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INTERESTING STUFF – 30 June 2018

WHY BRITISH AND AMERICAN SPELLING DIFFER

A quick little history of why the Brits (and Australians for the most part) spell it “colour” and Americans spell it “color.” It was probably more ad hoc than you thought.

ONE REASON TO DISLIKE GETTING OLD

From cartoonist Jimmy Johnson, sent in by TGB's Sunday music columnist, Peter Tibbles. All I can say about the punch line is, me too.

Cartoonhatemybody

TWO TOWNS THAT TURNED OUT THE LIGHTS AT NIGHT

As the Youtube page tells us:

”As our cities grow bigger and brighter, fewer Americans get to take in the breathtaking grandeur of the Milky Way. Sensing this, the residents of Westcliffe and Silver Cliff, two small towns in Colorado, purposefully dimmed their towns' lights.

“Their night skies are now among the darkest on the planet and have become a Mecca for stargazers.

Have any of you visited these towns?

FED PLAN TO STOP REPORTING HOSPITAL INFECTION RATE

Each year, more than 600,000 hospital patients contract an infection, and sepsis alone kills about 270,000 people a year. Now, according to USA Today, a new Trump administration proposal will

”...halt the public disclosure of the 'super bug' MRSA, post-operative sepsis and surgical site infections, as well as accidents and injuries ranging from bedsores to respiratory failure after surgery.”

Since 2005, that kind of information has been (and still is for now) available at the Medicare Hospital Compare website. Further, reports USA Today,

"'I am shocked that they want to reverse course on this,' says Jeanine Thomas, who founded the MRSA Survivors Network after nearly dying of the infection after ankle surgery 18 years ago. 'In fact, they should do more.'

“CMS [The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] chief medical officer Kate Goodrich said the agency 'is committed to transparency of quality and cost information' and denied that it was proposing to remove the information from Hospital Compare. She also emphasized that the changes are up for public comment.”

Unless the proposal is removed from the plan, the information will stop being released in 9 November this year. You can sign a letter of protest here. And you can see the entire 500-page plan here.

1947 PSA LOOKS AND SOUNDS LIKE IT WAS PRODUCED YESTERDAY

This public service announcement was produced by the U.S. Department of Defense, Department of the Army and the Office of the Chief Signal Officer in 1947. Given political events of the past 18 months, it could have been produced today. Take a look:

That video (thank you, Jim Stone, for sending it) prompts me to publish again this famous statement from Martin Niemöller (1892–1984). If you are unfamiliar with his name, he was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.

“Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

“Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.

“Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

(If you are familiar with other versions of this, it is due to the fact that Niemöller usually spoke the words publicly and they changed slightly from telling to telling.)

U.S. FDA APPROVES FIRST MARIJUANA-DERIVED PRESCRIPTION DRUG

Although people have been using cannabis to treat a wide variety of ailments for centuries, it has taken this long for the U.S. Federal Trade Administration to approve one for medical use.

Epidiolex680

As STAT reports, the medication

”...treats two rare and devastating forms of epilepsy.

“The drug, GW Pharmaceuticals’ Epidiolex, is made of cannabidiol, or CBD, a component of marijuana that does not give users a high. It is given as an oil, and in clinical trials, it was shown to reduce the number of seizures by about 40 percent in patients with Dravet or Lennox-Gastaut syndromes.”

Read more at STAT and at Leafly.

DON'T JUDGE TOO QUICKLY

My friend Tony Sarmiento sent this video – a collection of TV commercials for Ameriquest produced from 2005 to 2007. These are the sort of things that make me laugh out loud but I don't recall ever seeing them. I can't imagine how I missed them.

DOES THAT ELEVATOR CLOSE-DOOR BUTTON REALLY WORK?

Like me, you probably suspect that those “close door” buttons in elevators don't really work. Now we are vindicated in our belief:

”Karen W. Penafiel, executive director of National Elevator Industry Inc., a trade group, said the close-door feature faded into obsolescence a few years after the enactment of the Americans With Disabilities Act in 1990,” reported The New York Times.

“The legislation required that elevator doors remain open long enough for anyone who uses crutches, a cane or wheelchair to get on board, Ms. Penafiel said in an interview on Tuesday. 'The riding public would not be able to make those doors close any faster,' she said.”

Recently, Mental Floss reported that the buttons DO work in Britain:

”A spokesman for the Lift and Escalator Industry Association told the newspaper that not all elevators have the button, but when they’re present, they do work. Again, the time it takes for the doors to shut after pressing the button varies from lift to lift.”

There is more than you would think to read about all this at those two links.

THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT

As you have undoubtedly figured out from reading this Saturday post, I really like stories of interspecies friendship. In addition, I think owls are fascinating and I love all sorts of kitty cats. So this is the perfect story for me. Maybe for you too?

There are a bunch of videos of Fum and Gebra at play together here.

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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.



Surprise! Old People Have Sex and They Like It

”It seems older people are a lot friskier than some younger people may have thought.”

If you can resist the perfectly understandable urge to smack the reporter who wrote that sentence, findings from a recent survey support the notion, believe it or not, that old people indulge in sex with one another well into their ninth decade and perhaps beyond.

First, however, here is a video from Jimmy Kimmel, the host of Jimmy Kimmel Live! TV show, who did some man-in-the-street interviews with a whole bunch of elders about some similar research:

A friend objected to Kimmel's grandfather “joke” and to showing so much of the man who keeps confusing top and bottom, a quibble we'll save for a future rant.

But to be clear regarding my grousing about that sentence in the first paragraph above, when was the last time you heard the word “frisky” applied to anything but a puppy?

In the past two or three years, several research studies have concluded that old people are having a good deal of sex and young people think it's icky.

Writing at HuffPost, Ann Brenoff answers the question, What's the oldest you can be and still have sex?, this way:

”You can have sex for as long as it feels good, kitten, for as long as it feels good. A recent study of 6,201 people ages 50 to 90 published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that up to 54 percent of men and 31 percent of women report having sex at least twice a month.

“As disturbing as you might find the thought of your parents or grandparents having sex,” Brenoff continues, “the truth is they’re still human beings with human-being urges.”

It's hard to tell but I suspect Ms. Brenoff is at least trying to express acceptance of people old enough to be parents and grandparents into the we-enjoy-sex club.

It's the surprise younger people exhibit at finding out old people still do it that ticks me off. How do these writers think they got here, for god's sake. A report of one survey about old people and sex began with this statement: “Sex isn’t just a young person’s game.”

And why would anyone think otherwise?

Um, it's called ageism and for as long as I've been researching age, it has been commonplace and customary, apparently, for younger people to respond to the idea of elders having sex with wonderment at best and disgust at worst.

When I run across these assumptions and judgments, I invariably mutter the two questions to myself:

At what age do they think people should stop having sex?

Do they think we forget how to do it when we hit that age?

If they think about it at all, younger people seem to have a lot of misconceptions about elder sex. Several recent articles address some false assumptions associated with senior sex. In another Huffpost story, reporter Yagana Shah does a decent job of debunking these five myths:

  1. Sex isn’t as important in relationships when you’re older (Wrong)

  2. Sex becomes kind of 'vanilla' as you get older (Wrong)

  3. Older people aren’t having sex (Wrong)

  4. Erectile dysfunction is inevitable (Not wrong and there are treatments that work)

  5. Sex is best when you’re younger (Wrong)

Not long ago, elder sex guru, Joan Price, published comments from readers of her Senior Planet sex column about what makes their sexual encounters pleasurable at their age. Here are three of the responses:

”I’ve learned that sex without penetration provides me and my partner with at least as much core-shaking pleasure as does PIV. Both are very nice, but my notion of 'real sex' has broadened to center now on sex without penetration.”
”I honestly didn’t know our sex drives would slow down. Nobody tells you that a strong libido has a shelf life. Realizing that the days of spontaneous combustion were over for both of us, I felt like I’d been ripped off by life.

“With time, laughter, tears, and a lot of talking and thinking — plus a vibrator, erotica, and soft porn — my husband and I created a place where sex is a wonderful mini-vacation where we give and receive pleasure.”
”We find planned, weekly date-night encounters far more enjoyable than spontaneous episodes, because planning a scene enhances anticipation. It’s a form of extended foreplay. We are consistently ready for sex well before the next date-night, but we deny ourselves, heightening the desire to extreme levels for days.”

It seems to me that the only real impediment to sharing good sex in old age is having a partner but we all know there are other things to do if that is not possible.

As to youngsters' mistaken ideas about old folks and sex, Ann Brenoff redeems herself with her answer to this question:

Q: “Aw, c’mon. Old-age sex is funny, isn’t it?

A: “Actually, it’s pretty serious business. It deserves to not be filtered through a lens of humor or disgust. We can start by not demeaning it. Older couples dancing intimately aren’t 'cute.' Save the 'cute' for babies and puppies.”


Is Relaxed Retirement For You?

One of the things about getting old is that there is no user manual. Nobody tells you what's going to happen and I don't mean the diseases of age - cancer, heart disease, Parkinson's, arthritis, dementia, etc - that are more prevalent in the late years of life.

What I'm talking about instead are irritating impediments that turn up unexpectedly – or more likely, slowly sneak up on us and are established almost before we recognize them.

We've talked about them in the past: dropping things more frequently, leaky pipes, unexplained aches and pains, new hair in all the wrong places, not enough hair where it belongs, forgetting old friends' names, too many nightime bathroom runs, searching for misplaced items, among other old age annoyances.

Hardly anything throughout our earlier adult years changes as much as in our old age and most of it takes up a whole lot of time just when we are grappling with the reality that we have a whole lot less of that irreplaceable commodity than we used to have.

A few days ago, a friend who just turned 80 told me that some days, if he has no appointments or other reason to leave home, he doesn't bother to get dressed.

Whew! Isn't it a relief to find out other people also do things you are embarrassed to admit.

Two or three times a month, at the time of morning when I would normally head for the shower to get ready for the day, the thought comes over me to skip it, to just hang out at home in my pajamas.

Sometimes, since it is part of the usual morning routine I've already broken, I don't even make the bed even though I really dislike walking into the room to a messy bed. So there you are: in one swell foop, I ditch the shower, the bed making and getting dressed for a day while feeling liberated and just a little decadent.

Which is exactly what The New York Times reported on last week – people who are refusing to buy into a busy, busy, busy retirement that the culture does a good job of instilling in us. Or shaming us into.

”For many baby boomers, retirement is neither a chance nor an excuse to take it easy,” wrote reporter Joanne Kaufman. “Rather, it’s an opportunity to take a class (or six). Then there’s mastering a language or an instrument, writing a novel, climbing a mountain, maybe starting a business."

But, The Times says, that's not for everyone.

“Mr. Lerner, the former money manager, speculated that if he had a wife, she might tell him to get out of the house and 'take old-age classes,' he said, referring to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Florida Atlantic University. 'My friends who take courses told me to look in the catalog, but there wasn’t one subject that interested me.

“'I don’t know. Maybe it’s my personality, but I don’t have to justify my behavior,' Mr. Lerner said. 'I’m enjoying my retirement just as it is. And if it’s O.K. with me, I’m not going to change even if someone else says I’m wasting my time.'”

Another Florida retiree agrees:

“'I’m not interested in going back to school,' said Mr. Walzman, 74, who has four degrees and had several careers, including a business installing telephone systems. 'In my youth, I was very ambitious,' he added. 'I had to get 100 on every test. I had to do this, and I had to do that.'

“Now, he plays golf, plays poker, swims twice a day and spends some time monitoring his investments. 'To be totally honest, I’m at peace,' he said. 'I’m happy. What can I tell you?'”

As far as I can see, it's not like relaxed retirement is a movement that's taking off. The barrage of advertisements and media stories admonishing us to keep busy or we'll lose our minds and die early is ubiquitous. But like those people in The Times story, we are not required to buy into it.

Undoubtedly, the adverts and admonitions are written by younger adults who mostly seem to want old people to behave like wrinkly young people because they don't know anything yet about the changes that accompany growing old.

Who also don't know that there are days when all those old-folks' annoyances (accompanied by a disease of age or two for some) slow you down to a crawl and who don't know that there are days when you can't find the wherewithall even to get dressed.

So don't let the prevailing culture direct your retirement choices. Do it your way.



America's Shame – A Turning Point?

EDITORIAL NOTE: In a departure from the usual TimeGoesBy fare, today's post has nothing to do with growing old unless, like me, you didn't believe you would ever see concentration camps in the United States. Second, I finished writing this on Sunday but things move so swiftly in Trumpworld that god only knows what will have changed in regard to the border crisis by the time you read this.

* * *

Here is the latest New Yorker cover from artist Barry Blitt.

NewYorkerCoverRefugees

It took long enough but at last, this past week, the U.S. is paying attention to the cruel, merciless and inhumane policy of President Trump's administration at the country's southern border.

Did you ever, in your wildest imagination, think that the government of the United States would snatch infants and toddlers from their parents and stick them in baby jails behind chain link fences?

How about all those teenage boys in tents in 108-degree F temperatures? Do you believe the government when it says those tents are well air conditioned?

And what about the girls? Where are the girls? Why won't the government tell us?

It was only after hundreds of protests and marches around the U.S. that President Trump capitulated and signed an executive order to end family separations at the border late last week.

And it was not until this weekend that a few members of Congress were allowed inside one or two detention centers in Texas. But no pictures allowed.

”The lawmakers didn’t know exactly how many children were at the facility,” reports Bloomberg News, “and complained about being unable to get numbers and other specific responses.

“They were told, though, that 26 minors brought to Tornillo had been separated from their parents at the border, and that three of them have since been reunited with their families.”

The Trump government doesn't know how many kids are in their tent jail? Doesn't know???

And that figure of 2,342 children snatched from their parents arms between May 5 and June 9 that the media keep repeating? What kind of number is that? How many were taken away before 5 May and since 9 June? Can we trust these numbers? Can we believe anything the federal government says about their zero tolerance border policy?

No one from the press has been allowed to take photos or videos inside any the camps. What is the government trying to hide?

It has been obvious for a week or more that when Trump's “zero tolerance” policy was enacted and they started grabbing kids from their parents, no one – not a single federal employee including the president and cabinet secretaries – had any intention of keeping records of the names and contacts of the parents and their children.

Why would they? If you believe it is a good idea to lock up children without their parents, keep them in empty warehouses in chain-link cages and not allow anyone in to verify who is there and under what conditions, why would care about returning the kids to their parents?

What else would you expect from a president who spends his time name-calling people he doesn't like, lying once every two minutes or so about pretty much everything, and is generally nasty in word and deed?

As bad as all this is, now the government will no longer split up families, they say. Instead...

”The Navy memo outlines plans to build 'temporary and austere' tent cities to house 25,000 migrants at abandoned airfields just outside the Florida panhandle near Mobile, Alabama, at Navy Outlying Field Wolf in Orange Beach, Alabama, and nearby Navy Outlying Field Silverhill,” reports Time magazine.

“The memo also proposes a camp for as many as 47,000 people at former Naval Weapons Station Concord, near San Francisco; and another facility that could house as many as 47,000 people at Camp Pendleton, the Marines’ largest training facility located along the Southern California coast.

“The planning memo proposes further study of housing an undetermined number of migrants at the Marine Corps Air Station near Yuma, Arizona.”

Does any of this sound familiar? Some people younger than you and I may not recall those evil places called concentration camps in Europe during World War II or that other shameful episode in American history of rounding up Japanese-Americans and placing them in internment camps during the same war.

Apparently there is no time limit for holding families in these new camps. The word “indefinitely” has come up in the discussions.

There are plenty of useful and humane possibilities to deal with undocumented immigrants coming to our country but this administration didn't bother to look into it. They chose the racist answer.

I'm sure none of this is new information to you – all of the U.S. and much of the world has been watching this brutal practice for days. But I don't want to end this post without one more comment.

First Lady Melania Trump went to Texas one day last week to see the children. She wore this jacket:

MelaniaJacket

When objections erupted, a spokeperson for Mrs. Trump said it is “just a jacket,” no message intended. No, it is not just a jacket (price: $39) when a woman who regularly spends thousands of dollars on a single dress wears it. It is a choice she made, a message she wanted people to see.

In the past, I've had some sympathy for the First Lady. No more. And from the public response, millions of others feel as I do.

God knows I could be wrong, but I sense that we have reached an inflection point in the politics of the United States. That throwing babies and toddlers (even teenagers, in my mind) into detention camps without their parents has been a bridge too far for a majority of Americans and maybe, just maybe things will begin to change now.



ELDER MUSIC: DooWop 2

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.

* * *

In my previous column on DooWop, a long time ago, I charted its history and formation. Today, I present this style of music when it reached its peak during the fifties, the blossoming of this interesting style of music.

Although it’s considered part of rock & roll, several of the songs sound as if they had been recorded a decade or so earlier. For some reason, many of the groups named themselves after birds. Several of those are included today.

I'll start with the group whose style was quite close to the older musicians, SONNY TIL & THE ORIOLES. Given their name, it’s probably no surprise that they formed in Maryland.

Sonny Til

Sonny sang regularly in talent shows and other such places around Baltimore in the late forties. He gathered several others around him and after a few name changes they settled on The Orioles. Apparently the girls loved them and sparked scenes reminiscent of Frank Sinatra, Elvis and The Beatles. Their song is Happy 'Till The Letter.

♫ Sonny Til & The Orioles - Happy 'Till The Letter


THE RAVENS were also quite close to the originals as well, but with some modern overtones.

The Ravens

They were the earliest of the groups today, formed in 1946 and continuing into the fifties, finally calling it a day in 1958. They are almost certainly responsible for the rash of bird names.

The song they perform is A Simple Prayer. I can't imagine that any of the other singers today (and few others) could have hit the final note. The singer was Warren Suttles.

♫ The Ravens - (Give Me) A Simple Prayer


Okay, we're starting to get into fifties mode now with THE JIVE FIVE.

The Jive Five

Their first song is their biggest hit and has been used in several films and the like over the years. They had several more on the charts and later modified their style to fit in with the music of the sixties (and probably switched back when this style became popular again). Here’s that first biggie, My True Story.

♫ The Jive Five - My True Story


We're really into rock & roll territory now, with the CROOM BROTHERS, with Dillard Croon Jr singing lead.

Croom Brothers

As you will hear, the words are really complex. I wonder who came up with them. I think it’s just best to go with the flow. Rock And Roll Boogie.

♫ Croom Brothers (Dillard Croon Jr) - Rock And Roll Boogie


The group probably closest to the Ink Spots is THE CARDINALS.

The Cardinals

They were another group from Baltimore, starting only a year after The Orioles. They tended to be rather overshadowed by their more famous rival. As with many of their ilk, members came and went, so the number in the group tended to vary somewhat. They perform The Door is Still Open.

♫ The Cardinals - The Door Is Still Open


One of the finest singers in the genre was Lee Andrews. He led the group LEE ANDREWS & THE HEARTS.

Lee Andrews & the Hearts

Lee died not too long ago. He was the son of one of the members of the legendary gospel group The Dixie Hummingbirds, so great singing was in his genes. Several of The Hearts’ biggest hits came in 1958, including Long Lonely Nights.

♫ Lee Andrews & the Hearts - Long Lonely Nights


THE MARCELS were hugely successful here in Australia.

The Marcels

I don't know if that was the case elsewhere but because of that they are included today. Who could forget their version of Blue Moon? I certainly can't. That's not what we have today, it's another standard: Heartaches. They made a career of taking standards and adding the Marcels’ touch.

♫ The Marcels - Heartaches


The group THE FALCONS (the one from Detroit, there was another in New York with the same name) was a launching pad for several great musicians – Wilson Pickett, Mac Rice and Eddie Floyd all began their careers in the group. As did Joe Stubbs who was the brother of Levi, the lead singer of The Four Tops. They turned over their lead singer fairly frequently.

The Falcons

The Falcons recorded the song This Heart of Mine twice (within a year for some reason). This is the second and better version. I don’t know who is singing lead, I would suggest Joe Stubbs or Eddie Floyd, but maybe someone out there knows.

♫ The Falcons - This Heart of Mine


As often happened back then, a white group covered a black group's song and outsold them. Also, as was mostly the case, they weren't as good as the originals. This is the case here and the original is THE RAYS. We won't mention the usurpers.

The Rays

The song is Silhouettes.

♫ The Rays - Silhouettes


Far and away the finest vocal group in this genre, or any from the fifties, is THE PLATTERS.

The Platters

No one came within cooee of them (that's an Australian expression that you'll probably figure out). A lot of that is due to their fine lead singer Tony Williams. Of their many hits I decided on Only You.

♫ The Platters - Only You (And You Alone)


I'll end with the obvious song. I'm surprised that I didn't end the original column with it. Good, that means I can use it here. The group is THE SPANIELS, often known as Pookie Hudson & The Spaniels because Pookie was their main man.

The Spaniels

The song has been used over and over in films and elsewhere to signify the end of proceedings. It’s often a cliché, and I’m not one to buck the trend. Goodnite Sweetheart, Goodnite.

♫ Pookie Hudson & The Spaniels - Goodnite Sweetheart Goodnite


It struck me that all the best groups had an outstanding lead singer. I don't know why that surprised me, it shouldn't have.



INTERESTING STUFF – 23 June 2018

LET'S RETIRE TO A CRUISE SHIP

Back in 2013, I published what I thought was a fable floating around the internet about retiring to a cruise ship. In my intro I wrote, “Maybe you need a silliness break as much as I do.”

Well, not so silly anymore. Take a look at this video from 2016:

Apparently it's becoming a thing now with “apartments at sea.” This from last year:

CAN YOU DISTINGUISH BETWEEN FACT AND OPINION IN NEWS

The U.S. president labels a lot of factual news as fake and journalism in general is not in good standing with a large percentage of the American public. But maybe that has more to do with news consumers' critical reading skills than with reporters.

The Pew Research Center recently conducted a fascinating survey to see how well respondents could distinguished between statements of fact and opinion in the news. Here are the overall results:

FactOpinionChart

Some of the conclusions from the survey include:

Americans most often disagree with factual statements they incorrectly think are opinions

Those with high political awareness are far better able to identify factual and opinion statements

Digitally savvy Americans fare far better at classifying factual and opinion statements

Those with greater trust in the news media are more likely to correctly classify factual and opinion statements

You too can take the quiz at the Pew website. For the record, I identified all 10 fact or opinion statements correctly but I've been working in journalism all my life.

The entire report of the results is here. Or you can get the PDF of the final report here.

DISASTER ROBOTS

Many people are suspicious of robots. At minimum we worry about their taking jobs from humans, and the robot pets, usually marketed to elders, seem more than a little creepy to me. But then there are disaster robots – a really good idea. Take a look:

GAWANDE NAMED CEO OF AMAZON HEALTH VENTURE

Surgeon, author and New Yorker contributor, Atul Gawande, has been named CEO of the health care venture by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and J.P. Morgan. This item is included today because I have been a fan for a long, long time. The man is brilliant, thoughtful and most important, a dedicated activist for improving healthcare.

Atul-Gawande

As Gawande said in a press release announcing his new job:

”I have devoted my public health career to building scalable solutions for better healthcare delivery that are saving lives, reducing suffering, and eliminating wasteful spending both in the US and across the world.

"Now I have the backing of these remarkable organizations to pursue this mission with even greater impact for more than a million people, and in doing so incubate better models of care for all. This work will take time but must be done. The system is broken, and better is possible."

Gawande begins his new job on 9 July. You can read more about him and the new project here, here and here.

ROYAL ASCOT HATS 2017

The annual Royal Ascot horse races held just outside London each year are winding up today. Like the U.S. Kentucky Derby, it is an event for attendees to wear their most outrageous headgear. Some examples:

AscotHat1

AscotHat3

And, of course, the Queen of England herself in a hat slightly more elaborate than her everyday hats.

AscotHat2Queen

There are a whole lot more images of people in amazing hats at The Atlantic magazine.

KRISPY KREME DONUTS

For months after my cancer surgery, I was urged to eat as many calories each day as possibly. It didn't matter what kind – sugar, fat, meat, etc., and doughnuts were among my choices.

Yes, this video is pretty much a commercial for Krispy Kreme, but I like watching the donuts go through the machine and thinking about the months I could eat as much as wanted of anything I craved – doctors orders.

75% OF AMERICANS SAY IMMIGRATION IS A GOOD THING

Given the president's disgusting rhetoric about immigrants, it might seem that his is the view of a majority of U.S. citizens. The response to putting tiny children in baby jails puts that to rest.

Further, according to a Gallup poll conducted between 1 June and 13 June, three-quarters of Americans think immigration is a good thing, and 65% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents agree. 39% say immigration should be kept at present level, 28% say it should be increased. Here's the chart:

GallupImmigration

Read more about the survey at Gallup.

IS A NEW STAR TREK TV SHOW WITH PATRICK STEWART IN THE WORKS?

Huffington Post has reported that there are rumors that a new Star Trek: The Next Generation with actor Patrick Stewart reprising his role as Captain Jean-Luc Picard may be in the works.

When the Hollywood Reporter first mentioned the possibility, they mentioned only anonymous sources. Here's what Stewart himself hints:

I'm not much of a sci-fi fan, but Star Trek: TNG? That's a whole different thing. Make it so.

GORILLA KOKO DIES AT AGE 46

Koko, the beloved gorilla who was widely known for her extensive vocabulary of sign language, died this week in her sleep at age 46.

Koko was a year old when she began working with Francine “Penny” Patterson, an psychologist who believed that what makes humans special is speech. If animals had something like that, she believed, they could express themselves, too.

"And while they may not give us Beowulf, they could at least make their thoughts and feelings known,” reports Time. “So Patterson worked with what Koko did have — her dextrous, expressive hands — taught her American Sign Language, and with that opened the door to an extraordinary mind.

“It wasn’t just that Koko knew her nouns — toy and apple and dog and cookie. She did know hundreds of them, but for all animals nouns are the low-hanging fruit — solid objects that can be associated with labels.

More impressive were the verbs; more impressive still was the language of mood and emotion and spatial relations — more and sad and in and stupid and please and hurry and out. And there was also mine — a primitive idea for both animals and humans, signaling, as it so often does, greed or aggression or indifference to others, and yet an idea nonetheless that no animal before had ever been known to grasp abstractly.”

Here's a video about Koko with the cats she loved throughout her life:

There is much more about Koko at The Gorilla Foundation at koko.org.

* * *

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.



Net Neutrality Died on 11 June

In a three-to-two party-line vote, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed net neutrality rules put in place by the Obama administration in 2015 and that repeal, despite massive, nation-wide objection, went into effect on 11 June 2018.

We have discussed this often enough in these pages that you probably know what net neutrality is all about. But just in case, the idea at its most basic is that before this vote, internet providers could not, for example, block websites they don't like or slow down load time of websites whose owners have not paid a fee for speedier service.

Now they can do that along with pretty much anything else they can think up to charge more and/or control access to information.

Rolling Stone notes that now,

”...service providers have carte blanche to strike deals with powerful Internet companies. A company like Amazon, for instance, could pay service providers to make their content stream faster, thus making it more appealing to consumers than its competitors.

“Any company looking to game the system is now able to do so, and those whose pockets aren't so deep are now at a marked disadvantage.”

The FCC repealed the common-sense, net neutrality rules despite unprecedented public approval of it. As The Hill reports (emphasis is mine):

”Americans like net neutrality. Surveys have consistently shown that a majority of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents all support the 2015 net neutrality rules.

“For example, one survey from April found that 82 percent of Republicans and 90 percent of Democrats opposed the FCC’s move to repeal the rules, echoing similar numbers from other surveys, including those funded by the cable industry.

Most technology reporters I've read are pessimistic about the chances of reversing the net neutrality repeal. State of the Art columnist at The New York Times, Farhad Manjoo, goes further:

”As I’ve noted often in the last few years, big companies have been crushing small ones over and over again for much of the last decade,” he wrote on the day repeal took effect.

“One lesson from everything that has happened online recently — Facebook, the Russians and Cambridge Analytica; bots and misinformation everywhere — is that, in the absence stringent rules and enforcement, everything on the internet turns sour. Removing the last barriers to unfair competition will only hasten that process.

“It’s not going to be pretty.”

Nevertheless, there is strong pushback from a majority of states. In a variety of forms, more than 30 are producing their own net neutrality legislation. Here is a map of those efforts from the National Regulatory Research Institute (NRRI). The legend in the main image is too small to easily read so here is a larger version of it:

StateActionsLegend

NetNeutralityStateActions680

Follow this link and scroll down to view details of the efforts in the states.

It is not clear that all these attempts to restore net neutrality locally are legal or that all will succeed. Some of those some states and a few others are suing the FCC over net neutrality. Here is that map:

States-suing-the-federal-communications-commission680

The Times reporter, Farhad Manjoo, spoke with one of the two Democratic commissioners at the FCC:

“'History shows us that companies that have the technical capacity to do things, the business incentive to do them and the legal right — they will take advantage of what is made available to them,' said Jessica Rosenworcel, an F.C.C. commissioner and a Democrat, who voted against the repeal of net neutrality last year.

“'Now they can block websites and censor online content,' Ms. Rosenworcel said. 'That doesn’t make me feel good — and if you rely on the internet to consume or create, it shouldn’t make you feel good, either.'”

Also, there are continuing efforts in the House of Representatives to restore net neutrality. You can add your name here.

It is easy in such circumstances as this to feel impotent. But it takes only a small amount of effort and it couldn't hurt to telephone your representative or at least, send an email. You can get that information here.



Pancreatic Cancer One Year Later, Plus The Alex and Ronni Show

At the bottom of today's story is the latest episode of The Alex and Ronni Show. Some of the conversation relates to this post and - god help us, there's more kitty talk.

* * *

On this date a year ago, I spent 12 hours under anesthesia while a surgeon and his many associates in that room poked around in my wide-open torso removing and/or rearranging several organs or parts thereof with the goal of saving my life.

Here is what I looked like directly after they stapled me back together and then carefully watched over me until I was allowed to go home 11 days later.

WhippleRecoveryCU2017_07_21680IMG_4246

My friend and health care proxy Autumn Schoen, who traveled from New Jersey to be with me that week, took the photo at my request – I wanted to know what I looked like after such a formidable and frightening procedure. (Thank god they put you to sleep.)

If you recall, Autumn also did an terrific job of keeping you up to date on my progress with her blog posts (here, here and here) until I could write them again myself.

What the surgeons did that day is called the Whipple Procedure, also known as a pancreaticoduodenectomy. (Yeah, just try to pronounce that.)

Although the surgeon had pulled no punches explaining how difficult it would be for me, particularly the recovery, I still was not prepared for how awful the first couple of months turned out to be.

Getting through that period is the hardest thing I've ever done. Nothing in my life comes close. Many mornings I seriously wished I had rejected the surgery and just let myself die.

Slowly, however, it got better. Before the surgery, I had stocked up on frozen foods since I knew I wouldn't be able to cook for awhile. Friends and neighbors generously shopped for me, cleaned Ollie the cat's litter box, took out the trash, drove me to medical appointments and that's just the daily, practical stuff.

They also were there with moral support through those first couple of hard months and the entire year following, too, as I gradually improved. Except for a couple of remaining small issues, I have designated myself 95 percent recovered.

Even better, several tests over the past five months show I am free of cancer, the doctors say. Since it's pancreatic cancer we're talking about and hardly anyone survives even a year, I must have been Mother Teresa in a past life to have gotten this far.

As I said in a previous post,

“This definitely is a grace – defined by Christians as an unearned, unmerited, undeserved favor from god. If like me, god is a tricky concept for you, think of it as the same kind of gift but from the universe.”

It is impossible for me to properly express my gratitude not only to those friends and neighbors who helped at home but to the dozens of doctors, nurses, technicians and the many other kinds of care givers and helpers at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) who have been there every step of the way with their unfailing knowledge, expertise, compassion, understanding, encouragement and kindness.

Getting to where I am, however, is not like healing a broken leg - finished and done with after six weeks or so. I am acutely aware that the cancer can return and often does, and that's not easy to live with.

Until a year ago, even with my long-term annoyance at television and radio commercials for prescription drugs, I had no idea how frequent and frightening cancer “cure” commercials are. I don't suppose it occurred to me, pre-diagnosis, that they could apply to my circumstance. That's different now.

These days, I am incapable of ignoring them and cannot bear to hear them. As a result, I have become masterly swift at hitting the mute button when those adverts appear.

Surely I've mentioned several times over this past year that the last thing I have wanted is to become a professional patient. Ha! How naive of me.

Nobody can take up to 20 pills a day, count them out weekly into their little container compartments, keep up with refills so not to run out (somehow, they never need replenishing on the same day or week) and not be reminded several times a day that you will always be a patient now.

I've tried to make jokes about how my doctors, lab attendants, nurses and others at OHSU are now the major part of my social life but it's actually not a joke – I see some of them more frequently than friends and in fact, some have become friends of a kind I don't have a word for. But it is a good thing.

So I've had to make peace with being a professional patient. And I'm getting good at it. When I gave a doctor the daily notes I had made over several weeks tracking the internal bleed (now fixed), he said, “I wish all our patients made lists like this for us.”

Until the cancer diagnosis, I had lived a remarkably healthy life for 75-odd years. The worst that happened was a bad flu every few years and I didn't give my well-being much thought beyond keeping up with exercise fairly regularly and relatively healthy food.

But I'm a different person now. I am not as comfortable in my skin, nor in my mind and I no longer trust my body. Too often a minor pain or twitch leaves me asking myself if it's cancer-related. I need to gird myself before checking each new set of test results online.

When I'm tired toward the end of each day – which is still much earlier in the afternoon than before all this happened - my thoughts turn dark. My more rational self tells me to let it go, just live, enjoy this extra time I've been given and I'm usually able to do that. Until next time, and then I start over.

I don't yet understand the consequences of the changes that have come over me. So much of this year has been – and still is - taken up with the busy-ness of having – or, having had - a terrible disease that there is not always time for usual tasks, let alone complex reflection.

But now that I am better, maybe I can devote some thought to how I am different and what, if anything, it means.

You're reading all this today because so many of you have been here throughout this long, strange trip and because today is a milestone, an anniversary of consequence in my life.

Before writing today's post, I re-read every “cancer post” I've written along with every comment from you, dear readers. You, collectively, have been my daily rock with your constant and continuing support, encouragement and kind responses.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Now, on to the second anniversary.

* * *

Here is latest episode of The Alex and Ronni Show.

If you would like to see Alex's entire two-hour show with other guests after me, you can do that at Facebook or Gabnet on Facebook or on YouTube.



How Brains Change in Old Age

Following my 12-hour surgery last year, I was plagued with what I learned is popularly called “anesthesia brain,” a relative of “chemo brain.”

Among the symptoms are

Confusion
Difficulty concentrating
Difficulty finding the right word
Difficulty multitasking
Being disorganized
Feeling of mental fogginess
Short attention span

Inability to concentrate, mental fogginess and shortened attention span were my biggest difficulties. For a few weeks, it affected my ability to carry on conversations, to read and even to follow a movie or TV plot.

I had no trouble knowing the meaning of each word, but there was a lag time of a second or two in putting together the meaning of an entire sentence – just enough for me to notice (and be irritated by) the slowdown of my brain. I learned to take notes when doctors were speaking with me so not to lose important information.

Nurses in the hospital assured me this was a temporary consequence of long anesthesia and that it would dissipate over time.

Fortunately it did, but the experience of the temporary diminished cognition got me wondering how anesthesia brain compares to the brain changes that can accompany old age. The U.S. National Institute on Aging (NIA) tell us that among common changes to thinking in old age are

Increased difficulty finding words and recalling names
More problems with multi-tasking
Mild decreases in the ability to pay attention

Sounds a lot like anesthesia brain to me. In fact, however, I couldn't multi-task well when I was 20 or 30, and recalling words and names? Don't even ask. But the NIA also tells us that elders have more knowledge and inisight due to a lifetime of experience and contrary to all-too-common myth, can still

Learn new things
Create new memories
Improve vocabulary and language skills

A frustrating thing about looking into brain and cognition science is that researchers, as hard at work as they are, don't know much. Almost every statement includes such weasel words as: it may be, the results suggest, could be associated with, is far from clear, etc.

In a story from last year, Medical News Today (MNT) tells us that

”As we age, all our body systems gradually decline - including the brain. 'Slips of the mind' are associated with getting older. People often experienced those same slight memory lapses in their 20s and yet did not give it a second thought.

“Older individuals often become anxious about memory slips due to the link between impaired memory and Alzheimer's disease. However, Alzheimer's and other dementias are not a part of the normal aging process.”

Here is some of what is known about normal physical changes to the brain as we grow old – again from MNT:

Brain mass: Shrinkage in the frontal lobe and hippocampus - areas involved in higher cognitive function and encoding new memories - starting around the age of 60 or 70 years.

Cortical density: Thinning of the outer-ridged surface of the brain due to declining synaptic connections. Fewer connections may contribute to slower cognitive processing.

White matter: White matter consists of myelinated nerve fibers that are bundled into tracts and carry nerve signals between brains cells. Myelin is thought to shrink with age, and as a result, slow processing and reduce cognitive function.

Neurotransmitter systems: Researchers suggest that the brain generates less (sic) chemical messengers with aging, and it is this decrease in dopamine, acetylcholine, serotonin, and norepinephrine activity that may play a role in declining cognition and memory and increased depression.

(Did you notice all the weasel words: may, is thought to, suggests, etc.? It can't be helped with science's current level of understanding.)

Nevertheless, eventual results from such studies will help researchers discover what therapies and strategies can help slow or prevent brain decline. Meanwhile, you probably know the current prescription to help preserve cognitive ability:

Regular physical activity
Be socially active
Manage stress
Eat healthy foods
Get enough sleep
Pursue intellectually stimulating activities

In regard to the last item, sales of so-called brain games bring in millions if not billions of dollars a year to their purveyors who promise their products will improve or, at least maintain memory and brain function. Studies are showing otherwise.

A year ago, Psychology Today reported on a study from The Journal of Neuroscience:

”The results were disappointing. There was no effect on brain activity, no effect on cognitive performance, and no effect on decision-making.

“The participants who trained with Lumosity did improve on the cognitive assessment, but so did the control group and so did a group who played no games whatsoever.

“In other words, it wasn’t the game that was having an effect. Kable attributes the gains to the fact that everyone had taken the test once before.

Research into ageing brains is not far enough along for us to have much understanding of who may be afflicted with declining function and who not.

Meanwhile, I'm sticking with those suggestions for maintaining a healthy brain because it is well known that they also contribute to good health overall.



ELDER MUSIC: Classical Families

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.

* * *

In the past I have written of several of the more famous classical families – J.S. Bach and his sons plus their extended family, Mozart's father and son, the brothers Joseph and Michael Haydn and some others.

What I have today are some families who aren't as well known as those. Quite a few of them, the majority really, are Czech composers.

I'll start with the Stamitz family. JOHANN STAMITZ was a major composer in the period between the baroque and classical periods. He’s the first of our Czech composers, born Jan Stamic.

Johann Stamitz

Johann was the link between J.S. Bach and Mozart, and was contemporaneous with CPE Bach, the most famous son of the master - although he didn't live anywhere near as long CPE, but longer than Mozart, dying at age 39.

Jo was important in the development of the symphony. He created the four movement structure that is (mostly) the standard to this day. He also expanded the role of wind instruments.

Having said all that, I’m going to play the first movement of his Orchestral Trio in C minor, Op.4 No. 3.

♫ Johann Stamitz - Orchestral Trio in c minor Op.4 No. 3 (1)


Johann had two sons who became quite well known in their time as composers. He also had a daughter who didn’t go into the music biz. The elder, and better known, son was CARL STAMITZ.

_Carl Stamitz

Like his dad, Carl wrote a bunch of symphonies and concertos for various wind instruments. He travelled extensively but eventually tired of that and settled down in central Germany.

Alas, he fell on hard times and died in poverty. To hear what he can do with wind instruments, here is his Clarinet Quartet in A major Op14 No 6, the first movement.

♫ Carl Stamitz - Clarinet Quartet in A major op14 No6 (1)


Next son was ANTON STAMITZ.

Anton Stamitz

Both brothers were taught violin by their dad, and that remained Ant’s main instrument. He went to Paris with his brother and he established himself there. Later, he played at Versailles. He spent the rest of his life in France, but little is known of what happened to him after the revolution.

He is thought to have died in 1809. Here is his Caprice No 1 in G.

♫ Anton Stamitz - Caprice No 1 in G


Next we have father and son Hertel, the father being JOHANN CHRISTIAN HERTEL. Alas, no picture of him.

JCH’s dad was also a musician, a capellmeister in a couple of places. JCH taught himself to play the violin and later took lessons in various keyboards and viola da gamba. Although he was quite a prolific composer, much of his work has been lost or wasn’t published at all.

Something of his we do know is Sinfonia No. 1, for 3 trumpets, timpani, 2 violins, viola and continuo in D minor. Here is the third movement.

♫ J.C. Hertel - Sinfonia No. 1 (3)


J.C.’s son was JOHANN WILHELM HERTEL.

JW Hertel

JWH was a whiz on the harpsichord and often accompanied his dad when he toured. He was also pretty good on the violin, having learnt from Franz Benda (see below). In later life he mostly wrote music, and occasionally gave lessons.

One of his compositions is the Bassoon Concerto in E-flat major. This is the first movement. Bassoon players like him as there aren’t many works for the instrument.

♫ Johann Wilhelm Hertel - Bassoon Concerto in E-flat major (1)


The half-brothers Wranitzky came from Nová Říše in the Czech Republic. I'll stick with their more common spelling of their name and start with the elder, PAUL WRANITZKY (or Pavel Vranický).

Paul Wranitzky

He spent most of his life in Vienna where he became friendly with Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. Indeed, he was so respected by them that both Haydn and Beethoven often chose Paul to conduct their new works. He composed the usual operas, symphonies, string quartets and the like.

Also concertos, of course, including the Cello Concerto in C Major. Op. 27. This is the second movement.

♫ Paul Wranitzky - Cello Concerto in C Major. Op. 27 (2)


ANTON WRANITZKY (or Antonín Vranický) was Paul’s younger brother.

A. Wranitzky

Ant was a highly regarded violinist and initially he’d travel between Prague and Vienna (and towns along the way). At the urging of Paul he finally settled in Vienna where he got to know the musical bigwigs as well.

His compositions were well thought of at the time and are still played today. His two daughters and two sons all became performers. This is the first movement of the String Sextet in G major.

♫ Anton Wranitzky - String Sextet in G major (1)


We have yet another Czech family, this time it’s the Benda crew, starting with FRANZ BENDA (or František Benda).

Franz Benda

Franz was considered the top violin player of his time and he wrote a number of books on the subject (as well as other books). He also spent some time as a composer for Frederick the Great, which means that he wrote a bunch of music for the flute as old Fred had a penchant for the instument. One of those is the Flute Concerto in E Minor, the first movement.

♫ Franz Benda - Flute Concerto in E Minor (1)


Franz’s younger brother was GEORG ANTON BENDA (or Jiří Antonín Benda).

Georg Benda

Like his big brother he played in Fred’s band, in his case as a violinist. He later skipped around Germany and Austria performing and composing. One of the things he wrote was the Symphony No. 3 in C Major. This is the first movement.

To continue the family tradition, it is played by the Prague Symphony Orchestra conducted by Christian Benda, a direct descendant of Franz.

♫ Georg Benda - Symphony No. 3 in C Major (1)


Franz had a daughter who followed her dad into the composing trade. Her name was JULIANE REICHARDT.

Juliane Reichardt

Juliane was living with the family in Potsdam where dad was playing in Fred’s band. Also playing was Johann Reichardt whom she married. Juliane was an excellent singer, pianist and composer.

One of her compositions is the Sonata in G major, the second movement. It’s played on a fortepiano, the forerunner of the modern piano.

♫ Juliane Reichardt - Sonata in G major (2)


The Reichardts had two kids, the second of whom was LOUISE REICHARDT (or Luise, both spellings seem to be in common use).

Louise Reichardt

Louise wrote songs and choral music. She was also a conductor of her works but not in public as the powers that be didn’t allow that sort of thing. She tried to marry twice but both times the husband-to-be died shortly before the wedding. Hmm.

One of Louise’s vocal works is Unruhiger Schlaf. It is sung by soprano Susan Owen-Leinert.

♫ Louise Reichardt - Sonata in G major (2)


The Benda line continues to the present day. In the Czech Republic, Christian Benda is a conductor and his brother Georg Benda a classical pianist. They are descended from the original Franz Benda.



INTERESTING STUFF – 16 June 2018

WHY THE TOWER OF PISA DOESN'T FALL OVER

And why it leans in the first place:

More at the Washington Post.

YOUR BRAIN ON READING

On Monday in these pages, Crabby Old Lady complained about video/audio only news stories and explained (along with many commenters) why she prefers reading. Then, a few days ago, she ran across this story at Medium.

”Your brain on books,” explains writer Thomas Oppong, “is active — growing, changing and making new connections and different patterns, depending on the type of material you’re reading.”

He goes on to explain that reading heightens brain connectivity, enhances the ability to reason, improves emotional intelligence and concentration. In addition,

”Reading involves several brain functions, including visual and auditory processes, phonemic awareness, fluency, comprehension, and more.

“The same neurological regions of the brain are stimulated by reading about something as by experiencing it.

“According to the ongoing research at Haskins Laboratories for the Science of the Spoken and Written Word, reading, unlike watching or listening to media, gives the brain more time to stop, think, process, and imagine the narrative in from of us.

'Reading every day can slow down late-life cognitive decline and keeps the brains healthier.”

TGB readers probably don't need to be told to read but this is a good reminder anyway that audio- and video-only news reports fall short in maintaining brain health. Read more here.

WHY FLOWERS ARE NOT ALLOWED IN CONGRESS

Well, I can't say that I ever noticed or knew about the rule before watching this video but it's fun knowing this obscure little piece of political history.

This video has been removed due to complaints from readers. Sorry. I guess I screwed up the html although quite a number of readers have said they had no problem with it.

HOW NOT TO BE AN INVISIBLE OLD WOMAN

TGB reader NWpup sent this video from Alice Bad titled Se Cree Joven (She Thinks She's Young):

HAS SCIENCE INVENTED A WAY TO PULL CARBON DIOXIDE OUT OF THE AIR

Scientists at Harvard together with a company called Carbon Engineering, which is funded by Bill Gates, say they have created a way to cheaply pull carbon out of the air and that it can be done to scale.

“'What we’ve done is build a [direct-air capture] process that is—as much as possible—built on existing processes and technologies that are widespread in the world, said David Keith, a professor of applied physics at Harvard and the lead author of the new study. 'That’s why we think we have a reasonable possibility of scaling up.'”

And,

“'The strongest part of this paper, in my opinion, is the fact that they’ve actually tested the technology in a prototype plant for a few years. That’s a big deal, and offers a proof of principle that’s way stronger than simple calculations or computational models,' says Scott Hersey, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at Olin College.”

Of course there is a lot more to know and a lot more development first. But it worth reading about at The Atlantic and at Technology Review.

JOHN OLIVER ON THE MUELLER INVESTIGATION

Among the many reasons to keep up with host John Oliver's weekly HBO program, Last Week Tonight are the clarity he brings to complex topics and his sense of moral outrage at the politics under which we live these days in the U.S.

On last week's show, he dismantled the right wing's “stupid Watergate” method of attacking the Mueller investigation.

NEW WAY TO TREAT CAVITIES WITHOUT DRILLING?

Terrible teeth run in my family. Both my parents lost all of theirs by the time they were 40 and what left of mine are a few on my lower jaw. So this story is too late for me, but if it is real, if it becomes fact, what a boon for people like me and my family:

”Scientists have developed a new substance to treat dental cavities without making a costly and unpleasant trip to the dentist.

“Inspired by the proteins in our bodies which form teeth, the new product uses peptides—which are structurally similar to proteins—to repair the enamel on the part of the tooth which requires treatment...

“The researchers hope that the formulation could one day be sold in over-the-counter products such as toothpaste to prevent and treat tooth decay, or put into clinical products used by dentists.”

Some scientists are skeptical about the new research but after a lifetime of having spent tens of thousands of dollars on my teeth, a girl can hope even if it's too late for her.

Read more here.

KLM'S CANINE LOST-AND-FOUND WORKER

If I cared to check, I'm almost certain I've posted this video before but I want to believe it's real - it's so damned cute so here it is again. (Apologies to whoever sent it; I misplaced your name.)

Okay, I'm sure you already figured out the real story is that the video is a publicity stunt. You can read about it at the Washington Post.

* * *

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 and Their Guns

Pretty much all old people who live in places where public transporation is scarce resist the idea of giving up their car keys and dread reaching the day when it might become necessary. Who can blame us.

In recent years, families, physicians and caregivers are becoming more conscious of the need to help elders decide when it is time to stop driving, but what about firearms?

Do you own a gun or two or more? Does an elder you know or care for have access to guns? What about someone you know with dementia, even early dementia?

The size of the elder gun-owning population is larger than I had imagined. According to a Pew Social Trends survey, about 33 percent of people aged 65 and older in the U.S. owns a gun, and another 12 percent of that cohort lives with someone who does.

In addition, “A 1999 study estimated that 60% of persons with dementia (PWDs) live in a household with a firearm.” And, reports The New York Times,

”More than 8,200 older adults committed suicide in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among men, those over age 65 are the likeliest to take their lives, and three-quarters of them use a gun.”

Obviously the potential for tragedy involving elders with dementia who have access to guns is an important issue that hasn't been well addressed.

Last month, a group of physicians got together to publish an essay in Annals of Internal Medicine about this. In particular, they made a plea for the medical community and others to find a way to make life safer for people with dementia and their potential victims.

The doctors note that federal laws do not prohibit purchase or possession of firearms by people with dementia and only Hawaii and Texas mention those conditions in firearm statutes:

“Hawaii prohibits possession by any person under treatment for 'organic brain syndromes', which could include dementia or similar neurodegenerative conditions. In Texas, persons diagnosed with 'chronic dementia' are ineligible for a license to carry a handgun in public but may purchase and possess firearms.

“Many questions on firearm access in dementia remain unanswered,” wrote the doctors, “but the need to address the problem is here now.

“We believe that a concerted, cooperative effort making the best use of the data at hand can help prevent injuries and deaths while protecting the dignity and rights of older adults.”

There are plenty of anecdotes about near catastrophe involving guns and people with dementia. The authors note in the “Annals” essay that as dementia progresses, family members, health aides and other visitors can be at extreme risk. The Times article includes a story from Dr. Michael Victoroff, a family medicine specialist at the University of Colorado School of Medicine (and a certified firearms instructor):

”One of his patients, a retired police officer, had long slept with his service revolver by his bed. But as he neared age 80 and his dementia deepened, 'he would wake up at night and not recognize his wife, see her as a stranger in his house,' Dr. Victoroff said.

“Once Dr. Victoroff learned that the man had pointed the loaded .38 at his wife, the situation grew urgent. They turned to the man’s former partner on the police force, someone he trusted, to persuade him to give up his weapon.”

The essay doctors compare the firearms safety issue with that of driving and suggest that families should discuss giving up guns with relatives diagnosed with dementia. The best time to do that, they say, is when the person can still make decisions for him- or herself:

”Families might consider a so-called 'firearms retirement date,' when they will give up any guns in the home to avoid the potential for these weapons to be in the house when they’re no longer able to store them or use them safely, the paper’s authors suggest.

“Or, in much the same way that people may set up an advance directive giving a loved one the ability to make medical decisions on their behalf, older adults might designate someone they trust to have the authority to take away their guns when the time for this comes.”

Lead “Annals” author, Dr. Marian E. Betz, told Reuters, “'In later stages of dementia, behavioral issues like paranoia or aggression should raise concern, as should threats about suicide or threats towards others,' Betz said. 'Families and friends can then lock up or disable guns or move them out of the home, depending on what works for the family and according to state firearm transfer laws.'

“When guns do remain in the home, they should be locked so that the person with dementia doesn’t have unsupervised access to firearms, and they should be stored unloaded and separate from ammunition, the doctors also recommend.”

To me, never a gun user or owner, implementing these (and even stronger) safety recommendations for people with dementia seem as obvious as giving up driving licenses when the time comes. But according to The New York Times article, it is not as clearcut as I believe:

”Many gun enthusiasts argue that while driving is a privilege, the Constitution protects keeping and bearing arms. And they find firearms a crucial part of their identities and sense of security.

Here we go again – the same old Second Amendment argument, even for people with dementia. There has got to be a middle ground, don't you think?



How Old is Your Stuff?

About a year and a half ago, Next Avenue published a story about how adult children and grandchildren these days don't want their parents' “stuff”. As Susan Devaney, president of NASMM [National Association of Senior Move Managers] told the writer:

“'Young couples starting out don’t want the same things people used to have. They’re not picking out formal china patterns anymore.'”

The executive director of the NASMM agrees:

“'[Millennials are] an Ikea and Target generation. They live minimally, much more so than the boomers. They don’t have the emotional connection to things that earlier generations did,' she notes. 'And they’re more mobile. So they don’t want a lot of heavy stuff dragging down a move across country for a new opportunity.'”

I've heard this from other sources. Times and cultural preferences change.

Probably because I don't have children and grandchildren, I'm not as concerned as some that relatives would reject my stuff and I have been working recently on cleaning out the detritus so that when the time comes, it will be easier for Autumn to close down my home.

Well, that's a bit of a lie. I've been thinking about ridding myself of the lifetime of stuff and haven't gotten around to actually doing it. That's just laziness but in all this thinking I have been surprised at how old so much of my stuff is.

When I was a kid, it was my job to polish the sterling silver every week. Oh, how I hated that boring job. Now, however, I've had that silver flatware since my mother died in 1992, saving it for dinner parties which are a rare occurrences these days.

(Funny how attitudes change when you grow up. I now recall those Saturday polishing sessions in the 1950s fondly.)

My mother began buying her silver in the late 1930s, piece by piece and when the family had a bit more money, place setting by place setting.

Those knives and forks and spoons I finally decided to use every day are nearly 90 years old and some pieces are pretty beat up but they connect me to my childhood and I like using them.

My set of china came from my great aunt and her sister, my grandmother, each of whom collected over decades one dish, one cup, one bowl, etc. at a time of the same 19th and early 20th century pattern while sharing extras to help one another complete their collections. I like using it every day.

Even my sofa has a long history. I bought it in 1983 at a Salvation Army resale shop (thank you, Joyce) for $250. It was already old then – an antique dealer friend told me it was at least 40 or 50 years old – but newly recovered, and I've never had a reason to get rid of it. I still like it.

Clothing too. I lost enough weight due to the surgery last year that a lot doesn't fit me now but is good enough for resale shops so I have emptied some of my closet (the only actual recycling I've done).

Even with that, I'm amazed at how old some of my clothing is – ten or so teeshirts, more than 20 years; two coats, 30-plus years; a few sweaters, at least 20 years

A good deal of my cooking equipment is ancient. In fact, I have the first pan I bought when I left home in 1958 – a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Several strainers and graters go back at least to the early 1970s and I noticed the other day that my best knives, still in good shape, date to 1977 or so, if I recall correctly but close enough.

Then there is my grandmother's hand-made quilt. I found it, never used, when my brother and I cleaned out her home after her death. She was born in 1892, and in those days girls in their teens made quilts for their trousseaux.

That makes it about 110 years old. It had been sitting on a shelf since Grandma Hazel died in 1984, and only in recent years did I pull it down to use on my bed in the warm months.

HazelsQuilt500

It's a remarkably modern design for its time, don't you think.

I'm impressed by the age of this stuff I have used for so long but by far, the oldest thing I own has no personal connection - it is a handle broken off a 2500-year-old amphora that an archaeologist at a dig I visited in Israel in 1999 (thank you, Sali) let me keep.

I like touching it regularly, holding it in my hand, placing my thumb in the indentation undoubtedly made by the thumb of the worker who crafted it.

To hold it awes me in the same way walking the old city of Jerusalem does: both strengthen my sense of belonging to the family of mankind - that people have walked those same streets, put their feet in the same places I put mine, for 5,000 years and we are all linked one to another through these many centuries.

Some people have no attachment to things, to stuff. As the above shows, that's not me. I like the memories that come with wearing old clothes, using those excellent knives I spent too much money on (and am glad I did) and even what I once thought of as that damned sterling silver.

When I was young, very young, the idea of living half a century was impossible to imagine – to me then, it might as well have been as long as Jerusalem has been there.

Now at age 77, I have no trouble knowing what living 50 years is like and more, I can see how certain pieces of my stuff, having been part of my daily life for decades, mean too much to my sense of myself and my life to get rid of any time soon.

(Sorry, Autumn, you'll have to figure out what to do with it when the time comes.)

Now, dear readers, it's your turn. How old is your stuff? What does it mean to you? Or maybe you're one who doesn't get attached to things. Let us know.



Crabby Old Lady and Audio-Only News

Crabby Old Lady winds up in a snit these days every time she reads – or, rather, TRIES to read - online news.

Certainly she has her favorite news websites, but Crabby regularly visits a wide variety of other news sources too, several dozen in fact, and although she can't read every one every day, she's familiar with them all from her decades of use.

For several years now, however, a growing phenomenon is making it harder and harder for Crabby to find written news stories (you know, the kind with detail and explanation, the kind that make it easy to backtrack when she wants to re-read a sentence or paragraph) because more and more news websites are publishing all or some of their stories as video only without providing a transcript.

By their nature, video news stories are always more shallow and less informative than written ones because the medium does not lend itself to explanation and detail.

(Documentaries are a different animal. Their length allows producers to present a more thorough report than one-to-three minute news pieces can accomplish.)

Crabby doubts she is the only person who knows that it takes at least twice as long and sometimes more to watch a news video than to read a written one.

Further, she can't skip forward watching a video because she has no way to know if the information she wants is next. With words on paper or a screen, she can always skim the tiresome parts.

Video news can be useful when Crabby can listen while she has something mindless to do – wash the dishes, make the bed, etc. But it doesn't do much for understanding our complicated world; that requires the concentration that reading involves.

Even the grand dames of legacy publishing are posting more video/audio-only stories, The New York Times, the Washington Post among them. And Crabby watches hardly any of it mainly for the reasons stated but also because the majority are so poorly produced and written.

And according to at least one source, Crabby isn't the only person who rejects video/audio-only reports.

A two-year-old study from Digital News Publications found that except during times of important breaking news, online video news is driven more by “technology, platforms and publishers” than consumer demand.

”Around 75% of respondents to a Reuters Institute survey of 26 countries said they only occasionally (or never) use video news online.”

But the respondents were watching more news video on third-party sites such as Facebook, Snapchat, etc. and further, according to the study:

”We find that the most successful off-site and social videos tend to be short (under one minute), are designed to work with no sound (with subtitles), focus on soft news, and have a strong emotional element.”

Which may account for the gazillions of cute kitty video compilations.

Crabby doesn't recall where but she was encouraged recently to read that after dramatic drop-offs, book sales are up slightly giving her reason to believe that reading which, unlike video news, requires actual thought might not be deteriorating after all. But then this turned up last week:

Michael Lewis, one of the most successful non-fiction book writers in the world (with good reason) announced that his next magazine article will be published only in audio:

“'You’re not going to be able to read it, you’re only going to be able to listen to it,' Mr. Lewis [told The New York Times]. 'I’ve become Audible’s first magazine writer.'”

Michael Lewis just lost one fan. Can others be far behind?

The Times tells us that other top-line writers including Robert Caro and Jeffrey Deaver have signed on to publish with Audible, which is also producing original audio books, even plays.

Crabby believes there is a place for audio books (as long as they are also available in print or on screen), and given a long drive or train trip, for example, she would probably stock up.

Her problem is that she doesn't commute anymore and it doesn't take long enough to wash dishes or make the bed to be bothered.

People our age have seen an amazing number of ideas, inventions and technological advances we could not have guessed at when we were young and there is a tendency to believe that new is always good. Crabby Old Lady doesn't believe that - especially about audio-only news and books.



ELDER MUSIC: Jesse Winchester

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.

* * *

I first heard of JESSE WINCHESTER via a rave review in Rolling Stone for his first album in 1970. When I read that several members of The Band were involved I bought it immediately.

After listening to it I was hooked. He is one performer I would always go and see wherever possible and buy each new album (there haven't been all that many). Unfortunately there won't be any more new albums as Jesse died in 2014 at the too young age of 69.

Jesse Winchester

From that first album a song that resonated with me at the time (and a couple of other times later), Yankee Lady.

♫ Yankee Lady


The song If I Were Free had to be present, but I was tossing up whether to include the version from his album "Humour Me" or the one he performed here in Victoria just with an acoustic guitar.

In the end I decided on the latter as it demonstrates the song beautifully without extraneous instruments getting in the way. I suppose I could have done that with all the songs, but I didn't.

♫ If I Were Free


Jesse Winchester

Getting back to his first album we have The Brand New Tennessee Waltz. This was one of his songs that showed his ambivalence of living in Canada while his roots were in the south of America. Jesse recorded it on another album as a country tune but I prefer the original. Besides it has a couple of members of The Band playing along.

♫ The Brand New Tennessee Waltz


Jesse Winchester

The album that comes closest to the quality of the first one is "Gentleman of Leisure". The next song is the opening track on that one. In Club Manhattan, Jesse has a line, "Just close your eyes, he's a young Steve Cropper" referring to the guitar player in the club.

In a bit of a sly joke, he has the not-so-young-anymore Steve Cropper playing lead guitar on the track, a track where Jesse gets as close to rock & roll as he ever did. Steve was the guitarist for Booker T and the MGs.

♫ Club Manhattan


Jesse Winchester

Jesse was the master of the self-deprecating love song. The best was probably If I Were Free but No Pride at All isn’t far behind.

♫ No Pride at All


Jesse Winchester

Jesse was born in Louisiana but grew up in Mississippi, so he knows about that region. One of his most famous, and most atmospheric, songs refers to that - Biloxi.

♫ Biloxi


Jesse Winchester

Now a song that Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, pretty much insisted must be present. It's one that, unusually for me, I was only vaguely familiar with. That's been rectified. That song is A Showman's Life.

♫ A Showman's Life


I thought that the song Tell Me Why You Like Roosevelt came from the thirties, but when I researched it I found it was written and first recorded in 1946. Otis Jackson was responsible for it then. Here is Jesse’s updated (to the mid-seventies) version.

♫ Tell Me Why You Like Roosevelt


Jesse Winchester

Like many musicians, Jesse would pick his instrument and play it in times of stress. He turned that into a fine love song (or a love gone wrong song). It doesn’t matter, it’s still beautiful. I Turn to My Guitar.

♫ I Turn to My Guitar


Jesse Winchester

The song Nothing But a Breeze contains the wonderful line, "I want to live with my feet in Dixie and my head in the cool blue North". This probably summed up his situation at the time perfectly, as he was from the south of the USA but was living in Montreal.

♫ Nothing But a Breeze


Jesse Winchester

As you've been such a good audience (and besides, it's Jesse), here is a bonus track, Dangerous Fun.

♫ Dangerous Fun



INTERESTING STUFF – 9 June 2018

THE VANISHING LINGO OF NEW YORK SODA JERKS

There is a fascinating article at Atlas Obscura about the slang of soda jerks during the heyday of their existence. There were

”...half a million employed at tens of thousands of soda fountains across the United States in the 1930s and 1940s. They had white coats, swift fingers, and even swifter tongues—indeed, their linguistic concoctions were as much of a draw as the sweet treats they served up.”

SodaJerkLOC

Some examples of those linguistic concoctions:

• All Black: Chocolate soda with chocolate ice cream
• Add Another: Coffee
• Baby: Glass of fresh milk
• Black Bottom: Chocolate sundae with chocolate syrup
• Black Cow: Root beer
• C. O. Cocktail: Castor oil prepared in soda
• Canary Island Special: Vanilla soda with chocolate cream
• Choc In: Chocolate soda
• Choker Holes: Doughnuts
• Coffee And: Cup of coffee and cake
• Cowcumber: Pickle
• Draw Some Mud: Coffee

Visit Atlas Oscura for more of the soda jerk slang and the story of the now long-gone drug store phenomenon.

TWINKIES IN THE PARK WITH GOD

Trust me – you're going to be charmed by this:

SHERLOCK HOLMES ACTOR FENDS OFF CYCLIST ATTACKER

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch has played a fine Sherlock Holmes in a television series set in the modern day and co-produced by the BBC and WGBH. Recently, in London, the actor went to the aid of a bicyclist attacked by a muggers:

”His actions meant the attackers fled, it was claimed, as he bravely fended the perpetrators off who allegedly smashed the cyclist over the head with a bottle,” reported The Telegraph.

“According to witnesses, he dragged the four muggers off the victim, who was in his 20s, after screaming at them to leave him alone. One of the men had tried to steal the cyclist’s bike, but nothing was stolen.”

And it all happened just around the corner from 221B Baker Street, here is Cumberbatch with Martin Freeman who plays Dr. John Watson in the series.

Dr_john_watson_benedict_cumberbatch

CANON ENDS SALE OF ITS LAST FILM CAMERA

A sign of the times, the end of era.

Actually, the company stopped production of their last film camera, the EOS-1v, in 2010, since then they have been selling remaining stock.

”The translated page from Canon’s website delivers the news casually: 'Thank you very much for your continued patronage of Canon products. By the way, we are finally decided to end sales for the film single lens reflex camera ‘EOS – 1v...'

“Although this means Canon is no longer selling any film cameras, it doesn’t spell the death of film — at least, not yet. Nikon still sells two film cameras, the F6 and FM10.”

One more thing we will need to explain to the younger set – that we used to drop off film (what's film? they will ask) at the drugstore and wait a week to see our photos.

More information at The Verge.

THE FEATHER FAMILY OF FRANCE

As the YouTube page explains:

”Since 1929, Maison Février has been responsible for adorning cabaret performers in an extravagant array of gear and garb. They have created elaborate costumes for greats, such as Josephine Baker and Zizi Jeanmaire. Today, under the watchful eye of Editte Février, the latest generation of the 'feather family' continues the legacy, spending months creating showstopping garments for the storied cabaret, Moulin Rouge.”

CUCLI

At 17 minutes, this video is a good deal longer than I usually post but I think you will find it worth your time.

It tells the story of Ramon, a widow and long-distance truck driver who lives with his parents. He has a special companion on those trips who has helped lift his grief and taught him a new kind of love.

There is some more information at Aeon.

CARTOONIST BLOWBACK

Whatever you think of Donald Trump, he has given new life to editorial and political cartoonists. In fact, he supplies so much material that there is hardly any other subject for cartoonists these days.

Darlene Costner emailed this one after the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

TrumpBakery

LIVING IN THE ROUND

According to the YouTube page:

Located about an hour outside Amsterdam is a village of spherical homes straight out of your futuristic fantasies. From a distance, Bolwoningen’s domes appear to be a set of golf balls, but up close, they are the architectural masterpiece of Dutch artist and sculptor Dries Kreijkamp.

“Built in 1984, each home contains three levels with round windows that give view to the scenic canal. The intent of the complex was to bring residents closer to nature.

ANOTHER INTERSPECIES FRIENDSHIP

If you've been here for awhile, you know I can't resist interspecies friendship. Here's another from reader Cathy Johnson – a prairie dog and a German shepherd.

* * *

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.


How Long Do You Want to Live?

EDITORIAL NOTE: At the bottom of this post is the latest episode of The Alex and Ronni Show - a now-and-then conversation between me, the proprietor of Time Goes By, and my former husband, Alex Bennett. There is a lot of health talk in this one with a lot of laughing too. But first, some thoughts about living for hundreds, even a thousand years.

* * *

In just 100 years, average life expectancy at birth worldwide has more than doubled, from 31 years in 1900 to 69 years in 2016. It differs wildly among nations from 50 years in Sierra Leone to 83 years in Japan.

However, the longer we live, the higher our life expectancy becomes so currently, average world-wide life expectancy at age 65 ranges from 74.7 years in Sierra Leone to 86.8 in Japan.

Throughout history, humankind has sought eternal youth - we are familiar with Ponce de Leon's search for the fountain of youth along with other who sought the storied philosopher's stone, varieties of panaceas and the elixir of life.

Today, people are looking harder than ever for a magic formula that will allow people to live to be hundreds of years old.

Some people put stock in learning about how to extend their lives from the “blue zones” scattered around the world. Blue zones, explains Reuben Westmaas at curiosity.com is, broadly,

”...a place where people live to be 100 at extraordinarily high rates, have an extraordinarily average high life expectancy, or an extraordinarily low mortality rate for middle-aged people.”

Millions of others believe a variety of supplements peddled online by hundreds of people claiming to be life extension “experts” will keep them alive for longer than without the supplements.

One of the earliest extreme longevity researchers is Aubrey de Grey, chief scientific officer at his own charity, the partially self-funded Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (Sens) Research Foundation in California. de Grey claims the first person to live to be 1,000 is already alive.

Here's a little video about de Grey from Canada's National Post. (Thank you, doctafil, for the link):

Zillionaire Silicon Valley venture capitalist, Peter Thiel, who helps fund de Grey's research firm, is among some other wealthy individuals who are funding life extension and anti-aging research. Australian geneticist David Sinclair believes a pill that would extend human life is only 10 years away.

The two founders of Google are spending spending big bucks on extending life too:

”In 2013, Google started Calico, short for the California Life Company. Employing scientists from the fields of medicine, genetics, drug development and molecular biology, Calico's aim is to 'devise interventions that slow ageing and counteract age-related diseases.'”

Another tech billionaire, Larry Ellison, funds a research foundation that goes even further with a related, more expansive idea. The Guardian explains:

”They investigate the details of the ageing process with a view to finding ways to prevent it at its root, thereby fending off the whole slew of diseases that come along with ageing.

“Life expectancy has risen in developed countries from about 47 in 1900 to about 80 today, largely due to advances in curing childhood diseases. But those longer lives come with their share of misery. Age-related chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, stroke and Alzheimer’s are more prevalent than ever.”

Jay Olshansky, a sociologist at The University of Chicago School of Public Heath, rejects the standard approach of curing one disease at a time. He believes the life extension goal can be reached by concentrating on “healthspan” rather than lifespan:

”By tackling ageing at the root [heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's] could be dealt with as one, reducing frailty and disability by lowering all age-related disease risks simultaneously, says Olshansky. Evidence is now building that this bolder, age-delaying approach could work.”

And then we can all happily live de Grey's thousand years. Disease free. Right?

Every time I peruse the most recent life-extension literature, I am astonished that hardly anyone mentions the enormous drain on the planet's already strained resources that would ensue if we all lived hundreds of years.

South Africa and some other places are already running out of water. Once fertile lands around the world are turning into deserts. More frequent and disastrous weather events are wreaking havoc around the world. The oceans are rising and there are more problems to come from climate change that we have yet imagined.

Most basically, where would we put everyone? How would we feed them? The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that one-tenth of the world population, about 815 million people were dealing with chronic undernourishment in 2016.

I doubt that number has dropped in two years and I am hard pressed to believe that efforts to feed the hungry would be any better with a longer-lived world population than it is now.

Even if you can shrug that off, there are important ethical and philosophical questions. To scratch only the surface...

Would life be as meaningful without death?

How long would people be expected to work?

Would everyone's lives be extended or only rich people's?

Would marriage mean the same thing?

With more time, would people have more children?

Would life become boring?

Paul Root Wolpe, chief bioethicist for NASA and director of the center for ethics at Emory University, told the National Post:

“Look, I want to live to 150, too. I mean, don’t misunderstand me. I want to see my great-grandchildren. I want to see the first people on Mars. I want to see all that Aubrey [de Grey] wants to see. I just don’t pretend that it’s not a narcissistic desire because I can’t think of a single good that would give society.”

I'm with Wolpe on that. What about you? Would you want to live 200, 500, 1,000 years?

* * *

Here is the latest episode of The Alex and Ronni Show recorded on Wednesday 6 June 2018.

If you would like to see Alex's entire two-hour show with other guests after me, you can do that at Facebook or Gabnet on Facebook or on YouTube.


The Elder Guardianship Scam

A few days ago, TGB reader Kate Gilpin sent me an email about what she calls her “latest ageism tale from the trenches.”

”Yesterday I had lunch with three wonderful, smart, interesting, funny women,” she writes. “I was the youngest there, at 80, and two of them were over 90. We all live independently and quite competently, thank you.

“One of us told a story of her experience considering whether or not to have some solar panels put on her roof. She talked to a consultant - I don't know if this was on the phone or if the consultant came to the house (they usually do).

“After some discussion of what was available, what required, etc., the consultant announced to my friend that in order to sign a contract with them, she would need to have a younger family member present in the room to endorse the proceedings.

“No, really. They wouldn't accept her own responsibility. She thanked them immediately for their time and terminated the consultation.

“I was shocked at this report and asked among my friends of various ages for their reactions to this incident. I got an unsurprising number of replies expressing dismay.”

Dismay? Try loathsome. Offensive. Disgusting,

Nevertheless, this story is only a mild version of what can happen just about anywhere in the United States: that someone you've never met nor heard of arrives at your home unannounced waving a Family Court “removal order” that gives him or her “guardianship” over your entire life from that moment forward.

The “guardian” then orders you to leave you home immediately, drops you (and your spouse if you have one) off at an assisted living facility and then steals all your worldly goods and money.

I first read of this horrible racket in a stunning article in The New Yorker last October reported by the estimable Rachel Aviv. As she recounts it in her piece, titled “How the Elderly Lose their Rights,” Rudy and Rennie North were ordered out of their home in Las Vegas by April Parks, owner of a company called A Private Professional Guardian:

”'Go and gather your things,' she said.

“Rennie began crying. 'This is my home,' she said.

“One of Parks' colleagues said that if the Norths didn't comply he would call the police. Rudy remembers thinking, You're going to put my wife and me in jail for this? But he felt too confused to argue...

“Rudy and Rennie had not undergone any cognitive assessments. They had never received a diagnosis of dementia.”

And that is only the beginning of the ordeal they suffered over the next two years that included being drugged at the assisted living home, depriving the North's adult daughter of information about their whereabouts or their medical condition and refusing to allow the daughter to visit her parents.

There is not a word in this long New Yorker story that is not important or worth reading and if you have access to the magazine's archives, you can read it here.

If not, fortunately for us, all elders and their families, last Sunday John Oliver devoted the largest part of his HBO program, Last Week Tonight, to the story of Rudy and Rennie North and the nightmare of unregulated, unsupervised state guardianship programs.

Here is Oliver's report with the accompaniment of an all-star team of elder celebrities: William Shatner, Rita Moreno, Fred Willard, Cloris Leachman, and Lily Tomlin:

Even with all they suffered, Roy and Rennie North are, to a degree, lucky - they eventually got out of their forced incarceration; others taken from their homes against their will died before anything could be done to help them.

The North's home, money and belongings are gone now and they live with their daughter who will support them for the rest of their lives.

”Parks spent all the Norths' money on fees – the hourly wages for her, her assistants, her lawyers, and the various contractors she hired – as well as on their monthly bills, which doubled under her guardianship.”

What happened to Roy and Rennie and so many others is a form of elder abuse. Numbers are elusive but it is estimated that 10 percent of people 65 and older are abuse victims - from strangers such as April Parks and, too often, from family members.

One way to help protect yourself or loved ones from such predatory “guardians” is to have all the appropriate health and end-of-life documents in order. These include your will, an advance directive, durable power of attorney, health care proxy, your state's POLST (Physicians Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment – called a MOLST is some states) and others.

An elderlaw attorney is a great help and there is a lot of useful information online to help you understand these documents.

When your documents are in order, keep copies in a safe place in your home (my elderlaw attorney suggested the freezer and so they sit, in a sealed plastic envelope). Be sure the people named in the documents – heirs, relatives, proxies, etc. - have copies and that your physicians have copies of what they need too.

After a lot of work from concerned people, Nevada has begun reforming its guardianship system and April Parks, along with her lawyer, office manager and husband, were indicted for perjury and theft, among other charges.

Richard Black, who is the son-in-law of another elder victim of this kind of scam in the Las Vegas area, is director of a national grassroots organization, Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship. He, reports Aviv, considers the Parks indictment “irrefutably shallow.”

”'It sends a strong message of: We're not going to go after the real leaders of this, only the easy prople, the ones who were arrogant and stupid enough to get caught,” he said.

“He works with victims in dozens of what he calls 'hot spots', writes Aviv, “places where guardianship abuse is prevalent, often because they attract retirees: Palm Beach, Sarasota, Naples, Albuquerque, San Antonio.

“[Black] said that the problems in Clark County [Nevada] are not unusual. 'The only thing that is unique is that Clark County is one of the few jurisdictions that doesn't seal its records, so we can see what is going on.'”

This kind of thing begins in small ways and grows. If it is all right for a random sales person to refuse selling a service to anyone he alone decides is incapable of making a decision about solar panels, it lays the groundwork for worse abuses of elders.



Thrifty Elders

Last year, inflation was so low that Social Security recipients received only a 2 percent cost-of-living (COLA) increase for 2018. But that was a relatively giant raise compared to 2017 (.3 percent) and 2016 (nothing).

Of course, I can't speak for you, but I live almost entirely on Social Security (about 85 percent of my income) and in each of the named years above, my expenses for Medicare Part B, Part D and supplemental coverage along with auto insurance and certainly food increased at much high rates.

In no way do I mean you should think I'm destitute or anywhere near. For many obvious reasons, it is much less expensive to live in retirement than during earning years and every month I surprise myself that I have money left over to add to the emergency fund.

But not a year goes by that the increases in my fixed expenses don't go up between five and 10 percent.

That doesn't sound like much except that over even a few years, it adds up to a great deal more than the Social Security COLA covers so I worry a bit about future price hikes.

Even so, I don't feel deprived but I know a good number of elders who live on Social Security only and whose benefit is smaller than mine. In those cases, hardship can be a daily reality.

So for many of us frugality and thrift are in order and, at least for myself if not others, I'm pretty good at it.

My most successful single savings came not quite two years ago when my Verizon cell phone bill jumped to just over $105 a month. Fed up, I finally did the homework and switched to one of the small providers that gives me the same service – unlimited calls and texts and one gigabyte of data - for $22 a month. How great is that, and the service is as reliable as with Verizon.

Since then, however, expenses for necessities listed above have more than eaten up the $83 I saved in that one change.

There isn't much other wiggle room in my budget. I would be willing to cut cable TV from my life but that company is the only local broadband provider in my area and they charge more for internet-only than for internet with basic cable. (Grrrrrrrrrrrr.)

I may cancel Netflix soon. In the past year or two, the dreck increasingly exceeds the better quality offerings. But that saves only $10 a month. Amazon Prime is, even with the recent 20 percent per year increase, still worth it for me. I save hundreds of dollars on shipping costs each year and more often than not, prices are better than elsewhere online.

Over the past year I lost a lot of weight. So much so that I've had to replace part of my wardrobe. There are a couple of excellent resale shops here so I've done well to get the replacements I need while spending embarrassingly little, and several items were brand new.

I still prefer to read on paper than a screen of any size so I have kept a few hard-copy magazine subscriptions. Somehow my favorites are the most expensive but I'm going to continue them until I'm stretched too thin to not give them up.

It's easy to cut down on whim shopping especially (I'm being blunt here) having faced what I thought was certain death within a handful of months and so what could I possibly need to purchase.

Now that I have been given a reprieve from the cancer for whatever period of time, I've already got a year's practice in that kind of thrift.

That leaves the possibility for further cuts to types of necessary spending that can be down-sized, like food. On Saturday, I visited the second farmer's market day of the season and I was shocked that the price of a locally-made jam I like has increased from $5 to $7 over winter.

A bunch of six – SIX! - small, sweet turnips are up to $4.50 now while fresh halibut, never cheap, is $25 a pound. (I stuck with the cod.) It's high season for certain strawberries and I can't remember if a pint was $4 last year or less but that's the price now.

I'm not a rabid coupon cutter but I watch for sales especially on food items I like to always have in the house. That's what supermarkets are for and I suspect I'll be buying fewer items at the farmer's market this year.

I think we should all buy local when we can, to keep our dollars in the community, but the prices at that market this year take my breath away.

And, finally, restaurants. I don't eat out often enough to need to reduce that spending and there are some good, reasonably priced restaurants near me.

You've probably noticed that gas prices are up and expected to climb further over the summer. Some experts are predicting that depending on how Trump administration foreign and domestic policy changes play out, we could be in for increasing inflation (which has already climbed a couple of points this year) and higher prices in general.

So this would be a good time, I think, for us to crowdsource our best ideas to keep down personal and household expenses.

Most TGB readers are old enough to have weathered several economic downturns and a few remember growing up in the Great Depression. That ought to be good for some suggestions. Who among us are cutting back and how are you doing it? What are your best tips and secrets for surviving hard times?



ELDER MUSIC: Murder Ballads

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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Murder has been a topic of songs for centuries. I imagine it’s the same reason that it’s very popular in books, films and TV. People can get a vicarious thrill without all the messy reality. Today, most get their comeuppance, but not all. Here are some songs about murder.

I’ll start off gently with a song that doesn’t sound as if it fits, but it does. MICHAEL MARTIN MURPHEY can make even the worst material sound good (not worst musically, I’m talking about the content).

Michael Martin Murphey

In this case it’s one of the best known songs of the old west, The Streets of Laredo.

♫ Michael Martin Murphey - The Streets of Laredo


NICK CAVE released a whole album called “Murder Ballads” so there are plenty to choose from in that one. He has the help of KYLIE MINOGUE on the song I selected.

Nick & Kylie

As seems often the case in these songs, Nick bumps off Kylie just because he can. The song is Where the Wild Roses Grow.

♫ Nick Cave - Where the Wild Roses Grow


You knew JOHNNY CASH had to be present today, so I won’t disappoint.

Johnny Cash

Johnny’s song isn’t a tale of the old west, it’s a modern story. That’s not too surprising when you learn that Bruce Springsteen wrote it. Normally I’d have used Bruce’s version, but I think that Johnny really nails it. I imagine Bruce was really pleased when Johnny recorded Highway Patrolman.

♫ Johnny Cash - Highway Patrolman


Louis Armstrong and Bobby Darin both had huge hits with Mack the Knife. STING recorded the song too and his version, although also in English, was much closer to the original as written by Kurt Weill.

Sting

The song was part of his opera/musical/play with music “The Threepenny Opera” based on the much earlier “Beggar’s Opera”. In the original, Captain Macheath was a good guy, but by the time we get to this one (through a couple of other plays) he’s evolved into Mack the Knife. Jack the Ripper might have been an influence.

♫ Sting - The Ballad Of Mac The Knife


The song Knoxville Girl has a long history, stretching over several centuries, and a number of different countries. It’s also known by various names, but the story is basically the same – bloke kills girl for no apparent reason. Today we have the LOUVIN BROTHERS telling the tale.

Louvin Brothers

The straightforward style of the Louvins admirably suits the old ballad.

♫ Louvin Brothers - Knoxville Girl


Tom Dooley is one of the most famous murder ballads. I’m sure most of you are familiar with the Kingston Trio’s version. The Kingston based theirs on the one by FRANK PROFFITT.

Frank Proffitt

In the way of things at the time, they smoothed it out somewhat and changed some the words, but it’s certainly recognisable as the same song. Also in the way of these things, Frank learnt the song from his aunt who learnt if from her mother. The folk process in action. The song was originally called Tom Dula.

♫ Frank Proffitt - Tom Dooley


Very early in his career TOM RUSH recorded a song called Duncan and Brady.

Tom Rush

The song has had several names over the years and many people have recorded it. It tells about Harry Duncan, a bartender, who shot James Brady, a cop. It’s about an actual event that happened in St Louis.

Duncan was eventually hanged even though there are doubts about who was the actual shooter. No such doubts in the song though.

♫ Tom Rush - Duncan And Brady


MARTY ROBBINS is another artist pretty much guaranteed to be present today.

Marty Robbins

This is from his album “Gunfighter Ballads”, so you know that murder is involved somewhere. In this case it seems that They're Hanging Me Tonight.

♫ Marty Robbins - They're Hanging Me Tonight


Marty also recorded a fine version of the next song, but as we’ve just had him I went for someone else. In this case TONY CHRISTIE, who, to my ears, seems to be channeling Tom Jones.

Tony Christie

This was Tony’s biggest hit in England, where he’s from, and was written by Mitch Murray and Peter Callander. It’s yet another song of revenge, I Did What I Did For Maria.

♫ Tony Christie - I Did What I Did For Maria


I’ll end with my favorite song in this genre and when you listen to it you might start looking at me a little sideways. Surprisingly, several people have recorded it and the one I like best is by JACK KITTEL.

Jack Kittel

If anyone had bought the 45 record of the song (and I did) they would find that the flip side was the same song played backwards. Make of that what you will. The song is Psycho, written by Eddie Noack.

♫ Jack Kittel - Psycho