Ready For Some Baseball

The Midwest has been hit with a typical contrarian March cold blast, and the east coast has been hammered by a snowstorm.  Perversely, the crummy, winter-is-still-with-us weather has made me think that the real spring cannot be far away, and that it’s okay to start thinking about something good that will be coming with the warmer spring weather in just a few days:  baseball.

hi-res-f1085a23cef5182ba9e8ebe79f8a2f31_crop_northAlthough they fell just short of that elusive World Series win, last year was a magical one for the Cleveland Indians.  The team overcame injuries to crucial members of the pitching staff and key position players and, with deft manager Terry Francona holding things together with spit, scotch tape, and baling wire, the Tribe improbably made it to the doorstep of a championship.  With the players hopefully healed, and Edwin Encarnacion set to fill a big hole in the middle of the lineup, Tribe fans are dreaming that this might be the year.  Hey, lightning finally struck the long-suffering Chicago Cubs last year — why can’t it strike the Indians this year?

Spring is the time of dreaming for all baseball fans.  Tribe fans aren’t the only ones who are hoping that the team’s off-season moves have put the right pieces in place, that the player who had the unexpected great year last year wasn’t a fluke, and that the minor league phenom will step up and produce in the big leagues.  It’s all part of the time-honored baseball process that has been part of America’s National Pastime for more than 100 years.  The baseball fans who are dreaming and hoping about their teams today are just new links in a very long chain.

Let’s play ball!

 

Say Yes To The Dress?

We’ve got a wedding in the family coming up later this year.  Although the blessed event itself is still months in the future, the time for carefully analyzing and evaluating what dresses should be worn to the wedding and the rehearsal dinner apparently is . . . now!

autumn-dresses-wedding-guestI had no idea that quite so many websites featured dresses for the family members who are attending weddings.  Dresses of every imaginable length, cut, and hemline.  Dresses with jackets and without.  Dresses that feature something mysteriously called a “bodice.” Sleeveless dresses, dresses with poofy shoulders, and dresses with curious slashes, like they’ve been attacked by Freddy Krueger.  Dresses in every conceivable color of the rainbow, from azure to lilac, from saffron to magenta, from sea foam to garnet, with every subtle gradation and shade in between.

Never has fashion been the subject of such passion.

For the husband, there is no avoiding it.  When I get home I’m going to be asked to choose between dress styles with subtle differences discernible only to Parisian designers.  I’m going to be asked whether I prefer the periwinkle or the lavender, the teal or the aquamarine.  And, because every dress website that Kish has accessed has deposited a girl scout squadron’s worth of cookies on our home computer, every pop up ad on every sports website that I check these days features solemn women modeling dresses.

After some weeks of this, I suddenly became concerned.  “Honey, should I be worried about what I’m going to wear to the wedding?” I asked.  Kish laughed heartily.  “Don’t worry about it,” she said.  “No one pays attention to what a man is wearing.”

Too bad, because I was thinking of something in cornflower.

Rethinking Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease has been a known condition since it was discovered, in 1906, by a German doctor, and it has been the focus of lots of attention and research for decades.  It ranks as one of the top causes of death in the United States and is the third leading cause of death among people 60 and older, just behind heart disease and cancer.

So, after more than a hundred years, why haven’t we figured out how to treat this dread and deadly disease that robs people of their minds and personalities and leaves them empty shelves of their former selves?  Why, for example, have doctors and drug companies been able to develop effective treatments for HIV and AIDS, but not Alzheimer’s?

alzheimer_brainIt’s not that the scientific and medical community isn’t trying — but identifying the real cause of Alzheimer’s, and then devising a meaningful treatment, is proving to be an incredibly elusive challenge.  A brain with Alzheimer’s is like a car crash with no witnesses, where the accident reconstruction expert tries to find clues from the physical evidence.  Do those skid marks indicate that the driver was going too fast, or do they suggest that the driver was distracted, or was the driver paying attention when something like a deer unexpectedly came onto the road?  In the case of Alzheimer’s the brain is mangled and distorted and physically changed, both chemically and structurally.  Are those changes what caused the disease, or are they mere byproducts of the active agent that does the real harm?

For more than a quarter century, Alzheimer’s researchers and drug companies have been focusing on the “amyloid hypothesis,” which posits that an increase in amyloid deposits causes the disease, and have worked to develop drugs to target amyloid.  The hypothesis was devised because Alzheimer’s patients have an unusual buildup of amyloid in their brains, amyloid buildups have been found to be harmful in other bodily organs, and people with a genetic history of Alzheimer’s in their families also have been found to have mutations in the genes responsible for amyloid production.  With this kind of evidence, it’s not surprising that amyloid production has been the focus of treatment efforts.

Unfortunately, though, the trials of drugs that address amyloid production haven’t been successful — and after repeated failures, some scientists are wondering whether the amyloid hypothesis should be scrapped, and the disease should be examined afresh.  The amyloid hypothesis remains the prevailing view, but a minority of researchers think that the focus on amyloid buildup is like trying to close the barn door after the livestock have already escaped.  And they wonder whether the amyloid hypothesis has become entrenched with so many people, who invested so much time and money in developing amyloid-based treatments, that work on alternative approaches is being undercut.

It’s a classic test for the scientific method.  Over the years, there are countless examples of instances where prevailing views on medical, or physical, problems were overturned in favor of new approaches that turned out to accurately identify cause and effect.  The scientific method is supposed to objectively find the right answers.  For Alzheimer’s disease, maybe it is just a matter of tweaking how to develop the right treatment for the amyloid build-up — or maybe it’s something else entirely.

Those of us who have dealt with Alzheimer’s in our families hope the scientific and medical community put aside preconceived notions, dispassionately assess the evidence, and explore every avenue for developing a successful treatment.  This disease is just too devastating to go unaddressed.

More Puppies

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Richard and Julianne are getting a new dog in the near future.  It’s a Lab that has been bred and recently gave birth to a litter of three puppies — who are now two weeks old — and the breeder sent us this photo of the pups.

It’s kind of shameless to post pictures of puppies, but I just can’t resist it.  Is there anything cuter than puppies?

The Raffi Years

The other day, a colleague was talking about one of his young children and their behavior in the car.  It made me remember when Richard and Russell were little, during what I now think of as “the Raffi Years.”

71zba6fuual-_sl1259_Raffi (whose name is actually Raffi Cavoukian) was a singer of children’s songs whose CDs dominated the playlists when the kids were in the car in the early ’90s.  We had multiple Raffi recordings, and they were played on strict rotation.

At first, our discovery of Raffi — no doubt occurring through the “Moms’ grapevine” by which women with children disseminated information about what to do to keep from being driven crazy by those little hellions at home — was a blessing.  A Raffi CD actually got Richard and Russell to stop poking each other, fidgeting in the back seat, and repeatedly asking “when are we getting there?”  Instead, they listened to the music and would pipe up “put on Raffi!” whenever we got into the car.

And that quickly became a double-edged sword, because as they listened to the music, we did, too.  And I’m not saying that Raffi’s music was utterly puerile, but songs about baby whales that are targeted for little kids simply aren’t meant for repeated listening by adults.  At first I appreciated Raffi for helping to keep the kids occupied on car trips and introducing them to music, then repeated exposure to his songs started to really irritate me, and finally I would grit my teeth whenever the kids wanted to replay “Baby Beluga” again and think about how pleasant it would be to drive steel spikes into my eardrums.

Of course, one day Richard and Russell decided they’d had enough of Raffi and moved on, and soon enough they were listening to their own music on Walkmans and iPods and other devices.  I feel grateful to Raffi for getting us through the squirmy years, but it was wonderful to take his CDs out of the car, forever.  And I’ve got no desire to hear him sing, ever again.

A Day To Remember Something Important

It’s February 14, in case you haven’t checked your calendar lately.  Today, with love and passion in the air, the daters among us will give each other gifts, send each other cards, and go out for a romantic dinner, and the jewelers, florists, candy shops, restaurants, and Hallmark stores will turn a few handsprings at the surge in sales.

vintage-valentine-clip-art_232457But what of those of us who have long since moved past the dating phase and have been happily married for years?  With our metabolisms slowing, we’ve made each other promise not to bring home that enormous, heart-shaped box of sinfully rich chocolates.  Because we’re in the perennial savings mode another piece of jewelry doesn’t seem like a smart move.  And a card stamped with some generic, manufactured sentiment doesn’t really seem to fill the bill, either . . . because a stilted, sappy poem can’t fully capture the depth of feeling generated by years of happiness, love, and devotion.  That leaves flowers and a nice dinner at a fine restaurant as the preferred option, for a delicate floral bouquet and a good meal and chance to spend some time together and talk about our world together is always welcome.

Valentine’s Day has its cheesy, commercialized elements, of course, but it’s also a helpful reminder of the huge difference a single person can make in your life.  And even in an ever-changing world, both those who are searching for that person, and those of us who are lucky enough to have found them, can remember that once again.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

The Cleaning Wave

The Cleaning Wave comes rarely.

But when it does, it always begins with a whispered internal thought.  “I’ll rinse off my coffee cup and put it in the dishwasher,” you think, innocently.  Then you decide to wipe down the sink, until the stainless steel is bright and gleaming.  “That looks nice,” you think.

Then the wave begins to build, as waves always do.  The next thing you know, you’re wiping down the countertops, cleaning the range, and sweeping the kitchen floor.  “Hey, the kitchen looks great!,” you realize.

You could stop there, but by now the wave has got you and is rushing you forward, tumbling and unstoppable, and you move to another room and then to another and yet another, fussily straightening and polishing and putting away, until no surface in the house is uncluttered and there is a noticeable scent of Windex in the air and you begin to think about reorganizing the pantry or tackling the “messy drawer” that is found in every kitchen.  But then a kernel of doubt creeps in, and you wonder whether you really want to spend your whole blessed Saturday on a room or a drawer that is just going to end up in three weeks looking like it does right now, anyway.

By then, the cleaning wave has been spent.  It has crashed onto the shores of “messy drawer” reality, leaving you dazed and your place ready to greet the Queen of England — so long as she doesn’t go into the pantry or pull open that drawer.  And you think:  “You know, every house really needs a messy drawer.”