Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Memory lane….

Here’s a weird little side trip down memory lane:

Time magazine started coming off the presses in March 1923. In the first month one of the cover personalities was Stephen Sanford.

You know, Stephen Sanford.


OK. Sanford was a rich kid who inherited money and played polo. He was a real good polo player. He and his team (the “Hurricanes”) competed for 25 years in the U. S. Open Polo Championship (it’s still an annual event, by the way) and won several times. He also did fox hunting. He sat on the board of the Bigelow-Sanford Carpet Company, the family business.

Well, that’s it. This might be my last post on polo players. No offense to fans intended.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Monday, March 30, 2015

When were the good old days, exactly?

President Herbert Hoover didn’t have his own email server. Obviously.

Also, he didn’t have a telephone at his desk when he took office on March 4, 1929.

Hoover was the first president to install a telephone in the Oval Office. Otherwise, he would have had to use the phone in the lobby just outside it.

A few weeks after Hoover began his term, an initially pesky instrument was wired up on his desk. At first, it wouldn’t work properly, but the White House crew put it right.

Let’s be fair: a telephone system and switchboard was installed in the White House in 1878, only two years after Alexander Graham Bell received his patent. However, the telegraph system was the dominant communications channel at that time.

The telegraph stayed in the No. 1 spot in the U. S. through the end of the 19th century—in 1900, almost all of the telephone traffic in America was confined to strictly local calls. The long-distance telephone network became a 20th century phenomenon.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The wisdom of Abraham Lincoln (part 14)

Abraham Lincoln had a well-honed talent for plainly expressing so many deeply intuitive and elegantly sophisticated insights into human nature, our motivations, our culture and our communally shared experiences.

Often Lincoln would tell a folksy, pithy story to make his point. William Herndon, Lincoln’s long-time and perhaps long-suffering law partner, recalled that Old Abe responded to a question about his religion by comparing it to that of an old-timer named Glenn back in Indiana. The president said the old gent spoke at a church meeting, declaring “When I do good I feel good; when I do bad I feel bad; and that’s my religion.”

Our story-telling philosopher president packed a lot of ethics and theology and natural morality into that one.

Don E. Fehrenbacher and Virginia Fehrenbacher, eds., Recollected Words of Abraham Lincoln (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996), 245.

Fred Kaplan, Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2008), 31.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Saturday, March 28, 2015

There was a time….

In Europe in the high Middle Ages, monasteries and religious orders were early adopters of the continuously evolving technology of timepieces and clocks, used to organize their devotional and productive activities such as agriculture and wine-making.

Of course, it was way too early for Bulova or Timex to come to the rescue. Even when the technology started to bloom in the middle of the 13th century, improvements were found only at a snail’s pace.

The clepsydra (water clock) had been in use for millennia, and sundials were familiar in Greece and Rome before the Christian era.

The first mechanical clocks were constructed in the mid-1200s. Spring-driven clocks showed up in the beginning of the 15th century. About 75 years later the first portable, personal timepiece was sold in Europe. The first pendulum clock was built in 1656. The booming tradecraft grew slowly and steadily.

The monks were serious about wanting better timekeepers. Some 12th century monks had bad dreams about sleeping through the bell ringing that summoned them to first prayers of the day, and their abbots earnestly worried about getting the bells rung at the prescribed proper times throughout the day.

David Landes, in his book Revolution in Time: Clocks and the Making of the Modern World, adds this footnote to clock history:
“…time-consciousness and discipline had become internalized. Missing matins was a serious matter, so serious that it has been immortalized for us by perhaps the best known of children’s songs”:

Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques,
Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?
Sonnez les matines, sonnez les matines,
Ding, ding, dong; ding, ding, dong.

Let’s clear up a few things about “Frère Jacques.”

The endings “ing” and “ang” are not standard French usage, I prefer the common alternative “din, din, don” to “ding, ding, dong.”

Another thing is that the common English translation “Are you sleeping, Brother John?” is not right. “Jacques” is more properly translated as “Jacob” if we pay attention to its Latin roots.

Another thing is the third line of the song: it’s usually translated as “Morning bells are ringing.” Wrong again. The literal translation is “Ring the matins bells.” The song is an exhortation to Brother (or Friar) Jacob to get up and ring the bells to get the morning prayers started on time.

Reliance on the rooster was very old school by the time the song was introduced.

David Landes Revolution in Time: Clocks and the Making of the Modern World (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1983), 66.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Friday, March 27, 2015

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Thar’s gold in them thar….

OK, OK, I admit I don’t really know where to “go” with this.

Human No. 2, it seems, could actually be No. 1. At least, the U. S. Geological Survey is inclined to say so.

The USGS recently reported it found gold, platinum and silver in treated human waste. A spokeswoman said the traces of gold found in human doo-doo is “at the level of a minimal mineral deposit.”

Another crew of experts (how does one get to be an expert in this kind of thing?) estimated that the stuff that Americans flush down the toilet in a year contains valuable metals worth $13 per person.
Who knew?

And it’s not like it’s a unprecedented concept.

Back in the 1500s or so, poor folks in Europe sold their urine to tanneries that needed the uric acid for leather processing. The very poorest of the poor were shut out of this modest transaction because they “didn’t have a pot to piss in.”

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Book review: Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer

Book review: Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer
HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2008
406 pages

This is a book I could put down. I did.

I give it good marks for subject, elegant delivery of good information, prose style and the author’s literate assessment of primary sources.

Lincoln is the most written-about president, with good reason.

Kaplan offers a well-informed, systematic investigation of Lincoln’s reading habits and writing skills.

I know a published author who widely and deeply savored the exploration of Lincoln’s love affair with language and meaning. Likewise, I’m a writer and I was intrigued by much of what Kaplan offered in the first 100 pages or so.

I’m a historian. I am intuitively drawn to the longue durée concept of history and historical analysis, and its emphasis on the complex dynamics of deeply rooted, persistent structure underlying social, economic and political transformations.

I explicitly reject the “great man” theory of history and historical analysis. I am actually disinclined to give credence to a biographer’s undocumented assertions that his subject “might have given credence to” anything in particular, or that his subject “must have believed” something or other, or that his subject “embraced as his own the melancholy of [Gray’s] ‘Elegy,’ [but] did not share, as a young man, its dark stoicism.” 

Kaplan’s text is filled with statements like these. They aren’t to my taste. After 100 pages or so, I put the book down.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

180 days of school…sez who?

Why 180 days of public school?

The short answer is: there’s no particular reason, it isn’t based on any educational theory, it’s just a political compromise.

It’s more or less common knowledge that the September-June school year with summers off is a vestige of America’s largely agricultural society in the 18th and 19th centuries, when kids were needed to do farm work in the busy seasons.

However, it ain’t necessarily so, according to Rebecca Steinitz in the Boston Globe Magazine  on March 22, 2015.

Well into the 19th century, some rural states opened schools for only a couple months during summer and winter, and kids helped with planting and harvesting in spring and fall. Some cities extended the school year to as long as 245 days (e.g. New York City in 1842) to maximize school attendance.

In time, nationwide efforts to establish education standards embraced extension of the scope of public education to include high school, adoption of a common curriculum, and agreement on the length of the school year—the 180-day schedule was a compromise between the two rural and urban extremes, and nothing more.

So, in fact, slavish commitment to “get in 180 days of instruction” has no particular pedagogical rationale.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Monday, March 23, 2015

The wisdom of Voltaire

“It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere.”

François-Marie Arouet (1694-1778)
His nom de plume was Voltaire

So often the explanation for perplexing behavior—as by voters and non-voters—is some variation of this derisive insight from the Enlightenment philosopher who was, au fond, more of a populist than he was an elitist.

The deep truth of Voltaire’s epigram haunts my efforts to understand the motivations of most of my fellow citizens. It exposes a flaw in the conceptual foundation of a representative democracy.

(Thanks to my trusted personal advisor for this one.)

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The wisdom of Humpty Dumpty

"When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less."
     "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words
     mean so many different things."
               "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be
               master— that's all."

Humpty and Alice chat in Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There
by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson “Lewis Carroll” (1832-1898)
English writer, mathematician

Humpty is quite clear, we may say, in his intention.

His prospect for success is unknown, and dubious, we may say.

Alice, we may say, missed the opportunity to say that meaning is determined by both speaker and listener, and has more to do with trust than Humpty realized.

Further, I think Dodgson, perhaps knowingly, perhaps carelessly, missed the opportunity to mention explicitly that too many of us use words with the intention of meaning something else, and that, we may say, puts the scotch to much of this interesting little discussion….

Wouldn’t you say?

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The wisdom of the old farmer (part 14)

“Your fences need to be horse-high, pig-tight and bull-strong.”

Overheard in the milking barn

I confess, I’ve waited too long to mention this snippet of wisdom from the old farmer.

Not that I had any doubts about it, I think it’s rare, insightful, obvious, elusively common-sensical….

I think I thought I was waiting for “the right time” to apply it to some current event or issue of public policy or debate on stuff that matters.

Every time I say it out loud, it feels right.

So, now’s the right time.

What fences are you building these days?

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Friday, March 20, 2015

The wisdom of the White Queen

"It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards."

in Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There
by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson “Lewis Carroll” (1832-1898)
English writer, mathematician

I love the queens in Through the Looking Glass, they are exuberantly exotic and they invite multi-dimensional thoughts, for Alice’s education and that of the reader….

The White Queen’s insight about memory provokes me to suggest that it can be motivational, from time to time, to imagine what you would like to remember later.

Especially if grandchildren are involved….

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Non-voters are part of the problem....

“The government” is considered to be the top problem in America, according to the Gallup organization.

About 18% of adults pointed to government as the “most important” problem in a recent survey, and 11% named the economy as the second worst problem.

Admittedly, 18% is an obvious minority, but this finding underscores what I think of as the most important problem in our country: our elected representatives really aren't doing any governing.

And while we're on the subject, I’ll offer my candidate for “most puzzling” problem in the United States: why aren’t more folks admitting that the “most important” problem is that they didn’t bother to vote in the last election?

The “government” problem—the failure of our democracy—isn’t going to be fixed until a lot more people start voting.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The wisdom of Sam Levenson

“You must learn from the mistakes of others.
  You can't possibly live long enough to make them all yourself.”

Sam Levenson (1911-1980)
American humorist, 1950s-1960s TV celebrity

‘Nuff said, don’t you think?

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Things change.

Things change in Boston, especially if you’re in the taxi biz.

A year ago a Boston taxi medallion (license) sold in the open market for $700,000. Yup, five zeroes.

Last month one of the 1,825 taxi medallions issued long ago in Boston was knocked down for only $350,000 at a foreclosure auction.

Think Uber. Think Lyft.

Boston has capped the city-authorized taxi medallions, so there are 1,825 city-authorized and city-inspected taxis on the streets. I’m not sure how many Uber and Lyft drivers there are. I’ve never had a ride with any of them, not sure if I would if I had the chance.

The point is: there’s no particularly good reason why the number of cabs in Boston should be capped at 1,825, it’s a legacy thing from the time Boston started regulating taxis in the 1930s. Why should the city protect a monopoly that benefits a small number of medallion owners? The city fathers should think about authorizing more medallions with a modest annual fee, for drivers who would charge lower fares.

On the other hand, I think a good argument can be made that all the Uber and Lyft and other private-transaction “taxis” should be inspected and thus authorized as insured carriers by the city, for the protection of passengers.

Here’s more stuff: Boston’s high cab fares make it one of the five most expensive cities in America for taxi customers.

The average cabbie doesn’t own a medallion ($350,000!), and the average cabbie clears about $25,000 a year after paying for gas and insurance, and paying the medallion owner for the privilege of driving a licensed cab—some drivers pay more than $100 per 12-hour shift.

The medallion owners basically have to cover the cost of buying and maintaining the vehicle, and apparently they’ve been making out OK for many years.

One man reportedly owns almost one-quarter of the Boston taxi medallions.

In case you were wondering, only four cities in the U.S. have more taxis than Boston, which is the 24th largest city in America. In fact, Boston has twice as many city taxis per capita as New York City, that is, roughly one Boston cab for every 345 Bostonians. Apparently, the taxi patrons in Boston want even more of them.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Monday, March 16, 2015

Old people rule!

Well, OK, it’s a stretch to say that old people rule, “elders” don’t get nearly as much respect as they did in previous generations, and there may be some good reasons for that….

Fact is, though, there are lots of old people, a whole lot more than there were in the young United States after the Revolutionary War.

By the way, I’m using the words “old people” advisedly—the United Nations officially says that around the world, age 65 is commonly a threshold point to distinguish “young” people from “old” people. When you hit 65, accept the senior discount when you’re buying your train and theater tickets, feel good about it, get used to it….

In 1790 there weren’t very many 65+ folks around, only about 2% of the population lived long enough to achieve that exalted status. Average life expectancy at birth was about 35 years.

Now there are 7 times more old folks than in 1790. Today, about 14% of the U.S. population is 65 or older. Imagine that 85% of these old folks could disappear tomorrow—that’s what 1790 looked like.(1)

Part of the explanation is that in 1950, life expectancy at birth was about 68 years. Today, it’s close to 80 years.

(1) Atul Gawande, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End (New York: Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, 2014), 18.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Mark Twain’s advice to little girls (part 3)

“You ought never to take your little brother’s chewing-gum away from him by main force; it is better to rope him in with the promise of the first two dollars and a half you find floating down the river on a grindstone.”

Mark Twain (1835-1910)

It goes without saying that this 150-year-old advice from Mark Twain is rampantly criminal drivel, why, the very idea….

Or is it the kind of thing that happens all the time?

And here’s the other thing: the little brother probably would have agreed to a lesser amount, say, the first dollar and a quarter found floating…etc.

It’s important to take maximum learning from these insights, and to admit nothing.

In particular, don't admit that you don't know what a grindstone is.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The wisdom of a friend

“Do not fold, spindilate or mutil.”

Alright, it wasn’t my friend’s best day, there had been drinking, he was trying to make a funny….

Still, I think there is core wisdom here.

The messages are:

Take your time.

Don’t start shouting right away.

Measure twice.

Re-read that long email message before you hit "SEND"

Hang in there, baby.

Do your best, even if you can’t say it right.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Friday, March 13, 2015

Open letter to Gov. Scott in Florida

Did you tell your EPA
there are words they cannot say?

Um, “climate change,” the very ones
they aren’t allowed to mention?

Is this goofy ignorant thing entirely your invention?

There’s nothing smart about it,
Guv’nor, really, not a whit.

Is it really true you did it?....seems like chickenstuff.

Keystone pipeline?....GOP pants on fire

"Out of the mouths of..."

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Have you “seen the elephant”?

Here’s one you probably don’t know:

Which came first, the Revolutionary War or the first elephant in America?

Think April 13, 1796.

That’s the day Capt. Jacob Crowninshield of Salem, MA, unloaded an Asian elephant from Calcutta in New York City. He sold it to a showman for $10,000 (almost $180,000 in current dollars).

President John Adams and crowds of Americans flocked to see “Old Bet,” a 2-year-old female who grandly toured throughout the United States for the next nine years. President Thomas Jefferson told Lewis and Clark to be on the lookout for “elephantine mammoths” as the hardy explorers were scouting new routes through the American West.

The exhibition of “Old Bet” was such a marvelous spectacle that folks who saw her talked about “seeing the elephant,” and even the folks who were waiting to see her—or missed the opportunity—helped to add those mundane words to the American lexicon. Later, Civil War soldiers added the darker dimension to the phrase as we know it today, when they guardedly recounted the grisly horror of combat with a sanitized acknowledgment that they had “seen the elephant.”

Elephants and circuses are as American as apple pie. Almost 100 years after “Old Bet,” P. T. Barnum did his fantastic best to promote “Jumbo,” a 12-foot-tall African elephant who weighed in at about 12,000 pounds.

Too bad that the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced this week that the troupe of 13 elephants now appearing with its traveling shows will be retired in the next few years, and won’t be replaced.

When you were a kid, did you “see the elephant”? And, hey, did you get to do the elephant ride when the circus came to your town?

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The art of Brian Doyle

Here’s a piece that gives me a double whammy: something like a child’s innocent joy of discovery, and something like the experienced master’s startled awareness of a new way of understanding….

Brian Doyle, almost tenderly, pulls back the curtain on a scene of brutal splendor, of nature red in tooth and claw, of the mysterious reality of survival that we humans rarely face, of the beauty of power that does violence without evil in an unresisted cycle of life and death:

"I think maybe there is much where we think there is nothing."

Brian Doyle
Author, editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland

Doyle's story just draws in the horizons until I am in a small space, contemplating a feat of nature that is alien, but beautiful…I guess I hope I never see a ferocious fisher face to face, I'm not too sure I could calmly sit down and watch it as Brian did, but  the fleeting truth is that I wish I could do what he did and see the thing, out there, and have a wonderful, fearful, essential moment of contact to remember….I want to try to be open to the moments in life when there can be much, instead of nothing…

For your delectation, read on:

"Fishering" by Brian Doyle

“In the woods here in Oregon there is a creature that eats squirrels like candy, can kill a pursuing dog in less than a second, and is in the habit of deftly flipping over porcupines and scooping out the meat as if the prickle-pig were merely a huge and startled breakfast melon.

“This riveting creature is the fisher, a member of the mustelid family that includes weasels, otter, mink, badger, ferrets, marten, and — at the biggest and most ferocious end of the family — wolverine. Sometimes called the pekan or fisher-cat, the fisher can reach three feet long, tail included, and weigh up to 12 pounds. Despite its stunning speed and agility, it is best known not as an extraordinary athlete of the thick woods and snowfields, but as the bearer of a coat so dense and lustrous that it has been sought eagerly by trappers for thousands of years — one reason the fisher is so scarce pretty much everywhere it used to live.

“Biologist friends of mine tell me that Oregon has only two “significant” populations of fisher: One in the Siskiyou Mountains in the southwest, and the other in the Cascade Mountains south of Crater Lake. All the rare sightings of fisher in Oregon in recent years have been in these two areas. In the northwest coastal woods where I occasionally walk, biologists tell me firmly, there are no fishers and there have been none for more than 50 years.

“I am a guy who wanders around looking for nothing in particular, which is to say everything. In this frame of mind I have seen many things, in venues urban, suburban and rural. While ambling in the woods I have seen marten kits and three-legged elk and secret beds of watercress and the subtle dens of foxes. I have found thickets of wild grapevines, and hidden jungles of salmonberries, and stands of huckleberries so remote and so delicious that it is a moral dilemma for me as to whether or not I should leave a map behind for my children when the time comes for me to add to the compost of the world.

“Suffice it to say that I have been much graced in these woods, but to see a fisher was not a gift I expected. Yet recently I found loose quills on a path, and then the late owner of the quills, with his or her conqueror atop the carcass staring at me.

“I do not know if the fisher had ever seen a human being before. It evinced none of the usual sensible caution of the wild creature confronted with homo violencia, and it showed no inclination whatsoever to retreat from its prize. We stared at each other for a long moment and then I sat down, thinking that a reduction of my height and a gesture of repose might send the signal that I was not dangerous, and had no particular interest in porcupine meat. Plus, I’d remembered that a fisher can slash a throat in less than a second.

“Long minutes passed. The fisher fed, cautiously. I heard thrushes and wrens. I made no photographs or recordings, and when the fisher decided to evanesce I did not take casts of its tracks, or claim the former porcupine as evidence of fisherness. I just watched and listened and now I tell you. I don’t have any heavy message to share. I was only a witness: Where there are no fishers, there was a fisher. It was a stunning creature, alert, attentive, accomplished, unafraid. I think maybe there is much where we think there is nothing. Where there are no fishers, there was a fisher. Remember that.”

My original post:

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Jared Sparks, first American historian

We can think of Jared Sparks (1789-1866) as the first American historian.

Obviously he wasn’t the first person to write about American history. You may recall that Alexis de Tocqueville visited the United States in 1831-32 and then went home to France to write De la démocratie en Amérique (Democracy in America).

Sparks was the first American with public recognition as a scholar of American history. In 1838 he was selected as the McLean Professor of Ancient and Modern History at Harvard University, and he served in that post until 1849. He was the first academic historian doing original research, and did pioneering work in the collection of primary documentary materials. Sparks also served as president of Harvard during 1849-53.

The first history prof wrote The Life and Writings of George Washington (12 vols.) in 1834-37.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Monday, March 9, 2015

When “the poorhouse” was a place….

Before the middle of the 20th century, "the poorhouse" wasn’t an abstract concept.

Through the World War II era, mostly county governments in the U. S. provided much of the care for the indigent and elderly folks who could not afford medical care or couldn’t take care of themselves. 

The facilities—“poorhouses” or, in some areas, “poor farms”—were often marginal or wretched.
They were systematically closed by mid-century, in tandem with a massive, federally-sponsored buildout of hospitals after WWII. In 1954 the federal government started providing funds so hospitals could build separate custodial units for patients who needed an extended period of “recovery,” and people who couldn’t take care of themselves increasingly ended up in extended stays in the expanded hospital facilities. That was the beginning of modern nursing homes.(1)

In the present time, economic constraints in the hospital health care system are reducing a patient’s time in hospital, and steadily pushing the indigent, elderly, helpless and terminal people toward retirement homes, nursing homes, hospice care, private care or no care.

(1) Atul Gawande, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End (New York: Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, 2014), 68-71.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Not a lot of “tools” on campus these days….

I confess that I went to college so long ago that I was called a “tool” by my fellow students, and, truth is, it wasn’t a particularly opprobrious observation, at the time….

I burned the midnight oil, reading, studying, turning in all the assignments on time, prepping for the exams.

Most of the students I knew put some decent hours in, hitting the books to prepare for class and do the assignments. Here’s a little kicker: our standard course load was 5 courses per semester, 40 courses to complete the requirements for a B.A. or B.S.

A new study reported by NewRepublic.com reconfirms what everybody knows: college students today aren’t working as hard as their parents and grandparents did.

In the 1960s the average full-time collegian was in class at least 15 hours a week, and spent about 25 hours studying and doing homework.

Research in recent years indicates that students are spending about the same amount of time in class—actually, I question this finding, based on my recent personal experience on campus and the current 32-course regimen—but are putting in only about 12 hours doing out-of-class work.

Something besides study hours has been squeezed.

Current learning outcomes reflect the reduced input from our young scholars.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The wisdom of Atul Gawande

“We imagine that we can wait until the doctors tell us that there is nothing more they can do.
             But rarely is there nothing more that doctors can do…                                    there’s always something.”

Dr. Atul Gawande (b. 1965)
American surgeon, author

Dr. Gawande continues the thought, observing that more “treatment” often is incompatible with a terminally ill patient’s personal desires and expectations about how to spend the remaining time in ways that are most satisfying, for the patient and for loved ones.(1)

This is his message: more treatment doesn’t necessarily make life better or longer.

Read his book.

If you can, read it before you get to your own end time.

Then talk about it, with your doctor, your friends and your family.


(1) Atul Gawande, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End (New York: Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, 2014), 173-74.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Let’s play “Government”….

Just a note for the record:

On Tuesday the U. S. House of Representatives voted 257-167 to authorize funding this year for the Department of Homeland Security. The Senate had previously passed the funding bill, so it’s a done deal.

Republicans shouldn't claim much credit for this event, which easily qualifies as a routine act of good government.

Two-thirds of the Republicans in the House voted AGAINST the bill, because it didn’t include a nastily partisan attack on President Obama’s recent moves to limit deportations of immigrants. You know that story.

The bill passed with the “Yes” votes of only 75 Republicans….every Democrat voted for it.

So Speaker Boehner should be stepping up to the microphone and proudly describing his “hands-across-the-aisle” leadership in coordinating the vital support of our Democratic representatives.

Do you know when that press conference is scheduled? I haven’t heard anything….

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015