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We still have his music; we mourn loss of Petty the man

November 5, 2017

“Everybody loves Tom Petty and burritos.”

— Marc Maron

An ancient emperor with an odd sense of humor gathered his wisest sages and asked them to come up with the saddest sentence ever written. The sages conferred and went off to think upon the subject. Weeks later they approached the emperor and humbly handed him a slip of paper on which were written the words:

“Someday Bill Murray is going to die.”

OK, I made that up. The part about the ancient emperor at least; I don’t remember where I got the “Bill Murray” part from, but I saw that somewhere, probably on social media. I stole it because it felt true to me.

If you’re of my generation, or a little bit younger, maybe it feels true to you too. Because most of us like Murray, probably more for the light way he lives on the earth than for any of the movies he has made or his time on Saturday Night Live, although Murray’s performances certainly inform the warm feelings you (probably) hold about him.

And the joke — if you can call it a joke — doesn’t have to invoke Murray. It might have worked just as well if I’d used the name “Tom Hanks.” (I’m sorry but I can’t think of a current female performer so universally loved and admired that her name would work in the joke, which might say something about how our society regards women who court public attention, though “Carol Burnett” or “Mary Tyler Moore” would have worked in the past.)

For me, the joke worked even better if the name used was “Tom Petty.”

But then Oct. 2 the saddest thing happened. There was a horrible massacre in Las Vegas. And Tom Petty died.

Guess which affected me more.

Maybe I should feel some shame about that, because every human life matters. But our world is a killing field, and random madness and malign neglect kill thousands every day. Bombs go off in parts of the world we never consider; we inure ourselves to violence inflicted on other people’s children in other parts of town. Intellectually we can feel bad about the murder of strangers, but we have to remind ourselves to think about their suffering. We shake our heads and move on, fire up the second season of Stranger Things and forget that there are sad things in the world.

So why, more than a month later, are so many of us still sad about Tom Petty?

Well, sociologists will tell you it’s because we do have a relationship with the public people to whom we pay attention. In 1956, social scientists Donald Horton and R. Richard Wohl coined the term “parasocial interactions” to describe the “intimacy at a distance” fans feel with performers and artists. We don’t know them, but they aren’t strangers — it’s their job to connect with us, and the best and truest of them connect most deeply.

We don’t know them, but we do know a part of them. We know their work and the persona that presents the work (which can be as, or even more important, than the work itself). As best as I can remember, I never met Tom Petty and never spoke with him on the phone. But I connected with that grinning gaunt scarecrow with the lank corn-silk hair raking big open crystalline chords from a Rickenbacker 625-12. (That’s the model he’s holding on cover of Damn the Torpedoes. It was actually his Heartbreakers band mate Mike Campbell’s instrument — and I’ve always wanted one.)

We were born at opposite ends of the same decade, in the same part of the country. At first, Petty’s Southernness didn’t seem to matter. We perceived his first album — Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, which came out just as I was starting to review records and to occasionally play my own songs in bars — as almost punk, a sort of sneer-y, skinny-tied New Wave blast with just a bit of that Byrds-ian jangle breaking through. Looking back, you could say that outside of “Breakdown” and “American Girl,” the songwriting is fairly ordinary, but the energy and swagger — the immersion in the noisy possibilities of rock ‘n’ roll — felt redemptive.

Petty wasn’t a deep songwriter, he mostly mined the rich if whiny adenoidal vein of post-adolescent romance. He mostly employed a playful snarl. He mostly sang about girls.

Maybe at the time I noticed the vocal resemblance to Roger McGuinn, but the sonic reference I picked out was Elvis Costello, whose Attractions, at the time, seemed as important to the overall effect as Petty’s Heartbreakers.

Man, I loved those first three records; and even today, when I recognize Petty was one artist who was best served by greatest hits compilations, I can’t help but be swept up in nostalgia for those backward-looking albums. In a way he was my Elvis Presley, and now I know why grown-ups cried on Aug. 16, 1977; why Don McLean wrote “American Pie” about Buddy Holly.

You can’t frame Petty’s dying as a tragedy; he wasn’t young and he wasn’t thwarted — he even acquired a little gravitas to go with his fortune. He probably had himself a pretty good time.

But yeah, it’s hard to think about not hearing a new record (although there probably will be a new record, there always seems to be plenty of material to release posthumously). Harder to think about never going to another Tom Petty show.

That feels weird, because I don’t go to a lot of shows anymore, and I probably wouldn’t have made any special effort to see Petty and the Heartbreakers anyway. But most of us don’t think about the things we’re never going to do again.

And that’s the thing that stings, isn’t it? The real crux of the thing: when we grieve for people we’ve never met, what we’re really doing is contemplating our own certain mortality — the impossible idea that there will be a last time for everything. A last time to kiss your mother, to look your father in the eye. A last time to walk to the grocery store.

All grief is frivolous and vain; but the deaths of artists and celebrities are like mile markers on our own road to nowhere. David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed — it feels like something ending. Because it is.

“It is the blight that man was born for,” poet Gerald Manley Hopkins wrote in “Spring and Fall.”

It is ourselves we mourn for.

Email:

pmartin@arkansasonline.com

blooddirtangels.com

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Fall maintenance can prevent crises

November 4, 2017

Cleaning your gutters is one of several maintenance tasks you ought to do before winter.

Although November can sometimes still be flip-flops-and-shorts weather, there are a number of fall maintenance tasks to undertake, no matter what the temperature gauge says.

We asked Lucinda Hoe, field services director of the West region for Associa On-Call, for some tips to keep a house as functional as possible. The company offers maintenance services, as well as management, for homeowner and community associations.

“These are things that should be done on an annual basis,” Hoe said. “Fall is a good time because there is more chance for wind and rain.”

Here are some tasks that will keep your house in tiptop shape:

Inspect windows and doors, inside and outside. Hot, dry weather can crack and crumble the seals around windows and doors. Caulk cracks and install weather stripping where the seal has failed. Replace any broken window glass, too.

Clean or replace filters in your heating system. If you have a gas heater, be sure to inspect the pilot light to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

Inspect, clean and repair fireplace elements, including the chimney and flue, especially for wood-burning fireplaces. Dirty chimneys — those with a build-up of creosote — can cause fires.

Change the batteries in your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.

Drain and flush particulates and sediment from water heaters. Sediment builds up and reduces heating efficiency, and in gas water heaters it can cause hot spots that will lead to premature failure.

Trim trees away from the house. Branches that scrape the roof can cause damage to shingles or tiles. Even the leaves can cause damage because they can trap moisture and cause mold. Be sure to remove all dead and broken branches.

Check vents to ensure that screens are intact. Rodents and other pests can easily make their way into warm, cozy attics or crawl spaces through these access points if not properly secured.

Clean and remove debris from rain gutters and downspouts to ensure proper flow and drainage. Overflow from blocked gutters can eventually damage a house’s foundation. Gutter guards can help keep gutters debris-free.

Inspect painted exterior areas. Any chipped or bare areas should be painted as soon as possible. Paint or other surface coverings such as stains protect wood and stucco from damaging water intrusion and other harmful elements such as pests.

Inspect your roof or hire a professional to conduct an inspection. Be sure that tiles and shingles are in good shape and areas surrounding protrusions are properly sealed and flashing is sitting properly.

“Many of these items will probably take you five to 30 minutes and can avoid costly repairs,” Hoe said. And keeping everything functional will help protect your investment.

PAT SETTER
SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE (TNS)

 

 

Raised Middle Finger Often in Middle of Controversy

October 29, 2017

A football player from the University of Tennessee raised a pair of middle fingers to the University of Alabama student section a week ago Saturday. A Michigan player offered the same twin salute to the Penn State crowd on the same night.

Their double-digit discourtesies were sophomoric in tone but historic in nature: The middle finger predates the Middle Ages. Diogenes raised his to Demosthenes in ancient Greece. The Romans had a name for the obscene insult: digitus impudicus — impudent finger.

So the finger form for F-you goes back two millennia and more. Ah, but the first known photograph of someone flipping the bird comes from American sports. That means Tennessee’s Rashaan Gaulden and Michigan’s Lavert Hill are the latest exemplars of an uncivil sporting tradition begun at least as far back as 1886 by workhorse pitcher Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourn.

On opening day at New York’s Polo Grounds that year, Radbourn’s Boston Beaneaters met their National League rival New York Giants. Take a careful look at the joint team photo taken that day. There’s Radbourn in the back row, far left, with his middle finger slyly extended. It’s hard to notice at first — and then there it is. Once seen, it can’t be unseen: Old Hoss giving the ol’ middle finger to the Giants, or maybe the world, a timeless insult frozen in time.

“If Old Hoss can appear in a photograph from the 19th century,” Robert Thompson tells USA TODAY Sports, “that’s enough tradition for me to say that the middle finger is a part of the great American pastime.”

Thompson is founding director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University — and one of the great moments of sports TV history intersects with one of the great moments of middle finger history.

The Oakland Raiders were pummeling the Houston Oilers 34-0 at the Astrodome on Monday Night Football in 1972 when cameras panning the crowd found an unhappy Oilers fan who offered a middle-fingered hello. Color analyst Don Meredith delivered a colorful riposte: He thinks his team “is No. 1.”

“That belongs in the middle finger Hall of Fame,” Thompson says. “And we know what the trophy will look like.”

Old Hoss is in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He won a record 59 games for the Providence Grays in 1884, a couple of seasons before his hide-in-plain-sight middle finger photo. Lest you think the placement of his digit could have been some sort of benign accident, Radbourn went rogue again in 1887, when he appeared on a baseball card with hand on hip, middle finger extended.

Radbourn biographer Edward Achorn chose that image for the cover of his book Fifty-Nine in ’84: Old Hoss Radbourn, Barehanded Baseball and the Greatest Season a Pitcher Ever Had. “He’s got this innocent expression on his face, and then he’s doing that on the side,” he says. “They airbrushed out the finger from some of the cards that were released, but the image survived.”

Achorn, editorial page editor of The Providence Journal, says Radbourn was known for a sense of humor and a taste for drink: “One of his relatives claimed he drank up to a quart of whiskey a day at the height of his career.” Now Old Hoss is sometimes better known for a single finger on his left hand than for winning 59 games in a single season with his right.

NIGHT OF SO MANY FINGERS On the same night that the Tennessee and Michigan players delivered double-barreled salutes, Kevin Durant flashed a single finger at the Memphis crowd in the closing seconds of Golden State’s loss to the Grizzlies. At first, observers saw it as a middle finger but — upon further review — it turned out he’d actually extended his ring finger, apparently as a way of saying he and his Warriors have NBA championship rings and the Grizzlies don’t.

“It’s not the middle finger,” Thompson says, “but it’s middle-finger adjacent.”

Also on the same Saturday — the night of so many fingers — Josh Jackson of the Phoenix Suns got into trouble by responding to a Los Angeles Clippers fan who’d been heckling him. Jackson appeared to aim an imaginary weapon — not a handgun, but a hand gun — at the heckler. His explanation is a classic. He hadn’t meant to simulate a gun at all.

“I kind of wanted to put up the middle finger to him,” he said, “but I didn’t do that because I felt like I was really being watched so I kind of halfway did it.”

Jackson got fined $35,000 for making “a menacing gesture” and for “inappropriate language,” since he’d also mouthed a profanity, the one so often associated with the middle finger.

The gesture, like the profanity, is obscene. Still, these days the gesture is common enough to have lost much of its original meaning. Thompson says when a middle schooler sneaks a middle finger into a photo (shades of Old Hoss) it’s meant as trickster stunt — naughtier than G-rated bunny ears but not necessarily X-rated in intent.

MIDDLE FINGER TODAY,

APOLOGY TOMORROW

Old Hoss Radbourn, top left, flips the bird in a pregame photo from 1886. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, CORBIS/VCG, VIA GETTY IMAGES

Diogenes is the Greek philosopher — and middle finger flipper — who, according to legend, carried a lamp in daylight as he searched in vain for an honest man. He wouldn’t need his lamp to find fellow flippers in the world of sports. The Internet is awash with them.

Award extra points to those who flip off their own fans. New Orleans Saints coach Mike Ditka did it at a game in 1999. New York Yankees pitcher Jack McDowell did it at a game in 1995 — and the tabloids dubbed him “The Yankee Flipper.”

Rex Ryan gave a one-finger salute to Miami Dolphins fans at a mixed martial arts event in South Florida in 2010. The New York Post gleefully ran the photo on its front page under the headline: REX-RATED.

Dolphins running backs Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in August 1972. Csonka is seated on his helmet under a goal post with a middle finger extended on his sock above the ankle. (Old Hoss would have approved.) Bad karma did not follow: That year the Dolphins went on to the only undefeated season in NFL history.

Players are by no means the only transgressors. Fans have been known to flip off opposing players, and each other. (Yes, we’re looking at you, Raiders fans.)

Double birds bedevil the Buffalo Bills. Dolphins linebacker Bryan Cox unleashed a pair before a 1993 game in Buffalo; he got fined $10,000, apparently establishing a price of $5,000 per finger. The late Bud Adams, then owner of the Tennessee Titans, aimed a pair at the Bills sideline during a 2009 game in Nashville; he got fined $250,000, or $125,000 per digit, which is a fair amount of inflation.

You might think Adams should have known better. He owned the Oilers when Dandy Dan got off his “No. 1” one-liner on Monday Night Football. Adams apologized, said he’d gotten carried away. That’s often the arc of these things: Middle finger today, apology tomorrow.

Sure enough, last week the Tennessee and Michigan college football players offered apologies for flipping off opposing crowds in anger. That raises a question: Which emotion — anger or apology — is the honest one?

We’ll leave that to Diogenes.

Succotash

October 19, 2017

Being a child of the North, I never ate succotash. My introduction to the word came via the exasperated utterances of Sylvester the Cat, who would sputter “Suffering succotash!” when things were not going his way.

A staple of the South, succotash fed people through hardship and depression, as it did the Native Americans who invented it. The indigenous root of the name relates variously to cracked corn, boiled corn or other preparations of corn. As Native American cultures are known to have understood, when beans are added to corn, complete protein happens. “Seaboard Algonquin” specifically, says food historian Michael Twitty, author of “The Cooking Gene,” fielding my succotash questions via Twitter. Twitty also admitted to not liking succotash very much, at least the traditional version made with lima beans. I have to admit, I haven’t found a way to really like it myself when it’s made with lima beans, or black beans , or kidney beans, or any number of other shelling beans. Combined with the corn kernels, the dish becomes too seedy, and I much prefer making it with string beans. The protein isn’t as high, but that deficit can be erased with bacon and mayonnaise (one of my favorite healthy cooking tricks).

Twitty steered me toward a southern Louisiana version of succotash, macque choux, that does not contain shelled beans but does allow the likes of tomatoes, green bell peppers, onions, garlic and celery. And bacon, of course. And shrimp, unsurprisingly. It’s a model roughly in keeping with my own protocols, minus the shrimp. Without the shell beans, a pan of succotash becomes like a pan of fried rice. Along with string beans and the above ingredients, one can use other veggies like collard greens, zucchini and hot, sweet and roasted peppers.

Allen Broach, who comes from an old Southern family and has fond memories of his grandma’s succotash, has given me some of my best recipes. He’s fine with people using string beans in succotash, although the closest they ever came growing up was to use “shellies,” the beans inside overgrown string beans. Here is his family recipe, which is lima bean-based.

Grannie Smith’s succotash

• Equal amounts of baby lima beans and corn cut from the cob. You should also “milk” the cob once the corn is cut off by scraping the cob with a knife to get all the juice from it.

• Use bacon drippings and saute the limas for a couple of minutes. Season with salt and pepper then add water to cover and cook until they are nearly done.

• Add a small onion, diced, and the corn. Cook until the corn is done. Most of the liquid should be cooked out. Just a few minutes.

That was it. Broach confessed to having modified grandma’s recipe by adding any number of the following to the average batch of succotash.

• 4 tablespoons butter

• Garlic (minced)

• 1 cup whole grain hominy

• 1 pound cooked beef brisket or country ham, chopped

• 2 oz. salt pork in one piece

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

• 1 boiling potato (about 112 pound) such as Yukon gold, boiled and diced

• 1 small turnip, boiled and diced

• 1/4 cup or so chopped red or green bell pepper (or a combination)

Among other parts of this recipe, I was intrigued by his country ham idea , so I picked one up at the farmers market, brought it home and diced it up. Into the pan it went, and as the greasy cubes sizzled pleasantl y, I proceeded to prep the veggies, adding them in layers, in the order of how much cooking they need. After the meat, which sometimes includes deer meat as well as the ham/bacon, I will add the onions, then the beans, then peppers, diced zucchini, butter and olive oil as necessary, and finally the corn on top. I let it cook like this undisturbed for a while, allowing the meat at the bottom to cook in the accumulating juices. When it’s finally time to stir, somewhere between when the veggies give up all of their moisture and when the bottom starts to burn, I add minced or grated garlic and dried thyme, and stir it up. I’ll stir again once or twice until it’s ready, and serve with cheese, parsley, salsa, roasted peppers and whatever else. Succotash, like the kitchen sink, can absorb practically anything you can throw at it.

Time for a little döstädning

October 15, 2017

It’s time for me to get rid of some stuff!!

=============================

From an article in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette 10/15/17 by Philip Martin

Last night the wife said,

“Oh boy, when you’re dead

You don’t take nothing with you

but your soul.”

Think!

— John Lennon,

“The Ballad of John & Yoko”

Some things only seem hard.

I am divesting myself of stuff—donating and selling and giving to friends the great bulk of my music collection and my books. Almost all of the CDs are gone now; several thousand of them went to a fine academic institution. Others went to or are earmarked for friends. I’m down to a couple of file boxes worth of material now, and I expect that to dwindle further over the next few weeks.

It’s not like I’ve really given anything away. I still have the music—nearly 15,000 albums archived on a hard drive about the size of a brick and (mostly) backed up in the proverbial cloud. The overwhelming majority of these files are in Apple Lossless, AIFF or WAV formats, which vinyl purists and high-resolution audio fans may sniff at but sound pretty good to me.

Besides, like most people I know, we mostly stream music these days. (I know how bad a deal that is for artists—you can stream my music on most of the services. Digitalization is a bad genie who won’t be restoppered.)

My music was organized alphabetically, by artist and chronologically by release date, with soundtracks and various artists’ compilations sorted separately. Our classical collection—only a couple of hundred of CDs—was arranged alphabetically by composer. A few oversize box sets were stored in my office, but most of them were stripped of their packaging and slipped into thinline jewel cases or sleeves and filed with the others. The attendant booklets and the boxes were packed away in the attic.

I might have some hoarding tendencies, but at least I’m a very organized hoarder. I could find a given CD within seconds.

But in an era when almost every sound ever recorded is findable with a few computer keystrokes, maybe I’m lucky I found a place that would take the media.

Now I’m working on the books. Central Arkansas Library System will end up with most of them—I’ve already dropped a couple hundred off for its River Market Books and Gifts shop—but I need to decide exactly what I want to keep.

I had two copies of Jack Butler’s Jujitsu For Christ, an inscribed first edition and one published by the University of Missippi Press a couple of years ago that features a contexturizing foreword by Butler and an insightful afterword by LSU literature professor Brannon Costello. Obviously I’m keeping the book Jack signed to me and suspect that at some point in the future I’ll miss the newer edition. But—too bad.

Similarly I’d love to keep all the Updike, all the Philip Roth, but it feels unlikely that I’ll dive back into those novels, and if I need to they’re all easily obtainable. (I’m keeping the Library of America editions of Roth’s works, so I’ll still have all that.) I’ll keep the first edition of In Cold Blood because it’s one of a couple of books my uncle handed down to me. I guess that’s the criterion—keeping books for which I can identify a clear reason to keep.

So long Willa Cather. Adios Cormac McCarthy. I’m bequeathing Dan Jenkins to my lawyer.

Next come the clothes. And then the golf clubs; I’ve got four or five extra bags’ worth of clubs I need to take down to the First Tee. (Maybe I can find a home for the 100 or so Scotty Cameron head-covers I’ve collected.) There’s camera equipment I don’t use anymore. I’ll probably keep all the guitars.

For now.

We have pragmatic reasons for clearing out this stuff, but mostly it’s an act of self-liberation. A week or so after our project started (Karen is getting rid of stuff too, more ruthlessly than I am though she has a lot less to part with) I became aware that one of the new lifestyle trends out of Scandinavia—the part of the world that gave us hygge and lagom—is something called döstädning, which cheerily translates to “death cleaning.”

It’s been popularized by Swedish author and artist Margareta Magnusson, whose book The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning is making the book club rounds. The idea is that people over 50 ought to consider that their relatives are going to have to sort through all their junk after they die and streamline their lives by holding on to only those possessions that directly contribute to happiness.

I don’t care about how my death might inconvenience my relatives. (Some of them have never seemed too concerned about how the conduct of their lives has inconvenienced me.) But there has long been a tiny bit of tension in our house between my materialistic acquisitiveness and Karen’s zen aesthetic.

Her instinct is to get rid of things. She’s always been the type to give a book away after she’s read it, while walls of bookshelves tight with books have always given me comfort.

We’ve done it my way for nearly 25 years. I suppose it’s about time to give her a turn.

pmartin@arkansasonline.com

==============================

Bryce Molder Retires (From the Log Cabin Democrat 10/1/17)

October 2, 2017

Walking many miles over many years watching Bryce Molder

Time marched on and slapped me in the face last week.

Only a fraction of my 35 years at the Log Cabin Democrat has golfer Bryce Molder not been either a significant part or a popular element to our coverage.

Retire at age 38? Say, it isn’t so, Bryce.

I tried to figure how many miles I’ve walked or how many of Molder’s individual rounds I’ve recorded. The math eludes me.

I still had some splotches of black hair when I would receive short news releases from Barry Molder, Bryce’s father, about this young local golfer (he began playing at age 5) who was winning all kinds of tournaments in Arkansas and later nationally. I watched how he rose to become one of the top-ranked junior golfers in America. I chronicled how he became one of the few NCAA four-time, first-team, All-Americans while at Georgia Tech.

His inspiring story drew national attention because he had Poland Syndrome (born without a left pectoral muscle). He had two surgeries for webbed hands before age 5.

But he never used physical limitations as an excuse.

After Molder was carried off the 18th green by his teammates after helping clinch the Palmer Cup for America on the historic Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland, Mike Hengel (the LCD publisher the time) instructed that we never surrender the high ground on coverage of Molder.

Consequently, we’ve literally followed Molder from coast to coast. I’ve covered every round Molder played at NCAA tournaments at Hazeltine in Minnesota, Opelika (Auburn), Alabama and at the Duke Golf Course in Durham, N.C. I’ve recorded every round at U.S. Amateur tournaments at marquee courses at Pebble Beach in California and Baltusrol in New Jersey.

Colleagues were amazed that while they were covering hundreds of golfers at at tournament, I was primarily assigned to one.

Molder twice won the Jack Nicklaus Award as Collegiate Player of the Year (1998 and 2001). He also fired a 60 when playing with President Bill Clinton at Chenal Country Club in Little Rock, just missing a chip shot for a 59.

When he turned pro in 2001, my primary association was covering many FedEx St. Jude Classics in Memphis. In some years, he would draw galleries of friends and supporters (rivaling that of John Daly) that stretched halfway down a par-4 fairway. One of his best efforts as a pro was when he finished in a tie for second with David Toms in 2009.

I’ve seen Molder make an assortment of fantastic shots (mostly chips and putts). I’ve observed the tremendous highs and wrenching lows. All the while, he displayed the same character, humility and honesty. He’s always had a wonderful ability to analyze a shot or a round with captivating insight and wit that went well beneath the surface. I’ve often thought he could be a great golf TV commentator if eventually he chose that direction.

And then Thursday during his induction into the Arkansas Golf Hall of Fame, Molder announced his retirement at age 38 because of the challenge of playing as a job vs. his role as a family man. He was running out of gas as far as fulfillment and fun on the sport he loves.

Molder doesn’t go into anything without a lot of thought.

Two of many scenes and stories about Bryce that capsulize him come to mind today.

When Molder filled out some form after he turned pro, the routine question came up of average weekly earnings. He wrote, (truthfully) “between zero and $1 million dollars.”

When Molder walked up the 18th fairway at Duke Golf Club at the NCAA tourney for his last round as a collegian, one of his playing partners was Ryan Hyble of the University of Georgia and an arch-rival. As he approached the green, Hyble’s father began a loud clap that was immediately joined by the gallery and crescendoed about the green. It was a heartwarming and spontaneous salute to a great career.

“I tried not to think that 18 was Bryce’s last hole until he putted,” said Georgia Tech coach Bruce Heppler, his voice breaking, his hand wiping away tears. “I didn’t want to think that this was it for the best player in the history of college golf.”

As a collegian and as a pro — by fans, golf commentators, reporters, officials and fellow competitors— Molder was considered one of the good guys.

You can’t describe him without using some form of the world “class.”

He was that way in high school, in college and he’s that way as he leaves the game as a pro.

Thanks, Bryce, for giving me a bunch of thrills and and some of the greatest highlights of my career in watching you grow, develop and now move smoothly to another stage of your career.

Class indeed.

Buffalo River Trip

August 1, 2017

Visitor center holds history of Buffalo River

A photograph at Buffalo National River’s Tyler Bend Visitor Center shows an extended family who lived near the waterway a century or so ago.

TYLER BEND — The vast majority of the 800,000 or more visitors expected this year along the Buffalo National River are here for the pleasures of the present — swimming, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, fishing, camping and other fun in the sun.

But the human past is also a visible and fascinating presence in one of Arkansas’ most treasured natural resources. Nearly all people living within the preserve’s boundaries were required to move elsewhere when the 94,293-acre federal enclave was established by Congress in 1972.

Some of those rural residents deeply resented having to give up their long-held family land for a greater cause. They were losers in the worthy effort to preserve one of the few remaining rivers that still flows freely in the lower 48 states after a century of damming by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

To get a quick sense of life along the Buffalo in former times, the place to begin is the National Park Service’s Tyler Bend Visitor Center, near the river’s south bank in Searcy County. That can be followed by stops near opposite ends of the park at Rush Historical District and Big Buffalo Valley (aka Boxley Valley) Historic District.

Vintage black-and-white photographs at the visitor center show the rough-hewn circumstances in which pioneering residents lived. National Park Service information notes that from 1880 to 1915, “the remaining public land was entered both by prospective homesteaders and timber companies.

“At times the two came into conflict, as ‘squatter land’ was legally entered by outside interests. The homesteaders of this period in many cases were trying on a wilderness lifestyle for the first time and needed help in even constructing a simple one-room log shelter.

“Most of these homestead entries were located on less desirable land, away from the river valley and main tributaries. However, new road systems and travel made the ridge-top dweller more accessible to the rest of the world than the earlier settlers would have been. In addition, the increase in schools, churches and community centers aided in decreasing the isolation of these later settlers.”

Near the national river’s east end in Marion County, Rush Historic District is said to be the only visible ghost town west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains.

Rather than gold, zinc was the ore that brought transient prosperity to Rush, which was founded in the 1880s and saw its population peak at 5,000 during World War I. That’s when armament needs for the 1914-1918 conflict drove the price of zinc to record highs.

After that, Rush slowly faded away, with the last residents moving away after the post office closed in the 1950s. What makes a visit evocative today is sight of ramshackle structures built in the town’s heyday. Efforts by the National Park Service have countered the decay by time, weather and vandalism.

More idyllic is Big Buffalo Valley Historic District in Newton County, near the national river’s western boundary. Also called Boxley Valley Historic District, it is a likely place to spot elk in roadside meadows soon after sunrise or before sunset. It is also the setting for scattered family farms that were allowed to continue operation under some restrictions after 1972.

When the district was established, a principal reason was that many of the original structures remained untouched by modern development. These include log cabins, barns and spring houses. By squinting just slightly while driving along Arkansas 43, it is possible to imagine that the calendar has been turned back any number of decades. There’s one definite difference: The road is paved.

Buffalo National River’s Tyler Bend Visitor Center, 11 miles northwest of Marshall off U.S. 65, is open 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily. Admission is free. Go to nps.gov/buff or call

(870) 439-2502.

Long-term use of antihistamines to treat insomnia is not advised

April 23, 2017

From Ask the Doctors in the Conway Log Cabin 4/23/17
by Robert Ashley, M.D.

Dear Doctor: I’m leery of sleep drugs, so I’ve been taking Benadryl to help me sleep. Now I read that it should be taken only for a limited time. What’s the story on this drug?

Dear Reader: Diphenhydramine HCL, or Benadryl, is a sedating antihistamine. The medication has been used since 1946 for allergies, but because it is sedating, or sleep-inducing, people have also used it to help them sleep. Unlike the allergy medications Claritin, Zyrtec or Allegra, this medication blocks histamine receptors in the brain. Histamine is necessary to promote wakefulness, motivation and goal-directed behaviors; when the receptors for histamine are blocked, drowsiness occurs. Many companies have marketed diphenhydramine and doxylamine (another sedating antihistamine) for insomnia under different brand names.

Researchers have conducted many studies of diphenhydramine for insomnia, but most have been small. One of the larger studies looked at individuals with an average age of 44 years who had mild insomnia. In this study, people either took diphenhydramine or a placebo. The diphenhydramine group switched to a placebo after two weeks. The participants kept diaries of how long it took them to fall asleep, their total sleep time and the number of times they awoke.

Researchers found no difference between the drug group and the placebo group in the time needed to fall asleep. However, sleep quality improved significantly among those taking the drug. Total sleep time also improved with diphenhydramine, but only by 29 minutes. The authors did not find significant adverse effects and did not find rebound insomnia when the participants stopped diphenhydramine. The authors concluded that, for the short term, the drug does have benefit in treating insomnia.

As for the merits or risks of taking the drug for more than two weeks, there are no good long-term trials of diphenhydramine, and prolonged use raises the potential for problems. Further, two weeks of using sedating antihistamines can create some degree of tolerance to their sleep-inducing effects, so their effectiveness may wane.

In its guidelines for sleep medications, the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine does not recommend the use of antihistamines for chronic insomnia. Sedating antihistamines can lead to dry mouth, constipation, retention of urine in the bladder, blurred vision and a drop of blood pressure upon standing.

Further, diphenhydramine’s half-life, the time it takes for the drug to lose half of its activity, is nine hours in adults, but 13.5 hours in elderly individuals. That means the drug is still having effects long after one awakes. Sedating antihistamines also can cause grogginess, confusion and memory loss. This is especially concerning in the elderly.

I would re-evaluate whether diphenhydramine is really helping you sleep. You should also consider whether the medication is causing any side effects. Other medications can be used as sleep aids, but the best move, especially for the long term, is to improve your sleep hygiene, such as using the bed for sleep and not for watching television.

If you have trouble doing this on your own, a professional who specializes in sleep therapy might be able to help. Though sleep therapy is a relatively new field, it has shown significant benefits.

Robert Ashley, M.D., is an internist and assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Making war on the people

April 2, 2017

Article from the Arkansas Democrat Gazette by Philip Martin

We don’t need our best and our brightest involved in politics; genius should be out curing cancer and writing novels that sound the black depths of the human heart. It doesn’t take any particular talent to serve in a state legislature or even in Congress (Jefferson imagined an amateur government might be run by yeoman farmers and tradesmen); they just need to be reasonably honest and, as Harry Truman said, “work in the interests of the common people and not in the interests of the men who have all the money.”

Governance is more like medicine than music. The prime directive of its practitioners should be to do no harm to the body politic. Certainly there are times when tough measures are called for, but any scars that are inflicted should be in service of achieving a greater good. We might disagree on what actions our elected representatives should take at any particular point in time, but we have a right to expect that they govern with a degree of empathy for the folks back home.

Ha.

We all know an individual American’s worth directly correlates to the bank account size. Money buys access, money changes minds. Money warps reality in ways that are absurd until you consider who stands to benefit from the absurdity. Poor people just don’t matter to some of those who are supposed to protect us. Our government is free to make war on the poor and powerless.

Most of us have become something less than citizens. We are more like crops to be harvested or resources to be exploited. Fictive personalities have been granted a better set of rights than you have because those stateless corporations have the ability to write much bigger checks to the people who pass laws than you can. So these corporations have been given the right to sell information they’ve surreptitiously gathered by spying on you.

You might think that your information belongs to you. Too bad. You’ve been outbid.

At the same time, a lot of these lawgivers have decided that the privacy of the world’s most public self-proclaimed billionaire matters more than national security. Despite promises to comply with decades of electioneering tradition by releasing his tax returns, despite real questions about what foreign entities might hold the note on his gilded existence, our president won’t tell us about his finances.

Because, as he’s said, he’s president and you’re not.

And if you want quality health care, prepare to pay for it. Or get yourself elected to Congress. Because these people are beholden to super-citizens like insurance companies and pharmaceutical firms. Because they have bigger things to worry about than whether you can afford to get sick. (Besides, if you amounted to anything, you’d have plenty of money to pay your doctor. After all, do you really need an iPhone or a curved-screen TV?)

The world is a hard place and you probably shouldn’t expect these denizens of marble halls to help you out. Because they’ve either got theirs or are in the process of getting same. And because you’re dumb enough to let them operate as they do, to let them get away with not doing the right thing.

To be fair, the world is a complicated and nuanced place and it’s sometimes hard to decide which course is the right one to take. So it’s not surprising that human beings might look to professional explainers, for people who can make the world seem simpler. While there are plenty of people willing to try to do this in exchange for your attention (which they can sell to advertisers), most of them are guessing just like the rest of us. And worse, their guesses are incentivized by third parties who have their own versions to propagate. Most of us prefer to hear stories that reassure us and flatter our sense of ourselves as decent and smart. Any problems we have are most decidedly not our fault—they’re the fault of whoever the professional explainer finds convenient to demonize.

Some of us understand this and take into consideration that the talking heads on television—whether they’re paid by MSNBC or Fox or by the taxpayers—are entertainers whose mission is to convince us that what their corporate sponsors would do is precisely the best thing.

This is how they get you to vote contrary to your own interest.

That’s your right, and it’s sometimes a noble thing. I can think of many things I would gladly support with higher taxes. You probably can too—most of us want a government able to protect us from threats we can’t handle on our own. Most of us would prefer old people not starve, that sick people not be denied medical attention.

Most of us believe there are some legitimate functions of government. A lot of us would prefer a government that doesn’t overly intrude on our daily lives.

I don’t think it’s wise to put much trust in government. Not because everyone who seeks or holds office is venal and corrupt but because it is so easy for human beings to rationalize whatever course they’d prefer to take. For cultural and psychological reasons, lots of us desire firearms; so someone provides the rationale that lots of firearms somehow makes society safer.

For cultural and psychological reasons, lots of us feel uncomfortable around people whose sexual identities seem less rigidly defined than our own; so someone provides the rationale that these people are disturbed and morbid, that they represent a threat to the way others would live.

For cultural and psychological reasons, some of us would prefer not to deal with vocabulary and nuanced argument; so someone provides the rationale that feelings trump facts and that there’s something unreliable and effete about thinking too much about anything.

This is why so many of us believe things that are demonstrably untrue; because someone has cynically supplied us with a set of talking points with which we can argue any absurdity. They’ve set us against each other, to squabble about what scares us most. We’re playing their game.

Maybe they’re smarter than we think.

pmartin@arkansasonline.com

Read more at

http://www.blooddirtangels.com

50 Ways to Live a Longer, Healthier Life

March 27, 2017

(From the March 2017 Issue of AARP Bulletin)

The editors at AARP have filtered through numerous medical journals and studies to identify the best actions you can take to achieve a longer, fuller life. We know there are no guarantees. But genetics account for just 25 percent of a person’s longevity. The rest is up to you. With this collection of some of the most important longevity findings, you’ll have the road map you need to get to 80, 90, 100 or beyond.

1. Frozen is fine

You can eat a balanced diet even when fresh fruits and vegetables are out of season because frozen can be as good as or even better for life-extending nutrients. British scientists found that fresh fruit can lose nutrients after three days of refrigeration, while frozen fruits don’t suffer the same fate. Another study similarly found that frozen blueberries contained more vitamin C than fresh ones.

2. Cut back on pain pills

Regular use of painkillers such as ibuprofen and naproxen — including over-the-counter brands such as Advil, Motrin and Aleve — may raise your risk of heart attack and stroke by 10 percent, according to a 2014 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel review. (Prescription-strength versions may increase your risk by 20 to 50 percent, even after just a few weeks of use.) Reserve these drugs for severe pain, and use the lowest possible dose for the shortest amount of time.

3. Please go to bed

Consistently sleeping less than six hours a night nearly doubles your risk of heart attack and stroke, according to a review of 15 studies published in the European Heart Journal. Another study found that consistently sleep-deprived people were 12 percent more likely to die over the 25-year study period than those who got six to eight hours of sleep a night. These tips from the National Sleep Foundation can help ensure that you get good quality shut-eye, even if you’re among the half of people over 60 who have insomnia:

  • Make the room pitch-black dark, and set the thermostat between 60 and 67 degrees.
  • Exercise every day. It doesn’t matter what time of day you work out, just so it doesn’t interfere with your rest.
  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule, going to bed and getting up at the same time each day.
  • Shut down your electronics an hour before retiring, as the light from some devices can stimulate the brain.
  • Replace your mattress if it’s more than 10 years old.

4. But don’t always go right to sleep

A Duke University study that followed 252 people for 25 years concluded that frequent sex “was a significant predictor of longevity” for men.

5. Get (or stay) hitched

Marriage truly is good for your health — and your longevity. The prestigious Framingham Offspring Study found that married men had a 46 percent lower risk of death than never-married men, in part due to marriage’s well-known impact on heart health. Indeed, a 2014 study by New York University’s Langone Medical Center found that married men and women had a 5 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

6. Ripeness matters

No, you won’t die from eating under-ripe produce, but new research shows that fully ripened fruit has more life-lengthening health benefits. For example, green bananas are low in fiber and high in astringent tannins that can cause constipation. Fully ripened pears and blackberries have more disease-fighting antioxidants. And in watermelon, a deep red color signifies more lycopene, an antioxidant that may reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.

7. Don’t sweeten with sugar

A high-sugar diet boosts blood sugar, which in turn plays havoc with your heart by increasing levels of LDL cholesterol while lowering heart-friendly HDL cholesterol, and tripling your risk for fatal cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar a day, and men no more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams).

8. Consider extra vitamin D

Vitamin D, a bright byproduct of sunlight, has many health benefits, including a link to longevity. But too much vitamin D increases your risk of dying as much as too little, according to a 2015 Danish study. So you want to get the right amount. Don’t just rely on outdoor time to get extra vitamin D; the rate of skin cancer rises as we age, so it’s important to limit exposure. The smart plan: Ask your doctor if you would benefit from extra D in pill form. University of Copenhagen researchers found that the ideal vitamin D level is more than 50 nanomoles per liter of blood, but less than 100 nmol/L.

9. Go green

If coffee’s not your thing, green tea also has proven longevity cred, likely because it contains powerful antioxidants known as catechins that may help combat diabetes and heart disease. In a large study of more than 40,000 Japanese men and women, drinking five or more cups of green tea a day was associated with a 12 percent decrease in mortality among men and a 23 percent decrease among women.

10. Vacation … or Else

Not taking time off work might, indeed, be deadly. One study of men at high risk for coronary artery disease found that those who failed to take annual vacations were 32 percent more likely to die of a heart attack. And in the long-running Framingham Heart Study, women who vacationed just once every six years were eight times more likely to develop coronary artery disease or have a heart attack than women who vacationed twice a year.

11. Eat whole grains

The average American eats one serving of whole grains daily — and that may be just a single morning slice of toast. But eating three or more servings each day can cut overall death rate by about 20 percent, according to a 2016 study from Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Have some oatmeal or brown rice, or get adventurous and go for quinoa, barley, even farro.

12. Spice it up

Eating hot chili peppers may add years to your life. In a 2016 analysis of the dietary habits of more than 16,000 men and women over 23 years, those who reported eating hot peppers reduced their risk of dying by 13 percent. Not a fan of those peppers? Even a little spice can have health benefits. That’s because the body produces endorphins to reduce the heat from the capsaicin in the peppers; those endorphins also reduce pain and inflammation.

13. Drink whole milk

You’ve been told forever to drink low-fat or skim milk, or go for fat-free yogurt. But research published in the journal Circulation in 2016 concluded that those who consumed the most dairy fat had a 50 percent lower risk of developing diabetes, a disease that can shorten your life by eight to 10 years on average.

14. Just add water

Staying adequately hydrated — measured by urine that’s light yellow or straw colored — can also help prolong a healthy life by reducing the risk of bladder and colon cancer and keeping kidneys in tip-top shape. Bonus: It might even help you lose weight. Researchers at the University of Illinois found that those who sipped more H2O ended up eating 68 to 205 fewer calories per day.

15. Say yes to that extra cup

Coffee does more than help you wake up; it also reduces your risk of stroke, diabetes and some cancers. And in a 2015 study published in the journal Circulation, Harvard researchers discovered that “people who drank three to five cups of coffee per day had about a 15 percent lower [risk of premature] mortality compared to people who didn’t drink coffee,” says coauthor Walter Willett, M.D. Mind you, a cup is 8 ounces, so your 16-ounce Starbucks grande is really two cups by that measure.

16. Live like the Amish

A University of Maryland study found that Amish men live longer than typical Caucasian men in the United States, and both Amish men and women have lower rates of hospitalization. What are the Amish ways? Lots of physical activity, less smoking and drinking, and a supportive social structure involving family and community.

17. End the day’s eating by 9 p.m. 

Not only is eating late bad for your waistline — sleeping doesn’t exactly burn lots of calories — it also increases the risk of heart disease by 55 percent for men ages 45 to 82, according to a Harvard study.

18. Eat your veggies

In a study of 73,000 adults, most in their mid to upper 50s, vegetarians were 12 percent less likely than carnivores to have died from any cause during the six-year study period. The 2016 study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that mortality rates were lowest overall for pesco-vegetarians (those who eat fish occasionally), followed by vegans (those who eat no animal products), and lacto-ovo vegetarians (those who eat dairy and eggs).

19. Eat like the Greeks

The Mediterranean diet, with its reliance on fruits, vegetables, olive oil, fish and nuts, is one of the healthiest diets for both overall health and longevity. Harvard researchers, reporting in the BMJ in 2014, found that those who followed the diet most closely had longer telomeres, which cap the end of each strand of DNA and protect chromosomes from damage. Even those who only sporadically followed the diet reaped longevity benefits, researchers found.

20. Eat less

If you want to reach 100, put down the fork, says Dan Buettner, who studies longevity hot spots around the world, such as Okinawa, Japan. Buettner found that the oldest Okinawans stop eating when they feel 80 percent full. A National Institutes of Health-funded study similarly found that cutting back calories reduced blood pressure, cholesterol and insulin resistance.

21. Drink less (here’s a trick) 

More-than-moderate alcohol consumption (generally, more than one drink a day for women or more than two a day for men) leads to a shorter life span. Here’s one way to cut your intake: Pour red wine into a white-wine glass, which is narrower. Studies by Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab found that people poured 12 percent more into red-wine glasses. You’ll also pour less wine into your glass if it’s sitting on the table, instead of in your hand, says Brian Wansink, the lab’s director.

22. Save your pennies

Money might not make you happier, but it will help you live longer. A 2016 study by Stanford researchers published in JAMA found that people whose income bracket was in the top 1 percent lived nearly 15 years longer than those in the bottom 1 percent. The disparity could be attributed to healthier behaviors in higher-income groups, including less smoking and lower obesity rates, researchers say.

23. Or move to one of these states

If you’re not wealthy, consider moving to California, New York or Vermont, where studies show that low-income people tend to live the longest. Loma Linda, Calif., has the highest longevity thanks to vegetarian Seventh-day Adventists, who live eight to 10 years longer than the rest of us. Nevada, Indiana and Oklahoma have the lowest life expectancy (less than 78 years).

24. Ponder a Ponderosa

Experiencing a sense of awe — such as when viewing the Grand Canyon or listening to Beethoven’s Ninth — may boost the body’s defense system, says research from the University of California, Berkeley. “That awe, wonder and beauty promote healthier levels of cytokines suggests that the things we do to experience these emotions — a walk in nature, losing oneself in music, beholding art — has a direct influence upon health and life expectancy,” says Dacher Keltner, a psychologist and coauthor of the study.

25. Get a friend with four legs

A few studies on the link between pet ownership and health have found that owning a pet can reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, even improve the odds of surviving a heart attack. Now the American Heart Association has weighed in with a report published in the journal Circulation that recommends owning a dog, in particular, for those seeking to reduce their risk of deadly heart disease. Dog owners are more likely to be physically active and are also less vulnerable to the effects of stress, the report says.

26. Find your purpose

Do you wake up looking forward to something? In a 2014 study published in the Lancet, researchers found that those with the highest sense of purpose were 30 percent less likely to die during the 8.5-year study period. In fact, doing something that matters — whether it’s helping your children or interacting in a community of like-minded folks — is correlated with seven extra years of life, according to researchers who study people in “blue zones,” areas of the world where folks live the longest.

27. Embrace your faith

Attending religious services once a week has been shown to add between four and 14 years to life expectancy, according to researchers who study blue zones. Don’t belong to a church? Ask to join a friend at her services, or just drop in at a nearby house of worship; most have an open-door policy.

28. Be food safe

About 3,000 Americans die from food poisoning annually, say the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Even seemingly healthy foods — like sprouts, cantaloupe, berries and raw tuna — can make you sick or even kill you, says the FDA. Your action plan: Keep your kitchen pristine, wash your hands and utensils before and after handling food, separate raw and cooked foods, refrigerate perishable food promptly, and cook food to a safe temperature to kill deadly bacteria.

29. Consider mountain life

People residing at higher altitudes tend to live longer, a study by the University of Colorado and the Harvard School of Global Health revealed. Of the 20 healthiest counties in America, many are in Colorado and Utah. Researchers think lower oxygen levels might cause your body to adapt in ways that strengthen your heart and circulation.

30. Go nuts

In a European study of adults ages 55 to 69, those who ate 10 grams of nuts daily — 8 almonds or 6 cashews — reduced their risk of death from any health-related cause by 23 percent. As for specific ailments, consuming a handful of nuts at least five times per week lowers the mortality risk for heart disease (by 29 percent), respiratory disease (24 percent) and cancer (11 percent), according to a previous U.S. study. Sorry, peanut butter fans: Spreads didn’t show the same benefits.

31. Keep watching LOL cat videos

Laughter really is the best medicine, helping to reduce stress, boost the immune system, reduce pain and improve blood flow to the brain. In fact, laughter has the same effect on blood vessels as exercise, report researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

32. Get social

Studies show that loneliness increases the risk of early death by 45 percent. It weakens the immune system and raises blood pressure while increasing the risk for heart attacks and stroke. By contrast, people with strong ties to friends and family have as much as a 50 percent lower risk of dying, according to a study in PLOS Medicine. So visit a friend. And don’t discount your online friends. A 2016 study by researchers at the University of California, San Diego found that those who use Facebook also live longer, but only when online interactions don’t completely supplant face-to-face social interaction.

33. Watch your grandkids

While babysitting every day is stressful, regularly watching the grands can lower your risk of dying by a third, according to a 2016 study published in Evolution and Human Behavior. That adds up to an extra five years of life, researchers say. They speculate that caregiving gives grandparents a sense of purpose, and keeps them mentally and physically active.

34. Try to stay out of the hospital

A 2016 Johns Hopkins University study found that some 250,000 patients die each year in hospitals from medical mistakes, such as misdiagnoses, poor practices and conditions, and drug errors. Sometimes the best way to avoid a grave condition is not to enter the system at all.

35. Read more

Sounds like we made it up, but scientific research supports the longevity benefits of reading — newspapers and magazines will do, but books are the best. “As little as a half-hour a day of book reading had a significant survival advantage over those who did not read,” said the study’s senior author, Becca R. Levy, a professor of epidemiology at Yale.

36. Read the ‘AARP Bulletin’

Really. This and other smart publications can keep you up to date on health info. Studies have shown that when people are empowered with information to make important medical decisions, it not only enhances their well-being but also improves a treatment’s effectiveness. So keep reading aarp.org/bulletin and aarp.org/health.

37. Monitor yourself

Don’t wait for annual checkups to consider your health. By then, a small problem could have morphed into a life-threatening illness. In one English study, researchers found that less than 60 percent of people who developed unusual symptoms in the previous three months had seen a doctor. Symptoms that might point to cancer include: unexplained weight loss of 10 pounds or more (this can be an indication of cancers of the esophagus, stomach or lungs); fever; extreme fatigue; changes in bowel or bladder habits; or unusual bleeding. Other unusual symptoms that could signal disease? A patch of rough, dark skin could indicate diabetes, and a strange color on your tongue could signal serious acid-reflux issues.

38. Visit the hardware store

Among the most common causes of “unintentional deaths” are carbon monoxide, radon and lead poisoning, the CDC reports. Make sure there’s a carbon monoxide detector near every bedroom, and be sure to test and replace the batteries every two years. Was your home built before 1978, when lead paint was outlawed? One trip to the store can get you all you need to test for these toxic substances.

39. Practice home fire drills

Just 1 in 3 families have a fire-safety plan, says Robert Cole, president of Community Health Strategies, an injury-prevention education organization based in Pittsford, N.Y. “People underestimate the speed of a fire. Many waste time figuring out what to do, or trying to take belongings with them. Everyone should know what to do and how to get out safely.”

40. Find a woman doctor

When Harvard researchers in 2016 analyzed Medicare records documenting more than 1.5 million hospitalizations over four years, they found that patients who received care from a female physician were more likely to survive and less likely to be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge. In fact, about 32,000 fewer people would die each year “if male physicians achieved the same outcomes as female physicians,” the researchers said. Previous studies have suggested that female doctors are more likely to follow clinical guidelines and are more effective communicators.

41. Make peace with family

While we often stress about small stuff — the guests are here, and we’re not ready! — it’s the nagging, long-running forms of stress, such as a family dispute, that put your longevity at risk. Chronic stress hastens the cellular deterioration that leads to premature aging and a vast array of serious diseases, according to long-running research from the University of California, San Francisco. This sort of cell death “turns out to be one of the strongest predictors of early diseases of aging and in many studies of early mortality,” says lead researcher Elissa Epel. The remedy: Come to peace with the people in your life. Forgive your family, forgive yourself, put the past behind you — so you can have more life in front of you.

42. Take the stairs — every day

A study by University of Geneva researchers found that taking the stairs instead of the elevators reduced the risk of dying prematurely by 15 percent. What’s more, a daily stair climb shaves six months off your “brain age,” according to researchers at Concordia University who performed MRI scans on 331 people ages 19 to 79. Gray matter shrinks naturally with age, but less so when people stay active.

43. Toss that rug

One of the top risks for falls at home is throw rugs. Those slip-slidey accoutrements send 38,000 older adults to the emergency room each year, according to a 2013 study by the CDC. Banish these rugs from your home, and make sure bath mats have a nonslip bottom.

44. Beware the high-tech dash

Nearly one in five traffic accidents and more than 400,000 crash-related injuries involve a distracted driver, the U.S. Department of Transportation reports. Top distractions, according to a recent Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study, are cellphones. But a less-obvious risk is using the touch screen on your car’s dashboard.

45. And drive less

In 2014, more than 5,700 older adults were killed and more than 236,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes. Per mile traveled, fatal crashes increase noticeably starting at age 70 and are highest among drivers age 85 and older, a highway safety organization says. If you’re feeling unsafe behind the wheel, it might be time to look for alternative transportation.

46. Better yet, walk

What’s the best prescription for a longer life? Exercise. And doctors are literally prescribing it instead of medication. “There is no pill that comes close to what exercise can do,” says Claude Bouchard, director of the human genomics laboratory at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana. It benefits your brain, heart, skin, mood and metabolism. Even as little as 10 minutes of brisk walking can help (that’s all it takes to burn off the calories of one chocolate chip cookie). Once you can do 10 minutes, push it to 15. Then 20. Start slow, but just start.

47. Just not in the street

Nearly 5,000 pedestrians are killed annually in the U.S., according to the latest federal figures, and nearly 20 percent of those deaths were among adults age 65 and older. If you walk for your health — and we hope you do — stay safe and consider doing so at the mall, a community health center or a park.

48. And go a little faster

The benefits of a brisk walk are real: A University of Pittsburgh study of adults 65 and older found that those whose usual walking pace exceeded one meter per second lived longer. While researchers say they can’t recommend brisk walking as a panacea for living longer, they did see increased survival in those who picked up the pace over the course of a year.

49. Get fidgety

Never mind what your grade school teachers said; fidgeting is good. A 2016 British study finds that sitting for seven or more hours a day increases your risk of dying by 30 percent — except among active fidgeters, who see no increased risk.

50. Trade in Ol’ Bessie

High-tech safety features have now become standard in new cars. The government mandates that all have airbags, antilock brakes, electronic stability control — “up there with seat belts and airbags in its life- aving benefits,” says one industry leader — and tire pressure-monitoring systems. Carmakers also offer back-up cameras, self-parking features, blind-spot and lane-departure warnings, and forward-collision warning with auto-braking.