Expiration Date

Expired milk, dated February 5, 13

We all have an expiration date. It’s not public like those on milk, meat or medicine.  We don’t know what that date is, and, despite a few exceptions, there aren’t many clues.

We can look at mortality tables and sort for age, income, race, education, hereditary risk factors, geography, smoking status, BMI, you name it. You can see gross patterns, but that doesn’t give you an idea about an individual.

You know, the obese, diabetic smoker who had two heart attacks and continues to cantor at her church into her late seventies? Or that amazing teen baller with an undiagnosed heart hiccup–undiagnosed until he dies on the court that is.

Even people with what have been considered death diagnoses can beat their odds. See, for example, Stephen Hawking. See also, for the converse, Iron Man Lou Gehrig who played every game for 17 years with the Yankees before succumbing to ALS at 37.

We know of non-smokers dying of lung cancer and heavy smokers living a long life. A brain aneurysm can strike at anytime, and don’t get me started on accidents.

30,000 people will die in a fall. 33,000 in a vehicle. 38,000 will be accidentally poisoned. Some people will get hit by a bus. Some will be caught in the crossfire from a shooting. Some will simply not wake up. Nobody knows why. And nobody knows who. Or when.

Like in finance, past performance does not necessarily predict future results. Bottom line, we’re all going, we just don’t know when.

On the way to going, people get sick. Could be a cold, hypertension, zillions of different infections, heart disease (the #1 cause of death), auto-immune diseases, cancer, muscular degenerative diseases, I dunno, look it up. Lots of ways to get sick.

And when people get sick, they are not necessarily debilitated. People can have cancer and undergo treatment while minding their families and being productive at work. One colleague went through weekly chemo treatments for breast cancer for months and only she and our boss knew. She soldiered on. And anyway, being sick–even a very serious or a chronic condition–doesn’t equate with mental incapacity.

So, I’m wondering, why does anyone need to know intimate details about a President’s health? We do know that the sickly Franklin Roosevelt died in office, during his FOURTH TERM, after leading us through the Great Depression and a pretty big War. And did the maladies of John Kennedy make him a lousy president? Would we have landed on the moon if people had a copy of his physical? I don’t think that the Constitution requires our president to wrestle bears or chop wood or ride horses to be leader of the free world. Really they just need to be 35 and born in the U.S.

Journalists, and others, have been hankering for more information from current presidential candidates about their health. But stepping back, what does that tell us about their policies or decision making? Pretty much nothing. It’s a snapshot in time. It doesn’t stop a heart attack. [Ask former one heartbeat away from the presidency VEEP Dick Cheney.]  It doesn’t stop a bullet. It doesn’t stop the effects of Alzheimer’s before it’s detected. See also President Reagan who was reelected after being shot.

The out of proportion focus on medical records is ultimately an ableist point of view. It doesn’t recognize that people with different abilities, different health profiles and different health risk factors can be effective leaders, too. I think it’s a huge stretch to argue that someone so sick that they wouldn’t be able to perform the duties of the presidency would pursue that responsibility.

But even if they did, we have an entire process to manage it. It’s called the 25th Amendment to the Constitution. It clarifies all sorts of presidential succession issues and even allows that if the VP and the Cabinet believe the president is losing it, the VP can temporarily take over as Acting President. If they have a fight, because the president disagrees, Congress makes the final call.

So we got it covered. It’s all good. Move along. There’s nothing to see here. Just a bunch of much noise about nothing.

P.S. I’m looking at the data from CDC, turns out that 57,000 people in the U.S. will die of the flu and pneumonia each year. Get your flu shot. It just might help.


RIding a bike down Pennsylvania Ave with the Capitol ahead.

So I dumped my bike to avoid a big accident. For those of you with a more mortorized view of dumping a bike, it wasn’t that.

We had a glorious Sunday ride down to do an explore of the new museum. Yes, that one. It was a great late summer day with a breeze, sunshine and better than bearable temperatures. The bike path was full of cyclists and walkers. The route is an easy five miles to the museums with minuscule change in elevation. It’s not a work out, it’s like being a little kid locomoting yourself. And ringing your bicycle bell. I did that alot. The bell ringing. The Spouse got a little tired of it.

I felt like I was flying, like when the kids take off with E.T. Didn’t you always think you could do that? I pretended to race, mostly my shadow. I sang songs from last week’s concert. I went down a hill and said, “Wheeeee!” Outloud. I really did. The Spouse gave me a look for that, too. The Spouse is a much more serious cyclist than me. I slow down his vibe. He’s a good sport that way.

I took in the sights along the bike trail. It’s one of the paths that got built next to railroad tracks. For us it’s tracks that run Amtrack, CSX and the subway. Sometimes you can even race a train. They usually win, though.

There are stunning murals along a section of a retaining wall. It looks like they gave five or six artists sections to paint. As you pedal by you can see a style and color palette that somehow flows into the next section, even though the next artist is very different. I wonder if riding your bike past makes it into a moving picture. I’m thinking Muybridge motion studies.

Also, did I tell you I got a new helmet? And I like it?

We locked our bikes up in a secret garden behind the American history museum. Ours were the only bikes. I felt like a Washington insider. Okay, maybe my standards for insider-status are low. No matter. We walked through the construction site of the new museum, but that’s all I can tell you. It’s a secret. Then we rode back home.

We stopped for libations at the pub at the top of the hill at the top of the trail. I’m not kidding, the chips for the nachos were so fresh. And not just because they were good with the hopped beverage. They were special. It was like everything was special on this adventure.

I walked my bike up to the crosswalk so I could cross to the other side of the street and then over the bridge and then the three remaining blocks home. Nobody was coming on the right. Nobody on the left so I stood on the right pedal and pumped my foot down to scoot across the street. As I did, I saw a car coming over the bridge.

The bridge has a decent arch. There’s a light on the other side, but cars come flying if they get a go-ahead green at the intersection. Drivers can’t see you until after they crest the arch. And then, almost immediately, there’s the crosswalk. I didn’t like the future I saw, so as I was accelerating with my right leg, I used both hands to pull hard on the brake levers. Pulling as if my life depended on it.

The mixed messages of stop and go caused my front tire to rear left, almost like a horse. Except I don’t ride horses, so this simile might be overdone. But my bike did throw me. Fortunately, it tossed me to the sidewalk. Out of range of the car coming over that bridge. The driver sped by without seeing me.

There were cries of concern from the restaurant’s patio. Two women came to the edge of the space to see if I was hurt. I was a little scraped up. One of them thought that I should take a breather. I told her I was fine. Because I was. Better to have a skinned elbow and knee than to be hit by a car, I always say.

I dusted myself off to witness a most obscene exhibition of road rage. A group of five or six students were walking in the cross walk–the one with the metal sign in the middle reminding drivers that they must stop. A driver jumped out of his car and began yelling and cursing at them. He left his car door open and delivered an over-the-top berating, jumped into the path of one guy and body blocked a young woman. I thought she would melt on the spot, or turn to stone. The people on the patio were no longer looking at me. They were wide-eyed at the new spectacle. Busy afternoon.

I was shocked out of my absorption with my own bike dumping experience. Looks like someone was going to get hit with a car. Overall, I’m glad it was the undergrads being pummeled by  angry words. I adjusted the front tire of my bike and gingerly made the three minute trek home to ice my elbow.