INTERESTING STUFF – 25 February 2017

There is such an abundance this week of “interesting stuff” that I hardly knew where to begin. Here are some of them.

MONOPOLY KILLS THE THIMBLE

Yes, it's true. Last month, four million Monopoly fans voted on which game tokens to keep and which to get rid of:

You can read more about the changes in this classic game here and here.

What's your favorite Monopoly token? I've always liked the top hat.

NEW EARTHLIKE PLANETS DISCOVERED

Astronomers have found a nearby solar system with seven Earth-sized planets, three of which circle their parent star at the right distance for liquid surface water, raising the prospect of life.

This is such exciting news that there are already hundreds of places online to read more about the newly discovered planets. Here is one.

”DEMOCRACY DIES IN DARKNESS”

For half a century or more, my go-to newspaper as been The New York Times and I doubt that will change in whatever lifetime is left to me.

But more frequently in the past year or so, I spend an equal amount of time with the Washington Post and that is attributable to the “new” editor since December 2012, Martin Baron.

If you saw the movie Spotlight, you know who he is and he has so improved the Post journalistically, that it is now about as far a you can get from the dreary little rag it used to be.

This past week, something new turned up on the front page nameplate of the paper. The New York Times has always had its motto: “All the news that's fit to print” and now the Post has added one:

WapoHeader

Did you see that slogan just under the paper's name? “Democracy Dies in Darkness” seems to me to be a perfect choice for our times that will carry well into whatever the future brings.

"WELCOME REFUGEES" BANNER ON STATUE OF LIBERTY

A 3-foot by 20-foot banner reading "Refugees Welcome" was hung last week just below the observation deck of the Statue of Liberty. It happened on the day that the Department of Homeland Security announced expanded immigration enforcement policies.

You can read more about it at Talking Points Memo.

A WEEK WITHOUT TRUMP NEWS

One reason the new president is so ubiquitous is that all other news seemed to have stopped and there is nothing to know unless it involves Trump.

For a week, The New York Times technology columnist, Farhad Manjoo, avoided as much Trump news as possible. Here are some of his observations:

”My point: I wanted to see what I could learn about the modern news media by looking at how thoroughly Mr. Trump had subsumed it," Manjoo wrote. "In one way, my experiment failed: I could find almost no Trump-free part of the press...

“President Trump is inescapable...

“I spent more time on international news sites like the BBC, and searched for subject-specific sites covering topics like science and finance. I consulted social news sites like Digg and Reddit, and occasionally checked Twitter and Facebook, but I often had to furiously scroll past all of the Trump posts...

“During my break from Trump news, I found rich coverage veins that aren’t getting social [media] play. ISIS is retreating across Iraq and Syria. Brazil seems on the verge of chaos. A large ice shelf in Antarctica is close to full break. Scientists may have discovered a new continent submerged under the ocean near Australia...

“In previous media eras, the news was able to find a sensible balance even when huge events were preoccupying the world. Newspapers from World War I and II were filled with stories far afield from the war.

“Today’s newspapers are also full of non-Trump articles, but many of us aren’t reading newspapers anymore. We’re reading Facebook and watching cable, and there, Mr. Trump is all anyone talks about, to the exclusion of almost all else...

“There’s no easy way out of this fix. But as big as Mr. Trump is, he’s not everything — and it’d be nice to find a way for the media ecosystem to recognize that.”

If you're not a subscriber to the Times and you haven't used up your monthly story allocation, you can read all of Farhad Manjoo's article here.

JOHN OLIVER ON PUTIN

It's good to have John Oliver back at his weekly perch on the HBO program, Last Week Tonight. Most recently, he took on the man who appears to be President Donald Trump's new best friend, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

HOW THE TOILET CHANGED HISTORY

This is a fascinating little documentary on the commode, throne, privy, latrine, potty, whatever you want to call it. It is not as new an invention as you might think and no, it was not invented by Thomas Crapper (isn't that too bad.)

NEW YORK'S RESTAURANT SALT RULING

Just about every time I eat in a restaurant – any kind of restaurant – my bathroom scale shows me two pounds heavier the next morning.

It's not that I overeat in restaurants, it is that everything is salted beyond any reasonable amount that a human should consume in one day, let along one meal. So my body bloats with retained water, although the two pounds are gone by the following morning.

For some time, New York City restaurants have been required by the Department of Health to let customers know when menu items exceed recommended limits of sodium. The restaurant industry sued over that requirement and they lost.

Here is what the medical website STAT reported about that:

”The restaurant industry will have to stay salty about a New York City mandate imposed on high-sodium items on menus. An appeals court has affirmed that the city’s mandate — which requires menus to stick a salt-shaker symbol next to dishes that contain more than a day’s worth of sodium — was legal and well within the limits of the health department’s authority.

“The restaurant industry said that the menu symbols violated their right to free speech and could run the risk of confusing customers.

“The recommended daily limit of sodium is 2,300 mg [less that 1,500 for people 50 and older]. The CDC has estimated that around 90 percent of Americans, both adults and children, take in too much sodium.”

I wish restaurants where I live would let me know on the menu what the sodium amount is.

YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW MANY COMMERCIALS THIS DOG HAS BEEN IN

The Oscars are coming up on Sunday night and as MTV News online told it in a feature story last year, this dog will never win one but he seems to be the smartest dog on television:

”The most talented movie star in America is two and a half feet tall, 7 years old, and 39 pounds. He has brown eyes, a natural black vest and tail, and his pale chest, arms, and legs are dotted with tan freckles. His name is Jumpy.”

Take a look. You'll be amazed at how often you've seen him.

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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” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I 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.


Do You Want to Know When You Will Die?

That headline is a more interesting question, I think, for people of the general age (50- or 60-plus) who read this blog than younger people. As it turns out, two new studies released just this week has some answers.

One involved face-to-face interviews with 1,016 adults living in Germany. The other featured similar interviews with 1,002 adults living in Spain. As reported in Pacific Standard,

”Asked if they would want to have an exact time stamp on their eventual death, 87.7 percent of Germans said no. Only 4.2 percent said yes, while 8.2 percent were uncertain.

“A similar percentage, 87.3 percent, did not want to know the cause of their death...

“Spanish participants'...answers on the negative news items were very similar to those of the Germans.”

In announcing the publication of the study, lead author, Gerd Gigerenzer of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin wrote that “deliberate ignorance” is a “widespread state of mind” and

”...was more likely the nearer the event. For example, older adults were less likely than younger adults to want to know when they or their partner would die, and the the cause of death.”

That makes sense to me. Until 40 or so, most of us believe we are immortal so the idea of one's own death is mainly hypothetical. At my age now, nearly 76, death has become very real and recently, I find Gigerenzer's “deliberate ignorance” a state of mind I'm clinging to for - well, dear life.

Since mid-November, a mystery malady has been plaguing me. His disinterest in the many symptoms led me to fire my previous physician and I found a new one I like better. There is no obvious diagnosis so since late December, I have been undergoing the many tests he has arranged for me.

Medtests3

About once a week, sometimes twice, I drive to the giant medical center he is associated with for a screening – sometimes for blood, other times for x-rays of this or that body part and this week a bone scan.

These are not just to track down what my malady might be. It is also that because I've spent the greater part of my life avoiding doctors and most medical tests, the new doc wants a baseline for future reference.

I can't argue with that but here's the problem: I'm just about the best example you're ever going to find of Gigerenzer's “deliberate ignorance.”

In our brave new world of electronic medical records, I can find out the results of the tests almost by the time I drive home. And when that doesn't happen, they are posted by the next day when an email alerts me to their availability. It never fails – except -

Except once. And that's where my “deliberate ignorance” kicks in, leaving me now gasping in fear when I allow myself to think about that exception.

Every result so far has been in the healthy range of whatever was being tested. I've been incredibly lucky that way all my life.

But for all that good news, there was this: no email and nothing posted to my online medical records after the CT scan of my lungs for cancer two weeks ago. It's not that I've missed it. I check for it every morning.

Let's see if I can explain the emotion of this. With no posted results, I can live in (supposedly) happy “deliberate ignorance.” But not really. I smoked for many decades and three relatives died of various cancers so this test is more fraught that simple blood draws.

The question rolls around in my head: What could that anomalous missing report mean?

As my thinking goes, there must be something so terribly wrong with that CT scan that they don't want to cause a heart attack by having me read it at home alone.

I could email or phone the doctor but as much as this is eating at me, I also don't want to hear terrible news. So I wait and worry trying to be happy in my “deliberate ignorance” until my next scheduled doctor appointment in early March - which, given these circumstances I would rather skip so to remain in my "deliberate ignorance."

I'm fully aware that there could be other reasons for not posting scan results (although I can't figure what they would be). That doesn't help. And I am equally aware that my fear of a deadly diagnosis is not in keeping with my genuine relief at living in a state with an assisted suicide law, as we've discussed in these pages.

Inconsistency, thy name is human.

My uneasiness in this circumstance is not unique and the growing sophistication of medical tests and diagnoses will soon leave many more patients in similarly difficult emotional places at much younger ages, as the researchers note:

”...gene-based medicine 'will put more and more people into situations where they have to decide whether they want to know future health issues.'”

The reporter of the Pacific Standard story explained further:

”In the not-too-distant future, we’ll be able to discover whether we are prone to a variety of diseases. Knowing such information could help us make major life decisions in an informed, thoughtful way.

“But we can only take advantage of this information if we can...emotionally handle the knowledge of when and how we are likely to die. And when that subject is broached, our impulse seems to be to run as fast as we can in the other direction.”

Yup. That is exactly what I'm going through right now – terrified of a bad diagnosis that will turn me into a professional patient. I've been afraid of that for as long as I can remember.

The full study, co-authored by Rocio Garcia-Tetamero of the University of Granada, is available online in the Psychological Review. [pdf]


Elder Use of Marijuana

[DISCLOSURE: I've been smoking pot recreationally since I was in high school with no ill effects I can see. I don't do so often nowadays because in my old age, it makes me cough too much. I haven't gotten around to trying the new edibles that are available here, but I will in time.]

Marijuana

One of the most common afflictions that comes with old age is pain – from arthritis to cancer to neuropathy to back and neck pain to those random aches and pains that come and go and seem to have no known cause.

For many, pain is almost a definition of growing old and these days, increasing numbers of elders are using cannabis (also known as pot, weed, reefer, maryjane, etc.) to treat their pain. As UPI reported in January,

”A new report has found that cannabis use by people over age 50 has increased significantly and outpaced growth across all other age groups.

“The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that in 2000, 1 percent of Americans over 50 had used cannabis within the past year, but by 2012, that number had increased to 3.9 percent.”

In January of this year, The University of Iowa published a study looking into this increased use:

"'Some older persons have responded to changing social and legal environments, and are increasingly likely to take cannabis recreationally,' Brian Kaskie, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Iowa College of Public Health and lead author of the study, said in a press release [according to the same UPI story].

"'Other older persons are experiencing age-related health care needs and some take cannabis for symptom management, as recommended by a medical doctor.'

“...The study participants were more likely to have started using cannabis before the age of 30 and many before age 18.”

Twenty-eight states now allow limited use of marijuana for medical purposes and a half a dozen others, including my state, Oregon, allow unrestricted use of marijuana by adults. It is sold in licensed dispensaries not dissimilar to liquor stores in many states.

And now marijuana is being used in some nursing homes even in states that have not approved its use. From The New York Times:

”At the Hebrew Home in the Bronx, the medical marijuana program was years in the making. Daniel Reingold, the president and chief executive of RiverSpring Health, which operates the home, said he saw its powers firsthand when his own father, Jacob, was dying from cancer in 1999.

“To ease his father’s pain, Mr. Reingold boiled marijuana into a murky brown tea. His father loved it, and was soon laughing and eating again.

“'The only relief he got in those last two weeks was the tea,' Mr. Reingold said.

“When Mr. Reingold requested approval from the nursing home’s board members, there were no objections or concerns, he said. Instead, they joked that they would have to increase the food budget.”

The Times also reports that because federal law prohibits use of marijuana, the Hebrew Home complies with that law and although they recommend and monitor its use, “residents are responsible for buying, storing and administering it themselves.”

The University of Iowa study is titled "The Increasing Use of Cannabis Among Older Americans: A Public Health Crisis or Viable Policy Alternative?" As Science Daily reports:

"The article also focuses on the misuse and abuse of cannabis. It then explores two other prominent public health issues - the misuse of prescription medications and the under-treatment of pain at the end of life - and considers how cannabis substitution may be a viable policy alternative to combating these problems.”

Given the reports of runaway opioid addiction in the United States, this sounds like a good idea to me. The New York Times again discussing a resident at the Hebrew Home:

"Marcia Dunetz, 80, a retired art teacher who has Parkinson’s, said she worried at first about what people would think. 'It’s got a stigma,' she said. 'People don’t really believe you’re not really getting high if you take it.'

“But she decided to try it anyway. Now, she no longer wakes up with headaches and feels less dizzy and nauseated. Her legs also do not freeze up as often.

“For [another resident], Ms. Brunn, the marijuana pills have worked so well that she has cut back on her other pain medication, morphine.”

And so what if, in addition to symptom management, users do get high? Why would anyone care.

All this movement toward cannabis legalization in more than half the U.S. states could be rolled back under the new administration and Congress in Washington.

Although President Donald Trump said during the campaign that he did not object to medical marijuana, so far he has reversed himself on almost every campaign promise.

Plus, both the new attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and the new secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, have long records of opposing legalization or decriminalization of marijuana.

Without stretching one's imagination too far and with the growing use of cannabis by elders to control age-related conditions and diseases, any attempt by the federal government to remove or limit its use could be seen as withholding medication from sick and dying elders.


A Thank You. Presidents' Day. And More

Does anyone else have trouble tracking federal holidays after retiring? Sure, I have no problem with Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day and the other big ones. But today, Presidents' Day, regularly escapes me.

One consequence is that I told at least one winner of Norm Jenson's book, Mostly Anecdotal: Stories, that I would put it in the mail today. Well, not so fast. No open post office today. So I will send them off tomorrow.

More on the holiday in a moment but first:

Thank-youC

A BIG THANK YOU, TGB READERS
Yesterday ended the week-long, annual donation drive for Time Goes By and it was a resounding success. Like last year, I am dismayed at your generosity and there are so many of you that it's impossible to thank you individually.

So I must do it collectively here.

It was terrific to read the personal notes some of you included with your donations and I enjoyed seeing so many names from so many different places – worldwide – that are new to me. Apparently a whole lot of you read TGB and never comment.

Nothing wrong with that – I do it all over the internet - but it is still a load of fun to see all the new-to-me names.

So thank you all - those who donated and every one of you who didn't too. The community we have created here is unique among blogs and you, the readers did that by paying attention, sharing your information, your knowledge and your opinions that make the comments so rich and thoughtful and fun to read every day.

SOME SAD NEWS
A TGB reader emailed a few days ago to tell me that Diane Schmidley of Schmidleysscribbling blog suffered a stroke, as her daughter explained on Diane's blog.

“This is Diane’s daughter. Mom has had a stroke and is in ICU at the hospital. If anyone reads this, please get the word out and keep her in your prayers. Thank you.”

On Saturday, her daughter posted again that Diane had been moved to the Acute Stroke Unit and further updated:

”She is at George Washington University Hospital in the District of Columbia if anyone is wanting to send flowers, and I can take cards to her. My postal address is: Connie Nystrom, P.O. Box 368, Rixeyville, VA 22737.”

Diane's name has often turned up here in the comments for many years. Of course, she is on our minds with prayers for a fast recovery.

PRESIDENTS' DAY – SOME THOUGHTS
The two-year mark since Donald Trump announced he was running for president of the United States is fast approaching. For a long time it was a joke to most Americans – me too.

No more and to way understate it, we now live in a world that is more uncertain that at any time, I think, during our long lives.

As a result of this new political circumstance, something in me has changed. Never much of a patriot, I took our system, our liberty and freedoms for granted. Not anymore.

Khizr-khan-us-constitution680

Maybe it started for me with Khizr Kahn holding up his little copy of the American Constitution at the Democratic Convention in July. It's not that I haven't read it many times – I own several copies and I sometimes carry a small, portable one with me to read in odd moments.

But during the campaign, my feelings about it expanded into a much greater devotion to the freedoms it grants us that I had before. I have a strong sense, now that it is under attack, that I am responsible for it, that I must be part of doing what is necessary to protect the provisions that created this unique government that is - as we learned to say in school - of, by and for the people. The people.

I wonder if any of that has happened to you.

Among our 45 presidents, a few were great, some might be better forgotten and the majority did pretty well with the times they governed through. So for Presidents' Day, I looked around the internet for some pictures of how they lived in their time.

I found a page of photographs of some president's private homes now preserved as museums. I particularly like the interior shots. Here are a few – take a look at this one, the library in President Harry Truman's home in Independence, Missouri:

TrumanLibraryIndependence

This is the dining room and tea parlor in Monticello, President Thomas Jefferson's home:

Jeffersonsdiningroom

The music room in President George Washington's Mt. Vernon home.

MusicroomatWashtingtn'smtvernon

Let's have one more – President Franklin D. Roosevelt's office at Springwood in Hyde Park, New York.

FDR DESK

There are about 25 more presidential home photos at Business Insider. (You need to cancel your adblocker, if you have one, to see them.)


ELDER MUSIC: A Fifth of Classical Gas


FINAL DAY OF THE 2017 TGB DONATION DRIVE
At last, you have reached the final day of the 2017 TGB donation drive. If you don't know what that is, you can find out details in last Monday's post. If you have donated, a great big thank you. If you would like to donate, use the button below or in the right sidebar.

And if you don't want to donate, that's good too. Just scroll on down to today's post.

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Tibbles1SM100x130This 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.

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Continuing this series of columns (originally named by Norma, the Assistant Musicologist) to highlight lesser known composers who are seldom heard on radio or in concert, although some of the music today may be familiar to many of you.

JOHANN GEORG KNECHTEL was a horn player (what we call the French horn these days) in Dresden in the mid 1700s. Jo doesn't seem to have had his photo taken, so no picture for him.

He was principal horn player in the court of Dresden at the time and he wrote many works for the instrument. Alas, few remain as many of his manuscripts were destroyed during the egregious firebombing of the city during the war.

Here is the first movement of his Concerto for horn in D major, with the best French horn player from the last 50 years, BARRY TUCKWELL, doing the honors on the instrument.

Barry Tuckwell

♫ Knechtel - Concerto for horn in D major (1)


Felix always contended that his sister FANNY MENDELSSOHN was a better musician and composer than he was (and that's a big call).

Fanny Mendelssohn

Alas, given the mores of the time, it wasn't the done thing for a woman to earn a living doing that sort of thing. However, with the love and support of both her brother and husband, the artist Wilhelm Hensel, Fanny managed to play (a little) and compose (a lot of) music, and even had some published in her lifetime (under Felix's name mostly).

She did manage to get some out under her own name at the time (a lot more now). There are 460 compositions of hers that are known, and are increasingly becoming part of the musical performing repertoire. She and Felix both died of complications due to massive strokes only six months apart. They were both too young.

Her string quartets are far in advance of any at the time, including her brother's, and even today are somewhat challenging. I had one pencilled in, but sorry, I changed my mind and have gone instead for the third movement of the Piano Trio in D Minor Opus 11.

♫ Fanny Mendelssohn - Piano Trio D-Minor Op. 11 (3)


LOUIS SPOHR was a German composer, violinist and conductor.

Louis Spohr

Besides that, all the violinists since his time are indebted to him because he invented the violin chin rest. It seems such an obvious thing but nobody came up with it until Louis did so.

Aside from that, he was a really prolific composer and his compositions are really worth listening to. One of those is the sixth movement of the Nocturne for Winds and Turkish Band in C-major, Op.34. Turkish themes were all the rage back then, even Mozart did some in that vein.

♫ Spohr - Nocturne for Winds and Turkish Band in C-major, Op.34 (6)


Many of you, perhaps most, would know the name BERNARD HERRMANN, especially the film buffs amongst us.

Bernard Herrmann

Bernie was a major writer of film scores, most notably for those of Alfred Hitchcock. Not just Hitch's films, he also wrote the music for Orson Welles' films likeCitizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons and so on. Lots of others, more than 50 in total.

However, he's here today because he also wrote what those inclined in that direction like to call serious music – a symphony, concerto, sonatas etc. One of his compositions was called The Fantasticks, not to be confused with the musical with the same name (he did it first).

This was a piece of music that charted the months of the year. Unfortunately, he only got as far as May and the rest didn't see light of day. That's okay as April is really good (I'm sure April birthday people would applaud that, particularly Ronni, my sister and the A.M.).

Here it is with GILLIAN HUMPHREYS singing the part.

Gillian Humphreys

♫ Hermmann - The Fantasticks April


There's a theme to the remaining tracks, and theme is a singularly appropriate word as you'll see and hear.

ARAM KHACHATURIAN was born in Armenia in 1903. Thus for much of his life he was a citizen of the U.S.S.R.

Aram Khachaturian

He held high positions in the Union of Soviet Composers. Then he was officially denounced as a "formalist" (whatever that is – "anti-people" was the official reason) along with Prokofiev and Shostakovich. Later he was reinstated. A bit of a yoyo existence being a Russian composer of that time.

Anyway, he wrote music for a ballet called Spartacus. I assume Kirk Douglas wasn't in that one. The movement called Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia may be familiar to people who are long time watchers of BBC TV drama programs, and I'm thinking specifically of The Onedin Line.

♫ Khachaturian - Spartacus ~ Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia


Australian readers will need no introduction to the next piece by RONALD HANMER. It's called Pastorale.

Ronald Hanmer

The rest of the world probably does though. However, I can hear the Oz readers saying, "What are you talking about?" When I say this was the theme to "Blue Hills, I can already hear them going dar dar dar dar dar dar dar dar dar dum dum dum dum.

For the rest of the world, Blue Hills was a long-running radio serial that was broadcast from 1949 to 1976.

Ron was an English composer who eventually settled in Oz in 1975 and he really had no idea the impact his composition had on my country before then.

♫ Ronald Hanmer - Pastorale


CHARLES-FRANÇOIS GOUNOD is probably mostly remembered these days for his opera Faust.

 Charles-Francois Gounod

However, there was a lot more to Charlie than that. He wrote more than a dozen other operas, motets, masses, ballets, lots of songs and the usual symphonies, concertos and so on.

One of the "so on" is a piece called Funeral March of a Marionette. I probably only have to say the words Alfred Hitchcock and you'll know this piece of music.

♫ Gounod - Funeral March of a Marionette


FRANCISCO TÁRREGA was a Spanish composer and guitarist of the 19th century.

 Francisco Tarrega

As a guitarist, he probably did more than anyone to bring the instrument into the classical canon. He also wrote music for it.

Probably his most famous work is Recuerdos de la Alhambra (Memories of the Alhambra). Today it's played by Eduardo Fernández.

Although not its theme, it was included in the film Sideways, which managed to bump up the price of pinot noir and reduce the price of merlot. Swings and roundabouts, I suppose.

♫ Tarrega - Recuerdos de la Alhambra


SERGEI RACHMANINOV (or Rachmaninoff) was a Russian composer who left the country when the Bolsheviks came to power. He spent the rest of his life in America.

Sergei Rachmaninoff

He was an excellent pianist and many of his compositions feature that instrument. People who have seen the film Shine will remember the "Rach 3", that is, his piano concerto no 3. That's not one I like at all, but his Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor is a particular favorite.

Here is the second movement. For lovers of old films, this was used extensively in Brief Encounter.

Rachmaninov - Piano Concerto No. 2 C Minor (2)



INTERESTING STUFF – 18 February 2017


TIME GOES BY 2016 DONATION WEEK REMINDER
It's almost over – just one more day of the annual TGB donation week. If you have been AWOL this week, you can learn more here. If you have donated, I thank you. If you have not, that's fine too.

If you do want to help support the work that goes into this blog, click the Donate link just below. If not, nothing will change for you here and you can just scroll down for today's Interesting Stuff.

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NOTE: It is getting harder to find non-Trump-related items for this Saturday post. I'm sure the explanation has something to do with Trump fatigue that increasing numbers of people are writing about.

With that caveat, I've done my best this week to make the list as interesting as possible. Like everyone, I have not yet adapted to this new Trump world. Please bear with me.

ELDERS PROTESTING THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION

Fifty women in the 80s, 90s and 100s, took part in the women's march without leaving their Seacrest Village retirement home in Encinas, California. And it wasn't a one time thing for them. Now they spend their time writing their representatives:

“'You can’t leave it up to someone else,' said Bertha Fox, 91, who raised four sons in Los Angeles and dedicated much of her life to volunteering,” reported KPBS News. “'If something is important, you have to do it.'

“They have witnessed a lifetime of historic protests and movements, from Civil Rights and anti-war to abortion and labor rights. Some of the women, including Appleby, have done a lot of marching through the decades.

“'In college I was for solidarity and I came home and I thought my father was going to throw me out of the house,' said Appleby, who also marched for union rights in the 60s, and Roe v. Wade in the 70s.

“Immigration is also on the mind of Rudolph, who said she can’t stop thinking about the uncertain future of Syrian refugees. The crisis echoes the Holocaust, she said. 'There’s no place for them to go in this world,' Rudolph said. 'My God, it just brought it all back.'”

Watch the entire video report frm KPBS-TV and thank Darlene Costner for letting us know about this. We should all be working this hard to resist.

You can read more about these women here.

WALL STREET JOURNAL CLOSES GOOGLE HACK

The Wall Street Journal for many years has had a tighter paid firewall online than many mainstream newspapers but there was a way around which I've sometimes mentioned to you.

If you landed ona WSJ page where most of the story was grayed out, you could copy the headline into Google search and the resulting link would take you to the full, readable article. No more. They turned it off last Monday:

The Journal tested turning off the feature with 40 percent of its audience last year. But the eye-popping moment was when the Journal turned it for off four sections for two weeks, resulting in a dramatic 86 percent jump in subscriptions. The Journal said the full turnoff is a test, but didn’t say how long it would last, reported Digiday.

I'll miss the hack but I can't afford to subscribe to everything I want to read. I'm at my limit now. You can read more here.

WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED TODAY

It's only about three weeks old but Matt Kiser's new blog is already wildly popular. As Poynter explains:

WTFheader

”The concept of his blog was pretty simple: Matt simply wanted to log what he called 'the daily shock and awe in Trump’s America' and make it easy for others to consume.”

He's right that it's hard to keep up these days and to help us out, Kiser spends six hours a day on the blog in addition to his paid job. He explains further:

”There was no grand plan or vision. I'm winging it here. I kind of made a blog, shared it on Facebook, and then it went nuts. Like many, I'm a news junkie, and I was having a difficult time keeping up with the cadence of news coming out of the White House...”

Read more about Matt at Poynter and check out his WTF blog here.

LAUGHING TOGETHER ON THE METRO IN BELGIUM

Let's break up today's list with good laugh. It's a letdown to find out at the end that it's just a Coca Cola commercial but until that's revealed I had fine ol' time laughing at people laughing together.

NO BABIES ARE ILLEGITIMATE

How is it that some idiots don't know that? A bill currently in the state legislature of Tennessee would, if passed, make children born by artificial insemination illegitimate.

”The text of the new bill,” reports Raw Story, “says it immediately 'repeals statute that deems a child born to a married woman as a result of artificial insemination, with consent of the married woman’s husband, to be the legitimate child of the husband and wife.'”

I have no idea what it means in day-to-day life for a child to be named “illegitimate” but it doesn't sound good. You can read more here and here.

THE DEPARTMENT OF SO GLAD I'M RETIRED

Big brother is getting smarter and watching workers more closely than ever before. Technology Review reports

”...that an increasing number of companies are outfitting offices with sensors to keep track of employees. These sensors are hidden in lights, on walls, under desks—anywhere that allows them to measure things like where people are and how much they are talking or moving.

Among many other things, the surveillance can track keystrokes, card swipes and what software employees are using on their computers. Or

”...maybe an employee looks at a lot of sensitive data and schedules a large number of external meetings, so the system flags them as a potential security risk. These are, after all, the problems that keep senior management awake at night.”

“Of course, the such schemes can also be read as creepy, Big Brother-style surveillance.”

Ya think? How far, I wonder, will surveillance go in the future. You can read more here.

KEITH OLBERMANN: TRUMP'S WAR ON IMMIGRANTS

Former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann has been holding forth on GQ's YouTube channel since early in the election cycle and he continues now. I hesitate to post his monologues sometimes due to how hyperbolic he can get but even so, he is smart, politically observant and his arguments are cogent.

Here he is a couple of days ago on how Trump's “deportation obsession” will help cripple our economy.

HOW CABINET SECRETARIES ARE VETTED

Thank Elder Music columnist Peter Tibbles for this:

NonSeqiterCartoon

HELPING A MOOSE STUCK IN THE ICE

Did I ever tell you my moose story? During my first month living in Maine, I looked out the window and saw a moost sauntering down the street. He strolled up a driveway across the street, strolled back down, walked a bit further and turned the corner.

Moose are weird looking – prehistoric. And I had no idea if a moose on a city street was an event or if it happened all the time. The photo on the front page of the morning newpaper the next confirmed that it was an event and it's one I never forgot.

Here's another moose story. As the Youtube page explains:

”...we saw the moose make several attempts at getting out of the water, but it could neither get up nor break the ice to get into shore. My partner, Sigrid Sjösteen, eagerly started to chop a pathway to shallower water, where it could reach the bottom and get out.

“We took turns chopping for about 30 minutes before the moose was out of danger.”

Here's how the moose good Samaritans did it:

* * *

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” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I 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.


Elders, Stress and the U.S. Government

There is a lot to do today so let's start with the winners of the drawing for Norm Jenson's book, Mostly Anecdotal: Stories that we told you about on Wednesday. May I have a drum roll please.

And the winners are:

Estelle D
Linda
Diane

Congratulations to you all. What the three of you need to do now, is email me (use the "Contact" link at the top of the page and send me your snailmail address. I'll then get the books off to you forthwith.

Next:

TIME GOES BY 2016 DONATION WEEK REMINDER
Only two more days until this TGB donation drive for 2017 is done. You can read the details of what it is about on Monday's post.

If you have already donated, thank you – it is much appreciated. If you haven't done so and would like to help support the work that goes on here, click the button below. If not, which is perfectly fine, scroll down for today's post.

* * *

ELDERS, STRESS AND THE U.S. GOVERNMENT

Stress

When even The American Institute of Stress can't define what stress is, you know you're in trouble:

“Stress is not a useful term for scientists because it is such a highly subjective phenomenon that it defies definition.”

[Eight opaque paragraphs later:]

“While everyone can’t agree on a definition of stress, all of our experimental and clinical research confirms that the sense of having little or no control is always distressful – and that’s what stress is all about.”

Uh-huh - stress is distressful. That is what is called a tautology – defining a word by using the same word.

MedicineNet is a bit more helpful: “a physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension” but a note on a different page of that website is better:

”Due to the overabundance of stress in our modern lives, we usually think of stress as a negative experience, but from a biological point of view, stress can be a neutral, negative, or positive experience.”

If I've ever read anything about neutral or positive stress, I don't recall, but it confirms for me that sometimes stress is a good thing. In my career, for example, deadlines had me gritting my teeth but without them I would probably never have finished editing a story or video nor would my work have been as good.

Except for that one Medicinenet reference, all I ever see is how dangerous stress is. Here is one more definition of negative stress, from an article at Medical News Today, that makes the most sense to me:

”We generally use the word 'stress' when we feel that everything seems to have become too much - we are overloaded and wonder whether we really can cope with the pressures placed upon us.”

What's important about that definition and my intro to it (“makes most sense to me”) is that stress – whatever it is or isn't – is individual. You might sail through a situation that leaves me a puddle on the floor. Or vice versa.

According to my cursory reading on stress, it is brought about in elders by such factors as financial hardship, physical decline, healthcare changes, loneliness and there are many, many other “smaller” stressers. Whatever the cause, the effects on our bodies are profound and dangerous to our health. Here is a partial list of stress responses:

Anger
Anxiety
Burnout
Depression
Fatigue
Feeling of insecurity
Forgetfulness
Headache
Heart disease
Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Irritability
Lower immunity against diseases
Muscular aches
Nail biting
Nervous twitches
Pins and needles
Problem concentrating
Restlessness
Sadness
Sleeping difficulties

What brought up all this rumination on stress is that since election day, I've felt more worry, fear, anxiety and most of all, helplessness, than I can ever recall. Every day, all the time – and it is not related only to the president. It's the Republican Congress too.

Voucherize Medicare? Privatize Social Security? Repeal Obamacare? And those are almost incidental when you hear this from a White House Senior Adviser Stephen Miller:

Let's repeat the most important part of his statement:

“...the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial, and will not be questioned."

Does that not chill you to the bone? And what can I, personally, possibly do to counter this most recent, terrifying turn toward autocratic rule in the United States?

Not much that I can see but it eats at me every day. Sometimes I can barely breathe and with each new move toward the right by the government, I am more frightened – read: stressed – and I'm not alone.

Here are some of the suggestions from the medical community for dealing with stress:

Meditation
Exercise
Good nutrition
Relaxation techniques
Cut down on caffeine
Talk with friends
Keep breathing

It is one thing if the sources of stress are from our own lives. In that case, those suggestions are useful. But what if the source of stress is your government? And what if the people comparing the Trump government to 1930's Germany are not hysterics?

So much for a quiet, fulfilling retirement. Breathe, everyone. Breathe.


Mostly Anecdotal: Stories – Book and Contest


TIME GOES BY 2017 DONATION WEEK REMINDER
The second annual donations drive to help support the increasing costs of maintaining Time Goes By continues today. You can read the details on Monday's post.

Whether you donate or not, nothing will change. TGB online and the email subscription will always be advertising-free with never a membership fee or paid firewall. If you would like to help support the work that goes into this website, click the button below. If not, which is perfectly fine, scroll down for today's post.

MOSTLY ANECDOTAL: STORIES - BOOK AND CONTEST
New-ish readers of TGB might not know that for eight-and-a-half years, from 2007 to November 2015, there was a companion blog to Time Goes By called The Elder Storytelling Place.

I didn't write for “ESP”, other people did that and I published their stories. Many wonderful stories, more than 2100 of them over that time. You can still see the blog and all those stories anytime you want – there is a link in the right sidebar under the Features section.

BZCApP2L_400x400Now we have something really special - a book from one of the regular contributors to The Elder Storytelling Place titled Mostly Anecdotal: Stories from author Norm Jenson.

What Norm does in his stories is report his observations of everyday life, reporting the telling details you and I might not have appreciated even as we recognize the incidents he writes about from our own lives.

Norm notices the little things too many people miss – or dismiss – and turns them into charming, funny, insightful short stories.

And I do mean short. Short is his signature style and to show you, I'm going to print a story or two or three from Mostly Anecdotal. This one is titled “Spring.”

”I was sitting on a park bench, a gentle bit of gravity holding me in place, when I heard a robin singing, an American idol.

“He sang his song, hitting all the right notes, and while I saw other birds and heard other songs, it was his that nested in my heart.

“A start. A gentle breeze unaffected by my bit of gravity passed by, and the sun, perched upon my shoulder, shared its warmth.”

They may be short, Norm's stories, but they speak in that small way of our whole world. Here's one of my favorites titled “No Ugly Chicks.”

”He was a shoeshine guy. He was old and wore a baseball cap with 'No Ugly Chicks' embroidered on the front and from below the brim poked his bulbous nose, red and black veins crisscrossing ample sun-scorched terrain.

“His squinting eyes, like tiny black olives with pinpoints of gray, looked satisfied. No chin, no teeth, and Dumbo ears would make anyone wonder why.

“'No Ugly Chicks', I said, raising my eyes to his cap.

“He smiled his toothless grin and said, 'Nope.'”

Lovely, huh?”

Most of the funny stories are too long to quote and snippets don't work well with humor. But we can do one more that shows Norm's shockingly (wonderful) dark humor. Titled “Missed.”

”A rare warbler sits on a branch, noticed by no one. Nearby, wallowing in the dirt, is a bison.

“The arriving birders, chatting but not yet listening, may miss this particular warbler for he is far from home and unexpected. He's singing, 'sweeter, sweeter, sweetest,' but they don't hear him.

“They see a water thrush near the pond. They are attentive now, watching carefully and listening, but the warbler is no long singing.

“John sees the bison, weighing maybe more than a ton, and he sees the unknown warbler, weighing certainly less than an ounce. It is still on the branch, but his view is obscured. He needs to closer.

“Others warn him of the danger, but he sees only the bird.

“By the time John's body is removed, it is dark. The bird has departed, continuing its migration. Both will be missed.”

There are 72 stories in this collection, stories - which Norm defines, in the introduction, as a catchall word for creative non-fiction, flash fiction, prose poetry and memoir.

”I've tried to capture the interesting bits and pieces of life as I see it,” he continues. “I find it's all interesting, if you pay attention.”

In Norm's telling, it IS all interesting. Mostly Anecdotal: Stories is available at Amazon in both Kindle and soft cover editions. But have I got a deal for you: Norm has made three copies available to give away to TGB readers.

As in past giveaway contests, we will do a random drawing. Here's how it goes:

Leave a message in the comments section below (no emails). That's it. If you have something to say about the book, that's good – we like lively discussions here - but not required.

The only requirement is that you state your interest in winning one of the books. “Please enter me in the drawing,” works. Or typing, "Me, me, me" will do it, too. I'm not fussy.

The contest will close tomorrow night, 16 February 2017, at midnight U.S. Pacific standard time. The three winners will be chosen in a random, electronic drawing and their names will be announced on this blog on Friday 17 February 2017.

Meanwhile, Norm can be found online at his blog, also called Mostly Anecdotal, on Twitter and on Facebook.


Happy Valentine's Day and Update on the Retirement Fiduciary Rule


TIME GOES BY 2016 DONATION WEEK REMINDER
This is day two of the 2017 TGB donation drive to help support the increasing costs of maintaining Time Goes By. You can read the details on Monday's post.

Whether you donate or not, nothing will change. TGB will always remain advertising-free with never a membership fee or paid firewall. If you would like to help support the work that goes on here, click the button below. If not, which is perfectly fine, scroll down for today's post.

* * *

Remember when I told you last week that President Donald Trump has signed a memorandum asking the Department of Labor to review President Barack Obama's regulation, the fiduciary rule, that requires investment advisers to put clients' interests above their own when giving advice on retirement accounts.

A reversal of the regulation would do away with the requirement of, basically, honesty.

Last week, in a directly related case seeking to roll back the regulation, brought by the investment community against the U.S. Labor Department in Texas, the court, in a sharply-worded decision, ruled against the plaintiffs. As The New York Times reported:

”The judge, Barbara Lynn, called the plaintiffs’ objections without merit, 'unpersuasive' and 'at odds with market realities.'”
Reuters picks up the coverage:

”The stinging 81-page ruling comes just days after Trump ordered the Labor Department to review the 'fiduciary' rule - a move widely interpreted as an effort to delay or kill the regulation,” reports Reuters.

“The decision by Chief Judge Barbara Lynn for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas is a stunning defeat for the business and financial services industry groups that had sought to overturn it.

“And while it is not expected to stop the Labor Department from delaying the rule's April 10 compliance deadline while it conducts the review, some legal experts say it could make it more difficult for the Labor Department to find a way to justify scrapping or significantly altering the rule.”

Full 81-page decision is here [pdf].

As the ongoing cabinet confirmations continue to show us, we of the resistance are going to live through a lot of defeats and disappointments so we should celebrate the victories when we can. This may be a small step but so far, our side has won this time. Hurray.

* * *

Normally I do not publish on Tuesdays and would have skipped Valentine's Day but I wanted to tell you about the decision of Judge Barbara Lynn in Texas.

So that means I also get to send Valentine greetings letting you know how much each of you means to me. This is a labor of love but it wouldn't be so without every one of you who stops by, leaves comments, shares the posts via Facebook and Twitter and sends suggestions and all the rest you do. You are what make this blog worth it for me.

Valentines-day-03


Second Annual Time Goes By Donation Week

Last year, the first ever Time Goes By donation drive was a big success. Readers were amazingly generous and it has meant that for the past year I have not needed to sweat the always increasing blog costs.

Among other things, last year's drive allowed me to afford a paid account with the email delivery service I had been using so that since then, each day's blog post has arrived in subscribers' inboxes ad-free - no small thing as the free version had become almost unreadable due to the clutter of advertising.

Even before purchasing that ad-free email service last year, Time Goes By online has been a free and advertising-free zone on the internet since it was launched in 2004; that will never change.

When I started this blog before I had retired, I had no idea it would last this long nor that I would last this long doing it. Having been a happy generalist for nearly 50 years in the workforce, I would have bet against my sticking with a single subject for more than a decade. Actually, I would have voted against doing anything for more than a year or two.

But here I am with something that requires at least as much effort and time as any job I had, remains a labor of love after all these years and that while I wasn't looking, turned me into an advocate for elders and our issues.

Neither did I know or expect what a fine gathering place TGB would become – I didn't plan it this way; it happened organically. I would be just one more bloviator taking up space on the internet without the thoughtful, knowledgeable and often funny contributions from the community of readers who post their observations in the comments and send suggestions for future posts and Saturday's Interesting Stuff.

Every day, I appreciate what each of you bring to this vibrant blog. I may write the daily posts and Peter Tibbles may turn out his excellent Sunday music column, but I'm always eager to see what you have to say on the on the subject of the day and I don't ever take this blog and your participation lightly

That said, here I am with the second annual pitch for donations. When I was thinking this through last year, my promise to myself was that I would make it as unobtrusive and unannoying as possible. NPR's frequent drives with all the program interruptions make me nuts; I don't want to drone on at you as they do.

So, the campaign consists of this introductory blog post (including a nice surprise at the end) with a link to the Paypal donation page and a MUCH shorter version of this invitation to contribute at the top of each post through next Sunday. The “rules” are these:

First and foremost: no one is required to donate. Nothing about TGB will change if you do not. This is entirely voluntary.

If you do choose to donate, no amount is too small. Whatever is comfortable for you is all that matters.

You do not need a Paypal account to donate. When you click on the link below, the Paypal donation page will open (it's a little slow sometimes) where you will have two choices:

  1. You can donate via credit card or, if you have a Paypal account, by a money transfer - both in any amount you want.

  2. You can make a one-time donation or choose a recurring monthly donation.

All this works in the United States and internationally.

Let me reiterate: Donations are voluntary. Nothing changes if you do not donate. Here is the Paypal link which you will also find near the top of the right sidebar.

Although the donation button is a permanent piece of the furniture in the right sidebar, you will need to suffer through this campaign only one week a year.

* * *

And now, because you have been so patient throughout this post, here is little gift for you: the main essay from the season opener a few hours ago on Sunday of John Oliver's HBO program, Last Week Tonight. It's about Trump and Truth and Oliver is at the top of his game. The usual warnings about language apply.