The Human Condition….

The Human Condition….

It’s been snowing here in Denver and boy do we need it. There is a beauty to new fallen snow and the sun peering through naked branches that give you a sense of renewal. The subzero air cracks and that is just fine. The fireplace is blazing. The world is a pretty good place.

By the same token it probably is a bummer to many. Grumblings about the thermometer, slick roads and walks to be shoveled are part of a litany to be recited by a certain breed of cat. Same picture. Just looking at things through a different lens.

I always get to wondering if either side is built that way. You know the old half full, half empty gig. It would seem to me at birth we have to look on the bright side. Taking that ride from belly to lap, almost being strangled by what is supposed to be a life line and then the ignominy of someone whacking you on the ass to get you started. It’s got to get better.

The journey begins. Some are swaddled. Some are hugged. Some are loved. Some are praised. Some are cursed. Some are abandoned. Some are just ignored. A wonderful gift or a horrible inconvenience. And all the time that tiny babe just wants to feel like they are loved…that they belong.

That need for affection never drifts far. As a son or a daughter they want their parents to be proud. As a sibling you just want to measure up. As a member of society you always wonder what your place is. As a future mate you are always on the lookout for someone who will think you are special. Worthy of their love all.

As I ponder the imponderables I wonder how people go wrong or is it even fair for me to say? I still don’t know whether good or evil is inherent. I know which one I am rooting for. But events not only of the past few weeks give me pause.

There was an altercation at 4:30AM in Las Vegas where someone got annoyed. They proceeded to pull alongside the offending car and just blew him out of the water. There are mothers and fathers that kill their young. There are lovers that kill each other. Monsters that shoot the masses and then themselves. There was a beautiful 17 year who committed suicide a day after a glorious day of skiing with her father. Are they really built this way?

I think life changes people but it starts with the parents. Is our love genuine or does our fawning produce a false sense of security? Do we prepare our kids for life or do we depend on the streets to do it for us ? Do we treat them so harshly that the resentment grows and grows? Or are they shielded from any sense of reality? Good questions. Don’t know that I really have the answers.

I think many of us cop out on life or maybe that is too harsh. What I really mean is that we don’t really dig deep to find out how this all ticks. We get so wrought up in our own problems we fail literally to see the forest through the trees. There is a big picture but we only look at our own closeups. Are we living in the world or just trying to manage it?

The outgrowth of this narcissism is that we cannot accept change of any sort. We are so threatened by new ideas we hunker down. Thinking outside the box is derided and we pray for failure of these upstarts lest we be proven wrong. “That’ll never work” becomes a mantra.

The human condition is also the human spirit. It craves acceptance and yet at the same time it wants to cut loose. It has all these great ideas looking for a home. And we shoot them down. We razz. We insult. We bully. Toe the line. When someone says you don’t understand them, maybe they are right.

I don’t think grouches, malcontents or even killers are born. By some quirk of fate or unfairness of life they became that way. But like any other modicum of behavior it has been acquired and I believe that habit can be broken as well.

Whether it is politics, religion or just life in general let’s look at things as a snowy morning. The sky is Colorado blue and the slate is clean. Yesterday and all its travails are long gone. We are going to make it. But we have to think and act a different way. Not as hard as you think.  Remember getting born was the tough part. Let’s enjoy the ride. Embrace the change.

As always

Ted The Great….

My Human Condition: Half full and climbing.


People are prone to depression and mental illness. It’s life. Some more than others. It is called dysthymia or a proclivity towards negativity. Genes and environment have a huge effect on our mind state. It can be changed.

Over half our population will face some sort of mental illness in our lifetime. Fully 20% at any given point in time.

Suicide does not come on in an instant. It is the result of an acquiescence to life. That struggle which many times is not manifest has taken years if not months of torture to finally end.

The absurdity of life is that if a mass killer or suicidal person spoke up they could be treated. But life puts such a stigma on this “coming out” they never want to risk exposure.

Our society today with such an emphasis on achievement and accumulation of things at earlier and earlier ages will only exacerbate the problem.

Sequestration..The Catholic Church. Too easy this week. Stay tuned

Dumb and Dumber…..

I spent the weekend among grandkids. The three boys stayed over Friday night. Saturday morning after waffles with whipped cream and bacon we needed to kill time before the Museum of Nature and Science opened up. What else but to go to to play some games. Do no try this at home. You will look like an idiot.

Aiden is a sensitive young man and said “Padge, you just need practice.” Jack and Anders were not so kind. I am not the sharpest pencil in the drawer but this was ridiculous. Humbled and mortified I trundled them off to the museum. There the boys one upped Padge once again with their knowledge of all things scientific. I need to do something about this.

When in doubt, go to PBS. There are some truly brilliant shows ranging from politics (Frontline), Science(Nova and Nature) and general welcome to the universe of today (Charlie Rose). I tape these things to hopefully sit down and watch at a future date. Too often they go right alongside my book on “50 great Ideas I Haven’t Done Squat About.”

I brought up a Nova segment on Earth and Space. Two hours? I hope I stay awake. You are introduced to the various satellites we have buzzing around the earth in an orbit of anywhere from 500-20,000 miles. Your first sense throughout the show was, “Wow, I didn’t know that?” Duh. I know some of you have it all figured out but I don’t.

You watch the comments of astrophysicists, oceanographers, climatologists and the like. They weave a story all backed up by incredible views of just how interconnected the “Blue Marble” is. Rain. Wind, lightning, ocean currents, fires and temperatures are all interrelated. There is an endless loop of activity where one begets the other and then the process starts all over again.

There is a tremendous feeling of awe towards the creativity of man. Just think when you see these amazingly complex machines first being launched and then operating for years, bringing back data ranging from temperature variables to magnetic shields to crop forecasting. This is the real Star Wars.

Everything makes sense. The ice freezes in Antarctica and releases brine that sinks to the floor of the ocean. That in turn is transferred through undersea currents to various parts of the undersea world where it then provides food for plankton which in turn provides food for the creatures of the sea. The sun makes the sea warm and this creates rain and things grow.

I hope you are still with me. Volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes and fire are not seen as disasters but as a part of a constantly changing earth that is really just doing her thing. I know some of you don’t appreciate this view but hey the earth was here a long time before us.

There are 400 lightning strikes on earth every second. Thousands of minor earthquakes and 100’s of volcano eruptions daily. Steam tubes on the floor of the ocean. And all of these serve to take nutrients from one part of the world and deposit them where it is needed. This is not happenstance. There really is a consistent theme and order to this.

I forgot all about photosynthesis from high school and it is truly a marvel. The Amazon rainforests suck in carbon dioxide by night and expel oxygen during the day. That’s 20% of the air we breathe from one spot. I am not hugging trees yet but we are definitely going to start dating.

Point being? I was getting a little bored in these dog days of winter. Our beautiful Colorado blue sky can’t quite mitigate the browns and grays of mother earth. Politics, the Middle East and financial markets depress rather than wind me up. It was just great to spend two hours understanding our planet. Entertaining my brain. I did miss The Biggest Loser, The Bachelor and Mike and Molly. What a tragedy!

The sobering part is realizing how really small Ted’s Head is. I mean I have so much to learn. I really have to realize that there are some things I can affect and some that are just beyond my control. Most of all is being humble. There are scientists out there that aren’t writing algorithms for trading stocks or designing games but seeing how our world works. My money is on the latter.

I want to thank my grandkids for showing me how dumb I am. But I am going to study hard. I was thinking my new moniker will be Dr. Verner Von Ted’s Head. Wait until next time you little punks..

As always
Ted The Great

There are currently about 120 NASA satellites orbiting the earth, mapping it and analyzing the oceans and land masses providing a multiplicity of data to thousands of scientists.

Some of the satellites have cameras with a resolution from thousands of miles away that can see people on a sidewalk and see which have toes hanging over the side.

There is a 43 degree average temperature difference between the north and south poles. The south is a lot colder.

The Sahara Desert was actually a lake of measuring 24,000 square miles some 10,000 years ago. The nutrients from the lake bed are still blown in windstorms to the rain forest in Brazil providing it with much needed nitrates when it rains there.

Millions of years ago an asteroid wiped out the dinosaur population. I am taking up a collection to build a steering device to make sure the next big one hits Washington.

How To Lose Friends……..

I have been working on increasing the circulation of Ted’s Head. Many of you have sent my site to friends and family and I encourage all of you to do so….after this issue. We actually had well over 200 hits last week.

A buddy of mine sent me some facts and figures from the Sprott Financial Group. These guys have made a lot of money so they must be smart. They have addressed in a very meaningful way something I have spoken on and off about for three years. Healthcare.

It’s getting a little spooky out there. Right now we spend about 22% of our $12 trillion GDP on healthcare. $2.7 trillion last year. That’s bad but it will rise to 25% by 2020 and 30% by 2030. Babyboomers and those over 65 will account for 60% of that total. We will spend approximately $7,000 for every man woman and child in our country on healthcare. An average family of four will spend $19,000 on insurance and out of pocket cost this year.

We spend more than any other industrialized country on the planet. It doesn’t reflect in our statistics. We are by no manner of scorekeeping anywhere near the top in longevity or health birthrates. Our time around here is pegged at 77 years but our healthy time is 71 years young. That’s six years of sickness of some sort.

Let’s not go on about healthy lifestyles. Let’s not rant and rave about drug companies or high priced specialists. Medical mistakes and unneeded procedures are just more of the numbers. Let’s just talk about a crazy but integral concept….there is a finite amount of money we can throw at this. That’s right we cannot and I repeat cannot give everyone every last bit of treatment possible.

Right now we have 75 million people who say they are owed. They have a lottery ticket called their Medicare card. They are walking into the Columbia Presbyterian Ritz or the Cedars of Sinai Four Seasons and saying let it rip. Money is no object. I don’t care what it takes. Pull out all the stops.

Experimental? Go for it. Chemo? Dialysis? Transplants? You can get me another 70 days for $1,000,000. Hey, I am worth it. There are of course complicit professionals from the docs to the hospitals to the drug companies who say welcome. I spoke once of a woman in Hancock Hospital at Dartmouth who was end stage cancer and being seen by FIFTEEN specialists. This included a psychiatrist who was treating her for depression. The woman was 93 years old.

There are two dynamics at work here. One is the open chit mentioned above. The other is the shrinking number of wage earners that will occur over the next few decades. I say again who is going to pay for all this? I have often spoken of the end of life costs for 75 million. Let’s use a low number of $100,000 in the last year of life. Ridiculously small assumption but it still comes out to $7.5 trillion to say adios.

We have a guy at the wheel who will not even consider any change to entitlements. He should probably be charged with DUI. That would be fine but there are legislators of every stripe tearing up and down the streets of Washington with a breathylizer that would come in way over 2.0. The substance in their abuse? Power. Do you know what this would do to my reelection chances?

Okay let’s tax the rich. To be in the top 1% you have to earn at least $380,000 per annum. They pay a federal tax rate of 23.25% on average. That is in the neighborhood of $400 billion of $1.04 trillion collected. Can’t even come close if we increased it by 50%. Screw that, let’s make it the top 10%. To get there you have to make $113,000 per annum. Just try to go after them and you will have a rebellion that will make Cairo riots look like Cape Cod on a summer Sunday.

Look I have thrown out a lot of numbers because numbers don’t lie. I don’t have the direct answer but I will tell you my generation and their families have some soul searching to do. We have to install a meter in this thing called Medicare. We have to have commensurate amounts for age and condition. Sweet Jesus, the man is talking about rationing. Unfortunately with an air of realism I am.

We have to consider outcomes and quality of life. No, Sam or Mary we can’t keep you going forever because the family wants to have you around even in your comatose state. No, I am not Kervorkian but I believe at some time in our lives we have to let nature take its course.

I don’t want to rob the stricken of hope. I don’t want to be Solomon for the Grim Reaper. But in a very real way we cannot rob our children and theirs of prosperity just to salve our egos or make one last try at immortality. No one has ever beaten the rap.

I am going to work my shift today at hospice where the cost of care ranges from $230-450 per day. Just compare that to the cost of an ICU bed. There are no monitors or IV’s. They are waiting for God or whoever. They are leaving a legacy. And a good one. I hope I have the guts to do the same.

As always
Ted The Great

1% of the population uses 27% of the expenditure on healthcare. 5% uses more than half. The bottom 50% uses 3%

We rank among other countries 50th in life expectancy and 48% in infant mortality despite spending more than any other nation.

More than half of those patients who survived a prolonged critical illness are dead within one year. Only 10% of those are able to live at home independently.

In a particular study of 323 dementia patients, 50% went through a major medical intervention in the last 18 months of their life.

CBO has found that ½ of the increase in medical costs is the result of advanced technology.

Quality of life…the ability of the patient to enjoy normal life activities.


The former mayor of New York passed on this week. I watched with a little bit of melancholy as the mourners(doesn’t seem like the right verbiage) bade Ed Koch good bye in a packed church or temple or whatever. As they carried his casket down the aisle the throng applauded for his last standing ovation.The organ played, New York, New York. No weeping here. Just smiles and stories.

Ed was an incredible character. He was the consummate politician and made no excuses. He was acclaimed as a hero and a schmuck in the same breath. He could evade questions with the best of them but there was no pretense. He knew it and the press knew it. And they had a lot of laughs about it. Compared to today he was transparent.

He would campaign outside subway stations. He would always ask, “How am I doin?” with his very best New York accent. He would show up everywhere and tell both friend and foe what was on his mind. His hair, what there was of it, was not styled and his suits were probably off the rack and hung baggy most of the time. He lived somewhere in the Village and just enjoyed his city. Gracie Mansion was his home for ten years but so was the whole isle of Manhattan.

In the spring of 1985 Ed endeared himself to 25,000 grunts and squids who had served in Viet Nam. In his own inimitable way he said, “Enough!.” When we came back in the late 60’s and early 70’s we were not only not welcomed but we were shunned. They were trying to figure out if we were baby killers or powder kegs ready to blow. The mayor knew better.

He gave us a ticker tape parade on a gorgeous May day. I was on my way to work on Wall Street but at the last moment veered off the subway line to wind up at the Brooklyn Bridge. Coming out of the subway to my amazement among the thousands were 25-30 guys with whom I had served in the riverine force. Some were in cammies and some like myself were in business suits. It didn’t matter.

We marched across the bridge as if on a mission. The Mayor was way up front leading the way. He was pushing a Congressional Medal of Honor vet in a wheelchair for the entire route. We were somewhat rag tag but we were proud. I imagine we were quite a sight.

As we neared the NYC side there were girls up in the office buildings holding up big signs in the windows with their phone numbers. They were safe. We were harmless. We turned the corner at Church Street to head south…..and then.

There is no street like Broadway in New York and this was beyond special. Ahead of us were up to 1 million city dwellers who had turned out to welcome us home. They cheered. They yelled encouragement. They threw ticker tape and it was the most incredible feeling in the world. We just couldn’t stop saying thank you. The biggest thank you of all was to Big Ed.

The wounds still hadn’t healed even after 10-15 years. The protesters and whackos of years gone by didn’t realize that we were human beings too. I wish they had shown us as much respect as they did to the other side but life moves on. Most notably I went home that night to turn on the TV. Defying any reason, not one of the three major networks broadcast any coverage of a parade with a turnout of 1 million people. All the news that fits the print. It’s okay. We had our day and our fun. Thanks to the mayor.

I actually worked out in the same gym Ed frequented from time to time. I stress the time frame. I was there most days. He wasn’t. I told him what that parade meant to us and he smiled. But I also told him of another New York story.

I was sectioned out of the Navy at the Brooklyn Naval Shipyard. In my Navy Blues I went to the rental office at Stuyvesantown in the city. This was a large rent controlled apartment complex owned by Met Life. It was built in post WWII and they could make only a fixed return every year. As a result the rents were beyond reasonable. And the wait list was long.

I inquired as to where I was on the waiting list. Kathy and I were getting married and this was an important piece to the puzzle. The boss came over to the counter and questioned where I had been. I replied, “Viet Nam” and told him of my travels. He listened intently and then excused himself. He came back a few moments later with the keys to three two bedroom apartments. He said, “Son, take your pick. You are in luck.”

As I told my story I could almost swear I saw a bit of a tear in Ed’s eye. There was a lot of softness amid all the bluster. He loved every inch of New York and it showed.

I am going back Friday to my 50th high school reunion at Loyola School on Park and 83rd. I used to take the Long Island RR to Penn Station and then worked my way north on three different subways. As a kid of 13 or 14, I knew my way around the city better than most. It was my city.

As I walk down Park Avenue I will think of the many wonderful years I lived there. I will remember being a teen and then a husband. I will visit St. Ignatius Church, the scene of my brother’s marriage and long after his funeral. I will meet my nephew’s new son. Life will be good.

I’ll have a scotch or two while meeting old friends and reliving old times. Most of all I will remember Hizzoner. And maybe raise a glass. We need more people like that. He didn’t get it all right but he was mostly decent and forthright. Works for me.

As always
Ted The Great.

There are five boroughs that make up NYC. Manhattan joins the Bronx,Brooklyn, Staten Island(Richmond) and Queens. The population is 8.2 million.

There have been 108 mayors of New York going back to 1666. There has been the corruption of Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall. There has been a multi billionaire in the person of Mike Bloomberg.

The budget of NYC is $66 billion. That makes it the 44th largest economy in the world.