Monthly Archives: March 2016

explaining news to kids

explaining news to kids

I woke up this morning clutching desperately for something that would stem the sinus drainage that I developed in the middle of the night, jotted down a shopping list for more nose-related sundries, and opened up my window into the world to find this enticing article on how to explan the news to our kids.

I’m still trying to find the best ways to explain the news to grown adults but the idea of tender and vulnerable minds watching what gets put on the telly is intriguing. (WGN offers up a logo that suggests its eager to put more violent garbage in front of you, to say nothing of the other pablum and lies that abound in that medium.)  My own thoughts and reactions will follow, but here’s the article:



Explaining the News to Our Kids

Caroline Knorr, Common Sense Media 

Fri Aug 8, 4:45 PM UTC 

Kids get their news from many sources—and they’re not always correct. How to talk about the news—and listen, too.

Shootings, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, end-of-the-world predictions—even local news reports of missing kids and area shootings—all of this can be upsetting news even for adults, much less kids. In our 24/7 news world, it’s become nearly impossible to shield kids from distressing current events.

Today, kids get news from everywhere. This constant stream of information shows up in sharable videos, posts, blogs, feeds, and alerts. And since much of this content comes from sites that are designed for adult audiences, what your kids see, hear, or read might not always be age appropriate. Making things even more challenging is the fact that many kids are getting this information directly on their phones and laptops. Often parents aren’t around to immediately help their children make sense of horrendous situations.

The bottom line is that young kids simply don’t have the ability to understand news events in context, much less know whether or not a source of information is credible. And while older teens are better able to understand current events, even they face challenges when it comes to sifting fact from opinion—or misinformation.

No matter how old your kid is, threatening or upsetting news can affect them emotionally. Many can feel worried, frightened, angry — even guilty. And these anxious feelings can last long after the news event is over. So what can you do as a parent to help your kids deal with all of this information?


Reassure your children that they’re safe. Tell your kids that even though a story is getting a lot of attention, it was just one event and was most likely a very rare occurrence. And remember that your kids will look to the way you handle your reactions to determine their own approach. If you stay calm and considered, they will, too.


Keep the news away. Turn off the TV and radio news at the top of the hour and half hour. Read the newspaper out of range of young eyes that can be frightened by the pictures. Preschool children don’t need to see or hear about something that will only scare them silly, especially because they can easily confuse facts with fantasies or fears.

At this age, kids are most concerned with your safety and separation from you. They’ll also respond strongly to pictures of other young children in jeopardy. Try not to minimize or discount their concerns and fears, but reassure them by explaining all the protective measures that exist to keep them safe. If you’re flying somewhere with them, explain that extra security is a good thing


Carefully consider your child’s maturity and temperament.Many kids can handle a discussion of threatening events, but if your children tend toward the sensitive side, be sure to keep them away from the TV news; repetitive images and stories can make dangers appear greater, more prevalent, and closer to home.

At this age, many kids will see the morality of events in stark black-and-white terms and are in the process of developing their moral beliefs. You may have to explain the basics of prejudice, bias, and civil and religious strife. But be careful about making generalizations, since kids will take what you say to the bank. This is a good time to ask them what they know, since they’ll probably have gotten their information from friends, and you may have to correct facts.

You might explain that even news programs compete for viewers, which sometimes affects content decisions. If you let your kids use the Internet, go online with them. Some of the pictures posted are simply grisly. Monitor where your kids are going, and set your URLs to open to non-news-based portals.


Check in. Since, in many instances, teens will have absorbed the news independently of you, talking with them can offer great insights into their developing politics and their senses of justice and morality. It will also give you the opportunity to throw your own insights into the mix (just don’t dismiss theirs, since that will shut down the conversation immediately).

Many teens will feel passionately about events and may even personalize them if someone they know has been directly affected. They’ll also probably be aware that their own lives could be impacted by terrorist tactics. Try to address their concerns without dismissing or minimizing them. If you disagree with media portrayals, explain why so that your teens can separate the mediums through which they absorb news from the messages conveyed.

Additional resources: For more information on how to talk to your kids about a recent tragedy please visit the National Association of School Psychologists or the American Psychological Association.

© 2014 Common Sense Media, Inc. All rights reserved. 


Here’s my alternative approach:


Turn off the TV and tell the kids to go out and play.

Turn off the TV and read a good book to them. 

Take them to a museum, or on a hike. 

If they whine and carry on, get them invested in reading, community and after-school ventures in creativity, drama, the arts, photography, athletics, the worlds of science, technology and math.

When they get old enough to understand:

Explain the concept of media concentration (see notes 1 and 2).

Explain what propaganda is (see notes 3, 4 and especially 5), as well as this book.  Explain something about the history of Bernaysian thought and application; a trip to will probably suffice for openers, especially if you get the connection between “Torches of Freedom” and the incidence of lung cancer.

Explain the rudimentary concepts of perception management (see notes 6, 7, 8 and 9).

When you feel the child is ready (probably at least deep into high school), you can consider introducing them to information warfare (note 10), and then venture as you dare into the topics of  thought control, psychological warfare, mind control and mind wars

Tell them all about Operation Mockingbird (notes 11, 12, 13 and 14), the law that approves domestic propaganda (note 15), and how the CIA circulated a memo that set out the idea of a “conspiracy theory”  for the first time (note 16) right after they killed the President of the United States and before they killed the leading candidate for peace and reform emerging from out of the Presidential primary process. 

Explain the relationship of news to entertainment and vice versa (notes 17, 18 and 19), how the movies and TV shows aid perception, the role of the CIA in Hollywood (notes 20, 21 and 22), the links between Zionism and Hollywood (notes 23, 24 and 25), the links between Zionism and terrorism (notes 26, 27, 28 and 29), Operation Gladio (notes 30, 31, 32 and 33), and the silent sound technology built in to HDTV (notes 34 and 35 ) and the surveillance tools built in to smart TV’s (notes 36, 37 and 38 ).

Give them a short primer in the emergence of a secret, centuries-long plan starting in an obscure group in Bavaria called Perfectibilists into a secret exclusive fraternity at Yale that since the 1830’s has placed in control virtually every major large-group society, publishing venture or non-governmental organization under the control of people whose allegiance seems sworn to Luciferianism, including the American Psychology Association. You can read all about it for free with a 14-day trial at Scribd. 

Finally, after securing your child to a board and holding them upside down under a faucet, ask them if they have done their homework.  [Refresh their memory about the use of the term “hot and cold running images”.]

Then explain the ties between the American Psychological Association and the use of torture in American prisons (see notes 39, 40 and 41) and ask them if they want that organization to provide tips on how they should watch TV and understand the news.



2) [“Media Concentration: A Case of Power, Ego, and Greed Confronting Our Sensibilities”]

















19)  [“… greater media choice makes it easier for people to find their preferred content. People who like news take advantage of abundant political information to become more knowledgeable and more likely to turn out. In contrast, people who prefer entertainment abandon the news and become less likely to learn about politics….”] 



22) [The CIA in Hollywood: How The Agency Shapes Film and Television]






28) [Don’t expect any Hollywood films highlighting any of these massacres committed by Jewish-Zionist terrorists, notably by the Zionist Hagana, Irgun and Stern Gang groups.]














source of image: 


Suggested reading to put the emphasis back on the proper development of your child as a sentient intelligent creative and empathetic being:

Seven Times Smarter: 50 Activities, Games and Projects to Develop the Seven Intelligences of Your Child, Laurel Schmidt, Three Rivers Press, New York 2001. [If you want a pearl, you have to put a grain of sand in the shell.]

Smart Moves: Why Learning is Not All In Your Head, Carla Hannaford, Ph.D., Great Ocean Publishers, Arlington, VA 1995. [The author is a nationally-recognized neuropsychologist and educator. This is a fascinating, very readable and

important book on neuroscience, educational kinesiology and the brain/body connection as it affects us in learning, in performance, at work, and in society. It explains several basic BrainGym exercises, very simple techniques anyone can use to enhance their lives in innumerable ways.]

Sparks of Genius: The 13 Thinking Tools of the World’s Most Creative People, Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein, Houghton Mifflin, New York. 1999. [The primary tools are observing, imaging, abstracting, recognizing patterns, forming patterns, analogizing, body thinking, empathizing and dimensional thinking; the integrative tools are modeling,

playing, transforming and synthesizing.]

The Everyday Work of Art: How Artistic Experience Can Transform Your Life, Eric Booth, Sourcebooks, Napierville, Illinois 1997.

How To Be, Do, or Have Anything: A Practical Guide to Creative Empowerment, Laurence G. Boldt, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA 2001.

Becoming Adult: How Teenagers Prepare for the World of Work, Mihaly Csikszentmthalyi and Barbara Schnieder, Basic Books, New York, 2000.

One Kid at a Time: Big Lessons from a Small School, Eliot Levine, Teachers College Press, New York, 2002.

Schools With Spirit: Nurturing the Inner Lives of Children and Teachers, edited by Linda Lantieri, Beacon Press, 2001.

Deep Play, Diane Ackerman, Random House, New York, 1999.

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, M. Csikszentmihalyi, Harper & Row, New York, 1990.

Reclaiming Our Children: A Healing Plan for a Nation in Crisis, Peter R. Breggin, M.D., Perseus Books, Cambridge, MA 2000.

Walking in this World: The Practical Art of Creativity, Julia Cameron, Tarcher/Putnam 2002. [A follow-up to The Artists’ Way, this book is about rediscovering our senses of origin, proportion, perspective, adventure, personal territory, boundaries, momentum, discernment, resiliency, camaraderie, authenticity and dignity. Her list of recommended reading is remarkable.]

Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, Jerry Mander, William Morrow Paperbacks, 1977. [“TV stops the critical processes of the brain.”]

hacking art

hacking art

Forgive me; I have been neglectful.  

I’ve been busy with chasing improvements and perfections in extended family matters, personal hobbies, and more. Stuff happens and things have to move on. 

The Flat Stanley project took on a life of its own but the fellow is safely tucked into a number of safe two-dimensional venues. 

I upgraded my iMac’s software, a consequence being that it blew off the software that took imagery from my beginner’s Kodak and brought it onto my large screen where I could play with it, ship it out to printing companies, etc. But without that software (no longer available through or supported by either Kodak or Apple), I no longer had photography. 

That won’t do.  A number of people have been guilty of prodding me into recognizing something I almost stubbornly refused to embrace… that I enjoy photography.  Thanks be to them.  I have been busy getting others to embrace their art, and I’m finally getting clear that I need to embrace my own: writing and photography. 

I had a wonderful Minolta and I wrecked a new Nikon, took a correspondence course a long time ago and dropped out after the first lessons. I was hooked. I investigated the idea of becoming a pro, checking out and selecting a formal school, and then doing some serious research into the financial realities of turning pro. I didn’t. Almost at the same time, photography was digitized and automated, so anyone can take (or make) the same photo I’d have liked to have sold them. I quit the pastime in frustration for a number of reasons. 

Now I’ve started new files and inquiries, and the photography is picking up steam again. I’d been exploring enlargements on stainless steel. I’ve found guides to photography apps for MAC OS, and done the research to understand what it’s going to take to get me an EOS Rebel T5i EF-S 18-55mm IS STM Kit. I’ve got to find a high-quality, low-cost digital photo manipulation tool so I can tinker and learn more about white balance, saturation, and the like. 

In text, I’ve been nibbling at two recent acquisitions; I am going to have to make full meals of them, and they are inter-related.  

The first is Tilar Mazzeo’s course on Writing Creative Nonfiction; the second the book Tempo, by Venkatesh Rao. 

The first is in audio format but I’ve worked thus far only with the transcript book. I just bought a new car which is a great place to listen, on the road to somewhere, with my new camera in the back seat. 

I’m almost done with my first reading of Tempo; it is thick and pentrating, much food for thought. I’ve been annotating as I go and I just hit a second (or maybe third) stretch that resonates with the material from Summon The Magic and performance psychology. More to follow…. 



Primary Perception: Biocommunication with Plants, Living Foods, and Human Cells 

This is the only book by Cleve Backster himself [published in 2003], describing 36 years of research in biocommunication, observed electrical responses in plant life and other living organisms. All life forms have the capability of responding to one another, from plants and bacteria to foods and animal cells. Most amazing is his work with human leukocytes. These discoveries have opened up a new paradigm in science, ecology and healing. 


Livingston Taylor picked up his first guitar at the age of thirteen, beginning a forty-year career that has encompassed performance, songwriting and teaching. Born in Boston and raised in North Carolina, Livingston is the fourth child in a very musical family that includes Alex, James, Kate and Hugh. Livingston recorded his first record at 18 and has continued to create well-crafted, introspective and original songs that have earned him listeners worldwide. From top-forty hits “I Will Be in Love with You” and “I’ll Come Running,” to “I Can Dream of You” and “Boatman” both recorded by his brother James, Livingston’s creative output has continued unabated. His musical knowledge has inspired a varied repertoire, and he is equally at home with a range of musical genres—folk, pop, gospel, jazz—and from upbeat storytelling to touching ballads.

Livingston has never stopped performing since those early coffeehouse days, touring with major artists such as Linda Ronstadt, Jimmy Buffet and Jethro Tull, and he maintains a busy concert schedule of over eighty shows a year. He is a natural performer, peppering his shows with personal stories, anecdotes and ineffable warmth that connect him to his fans. His relaxed on-stage presence belies the depth of his musical knowledge, and fans might just as often be treated to a classic Gershwin or something from the best of Broadway.
As a full professor at Berklee College of Music since 1989, Livingston shares his experiences and knowledge of professional touring with young artists, just beginning to hone their skills. His course, Stage Performance (I and II) is one of the most popular at the College, and it gives him the ideal forum in which to impart the lessons learned through his own career to a new generation of musicians. His book, Stage Performance, is drawn from those classes, and is available now.


Books at Amazon

Stage Performance by Livingston Taylor 

The Complete Singer-Songwriter: A Troubadour’s Guide to Writing, Performing, Recording and Business  


Tips for Singers: 

Performing, Auditioning, and Rehearsing

by Carolyn Wilkins 


Left on autoplay, a YouTube series on improving stage presence and performance for singers and musicians


The Future of Learning, Networked Society (20:16)


human interaction

human interaction

In the age of the internet and smartphones, there is no denying that technology continuously shapes our everyday lives….

featured graphic: 

music audio: 

In the age of the internet and smartphones, there is no denying that technology continuously shapes our everyday lives. Ours is an ever-connected society, and social media in particular has transformed human interactions well beyond the confines of our immediate circles. We can now communicate with friends, family, and likeminded communities regardless of physical location, and sharing even the most intimate aspects of our private lives has become the norm.

Whilst global connectivity is no doubt extremely positive, a closer look at social media highlights a more destructive reality for the individual. In a world where everything is seemingly on show, it is crucial to question just how real social media is and to consider its impact on our mental well-being.

Social Media: What’s The Appeal?

To truly understand the relationship between social media and self-image, we need to recognize what draws us to online networks in the first place. Keeping in touch with far-flung friends and relatives may be an obvious advantage to sites like Facebook, but our fascination with social media runs deeper than that: it taps into our desire to be heard. Indeed, the internet has given us all a voice, with affordable packages such as this one making it easier than ever before to create a website or blog using common WordPress themes. Practically anyone can become a published writer or photographer within the online sphere, and the abundance of user-generated media stands testament to our inherent need to share. Social media presents not only another platform through which to express ourselves, but by apparently focusing on the banalities of everyday life, it enables us to construct an identity over which we have total control.

Through status updates, location check-ins, and photo uploads, we appear to give our online friends all-access insight into our lives, but in reality, the majority of us are presenting an edited version. Whilst this is necessary for maintaining some degree of privacy, the danger arises when we become more fixated on portraying the perfect existence than actually living it. Posting only the most flattering selfies or fun-filled weekend snaps may seem completely harmless – and is indeed a natural reflex for many online socialites – but our obsession with airbrushing every aspect of our digital lives can actually have some rather alarming psychological implications.

The Actual Self Vs. The Online Self

The notion of keeping up appearances is not unique to social media; from job interviews to meeting new people for the first time, it’s only natural that we put our best selves forward.

According to Edward Tory Higgins’ self-discrepancy theory (1987), we all identify with three different types of self: the actual self – the person we perceive ourselves to actually be; the ought self based on who we believe we should be; and the ideal self shaped by hopes, wishes, and aspirations – the person we want to be. Higgins believed that the larger the perceived discrepancy between, say, the actual and the ideal self, the more prone the individual is to negative emotions, such as low self-esteem, anxiety, and even self-contempt.

Of course, it is not only our own profiles that affect our mental wellbeing. Several studies have identified a correlation between Facebook usage in general and dissatisfaction with one’s own life, with envy cited as the most common emotion induced by the site. Bombarded with constant reminders of other people’s “perfect” lives, it can indeed be incredibly difficult to see through the illusion that everyone else is flying higher, having more fun, and going to better places. Our failure to fully realize our own goals is once again highlighted, and we feel inadequate – and miserable – by comparison.

External Validation or True Self-Worth?

According to Statista, 73% of the US population had a social media profile in 2015, a figure that grows significantly year on year. The question remains, then: if social media makes us feel so bad, why do we continue to subscribe and take part? Fear of missing out no doubt plays a major role, as online networks have become so integral to the way we interact with our peers. Another key factor is our inherent need to be regarded positively by others, as explained by psychologist Carl Rogers’ theory of personality. There is no denying that posting a picture online and receiving likes and comments is one of the most instant – and measurable – forms of external validation, and gives us quite the buzz. In that respect, social media has made it all too easy to choose the path of instant, short-term gratification, with the ideal or online self often taking precedence over the actual self. Whilst social media provides a quick-fix, the ever widening gap between the actual and ideal selves can leave us feeling empty and unfulfilled in the long term.

Loving Yourself In The Age of Social Media

The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction not a destination.

Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person (1961)

A significant part of Rogers’ theory is the concept of self-actualization through reaching one’s full potential, ultimately aligning the actual self with the ideal self. Although this is an ongoing journey rather than a fixed destination, the more congruent we perceive the two selves to be, the greater our sense of fulfilment. However, in a world where social media paints a glossy picture of perfect lives, there is a growing tendency to abandon the pursuit of self-actualization and to live vicariously instead through the online self.

Someone who knows only too well just how toxic this can be is teenage model Essena O’Neill. Having previously made a living through her social media posts, she dramatically quit Instagram last year, exposing a deeply flawed reality behind the perfect scenes. No longer able to cope with the discrepancy between her real life and the life she was portraying online, she has shunned social media in order to focus on “real-life projects.” In an emotional video that clearly captures just how miserable it made her feel to be “defined by numbers,” O’Neill strongly urges others to follow suit.

Achieving and maintaining a positive self-image in the social media age is not necessarily about quitting Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Rather, it is about readjusting your perception of the online world and finding a balance between digital and real life. Firstly, learning to see through the smoke and mirrors of other social media profiles will break the habit of comparing yourself unfavorably, so that time spent online is more about connecting with friends than highlighting your own shortcomings.

Secondly, it’s crucial to focus wholly on aligning your actual self with your ideal self, rather than simply projecting these aspirations onto your online profile. Be 100% present in every moment – do things that actually fulfill and satisfy you, regardless of whether it makes an impressive social media post. Nurturing face-to-face connections and placing more value on your real-life state puts a much-needed perspective on social media, ultimately boosting the way we perceive ourselves and paving the way to genuine, long-term happiness.  






Consciousness wants to create new consciousness, and it can. Imagination is how it does it. If there were some ultimate state of consciousness, imagination would always be able to play another card and take it further.

In any arena of life, and especially when it comes to the mind, perception, power, empathy, and so on, there is always a status quo. It’s merely the place where a person says, “Well, that’s enough. I’ll settle for what I have. I’ll stop here.”

Sooner or later, this leads to boredom, frustration, problems, and conflict. It leads to a decline.

Imagination, which knows no bounds, is the source for the most adventurous explorations. It can have great impact on the material world, of course, but one mustn’t therefore conclude it is composed of matter or energy. Imagination is non-material. To think otherwise winds you up in using some version of physics to depict imagination—and then you are imposing limits on it. This is an error. Imagination doesn’t obey any laws of physics.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, we’ve flattered reality enough. It doesn’t need any more. Imagination creates new realities.

You can create the same thing over and over, and eventually you’ll be about as alive as a table. Inject imagination into the mix, and everything suddenly changes. You can steer that boat anywhere you want to.

The lowest common denominator of consensus signals an absence of imagination: everyone agrees; everyone is bored; everyone is obedient. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are massive floods of unique individual creation, and then that sought-after thing called abundance is as natural as the sun rising in the morning.

Sitting around in a cosmic bus station waiting for reality is what reality is. Everything else is imagination.

There are those who believe life is a museum. You walk through the rooms, find one painting, stroll into it and take up permanent residence. But the museum is endless. If you were a painter, you’d never decide to live inside one of your canvases forever. You’d keep on painting.

The relentless and obsessive search for all those things on which we can agree is a confession of bankruptcy.

When we re-learn to live through and by imagination, we enter and invent new space and time.

With imagination, one can solve a problem. More importantly, one can skip ahead of the problem and render it null and void.

Imagination isn’t a system. It might invent systems, but it is non-material. It’s a capacity. It feels no compulsion to imitate reality. It makes realities. Its scope is limited only by a person’s imagining of how far imagination can go.

The human race is obsessed by the question: what exists? It appears to be a far easier question than: what do you want to create? This comparison explains why civilizations decline.

Imagination is a path. Walking on that path long enough, you find answers to all the questions you’ve ever asked, as an incidental side effect of the journey. You also find power that most people only dream of. 



[Ed.: This book arrived last week; I am pleased to have received it for free since I was one of the “kickstarters”. I gave it to my daughter, an elementary school teacher, and just ordered one of the last “leftovers” to read to my grandkids.]

dreams and Spaghetti-O’s

dreams and Spaghetti-O’s

I’m a male, and I’m passionate about driving, but this is about women.  As a male, I remain largely ignorant about women.  One day I asked an old kindly and wise fellow if he knew of any books about understanding women and he replied “Ain’t been written yet.” 

As an ambulance driver, I envisioned some form of mapping device built into the dashboard or, better yet, projected as a heads-up display onto the windshield, so I could be directed accurately to the place where an emergency was occurring.  When you’re responding to a medical emergency, there’s no time to slow down and roll down your window to ask directions, let alone get lost. I didn’t know about GPS systems; they were still top-secret then, and my wife used to chide me for failing to have carried through enough to bring the financial rewards of fitting every car with my magic invention. A TV ad for the Warren Buffet-owned insurance company seen frequently is the one in which Jane asks the chimpanzee the way to the waterfall. “Tarzan know where Tarzan go.” I have one of those built-in mental compasses.  My spatial intelligence skills are exceptionally good.

The new car we bought recently has one of those systems — my wife needs one, because her sense of geographic navigation needs assistance— and it has several of those lane-warning and collision avoidance devices whose pings and audibles I’m still trying to internalize.  My driving skills and peripheral vision have deteriorated with age so Tarzan needs supportive assistance now too. Tarzan now go slow.

All of this bemusement is prompted by an ad in Hemmings’ newsletter for a 1965 Hillman SuperMinx. The owner says it’s still running well after 22 years though it still needs “some break work”. 

“… All of our sons drove it to high school but our grand daughters have been banned from it because it doesn’t have any modern safety features…..” 

Well, these days, though the NHTSA begs to differ, putting your grand-daughters in a protective bubble is not the best way to empower them.

Today — we are informed graphically by Google — is International Women’s Day, so it’s a good day for me to finish this expression of thought I’d begun to assemble days ago. 

When I read of “delicate flowers” piloting a Hillman, I immediately thought of Genevieve Obert and her co-driver. Obert was an automotive journalist who embraced an offer to participate in a 10,000 mile ramble in an old car across some of the toughtest and roughest terrain known to men or women. 

They comprised Entrant #51 in the “The Second Peking to Paris Motor Challenge”

I know of this because I own a signed copy of  Prince Borghese’s Trail which I bought from a library where I’d been hunting for something really good to read. It was like I was along for the ride.  Did I mention that I love to drive?  I’ve read it twice and gave it to my wife to read. 

The red Hillman #51 is prominently featured in this oid documentary video.  Did I mention they finished first in the Women’s Division? This kind of experience is anachronistic in an era that is beginning to make available (and eventually mandate in certain locales and situations) cars that drive themselves. Yech! Ptooie! The Hillman Hunter they drove is reviewed here. You can read about its “works-prepared rally car” cousin here

I’m not going to suggest that the experiences are of comparable difficulty, but my wife and I have made the round trip from Boston to Florida three times, once in 23 hours flat out with nothing more than a 20-minute nap at the gas station off the Quantico exit. 

Our daughter made the 2.25-hour run between home and college in a used Mazda 6 sedan for four years. There she turned into a Strength & Conditioning All-American, made the university’s athletic hall of fame in her second year of eligibility, and forever memorialized the day I hung this poster on the chain-link dugout with an NCAA record-tying three home runs in three at-bats performance. 

If You Want to Achieve Excellence copy

When she gave me the old Mazda back and bought a new Honda Civic, in the trunk was her three-ring binder filled with the blurbs I used to send her in the mail.  Some of her favorites were the ones on the first page in the section entitled “Where Are You Going?”, the ones about day-dreaming and Johnny Bench’s teachers, which presaged her encounters with Jason Varitek on the field at Fenway Park. 

As I noted in the e-book that they eventually became:

I think that one does not have to search for one’s personal mantra.  There are many examples given to us as possibilities.  A mantra and other such behavioral tools can be used frequently enough that the handle of the tool, worn with age, eventually fits the grip of our soul.  This may suffice for a while.  But this may be erroneous practice in the long run.  I think that one’s mantra cannot be found as if trying on a pair of new shoes, or test-driving a new car.  (My family always bought Fords; how about yours?)  

Walking in various types of shoes may indeed teach us something about walking, or shoes.  Using a simple mantra borrowed from elsewhere may help our brains and our souls become more adept at recognizing certain kinds of rhythms, internal and external.  

But, in the end, one’s mantra arises from within; it is not a language that comes from someone else.  It is not even just words, although we can struggle to find the right words for this as we do for anything else.  I like musical sounds, but even those become irrelevant.  Sometimes we can quiet everything down through meditation or prayer or church-going or sitting still to listen for the background hum of the Big Bang.  But such activity can’t be done in pursuit of something.  It’s the journey, isn’t it, and not the destination or even the intent. 

But when we sit down and shut up for long enough regularly enough, eventually we start to pick up on that subtle rhythm for which we are only an instrument vibrating in tune with ourselves, reflecting the energy from a more distant source, an energy that gets us up in the morning, keeps us up late, pops into our heads when we’re driving, wakes us up in the middle of the night, and otherwise shows up in our lives in interesting, amusing and challenging ways. 

If our early focus on mantras leads us to try on another pair of shoes, then we find something that seems to fit, and we wear them for a while.  We discover, though, in the end, that we really enjoy going barefoot.  

Our mantra is how we sing our self in what we do. 


This is the song she chose as her “walk-up” song when she made it to the pros.

need for speed

The Hemmings newsletter on Super Tuesday featured:

a red and yellow 1916 popcorn wagon (restored to use propane fuel)

a 1999 custom coach limousine,  

a ’67 red Mustang

a 1948 Ford Super Deluxe “woodie” wagon and

to warm up my heart, a 1972 Cadillac S&S Kensington ambulance with a 472 cubic inch V-8 with a 4 barrel carburetor. 


I “cut my teeth” as an ambulance attendant-turned-EMT on a white Miller-Meteor equivalent. “Norm” held the record at 48 minutes from Springfield Hospital to Mass. General Hospital, right down the middle of the Mass. Pike at 135 mph. Mass. State Police and Turnpike authority vehicles were notified in advance to track our progress. No police escorts were ever used; they drive up the risk of an accident. Families were advised never to try to follow along.

Jet helicopters still can’t touch that performance because they spend too much time “loading” …; the patient and medical crew because they still have to be driven to the landing pad even though it’s less than a block away.

“Norm” was a very memorable character from within some very memorable years.  He stood at least 6’2”, probably more like 6’4”, and could leverage that height to pick up most anything or anyone. It was very useful when carrying 300-lb. heart attack victims down the stairs in a stair-chair.  He had a knack for picking up waitresses and nurses too that I never learned or employed, though I once questioned him about it. On meeting them, he simply asked if they’d like to go to bed with him.  (This was, after all, the late 60’s.) He got turned down a lot, usually abruptly. I asked him why he used that approach and he said “sooner or later, the odds are that one of them will say yes.”

We worked for a private ambulance company that pioneered advanced training through the National Ambulance Training Institute. I’d already passed the advanced 60-hour course required by the ex-Newark FD battalion chief in Amherst before you could climb into the ambulance at the fire department where I used to get into arguments with him about dispatch protocols. I re-designed his dispatch center for him but I was history after I flunked ladders. I bounced over to the world of private ambulance response where I teamed up with “the pineapple”, Sid, and others. The NATI course was the forerunner of the training program put together by a couple of trauma surgeons from the Vietnam experience and which morphed into the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons 81-hour EMT course.  

In the earliest years, I worked the local base in the town noted for one of the Seven Sisters colleges, former mayor Calvin Coolidge, an ox-bow under the twin pillars guarding the river, and more. Our coverage area went well up the valley, up into the Hill Towns, and the Interstate. My very first call involved a teenaged driver whose face was impaled on the bent  “C-pillar” of the quarter vent window. Another included handling the burnt-to-a-crisp body from a house fire. And then there was the six-year-old flattened by a heavy sedan speeding southbound out of town by our office, my pinky holding his jaw open as a makeshift airway.  It was then that I pleaded with the ER docs and the surgeons for political support for paramedic level training that I never took because I was promoted up the ladder too quickly. By the time the course legally recognized, I was in an office writing regulations for first responders, and statewide EMS plans. The days of “swoop and scoop” were history. 

I remember making the “preemie” runs out of Wesson Women’s, picking up the incubator and the specialty nurse and doctor, and then navigating across the back roads (consult a map) to North Adams.  There never was more precious cargo than that. 

I ended up on the dispatch desk in Springfield as a shift supervisor and dispatcher.  It was on July 31st, 1973, just before noon when the phone rang and the voice at the other end of the line said simply “Send everything you’ve got”.

I said “no” .


I’m a doctor. Preparing you for death is as much a part of my job as saving lives.

by Shoshana Ungerleider on February 22, 2016

It wasn’t until just before graduation that we talked about what to do when a patient is dying. A single three-hour seminar with a group of specialists from the palliative care service; at least it was mandatory.

The presenters were young physicians, and they seemed kind and thoughtful. But I wondered why anyone would devote their medical career to end-of-life care. My classmates and I had spent years of medical school sharpening our history-taking skills, learning to recognize heart murmurs, memorizing the drugs used to treat high blood pressure, diabetes, even cancer. In the final months of school, I’d worked in the ICU, taking care of critically ill patients who required breathing tubes and life-sustaining machines. I’d learned how to perform intubations and place central lines. I marveled at how much I was able to do to help sick people. Nearly all of us became doctors to keep patients alive, to treat them.

I thought: The ultimate treatment failure is death. I graduated medical school and moved on.

Except for a cadaver in my first-year anatomy lab, I didn’t see a dead body until the second month of my medical internship. When I finally did, it was my first overnight shift; I was the sole intern charged with cross-covering all of the medical patients. The pager never stopped beeping. I handled issues as they arose. I solved problems. But at some point in the night, a nurse called and said I needed to “come pronounce room 556.” My heart sank.

I wasn’t precisely sure what pronouncing a patient dead entailed. When I reached room 556, I entered to find a frail woman lying still on the bed. Mrs. Lee. She was surrounded by family members young and old, and, to my amazement, they were smiling, chatting, even laughing with one another. I mumbled a  greeting, then crossed to the bed, where I proceeded shakily through the pronouncement checklist in my intern handbook.

One of Mrs. Lee’s daughters touched my hand. “This is my mother; she was a wonderful woman but had a long battle with Alzheimer’s, and it was time for her to go,” she

said. “She just wanted to be comfortable in the end.”

The other family members nodded in agreement and went on talking about how much they had loved Grandma Lee’s custard buns and who would be getting her recipes. Mrs. Lee’s family and friends, who had gathered around her to say goodbye, moved me. Mrs. Lee had had the forethought to tell them how she wanted to pass, and they were by her side until the end. I had never before pondered the idea of a “good death,” but that night I walked out of room 556 with a smile on my face, because, somehow, I had just witnessed one.

When I was a newly minted doctor, I found myself back in the ICU, no longer a lowly medical student but with real responsibilities.

The patients in an intensive care unit are very sick; they require the highest level of monitoring and intervention that a hospital can provide. This particular unit was lined with patient care bays featuring sliding glass doors, glaring white walls, blinking monitors, and little natural light. Alarm bells dinged constantly, and the smell of bleach disinfectant made my eyes water. I began my rounds each morning at 5, checking in on my patients and learning about those who had been admitted overnight.

One morning, I came in to a commotion. There were several nurses scurrying around a new patient’s bed, and the night residents were huddled in a corner, concerned looks on their faces. Before I had a chance to ask what was going on, a loud code blue alarm went off overhead, and the team of doctors descended upon the patient. I peered into the room, and underneath the breathing tube and profusion of lines, I saw an elderly man.

he senior resident called out orders. The intern hopped up on a stool next to the bed and began performing rhythmic chest compressions that cracked the man’s ribs. The nurses pushed various medications into his IV and watched the heart monitor intently. I stared at the spectacle in front of me. This was my first time seeing a code situation. For 30 minutes I watched strangers in masks and gloves race around an unconscious old man, trying everything they could to keep him alive. But after the heart rhythm monitor fell into a flat line, the team pronounced him dead, removed their protective garb, and walked out of the room.

I later learned that an ambulance had brought in the old man for decompensated heart failure. His heart could no longer effectively pump blood to his organs, and he had been drowning in fluid that backed up into his lungs. On arrival, he was immediately intubated and rushed to the ICU. His family members were out of town, and he had not come with advance directive paperwork, a document stating his wishes.

This was not his first trip to the hospital. He had been admitted five times in the previous six months. During his first hospitalization, his records showed that he was a “full code” and that family had wanted “everything done” to keep him alive. Despite multiple readmissions, the question was never revisited. I wondered whether they knew what “everything” meant.

I learned that the old man was named Mr. Azarov. He was 88 years old, a widower, originally from Russia, where he had worked as a tailor and musician before coming to the United States. In San Francisco, he’d opened a bakery and had led a simple life. Over the months of his hospitalizations, Mr. Azarov had slowly deteriorated, and each time he became weaker. He battled kidney failure, a stroke, and worsening dementia. Well before he came to us for the last time, he had lost the ability to stand up on his own. His adult children were no longer able to care for him, and several months before he died they’d moved him into a nursing home.

I never knew Mr. Azarov, but I realized then that this man had been dying for a long time. He had a brutal, impersonal end, one he received by default. Who would die that way if they had a choice? Expiring in a hospital room, doctors screaming and scurrying and cracking your ribs, away from your friends and family — I wondered how many opportunities there had been to explain his end-of-life options to him or his family. Did they understand his prognosis? I’ll never know. But as he lay there alone in the hospital bed, curtains drawn, still attached to machines, I felt as if we’d failed him

One day, late in my intern year, while working the emergency room, I met a patient named Mr. Jones. He was a botany professor who lived in an affluent suburb outside San Francisco. He was married, with three grown children, and had the amazing fortune of good health over the whole of a long life. But now he was 72, and he was dying of small cell lung cancer.

Mr. Jones was receiving chemotherapy under the care of a reputable oncologist. He’d come into the ER that night because of severe, worsening shortness of breath that made him unable to walk across the room without collapsing. He told me his family was scared and so was he.

Before coming into the room, I’d reviewed his labs and chest X-ray and found that he had significant bilateral pleural effusions secondary to his lung cancer. This was a bad sign. When I came in, I saw that Mr. Jones had once been fit and brawny, although now he was worn and thin. We talked for a while. I asked the customary questions about his symptoms, and got the sense that he was a kind man. I explained to him that fluid had built up in his lungs due to his cancer, and that while we could admit him and remove the fluid with a needle, it would only make him feel better temporarily. I told him I believed his cancer had progressed.

I felt unusually at ease talking to Mr. Jones. After delivering the news, I decided to venture into unusual territory: I asked him what he understood about his diagnosis and his future. He explained that he had read online how he likely had only months to live, but that his oncologist wanted him to continue chemotherapy for now. Then I asked him what he wanted. To my surprise, he paused. After a moment, he looked up, tears welling in his eyes.

“I’ve had a wonderful life,” he said. “I have an amazing family who loves me, and I want to be at home with them, not here in the hospital.” He started crying. He grabbed my hand. “No one has asked me what I want. Can I please go home? All I want is to be home.”

I was shocked. How could this be? I thought. How had we all failed to take a step back from the diagnoses and treatment options and the lab and imaging results to ask the most important question of all? Mr. Jones did not want to be admitted to the ICU. He didn’t want to be intubated and adorned with the lines we use to sustain the dying. He knew there was no cure for his cancer, and he wanted what all of us hope for in the end: to die comfortably. With the help of the case manager and the social worker, I was able to send Mr. Jones home with hospice care early the next morning. I found out that he died in peace, two days later, surrounded by his beloved family.

I took time to talk to this man, to learn about his life and wishes. Together, we decided on a plan that fit his goals for his remaining days. The news of his passing gave me a sense of fulfillment. I felt relief that I had kept him from suffering. I thought back to the medical school seminar, and for the first time I understood why those doctors chose palliative care.

s doctors, we dedicate most of our time in medical school to learning about the physical body, how things can go wrong and how modern medicine can fix them.

During residency, we acquire methods for analyzing large amounts of data so that we can accurately assess, down to the minute, what is happening with our patients.

But we spend almost no time at all learning about illness in the context of our patients’ lives, or how to heal people when modern medicine provides no cure. We are rarely schooled in how to break bad news compassionately, or how to sit in silence with a grieving family member, or even how to make recommendations for appropriate end-of-life care.

I have become disheartened by the number of patients who received invasive treatment in the final days and hours of life. So many spend their final moments hooked up to tubes and lines in the ICU, alarms beeping in the background, hidden away from the people who care about them. Modern medicine is always poised to offer another procedure or therapy for prolonging life, but it often does so without considering the quality of that life. How much suffering is five more weeks worth? Or five days, or five hours?

Today’s physicians are spread thin. We have more responsibility than ever and are often tethered to a computer screen instead of at our patients’ bedsides. Maybe it’s easier to just give someone more treatment instead of stopping and telling her that she’s dying. These conversations are never easy, no matter how many times you’ve had them. They can be enormously difficult even under the best circumstances, and often the circumstances are more like a patient (or, more often, his family) arguing, denying what’s going on and demanding to see another doctor. Maybe we just don’t want to go through it. Or maybe we hide behind more tests and procedures to make ourselves feel better — like we’re still fighting. Like we haven’t failed yet.

I don’t see it that way. I believe we owe it to our patients to have open, honest conversations about what the future holds. Patients and families need to be informed in order to make decisions that are in line with their values.

My patients have all taught me valuable lessons about what a “good death” might look like. Each one has reminded me that there is more to medicine than placing a line to monitor the heart, or performing an intubation. Just because more tests and procedures exist does not mean that we should perform them all each time. Sometimes the most powerful healing of all comes through the simple act of sitting and listening to our patients with compassion.

We know that 75 percent of Americans would prefer to die at home. Only 20 percent actually do. We also know that 80 to 90 percent of physicians would not want CPR or mechanical ventilation at the end of life. Doctors actively choose to forgo the suffering that takes place in our ICUs, because we’ve seen it and we know better. My goal is to close this gap, to educate my patients about their options based on open, honest communication. I no longer see death as a failure but as a place we are all headed at some point — and if I can help someone live the fullest to the very end, I have practiced the best medicine.

Shoshana Ungerleider, MD, is a hospitalist physician practicing in San Francisco, California.