Posts Tagged ‘Health’

From the Editor’s Perch…

October 18, 2013

Where we talk about anything that passes through my gol’ durned mind…


Achieving Mediocrity

“When trouble arises, quickly roll up into the posture of a failure.”


            Mediocrity gets a bad rap.  Its word roots mean ‘halfway up a mountain’.  The word mediocre is used to denote moderate ability or value.  In other words, you’re right in the middle of the herd.

But what does this mean?  Well, halfway up the mountain is just above the tree line where all the grasses and flowers grow.  You’re successful enough to get fed.  There are lots of others around.  You’re safe, protected by numbers.  But you’re enough of a failure to enjoy the freedom of nursing an odd idea, preoccupation, or interest with relative impunity.  Why, no one of importance is following what you’re up to.

Prince Harry dresses up for fun in Nazi memorabilia, and he gets called on it big time.  However, mediocrities get away with this sort of misbehavior all the time.  Mediocrities come and go pretty much as they please.  It’s like having a universal passport.  If you are mediocre you have your work, and your vacation and your family and your car and boat – and your venal sins – you might even harbor a few mortal sins, plus a little free time.  You don’t have it all.  But having it all requires a lot of expensive upkeep and safe keeping.  You have a bit of everything, and no obligatory posturing.  A mediocre person can more or less just let themselves go.

Being mediocre is about as close to enjoying the perks of failure as the average prudent Joe can afford to be.  He’s neither pious, nor afflicted with chancres.  He’s neither a drunken sot, nor abstemious.  He’s neither a fool nor a genius.  If he has made any remarkable achievement at all, it might be in acquiring no small amount of common sense, humility, and tolerance for others, all the while enjoying him or herself, more or less… that is, pretty much so, and not expecting any more.  Self-supporting, procreative, relaxed and affable, the mediocrity has a lot of common, garden variety achievements to be proud of, plus a bit of time which he sometimes spends helping others, or raising kids.

If the mediocrity has any special ability, it is usually employed in a supporting role.  As they say in the halls of Congress, “There is no end to what you can accomplish here, if you don’t want to take credit for it.”  This is very true of life in general, all of which means and offers fertile soil for the mediocre and the unsuccessful.

The successful mediocrity takes advantage.  There’s hardly any other word for it.  The obviously successful are vulnerable.  There’s hardly anything more true that could be said about obviously successful people than that they need an enormous support staff… lots and lots of underlings.  These successful people need a lot of other people helping and assisting them with their work and all their trappings; helping them to get on with their lives.  The normal successful person is a virtual living cripple, honed to a razor’s edge to excel in a very narrow range of endeavor, like a supersonic jet.  They can’t be used to just taxi off to the store, or to hammer a nail, or much of anything else!

The obviously successful person is so cocooned in the frenetic network of whatever it is they are pursuing, that they rarely have the time or inclination to inquire or follow-up on wherever or whatever their underlings are doing.  It is enough that they do ‘it’, whenever ‘it’ is required.  So, whereas the successful person has to be mindful of many, many things, the mediocrity has to be mindful of only one, or at the most two.  This can be quite relaxing and the mediocrity can live a long life, while employed well enough to enjoy much of life.  And if, or when, trouble arises, they can quickly roll up into the posture of a failure, and pass as unnoticed as a “block, a stone, or some senseless thing”.

As Charles Bukowski, the poet, advised:  “Don’t try so hard.”

Photo by Carl Nelson

From the Editor’s Perch…

September 19, 2013

Japanese Gardener1

Want a Better Character? / Find a Good Japanese Gardener


            I’m not a big fan of “If it bleeds, it leads,” psychology.

Perhaps it’s lazy thinking.  Or perhaps it’s a lack of information.  Or perhaps it’s a lack of imagination.  But it seems to me, people often rush to grasp at the largest, most traumatic historical event for explanations of the creating force behind, for an example, something like character.

To my thinking, people grow much too slowly to be influenced largely by extreme events.  We are more like trees.  A storm might break us, or topple us, or shear off a few branches – but short of that, it hasn’t changed the trees nature much.  What changes and creates our natures are slow, consistent events over a long period of time.  Perhaps this is because I’ve never witnessed a person’s character changed radically by one event – though I’ve heard stories of such.  We’ve all heard every sort of story!  But I have witnessed a bonsai, and studied somewhat their creation by the patient Japanese gardener.  And I’ve observed people.

Japanese Gardener5

What I have witnessed – as far as people are concerned – is the power of Operant Conditioning, (as I remember them calling it in my day.)   (Perhaps they still do.)  Behavioral Modification was quite the rage when I was in school.  And while it may not be in the forefront of thought today – just because something isn’t in the news, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.  Little by little and bit by bit, it seems to me, is how our character is formed and grown.

Japanese Gardener3

One of my favorite stories of my student days was of the students in a psychology lecture who would look down every time the psychology professor turned from the blackboard to address them – eventually causing the professor to avoid looking towards his audience altogether.  Of course the lecture subject was Operant Conditioning.

Which brings to mind a most fascinating fact regarding Behavioral Modification:  It doesn’t matter whether the subject knows that their behavior is being ‘modified’.

            A favorite story when I was on the medical wards was of the doctors doing their rounds for the Pain Clinic.  Studies had shown that when the patient spoke about his discomfort, it actually increased the level of the patient’s perceived pain.  So these doctors and interns, when visiting their patients on rounds, after asking the patient how they were doing that day – would turn to look away whenever the patient spoke about their pain.  This went on a couple days with one patient, until he finally broke off in mid-complaint to shout, “I know what you sonofabitches are doing.  Whenever I talk about how much I hurt, you all turn to look out the goddamned window!”


Being a dad is a fascinating business.  One of the oddest things I’ve witnessed, after a couple years of being in the job – is that your child will begin to act and do as you do.  (Sometimes bringing you up a little short, for example, as when they lick their fingers at the table.)  And even teenagers, I’ve noticed, will modify their own behavior – even if it’s in a way they wouldn’t particularly choose.  I’ve come to think that most parenting books could be greatly truncated, if they only advised the parents to ‘become’ whatever they want their child to ‘be’.  Apparently a powerful figure, (like a parent), thrives within a powerful aura of behavioral mandates, to which those around are minute by minute bent into submission.


Which brings me to the takeaway of this essay.  There are a lot of books out there explaining how to become something we currently are not; how to change ourselves.  But, it would seem that one of the best ways of ‘improving ourselves’ would be to place ourselves in a situation which bends us to be as we would like to become – especially if our own ‘will’ and ‘discipline’ is not the strongest, or if we are just lazy.  Find a good Japanese gardener.

Japanese Gardener4


I can’t think of a simpler way of creating who we would wish to be, than clustering around people who we admire.

Isn’t this just what kids do?

Photos pulled from Google Images

From the Editor’s Perch

June 10, 2013

The High Cost of Medical Care

The High Cost of Medicine

To increase the availability of medical care, we must drive down costs.   And I can’t see costs going down until medical consumers begin to shop.  Let me illustrate this with two recent examples.

Recently I had a long standing sebaceous cyst on my lower back removed.  It had slowly enlarged and gotten infected.  The surgeon said it was right on the line between doing it in the office and doing it in a surgical suite.  He would feel more comfortable doing it in the surgical suite, he said.  I have insurance, so it didn’t occur to me to inquire about the cost.

The procedure took 45 minutes of surgical time.  Billing for the hospital surgical suite use was around $8,000.  A bill for $2,000 from the surgeon arrived sometime later.  Sometime later a bill for $1,000 arrived from the anesthesiologist.  This is $11,000.  I had no idea!  After the insurance negotiated and paid their portion, I was still left with around $1600.  out of pocket expense.  This is still quite a bit to have a bump on my lower back removed.

I told my neighbor who said he was in his doctor’s office and showed him a like bump.  The doctor asked him if he’d like it removed?  My neighbor said, “Yes.”  My neighbor said the doctor recruited two nurses and they removed it right there in the office.  He paid $100.  (Whether or not this was the ‘after insurance’ payment or not, I didn’t think to ask.)

In retrospect, if I had stopped to consider the expense of the procedure, I might have done three things.  First, I might have had it removed earlier, prior to its growth and prior to its infection.  Second, I might have opted to have it removed in the surgeon’s clinic offices.  And third, I might have shopped around for a better price.  I told my son, for $11,000 we might both have flown back to Thailand for a week’s vacation, had the lump removed and returned, none the worse.  He’s currently watching me closely for another ‘bump’ to manifest.

My other example is my friend’s experience which I will give you in his own words:

I’ve had a blockage in my left ear since Feb. It was just normal wax
buildup; I tried hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide drops for weeks,
but that only softened it.

I made an appointment for the ear blockage at the clinic where my primary
physician works. They told me they’d clear out the ear canal with an
elephant wash. I asked the nurse how much that would cost, because I’m
uninsured. She said she had no idea and she would check. A day later I
searched for “elephant ear wash” on the web and found the Elephant Ear
Washer Bottle System by Doctor Easy
> . I ordered one with two-day shipping and canceled my

The appointment would have cost $300 for the office visit + treatment.

The Elephant Ear Wash kit cost $30.

It’s nothing more than a spray bottle connected to a very narrow nozzle. I
cleared the blockage in 5 minutes.

The fact that the nurse had no idea that their treatment cost 10 times as
much as a perfectly safe home treatment–and the fact that I never asked or
had to ask about the actual cost before–says a lot about the health care

And folks, there you have it.

Photo by Carl Nelson of a scene from the play, Dark Farce, by Freddie Brinster

Update: 8.22.13  –  This article in the Wall Street Journal provides more focus and information:

From the Editor’s Perch

April 14, 2013
Gravity and Overeating are the Culprits

Gravity and Overeating are the Culprits

Two Tummies on a River Cruise.  (Notice how they lean backwards against the railing.)

Two Tummies on a River Cruise. (Notice how they lean backwards against the railing.)

Eliminating Lower Back Pain Immediately!

As we age we not only lose muscle mass, but we gain weight around our midline.  As can be seen in our diagram above, this can put tremendous stress on the already small muscles of our lower back.  When they become tired or strained, we hurt!  Here’s an immediate solution.

Look at this last diagram.  See how the happy man is supporting his lower abdomen in a finger woven ‘tummy sling’.  This immediately counters the downward pull of gravity on the lever arm of his protruding stomach.  The small muscles of the back are saved from strain.  The pain goes away.  This man is happy.



Plus, the woven fingers keep him from eating more, and more….

Stay tuned for more cheap, easy to use, health tips from your Editor, (as they occur to him), right here.

And P.S.  You may try this at home.  I’ve tried it out myself!

Photo and diagrams by Carl Nelson

From the Editor’s Perch

December 14, 2012
You may drink water.

  You may drink water.



Save Twenty Dollars a Day by Fasting

Fasting is inexpensive.  In fact, I figure it’s saving me around $20/day.  And it’s a savings you could have, right now!  You don’t need a personal trainer or a gym membership.  And it’s relatively safe, totally organic and additive free.  Lots of people fast, and have fasted throughout history.  It’s a well recorded tradition and practice.  And, it’s nice to develop a gauge of how much food we really need.  (Not much!)


Fasting is easier than dieting.  You only need to say “No” once.  You needn’t hold a long, rationalizing, hypocritical conversation with each potato chip in the bag.  And fasting people lose weight without exertion.  Plus, fasting frees up a lot of time, which you can spend on a lot of other things, because you can fast anywhere, anytime, and during any activity.  You can even fast during exercise.  In fact, what’s hard is to eat during exercise.  Previously, in a piece I wrote for this column, (“Living Longer, ), I noted that scientists were speculating that fasting could possibly extend people’s lives by 65 percent.   So fasting is a powerful, organic, time saving, money-saving, fully committed, double-barreled, life enhancing, health tool!  …available to all.


The toughest thing about fasting is ironically that it is ‘slow’.  You can’t do fasting ‘crunches’ for 20 minutes, four times a day, and feel great.  It’s all about time.  Living with loooong stretches of time, which ultimately forces you to examine what you are doing with your life when not eating.  Cultures are built and organized around eating, and so are people!  When you stop eating, you are tossed out of much of what makes us (literally).  So fasting is good spiritual exercise.  When you fast, you realize how much of your life’s enjoyment is spiritual – and how much is earthly.  Mystics, hermits, and all the contemplative religions seem to value the seated, contemplative figure who appears as if through an astigmatism like El Greco’s.   Sitting here fasting, I realize on what a drab, slender, tentative, and theoretical head of a pin my spirituality actually is perched.  The mentality of fasting is like all of a sudden finding oneself in a world that is an empty room.   Where is all the fun stuff?  (Like donuts!)


Fasting is not making me a saint.  On the contrary, I can get a little grumpy.  But when you fast for several days, several remarkable things do occur.  The first is that hunger does not grow ferocious.  Instead it ebbs; it glides into the background of your activities, always there, but tamed somehow; domesticated.  Everything eats!  Even a paramecium eats.  So that when you decide not to eat, it’s as if you are standing tall and speaking back to Nature.  Fasting really takes you out of this world.


And fasting also seems to make a person more contemplative.  My body also feels lighter, and complains less.  Moving is easier.  My thinking is calmer.  If I were to judge from the way my body feels when fasting, I would almost conclude that food is bad for me!


It is hard to imagine that something we absolutely need could be bad for us.  And also it’s not hard to imagine, especially while fasting, that a cow or a plant is living in a totally ecstatic state.  A plant is continually eating nutrients and growing!  (Oh, I wish.)  Perhaps we have no idea how happy plants are?  Perhaps that’s why they’ve not further developed any urge to move?  Add another circle to Dante’s hell!  Perhaps motion is another indicator of a spiritual misstep.


These are just some of the thoughts I’m having 2.5 days into my fast:   ‘I ‘m a rock; I’m a stone.’

Photo of model by Carl Nelson


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