Health is the New Wealth

Even though the pandemic curve is starting to flatten, the new reality of life will be a heightened sensitivity to the cost of poor health and the value of good health.

And, like anything with value, it becomes sought after and marketed.

The cost of poor health has been clearly identified both in terms of the overall death rate from Covid-19 (over 50,000 as of the time of writing this post) as well as to who is dying from it (people with inflammatory issues due to diabetes, damaged lungs from smoking or pollution, and general obesity). I would have added age as a risk factor until this guy proved me wrong.

The impacts from both our current epidemic of bad health choices plus now this pandemic and future ones, highlight the immense cost of being unhealthy as well as the great value of being healthy.

By health I don’t mean necessarily six-pack abs and a bright smile fit for Instagram (although that indicates a controlled diet and good dental hygiene which is no mean feat), but it does mean a lifestyle where one makes better choices around their eating habits, how they socialize, and how they spend their time.

These choices make for healthy people and, from a societal and business perspective, those are the people who come with more assets and lower costs. For employers that means a person who shows up to work and can be a productive member of the team. For life outside work, that means a potential life partner who won’t be a burden on someone who cares for them.

If the 2008 financial crisis led to people inquiring about the debt burden of a potential partner, the Covid pandemic will lead to people inquiring about a person’s health before getting into a relationship.

Nature is a predator and predators always go after the weak. It thins the herd which improves the environment for those that remain. So put down that vape pen, take a run, and get to bed on time. Your choices matter more than they ever did before.

My First Day in San Francisco

View of Golden GateThe city is great, with busy streets, places to eat; and plenty of people to watch. As a small-town boy (Seattle), it is a shock at times but I am enjoying San Francisco while still missing home.

Here people move faster, are more direct (no “Seattle freeze” here), and there is a greater diversity of people and styles. As a friend said to me, “This is the home of the internet,” and that is true (for example, my office is right across from Uber and Yahoo is not far away).

Below are some more of my amateur cell phone pics.

 

St Patricks

End AnnieSFO StreetAlley Stop

Men and Women

“A woman simply is, but a man must become. Masculinity is risky and elusive. It is achieved by a revolt from woman, and it is confirmed only by other men.” – Camille Paglia

A man’s life is a series of journeys and trials while a woman is born as is – hence a woman’s inability to understand why men do dumb things. – NW Mondo

Studying for the Test…with an IV?

 

If this NYT article is correct than maybe the next generation of students in China (and hopefully India) will go through a less demeaning and stultifying educational experience (being hooked to IV’s in order to study extra hard is a priceless image of a scary future – Matrix anyone?).

Nothing beats the old practice of honing the full individual through a combination of academics and athletics. To borrow from the Japanese and our ancient Greek heritage, the “sword and the pen” make the individual (emphasis on the individual and his or her dreams).

 

Student Loan Debt: Time for Change

Student loan debt is at the $1 trillion dollar mark according to the NY Times and one of the long-term drags on the US economy. Flushed with taxpayer dollars, colleges have been increasing tuition across the board, putting students so deeply into debt that many of them are having to put off buying a car, a home, and saving for retirement.

College-at-any-cost is creating a generation of people with sometimes fancy and often useless college degrees that have little demand in the current job market. At the same time, companies are pressuring Congress and the Obama administration to loosen visa requirements for overseas professionals to fill jobs that Americans are not able to fulfill.

The solution is simple: the university system, which has remain unchanged since the Sorbonne in the 13th century, has to change. Degrees need to be rated (and paid for) according to their current market value. Computer science and medicine are worth more than sociology and journalism.

The delivery of educational content needs to change too. Drawing upon the Sorbonne example, information once had to be delivered in person to ensure that students could ask questions and that schools could reach their student population.

With current and future technology, there is less need for dormitories or for schools to require physical attendance in classes. That need does exist as education goes from the generalist BA level to a MA or research-style program. And for pre-med and similar programs that require lab work, some of that university tradition makes sense.

Don’t get me started on university sports programs. They are a multi-billion dollar waste of time, designed to satisfy alumni and the school’s financial bottom line. They are a far cry from the amateur sports programs predicated upon the ancient Greek principle of training the mind and the body

Singing In the Rain

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The weather is beautiful today but for some reason I am thinking about one of my favorite clips of Gene Kelly. It’s the famous “singing in the rain” scene where Gene is walking home after dropping off his girlfriend.

He’s so happy that he just starts singing and dancing…in the rain. Great moves by one of the greatest dancers of American cinema.

What struck me most was how Gene’s character showed uninhibited happiness and enthusiasm. That is something that no modern movie would portray. Now all of our leading men have to be unsure and “nuanced.” Some would say “whiny.”

Movies reflect the values and trends of their times, and some could say that nowadays we just know more, that relationships are more difficult; that we live in more complex times.

However, movies like Singing In the Rain were done in post-war America. Soldiers had come back home after seeing the Nazi death camps, the flood of refugees throughout Europe and Asia, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the earth-shattering changes of a new world order.

Despite all of that, simple happiness and enthusiasm were what people wanted. Perhaps because they had seen so much they knew what counted.

Middling Thoughts About 2010

I’ve been working on a social media project with a large software company which has, ironically, kept me away from my goal of a weekly blog post.

With 2010 coming to a close I just had to finish off the year with something…but what…? Perhaps noting the irony of the frontman for Boney M dying in St. Petersburg on the same day that Rasputin died (though probably not as violently). One of Boney M’s hit songs was about Rasputin.

Wikileaks had my attention in the sense that there was nothing earth-shattering about the content of the diplomatic cables except that it confirmed what the public knew or guessed about our relationship with allies and opponents. However, the over-the-top response from some politicians (Joe Lieberman) was unsettling. Instead of killing the messenger (the very strange Julian Assange who I think may be an Andorian…), focus on resolving our government security issues and not on stifling free speech.

The mainstream media seem to think that the economy is improving, voicing claims from economists that the recession officially ended in June of 2009. More of my friends are working than not so I guess that may be correct. Unemployment numbers are interesting when you take a look at them, though. Professional employees are seeing their lot improve but blue-collar workers are still suffering and I think this recession has created an underclass of permanently unemployed people (over 50, little or no education, and limited work experience beyond a single industry) that could become a long-term drag on the economy.

On that last note, this will be especially true of men who, unlike their female counterparts, are less likely to be flexible and accept the change forced upon them. Age is not the issue in so much as it is an issue of losing the spirit of youth which allows one to continually seek growth and new opportunities without looking backwards.

So with that, let’s all look forward to a 2011 filled with opportunities to grow, professionally and otherwise!

Paleo Sex

Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality is an in-depth look at human sexuality, mores, and behaviors in our prehistoric hunter-gatherer ancestors. The book is well-written and though-provoking and overturns many perceptions of human life in pre-history.

First the authors (Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha) dismantle the Hobbesian/Malthusian view we hold of prehistoric life. That is, that our ancestors lived shorty and nasty lives, overwhelmed with famine and misery.

In fact, citing studies of human remains from that time period, they found that humans were not under-developed and unhealthy but, rather, were quite healthy and lived lives of relative plenty and ease.

Hunter-gatherer males were on average, 5’9″ to 6′ tall with females averaging at 5’5″ to 5’7″. Examination of their bone densities showed very little of the diseases that came later to agricultural societies and that hunter-gatherers had better diets with a wider range of foods than their agricultural brethren (unlike farmers, hunter-gatherers could easily pick up and move on to where more and better food could be found).

Furthermore, hunter-gatherer societies were more egalitarian precisely because humans were a small portion of the total population of life-forms on the planet. As a result, there was no shortage of food and resources for these small bands of humans to fight over.

There being no necessity for ownership as we understand it now, hunter-gatherer society was marked with a more open sexual environment where woman’s sexuality was not owned by anyone else and the group ethic allowed for sexual freedom that has only been seen in human society recently in the past 30 years or so.

The authors do caution that we should not view prehistoric life through misty romantic lens. Like life in any time period, there were challenges for all people. However, they do make the claim that a pre-historic life of relative plenty and health puts our current linear view of history and “progress” on its ear somewhat.

It makes us question what we hold important now and possibly even wonder if the biblical story of Adam and Eve being thrown out of Eden may well have been an allegory of the shift from a hunter-gatherer egalitarian society to a hierarchical agricultural society.

Get Over it, Guys

Hanna Rosin’s The End of Men is a fascinating essay on the changing nature of men in American society. It is a generalized view which omits some very important exceptions  but well-worth consideration.

The primary focus is that, as women are finally making headway in the workplace, the role of men is changing from primary head of household to equal partner, or less. As men, especially in the middle and working-class bracket see their jobs change or disappear, this essay states that men have either lost their ability to navigate change or never really had the ability in the first place; essentially being a missile that cannot change course once it is fired.

The most interesting example was how women went about the college admissions process more efficiently and completely, managing the entire process while male candidates often passively followed along while their parents (primarily the mother) did all of the work.

OK, with that said, there are some important exceptions to this rule that point to an issue beyond gender in this widening gap between men and women. And using the college admissions example, we can see the root cause. The assumptions set for men’s behavior is lower than that for women. Part of that is that women were held back and so men were allowed to coast while women had to work harder to reach parity. With the recession and consequent changes in the labor force and economy, women’s disciplined approach is paying off while men are falling behind.

So what can these men do to gain parity? Well, for one, instead of hiding in macho fantasy they can truly “man up” and take a look at themselves, their true strengths, and the world around them; and move forward. Embrace reality and do what they have not done before. Be strong, loving, and wise. Just like women.