Bulletin from the future

I’m almost old. Sixty-one next month. But old enough for the wear to do more than show. It’s performing now. The trick to longevity at this point is to dodge the complete failure of any one of many systems that are all wearing down. Aging is fatal, and the number of single points of failure is not small. Combined ones multiply that number.

It seems like ten years ago that I was thirty. Life is short at its longest, and it goes fast, especially if you’re having fun.

Which brings me to my point. Almost.

It’s a matter of genetic luck that I’m not a drinker. A little beer and wine, but that’s about all my body can take before it says No More. Been that way since I was young. Drugs have also always been unpleasant for me. Smoking didn’t appeal in any case, but my father’s addiction to it — and the discomfort it caused the rest of us, for example when sharing a room or riding in a car — made me determined never to do it. And all those are reasons I’m alive today.

The other people in this ward, the one I’ll leave after I scarf one last free meal — don’t look so good. It’s a cardiac ward. When I walk past the nurses’ station I look at the screen of EKGs etching their green pulsed lines, one for each patient. None look good, or they wouldn’t be here. Alarms go off all the time. The patients look terrible. Even if they’re not old, they look it. One more reason I want to get out of here is to stop hogging a room that a needy patient could fill.

So I was talking to one of the nurses. What brought most of these patients here? Smoking and drinking, was the short answer. Reminded me of what a doctor friend told me many years ago. “Without tobacco and alcohol, you could close half the hospitals.”

We can’t get rid of stuff that’ll kill us in the long run. But we can choose not to indulge them.

This last week a lot of people have told me that stuff I say is important to them. Sometimes I’m called “influential”. If I can influence one young person to quit smoking or drinking heavily — for the duration — I’ll be happy.

If you’re lucky you’ll all be as old as the folks here some day. And if you’re smart, chances are you won’t be laying in a place like this.


  1. docduke’s avatar

    I’m 67, and my Father was like you indicate yours was. Mine smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish. So I have done neither. But I have another lesson to pass along to your readers.

    About a month ago, my vision in one eye went from 20/20 to 20/50 in 3 days. I was on the phone the morning after the first day making an appointment with an eye specialist. By the fourth day as things got worse, I camped out in the office until someone would see me. I was seen that day, and again 3 days later by a retinologist. The result was: no diagnosis. No tests. Come back in 3 weeks and we’ll look again. And, oh by the way, your intra-ocular pressure is above normal, but no biggy unless you also read above normal next time as well.

    I thought about that for a weekend, and went to another office for a second opinion. The second retinologist ordered 10 blood tests (66 cc of blood!) including tests such as syphilis and HIV. He really wanted to know what was causing this, just as I did. The diagnosis was acute retinitis caused by toxoplasmosis, and by the time the blood results came back, my intra-ocular pressure was more than twice normal.

    I am now two weeks into a treatment with eye drops to control the pressure (it’s now low normal), an antibiotic to kill off any active toxo, and a steroid to reduce the retinal swelling so that my eye can return to normal. It is now back to about 20/25, except when “floaters,” of which there are still quite a few, get in the way.

    My lesson is: the responsibility for your life belongs primarily to you! Not your family, not your doctor. You need to understand all you can, and if some answers don’t satisfy you, get a second opinion (or a third)! Doc, I have been reading your blog more than daily for several months now, and you are a real inspiration! I look forward to reading it for the next 50 years. 😉

    No, that time frame is not a misprint. I hope this link is accepted by your blog: Achieving a Mundane Technological Transhuman Singularity. Thanks to Instapundit for referencing the link!

  2. Al’s avatar

    Once again and as always, thanks for making us think. Sometimes we are so busy with the present we just plain forget about the future..

    Here is to your imminent recovery and departure from that ward. Your recent words as usual have been inspiring.


  3. Rex Hammock’s avatar

    As the old saying goes, let’s do what the Doc orders.

  4. Harl Delos’s avatar

    Let’s look backwards five centuries.

    You’re a suave, debonair European. You see a bunch of North American natives sticking pipes in their mouths, and lighting tobacco.

    Think about this. These are not people you consider your superiors. They run around nearly naked, they have a hunter-gatherer economy, and when your peers call them savages, you can hardly make an argument otherwise.

    So you’re going to start smoking because they do? I can’t see that white men adopted the sweat lodge en masse, nor did they start painting up their faces before going into combat. The europeans didn’t start welcoming strangers to their communities by providing them with food and lodging and a young woman to make their bed welcoming.

    So why did they start smoking? It surely wasn’t “to seem cool” or “to seem grown-up”. There was something about burning tobacco that satisfied a craving, or they’d have tried it once, and never tried it again.

    I don’t think you’re going to get people to stop smoking and drinking because you tell them it’s bad for their health. What makes you think they don’t already know that, anyway?

    Nice try, but smoking and drinking provide an immediate benefit to the user – well, some users, at least, and harm to that person’s health does not become apparent until some time in the future. You’ll need to figure out how to give users that immediate benefit, in a less harmful manner, if you want to make any kind of impact.

    (My congrats to Doc Duke, who is 67 and thinks he still has 50 years of reading ahead of him. Maybe he will!)

  5. mcdtracy’s avatar


    You have been slipped a post-it from God. It suggests: use the time wisely. Enjoy the small gift of consciousness for another day. Repeat until expiration date.

    Pray for the clueless.

  6. Suzi’s avatar

    I am so glad that you are feeling better and that your food is agreeing with you!!! I am sure that the doctors all warned you about drinking and pancreatitis. I never drank…never even liked the taste of it. Unfortunately, being diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis automatically makes doctors who don’t know me (ER doctors) assume that I drank myself into chronic pancreatitis(once they read all my history they figure it out, but they always ASSUME first), which couldn’t be further from the truth. I hope that they didn’t automatically think that of you with acute pancreatitis. More than 80% of pancreatitis attacks are caused by alcohol. A few of us get really lucky and get pancreatitis from an ERCP…(lucky us)…I really hope that this is the end of the road and hospital stays for you. Stop by my blog, or e-mail me if you would like. Meanwhile, I will pop in and read up on how you are doing. There are some great pancreatitis support groups I can share with you, if needed. I truly hope not though…and you seem to be doing well, first meal didn’t bother you, that is a GREAT sign!!!

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