Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

Monthly Archives: June 2021

The Three Hour Gift

As I’ve noted before, I am a big fan of Podcasts. Over the years I’ve heard some incredible conversations, IMHO this is in the top two of all time.

Lex Fridman is a computer scientist and AI researcher at MIT; Bret Weinstein is an evolutionary biologist.

This is a 3-hour conversation covering a wide range of topics from two scientists who are actively shaping our future. Scientists and intellectuals are not always easy to listen to — that definitely isn’t the case here. They both have a gift for making complex topics and ideas easily understandable, and their linguistic skills and ethical humanity make their exchange of ideas compelling.

Listening to this podcast felt like taking drugs. It’s that good.



For roughly a century, hospitals in the U.S. were run with a focus on good medical care. The administration was there to support this simple directive — to provide the best health care possible. If we imagine a hierarchy of power it would have looked something like this: doctors at the top of the pyramid, nurses next, and administration at the bottom managing day-to-day operations.

Somewhere in the 1980s, for multifactoral reasons too complex to explore here, the system began to break down. Large, historic hospitals began to run out of money, many of them closing doors.

Enter the suits — corporate management was brought in to mitigate the financial failure of these institutions. Morgan-Stanley, General Electric — you get the idea. And, let’s be clear: they were successful. Layer after layer of management, run by MBAs, began to turn things around. Hospitals (not all, but many) began to make money instead of losing it.

The problem, however, was this: the system was no longer being run by healthcare clinicians, i.e. doctors and nurses, it was now being run by “suits” whose responsibility was to the bottom line. Eventually, their incentive became to support the corporate power structure itself. Multimillion-dollar salaries for high-level management became the norm, just like CEOs of private-sector corporations.

And just like all big business in north America, management cut costs wherever they could. After all, their responsibility was to the bottom line, not clinical care.

This meant fewer doctors and less nurses — particularly less nurses. You see, in a large teaching hospital, nurses are employed by the hospital itself, but medicine is employed by the medical school associated with the hospital. This created the dangerous situation we have today — nurses are constantly understaffed. Better to funnel financial resources to the suits and let nursing and medicine figure out how to provide care without enough staff.

I am, of course, over-simplifying an extremely complex system. Private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, and the pharmaceutical industry are now at the top of the pyramid, with management and administration next. The corporations call the shots, not doctors.

And nurses are left hanging in the wind, like the little dutch boy trying to plug up holes in the dike with his fingers to stop the deluge and save the city from the collapsing dam.

Only this story doesn’t have a happy ending. It’s a metaphor for what America has become.

When public services are run with a profit motive, they cease to be public services.

Humble Pie

Although painful, it’s good to be humbled.


Well, for starters, it means you’ve still got room for improvement, which is never a bad thing.

It also forces you to recognize your limits, motivating you to work harder, to be better.

Eating a steaming plate of humble pie toughens you up, and one can never be too tough.

Life isn’t for the weak or faint of heart. Getting better at anything is going to involve some pain.

Learn from it.

Irons In The Fire

If you’re a creative person, the odds of anything happening with your art is less than zero. Way less than zero, in point of fact.

So the more work you have out there, looking for a home, the less painful it is when one gets rejected.

Just keep making new stuff. It’s what you wanted to do anyway.

Besides, even if it all gets rejected, you still had fun making it.

So who’s the winner now?

How Do You Make a Long Journey?

One step at a time.

If you think about how far you have to go, and how long it’ll take, the whole thing can become overwhelming.

But if you just put one foot in front of the other, day after day, you’ll eventually find yourself at your destination.

Be sure to take your time and enjoy the trip.

The journey is as much fun as arriving — maybe more so.

You’re never so alive as when you’re not sure you can do something, but you plow ahead anyway.

Learning by Doing

If you want to learn how to make a film, you can go to film school.

Or you can just make a film.

Either way, your first one, at best, is going to show some promise. Maybe, if you’re Bob Dylan, or Quentin Tarantino, it’ll be a masterpiece – but that’s generally not the way it works. And that’s ok…

I guess my point here is this: You’re never going to be ready, so you may as well just fucking jump in.

It’s what you wanted to do anyway. You’ll figure it out as you go.

Semantic Priming

Let’s say we’re playing a game where I say a word, and you have to say the first word that comes to mind after hearing it.

I say doctor, you might say nurse.

You have been primed with the word doctor, and your natural response is to respond with a semantically related word such as nurse, or perhaps hospital.

Our brains work like this all day, indeed, when we try to solve problems, this is how our prefrontal cortex reasons.

The problem is, this kind of reasoning isn’t always the best way to come up with a solution. Sometimes we need to get the prefrontal cortex out of the way and be more creative, to think outside the box, so to speak.

Some people can do this naturally, but occasionally even they need help.

It turns out that this what alcohol and other mind-altering drugs do — they turn down the prefrontal cortex. There are lots of published studies illustrating this idea.

Maybe substances that slightly alter our conciousness aren’t so bad afterall.

Just food for thought.

A Big One

Yeah, I’m biting into a big matzoh ball here folks.

Not sure if I can maintain this blog and dedicate myself to this project at the same time, but I’m going to try.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Fucking hell.


This was the person, before man had science, whose job it was to get fucked up, usually on some form of psychedelic. But this wasn’t frivolous – it served a purpose for human evolution.

The purpose was this: by altering their consciousness, these Shamen were increasing the likelihood that they might discover an answer to whatever question was being asked, because they were scrambling their brain and seeing things from a completely different perspective.

Their breaking free from the constraints of status quo thinking allowed them look a the problem from novel viewpoints.

So psychedelics have assisted humans from the beginning of our species, as a tool to accelerate innovation.

Because that’s what humans do – we innovate.

Just a Tip

If you find yourself in an ER, telling your nurse to “Fuck off” isn’t going to make things go any quicker.

Seems obvious, I know. But trust me – not everyone got the memo.

Every Day is a Gift

I’m not spouting platitudes here, just stating a fact. If you’re reading this, you’re not dead yet.

The big D is coming, but in the meantime, stop your fucking crying and get on with some living.

Make it count.

Why People are Assholes on Social Media

Deep down we all still primates. Social primates, more specifically — that is, no single ape could survive without the tribe. If a chimp was an asshole, unless he was King Kong, it wasn’t going to end well.

This is why we are wired not to be disrespectful, much less antagonistic, to other humans in our day-to-day lives. Not only could this result in violence directed at us, it’s a behavior that disrupts the tribe, something that is anathema to us. After all, we don’t survive without the tribe.

But somewhere around 2006, social media as we now understand it, was born. Now we could confront other humans anonymously. Now the littlest chimp could hurl shit at the biggest chimp without fear of retribution. Indeed, this could be done gleefully, over and over, in public no less. Of course, this would cause other little chimps to join in on the fun, throwing shit at each other like pies in a Three Stooges short.

We’re just not wired to handle this level of responsibility in anonymous public communication. Particularly when, at the click of a button, we can send our toxic mischief out into the world. We become (not all of us, of course) little chimps out pretending to be big chimps. Without the danger of a real big chimp beating us into a pulp.

This, unfortunately, is who we are.

Welcome to the enlightened human race.

What’s That?

Sometimes the voice in my head gets a little out of line and I have to remind it who’s boss.

“All right Buddy, let’s take a deep breath and bring it down a notch. Now what seems to be the problem?”

That usually shuts him up.

Bullies always cave under pressure.

Moving Back Towards Normal

I was one of the first people in the U.S. vaccinated for COVID back on December 16, 2020. And yet it has only been in the last month or so that I have begun venturing out in public unprotected. I still wear an N-95 for every 12 and a half hour shift in the ER, and I continue to wear a KN-95 at the gym, but things are changing fast. To wit:

  1. I had dinner with my wife and 2 BFF at our house. No masks. It felt scary for about 1 minute, then normal.
  2. My wife and I went to our yearly overnight anniversary in Rockport, MA. While there, I didn’t wear a mask at the Inn. I also didn’t wear a mask at 2 restaurants. And I didn’t wear a mask while shopping.
  3. Today, we went to an outdoor public pool. Lots of children — clearly unvaccinated children. For a moment, I panicked and put on a surgical mask before I realized I was outdoors, and it was 90 degrees with a breeze. Mask off.

The earth kept spinning, and I was surprised how quickly I felt comfortable. Not saying I got too close to any children, mind you, but I was outdoors on a beautiful summer day, enjoying life.

After working as an ER nurse in the apocalyptic first wave of the pandemic in NYC, witnessing death on an unimaginable scale, seeing how helpless we were to stop the onslaught, watching our colleagues fall ill, some of them dying, wondering if me or my loved ones would be next — after living through that and starting to see the beginnings of post-COVID life, I am struck by how resilient human beings are.

Life, such as it is, goes on.

There’s something comforting in that.