Readings, Hearings and Quiet Talk To Consider - 10/17/22

Books, Articles and Word-on-the-Street Worth a Second Consideration… 

On Aging – Over the last year one of my favorite web broadcast discoveries has been a video featuring Clint Eastwood – Don’t Let The Old Man In.  It highlights a song written by Toby Keith following a golf match with Eastwood. As the story goes, they were on the 19th T (= “bar” for all of you non-golfers) following a golf match that involved lots of swings and misses when Keith asked Eastwood what he was doing the next day. Eastwood then went into a soliloquy on all the meetings and discussions that were planned as part of a new movie he was going to produce. Keith responded that Eastwood was in his late 80s and asked the question “…How do you do it?” The response from Eastwood: “I don’t let the old man in!” Now comes the story of Ray Ruschel, a 49-year-old business management student at North Dakota State College of Sciencein my home state. As a student at the college, he tried out for the football team as a defensive lineman and managed to beat the younger competition out of the position. He’s a regular on the line in their games. In fact, the competition frequently mistakes him as a coach when he steps on the field. His response? “That always makes me laugh. And then, I play harder.” While I’m way ahead of Ruschel at age 49 I’m slightly behind Eastwood at age 92 on the aging continuum. Regardless, I keep telling myself: Don’t Let The Old Man In.

KitterySlow-Paced Small Towns” In Maine For Leading A Simple Life. I’m pointing with pride to my adopted home in Kittery, Maine!! There are lots of small towns in Maine just like North Dakota where I grew up. But, the advantage is that in Maine, we have “ocean”, “mountains” and “trees”! = Advantage Maine!! Kittery Point was Number 12 on a list of 15 top small towns in Maine, even though I would rank it as #1. Why? Because beyond the three advantages mentioned above, Kittery Point offers great neighbors, a large number of mom-and-pop establishments, and a pace of living that’s very tolerable and culminates in making available all of the basics of life without being a lot of work. With only about a thousand neighbors, it’s easy to get to know one another – the workers at the Post Office, the attendants at the local coffee shop and…and…you get the picture… Besides, if we need more, there’s “Kittery” just next door with over four thousand residents if you need the advantages of the city 😊. 

Back-To-Back Recognitions – Now For The Trifecta! – Just before the start of the September cooling season, we learned that the NASA Webb Telescope had the first clear evidence in identifying an exoplanet with an atmosphere containing carbon dioxide as a planet outside our solar system. The only problem is visitation because the planet is just over 700 light years away from Earth. But even though we (or, at least the current residents of Earth) will never be able to see it, the prospect is still exciting because of the specter of potential life on other planet. Now, to put it context. There are over 3200 stars in our solar system (= the Milky Way) similar to our own Sun. That makes for a fairly large potential number of places just in the neighborhood for “life”. But, then, add to the fact that there are over 2 Billion (with a capital “B”) stars in our galaxy which have the potential for supporting an exoplanet like Earth. Even if the odds stay at 1:3200-to-2,000,000,000 that means there are likely at least 62,500 other Earths someplace in the Universe – that are clearly on the course to discovery so far!! And, the cost of the Webb Telescope development? About $10 Billion or, as Senator Everett Dirksen (R-IL) used to say, “A billion here, a billion there and pretty soon you’ve got real money.” Yes. Real money and real transformation in what this means for our sense of who and what we are as members of the human species.

The Webb discovery was followed a couple of weeks later with an announcement by the Nobel Committee on the 2022 Nobel Prize in Medicine. It went to Svante Pääbo, a Ph.D. researcher who almost singlehandedly developed the field of palaeogenomics over the last two decades. His discovery paved the way for identifying the DNA code for Neanderthals and, a previously unknown hominin, Denisovans. His research laid the groundwork for defining how modern-day humans differ from their historical hominins or, “What makes a human human? I don’t know the cost but as a betting person, I wager it is far, far less than the $10 Billion spent on the Webb telescope initiative.

Now, here’s the clincher. The total USA health care spend in 2021 was $4.3 Trillion (with a “T”) and growing. The projected health care costs in 2025 are anticipated at $5.5 Trillion. If we spent $10 Billion in health care research (the same amount as the Webb Telescope project) towards reducing costs to adopt a more value-based care delivery system in the USA, we would be spending 1:1000th of a percentage point in projected health care costs in a very short 3 years! Seems like a no brainer to me? Yet, we walk away because “the health care conundrum is a tough nut to crack” How many times have you heard this in your career? Yes, it is a tough nut to crack but, it’s not any tougher than finding planets throughout the universe that can potentially support life nor the field of paleogenomics to tell us what we could have become if we didn’t evolve.

In sum, we seem to have a potential Trifecta (i.e. the Webb Telescope, paleogenomics AND solving the health care cost conundrum) on our hands if we will simply invest the time and money into solving the problem. I encourage the younger generation to take this on…after all, I’m working on not letting the old man in 😊.

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