• pine.tree

    The Opposite of Envy

    There’s an old African saying: When the water hole shrinks, the animals start looking at each other funny. As a metaphor it certainly describes my own profession of journalism. The water hole is shrinking fast. The animals are uneasy. See, nobody wants to pay for stories anymore. Because everything’s free on the Internet. So newspapers […]

  • derek.sivers

    YooHoo — anybody out there?

    There’s a famous American clown named Moshe Cohen, who goes by the stage name Mr. YooHoo. In his heyday he travelled widely, plying his shtick before children and adults alike. One time Mr. YooHoo was performing before a big crowd in Chiapas, Mexico. The show seemed to be going well. At the end of it, […]

  • lincoln

    The man who changed the way people talk

    Americans knew they were in for a hell of a speech that November day in 1863. The place: a cemetery in Virginia. The occasion: twenty-five thousand soldiers, killed in a single day in the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, buried right there beneath the ground where the podium had been set up. So horrible […]

  • blurred.vision


    The other day I was on a stationary bike at the gym — part of the noontime spin crowd, all of us sweating it out. The guy next to me was really bearing down. He inspired me to give the tension knob another half-turn. By the end I was knackered. I got off the bike, […]

  • storytelling1

    That reminds me of a story…

    After my dad died, and we were sorting through his things, I found in his office a small filing cabinet. It was jammed full of index cards. And on each index card was a story — or at least an anecdote or an extended joke. He must have been collecting them for many years. Some […]

  • rock.climber


    Not long ago I had lunch with my old pal James. It had been awhile. “So whatcha been up to?” he said. “Let’s see,” I replied. “Read a couple of books I enjoyed. Got some good runs in. Made a spaghetti sauce I was pleased with. You?” “Well, this and that. Oh yeah: I climbed […]

  • Why everyone needs an Old friend

    Show of hands: who has an old friend?   I don’t just mean a friend from middle-school whom you’re still in touch with. I mean an old friend – a friend who’s thirty, forty, fifty years older than you. And who’s not a blood relative.   Not many. And that’s a shame. Because the old […]

  • Hollywood called. They want to turn your book into a movie.

    Imagining the movie that Hollywood’s going to make of your book feels a bit karmically dangerous – a “counting your chickens before they’ve hatched” dodge for the modern creative class. But what the hell. Every writer does it. It’s fun to dream. It’s especially fun to imagine yourself as the casting director, armed with an […]

  • Folk_dances

    Squaring the Curve

    As many of you now know, Olga died suddenly in the early morning of June 24. She got up to use the bathroom and a blood vessel feeding her brain burst. Doctors say she likely went unconscious in about a second – like the flip of a light switch. I’ve spent a lot of time […]

  • Olgas Among Us – Part 3: Sven the Frontiersman

    A guest post by SID TAFLER   There are two important things to know about meeting Sven Johansson. The first is, don’t shake his hand. At 90, he still has an iron grip, so my advice is, avoid the pain and offer a fist pump. The second is, if you ask him how he’s doing, […]

  • page.99.logo

    Can you judge a book by Page 99?

    The 19th century novelist Ford Madox Ford, beloved of literary types for his perfect gem of a novel The Good Soldier, has lately seen his name appear more widely, attached to this quote:   “Open a book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you.”   Ford […]

  • Olgas Among Us – Part 2

      While working on the Olga book, framing up Olga as a model of someone living the Exemplary Life, I sometimes wondered: why am I privileging physical health over mental health? Don’t get me wrong: she was sharp and funny and wise, a puzzler and a careful reader. But she wasn’t an intellectual. Hers was […]

  • Using Your Whole Life

    I’ve been enjoying Harry Bernstein’s memoir, the Invisible Wall, which crackles with details of life, and religious prejudices, in the hardscrabble mill town of his youth in Northern England. In a weird way, almost more impressive to me than the book itself are the circumstances of its existence. Bernstein finished it when he was 93. […]

  • Meet the “Warrior Mensch”

    No more than twenty minutes after we first met, I was struck by the Second Mystery of Olga. The First Mystery of Olga was, Why is she aging more slowly than other people? The Second Mystery of Olga concerned her temperament. I simply could not reconcile this sweet, grandmotherly woman who was inviting me in […]

  • Olgas Among Us — Part 1

    I was having lunch with my friend Michele one day recently when the other shoe dropped. There are stealth Olgas among us, and I was looking at one. Michele is from the Italian island of Sardinia. If you’re into longevity research, you’ll recognize Sardinia as one of the “Blue Zones” – those incubators of centenarians […]

  • impossible1

    A Positive Choice

    Olga’s often asked how big a part attitude plays in the story of her crazily youthful vigor. Her answer is always the same: it’s huge. HUGE. Staying relentlessly focused on the positive keeps any doubts or criticisms from pulling her down. On one hand, her faith in positive thinking is unsurprising. Plenty of research – […]

  • sudoku-150x1501

    The Best Habit of All: Self-Correction

    THE MARGINS of Olga’s Sudoku digests are studded with little notes to herself, in tiny perfect penmanship. “Careless errors!” she might have rebuked herself. Or “Getting better — or are they getting easier?” Very little that Olga does escapes her own immediate and systematic appraisal. In the private moments of her own life she is […]

  • legs-150x1501

    Time is a Hunter

    SOME PEOPLE, after hearing about Olga for the first time, go to YouTube clips expecting to see her tearing down the track like Flo-Jo. She doesn’t. Let’s put this in perspective: Olga is one of the fastest 94-year-olds who ever lived. But she is 94 — and there are certain things that happen to the […]

  • haystack-150x1501

    Sunday in the Museum with Olga

    OLGA WAS SCHEDULED for a battery of cognitive tests at the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana. But the flights in and out of there were tricky, so we built in a buffer day in Chicago. Before leaving we had a pow-wow of what she might like to do there. I encouraged […]

  • OlgaSacto1

    This is the Face of Optimal Health

    People hear about Olga, before they’ve seen her, and understand her to be a kind of superhero – which she is. And they expect her to look like Betty White. I’m sorry: even Betty White doesn’t look like Betty White. People wrinkle. Olga has some wrinkles. But she’s still incredibly youthful looking. Look at her […]

  • hourglass-150x1501

    If Tomorrow Comes

    HANGING AROUND with someone in her nineties, you can’t help thinking a lot about mortality. You wonder how much time they have left, and then, inevitably, how much time you have. I always kinda knew my odds of reaching Olga’s age are low. But I didn’t know how low until I took a peek at […]