Young man in pajamas sleeping on sofa at home with teddy bear
This is not me, and that is not Mulligan. Photo from

I will go to bed early. I will not stay up to 11:30 watching basketball or surfing the Internet.

I will sleep a sound and peaceful eight hours (at least). I will not wake up because a cat jumps on my chest. Nor will I have to get up to pee.

And tomorrow I will wake up rested and start going through all the crap I don’t want to keep. I will be unsentimental and channel my inner Marie Kondo. I will finish writing an article and I will have time to watch basketball and surf the Internet.

So I say.


Gillespie update


I dropped Gillespie off at the vet yesterday morning for x-rays, following up on his appointment earlier in the week. The results were some good, some not-so-good: For the most part, his internal organs — what could be determined by the x-rays, anyway — were fine. But there is a mass near his liver and his bile ducts aren’t working as they should.

What is the mass? Could be nothing. Could be benign. Could be, of course, not benign. The vet would like to do an ultrasound for a more precise diagnosis, since x-rays only tell you so much.

So now comes a host of decisions. He’s 17 1/2. Would knowing make a difference? What kind of treatment would he need, and how much would it cost? Does he have 6 months? A year? More?

What is the point of diminishing returns?

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Hello darkness, my old foe

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I usually get up around 6:30 a.m. I brush my teeth, feed the cats and then head out for an hour’s walk.

It’s dark.

These days — about three weeks since the autumnal equinox — it stays dark for more than half of my walk. (Sunrise on Thursday, October 13: 7:41 a.m.) The weather’s been pleasant — somewhere in the 50s, headed towards highs in the 70s — and virtually cloudless almost every day. You can see the stars above. Perfect walking weather. I love it.

But I hate it, too.

I hate waking up in the dark. I hate the gradually shortening days. I hate the inexorable slide towards winter, with its gloomy grayness, bare trees and growing chill. This summer lasted way too long in Atlanta — and it’s not really over yet, with highs in the mid-80s forecast for next week — and I’m glad for the cooler weather. I’m OK once I’m up and walking. But when I first open the door, my mood matches the darkness.

I know, I know. It’s the way of the world: the circle game, the season cycle, the endless loop around the sun. I tell myself I like the seasons. I’ve spent my whole life in the East, where you actually get a sense of time turning, and Lord knows that as much as I hate the advent of winter I also I crave the announcement of pitchers and catchers reporting by the time the pit of February rolls around. You can’t have hope without despair. (In Atlanta, I find January to be the worst; there’s often a warm spell in early February, and by then the days are getting noticeably longer.)

Maybe it’s Seasonal Affective Disorder. Maybe it’s just age. But oh, here we go again.

At least there’s no rain in the forecast.


Sunday read: Turn off your phone, even if you’re in the middle of reading this

Image from Futurecom.

Though I’m old enough to remember a time before the Internet, I have spent the majority of my career in what some people still call the “digital space.” I’ve seen it go from dial-up modems to broadband and wi-fi. I’ve seen phones change from bulky Motorolas to Nokia candy bars to the iPhone 7.

And I’ve seen us get lost in it all.

Andrew Sullivan has, too. In fact, he willingly gave himself up to the Digital Age, starting one of the first major blogs, turning it into a profitable concern and staying determinedly plugged in, even when his health suffered and his mind sought to decompress.

He finally went on a retreat to recover. Among the first things he gave up was his phone.

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Review: ‘Bonk’ and ‘Gulp’ by Mary Roach

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary CanalGulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



A little Mary Roach goes a long way.

I say this both approvingly and reluctantly. Approvingly because she’s obviously an author who does her homework, and therefore there are amazing little tidbits sprinkled among her digs into space travel (“Packing for Mars”), sex (“Bonk”) and digestion (“Gulp”). Reluctantly because she loves her little footnotes a little too much, and even though I appreciate her humor, some situations call for a wry aside, not a full-scale joke.

I read “Packing for Mars” several years ago and loved it (I interviewed her for this story, though her quotes didn’t make it), and I’d read a couple of her articles as well, so I figured I’d take the dive into some of her other work.

My choices, “Bonk” and “Gulp,” were made unscientifically: They were the two books by her available at my local library the day I visited. So they’re the ones that came home with me.

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A little good news

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It was buried on page 7 of The New York Times Sunday Review section: “A Medical Mystery of the Best Kind: Major Diseases Are in Decline.”

After a week of tragedy and strife, Gina Kolata’s article offered a little good news. It turns out that major diseases are in decline in wealthy, industrialized countries. And as of yet, medical science hasn’t figured out why.

It looks as if people in the United States and some other wealthy countries are, unexpectedly, starting to beat back the diseases of aging. The leading killers are still the leading killers — cancer, heart disease, stroke — but they are occurring later in life, and people in general are living longer in good health.

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Doctors and sex abuse

This morning, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution released an in-depth investigation of doctors who sexually abuse patients — and, in many cases, got away with it. (I contributed a few sidebars.) It makes for astonishing, sometimes sickening reading.

The abusive doctors often took advantage of the most vulnerable: the poor, the mentally ill, the disadvantaged.

One Georgia doctor kept reinventing himself amid allegations that he abused patients – and kept on practicing.

“I’m absolutely speechless when it comes to how this doctor can keep going from place to place and having the same sorts of complaints made against him,” said Joyce Peters, a nurse who worked with (the Georgia doctor). “We’re not doing something right.”

Read the investigation here.

Review: ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’ by Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rebecca Skloot could have written a book about cancer. She could have written a book about biology. She could have written a book about how science progresses and how business takes advantage of that progress.

She did write about all those things, but what she really wrote about was people: an almost unknown woman named Henrietta Lacks and, more importantly, the saga of her family. Indeed, the book is essentially the story of the Lackses, a working-class black family from Baltimore whose struggles play out against the discrimination of 20th-century American society.

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There’s no cure, there’s no answer

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There’s a nice hot cup of tea, and then there’s a nice hot cup of cancer:

In a review published today by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the cancer agency of the World Health Organization, drinking very hot beverages was classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

Now, the article makes the point that hot drinks in the West are typically served at less than 140 degrees Fahrenheit. On the other hand, the coffee in the famous McDonald’s coffee case (Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants) was allegedly served at upwards of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s still apparently pretty hot, and who knows what else lurks out there with so many coffee places?

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