Wednesday, 26 November 2014
Unlock the Car Door With Your Mind
It's amazing what you can find on the internet. Sometimes I need to closely monitor myself so not to fall down a rabbit hole only to awaken as from a dream two hours later, my mind full of way too much useless information.
Here's one I found on Monday that fits with this week's holiday theme of publishing short amusements in place of any substance.
If University of Nottingham physicist Roger Bowley is not pulling our collective leg (I don't believe he is), car doors can be unlocked with our minds. Certain ones, anyway. Here he is with a show and tell:
If my car were not too old to have this kind of lock, I would have made a video to show you of myself doing it.
I have no idea whether this phenomenon is just amusing or if it has potential real-life uses. You can read about it here but actually, all you need to know is in the video.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Arlene Corwin: The Snake
Tuesday, 25 November 2014
An Antidote for JOWS
End-of-year holidays now last for four months, 120 days from September through December. There is no escaping them and each reaches its peak of frenzy during the week in which it falls – this week, for one example.
Potential blog readers are traveling to grandma's house or, in this case, more likely preparing the house to receive such travelers. Or, they are cooking ahead, baking pies and sundry special dishes for the Thursday feast. Or making their list and checking it twice in preparation of Black Friday and/or Cyber Monday. Maybe all of those things.
Because the attention of so many readers is otherwise engaged, it seems a better choice to post something short and easy – a quick hit to amuse you in a busy week.
That said, I do have an important announcement today: There is now an antidote for JOWS.
JOWS, you ask? Certainly you must know what JOWS is. Many of you, like me, are afflicted with it.
Yes, I am speaking of: John Oliver Withdrawal Syndrome - that mind and body twitchy feeling that an important piece of life is missing when the man's HBO show, Last Week Tonight, is on hiatus.
Oliver has taken the excuse of Thanksgiving week to give us some relief with a short video about the holiday itself. The president pardoning just one turkey is a weird tradition, he tells us. The birds are basically all guilty - of being delicious. Take a look.
I can't speak for you, but for myself, that's a nice interlude but it won't hold me for the 71 days that remain until the show returns on 8 February 2015. I'll need some more to prevent recurrences of JOWS.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Henry Lowensterbn: Winter Weather
Monday, 24 November 2014
Elder Surveillance For Their Own Good
Okay, they usually call it “monitoring” instead of surveillance to sound less Orwellian but don't be fooled - it is surveillance. It's not quite here yet but the groundswell is increasing as commercial development and science research projects in Japan, Europe and the United States proliferate:
As The New York Times reported in July:
”A consortium of European companies, universities and research institutions collaborated on Mobiserv, a project that developed a touch-screen-toting, humanoid-looking 'social companion' robot that offers reminders about appointments and medications and encourages social activity, healthy eating and exercise.
“In Sweden, researchers have developed GiraffPlus, a robot that looks like a standing mirror cum vacuum cleaner, monitors health metrics like blood pressure and has a screen for virtual doctor and family visits.”
Others are have already created and continually improve commercial home monitoring systems with and without cameras. NBC News:
”It could mean no more having to check up on Mom or Dad every morning: Motion sensors on the wall and a monitor under the mattress one day might automatically alert you to early signs of trouble well before an elderly loved one gets sick or suffers a fall.”
Ri-i-i-ght. Mom and Dad are taking up way too much of their adult children's time and attention. With the new motion sensors, no reason to bother them until Mom breaks her hip.
The rationale for non-human surveillance of elders is the high cost of home care (much cheaper, by the way, than assisted living and nursing homes) and, they tell us, the diminishing number of caregivers for the growing population of elders.
In addition, all this monitoring/surveillance will be plugged into the coming telemedicine where checkups and examinations will be done via computer screens instead of visits to the doctor's office.
The holy grail of home surveillance is the personal robot. A Japanese company, Softbank, has developed one of the first, named Pepper, that will become available in February 2015.
”...its creators hoping it will be us[ed] in a range of roles from caring f[or] the elderly to baby-sitting.
"People describe others as being robots because they have no emotions, no heart. For the first time in human history, we're giving a robot a heart," SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son said at a news conference.”
Here's a marketing video about Pepper:
You can read more about Pepper here.
Making robots seem to be more human is important to making them acceptable to humans. Another Japanese company has made their elder companion robot, Paro, empathetic with a Disney-style approach:
”Paro is a soft, fuzzy robot, built to look and sound like a baby seal. It's also a $6,000 machine, classified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a Class II medical device.
“Stroke its fur, and Paro squirms delightedly at the loving touch. Hit or punish it, and it will learn not to repeat what it did to cause displeasure. With the help of audio sensors, Paro can even learn its name and respond to greetings.”
Undoubtedly, it won't be long before a plush Paro is paired with a Pepper to produce every elder's best friend. Who also spies on them.
We will accept these robots because the culture has long trained us that ubiquitous surveillance is necessary in a dangerous world. In nearly every television cop and detective drama, the investigation is hindered because there was not a camera at a crucial location. If only there were more.
And, of course, we all know that we must have a GPS-equipped cell phone on our body 24/7 because – you know: emergency. It's not a requirement yet, but I suspect it will become so.
Part of what freedom is, what democracy itself is, is privacy, the right to be left alone. As Edward Snowden and others have recently shown us, there is hardly any left and I don't believe it will be long before robot spies are forced on old people. They will sold to us in the name of safety.
Some of these issues were addressed in an interesting (and delightful) 2012 movie titled Robot and Frank starring Frank Langella and Susan Sarandon. The plot goes something like this:
”Set in the near future, Frank, a retired cat burglar, has two grown kids who are concerned he can no longer live alone. They are tempted to place him in a nursing home until Frank's son chooses a different option: against the old man's wishes, he finds a robot caretaker.
“Frank soon learns that Robot is just as useful as a burglary aide but as Frank tries to restart his old profession, the uncomfortable realities of a changing world and his worsening dementia threaten to take it beyond what any reboot can do for him.”
Here's the trailer:
And so, robots become our friends. Whether I like it or not, robot caregivers for elders (and a whole lot of other uses) are the future.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Trudi Kappel: Sprechen Sie Estonian?
Sunday, 23 November 2014
ELDER MUSIC: Classical Gas
This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
This column has nothing to do with the piece of music by Mason Williams with the same name. The title was suggested by Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, to replace the boring, and overly long one I originally had.
There's no theme today. Over time I've heard pieces of music I like, either on the radio or from my own collection, and have made a note of them. Now I have enough for a column.
GIUSEPPE TARTINI was born in 1692 in Piran, in Istria in the Republic of Venice (but is now in Slovenia).
His folks wanted him to become Franciscan friar. He had a basic musical education and studied law at the university. His father died and he married a woman of whom his father would have heartily disapproved.
Well, there goes the friaring job.
Unfortunately, Elisabetta, as that was her name, was a favorite of the local, powerful cardinal. Ah ha. This gentleman, and I use the word rather freely, charged Giuseppe with abduction. He (Giuseppe) took off to the monastery of St. Francis in Assisi where he was safe from prosecution. We don't know what happened to Elisabetta.
It was at the monastery that he honed his composing and playing skills, particularly on the violin. Indeed, he is the first known owner of one of Mr. Stradivari's fiddles.
Things must have improved for him as he was out and about after a bit. He started a violin school that attracted pupils from all over Europe. Most of his compositions employ that instrument prominently – violin concertos and sonatas and the like.
He wrote some religious music; the pope at the time, Clement XII, asked him for a Stabat Mater. I guess things had been smoothed over by then.
Here is his Trio Sonata in E flat maj, Op 8 No 6.
I was inspired to include the next composer when I heard his beautiful clarinet concerto on the radio the other day. ANTONIO CARTELLIERI was someone who lived on the periphery of the music world of his time.
Tony didn't live there very long as he was only 35 when he died. He had the misfortune to have been born only a couple of years after Beethoven (and thus also overlapped with Mozart and Haydn). Indeed, his first appearance as a conductor (conducting his own symphony) coincided with Beethoven's first public appearance.
Tony actually received greater plaudits from those present than Ludwig. Most of his surviving works feature the clarinet to a considerable degree, however, I was a bit clarinet heavy in my selections today so I've opted for something else of Tony's, the third movement from the Divertimento for flute, oboe, clarinet, two horns, two violins, viola, cello and double bass. Whew.
IGNAZ PLEYEL (or Ignace, depending on where you live) was one of a rather surprising number of composers who were extremely famous in their lifetimes but are largely unknown or forgotten today.
Indeed, Iggy was a super-star of his time, easily the most famous composer around outstripping all the others including such journeymen as Haydn and Mozart.
He may not have deserved quite such an exalted reputation then but he certainly doesn’t deserve to be forgotten now. I’ll try in my small way to reinstate him a little.
This is the third movement of the Clarinet Concerto No 2 in B flat major.
In 17th century Rome, two composers were recognised as pre-eminent in the world of chamber music One of those was ORAZIO MICHI DELL'ARPA (the other was Girolamo Frescobaldi).
Sorry, there don't seem to be any pictures of Oraz; I guess he hogged the camera when the family went on holidays.
Oraz composed for the chromatic harp which had reached Rome from Spain around this time. This is a bit of a strange looking instrument composed of two sets of strings that sort of intersect with each other.
Most of the music he composed was of the toccata form that essentially is just a way of showing off your versatility with the instrument. Think guitar heroes these days.
The piece I've chosen is called I diletti di mundo. It's the second movement of a toccata. The harp player is Andrew Lawrence-King.
I've included him as he was destined to be on an earlier column but he missed the cut at the last minute. Rather than waste him, I decided to toss him into this one.
Luigi was a cello player (as was his dad) and he wrote many works that featured the instrument prominently. It's less so in this work, the first movement of the Octet, G470, for woodwinds and strings.
As I mentioned earlier, I'm a bit heavy on the clarinets today. I hope you don't mind but it produces such gorgeous music. BERNHARD CRUSELL was another born just after Beethoven. He lived a bit longer than Cartellieri though.
Bernie has born in Finland and his family moved to Sweden (whence his father came) when he was eight. He certainly favored the clarinet; he learned to play by ear on a friend's instrument and later had formal training.
He became quite famous throughout Europe and travelled to France, Germany and England where he was in great demand. The king of Sweden at the time kept dragging him back though as he wanted this fine musician and composer to play for him.
Here is the third movement of his Clarinet Concerto No. 1 in E flat major, Op.1.
This next piece of music is really beautiful and for years has been known as Serenade for Strings Op. 3 No. 5 by Joseph Haydn (from one of his string quartets). However, this isn't the case.It's still a beautiful piece of music but it's been found to have been composed by ROMAN HOFFSTETTER.
Roman was a composer and a Benedictine monk. He greatly admired Papa Jo's work to the point of slavish imitation, thus the confusion over the years. It's not just this work but several other string quartets have been misattributed (but have now found their rightful owner).
Here is that piece mentioned above, the second movement of the String Quartet in F.
JAN DISMAS ZELENKA was from Lounovice in Bohemia, just south-east of Prague.
Nothing more is known of his childhood and his first known composition dates from when he was 32. The overwhelming percentage of his surviving works are religious in nature and there are only a few others, notably some orchestral works and six trio sonatas.
It's a bit of one of those sonatas we have today, the second movement of the Trio Sonata No 4 in G Minor for Oboe, Violin and Bassoon. There's also a lute, double bass and harpsichord fiddling around in the background.
GEORG ABRAHAM SCHNEIDER was a German composer who was born the same year as Beethoven, but he was from Darmstadt.
He was a horn player but was also proficient on the violin and other instruments.
Georg was hired by Prince Frederick Henry Louis of Prussia to perform and compose music. Things changed when Napoleon occupied the area but Georg was on tour in Vienna at the time and decided to stay.
His work shows an obvious influence of Haydn and Mozart but that's not a bad thing. This is the third movement of his Sinfonia Concertante in D-major for violin & viola, Op.19.
Saturday, 22 November 2014
INTERESTING STUFF – 22 November 2014
“DEAD” WOMAN WAKES IN MORGUE REFRIGERATOR
Back in the 1950s, there was a chilling and deservedly famous Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV episode about a man, played by Joseph Cotton, so paralyzed in an accident that the coroner believes he is dead. Recently, that really happened to a woman in Poland:
”Officials say Janina Kolkiewicz, 91, was declared dead after an examination by the family doctor. However, mortuary staff were astonished to notice movement in her body bag while it was in storage.
“The police have launched an investigation. Back home, Ms Kolkiewicz warmed up with a bowl of soup and two pancakes.
In response, The Guardian published a story telling us such an occurrence isn't all that uncommon. You can read about that here.
It has been an unusual weather week in the U.S. with some areas getting eight and even nine FEET of snow in only a day or two.
TGB reader Celia sent a video from a year ago about another kind of usual weather event I'd never heard of – an ice tsunami. Take a look at this news report and maybe, if you have a lake shore house, you'll be rethinking that.
KOALAS AND HEADS OF STATE
As you know from a post here a few days ago, the G20 summit was held last week in Brisbane, Australia. I don't know why, but the 20 heads of state took a break at one point for hugs and cuddles with koala bears. Here's U.S. President Barack Obama.
You an see more koalas with more G20 leaders here.
JOHN OLIVER DENIES HE IS DOING JOURNALISM
But don't you believe him. As I've noted here throughout the first season of his new HBO show, Last Week Tonight, he's doing better in-depth reporting that most official news outlets.
Last week, David Carr of The New York Times interviewed Oliver about this:
”So, I asked Mr. Oliver [wrote Carr]: Is he engaging in a kind of new journalism? He muttered an oath, the kind he can say on HBO for comic emphasis, but we don’t say here, adding, 'No!'
“'We are making jokes about the news and sometimes we need to research things deeply to understand them,' [said Oliver[ 'but it’s always in service of a joke. If you make jokes about animals, that does not make you a zoologist. We certainly hold ourselves to a high standard and fact-check everything, but the correct term for what we do is comedy.'”
If you say so, Mr. Oliver. You can read more of the interview here. Last Week Tonight will return to HBO on 8 February 2015.
TOP SECRET DRUM CORPS
Unexpectedly – to myself anyway – I have a soft spot for marching bands. There's a movie about one titled Drumline that I can't resist every time it turns up on television. I've seen it or parts of it at least half a dozen times.
This past week, Darlene Costner sent a video of a marching band called Top Secret Drum Corps from Basel, Switzerland. They are spectacular and have won a boatload of competitions. Take a look.
You can read about the Top Secret Drum Corp at Wikipedia.
BERNIE SANDERS WARNS OF BILLIONAIRE ELECTIONS
Senator Bernie Sanders told CNN this week that he thinks we may have reached a “tipping point” where only billionaires will have a say in who gets elected. Take a look at the video; the topic begins at about 1:40 in.
BILL MAHER EXPLAINS WHY VOTING MATTERS
Even Senator Sanders could be wrong about billionaire elections. Here is Bill Maher last week on why voting is crucial.
LA TIMES KILLS ALL PAID VACATION AND SICK DAYS
To continue today's semi-theme of life for ordinary people under the thumb of billionaires, The Los Angeles Times this week announced it was killing all paid vacation and sick days for its staff.
”Starting January 1, staffers will no longer be able to bank vacation — because they won't automatically earn or be entitled to any vacation, sick days or floating holidays.
“To get any time off, a reporter or editor will have to go to a supervisor and make a case 'subject to their professional judgment and to the performance expectations of their supervisor that apply to their job.'
“In one stroke, vacation time and sick days become a management tool to monitor and reward or punish performance...”
You can read the whole sorry story here.
A TINY HAMSTER THANKSGIVING
Apparently there is a group of people called Hello Denizen who post videos of teeny tiny things. I'm not entirely sure what it's about.
However, this turned up on my radar so in keeping with the upcoming holiday, here are three hamsters and a chinchilla feasting on what is described as “a proper Thanksgiving dinner, complete with a tiny turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and pies.”
Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.
You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I probably won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.
Friday, 21 November 2014
The Gift of Freedom in the Third Act of Life
”I’ve learned my lines. The house lights have dimmed and I’ve just walked center stage for the third act of the play I started writing long ago. And within the physical, economic and intellectual framework of being an 'old guy,' the third act is full of opportunity to grow, acting on my own terms, at my own pace.
His declaration was contained in an email exchange between us about freedom in old age that began when Marc wrote:
”One aspect of The Third Act that old people underplay, is the gift of freedom from the banal exigencies of daily life.
“When I get up on the morning after a heavy blizzard and look out the window at the pure, clean expanse of snow, trees and bushes heavy with last night’s results, I smile, and take another sip of strong, black coffee, and turn on NPR for background noise while I ponder my plans for the day.”
Yessss. As I've mentioned here in the past, in the near 50 years of my working life, I mostly had fascinating jobs I was eager to get to each day. But the regimentation, the morning schedule to shower, dress, feed the cat, gulp of coffee and get to the subway – well, I always wished for more flexibility and more time to myself.
The funny thing is now that I've got all the flexibility I want, I still maintain a morning routine and it's not all that different except for the subway. The important difference is that it is all my choice these days.
Marc continues by recounting the stuff he doesn't do anymore:
”I haven’t shaved in nearly a decade, and I’m not going outside to shovel out my car and slip and slide my way to a job that someone else is welcome to.
“No need to make nice to that silly pompous bastard down the hall; no need to pretend interest in which team is going to the Super Bowl, or listen to the back-biting remarks that pass for conversation in the office.”
Me too. Nowadays, I'm learning to walk away when whatever it is isn't engaging, amusing or fulfilling anymore. That can be as simple as not finishing a book that doesn't grab me enough or as complex as leaving behind a person who causes more pain than companionship.
That doesn't mean there are no obligations. Only that I can choose them for myself now and, as Marc says, I no longer need to pretend to care when I don't.
I can't speak for you, but I know that until Marc mentioned it, I had not appreciated enough this gift of freedom that arrived unexpectedly with old age.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Chlele Gummer: Episode at Michael's
Thursday, 20 November 2014
Three Generations Under One Roof
When I was kid growing up in Portland, Oregon during the post World War II era, it was not unusual for my friends to have a grandparent or two living with them.
Some of that elder generation were healthy, some needed care and I was accustomed, when I phoned to see if a friend could play, to hear that he or she had to stay home to help “care for gramps.”
In the decades since then, multiple generations in the same living space has become rare. One of the obvious manifestations of this is how tablet manufacturers commonly advertise their wi-fi products by showing how easy it is for grandparents to have video visits with the grandchildren who live hundreds or thousands of miles away.
Now, that may be changing.
According to a story at MarketWatch by Amy Hoak, more aging parents are moving in with their adult children:
”While much has been written about millennial children boomeranging back to live with their parents,” writes Ms. Hoak, “there’s another group of people who have been quietly doubling up: baby boomers and their own aging parents.
“And some expect this particular trend to hold even with an improving economy, as people live longer and require more care at the end of their lives.”
In an example of one family, Hoek explains that leaving their senior community to move in with their children freed up money to pay for live-in caregivers for the elder couple during the week.
The real-estate website Trulia has reported on an increase in the share of seniors living with relatives over the past 20 years.
Some of this, according to Trulia, is driven by the fact
”'...that more seniors today are foreign born, and that the average age of seniors has increased,' said Jed Kolko, Trulia’s chief economist. Today there are more 80-somethings than in the past, he said.
“'This is not a story about the housing bust. The increase of seniors living with relatives is a long-term demographic shift,' he said.
“Six percent of U.S.-born seniors live with relatives, while 25% of foreign-born seniors live with relatives. For those born in countries including India, Vietnam, Haiti and the Philippines, the share of seniors living with relatives is even higher than that, he added.”
Hoek notes that there has also been an recent increase in separate “in-law suites” in homes and my own research has noted a similar uptick in attached and detached “granny flats” to house families' eldest generation, along with changes in local ordinances to allow this kind of renovation and new construction.
One granny flat I have visited in my neck of the woods is free-standing, one- bedroom a few feet from the main house that is about 800 square feet. Before our visit, the owner cautioned me that it is small but that's a relative judgment.
This is a suburban area of mostly single family homes. Such a lovely living space in New York these days would rent for $6,000 or more a month.
Whatever the individual arrangements and for whatever reasons, a return to multi-generational homes seems like a win to me. It saves money, the parents and grandparents can help one another as time and need require, the children benefit from the love and devotion of their grandparents.
Certainly, conflicts would arise and need to be managed but with patience and kindness people who love one another should be able to work that out.
Who knows, if this idea catches on, perhaps in 50 years or so, your grandchildren will be telling people that when they were kids, they and plenty of their friends had grandparents lived with them. Just like me when I was growing up.
Do any of you have experience with kind of living yet? If not, do you think it would work for you and your family?
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joyce Benedict: The Master's Touch