Category Archives: Family

Rule Five Golden Years Friday

Some folks writing in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience claim to have found a body chemistry reason for feeling of contentment later in life.  I’m a little skeptical, but have a read.  Excerpt:

Helping behaviors and life satisfaction generally increase after middle-age. Identifying the neural substrates of prosocial behaviors in older adults may offer additional insights into these changes over the lifespan. The present study examines the endogenous release of the neuromodulator oxytocin (OT) in participants aged 18–99 and its relationship to prosocial behaviors. OT has been shown to influence trust, altruism, charity, and generosity, yet the effect of age on OT release has not been well-established. Blood samples before and after a video stimulus were obtained from 103 participants in order to examine the impact of OT on prosocial behaviors. We found that OT release following a social prime increased with age (r = 0.49, p = 0.001) and that OT moderated the relationship between age and donations to charity. We tested for robustness by examining three additional prosocial behaviors, money and goods donated to charity during the past year and social-sector volunteering. OT moderated the impact of age on all three prosocial behaviors (ps < 0.05). The analysis also showed that participants’ change in OT was positively associated with satisfaction with life (p = 0.04), empathic concern (p = 0.015), dispositional gratitude (p = 0.019), and religious commitment (p = 0.001). Our findings indicate that the neural chemistry that helps sustain social relationships and live a fulfilled life appear to strengthen with age.

Here’s the summary:

Our analysis has identified a likely neurochemical impetus for prosocial behavior that remains intact with age. The data showed that older participants experienced the largest change in OT in response to an emotional stimulus compared to other age groups. The correlation between neurochemical changes and four measures of prosocial actions suggest that OT impacts prosocial behaviors more strongly in aging adults for small increases in OT. As in previous research, our data show that individuals who dispositionally have high empathic concern have a larger increase in OT after a video prime with social content (Barraza and Zak, 2013; Zak and Barraza, 2013). This dispositional effect partially dampens the age effect on OT from the prime revealing a trait-state interaction that influences the acute donation decision. The “high oxytocin responder” effect has been found for other stimuli and behaviors (Rameson et al., 2012; Procyshyn et al., 2020) and has been previously reported for the video used here (Barraza and Zak, 2009). Nevertheless, the positive age gradient for age on donations was maintained for both low and high ΔOT responders. Note that while there was no average change in OT for the video as in a previous study using the same stimulus (Barraza and Zak, 2009), in most published research using social stimuli to induce OT release, including studies with very large sample sizes, only about 50% of participants will show an increase (Barraza and Zak, 2013; Terris et al., 2018).

Yeah, that’s kind of thick.  And yeah, there’s some tentative language there, but that’s how science is actually supposed to work – it’s tentative, subject to new data.

I can’t talk for people in general, of course.  But I suspect that, even if there’s something to this, that there are much larger and more important factors.  Like me, plenty of folks I know, including my siblings, take a lot of joy in their families.  One of the greater things about growing older is seeing your kids launch, start their own lives, start their own families.  And grand-parenting is just fantastic.  Being a grandparent, after all, is the revenge we get for having been parents.

Us folks who are contemplating those golden years can look back on a lot.  Folks who have led a productive, thoughtful, well-considered life can look back on decades of personal and professional achievement, and that certainly leads to satisfaction.

What I’d like to see studied is this:  Compare these factors named here for measuring life satisfaction, but break out the study groups to analyze them in terms of professional and personal success.  Compare, say, a guy who started as a carpenter and ended up running a successful contracting company, to a guy who languished on odd jobs and welfare through his life.  Compare a woman who started as a switchboard operator and ended up as a regional vice-president of the company (my sister did precisely this) to a woman who gamed the welfare system by downloading six kids she couldn’t afford.

I expect you’ll find some correlations there, too.  Granted this doesn’t necessarily show causation – people who are focused, who work, who learn, who strive, are likely to be more successful and more pleased with their lives at any age, while the purposeless… are purposeless.

Still – that’s a study I’d read with some interest.

Rule Five Happy Society Friday

In a recent article, The Federalist author Tristan Justice (a pseudonym?) opined that a happy society would have more children.  Happy society?  Well, I’m pretty happy, as is Mrs. Animal, but I can see how some folks might not be.  We have four kids, so I guess there’s at least a correlation there, in our case.  Anyway.  Excerpt:

According to new data from the General Social Survey highlighted by former Washington Post reporter Christopher Ingraham, just 19 percent of Americans last year said they were “very happy,” down from 31 percent, nearly a third, three years before. Twenty-four percent in 2021 said they were “not too happy.”

Americans are also having fewer children than ever before, with the nation’s birth rate falling for the sixth consecutive year in 2020 to its lowest ever. Just 3.6 million babies were born, according to CDC statistics, down from 3.7 million the year before.

There are a lot of reasons why Americans aren’t having more children. Marriage is declining so rapidly that married people will soon be the minority. Faith, the bedrock of a moral society that incentivizes children (and empirically raises levels of happiness) has deteriorated so much that church membership has already dropped below 50 percent, according to Gallup. Americans aren’t even having as much sex, or even engaging in masturbation which signals a lack of interest.

According to the Pew Research Center in November, no baby boom is expected anytime soon. Only about a quarter of non-parents under the age of 50 reported they were “very likely” to have children, down from 32 percent in 2018. Forty-four percent said they were “not too likely” or “not at all likely” to have children whatsoever.

Read the whole thing; there are some interesting points made, but there are a few I’d like to point out.

Faith, the bedrock of a moral society that incentivizes children (and empirically raises levels of happiness) has deteriorated so much that church membership has already dropped below 50 percent, according to Gallup.

While there may be some correlation between church membership and morality, you can color me a bit skeptical, mostly because of my own lifetime experience.  Plenty of non believers are very moral people and good parents to large families; the Old Man, for one, me for another.  That’s kind of a thinly supported blanket statement, and I suspect there are other factors at play.  Correlation, after all, is not causation.  And I think there’s another source of stress; read on.

Only about a quarter of non-parents under the age of 50 reported they were “very likely” to have children, down from 32 percent in 2018. Forty-four percent said they were “not too likely” or “not at all likely” to have children whatsoever.

See, this part is just sad.  I’ve known a few people, not young folks any more but contemporaries of mine, who for one reason or another decided not to have kids.  My worry for them is this:  What happens when you’re old, and one spouse dies, leaving the other all alone, with no family, no kids or grandkids to fill your remaining days?  The only word I can think of to describe that is lonely, and that seems like an understatement.

Still, I’d like to see more numbers here.  I’ve known plenty of folks who, when young, claimed to want to eschew the responsibility of parenthood, only to change their minds as they got older.

I don’t know how to measure the happiness level of a society.  I suspect polls in general.  It’s too easy, and pollsters are too practiced at, wording and conducting polls in a certain way to arrive at a predetermined conclusion.  Certainly in uncertain times like these, with inflation tugging away at our pocketbooks and a sham administration in the Imperial Mansion, with crime spiking in our major cities and the average IQ of most Congresscritters being below room temperature – well, with all that I can see how lots of folks are feeling stressed.

Up here in the valley, though, most folks seem to be doing pretty well.  Maybe what stresses people out, what makes them unhappy, if being jammed together, unnaturally, in big cities that are increasingly unsettled, filthy and dangerous.

For whatever reason, I don’t see why folks would avoid parenthood.  We raised four daughters, and being a father and grandfather is one of the primary things that gives my life meaning.  Our oldest two certainly don’t fit the trend mentioned here, having three kids each; the younger two haven’t started yet but both have indicated the want families.

Maybe this is a short-term trend.  Maybe it isn’t.  Only time will tell, I suppose.  Meanwhile, as I’ve been saying for some time now:  Get out of the cities.

Rule Five Goodbye 2021 Friday

Well, it’s certainly been an eventful year.  January saw us gifted with another grandson, a 10-1/2 pound chunk that his parents call “Moose.”  This makes grandchild number six, three of each sort.  All of our offspring are doing just great, and the family’s happy progress through the year was  marred only the loss of one of my sisters to cancer.

When 2021 dawned, Mrs. Animal and yr. obdt. were still residents of ever-more-loony Colorado, which is fast transitioning to California East.  But we had already purchased our new home in Alaska, and before the first month of 2021 was out we were officially residents of the Great Land.  We have to wait twelve months for resident hunting and fishing licenses and Permanent Fund eligibility, but believe me, it’s worth it.  This next year we expect to reap full benefit of Alaska’s wondrous hunting, fishing and other outdoor opportunities.

Just the bird hunting alone should keep us well-fed.  Right in our area we have spruce grouse and a few ruffed grouse; the limit is 15 per day, with 30 in possession, from which data we can conclude that there are shitloads of birds about, and our observations to date have supported that assessment.

Of our move, which we have worked towards and planned for twenty years or more, I can only say this:  Both of us are delighted with the transition, and agree that this was the best move – and perhaps the most timely move – that we have ever made in our life together.

Now, you ask, why would I add that ‘most timely’ remark?  Well, I’m a-gonna tell you.

I mentioned the ever-more-loony Colorado.  Well, with a few exceptions, most of the lower 48 went a little bit nuts this year.  The Kung Flu Panic is now in its second year, and the power-mad at various levels of government and corporate leadership show little signs of loosening things up, despite the ineffectiveness of their largely illegal actions to date.  A whole bunch of our major cities are seeing big spikes in violent crime, with several breaking all previous records on the murder rate, and local DAs and city pols seem unwilling to take any real action; indeed, they are in some cases actively encouraging it.

But up here in the Great Land, things are pretty quiet.  The Moo Goo Gai Panic has largely blown over, at least outside of Anchorage.  Some of our local friends have contracted the bug, but everyone we know suffered mild symptoms, stayed home for a week or two, and got over it, gaining some nice natural immunity in the process.  The only time we’ve seen masks is when we’ve had to go to Anchorage for some things; that city supposedly has a mask rule, but it’s widely ignored.  The exception to that is in the summer, where the presence of masks makes it easier to spot the tourists.

Crime isn’t an issue here, at least not the same way.  Alaska does have some problems; alcohol and drug abuse is an issue, especially in some of the more remote communities where isolation is a problem.  Some people don’t do well when isolated (although Mrs. Animal and I sort of enjoy it) and that problem is sometimes reflected in behavior.

But other crimes?  The fastest way I can think of to get shot hereabouts would be to kick in someone’s door in the middle of the night.  Almost everyone here has guns, not so much due to worry of home invasions but rather some of our larger, more aggressive wildlife, and that’s a pretty strong deterrent.

Meanwhile, in the Imperial City, we’re saddled with a supposed President who was a bumbling mediocrity throughout his tenures as a Senator and Vice President; now he’s a senile bumbling mediocrity that has to be carefully shielded from questions by an increasingly confused media.

His second-in-command, one 25th Amendment action away from the Presidency, is not even up to the level of a mediocrity; she’s a cackling harpy, one of the dumbest people to ever hold high office, and is only nationally known because of her rise to political prominence in California atop Willie Brown’s penis.

But wait!  There’s more!

One of the few silver linings behind this clusterfuck is that the GOP is looking to score an electoral landslide in the 2022 mid-term elections.  That’s a little encouraging; the Republicans are driving us off the same fiscal cliff, but a little more slowly.   But have you ever known a political party more adept at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory?  And assuming they do win – well, I’ll give the Democrats credit for one thing, when they get power, they use it.  The GOP had complete control from 2017 to 2019.  Where was the Obamacare repeal?  Nationwide CCW reciprocity?  All the other stuff they promised?

Well, we’ll see.

In the meantime – to all you True Believers, who have been reading these virtual pages for the last year and will (one hopes) will continue reading – our fondest, warmest wishes for a happy, safe, healthy, productive and profitable 2022.  This evening, I will hoist one in your honor.  Prost!

Rule Five Six Decades Friday

Life is full of little milestones, and sometimes some larger ones.  Tomorrow morning, at around 8:00 AM, I will reach one of those more significant milestones:  Sixty years of age.

Age sixty doesn’t carry quite the senior-citizen status it did a few years ago, although I am beginning to see some of the benefits of that status, in odd little things like breaks on theater ticket prices, the occasional ten percent off on senior days at the grocery, and so on.  Probably the most significant of these benefits is a lifetime general hunting and fishing license here in our new Alaska home, which allows me to take a wide variety of fish, small and large game, and exempts me from the King salmon stamp and state waterfowl stamp requirements.  That’s nice, but what’s a little more interesting, for me, is to look back on these last six decades.  All in all, I’ve had a good time.

Not many folks are familiar with my birthplace:  Oelwein, Iowa.  The farm my parents were working at the time is gone now, having been absorbed into a wildlife refuge.  I spent most of my youth in Blackhawk and Allamakee counties.  But that’s just location.

I was fortunate in having strong, capable parents.  My father and grandfathers, as fine a group of men as ever drew breath, taught me early on the things a man needs to know to be a man:  Courage, determination, the value of education and, more than that, knowledge.  The value of work.  From all of them I learned what it was to maintain a rural home, to raise crops and stock, to hunt, to fish, to shoot straight, to build.  The Old Man was also an artist of some repute, for years one of his paintings always was on display in his dedicated place in the Iowa state capitol.

My mother was the first to show me what unconditional love meant, and also that a woman can fill what was then the traditional home-making role while being tough and capable – certainly not oppressed by anyone.  She was, as the Old Man would have admitted, a better angler than even he, and her knowledge of northeastern Iowa wildflowers was unmatched; botany professors from universities around the Midwest brought students to our Allamakee County home to have Mom escort them through our wooded hills and hear her describe the plants that grew there.

From that foundation I’ve moved through my life.  My time in the Army changed me, as the Old Man, a World War Two veteran, and my paternal grandfather, a Great War veteran, said it would, in ways that people who have not served would not understand.  That service also led me to the single greatest blessing of my life:  My own dear Mrs. Animal, who I met during Operation Desert Storm.

The values learned in my youth served well in my civilian career:  Hard work, perseverance, reliability.  Moving into self-employment as an independent consultant re-enforced those attributes, and I have now spent over half my career as such, in contract work.  Success in such depends on reliability; being known as the guy who can get the job done, on time if not ahead of time, on budget if not under budget.  In the course of that career I’ve been to some interesting places:  Japan, China, South Africa, Germany, Ireland, as well as all over Canada, Mexico and the United States.  Some of those places (Japan) I came to love; others (China) I don’t care if I never see again.  But I wouldn’t go back and change a thing; travel gives one a lot of perspective that may be gained in no other way.

Colorado was a great place to live when I moved there in the late Eighties, and Mrs. Animal and I loved our home there, the natural beauty that state holds, and we raised our family there.  But as anyone who has long read these virtual pages are familiar with our unhappiness with the direction that state has taken as well as our ever-increasing love of the Great Land, and so as Americans have done since the Founding, we voted with our feet and made our home in Alaska, where we intend to spend the rest of our lives.

So, six decades.

I’ve always been the guy to look forward, not back.  While this milestone is one of some significance, still, there is a lot to look forward to.  In a few more years, retirement from my primary career will give me more time for other pursuits, writing, fishing, hunting, exploring the vastness of the Great Land.  All with Mrs. Animal by my side, of course.  We look forward to seeing our four daughters and (so far) six grandchildren continue down their own lives’ paths, and when possible, to welcome them as well as old friends to visit us in this place which is, for most, a once or twice in a lifetime vacation but, for us, is home.

It’s been a great ride so far.  I’ll continue to push ahead as I always have; an intelligent person, after all, should be able to live a thousand years and never run out of things to do.  As for me, I have every intention of living forever, and from my point of view, I will.

Hang in there, folks.  You ain’t seen nothing yet.

Animal’s Father’s Day Extra

I don’t normally post on Sundays, but here we are on Father’s Day, so I thought I’d do something a little extra.  I’m the father of four daughters.  Being a father and grandfather is one of the primary things that gives my life meaning, and fortunately, I learned about being a father and grandfather from the best that ever was.

Back in 1989, the Grateful Dead’s Brent Mydland wrote I Will Take You Home for his daughter.  It’s a song that carries a lot of meaning for any man who has daughters, and for any daughters that have a loving father.  Enjoy.

An Appeal

I have never asked for anything like this from my readers before, but for my children and grandchildren, I am willing to do almost anything.

My daughter is embroiled in a terrible custody fight with her ex-husband.  She left him after his affair with another woman resulted in a child; his new wife has now inherited money which he is using to fund a legal campaign.  My daughter needs to be able to fight this on something like equal terms.  I am looking to raise volunteer money to help my daughter keep our grandchildren.

This has been going on for four years now with no end in sight.  My daughter’s ex is emotionally abusive and is purposely encouraging parental alienation in our grandchildren.  Mrs. Animal and I have not seen our grandchildren in well over a year due to this crisis.

Any help any of you can provide our family is deeply appreciated.  There are three children caught in the middle of this, and we all want it resolved quickly. To that end I have set up a GoFundMe to raise money to help cover her legal bills.  Any help – anything at all – is deeply appreciated.