We were always told not to stare at the Sun. Retina burn and all that. But we never had eyes like NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.
(image via NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)
Want to see it in motion? Click here
It’s been some time since I’ve checked in on this topic, but it turns out that recovery as in life is back to normal isn’t the same thing as we are fully finished gathering data from a medical perspective. In other words, I wasn’t quite done yet.
Just this past week that data gathering is complete, and other than yearly checkups (something that everyone over 30 should do anyway) this process that began 7 months ago is now complete.
I’ve finished the cardiac rehab classes, a kind of monitored exercise program, and passed that with flying colors. On a scale of cardiovascular exercise capacity called “MET” there is a specific value they want you to reach by the time you’re done, and I went well past it. I also maxed out my stress test (which despite how it sounds, does not mean that I have maximum stress), with a result that was above the highest end of the scale for my age group.
None of this is for bragging rights- If there’s anything that I hope you take away from this, it should be the value of sticking with or getting on some kind of regular exercise routine. I did that before my surgery, got back to a minimal version of it as soon as I could afterwards, and have been ramping up to a healthy, not-overdoing-it amount ever since. At least 30 minutes a day, every day. You don’t have to set a new 5K personal best. Just go for a walk. Please. Your ancestors and mine didn’t have to make this a part of their routine, because they lived it. We have our desk jobs and iPhone apps and an overflowing Netflix queue to keep us busy mentally while we do very little physically, and it takes a concious effort to add that missing activity back in. Your body is built for movement, so move it already!
Here’s a bonus- it’s good for you mentally too (any kind of movement, not just the dance floor)
The other good news – back in part 1 of this saga I mentioned that one of the reasons for having my surgery was that the increasingly misbehaving valve was causing part of the heart to enlarge as it compensated. I heard a number of opinions from people with various degrees of medical experience that after the valve repair, it would shrink back down. Or it might shrink. Or it probably wouldn’t at all. My regular cardiologist was optimistic that it would, and not only was he right, he was more right than he knew. I had the impression that it would shrink to normal size but might take awhile, maybe a year or two. Something gradual. Imagine my surprise when after having an echocardiogram 4 months after the surgery, he informs me that not only had it already shrunk, but it was firmly back in the normal range. As I told him at the time, “I love being a success story!”
In regards to that success, I stick to my earlier story that I’m just really lucky. One person who was in the cardiac rehab program when I got there is still there. They’ve worked at just as hard as I have, but a few persistent issues that they ultimately can’t control have kept them in the program. Similarly, I have no control over what other issues I have, or in this case didn’t have. I can only control my own behavior and how much work I put into it. Which is why, again, I’m urging you all to get out there, do something daily, do something in the one area where you can. You can’t change your genetic predisposition or your family history. But if those things are stacked against you, it’s all the more reason to get moving on the things you can do something about. You can get a new pair of sneakers and put a lot of mileage on them. You can get to a point where if you miss a day of exercise, you’re out of sorts and eager to get back to it. You may find that the stress of the day is evaporated more quickly after a 20 minute jog than 2 hours in front of the TV. You might even find, as I have, serenity in walking outside in a rain parka on quiet mornings during weather that’s only fit for a duck. Making that connection with the wind and the rain is like listening to the world breathe, and coming back in to the warm and dry makes that first cup of coffee that much sweeter.
Go forth. Breathe deep. Live long and prosper.
How long have you been using the web? Since the mid-90s when it was first popularized by services like AOL and Compuserve, and ISPs like Mindspring? Back when the first and only browser was Netscape and a 19.2kb modem was considered cutting-edge fast?
Unless your use of the Internet goes back that far, you probably can’t remember a time when the Internet didn’t include Wikipedia. I’m old enough -just barely, of course- that I remember being endlessly absorbed in copies of Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedia, or Encyclopedia Britannica. I also had access to the first few editions of Microsoft Encarta. For those of you who don’t remember it, it was a well-developed product that made use of the tremendous storage capacity (for that time) of the CD. And it was a hell of a lot cheaper than the rows and rows of bound volumes that would never receive software or information updates and usually required a dedicated bookshelf.
Fast forward to January 2001, when Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger founded Wikipedia with this simple and compelling idea:
Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.
I can’t state my opinion of that idea any more clearly- that has always been the kind of world I want to live in.
I also wanted to live in a world that included us being on the moon in grand style, as in Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, and that had flying cars like we were promised in every other issue of Popular Science in the 1970s. Can’t win ‘em all, I guess. But at least Wikipedia exists.
The service has its critics. The quality of the information, resulting from the ease with which it can be edited, has been questioned. Academics have lamented receiving essays and written reports from students who went no further than Wikipedia to do their research.
For the first concern, much has been done to establish standards for citations, references, and a stricter review process. And where an article is not properly cited or does not meet quality standards, you’ll usually see warnings explaining those problems. In fact, Wikipedia itself is completely open about those criticisms in this excerpt from the Wikipedia entry on… Wikipedia:
Although the policies of Wikipedia strongly espouse verifiability and a neutral point of view, critics of Wikipedia accuse it of systemic bias and inconsistencies (including undue weight given to popular culture); and because it favors consensus over credentials in its editorial processes,[Full citation needed] its reliability and accuracy are also targeted. Other criticisms center on its susceptibility to vandalism and the addition of spurious or unverified information; though some scholarly work suggests that vandalism is generally short-lived. A 2005 investigation in Nature showed that the science articles they compared came close to the level of accuracy of Encyclopædia Britannica and had a similar rate of “serious errors”.
The critique from academics about students taking shortcuts is valid, but I view that as a question of pedagogy and student self-motivation, not a problem of the mere fact that Wikipedia exists. The same problem existed when I was in school and the easiest source of information was the encyclopedia at the school library or at home. I am by no means endorsing laziness. Professors and teachers are definitely right to expect students to do their own research, come to their own conclusions, and find their own voice.
On balance though, this question should be easily answered- is a better to have an Internet where a growing repository of freely accessible knowledge for all exists, or where it doesn’t? I trust you won’t have to consider that for long. It is thanks to Wikipedia that I was finally able to grasp the workings behind what is considered the most elegant equation in all of mathematics, Euler’s identity. It has beautifully simple structure: e^(pi*i) + 1 = 0. It’s significant because it ties together five fundamental constants, a deep connection between trigonometry and analysis, and uses multiplication, addition, and exponentation exactly once each. Even if that means nothing to you, the point is that about four hours spent studying on Wikipedia and the relevant cited articles got me to a point of basic understanding. And it cost me nothing besides what I paid for my computer, and an internet connection.
The reason for this little essay extolling the virtues of free and growing knowledge is that behind the scenes, nothing is free. The Wikimedia Foundation (Wikipedia’s parent organization) runs a tight and efficient ship, considering it is the 5th most popular destination on the web and yet runs on a fraction of the personnel and infrastructure that powers Google, Yahoo, or Facebook. It also runs entirely on donations. Like any non-profit the past few years, Wikipedia’s funds are getting low and planning the next year’s operations is always a challenge predicated on sufficient funding. They are also firmly against advertising. If you think a site that hosts uncensored, freely available knowledge for all would at least seem compromised if it had corporate advertisers, you’re right. They don’t like the smell of that either, and so Wikipedia is on a funding drive to keep operations going into 2012, ad-free.
I can’t say how much Wikipedia’s continued, independent existence should mean to you personally. But if you like the idea that drives it, here’s some food for thought…
At $5, I’d say that makes the price of knowledge very affordable indeed.
To contribute, and learn more about the Wikipedia organization itself, click here.
(Information about the costs of previous encyclopedias was sourced from The Kellogg School of Management here)