We’ve been hearing a lot about sharks lately, especially as sightings on Cape Cod Bay become more frequent. People in Massachusetts are worrying about it even though hardly anyone is injured or killed by sharks. We would do well to worry about a much more imminent danger.
It has been estimated that 80,000 people died of flu in the US during the 2017-18 season. Many others did not die but were much sicker than they might have been if they had been vaccinated.
According to the CDC, the flu vaccine reduces the odds of getting the flu by about 60%. But, of course, that total varies from year to year and among different groups of people. Still, it’s a significant number. And yet, too few get the flu shot. Click here for more information from the CDC.
For all adult age groups, flu vaccination coverage estimates in the 2017–18 season were at their lowest levels compared with the seven prior flu seasons. For the 2017-18 season, flu vaccination coverage increased with age, from 26.9% among adults 18-49 years to 59.6% among adults ≥65 years.
I got my flu shot on Friday at CVS, and it cost me nothing (Insurance coverage). For seniors (I do not recall the definition of “senior”), they give the higher dosage. I’ve done this every year since the flu shots came out. In my experience, there is no pain, no soreness, no side effects.
I suggest that, this year, all of you do the same.
Our Tech Guru and Creative Chef has been branching out into travel writing and now health advice for us Seniors! Thanks, John–
Some may question the advisability of airing this confessional remembrance to a broad audience, but Steve says that, for him, it is a story of efficiency gone horribly wrong, an inadequate reaction, and a singular event that can haunt one for a lifetime.
by Steve Goldfinger
He was in his mid-forties, comatose, febrile, and near the end. His hemophilia had caused uncontrollable bleeding throughout his body, and bacteria had infected his blood-laden tissues. A young attending, I led my team of house staff and students on rounds in our critical care area, stopping at his bedside only briefly. We had come to recognize that a huge number of transfusions had not made a difference; we could not stop the bleeding; and no new antibiotic was going to reverse the course. His vital signs told us he had entered the final stage. There was no family to contact, no friends we knew of. I commented that death was near and that no new measures made any sense. As we moved on to the next patient, our senior resident left us and went back towards the nurse’s station. We didn’t know why; nor did we ask. There were too many patients to be seen.
About 15 minutes later, he returned. “Well, it’s over,” he announced. When I asked what he meant, he told us. He had loaded a syringe with a lethal dose of potassium chloride and injected it into the dying patient’s vein. Instantaneous death occurred when it reached the heart and stopped it from beating.
I was staggered by what he had done, so staggered that I was unable to say a word. We looked at each other. The group looked at me. I could not talk, could not imagine how he could have done such a thing, could not find a way to convert busy patient rounds into an ethics seminar. Could not even reprimand him as much as I felt I needed to.
Why? I continue to ask myself 40 years later. Was I so intent on getting to all the patients that I failed to take a mandatory time out? Was I unwilling to chastise him in front of all the others? Would doing so require an explication of the moral principles he had violated? And was I capable of summoning up those principles and expressing them in an articulate way without time to recall them, reflect on them? Or, perhaps, did a small part of me completely understand what he had done and found it within reasonable, if not ethical, boundaries?
We received his report, and, a moment later, moved on to the next bedside without comment. Nor did I bring up this abhorrent act for discussion the following morning.
To this day, I am ashamed. I wonder how those students and interns regarded my silence. Did they think this was a routine rite of passing endorsed by me, my colleagues, our profession? I can only hope that, as they moved on in their training, they came to recognize the event as the horrendous anomaly it was.
But in thinking about it now, was that injection of potassium chloride very different from the morphine drip that would some day come to use…ostensibly to reduce suffering…but, so often, in amounts that terminate breathing prematurely?
After a long career in medicine, Steve has been exploring his artistic side. At BOLLI, he has taken writing courses, been active in the Writers Guild, and even tried CAST (Creativity in Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre) where his imagination made him a singular player!
Ever since they were invented, we have heard from supposed “experts” that, because they emit radiation, cell phone use causes cancer, brain damage, or any number of other calamitous conditions. But that is simply not true. The FCC has summarized a host of reputable studies which make it clear that there is no conclusive connection between these conditions and mobile phone use. And when it comes to radiation, what cell phones emit is non-ionizing and low frequency. Even with the future advent of 5G, this will still be true.
For those who would like to see material about cell phone emissions, the following two articles are very good.
No, the safety issues connected with cell phone use have to do with the fact that people continue to use them when walking, crossing the street, biking, driving, sitting in waiting rooms, or even having dinner with friends and family.
A long-time technology expert and guide, John provides his helpful hints in this monthly BOLLI Matters feature. In the comment box below, provide John with questions, comments, or suggestions for future tech items to cover.
I retired four years ago and now appreciate, more and more each day, how lucky I was to have been part of the “luncheon group.” With no specific plan, this group evolved over the course of ten years at a large Boston law firm and resulted in five of us having lunch together two or three times a week for another 35. Though we spoke mostly about local sports, firm gossip, our respective families, and current events, it was, for me, a continuing opportunity to study how very smart and very decent people behave. It was a lifelong lesson in humility. Here is just one illustration of what I mean.
The group naturally took an interest in each other’s kids, attending their plays and sports events and celebrating their successes. So, when Andy’s son Tim, then in his early 20’s, managed to land a spot on “The Apprentice,” I temporarily waived my boycott of the show and watched it. Donald Trump, the show’s host and resident ego-maniac, was apparently charmed and impressed by Timmy, often referring to him as “our Harvard Phi Bate.” I didn’t know Tim had achieved Phi Beta Kappa status, so I mentioned it at our next lunch.
“Andy, I didn’t know Tim was Phi Bate,” I said. “I knew he was smart, but my daughter Alex, whom I also consider very smart, told me her Phi Bate friends at Yale were so far above her academically, she could only see the bottoms of their feet. Except for Alex’s friend Adam, I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to a member of that prestigious group.”
There was an awkward pause, and I noticed that Andy was looking at his feet.
“Actually, I was Phi Beta Kappa at Dartmouth,” he said, almost apologetically.
I was astonished and glanced at Tom to see if he was as surprised as I was. But he also looked uncomfortable.
“Uh, I was a member at Trinity,” he admitted.
I turned to Joel, who also seemed to be ill at ease.
“Yup. Penn,” he acknowledged.
Feeling like a complete idiot, I turned at last to Stan, the fifth and youngest member of our little group. He was grinning at my discomfort.
“Dennis, it appears that you and I are not qualified to participate in these lunchtime discussions,” Stan suggested. “Our place should be to sit quietly, listen, and soak up the surrounding wisdom.”
Thank goodness for Stan.
Now, the fact that my three close friends were members of Phi Beta Kappa didn’t really surprise me. I knew that they had attended prestigious colleges and graduated from ivy law schools. I also knew that they were brilliantly accomplished lawyers who had, over the years, demonstrated their extraordinary intelligence again and again.
Joel was kind enough to note that I was the only member of our group who had managed (at a less prestigious college) to be placed on both academic and disciplinary probation in the same year. We are all unique.
During a recent summer, I was on a safari in Botswana, bouncing through the savannah in an off-road vehicle, and spent several days with a lovely English couple named Charles and Elisabeth. By day, we shared adventures observing magnificent wildlife. And each evening, as we dined, we casually discussed science fiction literature, travel, the state of the world, and how to avoid snakes while discretely relieving oneself in the bush.
When we returned to Wellesley, I found several nice pictures of the couple and wanted to send them copies, so I looked Charles up on the internet. He had failed to mention that he was the financial director of the Bank of England and had been knighted in 2014.
But he had never been a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
Dennis spent five years as an engineer and then forty as a lawyer–and sixty as a pop culture geek and junkie. He saw “The Day the Earth Stood Still” in 1951 when he was seven and has been hooked on speculative fiction ever since.
It loves the sun and is common by the roadside, spiraling up trees and across trellis grids. Poison ivy, the cousin of oak and sumac, targets my skin from across the yard. After several summers of painful blistering and oozing rashes that travel from the webs of two fingers and spread across my arms, the backs of my hands, and once to my neck, I hire people to do my spring cleanup. A rite of passage, smelling mulch and stretching muscles toned by a snow shovel; those first exquisite days of warm breezes and pink sunsets. Packing tools into the wheelbarrow and unloading bags of mulch and lime from the trunk is as far as my solstice ritual goes. I have become an observer, and I really hate that.
I am not old, but I am fragile. I really hate that.
Even with a strict regimen of double gloves and washing, using Lysol wipes on my hands and arms, the little pink bubbles will greet me the next morning. If I have rubbed at it during the night, it has marched across my forehead or onto a knee. Frequently, the rash appears like a straight line, as my arm has brushed against a leaf, or a squirrel has carried the urushiol into the mulch pile. My skin swells and burns. Wearing my old white church gloves to sleep at night doesn’t help. Somehow, I do manage to keep the plague from my mouth and ears, and other unnamed places.
Medical websites preach that the blister fluid doesn’t spread the rash, but I am not a believer. My forearms are battle scars, stopped only in mid-march by a quick visit to my doctor and five days of steroids. The gels and creams provide only minimal relief.
My dermatologist at Dana Farber exams the remains of this plague. In combination with my family propensity for skin cancers, she writes two scripts that will stop or at least mitigate any cancerous growths. Long sleeves and a higher SPF will help; a second battle that I will wage for the remainder of my days. And I really hate that.
After several summer battles for which I bear discolorations, a landscaper tells me that I am fighting the wrong plant. I have been overrun with Virginia Creeper with five distinctive leaves. My doctor makes the entry in my electronic medical records as I await a deep freeze that will kill the beautiful red vines climbing the hemlock outside my bathroom window.
“Leaves of five, which I must survive.”
Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service. She says she “hails from Woosta– educated at BOLLI.”
When referring to The Berkshires, we typically point to a group of towns in Western Massachusetts including Great Barrington, Lenox, and Stockbridge and to institutions like Tanglewood, the beautiful summer home of the Boston Symphony where they bring in hundreds of incredible students to learn and perform. There are many other interesting things to do in the Berkshires, and it is very easy to spend weeks taking in what the region has to offer. It is mostly a straight run west from Boston on the Mass Pike. Here are some of the things we did in early August of 2019.
We went to three concerts at Tanglewood. One was the BSO performing in “The Shed” which holds about 5.000. Another 10,000 or so brought chairs and food, sat outside on the grounds, and listened. The second was a trio of Emanuel Ax, Yoyo Ma and Leonidas Kavakos playing Beethoven Piano Trios in Ozawa Hall. This time, we sat on the lawn, but since we arrived early, we were only 20’ from the open doors to the hall, so we saw and heard quite well. The third time, we heard three Beethoven Piano Sonatas played by Yefim Bronfman in Ozawa Hall. It rained that evening, and, due to lightning, they shut down the lawn seating. (Indoor tickets must be bought well in advance for the more popular performances, but lawn tickets can be purchased at the last moment.
We also visited Hyde Park, NY, the site of Springwood, the childhood home of Franklin Roosevelt. His Presidential Library & Museum is about 80 minutes away. It is a fascinating place with excellent guides.
Daniel Chester French sculpted the Lincoln Statue at the Lincoln Memorial (actually he had 6 Italian brothers, expert stone carvers, do the final carving). Three plaster models of the Lincoln statue are at French’s Chesterwood Studio, a National Historical Trust site in Stockbridge. They have a wonderful tour.
The Mount was Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox (another National Historical Trust site). There are fascinating inside and garden tours.
There are dozens of good places to eat all over the area. There are also some wonderful ice cream and gelato stores. Try The Scoop and Peace Love & Chocolate.
The Berkshire Museum is in Pittsfield. When we went, they had a temporary exhibit of machines built from Leonardo DaVinci’s drawings. But even without this, it is a beautiful museum.
Jacob’s Pillow (which we did not attend) has dance performances.
The Clark Museum in Williamstown MA is a bit over an hour away. It is a beautiful site with excellent exhibits. We saw a special Renoir exhibit.
The entire area will be full of color in the coming months–and we are ready to return!
A long-time technology expert and guide, who also happens to be an enthusiastic chef, John provides his helpful hints in both areas for BOLLI “Matters.” Hmm…could there be a travel feature in his future as well?
In response to the Writers Guild prompt, “A Matter of Life and Death,” the opinion expressed in the following bit of rhyme is not necessarily that which is held by all BOLLI members.
By L. Schwirian
Sat on his wall.
Had a great fall.
All the King’s henchmen
And all the King’s Zen
Couldn’t put Trumpty
Architect Larry and his fellow architect wife Caroline live in an historic preservation home in Newton and have led BOLLI courses on architecture. Larry has been an active participant in and leader of the Writers Guild special interest group as well as serving on the BOLLI Journal staff.
As the hot summer days fade away, your BOLLI After Dark reporter emerges from her air-conditioned cave to sniff the air and check out theater offerings for the fall. After yawning through the Broadway in Boston list (all good shows but awfully pricey for touring companies), I cast my net wider and found a local theater with an intriguing 2019-2020 season.
Speakeasy Stage Company, performing at the Calderwood Pavilion in the South End, is presenting five plays and offers subscriptions from $210-$270 for all five. I often avoid subscriptions, preferring to choose my own shows. But, this season, I am tempted to subscribe.
First up is Choir Boy, a 2019 Tony nominated play written by the screenwriter of Moonlight. It’s a coming of age story set in a private school for young black men. Pharus Young longs to be the leader of the school’s prestigious choir but his talent may not be enough to achieve his goal. Take a listen to an example of the music which sets the tone for the play:
Admissions, the 2018 winner of the Drama Desk award for best play, tells the story of Sherri and Bill, two educators with a strong commitment to diversity. Their bedrock principles are challenged when their son tries to get into an Ivy League school. How far will they go to help him?
Pass Over, the 2019 Lortel Award winner for outstanding play, is described as a mashup of Waiting for Godot and Exodus as two young men of color look for a way out of poverty, danger, discrimination.
The Children, 2018 Tony Award Nominee for Best Play, is a look at each person’s responsibility to future generations. After a nuclear accident, Hazel and Robin, two retired physicists played by Paula Plum and Karen MacDonald, are living quietly in a cottage in England. A former colleague intrudes with a shocking request.
Bright Star rounds out the season. Steve Martin, playwright, comedy legend, and bluegrass performer and composer partnered with Edie Brickell to tell the story of literary editor Alice Murphy from her beginnings as a backwoods girl to her maturity as a mentor to a soldier returning from the war. Here’s a sample from the rousing score: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcPR0YFE8mc
In short, an interesting season with lots of variety. Tickets and more information can be found at Speakeasy’s website: http://www.speakeasystage.com/
Donna is a teacher/librarian, writer of unpublished romance novels, sometime director of community theater and BOLLI member. She has two fantastic faux knees which set off the metal detectors at Fenway Park.
There is a place for you on our BOLLI Matters blog! No need to feel constrained or obligated to create items for a regular feature (unless, of course, you WANT to)–just send material reflecting your interests, concerns, experiences…whatever and whenever.
No blogging or journalism background is necessary–we will happily do basic editing for you and/or make suggestions for you about whatever you send us.
(We will need a digital image and a brief “bio” statement to accompany your submissions.)
What Can I Write about?
Local restaurant recommendations
Local “Hidden Gem” museums, craft centers, etc.
Local theatre, choral, orchestral, or other groups
Local, reasonably priced “lessons” available in anything and everything from pottery to kodo drumming, table tennis, or boxing…(I’m serious about the drumming and table tennis, by the way…maybe, for that matter, even the boxing.)
Local day trip ideas
Fellow BOLLI members to introduce and feature for all of us
Other interests that BOLLI members might well share
You’ll find fellow BOLLI members who share your enthusiasm for places and pastimes as well as those who decide to try new ventures as a result of your sharing your experiences.
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SUBMIT ITEMS TO firstname.lastname@example.org
While I’ve overseen school yearbook and newspaper production, blogging was a new form for me when I joined BOLLI three years ago. It’s an easy and totally satisfying venture–hope you’ll take part by providing items focused on your interests, concerns, and experiences!
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