A Dozen Things Learned During 2017

A Dozen Things Learned During 2017

I have come to look forward to this yearly post more than most. In part, because throughout the year when a random research tidbit, news story or point-of-interest strikes me (health related or not), I file it away. Then as the New Year approaches, I am pleased to review them all again. It’s fun, and additionally it’s nice to know that none of us ever stops learning. General learning and knowledge are vital augmentations to quality aging. With that in mind, here are some of my new miscellanies acquired during the past year. See if any of these topics make your list.

1. Tikka

Numerous prepared dishes are popping up in the stores, labeled as vegan and as ‘tikka.’ I wondered if it was a vegan product, but no. Tikka (sometimes spelled differently as Teeka or Teekka) is a south Asian food, often associated with Punjabi cuisine. Made from a mixture of aromatic spices, it’s frequently combined with yogurt or cheese. Some popular dishes like chicken tikka are made in a tandoor. Trader Joe’s has made it popular of late, and it seems to be a great way to ‘spice’ up a vegan or vegetarian diet, but is certainly not restricted to that type of eating. Since I love paneer, I want to try paneer tikka. [Did you know that paneer is the cheese part in “curds and whey”? I used to make it, but be aware that it is quite a bit of work and significantly more attractive prepared professionally.]

2. Brown-nosing

The phrase “Brown-nosing” alludes to Dante’s 8th circle of hell reserved for fraud. Flatters in this level are doomed even beyond murderers (in circle 7 – violence). Presumably, the repercussions of fraud (including political sycophants) are far more damaging to the world than confined cases of simple violence. In addition to the ‘circle’ levels, Dante also imagines multiple divisions of both 7th and 8th circles. These sections are described as ditches and called “bolgias.” The doomed flatters at circle 8, bolgia 2 must stand in excrement; often described as “fitting” for the “bullshite” that comes from their mouths.
At least the Brown-nosers have it more comfortable than those down further in bolgia 5 of circle 8. This area is earmarked for those who, in life, were downright corrupt politicians or did nothing good in public office. Standing in excrement sounds unequivocally pleasant compared to their punishment of being buried head first with flames burning their feet. Yikes. You might guess otherwise, but this topic was inspired by Sucking Up: A Brief Consideration of Sycophancy (a book that might give you reason not to be so nice).

3. Air Plants

OOOPS. After putting a gift together for a friend that included an air plant, I learned that these plants actually DO need care. Chances are, I am not the only one who thought (without too muchthought’) that these plants were able to suck moisture from the air (especially in kitchen or bath) and do fine, as long as they had sufficient light. Well, not exactly. They might continue to live that way – in some shape – but they prefer a bit more assistance. Each month if you dip the plant in water (best if it can soak for 20-30 minutes or more) and then drain on a paper towel, it will thrive nicely. The key is to notice the plant’s appearance after the soaking to evaluate how the plant should appear. [Tongue-in-cheek, I wanted to compose that last sentence a bit differently, but wasn’t sure everyone would appreciate the humor. So to repeat the directions another way, and to amuse myself – “After soaking, look at the plant’s look – that is what it should look like – keep a look-out for its looks to change, and water if it starts looking bad.”   ]
Occasional spray mist will allow for much longer wait time between the periodic dunkings. To consider why plants matter, and for a look at shocking research regarding plants and our health, revisit  Are Houseplants Fun? Decorative? Or a Longevity Asset?

4. Gum Chewing – advantage?

I am not a fan of chewing gum. I can offer up several reasons why it isn’t good for us. Wisely, those with TMJ disorders rarely consider it due to discomfort. Still it seems I may have missed one benefit. I still resist the habit, and for the time-being maintain my existing beliefs. However, a study from the Cardiff University in Wales is chalking up a check mark in the advantageous column. Testing individuals for memory and focus, they structured a study demanding recall of random numbers. According to the results, those chewing gum were both more accurate and quicker in their responses than those not chewing. Whether you accept it or not, it is something to chew on.

5. Wabi sabi

If you have remodeled your own home or studied interior design this term may be familiar to you. It’s an Asian artistic style, based on balance and harmony. Woodworkers understand that part of this balance comes from the ‘spirit’ of the wood, and the aesthetic living elements it maintains throughout its conversions from tree or plant to products. I doubt that anyone would claim wabi sabi exists in lead pencils or reams of copy paper, but when looking at a handmade wooden craft or fine piece of furniture you can almost feel it. Perhaps the love that goes into these items makes the difference. Three words often used to define the style may feel descriptive to some of us regarding the balance of life in general: imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.
In keeping with Aging with Pizzazz, I’d like to quote comedian, Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) from his book Good Clean Fun: Misadventures in Sawdust at Offerman Woodshop. Nick says his sensei (Shozo Sato) defines the Sabi part of Wabi Sabi in this thoughtful way:

“Sabi: The patina of age that produces richness.
It is a state of perfection
that has to do with ripening, maturing and acquiring a patina
that can come only with time. “

6. London Fog

Not the raincoat. The London Fog of 1952 wasn’t just a weather phenomenon. It was 5 deadly days of industrial toxic smog. Records that previously stated approximately 4,000 people died from the “Killer Fog” or the “Great Smog of 1952” now show over 12,000 people died from linked consequences.
When a high-pressure air mass landed over the Thames River Valley, cold air became trapped. Combined with lower temperatures, it created an unusual, but not deadly, situation. Because of the cold, residents burned extra coal in furnaces – hence more soot, smoke and sulfur dioxide. Not good. However, it was industrial plants in the area that exacerbated the menacing situation. During many waking hours of the 5-day multi-source disaster, no visible sunlight was present. A deadly dusk. Eventually (on December 9th) winds blew the smog away.
Ironically, and before the relief, a reportedly unassuming man, John Reginald Christie, offered women respite during this stressful and dark time. He turned out to be a serial killer who slayed 8 women. Over time (and even then), attention concentrated on Christie and his salacious deeds leading to these 8 deaths. Yet more than 12,000 people died from the other man-made evil. This manufactured toxic scenario seems relevant to our collective, on-going learning curve – a learning curve which dips down as often as it rises. For my own learning, I had heard of Christie, but was unaware of the massive level of industrial smog most responsible for all these deaths.

7. Fancy Restaurant names and accouterments

No matter whether it’s spelled correctly or not, many people pronounce restaurateur as if it were an extension of the word restaurant. Well of course they do; why wouldn’t they? Yet, ‘Restaurateur’ (pronounced res·tau·ra·teur \ˌres-tə-rə-ˈtər) is neither spelled with the ‘n’ in restaurant nor said that way. I admit I rarely use the word, but if I do anytime soon, hopefully I will say it correctly. I suspect I would not have – at least not before it was ‘spelled out’ for me. And now, more informed, I suspect I will just try to avoid the word altogether.

8. Truth about Lakes from Phony Emails

Does Canada have more lakes than any other country in the world? You may have received this question in one of the many group emails touting geological wonders. Is it accurate? Actually, yes. Canada has more than 3 million lakes. [Ontario Province alone claims to contain 1/3 of the world’s freshwater in its 250,000 lakes.] Another assertion is less certain, namely if Canada has more lakes than the rest of the world combined. Many of the resources are estimates. Still with approximately 307 million lakes in the world, some references estimate that 59% of those lakes ARE in Canada. Sounds like it might be more than the rest combined. Thus, Canada has a lot to be proud of here, and the information is likely accurate.
On the other hand, what about the claim regarding Ohio lakes – namely that ALL Ohio lakes are shamefully man-made, none a natural water body. Is that accurate? Hardly. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources found itself responding over and over to this inaccuracy. They complied a list of natural lakes in Ohio, showing 110 in number, some quite large. [Not to mention that glacier-carved Lake Erie borders Ohio as well.] For more on lakes see a US Geological survey: https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/fs-0058-99/. Just another reason to ‘question’ what drifts your way across the great lake of the Internet.

9. Mini Lobster? Big Shrimp?

Spot Prawns” are not the ingredient in your normal shrimp dish, nor typical prawn recipe. Not common, even if you are a Pescatarian. These special spot-prawn creatures are available on the dinner plate only a few months of the year. They can be found in the waters of Alaska down to San Diego. But because they tend to explore very deep waters, they are not easily fished. Before you wonder about sustainably, let me address it. Generally because they are hand-picked from traps and fiercely monitored in season, the ‘fish’ remains sustainable. The number of vessels commercially harvesting is limited, as are the number of traps that can be set. Females with eggs must be returned still-alive to the ocean, and populations are monitored to make certain stocks are plentiful for coming years. No surprise, the labor-intensive method of harvesting makes the tasty little critters quite expensive according to my pocketbook.
Evidently, most people (like me) think they taste more like lobster than shrimp, and are often presented that way on the plate, spread in two like a cracked lobster. They can also be eaten raw like sushi. You might hear that people sometimes fry the heads (yuck). All I suggest is that you never ask for whole pawns to be prepared by ‘deep frying’ – a request I overheard. I felt sad for the horrified waitperson who hesitated before conceding, saying ‘we could make that happen,’ and while clearly trying not to grimace.

10. Dog Days

Don’t think about a special event at the local dog park offering the finest in organic dog biscuits and bath pools for barking companions, but instead think of the childhood term – ‘dog days of summer.’ [It’s kind of nice to think about that right now in the 3-dog nights of winter.] In context, I always understood the dog-days term to mean hot, uncomfortable, sultry days of summer, especially in July and August – a time of slow activity and stagnation. Dogs panting on the porch? But I didn’t realize that the term originally referred to the ‘dog star’ Sirius. It is the time of year when Sirius arises before the sun (usually starting in July). Historically, a time when Greeks and Romans made the connection between mad dogs and other unpleasant things stemming from this weather, like drought, heat, lethargy, weather related disease and fever, destructive storms and even all-around bad luck. When you look at it that way, our more modern dog days of summer don’t sound half bad.

11. Age of Cancer

Luckily, I am not proposing our current times are an ‘age of cancer.’ It is good to see how many types of cancer are commonly controlled. No, this is a question asking how old is cancer itself; how long has it been around? Yes, of course the short answer is a “long time.” We have all heard about Roman and Greek findings, which describe the disease in detail (hopefully more accurately than their dog days). But this year, in a well preserved fossil, there was a particularly interesting discovery. A bit of a rarity in fossil literature – a cancerous tumor was found in a 255-million-year-old beast. Gives the monster a bit more respect in the overall picture – cancer not the fossil creature. [Incidentally, speaking of cancer-ridden creatures, did you know that most mice, some of the tiniest of our yeek-creatures, die of cancer?] It’s to our credit that we have progressed at all against such an eminent and ancient foe. Yet, the age of that foe still remains uncertain. Apparently, it’s older than we dreamed (in our nightmares).

12. National Parks Quiz

If you don’t already know the answer to this question, take a guess. Which state do you think the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is located within? Florida, South Carolina, California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado or Arizona?
Its uniqueness is worth a visit for sure, and there are several other unusual sites within driving distance of the area. The answer is Colorado. Okay, I admit that I knew this BEFORE 2017, having visited it once. Still, I did learn something new and related. On a short-driving trip, I recently and unexpectedly saw sand dunes in an area of Oregon that I didn’t expect (amongst large pines and cedars). Although significantly different in location, environs and size, it made me think of the Great Sand Dunes national park area. Plus, this is a good time to be promoting and supporting our monuments and parks that are indeed national wonders (even if the lifelong entrance passes for those aging with pizzazz jumped from $10 to $80 this year).

Final Thoughts

Hope at least one of these topics provided you an extra check-mark on your own ‘Never Stop Learning’ list. And keep in mind the Wabi Sabi overview of life: imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. That balance makes Aging with Pizzazz easier – and much more fun. Wishing you an ever-deepening “patina of age.”

Happy New Year to everyone.

Picture Credits. TitlePic: Geralt: stickies: 2768204 and Adult Learning 2706977 via Pixabay . London Fog: Tower Bridge 2324875_640 PIRO4D via Pixabay.

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