Sunday, January 13, 2019

Is Aerobic Exercise the Key to Successful Aging?


Like many of the commenters here, I have been working out, primarily aerobically, for over 30 years, so feel get a certain amount of 'feel good' emotions from reading this, but almost immediately wanted to say, yes, but strength training helps with the quality of life and maintaining function.

Sincerely, I have a strong bias against the world of strength training, being so gender-lopsided, too much inhabited by traditional men, but my aerobic work, when I am not including strength training into my routine, includes activities that require power and strength, the cross country ski machine and the rowing machine, respectively.

In the end, we likely get some benefits more from aerobic activity, and some aspects better from strength training, but in the end, both matter if one wants to maintain long-term well-being.


Why do so many people have problems with reports on new studies? Why do they take each one in isolation, and not form a complete picture? This article is not claiming to be an exhaustive review of all the available literature but is simply reporting on one study with some ancillary interviews. As a NY Times reader, you are likely well-informed and have read many, many articles touting the fitness benefits of one thing or another. What anyone needs to do is just fit it within all the prior reading, and understand that studies might seem to contradict each other, but that is only normal, given publication biases and statistical distributions. No single study is conclusive or exhaustive, so one needs to understand the totality of information, not just the latest article.


@samusic - They did this as a controlled study, checking levels beforehand, then randomly assigning the subjects into one of three groups. That said, the effects of aerobic and strength activity might be different in older or younger populations, or those that are already fit.

Tech is killing liberal arts



The death of the humanities and the social sciences in our current social environment is partially overblown but also disheartening. The idea that education is for making money in a career is a decrepit, poor attitude. Greater to have the ability to learn what one loves, what one enjoys, and what will help the world.

I have had different majors and interests, covering computers, social sciences, finance, and medicine, and have worked in technology for over 25 years. That said, although I enjoy my work and sometimes code on my own time, it is much more rewarding to visit museums and the arts, take long walks and workout, and spend time with friends.

My feeling is, and I think this is supported by the US's level of conservatism and inequality, that the focus on earnings is a result of Republican politics driving people down to the lowest common denominator. Yes, technology can help the world but generally it doesn't, and even more so, the fields derided and ignored are the ones bringing real value in human welfare, and if nothing else, personally enriching.


Exactly. Smart people are often liberal. Conservative thinking tends to be practical and concrete - what they experience - and not the kind of abstract thinking lending itself to academia, although some fields tend to more abstract and liberal, while some domains are more concrete. The physical sciences would be one example, but many of the other disciplines tend toward the conceptual.

Am I ‘Old’?


On the flip side, I was recently hired by a major medical center, and as part of orientation, I sat with a group of 10 or so 20-somethings. I am 58. Without leadership, when others can't decide, I usually step in, comfortable with the risk of failure, and in this case, it worked out well. By the end of the two days, I was thanked for being their leader through the various activities, but I commented, and I think they understood, I am more of a democratic leader, accepting input while directing our efforts. I was also thanked for my kindness, which seemed odd, but they explained that many older people deride them. I was quite surprised but realized later I had decided in my youth not to be one of 'those', cranky older sticks-in-the-mud, those that see the difference in youth as a flaw. I hope never to mistake those changes as bad, only recognizing that it is simply a different time, the same as when I was their age.


One hates the cliche of "You're as old as you feel!", but I certainly don't feel old, the benefit of lifelong fitness and a penchant for learning. Then again, one can't help be aware of the slow arc of age, both good and bad. On the downside, my top-of-the-curve fitness is merely average for a 25-year old. My intellect is still bright, although I rarely have a chance to test my wits, since the youngest person in our social circle is 40, and I only occasionally work with recent college graduates. Recently, many post-college locals have taken to using the pronoun sir when talking to me. On the upside, I am happy, comfortable in life, secure with a partner that loves me. I work as a software developer, fairly current in modern technologies and programming languages, but that sometimes matters little, as when a manager interviewing me says "I didn't expect someone so senior!". By some analyses, my online social profiles resemble someone in their early 30's.

In the end, one has to deal with not just with the changes of age, but often the stereotyping by others. Then again, it can certainly be an interesting point of observation, the relationship between one's abilities and the treatment by others.


I was reminded of a recent incident where I directed someone not to push the elevator buttons - our condo elevator has both the curse and benefit of closing immediately when a button is pressed - because old people need time to get in. Later, I realized that I am old to those people I admonished. I am 58, and as the article mentions, old is relative.

How to Foster Empathy in Children - Responses


I've always scored highly on tests of empathy, and think of myself as a compassionate person, but I am also very rational. I have a tendency to distrust most appeals for money, knowing that many charities are not of the highest quality and that play on people's emotions with maudlin appeals. For my spouse and I, our interests in giving are tempered as suggested. We've chosen a handful of charities to which we give regularly, and then a smaller number to which we give annually, or as needed. The last being those that deal with catastrophes and crises. My criteria for charities is, one, that they deal with issues we deem important, and two, that they are highly-rated by Charity Navigator. The latter helps filter out charities that over-advertise, spend too much on administration, or are not transparent and auditable.

That said, we are not significant donors. My spouse works as a researcher of high net worth individuals, those likely to give in the millions, not in the thousands. In the past few years, our charitable giving is both driven and constrained by recent politics. We are comfortable enough, and the election of a grifter, an artless, heartless miscreant, has allowed us to increase our giving but it also makes us concerned for our own welfare, tempering our charity.


Considering what builds empathy, I have to wonder from where mine came. My mother was upbeat and cheerful - she later turned abusive, overwhelmed with my father's death and the demands of work - and my father was smart and moral, but neither were charitable. On the other hand, my sister has always been drawn to helping professions, and although I work in technology, I have high levels ideational empathy, where one imagines and thinks about the positions of others and what might drive them. I do remember informal messages from school and from media, the adages of 'do unto others' or to 'put yourself in their shoes' seem particularly relevant. Also, the sense that quick judgment was ignorant and stupid, the habit of the mob, is very strong for me, but again, other than media or educational messages, there are no influences on me to avoid assumptions.


@fact or friction - It is not so simple. Conservatives actually give more to charity, but liberals want the government to take care of people. To us, it might seem like Republicans are cruel and heartless, but they are just unconcerned with what we see as concern for people. They are likely empathetic to people in their world, other whites, Christians, the military, etc., those that are not so important in our spheres of concern.


Goleman, of Emotional Intelligence fame, described three (3) types of empathy, cognitive, emotional, and empathic, and we differ on the degree and types we exhibit and experience. Oddly, a few of these comments have elements that show a relative lack of empathy of one form or another. Ironic, in comments on an article on teaching empathy, is the rush to judgment and a lack of awareness of others motives.


@Duane Coyle -

First, what is the lack of empathy? Just off the top of my head, I think of psychopaths, mass murderers, and cruelty. True, the exceptions are not the rule and granted there is likely great variation in actual behavior within the 'normal' aspect of the curve.

Second, empathy can be broad, covering a range of patterns, cognitive, emotional, and empathic so one could quibble about which ones are good, as well as how much is beneficial, and if at any point it becomes problematic. That said, a person unable to understand other's emotions, unable to feel other's pain, and unconcerned about the welfare of others, is essentially someone with a profound emotional disability.

The Genius of Insomnia

This article deals with a very narrow kind of insomnia, but insomnia has different causes, only one of which is likely related to creativity:

  • A mixture of habit and need for sleep
  • Excessive work and demands
  • Life stresses
  • Mental health issues
  • Inclination, i.e., night owls

Like many of us, I've had a variety of sleep styles over the years. In high school, I went to bed late, was chronically late to school, and would sleep into the afternoon on weekends. In my late twenties, driven to complete college while working a job that required hours from 4 AM, I often only slept 3 hours a night, but having to wake up that early eventually stuck my body clock to an early riser. B-school made the same kinds of demand, although now I was an early riser who often stayed up until 3 AM to finish projects. By then, I learned to just go with my needs, to go to bed when I felt like it, and to not force myself to do something I was incapable of, and rather than struggle to simply work until the desire for sleep overtook me. Eventually, married, with a spouse, I had years of solid, uninterrupted sleep, asleep almost as fast as hitting the pillow, sleeping my 'black death' of memoryless deep sleep. At some point, under great pressure at an employer, I develop sleep problems, shortened and shallow sleep. It was only when I left and found a better employer have my sleep patterns gone back to a moderately healthy form, still almost immediately asleep, but usually a decent 6.5 hours, although not my ideal 7.

Useless Knowledge Begets New Horizons

Aspects of education tie to political outlook and sentiment as well. I read of a recent study that showed students choosing a vocational program, as opposed to an academic, became relatively more conscientiousness. It has long been known that education correlates with openness, and considering that openness is one of the better personality predictors for liberalness. As well, the converse predicts conservatism, as does conscientiousness predict a conservative lean. One can see that the concrete agenda pushed by conservatives can tilt the playing field of the populace. Yes, there is a little bit of o correlation-causation circularity, but one can examine the value of curiosity, of openness, and see that much can be gained from exploring the unknown, and even the frivolous. Learning the practical is not likely to yield greater human growth, but more likely to lead us down the road to a kind of intellectual and economic serfdom, where knowledge only matters if it makes money. There are values to social science, literature, history, and art to improve both our lives and work, to provide us perceptions outside of our norm, and as the world gets more technical, it seems ever more to need an expansive view, rather than a purely technical or concrete one.

Virginia Woolf? Snob! Richard Wright? Sexist! Dostoyevsky? Anti-Semite!

I was describing the gist of this article to my spouse, reading out to her a specific passage, then tried to summarize by saying "Would you still read writers that are no longer politically correct?". In truth, some of these authors' ideas a far from what we mean by, or is used as in insult as, politically correct. But then I realized the aptness of the term politically correct, regarding the appropriateness of modern belief.

That said, in many ways, we hardly realize the people behind the words. I certainly did not realize the vapidness of Ayn Rand when I was reading her novels as a teen. I thoroughly enjoyed V.S. Naipuls Literary Occasions. unaware of him as a person. A more recent irritating author is David Foster Wallace, his Infinite Jest wonderfully written, line after unending line. I will finish it, but I have put it down once before when I found out more about him.

Then again, how many of us would turn our noses up at people if we knew of their pasts or their beliefs, particularly of men, so many such flawed human beings toward others?

The Death of the Sick Day - Responses


The ability to work remotely has both enhanced and deprived us of our personal time. In many ways, the pleasure of working from home can be wonderful, as does the ability to leave early to attend to children and then finishing up afterward remotely. Even working from home while sick can be nice if one's concern is to avoid making others sick or to hasten recovery for other types of illnesses. That said, there does come a time when one really needs to turn off work completely if one needs to recover. I've had a few of those instances, where I grew progressively worse unless I just went to sleep and took a few days.

Even then, there are many people that feel obligated to keep working, tied to their cell phones and some sense of duty. In the worst case, I am reminded of a person at a financial institution, and that person's father, a board member, had passed away. They were still taking calls during his wake, and this as not someone callous and uncaring. It was obvious the father's death greatly troubled them. I thought some people might see that as devotion, but it seemed horrible that they felt obligated to work as their father lay dead.


@Randall - It's amazing that you have little concern for all the people you could affect, from your coworkers to their families. There are people that have significant illnesses that could be harmed by you. You should read through the comments to see all the concern people have about harming others. That said, it is sad that you are in a situation, or at least it sounds like a situation, where you cannot take a sick day for fear of losing pay.


@tiddl - Typically, the flu and colds are passed hand-to-mouth, so someone who is sick only has to touch things that other people touch and those people touching their mouths to their food, to get sick. Honestly, it only takes one sick food employee to infect many, many people.

When sick, I tend to be obsessive about washing my hands, and not touching shared items like food and handles, to avoid infecting others.


@Chris - Yes, follow my same, slightly obsessive procedures, but do shake hands, and yes, absolutely right about it being kids. Once someone in the family gets sick, then everybody gets sick, including parents. In fact, it was always the parents with young children getting sick. At my previous employer, on some team meetings, it was always a bit of a laugh...

James Igoe's Reviews > Notes from the Underground

Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky My rating: 5 of 5 stars Disgusting Journey I emphathized with the character, but at some...