Don’t Step Off the Ladder Without Looking

Over the past ten years several of my friends have broken a leg or a hip because they fell off a ladder. This seems to be a common accident among the over 75 crowd. Since I fall into that category, I am very aware of my dynamics whenever I climb a ladder. During my House in a House project I had many occasions to use a ladder. Instead of not using a ladder I studied my posture and body mechanics as I ascended and descended from said appliance. I have noticed with some alarm that my legs don’t seem to function as well as they did when I was younger. For instance, when I walk down stairs, I must hold onto a bannister to maintain my balance. What I am really doing is holding on whenever I bend my knee to lower my body to the next step. I lose control about mid-step. My knee suddenly gives out and the last half of the down step is a sudden release. Actually, it has nothing to do with my knee. It has everything to do with the muscles that control the step. My quads, as they are referred to, are no longer strong enough to hold my body weight after the knee has bent a few degrees. Each time I am on a ladder and it is time to step down I must be holding on for dear life, and I must see the step to which I am descending. A step down also requires a lot of concentration on the quad. The muscle never seems to be in control of the complete step. It is a short stretch down followed by a sudden drop. It has become obvious to me that if I don’t see the next step I could easily step off, or through the ladder, or miss the step completely. That move would be surprisingly sudden, and most likely I would lose balance and fall. This phenomenon doesn’t happen on an up step, but always on the down step. It doesn’t matter if I am coming down from a ladder or moving down stairs.

I also notice this happening when I am in church and I bend my knee to genuflect, I can’t touch my knee to the floor anymore. A similar weakness seems to occur whenever I enter my car. I have adapted a style of entry that puts my butt in and over the seat before I allow my knee to bend. Once my rear is safely in and above the chair I let go and drop into the seat.

I wonder if this is somehow peculiar to me, and related to my polio from seventy years ago. My legs were affected and my right leg in particular lost muscle. I am lucky that the remaining muscle has been able to carry the burden. It has been reported that people who had polio might experience paralysis as they age. The theory postulated is that the compensating muscles strands have tired out after many years of service. They go on strike and stop working. Contrary to this opinion are all the old people I see who have not had polio who still have problems genuflecting, walking down stairs, and stepping off ladders.

What I feel I must do is to strengthen my quadricep muscle so it will allow such moves. This will be helpful provided I don’t have Post-polio Syndrome (PPS). If I am experiencing PPS exercising may be further damaging. If I don’t have PPS then it becomes a matter of getting off my lazy ass to start working out.

Public Service-221009

During the four years of Donald Trump’s term as president I often wondered why he gave his son-in-law Jared Kushner recognition. Kushner served as Trump’s advisor, but in his memoir he writes very detailed accounts of his role as a leader on several high level and huge projects. Among them were re-negotiating the NAFTA trade agreement with Mexico, Criminal Justice Reform, Middle-East peace, and the COVID-19 response. All of these yielded major benefits to the country.

Jared tells his story in a fast moving narrative that held my interest through out. His writing style is mesmerizing. Since I lived through this period, it was refreshing to learn the inside details of how success was achieved, i.e. not easily, but required persistence and constant brainstorming to come up with creative solutions to problems. I was particularly moved by the response to the pandemic. The process used was classic engineering project management, and reminded me of similar situations that I faced in my role as Chief Engineer of a manufacturing company. His process as facilitator of the Mid-Eastern peace deal was one of classic “think outside the box” management. Unfortunately, bureaucratic thinking and processes cannot move past the traditional forms and age old methodology of years of failure. Each administration and career diplomats merely continued to rehash old talking points for the past fifty years. Too many people within the system are interested only in advancing their own career over what is best for the country. The result is a swamp full of creatures whose only interest is to live off each other, and to procreate the process. Kushner kept repeating the old adage that he must not keep repeating the same unsuccessful steps over and over and expecting a different outcome. He made this point repeatedly to Arab leaders throughout his negotiations.

One fact that Kushner writes about never appeared in the press. During his tenure, he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and underwent surgery and follow-up treatment. He never let the diagnoses affect his ability to serve, and he continued to look forward and not let the past affect his drive. Luckily, his treatment solved the problem.

As an engineer, I had many opportunities to write reports and to present them. So many times I was disappointed by the revisions that the CEO made to my work. Eventually, I learned that drafting a report from scratch is much more difficult than it is to revise it. Once the main man has the basis for a decision he can then modify it to arrive at a better outcome. I used this argument in mentoring sessions with engineers. I followed the same process as my boss, and learned that my revisions made a report more valuable than the original. I always gave credit for the final report to the engineer. Kushner’s presentations to the President almost always triggered Trump to make revisions that led to a better solution.

Working in the White House is vicious, stressful, fast paced, and relentless. Too many of the people who work there are constantly seeking power and favor from the president. The most notable tactic for a staff member to feel powerful is to become a leaker. It seems that people who feed inside information to the outside gain an adrenaline rush from the knowledge that their information was obtained because of their position next to the president. Many times the leaker is someone who opposes the president and is seeking to destroy his agenda. Kushner describes experiencing many incidents of leaking. One of the advantages Trump had within the White House was to have his son-in-law. Working directly for him. Kushner being a family member was there to serve his country and to protect his father-in-law.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who has a penchant for history and the inside machinations of top level government. If you are not that interested in government I still recommend the book as a biography of a young man who served his country at the highest level.