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Larry nearing 70 - click to enlargeI turned 70 today. I'm not too happy about it. I was just going along, minding my own business, and it snuck up on me.

My sisters sent me nice, sensitive birthday cards. Nothing about being "over the hill" this time. Now that I actually am "over the hill". The card from Alice summed it up:

"Happy Big Seven - Oh shit!"

30 years ago, I complained to my doctor, Alvin Kahn, about turning 40. He looked at me wistfully, and said, "I wish I could see 40 again." Upon seeing an attractive woman on his 90th birthday in 1931, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. was heard to say, "Oh to be 70 again." So it's all a matter of perspective.

Bernard Baruch once said, "To me, old age is always 15 years older than I am." He lived to be almost 95. The fact that I'm reaching for quotes about aging is an indication that there is very little new that I can say about it.

My daughter Sara sent me a very loving and touching birthday composition, with photos, to be used as a guest blog entry (my first "guest entry", called "Ask Larry", was written by my sister Alice). Sara's gift will be my entry next week, to be posted on January 19.

Perhaps I need to venture down to Florida, like Juan Ponce de León, and look for the Fountain of Youth, of which it was said that if you took one drink you would have eternal youth, or at least acne.Note 1  But the last time I looked, Florida seemed to be full of old people, and if the fountain were there, I'm sure one of them would have found it by now. Besides, as some anonymous wag once said, "We have enough youth. How about a fountain of SMART?".

At this point in our lives, most of my college classmates have grandchildren, some of them many grandchildren. But I married fairly late, at age 28, and didn't have my first child until I was 33. She just got married at age 36. So if I ever have grandchildren, they will be born while I'm in my 70s. Margie once said that the sad thing about dying is, "You don't know how the story ends."

Because I started my blog on January 11, 2010, today also marks its second birthday. Thus it may be a good time to think about what these 113 blog entries have meant to me. Writing the blog has certainly been a major activity in my life during the past two years. By the time an entry is done, I've frequently spent a full day on it. On occasion, I've spent several days.

I dictate using speech recognition software, currently Dragon "NaturallySpeaking" version 11, so the mechanics of writing down the words doesn't take all that long (the phrase that came to mind was "putting the words on paper", but I haven't done any substantial writing on actual paper in a long time). But mentally planning what I'm going to write, and gathering information and photographs can be quite time-consuming.

Equally time-consuming is the scanning and formatting of those photographs. While my very recent photographs are already in digital form, most of the photographs from earlier in my life are either in the form of prints, slides, or negatives. They are also disorganized, lying around in heaps in large boxes, and can be hard to find.

Thus over the past two years, my blog has added up to quite a bit of work. Every now and then, I wonder how many people are actually reading it. As of this date, 36 people have signed up for weekly e-mail reminders. I do have a number of stalwart followers (you know who you are) who frequently comment via e-mail, which I appreciate greatly, and I always answer.

But I do need to remind myself from time to time that I'm writing primarily for my extended family, including cousins and nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews, so I shouldn't worry too much about how many people are reading it right now. And because it's on-line, and shows up in searches, I was recently contacted by a second cousin once-removed that I didn't know about.

Some small amount of time, typically about 45 minutes, is spent on the sheer mechanics of hooking each entry into the blog. An index entry has to be added to each of four indexes ("indices" for you Latin fans), and the entry usually has to be appended to one or more keywords threads.

As a friend recently pointed out, I could have made this easier by using some sort of commercial blogging software, like the popular and widely used application "WordPress". The extra work I do is attributable to an early decision to have the readability of the blog not be dependent upon any particular commercial application which could go away in the future, other than the existence of browsers capable of reading simple HTML and displaying JPEG images. This point was made in my FAQ under the entry, "Why aren't you using a commercial blogging website?".

What have I written about? Here are the number of entries so far under each of the topic keywords on my Keyword list:

   6 *CAMP
  23 *FAMILY2
19 *MIT
 8 No keyword

Note that although I've written only 105 entries with keywords, the numbers above add up to 210. This is because many entries are tagged with more than one keyword (obviously, exactly two on the average).

As might be expected with my engineering background, the *TECHNOLOGY keyword leads all the others. This is followed by entries about my current family (*FAMILY2) and about *LANGUAGE in general. This may be a little misleading, since I've been holding off some entries about my families pending sorting through old photographs.

It's also interesting to me that when starting the blog, I was able to list as keywords pretty much all of the areas I was going to write about. Only the *PEOPLE keyword was added later. I didn't realize I would be writing so many entries about specific individuals. Since initiating that keyword, I've also used it to tag entries with more information about specific people (even if they aren't the primary subject of that entry) and I've used that keyword for important nonhuman animal members of our families, like Harold and Chester.

Although at this point I've recounted many of my most commonly told stories, I'm not even close to running out of things to write about. That's one advantage of having 70 years behind me (although I don't remember very much about the first four or five years). So despite all the effort, for now at least, I'll keep going. You may have noticed that I optimistically allowed for four digits in my blog entry numbers. At about 50 entries per year, it will take me 18 more years to get to entry #1000.

Writing a blog is a pretty egocentric thing to do. As I said in one of my introductory entries, "Why write using the HTML and JPG file formats?", I really do hope that my children and even other extended family members will have enough interest to plow through portions of it and learn a little bit about the personality and activities of one of their ancestors. But perhaps they'll just delete it one day, out of a total lack of interest, or an inability to tolerate my verbosity.

Jennifer Graham wrote an article in the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine entitled, "Endless me".Note 2  It carried the subheading, "On the Web, it seems I can live virtually forever. That won’t get old, will it?". I cut it out, and saved a copy (yes, I have an actual copy on paper!!). It does have a lot of resources, in that it gives the names of companies that will help you retain your online identity after death.

And indeed, I should consider endowing some company to continue to pay the annual fee for my domain name, "LJKrakauer.com". Otherwise, I'm dependent on the continuing interest of some family member to keep me alive on the web. Of course, it can be stored in other forms, or in the "cloud" pretty much for free, even if it's not reachable through that domain. And every now and then I make a CD-ROM for my safe deposit vault (yes, the whole thing fits on one CD-ROM, and very easily, too). But media such as that do become obsolete. The CD-ROM is probably already obsolete, actually - maybe I ought to switch to a thumb drive (but I'll bet they don't last as long). It will probably take a little bit more planning if I really want the blog to persist after my death.

And who knows, that could be tomorrow (but at least I've made it to 70). As Peter McWilliams said, "Life is a sexually transmitted terminal disease." Perhaps we can learn from people who lived a long time. When asked at age 84 to what she credited her longevity, Julia Child said, "Red meat and gin."

That might work for me.

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© 2012 Lawrence J. Krakauer   Click here to send me e-mail.
Originally posted January 11, 2012

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Footnotes (click [return to text] to go back to the footnote link)

Note 1:   OK, I shamelessly stole that line from my "Classic Dave Barry" calendar, where it popped up today just in time for my birthday. Buy Dave's books - I do!   [return to text]

Note 2:   "Endless me", by Jennifer Graham, Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, March 28, 2010, p. 14   [return to text]

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