There’s An App For That

I took one of those online “quizzes” this morning where you fill in your height, weight, age, and level of activity, and an app comes up with a “personalized” fitness and diet regimen for you. I knew I was in trouble when the menu they provided and from which I was to select my age only went as far as 80 years.

Apparently beyond that hoary limit there is no longer any point in trying so those so afflicted might as well crawl under the covers and lie back to await the approach of the spooky guy with the scythe in his hand.

(What this actually reveals is the age of the author of the software. Someone so young they are incapable of imagining that there could be life after eighty years. )

I reminded myself that back in medical school there was a day that I ran across a brand new word in my readings. It was apoptosis. This is defined as the scheduled death of a group of cells in the body. The word scheduled seemed alarming at first. I mean, I was willing to take my chances like everybody else, but if parts of me were already programmed to perish at a certain time … what parts were they and when was it going to happen? The whole business quite put me off my feed for at least a day.

(A-pop-TOH-sis) A type of cell death in which a series of molecular steps in a cell lead to its death. This is one method the body uses to get rid of unneeded or abnormal cells. 

Apoptosis, National Cancer Institute

Not to worry, said the book I was reading. It’s all good. The example given was that when we were embryos our fingers and toes were not yet separated, but only became so when some cells between those digits passed on to their eternal reward and voila! we could now pick up a pencil and our thumbs became apposable.

A few cells die, a few phagocytes come by to gobble them up, and life goes on. (I’m not sure this is what happened with my scalp hair follicles or not, but if not, it is certain that the ones that are there are not earning their keep.)

To get back to that previously mentioned app, it also came up with 1500 as the number of calories that I was allowed to consume per day and it seemed like quite a few until I counted up and realized that there were 1266 calories in an eight ounce bag of Cheetos. And you know how long a bag of those lasts … .

So I did the only sensible thing I could and trashed the app, with extreme prejudice. It had been free to download and to enter data, but if I wanted to use it for further guidance it was going to cost me $6.00 per month as a subscription.

I thought, why pay money to something that didn’t even acknowledge the possibility of my existence? What else might they have got wrong?

You Don’t Know Me, by Madeleine Peyroux


From The New Yorker


Just look at this, will you? I have developed early signs of carpal tunnel problems in my right wrist and am forced to wear a splint to try to stave off further difficulties. And why is this happening?

Because I am a slave to my art and have typed myself right into a disease. Yes, friends, I have been sacrificing my body to bring you these bi-weekly blatherings that if printed out properly (and on decent paper) can be used to line the bottoms of bird cages anywhere in the world.

So the next time you read something I have typed in this blog, remember that I was in great pain when I did it. It is also possible that I was hemorrhaging somewhere as well.


From The New Yorker


Robin mentioned she’d heard on NPR that squirrels forget the locations of most the nuts they bury. It’s not something I had ever thought about, not for a single nanosecond. What I did know about squirrels was that they had superpowers when it came to climbing, leaping, walking tightropes, etc. I guess it seemed to me that any creature which could walk a power line like it was a six-foot wide sidewalk wouldn’t have any trouble at all locating a few acorns.

While it might be frustrating for squirrels to lose their carefully hidden nuts, it can be beneficial for other organisms. In particular, it can help the forest itself! A study done at the University of Richmond cites that squirrels fail to recover up to 74% of the nuts they bury. This misplacing of so many acorns (the seeds of oak trees), the study says, is likely responsible for oak forest regeneration.

Why Do Squirrels Bury Nuts?, Smithsonian Science Education Center

Shoot, I can do that well. Or nearly so. I could find fifteen per cent at least, I’ll bet. But that power line? Fageddaboudit.

No Roots, by Alice Merton


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