I spent today postponing but mostly organising my death

I have spent my day doing two important things.

First, and this only took a moment, I swallowed an Osimertinib pill. I take one of these pills every day. How hard is that? Harder than you might suppose, at my advanced age with its accompanying loss of short term memory. Several times during the last month or two, I have taken one of these pills, or not, and then moments later not known whether I had taken it, or not.

Hence this contraption, which my Senior Designated Friend gave me quite a while ago. This was when the pill problem was that there were lots of them, but none of them were that important:

I don’t need that, I said. Turns out I do. Now that the problem is just the one pill, but a vitally important one upon which my continuing ability to function now seems entirely to depend, I need to be sure that I have taken one, and only one, of these miraculous little things.

And the other thing I did today, which took pretty much the whole day and which also consumed most of yesterday, was to do that other thing that people who have received a death sentence from the medical profession do, besides take pills. I refer to the process known as “putting my affairs in order”.

The most impressive result of this process so far has been a load of rubbish:

I have been trying to sort my many accumulated bits of paper into more logical piles than they had been arranged in. Happily, the biggest such pile is that one in the above photo, which is the one I’ll be chucking into the recycling bins out in front of my front door, tomorrow.

So, a day spent (1) postponing my death, and (2) trying to make my death more organised.

By the way, I do recommend following the Osimertinib link above, and then feasting your eyes on the list of “Other drugs in the class protein kinase inhibitors”, on the right. It is quite a list, I think you will agree. If any of these are anywhere near as clever as the Osimertinib that I’m taking, then it’s an even more impressive list than it looks.

Steve Davies: Four new technologies to be optimistic about

I seem to recall a lecture, given by Steve Davies at the IEA just before Covid and the political reaction to Covid started spoiling all our lives, in which he warned that modernity might be stopped in its tracks or worse by some unforeseeable disaster, and that we should watch out. And I’m pretty sure that, during the Q&A, he even mentioned the possibility of a pandemic.

Now however, Steve Davies says, not unreasonably or inconsistently, that the future is brighter than many now, as the Covid crisis persists, assume or at least fear:

People everywhere need to recover their sense of confidence and optimism and to realise not only that this is, undoubtedly, the best time ever to be alive, but also that the future will be even better.

Davies then writes about four technologies which he says will transform life for the better: autonomous vehicles, synthetic food, artificial intelligence, and anti-aging medical treatments. So, life will not only be better; it will also last for far longer.

Regular readers of this blog will know that recently I have particularly noticed technology number two in the Davies list, synthetic food. And number one, autonomous vehicles, has long been to be an interest of mine also. I agree that both will be “epoch making”, eventually.

But I probably won’t live to see either epoch unfold. As far as I’m concerned, that last one, extended life-span, through the conquest of such things as cancer, can’t come too quickly. Which is why it almost certainly won’t come, for me, quickly enough.

However, I recently I heard some wisdom based on recent personal experience spill out of my mouth, to the effect that, now, being told that I have a potentially quite-soon-fatal disease, at my already quite advanced age, is a big deal, but not that big a deal. This just means that I will die a bit sooner. But what if such a medical mishap meant that I died a lot sooner, like about a two hundred years or more sooner? That would be a very big deal. In an age of multi-century lifespans, if that is what is about to arrive, people will surely become far more risk averse even than they are now, because they will have so much more to lose by dying.

But then again, adolescent boys have long had a lot to lose and they are notoriously prone to risk-taking, just for the hell of it. So, what do I know?

In general, will people actually be any happier? I doubt this, because happiness seems to depend more on one’s internal mood than on one’s mere circumstances. I don’t feel any more miserable now than I was a couple of years ago, when I was unaware of my medical condition and before it started or at any rate before it started hurting.

Flash grief

So here I was, all set to do a great excerpt from a book about Beethoven. But then, my scanning software suddenly wasn’t working. I alerted The Guru. After the usual palaver about “Is it plugged in?” and “Is the scanner connected to the computer?” (yes and yes) The Guru then spent a while operating my computer from a distance (he has this particular superpower) and he then revealed that the reason my old scanning software had stopped working was that it made use of Adobe Flash, and Adobe Flash has recently given up the ghost.

So, another scanning system was installed, and I am now struggling to make sense of it. The Guru is very wise, but he suffers from the affliction of many gurus, which is that he supposes that what is to him obvious is surely quite easy also for the rest of us to understand. I have to explain it to him that what is obvious to him is, for me, downright impenetrable and bordering on impossible. To him, the new software is easy. He is used to getting to grips with new software. To him, that’s easy. For me, even when he has taken me through every small step, this new piece of software is still a great swirl of confusion, and I need a clear day to get to grips with it.

It is now nearly midnight, and so instead of that Beethoven book excerpt, which I will try to do tomorrow, there has only been time for this.

Photos by Jim Turney of the Libertarian International World Convention of 1984

In 1984, I was one of many who helped organise a big Libertarian Conference at Royal Holloway College. US libertarian Jim Turney was one of those who attended, and he took these photos, which he has just emailed to me:

Left to right there: the late Chris R. Tame (who was the super-organiser of this gathering); me; Peter Breggin.

Left to right: John Hospers; me again; a guy who wrote and writes regularly for the IEA, and whom I know well but whose name is locked in a getting-old brain cave (anyone?); Nigel Ashford.

Left to right: Hospers again; me again; the guy I know well but … again; Ashford again; and a guy I genuinely do not know after all these years. Sorry if it turns out I should know him. Anyone?

Turney picked out the photos he had of this event with me in them, and there I am, the thin geek in the glasses. You can tell he’s a politician, can’t you? I can’t be the only person whom he has photoed during those long ago times when only Real Photographers had cameras and the half dozen digital cameras in existence all belonged to NASA. Think how precious such photos might be to some people, compared to photos photoed more recently.

I will now email Jim Turney back, thanking him for these remarkable photos, and asking if he has any more of this event, and in particular any more of Chris Tame.

I’m pretty sure that’s not the problem

I made my trip (see below) to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, and the trip had the effect of making the state I was in, i.e. the reason I went, worse. Any posture is uncomfortable for me just now. Even just sitting in a moving bus is a bit of an ordeal. So the X-raying was no fun, especially when I had to lie down. They wanted my toes pointing inwards, for some reason, and that was, it turned out, particularly uncomfortable. But they were very nice and didn’t waste any time, and here I am back home.

But not in any state to post more than one quota photo, of a sign, in the cubicle where I went to get changed beforehand:

As of now it is unclear what is/are the cause/causes of my present bodily discontents. For more about that, I must await the X-ray results. But I think we can cross that one off the list.

This did make me worry that I was in a seriously wrong place, though. No matter how much they smother a big and busy place in signs, if you’re visiting it for the first time, you get things wrong. I still don’t know if I committed any violations of a woman’s right to a safe space. I encountered no angry women, so no harm seemed to have been done.

Life at the top of the slope

I am about to journey to the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, at the far end of the Fulham Road, to get two distinct sets of X-rays done. Chest, and hip. I have been coughing a lot. And I have pains in and around the arse, back, right leg, and nearby spots. It kind of moves around. “Pain in the arse” is now yet another of those hitherto innocuous phrases which have become filled with meaning in recent weeks. Not the actual orifice itself, you understand, just the bones – or is it the muscles? – in that general area. “Old fart” and “under the weather” are other common phrases that have both, for a while now, made a lot more sense than they did when I was younger.

I am at the top end of the slope, at the far end of which is: death. My body is just beginning seriously to disintegrate. Two years ago, I could stride about London for hour after hour, or babble away on the telephone without a care. Now, not so much. The majority of the efforts of the National Health Service seem to be devoted to looking after the likes of me, softening the blows of ever older age, and thereby prolonging it.

I am hoping that this first serious clutch of discomforts will be curable, or at least treatable after a fashion, to the point where I’ll be able to walk and talk more fluently than I do now. But I do not now assume this.

Big sport day

Two IPL games have been happening, both disappointing. That being twenty-overs-plays-twenty-overs cricket, in India. Both games started out with low scores by the teams batting first, followed by relaxed and successful chases by the opposition, and neither contained any English players for me to support. I don’t care which IPL teams do well. I just want the England guys to do well. Some are doing okay, like Stokes, Buttler and Archer, who are all, if I remember it right, playing for the same team. Many are not doing so well. Roy got dropped early. Bairstow seemed to be doing okay, but also got dropped. Blah blah. If you care about the IPL, you’ll know how to follow it. If you don’t care, you don’t need any links from me. (This applies to everything in this posting. So, no links. If you care, you know. If you don’t care, you probably aren’t even reading this.)

So, the Rugby. My over-riding feeling going into today’s games, the last of the 2020 6 Nations, was that the English commentators were being insufferably smug about how well England would do against Italy and how badly Italy would do against England. Well, it’s now half time in that game, and England are up by a mere ten points to five, with each side having scored one try. England have to score four tries to probably win the title, but have kicked away all their possession, as I just saw Clive Woodward complaining about also. When will these people ever learn? This is the Six Nations. Anything can happen.

One thing in particular made me suspect that Italy might do well, which is that they have finally got shot of that guy whose name now escapes me who has been their best player for the last two decades. Sergio Parisse, is it? When a bad team has a “great player” playing for them, there is a temptation for the other guys to ease off and let him do it for them. But once he goes, all the other guys look at the team sheet and say: My God, we’re going to have to do this ourselves. And they can end up playing better. In particular, Italy have what looks to be a great fly half, who pulled off a wonderful dummy pass to score against Ireland last week. He looks really good. To say it again: It’s the 6 Nations. You, famous ex-England player, you don’t know what’ll happen. I don’t know. Nobody knows.

Oh, I just tuned back into this England game, and it would seem that England have scored another try, and need just two more to serve their purposes. Which is quite probable. Presumably they got a bollocking at half time. And yes, that’s exactly what the commentators are now saying. Italy 5 England 17, with somewhat over half and hour to go.

The France Ireland game that happens later is predicted to be a high scoring high risk affair, with both teams seeking to get four tries and a chance to win this thing themselves. So, I now predict a low-scoring stalemate, in which they cancel each other out, and win the tournament for England despite England’s worst efforts.

Why am I in such a bad mood about these games, because I definitely am? It’s partly Lockdown, and partly the fake crowd noises that happened during the earlier Wales Scotland game. Who do they think they are fooling with such nonsense? (Wales lost, by the way, not because Scotland were that good, but because they were not very good.) At least this Italy England game is being accurately reported by the television, without any added-on “atmosphere”. But, that makes it hard to take very seriously, because that means there’s no atmosphere. You need to be able to suspend your disbelief about these contests really really mattering. The seats in the stadium are all empty, and the only people you can hear shouting are the players. It looks and sounds like a training game. It needs to feel and sound like an actual life-and-death battle, but does not, at all.

It doesn’t help any that I have been suffering from persistent “lower back” problems, caused partly by having been sitting for far too long on the wrong sort of chair. I am now trying a different chair, but it’s too soon to say if this will work. This, for me, could be it from now on. If I could trade England winning the 6 Nations for getting rid of this pain in the arse, I’d do that deal in a blink.

England have try number three. They need just one more, with half an hour left. Expert prediction: Doddle. Me: Let’s just see about that, shall we? Meanwhile, England, after a very poor first half, are nevertheless 5-24 up.

In soccer news. West Ham are now leading Liverpool by a goal to nil. Will they do to Liverpool what Aston Villa did to Liverpool, and beat them 7-2? Well, probably not. Liverpool have already equalised. There’s been much discussion about why so many goals are being scored in the Premier League all of a sudden. It has been suggested that, in the absence of spectators, defenders aren’t taking their duties as seriously as they would if there were spectators present to jeer at them when they cock it up. But I would like to suggest another explanation which is that attackers are, for this same reason, a bit more relaxed, and hence better able to score goals, instead of turning into terrified blocks of wood or bodies of jelly just when they need to be at their sharpest. With no spectators to put them off, they can score goals just like they do in training.

England have just scored try number four. So, all those damn experts were right, despite everything. Boring.

Final score: Italy 5 England 34. My understanding is that if Ireland win by more than seven, or if France win by a lot, either of them could win it. But honestly, I find that I don’t care enough to check if that’s right. I’ll just wait to be told.

Result: Liverpool 2 West Ham 1. Boring boring.

Maybe I built all this up too much beforehand, only to discover on the day that I had become an adult. Maybe that’s my problem. It seems unlikely, but I suppose it could be that.

Apparently Ireland have to win by seven or more, and score at least four tries. So England are now hot favourites for the Six Nations 2020. Hoo ray.

LATER: Biggest laugh of the day. They got it wrong, and I got it right the first time! Ireland just have to win by seven or more. No four tries. Just win by a bit. France have to win by a mile, so, go France. But don’t go too well.

EVEN LATER: Well France obliged, by winning, but not by enough. England are champions. It didn’t feel like anyone was, really. The way France took their tries against Ireland was what I’ll remember from today.

The greatest show on earth (but not always nice)

So, what creatures does SteveStuWill have for us today?

Mother bird refuses to abandon her eggs. || The amazing diversity of caterpillars. || Sarcasm alert: Nature is so delightful. || Some baby owls sleep face down. || Like humans, wild chimpanzees focus on fewer yet more meaningful friendships as they grow older – that’s me. || Things aren’t always what they seem – butterfly faking it. || This bizarre-looking creature is a long-wattled umbrellabird. || A hognose snake faking its own death. || Who hurt the little sea toad? || A great-backed gull swallowing a rabbit whole. || Cat’s tongue under a microscope. || Scary octopus. || Baby gorilla. || Feline civil disobedience.

Or, to sum it up, Evolution Is the Greatest Show on Earth.

LATER: This. Eat your heart out Peter Bonetti. Not one of SS-W’s, but worthy of being added to them.

LATER STILL: Albino squirrel, demonstrating white supremacy by the looks of it.

How old age and wisdom are connected

And I don’t necessarily mean that the former inevitably causes the latter.

A big connection is that for young people to be wiser, often all they need to do is slow down a bit. Look before they leap. Old people just slow down. We can’t help it. For us, instant leaping is less of an option.

Trouble is, for both young and old, slowing down can just mean being stupid more slowly.

If you want to appear wise, saying nothing for longish time periods can be very effective, even if you are merely musing on sports results or playing a favourite tune in your head. Or, you just can’t be bothered to say anything.

I think I may just have imparted some wisdom.

Jonathan the 188-year-old tortoise

Here:

He is the oldest known living terrestrial animal in the world.

And there was me thinking I was getting old.

He has his own Wikipedia page:

Jonathan (hatched c. 1832) is a Seychelles giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea hololissa), a subspecies of the Aldabra giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea), and the oldest known living terrestrial animal in the world. Jonathan resides on the island of Saint Helena, a British Overseas Territory in the South Atlantic Ocean.

The tweet I linked to above says “happy birthday” to Jonathan, but they don’t know exactly when he was born. He could be even older.