Wednesday, October 2, 2019

What Kind of Body?

    I participate in a book study at our church that is a free wheeling discussion of our faith journeys.   The current book is Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis.   The author is a provocative thinker and sort of lay theologian.  However, that is not where I am going with this commentary.  I am prompted to do this blog based on remark arising out of a question about Christian belief of resurrection of the body.
Our pastors comment was, " If there is such a thing, what kind of body should I expect; one of a 17 year old?"   As I mused on that comment I couldn't help but relate it to my geezer skier friends commentaries about the nature of their demise.    Many will comment that they would prefer to go out of this world on the ski slope, enjoying a great run down the mountain or at least after a great day on  the slopes.   In the lore of our ski area there are stories of folks who did just that.
     Most of us in our senior years would prefer to pack it in while still active and somewhat hale and hearty rather than lingering on.   However, getting back to the potential for after life it is nice to think of some kind of restoration of a body or existence that would allow us to experience some of thrills and pleasures of our earthly life..  So I am not sure where I stand on this matter of the kind of body I would like to have.   For the moment, I am just concentrating on maintaining what I have.
      Recently  at our Geezer Skiers monthly lunch we had a physical therapist promote to us a 10 week conditioning program for the senior skier.   I guess that is a process for resurrecting the body.   Regardless of where we are on the spectrum of mobility or health, enjoying and being thankful for each day is plenty for me.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Advances In Battery Technology Influences the Geezer Life

    It is amazing how much battery technology has advanced in the last few years.  Rechargeable batteries have become a ubiquitous part of our lives.   Although this technology has had widespread impact on all lives regardless of age, I think the geezer population has benefited the most. 
    I know of one senior friend who actually runs on a battery powered heart.  He carries his battery satchel in a vest that he wears.  I guess he must recharge at night while he is sleeping.  Just like we recharge our physiological batteries.  He is indeed grateful.  Many other senior people who are on oxygen are blessed with battery powered oxygen generators that free them to move more easily in daily life.  In the continuing theme of support for seniors I must mention that those confined to wheel chairs now have better battery powered mobility.
     I really wasn't prompted to write this because of the above.  It was the new mobility my wife and I have attained with the purchase of E-Bikes.  We have been bike riders for many years but even though we are both quite fit for our age, pedaling up hills isn't much fun.  With our new bikes we are rediscovering how much pleasure it is to go for a recreational ride.  We have over twenty miles of range and can attain speeds up to 20 miles per hour.   We actually can ride with just battery drive, but since we have pedal assist with can  exercise at whatever level suit us.  His and hers bikes are shown below.

     Now I am thinking about what battery technology has to provide for skiing.  At one time I had battery powered boot heaters.  However the batteries didn't seem to last very long so I gave up on them.  Maybe it is time tor revisit this comfort device.  I know that battery powered warmers are available for ski gloves but so far the chemical warmers have been the best for me.  Meanwhile battery technology continues to improve even more so who know what is next.  
     Tomorrow is October 1st so maybe only 8 more weeks to skiing where I live.  So I guess I'll just look forward to some E-biking to enjoy the autumn colors and keep in shape.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Climbing Mountains

     I just finished reading a provocative new book by David Brooks entitled The Second Mountain:  The Quest for a Moral Life.  It seems to be partially autobiographical as he struggles with what it is to live a meaningful as well as moral life.   As he is a mid fifties man I suspect this book is partially inspired by a mid-life crisis at least partlly instigated by a failed marriage followed by remarriage.   As an octogenarian geezer skier my lens for assessing his writing is what it is like to go beyond the second mountain metaphor. 
    As related to skiing when we are climbing the first mountain of being successful in our careers and raising a family our ego reigns supreme.  Self absorption is a daily attitude.  If we are wise enough maybe we can put aside ego to the extent we can be present with our partner and children.  Too often however, we are neglectful of their needs and perhaps as well the greater needs of society.   Our passion for skiing is in tension with our other commitments.  We want to be climbing the metaphorical mountain and also want to be climbing the snow covered mountain.   In climbing the first mountain there is always tension between the free time used for pursuing our sport and the recognition that society asks more of us in family and community.   So in this first climb where do we find happiness and even more importantly joy? 
     I'll confess in my early days I was extremely goal oriented and obsessed with achieving success to lift myself out of economically deprived roots growing up on a farm.   I fed on increasing both my financial status and professional achievements.  But just as David Brooks points out, these achievements can leave an empty spot in your soul.   I am thankful that I did not fully sell my soul to the achievement god and did find solace in some level of service to humankind in my teaching, advising and worship.
      Setting off to climb the second mountain of focus on relationships, community and serving rather than feeding ego sometimes can be thrust upon you in unexpected ways.   Late in my 59th year I was struck with kidney cancer.   I was merrily moving along in my career and enjoying a responsible administrative post at Cornell University.   However, facing the possibility of a premature death, I was able to make a radical departure in my life to climb the second mountain.   My early  retirement shocked many of my colleagues!   However, I was delighted to move on to a more servant ordered life.   People would ask me "What are you gong to do?"   Eventually I put together a calling card with a list of my activities.   My life became filled with giving back to both my family and my church and my community.   I found myself happily and even joyfully doing mundane activities.   I was both able to serve and find great satisfaction in just being.   With the freedom from work, I was able to both give back and as well reward my passion for skiing. 
      Just as David Brooks points out, even though we have moral intentions and desires to be more relational, we are still flawed human beings.  I guess we continue to be works in progress so even though we may have made progress in climbing our second mountain, there is still work to be done.
     As I look forward to skiing in my 23rd year of retirement I am first of all blessed to have sufficient health to keep "climbing" the mountain.  Also I a pleased to still have the energy to do volunteer work with my church, local museum and with the Red Cross.   In the area of relationships, I am still working on being a better spouse, parent, grandparent and friend.   As our Greek Peak Geezer Skier group ages out I am thrilled that whether we are still on the slopes or not, we are in a committed fellowship of monthly lunches throughout the year.   I hope our little community is an example for others as we climb another mountain toward our final destiny.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Advances in Technology

    It is nice to have perspective on advances in technology.  If you have lived into geezer territory you have seen a lot of change.  Especially if you are an octogenarian.   Geezer skiers surely have benefited from the development of shaped skis along with just about everybody else on the slopes.   Many of us can also remember the days when bindings were quite primitive and leg fractures we commonplace.   Also from the point of view of safety, the development of comfortable safe and effective ski helmets is a boon.   We also must be grateful for the advances in snow making technology that enables snow making for efficiently even at higher temperatures. 
     Beyond skiing we are also blessed with a plethora of technological advances in computing, medicine, automotive safety and so on.   This post has been prompted by my use our newest toys!   My wife and I took delivery of e-bikes this past Tuesday.   It took some time to assemble them since they were shipped from the west coast.   Today we enjoyed a neighborhood ride as we adjusted to this new bike technology.   What a great joy it is to have power assist on the hills.   I have ridden a ten speed mountain bike in the past and when I was in my 60's I could downshift and pedal up the hills with reasonable speed.  Now in my 80's that is not as easy.   Thus my old mountain bike has been donated to charity along with my wife's beach bike.   We are both thrilled with our new machines and once again can enjoy rides without the agony of challenging hill climbs.
    I am truly pleased with the advances in battery and control technology that breathes new life into getting out the road with a bicycle.   And this activity can also be another mode of conditioning for the arrival of ski season.
 

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Flashback!

   Yesterday I had the pleasure of lunch with fellow Cornell Engineering Emeritus faculty at the Statler Hotel on the Cornell Campus.  The current dean Lance Collins is a gracious host who is very appreciative of the past and continuing contributions of this group.    It is truly a gathering of a gaggle of geezers.  Engineering of yore was male dominated and yesterday our group was graced by only one female emerita.   The rest of us are grizzled geezers. 
     Since I have a long history at Cornell that started with undergraduate studies in 1953 I have had a long acquaintance with the likes of the emeritus faculty.  I moved from student to graduate student to professor to associate dean during my active time so I can flashback to to a host of experiences when I encounter my colleagues.   The most remarkable flashback yesterday was an encounter with professor emeritus Arthur Ruoff.   Believe it or not I took a Differential Equations math course from him when he was a young assistant professor.   He was a hard charging character then and he maintains that character today.   He is and was a brilliant engineer.   Among his accomplishments was the development of high pressure compaction that has led to the production of artificial diamonds.
    As I looked around the room I noted that although many were showing physical signs of aging, they were still mentally sharp.    It was a delightful couple of hours with long time friends and associates and it was a pleasure to hear from the dean the progress of the many ventures of the college.   A most notable recent accomplishment is a collaboration with the Metropolitan Transient Authority of NYC to facilitate the L train tunnel rehab that without having to shut down the train for several months.
     Closing on the flashback note I am reminded of the thrills of past projects I was involved with.   And I am appreciative how Cornell support the geezer guys like me to still be involved with students and projects.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Is There A Gene for Skiing?

      Recently I read an article on on the influence of genes on a number of behaviors.   Genes can even influence which kind of foods you like.  Some of us like broccoli  but there are many who absolutely abhor this vegetable.  They have a gene that makes them sensitive to an element in broccoli that is particularly bitter to them.  Remarkably there is some evidence that genes can determine to some extent whether we lean to the left or the right politically.  Maybe that is the reason we often find it difficult to calmly discuss our political views.  Maybe we are hardwired to behave one way or another.  I am not totally convinced that this is true.  Thus we have the nature versus nurture debate.
     So as a geezer skier I am pondering if I am blessed with a unique set of genes that generates my passion for skiing?   Even as a poor child, I somehow acquired a pair of hickory skis with a simple strap so  I could glide down hill.   The only thing I could do was point them down the hill and hold on!  Eventually I took up skiing in my late twenties and more than five and a half decades later I am still at it.  Essentially all of my biological children have becomes skiers.   Some are extraordinarily committed to the sport.  The passion for skiing has also been passed down to most of the grandchildren.   Out of the nine biological grandchildren six are expert skiers.   The youngest of the nine is only three so it is yet to be determined if he will take up skiing.   For the moment his parents are only occasional skiers.   The jury is out whether the descendants  will become geezer skiers.  Time will tell. Obviously one could argue that the offspring were influenced by nurture and perhaps that is the dominant factor.
     Meanwhile I am waiting for the biologists to find the ski gene!  I would be happy to provide a DNA sample!

Monday, July 8, 2019

The Optimum A

    I read a New York Times article today touting the idea to strive for the good not the perfect.   It makes me think about my efforts to be a better skier.  Among our geezer skier group we often kick around ideas and suggestions to perfect our skiing.  One would think after all the years on the slopes we would give up on the idea of being perfect.   I guess not true.   Perhaps we need to back off on the idea of perfection,  forget about all those little adjustments of technique and enjoy being good at it.    That ought to be the goal.
     The article also reminded me of my graduate studies at Iowa State University in the 1960's.   Our group was always striving to be "perfect" in our studies.   That was the aim to ace every test and succeed at the highest level in all courses.  Ultimately we discovered we did not have the time or energy to ace everything.  The bottom line became getting the "Optimum A" in a course.   That was doing just enough to get an A grade and no more!  Except for one course I am happy to say it worked for me!