

6. and the habit of speaking as little as possible,

7. be content with what comes unsought,

8. eat moderately

9. and dwell in solitary places,

10. cultivate tranquility of spirit

11. and friendly sympathy and fellow-felling towards all,


"The pavement was his enemy!" A line from the 1989 delightful film Twins starring Schwarzenegger and DeVito. Schwarzenegger, as Julius Benedict, delivers the line when a robber on a motorcycle tries to relieve him of his suitcase but cannot overcome Benedict's vice-like grip and comes crashind down on the sidewalk. The robber's buddy asks Benedict what he did and he says, "I did nothing! The pavement was his enemy!"

I bring the memorable line up because in November of 2012 I broke my foot. The medical term is a metatarsal stress fracture, specifically of the second digit. That's one toe over from the big one. The metatarsal bones are the long bones of the foot, the ones between the toes (phalanges) and the midfoot, those bones that form the arches of the feet and have fancy names like cuboid and navicular. Here, a picture is worth a thousand words:

Metatarsal stress fractures are a common injury related to running. Soldiers often get them, after marchin…