CSotD: Mr. Lang is very old

The news of John Lewis’s pancreatic cancer inspires this Mike Luckovich cartoon saluting cancer survivors and hoping he’s one of them.

So say we all.

First thing I learned when I was diagnosed a little over three years ago was that everybody’s cancer is different. Not only is every type of cancer different, but everybody’s particular experience is different, too.

Pancreatic cancer is, to use a technical medical term, some bad shit. As the New York Times explained,

Pancreatic cancer, which will be diagnosed in about 56,700 people this year in the United States, is the country’s third-leading cause of cancer deaths, behind cancers of the lung and the colon. Three-fourths of people struck with pancreatic cancer die within a year of diagnosis, while only about one in 10 live for five years or longer.

When I was diagnosed with bladder cancer, my odds didn’t look too good, either, but here’s the thing: If you were 100 people with pancreatic cancer, 75 of you would die.

But you’re only one person.

I started out on chemo and found out that, while 67 of me would not have a problem with it, I was among the 33 who couldn’t tolerate it.

So we went for surgery, which didn’t offer great odds, but I was a statistical minority there, too: It appears to have worked, though I’m not supposed to brag until I hit the five year mark.

Still, here I am.

Whether you are a fan of John Lewis or a friend of someone with cancer or someone with cancer yourself, the point is that the odds don’t matter.

You’re not 100 people. You’re one person.

You are either alive or dead, and, regardless of your overall health, you could be hit by a bus this afternoon anyway.

Find good doctors, trust them, and look both ways when you cross the street.


In less weighty matters …

Carpe Diem got a good laff today because, while I have no trouble with my email, one of my banks seems to have a policy of regularly dumping passwords.

I’ll confess to letting my software store passwords (gasp!), but even when I enter it by hand, they act like they’ve never heard of me and require me to go through the whole reset process.

With a special character. And nothing you’ve used before. And no consecutive numbers.

At least they don’t make me pick out the boxes with a stop light.

Anyway, today’s Carpe Diem is funny, but it could have been done by Jean-Paul Sartre, because Hell is not in the future: It’s here and now.

Hell is other passwords.


Speaking of whom, go read the rest.

My older brother spent a year or two teaching philosophy at the Naval Academy, and, while the midshipmen were exceptionally bright, they were also exceptionally geared towards engineering rather than philosophy.

He might as well have lectured in the original Greek.

Socrates was enough of a puzzle; they certainly never got to Sartre.


In honor of tomorrow

Non Sequitur brings up a topic I had some fun with 20 years ago and which is right in there with grousing over the true meaning of “begs the question.”

Which is to say that being right won’t save you.

But, yes, it’s true: There was no Year Zero.

I wrote a column about how 1990 was the last of the 80s, which provoked a lot of people, which was my purpose, as I suspect is Wiley’s purpose here.

I had actually infuriated a teacher back in school by raising the issue of calculating the time between BC and AD dates. I was making the serious point that there was no Year Zero and she was making the serious point that I should shut up and do it her way.

The real answer being that, while there was no Year Zero, there was Dennis the Small, who screwed it all up from the start.

Thus begging the question, “Are you only doing this to annoy the pedants?”


Amid all the weight-loss New Year’s jokes comes this fresher seasonal gag from Retail.

“What do you want to accomplish in the New Year?” is a more forward-looking approach, though Val suggests it is still a reaction to what she hasn’t accomplished in the past.

The joke being that she hasn’t exactly been gnawed at by an intense desire to tell a particular story.


Which reminds me of my very favorite installment of Bruno, the ever-questing title character of Christopher Baldwin’s long-running web strip, this particular installment being from 1999.

More to the point, it reminds me of my own pointless novels, of which I wrote not one but two, and, when I say “pointless” I mean that they were good from word-to-word but didn’t add up to anything as novels.

However, I’m not one of those people who talks about the novel he’s going to write some day, because I’ve already done it.

Which goes back to the top of the page and all that talk about cancer and mortality: It’s much easier to face that tumor, or that speeding bus, if you aren’t burdened by a bucket list.


It doesn’t matter if the things on your bucket list are noble or absurd. If, like Sherman, your goal is to set a record for the longest continuous burp, I would suggest you practice reciting the alphabet.

I remember — and the fact that I remember adds a level of importance to this — going down to the waterfront in jeans one day about 35 years ago, and having the canoeing instructor ask me “Where’s your bathing suit?” in one belch.

But even he could only get up to T in the alphabet.

If he’s still alive today, he’s nearly 80, and I hope he finally got to Z.

We all have regrets we can’t avoid. That would be a particularly silly one to have for lack of dedication.


Resolve to go read this

At Thimble Theater, we seem about to meet Poopdeck Pappy. The 1936 arc started yesterday, you can catch it here.


Now, please join in …


9 thoughts on “CSotD: Mr. Lang is very old

  1. Of course I agree with the linguists and descriptivists in general, that languages are always changing, and noting something new is not a reason to call it something wrong. That granted, not every novelty is going to be widespread and become the new standard; and even a principled descriptivist can have a personal liking for or dislike of any particular innovation.

    The non-traditional way of using “beg the question” has (sadly!) really taken hold so firmly that there is not going to be a change back. It’s a bit of a relief that it’s easy to tell whether someone is using it in the modern or the traditional/logic-oriented way, so that traditional way will not necessarily be killed off.

    But it is very galling when proponents of the newer usage characterize the older one as very formal or technical, of interest only to logic specialists. No, c’mon guys, it’s not like it’s “undistributed middle”! If we say “He’s just begging the question” in the older usage, it’s not obscure, it just means we claim he failed to make his case — he snuck his desired conclusion in as part of the hypothesis.

  2. Now, now, people. It’s very simple. The 2010s started in 2010. The 202nd decade began in 2011.

    Have a happy and healthy new year, in whatever time frame suits you.

  3. Re: the end pf decade debate – long ago in a vintage Little Lulu comic, she (or maybe it was Tubby) proved to Alvin that we all have 11 fingers.You knew that couldn’t be correct, but you couldn’t quite put your finger on why.

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