22 December 2022

Fifteen years old

Today TYWKIWDBI is fifteen years old.  On previous blogiversaries I've posted data about the posts (18,127 so far) and the comments (64,100), with trendlines and such, and commentary about blogging.  I had no energy for that this year, so I thought I'd browse my files to see what I was doing when I was personally fifteen years old.  

The location is Leech Lake in northern Minnesota late in the summer of 1961.  The graininess of the enlarged Minox photo makes it hard to discern details, but I suspect there was a paperback book on top of the pillow on my lap.  The plaster casts are the residua of surgery done at the Mayo Clinic in June of that year to correct bilateral flexion contractures resulting from a childhood battle with poliomyelitis.  Those are "walking casts" but my immobility meant that I spent most of my time indoors.  Fortunately for me one of the (I think three) local TV stations was presenting late-nite movies, which I avidly consumed:

Of perhaps greater interest to the general public is a copy of the hospital bill from the Mayo for that surgery:

$375 for the surgery, $50 for anesthesia, $10 to xray the ankle, $4 each for some blood tests, and $5 for the physical therapy consult.  Meds were apparently rolled into another category. 

I note that the prices had increased substantially since my first hospital bill in 1948 (four days in the hospital @ $6 per day).


  1. Happy Birthday/Anniversary, Sir!!!

  2. I believe I read recently that John Rockefeller would be the richest man on earth today, his fortune back then being equivalent to around $300 billion today (and other wealthy people--Empress of Russia?--being equivalent to TRILLIONS; Mansa Musa was considered wealthy beyond calculation).

    That being said, it is one thing to speak in terms of economic growth or what have you, but speaking in terms of MEDICAL BILLS would almost certainly eclipse just about any measurement. I would be willing to bet that your $648 hospital bill would perhaps be, at a minimum, at least $30,000 today--and that is a conservative estimate.

    I hope you won't take offense at the next thing....

    It might very well be that your life would have taken a vastly different trajectory had you not had to deal with polio. Perhaps you'd have been a professional athlete or what have you. But as sad and trying as your health issues had to be, it is the case that you have brought WONDER and ENLIGHTENMENT not only to your students, but also to your (other) "students" (those of us who have so enjoyed this website).

    Outside of the crown jewels of life, family, and other immeasurable values, I can hardly think of anything that is more valuable than wonder and enlightenment--and the wisdom and insight that can arise from these things. These are not matters of the physical realm, but of the spiritual, the immortal. You have, over and over, in the relatively few years I've been attending your "classes," caused me to see beauty that I would not have seen otherwise. How much is that worth?

    And you have caused me to learn things that I have enjoyed sharing with others (like my own students at a state prison). How much is that worth?

    While I cannot speak for everyone, I believe I speak for most of us when I say that what you have brought to us is nothing less than...JOY. I'd rather have access to your website than to any cable channel on earth. I cannot tell you how many times I have missed my bedtime because you published a new Divertimento!

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart. (Oh, and Merry Christmas!)

    1. Thank you for the kind words, Aaron. And I will totally agree with you that contracting polio during the epidemic of 1952 was THE major factor shaping my life going forward. It definitely steered me into a career in academic medicine and it influenced my habits and behavior. Here are some other people whose lives were shaped by polio -


      Those are the famous ones. Then there are uncountable individuals who are not in the public eye whose lives have been dramatically altered - sometimes perhaps for the better, as you suggest.

    2. I'm just enough younger than you (4-5) years that I was given the Salk vaccine. Polio was definitely a great fear in those days. You made the best of it you could, and we are the better for it.

  3. I don't know why the $50 was added. It's interesting that in the days of typewriters, apparently one way to make a "+" sign was to type a dash then backspace to overprint a slash.

    The "noone" meant no actor that I recognized. Even in retrospect now looking up those movie casts there were very few famous names.

    Of additional interest to me is that at age 15 I was already making the grammatical error of writing "no one" as "noone." I carried that on until recent adulthood, when some reader of the blog alerted me and I had to go back and correct about a dozen old posts.

  4. Aaron S, you speak for me!

  5. Beautiful comment by Aaron and one with which I fully concur. Thank's for creating this wonderful blog; it's a treasure. (Of all that is interesting in this post, perhaps what I find most amazing is that you still have possession of these artifacts. Well done.)

  6. Happy anniversary! Hard to follow Aaron's wonderful words. It made me curious just how long I've been coming here to find a little joy in my day, so I checked my bookmark: added March 1, 2012. So lucky we all are to have you :)

  7. Happy Anniversary and wow - Leech Lake?!? I have friends there.

    1. I've been up to the Walker/Agency Bay area every summer for over 60 years.


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