Thatched roof cottage, Ireland

Rumor has it that as a species — Homo sapiens — we originated in Africa and migrated all over the globe. On a daily basis each of us requires some essential inputs like clean air, water, food, clothing, rest and shelter. See Viewing the Body as a Complex Machine. Shelter provides protection from the elements like heat and cold, the wind, rain, etc, and from daily and seasonal variation and their extremes. The nature of the protection required depended upon where we were living and on the materials that were available locally as well as the skills and tools of our ancestors. That is where our creativity as a species came into play. Using the resources that were available locally and their imagination, our ancestors created shelters to protect themselves from the elements. They were all different and beautiful. They included: Cave dwellings, TeepeesAdobes, Sod hutsThatch housesIgloos, and Log cabinsMany different structures evolved. Those are just some of them.  Aren’t they beautiful, artistic and creative? For a better understanding about what we would like to know about each of these shelters as works of art see Seeing Some Shelters and Clothing as Fine Art and Fine Craft. Continue reading “Shelter”


Variation in the Ability to Perform

thinkerFrom the time he was 10, my son, Paul, understood the relation between decision and action better than almost anyone I’ve ever known. Edie, my ex-wife, and I had just split up and I was living in what I thought would be a temporary apartment on the Parkway in Philadelphia. Paul came to visit for the first time and we were sitting on the grass in the shadow of Rodin’s The Thinker. Sad faced, Paul turned to me, “Dad, is it okay if we invite Ted?” He was Paul’s good friend who lived in Northeast Philly. “Sure,” I said. Paul lit up like a Christmas tree. A few minutes later the sad face was back again. “Okay, Paul, what is it now?” “Well, you said we could invite him!” Paul also had a fine understanding of process. He knew just what it took to get things done. Once he decided on something he went ahead and did it — until the job was complete. Again, no gap between decision and action.

Contrast that with his behavior at lunchtime. We settled in at a restaurant, menus in front of us. Sad face once again, he couldn’t decide what he wanted. My suggestions don’t help. Paul is hungry and unable to make a choice. Paul’s complex machine – we call it the body – which ordinarily has no problems making decisions and choices has broken down. Paul is very hungry. That’s the machine’s way of telling him it had been deprived of inputs and that because of that it couldn’t make decisions. It needed inputs – food – first. The human body is not always in the same, uniform steady-state condition, always ready to perform whatever tasks are required at the same level of efficiency. In order to function it requires a flow of the right inputs – water, food, rest, shelter, etc. – in the appropriate amounts over time. When it has them, it is capable of peak performance.

How often has this happened to you? You go to bed with a question on your mind. For example, you can’t remember a person’s name. In your mind’s eye you can see her face. You remember your last time together. But, for the life of you, you can’t recall her name. You fall asleep and wake up refreshed. And her name, Pat, pops up into your head. You think to yourself, “Why couldn’t I remember that last night?” If you think about it, the answer is simple. In order to be a well-functioning machine the body required one of the basic inputs — rest.

The Internal Adjustment System: A closer look

The Internal Adjustment System: A closer look

Let’s look at the body as a self-regulating machine to see how it functions to maintain body temperature. Its ability to do that is dependent upon the energy and other inputs required. They must be available. When the system is working the body is able to perform the tasks and produce the outputs required of it. As with all other mammals, a primary function – one necessary for survival – is maintaining its body temperature. For humans typically that is 98.6°F. Humans have developed a bodily system that enables it to maintain that temperature. They are able to do that in spite of considerable variation in the temperature in the external environment. Let us define what we will call the ideal external temperature. It is one that requires the body to expend the least amount of effort and energy to maintain its internal temperature. Let’s assume that it is 68°F. Any lower outside temperature requires more energy. As does any higher one to cool the body off. Continue reading “The Internal Adjustment System: A closer look”

Viewing the Body as a Complex Machine and Part of a Production Process

By recognizing that the body functions like a complex machine, one that is an integral part in the production process of any activity we engage in, it is possible to develop an improved understanding of the body’s role in the recovery process and the likely benefits and costs of any diagnostic or therapeutic intervention.

In order to survive, mammalians must able to adapt to the environment. Humans are no exception. Doing so requires getting enough pure air, clean water, food, rest, clothing and shelter to maintain their body temperature and perform other necessary functions. They must also be able to protect themselves and their offspring from the elements, any predators and poisonous or infectious agents. Survival requires being able to do that from day-to-day and year-to-year, over one cycle into the next and from one generation to the next. Survival also mandates that they adapt to changes in the physical, social and cultural environment. On a daily basis the first order of business is to provide ourselves with enough water, air, food, rest and shelter — the basic inputs — to sustain ourselves. As humans, we have developed mechanisms to help accomplish that. (See David Attenborough, The Life of Mammals)

First let us develop a clearer understanding of how the body is like a complex machine and how it is an input in any production processes of any tasks or functions we, as humans perform. From that perspective we will see how that influences the understanding of our interaction with and relationship to the health-care system. Continue reading “Viewing the Body as a Complex Machine and Part of a Production Process”

Four Generations of Changes

I lived through a period where:

  • The only way to get to Europe was on an ocean liner — like the SS Normandie — where SS stood for steamship which was coal fired. It took about five days to make the journey. The only other way passengers could get across the Atlantic was in a dirigible — a passenger zeppelin — until the Hindenberg blew up in Lakehurst, NJ in 1937. And by Pan Am’s flying boats, the Clipper Ships, that landed on water. They flew from 1939 until WWII.
  • Planes had props. There were no jets.
  • It took three days to go from New York to San Francisco — by train.
  • Sound had just come to the movies. They were in black and white, no color.
  • Speaking of black and white, there was Jim Crow.
  • Speaking of colored, the rest rooms in southern train stations were “colored” and “white”. The first time I came south it was on the Southern Crescent in 1942. When I raised the shade of my Pullman berth around Richmond, VA, and saw “White” on the side of the railroad car. I thought it was the name of the car, which at the time were named for famous people.
  • Automobiles had stick shifts. There were no automatics until the Olds Hydra-Matics in the 40s.
  • Gasoline was five gallons for a dollar.
  • There were no interstate superhighways — no I-95 just US 1 and no I-40 just Route 66. Continue reading “Four Generations of Changes”