277 posts categorized "Crabby Old Lady"

Crabby Old Lady's State of the Union

Today's post isn't precisely about ageing but Crabby Old Lady needs to get some of this off her chest and suspects a lot of you may want to also.

Have there ever been so many different things going wrong – painfully, horribly, terrifyingly wrong all at once - in the U.S. than now? It's not even possible to list them all.

Biggest of all is the ongoing confrontation with North Korea. Crabby hasn't been this frightened of the potential reality of nuclear war since she hid under her desk at school in the 1950s. How does it not make it worse to taunt the Supreme Leader with juvenile name-calling?

TAX REFORM BILL
The tax reform bill has made it clear as never before that the Republican Party philosophy is simple: more for me, less for you. And now they've doubled down on it by openly admitting that adding $1.4 TRILLION to the deficit is a deliberate decision made to be able to claim the necessity to make deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

That's big too. The Pay-Go law may require $25 billion in cuts to Medicare the moment Trump signs the bill into law which would cut back care and treatment for millions of people.

There has been some reporting on that but not enough that anyone not dependent on Medicare would notice. (According to a new Quinnipiac Poll, only 29 percent of Americans approve of the tax reform bill; 53 percent disapprove.)

NORMALIZING TRUMP
Remember how, right after the November election, many reporters and pundits were admonishing the public to not normalize Trump's behavior?

Guess what? Everyone, including those pundits, not only accepts presidency by tweet storm now, we expect it on a daily basis and the pundits analyze his every Twitter utterance as though it is a policy announcement.

Which it has become. Who needs Congress or even Executive Orders? The president tweets and it instantly becomes policy. If, in Trump's ignorance, the tweet goes wrong, he can just have his lawyer take the fall for his mistake as happened this week.

There are a lot of people in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere – Republicans usually – for whom Trump's word is their marching order. Case in point, supporting an accused pedophile for the U.S. Senate in the upcoming Alabama election. No Republican will now disavow Roy Moore.

ADMINISTRATION LIES
Can anyone count the number of lies from this administration? It's hard to keep up when it's every day, and when any given lie is no longer convenient he and his aides just make up another and refuse to acknowledge if it contradicts the first one.

NATIONAL PARKS
And how do you feel about the cuts Trump made to national parks earlier this week? Trump reduced Bears Ears National Monument area by 85 percent and the Grand Staircase-Escalante by about 50 percent which, according to The New York Times is the “largest rollback of federal land protection in the nation’s history.”

This move opens about two million acres of wilderness to potential commercial development. Crabby had no idea until now that a president could just do that, all alone without Congress.

SEXUAL MISCONDUCT
Then there the continuing story of alleged sexual misconduct among mostly famous men in glamour businesses. You know the list: Kevin Spacey, Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, Glenn Thrush, Garrison Keillor, Jon Conyers, Roy Moore among many others.

There is a fuller list here which, like all the other lists, does not include the predator-in-chief, Donald Trump.

Speaking of lies, earlier this week, he tried to say that was not his voice on the Access Hollywood tape. Billy Bush set the media straight on that.

Most women Crabby Old Lady knows have been sexually harassed at work, including Crabby herself. Pats on the butt, inappropriate jokes and suggestions. In some places Crabby worked, women made note for one another of which men to keep a distance from in order to avoid unwanted touches.

There was never any question of complaining. Everyone knew they would be the ones to be fired.

Some think, thanks to so many women coming forward, those days are gone. Many are claiming this is a watershed moment for women, that workplace sexual harassment will end now.

Don't count on it. Crabby hopes she is wrong but news stories fade, the public gets jaded (see “normalization” above) and the media is always chasing the next new thing.

VENTING
And here's a question for you: how is it that the president's every single cabinet appointment is the worst possible choice. Worst, that is, if you are idiot enough to believe that the country's leaders are there to run a government by, of and FOR THE PEOPLE, and not to (further) enrich themselves.

Given how ignorant, uninformed and erratic the president is, Crabby Old Lady worries every day about what terrible predicament he will get the country into.

It's not like Crabby has any solutions. She just felt the need, on this otherwise single-topic blog, to acknowledge a problem (well, a large set of problems) that are more important than growing old.

It helps to vent now and then, and to give everyone here a chance to do that too.


Crabby Old Lady's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day(s)

(With apologies for the headline above to the wonderful Judith Viorst)

Crabby Old Lady should have known last week that something awful was brewing. Her desktop PC was becoming more unsteady and rickety by the day with programs not responding, warning messages, long delays loading pages, screen freezes and such. Then it would seem to recover overnight, work well enough for an hour or two the next day until it started acting up again.

Monday morning, the blue screen of death appeared and the computer has been dead since then. None of Crabby's jiggering around has helped.

Sometimes when disaster strikes, it's not immediately apparent. Okay, said Crabby to herself, until you can figure out how to fix this, there's always that cheapo, little laptop in the cupboard.

Yeah, right. It wasn't until Crabby got it set up that she remembered everything on it moves at about the speed of a 1990's dial-up connection, that the keys on the chintzy keyboard are all positioned slightly out of place so that a lifetime's practice at touch typing is useless and the online email she's forced to use for the duration is slower and clunkier than the machine itself.

Bottom line: whatever takes (took) a few seconds to do on a Crabby's desktop machine, takes five or more minutes on the laptop. Translation: hours more a day at this cheap keyboard.

And that's not the worst of it.

Did Crabby just say that sometimes it's not readily apparent when disaster strikes? No kidding. What she forgot during the two or three hours it took to get everything humming on the laptop (as much as it's ever going to hum), is that everything she needs – in her personal life, for the blog and everything else – EVERYTHING – is on that computer. Currently unavailable.

Here's what the disaster means for TGB:

Outlines for planned and/or nearly finished blog posts along with the ongoing list of ideas for blog posts and the research for potential blog posts are all on that machine

The ongoing collection of items for the Saturday Interesting Stuff is there

So is personal documentation of Crabby's newly busy medical life

Along with all email records,

All photographs,

And numerous bits of information and facts that are useful for blog posts

You wouldn't be far wrong to say that Crabby Old Lady's entire life is on that computer.

Although there are a couple of good leads, Crabby has not yet found a person to investigate and - Crabby hopes – repair the machine or at least save the hard drive. The one she is most interested in so far is not available until November 1 or 2 but she is still looking around. Meanwhile, Crabby could use a little help from you, dear readers.

This mostly relates to email. Readers send a lot of ideas for blog posts, items for Interesting Stuff and other missives with their thoughts. All are always welcome but Crabby wonders if you could be a bit more discerning until the computer issues are resolved. Such as:

  1. Please, especially if you read TGB via email, do not hit “Reply” to send a comment. Reply, just as with any email, goes only to me. To leave a comment on the blog post so others can read it, go the the website by clicking the title of the story in your email. It will open in your browser and you can then comment at the bottom of the story. I get about half a dozen emailed comments a day and it takes a long time to respond to each explaining how to comment.

  2. If you have ideas for Interesting Stuff, try to recall where you've seen it. Crabby gets a lot of duplicates, items that have already been featured on previous Saturdays.

  3. If you want to send a news item or other kind of story, consider first how widely reported it is. Crabby has at least 40 news alerts so anything on the front page of the major papers in the world lands in her inbox. Features related to ageing, retirement, elders, seniors, Medicare, Social Security and other topics of common interest to elders are often included in her alerts too but not always. So on this you'll have to guess and there's no penality for being wrong.

The reason for these requests is that the poky email system Crabby is stuck with for now is so hard to use and so slow that it takes forever to read through the inbox without automatic sorting or color-coding, even longer to get them organized and with the off-kilter keyboard, it is excruciating to try to write (including this post), hitting wrong keys every few words.

This also explains why, if you have emailed in the past couple of days, you may not have received an reply. It is difficult in so many ways to use this laptop and this email program that Crabby throws up her hands several times a day and walks away.

Crabby hopes you will understand she is trying to reduce the “terrible, horrible, no good and very bad day” aspect of her computer troubles until they are fixed. At worst that will be sometime next week. Meanwhile she's paddling as fast as she can.


Crabby Old Lady Writes About Her Cancer

Handwriting

You've read it here more than once – that Crabby Old Lady never wanted to become a professional patient, and in the time following her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in June, she has fought against it mightily.

Well, phooey. It has been a futile effort from the get-go that Crabby should have known better than to try. This isn't a broken bone that will heal in a few weeks or a new knee.

So today we have another chapter in Crabby Old Lady's attempts to adjust to her new situation in life. Some in the news business would call it a thumbsucker but Crabby, as always, is helpless against E.M. Forster's dictum, “how do I know what I think until I see what I say”.

Don't take any of this too seriously yet. Some (many? a lot?) of these thoughts, complaints and feelings are new to Crabby and therefore, by definition, half-baked. No doubt there will be revisions.

In the three months since those terrifying words, pancreatic cancer, were said out loud, Crabby is only gradually realizing how much her life will be permanently different. It is much more than she expected or wanted.

Crabby will spare you the lists and just say the nuts and bolts of living with this disease and the results of the surgery average out to a couple of hours a day, every day – hours for which she had other plans. Certainly she has seen more doctors more frequently than all such previous encounters combined.

Six months of weekly chemotherapy begin a week from today and for the past 10 days or so Crabby been buried in reading matter about all the awful things it might do to her, how she can help prevent some of them and which of those side effects are medical emergencies to be addressed immediately.

Elsewhere, Crabby's life is now controlled by lists of what she can and can't eat, keeping medications straight, phone numbers she might need and more.

This stuff is exactly what she never wanted in life. But here's the thing: for all these years of studying ageing, being as healthy as she was until now, Crabby never really “got” what most old people live with. According to Kaiser Health News,

”The majority of adults 65 and over have multiple chronic conditions that contribute to frailty and disability, according to a 2013-14 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [pdf].

“The percentage of chronic conditions among people 65 and over has increased over time, too. The percentage of people reporting hypertension, asthma, cancer and diabetes was higher in 2013-14 than in 1997-98, reports the CDC...

“About 57 percent of women and 55 percent of men age 65 and up reported hypertension. Another 54 percent of women and 43 percent of men reported arthritis.”

Obviously, Crabby Old Lady was lucky for the first 76 years of her life and she never fully appreciated how much time chronic diseases and conditions steal from elders' lives nor the personal effort required day in and day out to maintain as much health and well-being as possible.

Having spent a great deal of time thinking over all this, Crabby has come up with a few new words to live by:

Get over being a professional patient. It is what you are now. Live with it.

Accept the changes the disease is placing on daily life. They are your new normal.

Focus on what is possible now, not how life was before.

Crabby suspects that many of you, dear readers, have already been there, done this and Crabby Old Lady is just now catching up with you.


Crabby Old Lady and the Internet of Junk

You've heard of the Internet of Things? Well, forget that.

This once-wonderful means of electronic communication that has become essential to our financial, health, family, civic, educational and social lives has deteriorated into such a deep morass of crap, it can only be called the Internet of Junk.

Crabby Old Lady has sung praises of the internet since she got her first 2400 dialup modem sometime in the mid- or late-1980s.

When the World Wide Web came along a few years later with the first, primitive, graphical browsers and Crabby saw her first webpage, she was hooked.

In 1996, she left behind decades of work in television, signed on as managing editor of cbsnews.com, helping to build one of the first two U.S. news websites ever to exist.

Now, 20 years later, the internet of junk is fraught with scams, viruses, identity theft, malware, data and privacy breaches, spam, stolen bank accounts, spyware, phishing, trojan horses, worms, keylogging, ransomware – shall Crabby go on?

Maybe it should be called the Internet of Scary Junk. But although privacy and security breaches can screw up people's lives for years, that's not what has pushed Crabby Old Lady into rage territory.

What has done that is the day in, day out, page by page, minute by minute onslaught against her eyes, ears and, most crucially, her brain. She is fond of her brain, relies on its proper functioning in old age more than ever and has become convinced that the internet is harming it.

Let Crabby count the ways for you:

Dozens, nay hundreds, of websites Crabby visits interrupt their text with moving gifs – those six- or seven-second repetitive videos going round and round and round - some supposedly "enhancing" the text, others advertising. Often there are even more on the same page flickering in the right column, a constant distraction to eye and mind.

Crabby can barely control her fury when within one or two seconds of arriving on a page, before she's even figured out what to do first, a pop-up covers most of the screen asking her opinion of the website. Let's be clear: this happens before she has even had a chance to glance at the page. Irritating to Crabby but from a business point of view, it's stupid.

Sometimes Crabby tells them what she thinks – in the most colorful language as she can muster.

Equally maddening are pop-ups breaking Crabby's concentration asking her to sign up for a newsletter which is - wait for it - how she got to the site in the first place.

Crabby has come close to putting her fist through the computer screen over this one: she is comfortably settled into reading, maybe three paragraphs in and getting a good feel for the story when suddenly an advertising pop-up covers exactly the paragraph she's reading.

Wait. It gets worse. Every one of the websites that do this - many - are experts at obscuring the X that allows the pop-up to be closed.

By the time Crabby can find the X hidden in a new corner or blending into the background color so it is almost invisible, she has forgotten not only where she was in the story, but even what the damned thing is about.

There was a time, back when Crabby worked on the internet, that it was verboten to assault readers' eyes and ears with autostart video. Now, it's ubiquitous. Every day, additional sites add this aggravation to their growing list of interruptions to one's mental health.

And here is the sneakiest part: sometimes a video, usually unrelated to the story Crabby is reading, buried miles down at the bottom of a page among a blizzard of unrelated images, blasts to life a minute or two into her reading and fries her brain before she can find it.

This is not to say that one or two of these abominations happens now and then. It is dozens, dozens of times every day from the best-known, otherwise most professional websites in existence as well as the shoddy ones. (For many good reasons - see above - Crabby Old Lady doesn't go far afield from generally secure websites so we're not talking sleaze, porn or ripoff webpages.)

The irritation factor is beyond tolerable now. Further, although Crabby is obviously not a neuroscientist or psychiatrist, she doesn't believe she needs to be one to know that constant audio and visual distraction damages the ability to think and reason.

As the The Telegraph reported earlier this year:

"According to scientists, the age of smartphones has left humans with such a short attention span even a goldfish can hold a thought for longer.

"Researchers surveyed 2,000 participants in Canada and studied the brain activity of 112 others using electroencephalograms.

"The results showed the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000, or around the time the mobile revolution began, to eight seconds.

"Goldfish, meanwhile, are believed to have an attention span of nine seconds."

Did you get that? Goldfish for god's sake.

This is not the only study to show vastly reduced attention spans. It cannot be good for humankind and it is certainly not good for Crabby Old Lady's mind.


Email Bankruptcy

[EDITORIAL NOTE: It tells you something about Crabby's week, if not life, that you are getting missives (read: complaints) from her two days in a row. Aren't you lucky.


Every day, Crabby Old Lady struggles to keep up with email. It's been a losing battle for years. She slips behind several days then schedules a few hours to catch up and the most common result is that her tush turns to stone in the desk chair as the hours creep by and she still hasn't finished.

Of course, Crabby is not alone. Not infrequently she reads of busy people who have 20,000 or 30,000 unread emails in their inboxes. Hers stretch “only” to hundreds.

It helps – to a degree – that Crabby color-codes some types of incoming. Bills are fluorescent pink, for example, and the emails she receives of every comment posted to this blog and The Elder Storytelling Place are red. The latter means she doesn't need to constantly check online to keep up with comments through the day.

Personal friends are purple. Certain newsletters are blue. Elder Storytelling Place submissions are green. And Crabby has forgotten what orange is for. Everything else is black including junk by the daily dozens that bought her address from websites that undoubtedly assured her they never sell addresses.

If you don't count those sleazy retailers, Crabby's junk settings generally work quite well; it has been years since a fake Nigerian has asked her to wire money.

There are a plethora of apps, add-ons and, most of all, advice from self-styled experts who, with fake patience, purport to have the answer for cleaning out your inbox. The item that each one of them seems to think no ever thought of before is to read email in reverse order of receipt.

Come on. Anyone older than 25 has been doing that since email was born.

Crabby has been trying to get out of email bankruptcy for so long, there's nothing she doesn't know about it – what works (not much) and what doesn't (everything else).

Undoubtedly, Crabby's largest difficulty is that she feels obligated to answer almost all email from real people. She is talking about the (mostly) kind people with questions, suggestions or general thoughtfulness in regard this blog. (What would Saturday's Interesting Stuff be without all those ideas flowing in?)

But what has prompted today's blog post is that due to busy-ness, old-fashioned sloth and maybe creeping old age (she seems to be slower in general lately), Crabby is now about two weeks behind in blog-related email and that adds up to - as of this moment - 761 unread emails.

And so, as soon as Crabby is finished writing this post, she is going to take the most extreme solution there is for email bankruptcy: she will highlight her entire inbox and click “delete.”

There is nothing else she can do and remain sane. It will rid her of the guilt for not answering and give her a clean slate.

If any of you reading have sent an email in the past ten days or two weeks that you believe must have an answer, okay, send it again. But please, Crabby is begging now, think it over carefully. She desperately needs a break from email.

Emailbankruptcy2


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Maureen Browning: Fuzzy Math


By the Hair on Crabby Old Lady's Chinny Chin Chin

Before she even gets started, let Crabby Old Lady be clear: she is deeply grateful that so far – at age 73 – she has escaped the common conditions and diseases of old age. No arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. and no recurrence of the one little basal cell carcinoma from five or six years ago.

Crabby knows how lucky she is but that doesn't mean she's sanguine about the minor afflictions of age.

Floaters anyone? Not a day goes by that Crabby isn't trying to brush little black bugs off her food.

The only time of day Crabby can escape her tinnitus is in the shower when the sound of falling water neutralizes it. But silence? Crabby hasn't been without noise in her ears for six or eight years.

Toad spots (seborrheic keratoses) – harmless but ugly – come and go. The only grace is that when they appear on Crabby's face, they are usually skin color, not dark brown like the others.

All these are annoying enough but the worst is chin hair which in Crabby's case extends to her upper lip.

The reason for them is boring enough: old women have hardly any estrogen left so testosterone takes over and that means hair – just not where she wants it on her head.

Just as there is no cure for baldness, there is also no cure for excess facial hair on women and the available treatments are awful.

Electrolysis and laser treatments - if they work at all – are successful mostly on dark hair and hardly ever on light hair like Crabby's. Besides, it takes six to 12 treatments to show results, is hugely expensive and must be repeated about twice a year. Forever.

Waxing is best done professionally, is painful, expensive and must be repeated about once a month – and you know how fast time flies when you're old.

Over-the-counter creams and strips are no better. They're messy, hard to apply and too often damage skin. Trust Crabby, it is a horrible procedure.

Plucking or tweezing don't work for Crabby. They are painful and although the hair does come out, little red bumps erupt on her skin where each and every hair was pulled out. No thanks.

All that is so depressing that Crabby might consider becoming the bearded lady in a circus (do they still have those?). If only there was more hair on her chin and upper lip, but alas. So Crabby is left with shaving.

It is a myth that shaving makes new growth thicker. The real difference is that shaved hairs have blunt ends instead of the tapered, softer tips of hair that has not been is shaved.

Crabby uses a cute little electric razor made especially for old women's facial hair problems. Actually, she uses it when she remembers to which often doesn't happen until she can nearly braid the hair on her chin.

Okay, Crabby exaggerates – she's slightly more diligent than that. But she has come to understand why a lot of men hate shaving and she's not happy that this latest item on her list of irritating old age afflictions will, like all the others, last until she dies.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: This Old Man


Crabby Old Lady Laments the Future...

...at least as The New York Times reports it.

In the past, predictions have usually usually appeared as science fiction fantasies of life 50 or a 100 years hence and it's always fun – and funny - when such prophecies are dredged up and compared to what really happened.

People-imagining-the-future-transportation1

Nowadays, the next future arrives even before the current one has come to fruition so that a peek just ten years forward can be awe-inspiring (or terrifying, depending on your point of view).

That's what The New York Times did on Saturday in a gigantic infographic of “what far-off technology will be commonplace in a decade” based on the predictions of seven people the paper says are “driving this transformation” of technological change.

Here's a little piece of that graphic.

NYTInfographic

Let Crabby Old Lady say at the outset that the infographic, with its simplistic images and soundbite text, is enough for her to worry about where The Times newspaper itself is heading. Why didn't they write a traditional news story, Crabby wonders, with words and paragraphs and, oh you know, old-fashioned news virtues like context and perspective?

Crabby was immediately reminded of Jan Adams' comment last week in a story on this blog about elders and technology:

”My concern about the direction of technology is that providers of consumer tech goodies seem to be leading us away from using devices with keyboards.

“Since I use a computer to write...I don't like a future in which a tablet or a smartphone becomes the expected appliance and what I consider a 'real computer' becomes a rarity. I sure don't see myself communicating in videos.”

For a long time now, Crabby too has been concerned about disappearing text and, therefore, actual thought.

In addition to those faddish, facile infographics that pop up all over the web in place of writing, increasing numbers of news websites are posting video without providing a written version of the report.

Is Crabby Old Lady the last person who understands that in an era when virtually everyone complains of too much information to plow through, it is three or four or ten times faster to read a narrative than to watch a video?

Or, of greater concern, that the medium of video does not allow for detail and nuance and that even at their best, video reports are only as good as the reporter, and there aren't many good ones these days, especially online.

Harumph, says Crabby.

Among The Times' infographic predictions are, unfortunately, these:

“The computer mouse will be replaced. Think touch, swipe, rich hand gestures."

“What technology will seem antiquated in a decade? Email, computer keyboards, cash, handheld phones.”

"...people will wear computers in the form of contact lenses, bracelets or clothing and walk up to any wall and instantly have full access to all of your cloud data and services.”

Just how, as Jan asks, is anyone going to write anything without keyboards?

Crabby might settle (reluctantly) for voice-to-text (if they'd ever improve it enough to work as well as keyboards). But no, we've got texting on teeny cellphone screens so that spelling and grammar and – again – actual thought beyond “how r u” is already disappearing.

To be fair to The Times, there are a few intriguing predictions that Crabby wants to see earlier rather than later. Before she dies would be good:

“Personalized medicine. Imagine a unique drug that’s printed for you and your condition based on your individual gene sequencing.”

"Getting a top-end college education without going to a physical campus."

"Cars driven by computers instead of humans.”

That last one, if the cars are generally affordable, could permanently remove elders' understandable fear of giving up their car keys.

On the other hand, for some reason The Times lists this one under the header, The Era of Progress:

“Ubiquitous video recording and surveillance.”

And do you think The New York Times in this infographic edited by David Leonhardt (yes, Crabby Old Lady intended to call him out) really meant to place this prediction, too, under The Era of Progress:

”Women are only 25-percent of the tech industry. As it grows in stature and wealth, women risk losing their influence in our society.”

But it strikes Crabby that 24/7 surveillance and decreased influence of women are beside the point if people stop knowing how to write because if you cannot write, you cannot think and god knows our world needs some smart thinking.

Crabby is perfectly aware that every generation of elders believes that younger ones are going to hell in a handbasket and she is more than eager to learn that her fears for the future have been a misuse of her time.

She just hopes she dies before they take away her keyboard.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: Butch, the Easter Chicken


Crabby Old Lady, Books and Blog Spam

When this blog started up a decade ago, nobody cared about or wanted to know anything about old people.

As Crabby Old Lady has often explained, back then pretty much everything about aging in the popular press, academia, television and movies was, when it was mentioned at all, devoted to disease, debility and decline.

The amount, if not the theme, changed in what felt like an instant when the media realized in 2006 that the oldest baby boomers were turning 60 that year and they had a new (to them), vast, untapped audience for information about getting old.

Well, “information” - if you define the word as useful – is a overstatement. In Crabby's experience, about 95 percent of everything written about elders and aging - especially the Niagara of new book titles that clutter Crabby's inbox - is drek.

What has happened, as far as Crabby can tell, is that anyone who is age 40 or so and older seems to believe that he or she is an expert on aging and therefore has a right to be paid for those observations.

To make that bad news worse, the few newbie writers who might have something interesting to add to the conversation about getting old are mostly hampered by poor writing skills. Crabby would be embarrassed to recommend most of their books to you.

Then there are the professional writers who, although they can write more engagingly, have little to add about what it's like to get old that we don't already know. Too often, their books are quickies meant to cash in on the aging boomer phenomenon.

And all that is not to mention the endless stream of books about how to stay young forever. (Regular readers know how Crabby Old Lady feels about that subgenre.)

All of the above is the reason you see only half a dozen books a year mentioned on this blog. Crabby does not “review” books. She sees no point in telling you, dear readers, why you should not spend money on a book and it saves her from finishing the truly awful ones.

But that is only prelude to what Crabby is here to say today. The real reason is that it's been a bad couple of weeks at Time Goes By for comment spam of a specific type. It eats up too much of Crabby's time. It makes her not want to read email in the morning. It makes her want to walk away from the computer and ignore her blog. It is a terrible thing to ruin someone's pleasure.

Many of you will recall that too often in past months, your legitimate comments have not posted. The cause was a difficulty with spam filters at the blog host, Typepad, and it took them nearly a year to repair the problem. It has now been a month of smooth sailing with only real spam caught in the filters. Hurray.

In its place, however, TGB is being plagued with a different sort of spam – book authors who leave what could otherwise be deemed a legitimate comment but then they append the name of their book, sometimes a sentence or two of promotional language and link to the purchase page.

Now in case you have not noticed, Time Goes By is an advertising-free zone. Deliberately so.

Many years ago, she tried advertising but it was more work than the low revenue justified. Unless a website gets half a million or more page views a day, nobody pays much for ads and although TGB traffic is, gratifyingly, several thousand page views a day and growing - quite successful for a personal blog - it is miles away from enough to make the work of carrying ads worth the administrative effort.

So Crabby absorbs the cost of running Time Goes By which amounts to a few hundred dollars a year – cheap enough for the pleasure she gets from the writing and the terrific community that has developed here.

Back to the book spammers. For no reason Crabby can discern, there has been an annoying upsurge in their number this month – the professionals and the amateurs. Crabby reads every comment left on Time Goes By and as soon she sees a spam comment, she kills it.

In the case of the book spammers (not one of whom has ever commented before), Crabby has taken to emailing them a terse but polite explanation of the reason their comment, or part of it, has been deleted.

About half the spammers write back to say, “oh my, I didn't realize that you would object. I am so sorry. I just wanted people to know about my wonderful book,” etc. etc.

Crabby's calling bullshit on that. Would the same people have the nerve to paste an advertising poster on the front of Crabby's home? On the windows of the local supermarket or Walmart?

That is what they are doing by trying to sneak a free ad for their book in the comments. In any other form it is called theft and it infuriates Crabby Old Lady.

What makes it sad is that if any of these writers had emailed to tell Crabby about the book and ask if she were interested, it's possible that it would become a TGB selection. Unlikely but possible and anyway, it is the right thing to do instead of trashing up Crabby's website.

Okay, Crabby's had her say and if you stuck around to the end, she is flabbergasted since it is not a stretch to label this post itself a kind of spam. Crabby's excuse is that there has been so much awful writer spam it cast out any other thoughts from her head.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Carl Hansen: Before Nail Guns Were Invented


Crabby Old Lady and the Medical Establishment

Throughout her life, Crabby Old Lady's relationship with the world of medicine has been sporadic and she is only half kidding when she says that's what has kept her remarkably healthy through her life because doctors always find something wrong.

It's similar to the world looking like a nail if you are a hammer; if you are a physician, every patient needs treatment.

Since she moved to Oregon in 2010, Crabby's closest connection to the professional health community has been an annual flu shot from a pharmacist. Oh, and her yearly eye exam.

Now and then she reminded herself that she was getting on in years and ought to find a primary care physician so to have a baseline of medical records for comparison if something goes wrong in the future.

Good idea but not as easy as you would think.

Only a few medical schools in the U.S. require short courses – about six weeks – in geriatrics for non-specialists so ideally, Crabby wanted a geriatrician, someone with a lot of education and practical knowledge about old people's health.

That idea did not work out well. When, in her online research, she located a few and called their offices, Crabby was told they were not taking new patients. More than once, she was given that information after being asked what kind of insurance she has – Medicare, of course.

(Crabby is not saying there is a connection between insurance and physician availability but it does leave her wondering what kind of insurance a geriatrician's office would expect most people who need a geriatrician to have.)

After a few such discouraging telephone conversations, Crabby would set aside her search for a future day and did not often return to it.

Moving on.

In January, eight years after the initial diagnosis of cataracts, Crabby's doctor said she was ready for surgery and before she could say howdydoo, she was being evaluated in an eye surgeon's office.

But wait. No surgery without a recent physical examination. Uh-oh. No primary care physician in Crabby's life.

Armed with a recommendation from the surgeon's office, Crabby got lucky that day and within an hour was undergoing a general examination, blood and heart tests, etc. with an internist in the building next door.

So in a period of about three hours, in addition to her established eye doctor, Crabby had acquired an eye surgeon and a primary care physician – a collection that, in 21st century business jargon (it IS business these days), could be referred to as her personal healthcare management team.

Oh, but she was not nearly finished yet.

Crabby Old Lady doesn't remember much about her bout of flu in January. She lost about 10 days of her life and when she awoke clear-headed again, her right foot didn't work properly.

Before she goes any further, let Crabby explain something that won't be a surprise to anyone who has read this far: Crabby's theory of healthcare is that if it is not a broken bone or an artery gushing blood, give whatever is wrong some time and it will probably take care of itself.

Although Crabby does not recommend this conduct for others, her personal experience is that most of the time it works. It did not with her foot.

Step. Flop. Step. Flop. Step. Flop. Crabby could not lower the sole of her foot to the ground in a normal way; it just dropped to the ground (flop) on its own after her heel touched down.

A virtual walk around the web revealed that it was probably something called peroneal neuropathy and after a visit to Crabby's new primary care physician, she was in the office of a neurologist who was sticking electrified needles into her foot and leg.

Yup. Peroneal neuropathy caused, in Crabby's case, probably by crossing her legs - “don't ever do that again in your whole life,” said the neurologist. It's a common condition, he continued, and in Crabby's case treatment will return the foot to normal or near normal function but it will take months of physical therapy.

So Crabby Old Lady, who began 2014 with only an eye doctor, now has a personal healthcare management team consisting of that eye doctor, an eye surgeon (temporary), a primary, a neurologist and a physical therapist. She can't wait to see what's next.

Although there is some comfort now in having a primary care physician – someone to call when something goes wrong in the future - perhaps you can see Crabby's point: get involved with the medical establishment and they multiply like bunnies.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Chlele Gummer: My Dandy Brandy


Crabby Old Lady and Dodgy Aging Claims

Like Crabby Old Lady, perhaps some other bloggers reading this received an email Monday from a marketer touting a seminar series by Deepak Chopra.

You need to know up front that Dr. Chopra is not on the list of people Crabby respects in the areas of health and aging so keep that in mind as you read on.

The seminar series is titled, Timeless You: The Biology of Youth & The Wisdom of Experience and the marketer says it is unlike anything Chopra has ever created before. Uh-huh.

In the email, Crabby is offered a chance to become a “contributor to Team Chopra” with free access to the $30, six-part seminar, attendance at an “exclusive” live webinar where she can directly ask Dr. Chopra questions, plus a $15 Amazon gift card.

All she must do is write an “honest review” of the series. Well, consider it done, without a $15 Amazon gift card, because sometimes you really can tell a book by its cover.

If the information Chopra is selling is so revolutionary, why is it necessary to pay lowly bloggers an embarrassingly cheap fee for their advertising?

Further, because this is being marketed to old people (grandparents.com is a partner in the venture), Crabby was immediately skeptical of that “biology of youth” stuff - a carefully worded implication that six seminars will make you young again. But as you will see below, that claim is explicit elsewhere.

You can tell from the six seminar titles that this is nothing more than warmed-over psychobabble you can find in abundance anywhere online for free.

The six webinars are:

Change Perceptions
A Youthful Mind
Healthy Relationship
The Mind-Body Connection
Mindful Eating
Joyful Exercise

But it was the blaring headline on the webinar page at grandparents.com and the seminar provider that most provoked Crabby:

“You have the power to reverse the aging process”

No you don't. Period. Full stop.

The longer version of that quotation at the seminar site is the epitome of new age-y blather Crabby thought had been left behind with the Sixties:

”You have the power to reverse the aging process and feel a decade younger! With Timeless You, you'll learn to maximize your energy, eliminate stress, keep your mind sharp, and find joy and fulfillment in every day.”

A lot of dubious products and services around the internet make that claim – that they can reverse the aging process. Listen to Crabby: nothing known to humankind reverses the aging process. Got that? Not a pill, not tinkering with DNA, not a “guru” or anything else.

If Crabby's word isn't enough for you, listen to Britain's National Health Service in a story from last December debunking widespread reports on both sides of the Atlantic that month that scientists had found the fountain of youth:

”The Mail Online tells us that, "the secret of looking up to 40 years younger" has been identified by scientists in the US.

“Sadly, this Christmas present fails to deliver. The research in question was only carried out in mice and didn't focus on reducing their wrinkles.

“What the scientists actually did was identify why the 'power houses' of cells – mitochondria – perform less well as cells age.”

Following a detailed explanation in layman's terms of what the scientists did learn, the NHS concludes:

”This research has shown that some of the changes in cells that occur with ageing can be reversed in mice in the short term. The longer term effects of the treatment used in this study on mice are not yet known.

“The treatment did not reverse the age-related weakening of the mice's muscles, so the researchers will need to show if it can have an effect on this or other wider consequences of ageing. Whether the findings apply to humans also remains to be seen.”

The only reason Crabby has bothered with this is that unlike herself, many people pay attention to what Deepak Chopra says and the promotional material for this seminar series makes a particularly egregious claim about what he's selling.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Shoes


Crabby Old Lady's New Brain Game

It is late Sunday afternoon, every brain cell has leaked out of Crabby Old Lady's head and she is incapable of useful thought to write a real blog post.

She just wants a few words on the screen so TGB readers have their usual path to the link to today's Elder Storytelling Place story at the bottom, and Crabby wouldn't argue if you think it's better worth your while to just scroll down now and click over to that website.

In retrospect, it probably wasn't a good idea to get a new cell phone and computer printer on the same day but Crabby didn't plan it that way; they arrived on their own.

Undoubtedly, you've been in this kind of tech hell yourself. For both pieces of equipment, she needed to find a bunch of necessary passwords including the one for her wireless network that is 7,482 digits long. None of the entry boxes allow Crabby to see what she's typing and it's hard not to screw up such a gargantuan password which, of course, she did. Many times.

And blah, blah, blah. Glitches at every step of the setup, each one of which takes at least an hour to figure out. A big part of the problem (as you have surely run into) is that illiterates write the setup instructions and user manuals.

And this time, not even translators from Japanese could be blamed (which sometimes provides moments of hilarity). But this was all native English that Crabby's sixth grade teacher would have flunked her for.

(Do you think this speaks the lower U.S. educational standards social scientists, politicians and test administrators keep telling us about?)

Remember the good old days before cell phones when there was just a telephone on a table in a room. No setup, no decisions, no possible way for anything to go wrong. It rang. You spoke. That's at least one excellent reason for old folks to lament the good old days.

But aside from that lengthy password, getting the cell phone in working order was almost easy-peasy. After transferring the apps Crabby wanted to keep and filling in way too many other but shorter passwords, it was just a matter of learning a few new proprietary methods of doing the same old things on a different brand of phone.

The real problem was the new printer – hardly the high-end type that makes your morning coffee and feeds the cat too. And the setup went fine until the moment to test it with a printed page.

It kept telling Crabby, “Open the output tray.” The output tray WAS open. Crabby opened and closed it many times. She re-installed the software. She plugged and unplugged the power cable crawling under the desk to do that two or three times. The message never changed and it refused to print

So on Sunday afternoon, already frazzled, Crabby spent one hour and 20-odd minutes on the phone to India during which time she crawled under the desk to plug and unplug the printer two more times. She pushed buttons again and again as instructed. She gave the representative reams of numbers, information and answered the same questions more than once.

Then she got switched to another person who put her through the same routine a second time. Damned good thing she got the phone working first.

In the end, Crabby was told the solution would take two weeks - she would need to return the BRAND NEW printer and they would send her a USED REFURBISHED printer. What kind of scam is this.

The customer service supervisor was immovable - refurbished replacement only. You can probably guess that no one at that end of telephone call needs any clarification about Crabby Old Lady's point of view.

Although Crabby is exhausted from it all, she has had a revelation: Who needs brain games? Just buy new tech equipment – two or more at once is advisable for this purpose - and every cell you've got up there will get a heavy workout.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Karen Zaun Kennedy: I am From


Crabby Old Lady and Thanksgiving Shopping

(Before Crabby Old Lady gets into this rant, she needs to tell you that she abhors crowds and has never in her life gone shopping on black Friday or any other crunch shopping day. There is no sale on earth that could temp her.)

For many years, Americans have been cajoled, enticed, coerced, pressured, seduced and, most of all, expected to spend a lot of money for Christmas on black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving. It was (and still is) almost considered unpatriotic not to do so.

The poor schnooks who bought the hype barely finished their Thanksgiving feast before lining up overnight to be the first of hundreds or even thousands of people through the doors of big box and department stores when they opened at 6AM.

If Crabby Old Lady is not mistaken, at least one person on a past black Friday was killed in that crush of people and others have been seriously injured. But never mind safety. What's a broken arm or rib or even a life in giant corporations' pursuit of profit and astronomical executive pay.

The best that could be said about black Friday through the years was that at least everyone had one day with family and friends before the commercial onslaught.

Thanksgiving is one of 11 official federal holidays in the United States. It is often noted that it is the single holiday with no obligations for gifts or revelry or spending. Just the warmth of a good meal and general conviviality at home with family and friends.

Thanksgiving is the biggest travel day of year as millions cover great distances to be with family and some make it a tradition to invite strangers to dinner who have no family of their own.

Even if that doesn't warm your heart, the downtime from the hubbub of work and constant commercialism of our lives is a pleasant relief. It has been that way in all of Crabby Old Lady's 72 years.

Until last year. In 2012, some stores opened on Thanksgiving Day for the first time and many more have joined them this year. Crabby suspects there is no going back. Ever.

From now on Thanksgiving will be a shopping day in America. According to DailyKos, here is a partial list of stores that will be open on Thursday:

Walmart
AKMart
Sears
Target
Old Navy
OfficeMax
Staples
Medieval Times
Toys "R" Us
Michaels
Macy's
J.C. Penney
Kohl's
Dollar General
Dick's Sporting Goods
Best Buy

Although the majority of these stores are opening at 8PM on Thanksgiving, Walmart begins at 6PM and Old Navy is way ahead of everyone at 9AM – just about the time Crabby is getting the stuffing together for the turkey.

Crabby would like to remind you that these stores cannot be open on this national holiday without the sales staff – you know, thousands of minimum-wage workers, people with families (some of whom have traveled those great distances to visit) - who will have to jump up from the table to be at work before the 6PM or 8PM opening.

It is not inappropriate for Crabby to further remind you that at least two Walmarts have held food drives for their own employees who cannot afford Thanksgiving dinner on what the company pays them.

In the face of this holiday travesty along the millions of long-term unemployed, other millions of underpaid workers and the many who are still stuck with underwater mortgages, Crabby is having a hard time enjoying her good fortune to not be among them this holiday.

For the record, here are some of the big retailers who are giving their employees their deserved holiday by closing on Thanksgiving according, again, to DailyKos:

Costco
Nordstrom
BJ's Wholesale Club
Home Depot
T.J. Maxx
Marshalls
Burlington Coat Factory
Apple
Radio Shack
American Girl
Patagonia
REI
Dillard's
Ross
Menards


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: I Used to Think That Sleep Was Not For Me


Crabby Old Lady's Air Travel Travails

It was a terrific day at the Business Innovation Factory conference on Monday - a lot learned and good things to tell you about it, just not today. Here's why.


By the time Crabby Old Lady got home from Providence, Rhode Island on Tuesday night, she had been en route for 14 hours. Count them: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14.

If you think all those numbers are painful to read, try living them.

It wasn't supposed to be that way. According to Crabby's itinerary, the trip should have been (snark alert) only 10 hours and 50 minutes. Bad enough but Crabby was mentally prepared for them. Those unexpected three hours, however, left Crabby ragged and frayed and worn down for the next two days.

When did air travel become wholesale torture?

Changed flights, delayed flights, miles of corridors to and from gates – “oops, lady, somebody gave you the wrong gate number” - lines for boarding, lines for the lavatory, no food for 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-13-14 hours.

It is doubtful that any of this is news to you but somebody needs to bitch instead of meekly accepting the abuse (abuse that we actually pay for in real dollars) and Crabby Old Lady is good at that.

When Crabby checked her flight curbside at the Providence airport, the agent wrote down her gate number and made a joke about the ten mile hike she was in for.

Crabby told him that at her age that isn't a joke. He told her to order a wheelchair next time - “people who don't need them do it all the time,” he said.

Crabby was appalled that such cheating is not only tolerated but encouraged by the airline staff. Whatever happened to those six-person people-mover carts that once patrolled airport corridors? There were none in any of the four airports Crabby passed through on Tuesday.

Fortunately for Crabby, she knows how to pack lightly and together with her recent, 30-pound weight loss, the long treks were much easier than the last time she traveled by plane two years ago.

Then there was the food issue. Knowing there would be nothing but tiny packets of stale pretzels and/or past-their-use-by-date peanuts on board, Crabby looked for carry-on food stalls along the corridors.

The choices are awful. Wraps and sandwiches filled with dubious kinds of meat and cheese, hundreds of sugar- and fat-laden pastries, sodium-laced chips in a zillion chemically-made flavors and candy bars – candy bars lined up into an infinite distance.

It's 3,000 calories per item or starvation. No other choices.

At last, in the corner of a refrigerator case, Crabby found a few eight-ounce cups of fresh fruit – grapes, cut up melon and pineapple, sliced apples, etc. She bought two. Ahem - at $6 each.

She didn't discover until she was in flight that they must have been left over from a day or two earlier – rubbery, dried out and sour tasting. Crabby ditched them in the flight attendant's trash bag.

Now here's a tip for air travel that may be as new to you as it is to Crabby: never worry about missing a connecting flight again.

Crabby discovered on this trip that nowadays airlines are so allergic to having even one empty seat, they hold planes way past take-off time when expected connecting flights are arriving late.

Then, of course, the transfer passengers must walk those ten miles to their next plane. That would be yours - the one you've already been sitting in with no fresh air for 45 minutes while the guy crammed into the seat next to you has used up six packets of Kleenex loudly blowing his nose non-stop which he will continue to do for the entire two-hour flight.

That really happened to Crabby. Isn't there a law against flying with a cold – or at least an advisory not to do so?

Crabby might have felt sorry for him traveling in his sick misery but he shouldn't have been spreading his germs all over a packed plane, so she doesn't.

On these flights – there were three – Crabby chose window seats so she would have a wall to lean against to help her sleep part of the way. But that poses a problem if you fail to correctly balance water intake to prevent dehydration against the need to pee.

To her chagrin, Crabby flunked this basic travel skill forcing her two seatmates into the aisle three times on the longest leg of her flight while Crabby crawled out of the row. The third time, they both looked exasperated and who could blame them.

All this is in addition to what Crabby, in her on-board boredom, calculated to be a miniscule 27 cubic feet of personal space allotted each passenger with, unless you need to pee, zero opportunity to stretch your legs for hours and hours and hours.

What Crabby doesn't understand is why we go along with this torture like sheep. In fact, flying reminds Crabby of some other animals humans slaughter - all those corporate-raised pigs and chickens crammed together in their pens with no space to turn around.

How is plane travel these days any different?


Shopping While Old

A side issue that came up in the recent conversations here about elder fashion and mean (old) girls is shopping which got Crabby Old Lady thinking about how much she despises it and wondering how others her age feel.

As Paula commented in part,

"I'm a big fan of shopping carefully, trying things on (including the dreaded bras), doing alterations, etc., etc., BUT I realize this can be a LOT of work...

"If I didn't feel well, had recent surgery, or had worse caregiving responsibilities than the ones I have already, I would be wearing my two favorite pairs of yoga pants...

"I totally get why people do what fashion types disparage as 'giving up.' It's apparently unfathomable to them that life sometimes has other plans beyond a 'pretty blouse.'"

So true even if you can't find one that fits.

Crabby hates shopping for clothes (and pretty much anything else) so much that for the greater part of her working life she did it only twice a year, spring and fall, almost entirely at a certain shop in Greenwich Village (now long gone) where a wonderful, young sales woman kept file cards about what Crabby had bought in the past.

At the beginning of those seasons, Crabby did an inventory of her closet, made a list of what should be replaced, what was still good to go, along with the colors that needed complementing and any fripperies she was interested in having.

Then she set a total price limit and with that terrific sales woman, Crabby could get out of the shop in under an hour, before the irritation of taking clothes off and on turned her into a screeching harridan.

Pretty good, don't you think: two hours a year for all the clothes she needed.

Of course, back in those days, well-constructed clothing in good fabrics and classic styles that can be worn for years didn't cost hundreds of dollars and sizing was standard then, too.

Let Crabby Old Lady, who is 5 feet, 2 inches tall and currently in her weight loss program at 135 pounds (with 15 more to lose), give you an example of sizing insanity.

A week ago in an actual store (as opposed to online), Crabby tried on (which as noted above she despises doing), a pair of pants that from looking and guessing, seemed to be about the right fit.

Maybe she's not accustomed to her smaller body yet; they were so big Crabby could have fit two of her into them.

And what was the size? Wait for it: 0/1 – whatever that means – and not mislabeled, according to the sales clerk who said it was the shop's smallest size. Since it was not a fat women's store, Crabby wants to know what smaller people wear.

Never mind – that's not a real question.

It is probably true that Crabby Old Lady is not the one to discuss shopping of any kind. Seven years since she left New York City and she still doesn't understand how to shop when you drive everywhere.

For the 40 years Crabby walked to most destinations, she window shopped along the way. “Ooooh, that would be a nice gift for Mary.” Or, “cool shoes; I check out this place next time.” And when there was time, she stopped in newly opened stores or wandered the aisles of others making mental notes of what was available.

Crabby has no idea how people who don't walk around their cities and towns know where to go when they need to buy a certain item. No one can tell what's available driving by and anyway, most stores are set back from the street in little strip malls.

Don't get Crabby started on malls. Awful places. She was forced into visiting one a week ago and as with all others she's ever seen, it was filled with nothing interesting – only chain stores and restaurants that, by definition, are bland and boring to appeal to as many people as possible.

It was late morning on a mild, sunny weekday and hardly anyone was there – mostly old women window shopping but not buying, if their lack of shopping bags was any indication.

But the biggest shopping difference in Crabby's life at age 72 is this: there is nothing she needs. She has furniture to fill her home, enough crockery and kitchen utensils to stock a small restaurant and so far, her appliances are in good shape.

Books and food are Crabby's main expenditures and she wonders if this is common among her age group; if after a certain age we just lose interest in shopping or as Paula noted, her “life has other plans beyond” wandering stores in search of what Crabby probably can't find.

Even when there is an item or two that she wants to buy – especially something she needs to see and hold rather than purchase online – she often doesn't because it's more effort to drive and check out several stores than to live without the item.

This is a much too long and amorphous post without much of a point but if it rings a bell for anyone reading, Crabby is eager to hear from you.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: On the Subject of “Race”


National Senior Citizens Day?

Minus the question mark, that's what a press release Crabby Old Lady received on Monday tells her about today. Ever heard of it? Neither has Crabby and the more she looked into it, the more she wished she hadn't. What a stupid idea.

First the history. The commemorative day was invented by President Ronald Reagan. In August 1988, he issued a proclamation that is, predictably, filled with empty platitudes Crabby won't quote. You can read the short statement here.

It is so completely vapid that Crabby could be convinced the proclamation is in response to another August commemorative day: presidential joke day on the 11th.

It's certainly a bad joke to have a day “honoring” elders sandwiched among two or three dozen other commemoratives for such days as those for bad poetry, sewing machines, garage sales, mosquitos and the Slinky – all in August.

There is also Just Because Day in August paired on the same date, the 26th, as Women's Equality Day. Oh, yes, let's remind ourselves of women's equality because - well, just because.

Crabby Old Lady discovered that there are separate days in August for cats and for dogs but most of all, there are food days:

Creamsicles
Trail Mix
Toasted Marshmallow
Raspberry Cream Pie
Ice Cream Sandwich
Mustard
Watermelon
Zucchini
S'mores
Rice Pudding

You have probably figured out by now that the majority of silly days are promotional. It doesn't take a president to name a day; anyone can do it for anything they want and it is mostly commercial enterprises that name them to create reasons to clutter our lives with more advertising and marketing.

Although the U.S. celebrates fewer official national holidays than many other nations – 11 annual and one quadrennial public holiday, Inauguration Day - there is a good reason to have few: it gives each one more meaning when they come around infrequently. Too many and they all are cheapened.

Crabby Old Lady is way ahead of you in thinking she is making way too much of this stupid Senior Citizens Day that means nothing and everyone ignores. But it just ticked her off to see elders mashed up together in the same breath with trail mix and mustard.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ross Middleton: Someone Has to Say It


Crabby Old Lady on a Dumb Medical “Fact” of the Day

In a vague sort of way, Crabby Old Lady keeps her eye on commercial websites aimed at her age group hoping to see something that marshals a whole lot more resources than Crabby – only one person – can bring to the subject of “what it's really like to get old.”

About a year ago, Twin Cities Public Television in Minneapolis-St. Paul launched a website for people 50 and older called Next Avenue. The subtitle of Next Avenue is “where grownups keep growing” and in an interview with The New York Times, vice president and editorial director, Donna Sapolin, said the site would

“...'bring a PBS sensibility,' to the online venture. 'It’s a certain level of gravitas and erudition and mission focus,' she said.”

Crabby supposes what that means is dependent upon PBS's definitions of gravitas and erudition because Next Avenue's stories are so consistently light and airy they are in danger of floating off the screen.

When they are not insulting a reader's intelligence with vague platitudes (on unemployment: “observe strict daily grooming habits”), they indulge in the kind of pop-psychology and generic advice articles more suited to Cosmopolitan. Except, that well may be an insult to Cosmo.

Although most are too superficial to be useful, there are the usual (and totally unoriginal) nuts-and-bolts stories on health, finance, living, etc. that are more interesting and thorough almost anywhere else online. Here is a sampling of some current headlines:

Can Bubbly Boost Brain Power?

How to Beat 'Tip of the Tongue' Syndrome

Nutrition Facts: Reading the Label

6 Money-Saving Travel Secrets

The biggest puzzle for Crabby is why, at a website that purports to be for people who are 50 and older, the only old people mentioned are readers' parents.

The reason Crabby Old Lady bothers with Next Avenue at all anymore is she keeps hoping it will get better. But this week, they have moved from dumb and irrelevant to fake and irresponsible:

“Beware Your Cell Phone!” blares the headline. “It Causes Wrinkles, Cosmetic Surgeons Say.”

John Stark, the “articles editor” at Next Avenue, writes:

”According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery [ASAPS], smartphones can make you look prematurely old. There’s no medical name for this condition, at least not yet. Until there is I’m calling it 'smartphone face.'”

Then he quotes the ASAPS website where he says he discovered this “condition:”

“Lines and creases may develop if you spend an excessive amount of time texting and checking your email on your smartphone. The constant downward gaze caused by smartphone use may be causing some individuals to experience more lines and creases on their neck than would appear naturally.”

Wha? How stupid does Mr. Stark think Crabby Old Lady is? This screams FAKE and CHARLATAN and SNAKEOIL and anyway, people have been reading books - which also involved a "downward gaze" - for centuries without developing "bookface." This, apparently, what passes for gravitas and erudition at PBS these days and although Crabby has always held a healthy skepticism of the organization's pretensions, this is a new low.

For some inexplicable reason, Time magazine bothered to look into this “smartphone face” claim a few days ago, asking British cosmetician, Dr. Mervyn Patterson to weigh in on the validity of it:

”According to Patterson, more and more people are noticing what they look like while they’re Skyping or video-conferencing. And they’re not happy with what they see. But is there any truth to it?

“Short answer: probably not. There’s no real science to prove that smartphone face even remotely exists...”

In other words, this Next Avenue story is more suited to Weekly World News or pretty much any supermarket tabloid than a website for elders that promises "gravitas and erudition."


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: On Money


Why Crabby Old Lady Has No Blog Post Today

Crabby Old Lady is acutely aware that this is a post so self-indulgent and so light and airy you may not be able to see it on your screen. She has several meatier stories in various stages of production but couldn't make one of them ready because her time yesterday got eaten up by ephemera – stupid, ordinary errands and chores that repeatedly went wrong. All day.

One example is enough to give you the idea.

Crabby needed three items that required stops at two stores, neither of them far away. At first she thought she could remember the three but quickly recalled that not infrequently she gets to the store with her brain empty of one of the items.

So she stopped to write down her three items: salmon for a new recipe she wanted to try for dinner, fresh berries for breakfast and kitty litter.

In preparation, Crabby changed from slippers into outdoor shoes. She checked her wallet to be sure there was enough cash, grabbed the keys and headed for the door.

As she stepped across the threshold, she noticed that although the sun was out, it was colder – a lot colder - than she had anticipated so back in the house to get a jacket.

Then, just as she was locking the door, she realized she didn't have a reusable grocery bag with her, so back inside again to get one.

Arriving at her car, Crabby checked her handbag, didn't see the shopping list so she walked back home, unlocked the door and went over to the desk to pick up the list. No list.

As she stepped into the kitchen to see if it was there, only a lucky grab of the counter kept Crabby vertical as she slipped on something wet. Wha-a-a-a-t?

Ollie the cat's water bowl was tipped over and water had spread over most of the floor.

When did that happen? Crabby asked herself. Ollie appeared to be snoozing in his chair so it must have been before Crabby had left the house – maybe while she was in the back of the apartment and couldn't hear the CATastrophe happen.

It was a 15-minute, entire-paper-towel-roll cleanup project.

Now where was I, Crabby asked herself. Right. Shopping list.

Not in the kitchen so Crabby just wrote it all down again and made certain to put it in her handbag before she once again headed for the car. She was about to put her key in the ignition when another glance in her handbag revealed that her cell phone was not there.

As usual in that situation (which happens more often than you would think), Crabby asked herself if she really needed it. After all, she had spent half a century driving all over the United States and several foreign countries without a telephone or terrible consequences.

But there was the incident Crabby told you about two or three months ago when the car would not start and only the kindness of a young man lending his phone in pouring rain made it possible to easily call the tow service.

(Annoyingly, everything up to this point in Crabby's story is the result of commonplace, old age, short-term memory problems.)

So once again, Crabby trudged back to her apartment to get the mobile phone and at last made her way to the stores where everything worked out fine – if you don't count the heart-attack-inducing price of wild salmon.

It was one of those days. Later in the morning it included another kitchen floor spill – much worse, olive oil – that was entirely the fault of Crabby's inattention - can't blame the cat for it. And running out of printer ink before finishing a copy job that needed to be sent yesterday, entailing a trip to another store.

After getting the papers mailed, Crabby took a nap. So much for blogging.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: Camping at El Golfo


Crabby Old Lady: A Tale of Two Blogs About Aging

When Crabby Old Lady started this blog a decade ago, hardly anyone else was writing about aging – not online, in magazines and newspapers or anywhere else. Apparently it was too much of a bummer in those days to remind people they will get old and anyway, no one wants to look at pictures of old people, right?

That changed when the oldest baby boomers began turning 60 in 2006, the media realized there was money to be made from targeting that 78 million-strong generation with pertinent aging information and now, seven years later, it's a growth industry.

Most major publications – online and off – have reporters and/or sections dedicated to aging or retirement and this is generally good for all old people. But a subtle kind of ageism in media coverage of aging issues is too often evident.

Simply put, when boomers are being addressed the stories are mostly upbeat, optimistic and cheerful unless they are practical as in the case of financial information and advice.

But when the 40 million Americans who are, like Crabby Old Lady, older than boomers are targeted the subject is usually failing health. Period. Everything else there may be about us is ignored as though we have already checked out, no longer involved with or curious about the world we live in.

Although The New York Times is far from the only transgressor, it is the most widely read and it offers the most stark examples with their two blogs devoted to aging - The New Old Age and the newer one, Booming.

To show you what Crabby is talking about, here are half a dozen representative stories published in the Booming blog this month:

A celebrity interview with singer Emmylou Harris

A funny piece about reporters' daydreams of bedding their interview subjects then and now (Disclosure: the writer, Joyce Wadler, is an old friend)

Another music story about how, if you like Billie Holliday you'll love Madeleine Peyroux

How to make yourself virtually immortal for the generations who come after you

Funny, rueful story (again, by Crabby's friend Joyce) about how low-rise jeans don't work on old bodies but there is, infuriatingly, nothing else for sale

Thoughts on what to do with Mom's mink coat when she has retired to a warm climate

Pretty good lineup, Crabby thinks. Some amusing and interesting stuff related to getting old. Now here is (also representative) a list of half a dozen stories this month at The New Old Age blog.

Painfully honest, wrenching story about caregiving

Interview with Martin Bayne about the realities of assisted living

Designing homes that are safe for elders and disabled people

Much delayed treatment World War II veterans are now receiving for PTSD

New medical research that suggests elders may want to reconsider their DNR (do not resuscitate) orders

Why elders may not need as many colonoscopies as are prescribed

Quite a difference between the two lists. All the stories on both blogs are useful, interesting or entertaining, but the younger old get the fun and older old get no fun at all, just health, health, health and not much good news about it.

In fact, The New York Times seems to have planned it this way. Here is their description of the Booming blog:

”Booming is a section about baby boomers — the 78 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964. Besides news and information useful to this generation, you’ll find essays by boomers and by their children.

“You’ll find debates about books, new music to embrace and some secrets to enduring love. The wide-ranging conversation will be led by Michael Winerip, who has covered education, parenting, politics and his fellow boomers.”

Sounds good to Crabby Old Lady and importantly, it anticipates and respects the the intelligence of boomers – not something that is always true among media offerings for aging people.

Now, here is The Times' description of The New Old Age blog – also for boomers but the subject is more specific: people who are not only older than they, but sick:

”Thanks to the marvels of medical science, our parents are living longer than ever before. Adults over age 80 are the fastest growing segment of the population; most will spend years dependent on others for the most basic needs. That burden falls to their baby boomer children.

“In The New Old Age, Paula Span and other contributors explore this unprecedented intergenerational challenge.”

So in all the daily publication of these two blogs about aging (at least two stories a day week in and week out), The New York Times consistently ignores the existence of an entire generation of Americans, those 40 million women and men who are older than the boomers, except to declare “most'” of them to be dependent burdens on boomers for their "most basic needs."

Even if The New Old Age is "supposed" to be a blog about caregiving, the facts are that it covers much more than that, often speaking directly to Crabby's generation, and their description of the oldest population is nowhere near the reality.

According to the U.S. Department of Health Administration on Aging Profile of Older Americans 2011 [pdf], 84.4 percent of people 65 and older live with a spouse or alone. There is no information in the report about how many of the married elders are caring for an ailing spouse at home, but Crabby thinks it safe to assume that a long way from “most” are not.

Here is what can be said for sure: if you live long enough you are likely to have more health problems than when you were young and old people are definitely interested in information that will help them maintain their health.

But that is just one among what are certainly thousands of things people older than boomers collectively care about - things like “debates about books, new music to embrace and some secrets to enduring love...[and] wide-ranging conversation.”

Crabby Old Lady founded this blog a decade ago when everything she read about what getting old is like spoke only of disease, decline and debility. She didn't believe that could possibly be so and she has proved to be correct about that right here on these pages every day since.

It's not hard to do if you treat old people with respect. However, in the focus and presentation of its two dedicated aging sections, The New York Times persistently demeans elders who are older than boomers by characterizing them in a pejorative, ageist manner and Crabby Old lady expects better than that from the Old Gray Lady.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Loss of Appetite


Crabby Old Lady Takes a Breather

Here's how it works: if you put yourself out here on the internet and if you don't hide your identity and if you take strong positions on political and cultural issues, some people are bound to give you a hard time.

Crabby Old Lady (aka Ronni Bennett in ticked off mode) knows this, expects it and ignores most of it. But too much online and offline communication recently has been just offensive. Or ignorant or mean or rude or presumptuous.

The same can be said for requests and “suggestions” about how this blog should operate, look or behave. (If you think it's so easy, run your own damned blog and if you don't understand basic internet functionality, keep your complaints to yourself.)

Generally, among TGB readers, such stuff is rare but the amount that has been pouring over the transom this week feels like an avalanche. It has sucked all the energy from Crabby leaving her tired, resentful and angry.

And although there is a serious purpose to Time Goes By, Crabby Old Lady enjoys it but this week, it stopped being fun and Crabby needs a breather.

So except for links to new stories at The Elder Storytelling Place, next week Time Goes By will go dark while Crabby ignores any- and everything related to this blog.

IMPORTANT: In the past when Crabby and Ronni have been fed up enough with the trolls to back away for awhile, some of you have left lovely messages of commiseration and appreciation for TGB.

Of course, those are nice but this post is not an appeal for compliments, flattery, praise or felicitations of any kind. It is just an explanation of Crabby's absence.

So please restrain yourselves, and we'll meet back here on March 25 after Crabby's breather.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Pleasures


Crabby Old Lady: Dead or Alive?

This has been a disastrous holiday season for Crabby Old Lady. Not the holidays themselves; just everything else. To give you an idea, the least of it is that her heating has not worked since Christmas.

It is finally being repaired today but the other problems, involving a handful of the largest corporations in the U.S., may put Crabby in her grave.

Let's start in November with Amazon and The New York Times. The Times has a painfully perverse set of subscription choices. Aside from dead tree delivery, the newspaper can be displayed on the computer and smartphone. Or on the computer and tablet. Or you can pay way too much for access on all three.

Even though it costs $60 more per year, Crabby wanted to change her subscription from computer/smartphone to computer/tablet due to her new Kindle HD that is so much easier on her old eyes than the tiny phone screen. Hear Crabby's warning: don't.

The change involved getting her Times password to work for both devices but when she tried – again and again – the website tossed her into a loop that repeatedly requested the password.

Crabby will spare you further details except to say that more than two hours of wait and discussion time on the telephone (all coming off her cell minutes) with the two companies' representatives resulted in the same contradictory information from each: “I can't help you; it's Amazon's problem.” Or, when talking to Amazon – well, Crabby's has no doubt you can figure out on your own what that representative said.

Don't forget that this is a service for which Crabby pays money but neither company was willing to make the product available. How is this different, Crabby wonders, from the supermarket snatching the carrots out of her bag after she's been through the checkout counter.

A couple of days later the password process – as computer things sometimes do - miraculously succeeded through no help from either company.

Moving right along, Crabby's December internet/cable television bill arrived from Comcast in mid-December with a jump in price of 21.5 percent. This signals a Kabuki dance the company and Crabby do every six months: they raise the price, Crabby calls to cancel everything except internet and basic TV and they lower the price.

Now, Crabby Old Lady likes television. She follows the political scene on it, she watches some fine dramas (there is good stuff being produced these days) and along with some comedy, movies, Netflix, etc. to choose from, it is particularly enjoyable on evenings after she has fried her brain during eight or 10 hours working on this blog.

So all you sanctimonious abstainers who don't sully your pristine minds with grubby television, Crabby grants you your intellectual superiority but keep it to yourself today.

Crabby called her Comcast representative. He's a nice guy and she likes her twice-a-year chats with him. In the end, she gets to keep the television package she likes at an amount that (within the ruinous confines of monopoly pricing) is tolerable for another six months.

She made her first call on December 14th and left the requested information for her service representative. The recording states that a 24-hour turnaround is expected.

Since this is a Crabby Old Lady bitch session, you already know that didn't happen. Not the next day nor the next nor the next. Given Crabby's normally short temper in such circumstances, she has been remarkably polite in the nine or ten subsequent messages she has left.

Oh, wait. She did get one return call but it arrived while she was being examined by her eye doctor and in no position to chat about television and internet prices.

The terrible part of this is with the cable TV/internet access monopoly in almost every city in the U.S. including Crabby's, there is no comparable competitor and this is deeply wrong in what is supposed to be a free market economy.

Crabby continues to call Comcast, so far to no avail.

You might think this covers Crabby's electronic travails and she is done bitching now. Oh no, not yet.

Thanks to all of the above, Crabby Old Lady has gone way over her cell phone voice limit and at 45 cents per extra minute, her monthly charge doubled.

She may have talked more than usual during the holidays but not enough to put her over the top without the two to three hours of extremely unsatisfactory wait and talk times with Amazon, The Times and Comcast's voicemail system.

However, even without these corporate/customer failures, Crabby was thinking she needs more voice and less data time to avoid crushing overage charges in the future.

Because it is another year until her contract is up and there is a $350 penalty to cancel before then, Crabby checked what else was available at Verizon.

It was useless. There is no choice but to pay a lot more for more minutes or, in subscribing to a different kind of less expensive plan, to purchase a new phone not nearly as spiffy or useful as the one she has and which, finally, Crabby has learned to navigate with relative ease.

Crabby took a crack at negotiating with a Verizon representative via live chat one day. The asinine conversation is too stupid to recount – the text equivalent of those verbal scripts read by customer reps for whom English is a third or fourth language.

As you can see, nothing has been resolved not to mention that Crabby doesn't like The Times tablet app and wants to return to using the smartphone option for The Times but is exhausted already thinking about what else will go wrong.

There is also the day or two during this period when suddenly, without warning or explanation, Crabby could no longer access her online bank account. An hour-long, in-person visit with the bank on Christmas Eve morning produced no solution but on the day after Christmas, one of those computer miracles occurred and she could again do her banking from home.

So. Let's add this up. Heating: may return today if nothing goes wrong. Banking: working, for now. Comcast: unresolved. Verizon: unresolved. Times/Amazon: does Crabby have the stamina to take them on again?

Up at the top of this lengthy complaint, Crabby mentioned her grave.

From time to time, through many years of her life, when all Crabby's efforts to have an affect her personal world repeatedly fail, she fancifully(?) posits that she is dead and doesn't know it yet.

Could that be so this time? she wonders.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: A Good Woman