A Premature Grandpahood

(Editor’s note: My second newsletter, send on Feb. 2, 2019.)

Welcome back! Hoping wherever you are, that you are safe and warm.

What I’m Reading

As a high school senior, my younger son Kelly started to suffer increasingly violent migraine headaches, first in conjunction with the ulcerative colitis that was diagnosed a decade ago, then scarily calving off to become their own awful thing, some stretching to 4 and 5 days’ duration. Their intensity was frightening. Kelly and I had a 1-to-10 pain ranking to help us understand what he was experiencing, and he often reporting being at 7 and above for entire days.

It absolutely decimated his senior year of high school ― he missed more than 60 days of school, sometimes entire weeks at a time, and it never relented for more than 2 weeks between episodes. My wife Virginia and I are convinced the only reason he graduated was because the school administration didn’t want to deal with us again. (Despite all the disruption, he persevered and was accepted into several colleges.)

We searched for help, and found surprisingly little that was effective. Eventually the headaches eased, due to some combination of diet (dropping a lot of sugar and dairy), medication and his physical maturation. He still gets some, but the occurrence is monthly, not weekly, and they no longer land with the oppressive violence of those high school ones.

Which is a long way of saying that we’ve always thought that what goes on in the gut gets expressed and has consequences elsewhere in the body. And a recent New York Times story backs that up. One paragraph sums up the emerging work:

Research continues to turn up remarkable links between the microbiome and the brain. Scientists are finding evidence that microbiome may play a role not just in Alzheimer’s disease, but Parkinson’s disease, depression, schizophrenia, autism and other conditions.

There’s a lot of research aimed at how to resolve the damage caused by this raging microbiome. Some studies points to the efficacy of fecal transplants as a way to introduce “better” bacteria to the gut. It sounds gross, but apparently it’s effective. 

//

“There’s so much so in sorrow.”

Those were among the last words of 77-year-old Felix Mort, and the introduction to The Atlantic’s fascinating piece on how people communicate as they die. (I know I promised a lighter Volume 2, but hang with me here.)

The stories and images are fascinating. Among the insights: Experts say that dying people speak in metaphor ― which is scary for those of us who lean pretty heavily on metaphor currently (or maybe I’ve been aware that I’m dying for a very long time).

Also, they share that exhausted people near death are likely to communicate without words or in very short word groups toward the end. And that, as their energy wanes, the last sense that remains is hearing, which rings true, and remains a lesson, for me.

I had an aunt who slipped into a coma after surgery to remove a brain tumor. We’d gather around her in the hospital and talk. Sometimes there were conversations about what would happen if she didn’t recover. 

When she did awake from the coma, she told us that even when she couldn’t act or react, she could hear, and she didn’t appreciate everything she heard.

Gulp. 

None of us from that room will ever make that mistake again.

This also reminds me of a 2013 book, The Top 5 Regrets of the Dyingby Australian palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware. The most common regrets, Ware says, are:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Regarding the first one, she writes:

This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

The ministers at my church spoke about these five regrets in a message series back in 2013. Here’s the first one, from Rev. Ken Beldon. They’re all great.

//

I’m far from the only person losing faith in Facebook’s interest in treating individual’s privacy with respect. Rather, the evidence of the last few years is that the company will do what it can to leverage access to people’s phones to collect as much information as is physically possible, even if it means disguising the depth of the collection and its own role in it.

The latest case in point, from Techcrunch, explains Project Atlas. Facebook, acting through three proxies to hide its involvement, offered a monthly fee (up to $20, in the form of an egift card) to people between the ages of 13 and 35 to install software on their phones to report activity from their phones, ostensibly as social media research. Those who downloaded the app essentially handed over everything they did on their phones. As a security analyst who looked over the code said:

“The fairly technical sounding ‘install our Root Certificate’ step is appalling. This hands Facebook continuous access to the most sensitive data about you, and most users are going to be unable to reasonably consent to this regardless of any agreement they sign, because there is no good way to articulate just how much power is handed to Facebook when you do this.”

The day after the story broke, Facebook pulled the app while Apple said FB had misused a developer program to skirt Apple’s App Store guidelines and actually pulled Facebook’s ability to work around the App Store. Good for Apple, which had its own problem when a coding mistake allowed people to spy on others using Facetime on Macs, iPhones and iPads. Good grief! And in Forbes, a story about Facebook’s efforts to enable kids to spend their parents’ money without consent. This bullet point in a Facebook training memo sums it up well: “Friendly Fraud – what it is, why it’s challenging, and why you shouldn’t try to block it.” (Editor’s note: bold emphasis is mine.)

//

Some bulleted sports points for those interested.

Super Bowl:

  • A prediction: Patriots over Rams, 34-28. 
  • How: Bill Belichick neutralizes Larry Donald and the rest of the Rams defense can’t take advantage. 
  • How 2: Tom Brady sits in the pocket late in the game and does that Tom Brady thing. 
  • Impact: Eagles fans appreciate just how pivotal the Brandon Graham strip sack was, as seemingly nobody ever puts Brady on the ground late in the game.
  • If you’re only interested in the commercials, you’ll apparently see a lot more women, says Ad Age. OK, maybe not “a lot,” but definitely “more.”

Sixers:

  • If you can trade Ben Simmons for Anthony Davis, you do it. But that’s really unlikely. And Ben seems to be turning a corner around consistent effort and asserting his will.
  • I was really concerned the Sixers would end up in a first-round playoff matchup with Boston as the 4-5 playoff seeds. With Indiana looking fatally wounded by Victor Oladipo’s injury, that’s looking much less likely. Sigh.
  • I started a skeptic, but Landry Shamet is a legit rotation guy in the NBA. Brett Brown is figuring out how to use him. To me, Shamet should be the reserve combo guard, taking on point duties when Simmons leaves the games and getting the rest of his minutes as backup to J.J. Redick. T.J. McConnell should return to what he needs to be on a good team, an 8- to 10-minute change-of-pace/adrenaline shot when the team is in the doldrums. And you must avoid T.J.-Ben lineups; the team is a disaster offensively with those two on the court at the same time.
  • Truth is this is a four-player team, and the crazy thing is 36-year-old J.J. Redick is one of them. Even crazier, he may not be the least-important. His ability to draw defenders is about the only thing creating any space for this team in the halfcourt (Shamet’s hot streak has created a bit of this on the second team).
  • I want to see Zhaire Smith and Markelle Fultz back on the court before the team makes any decisions about trading them. They both conceivably could help with on-ball defense against wings, which is where the team is most glaringly thin (it’s Jimmy Butler and … well, Butler).
  • If the Pelicans trade Davis and go into tank mode, E’twaun Moore is an interesting guy to consider pursuing. I’m not up to move heaven and earth to add Jrue Holiday.
  • Thursday night’s win over the Warriors was a bit flukey, but a great directional signal for where the team is headed. 

Phillies:

  • If Bryce Harper is really coming, announce it already.
  • If the over/under on total money is $290 million, I’ll take the under.
  • It’s a good signing whatever it costs. The outfield is a mess.
  • Who bats before whom between Harper and Rhys Hoskins? I’d try Harper-Hoskins first.
  • I recently have heard Harper called a five-tool guy. Other than the big bat, what are these other tools? A razor? He was an uninterested outfielder this past season, has stolen six or fewer bases in three of the past five seasons, and has finished two of the past three batting under .250. He’s an impactful bat hopefully heading into his prime, which is worth a lot of money, but he’s not Mike Trout.

Thanks for reading and to those who reached out with feedback, thoughts and invitations. I’m happy to pick up the conversation and available at 484-751-7795 and kevdonahue@gmail.com, and on Twitter as @kevdonahue. Let me know which parts you liked and which parts you didn’t.

Till next week, stay warm and safe!

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