907 posts categorized "Culture"

Stephen Hawking 1942 – 2018

Even though I generally can't understand anything about physics, gravity, black holes and all the other challenging subjects physicist Stephen Hawking studied, I've always read everything I came across about him and somehow, even though he had lived with Lou Gehrig's Disease all his adult life, it never occurred to me that he could die.

So I was shocked earlier this week to see the headline that he had died in his home in Cambridge, England, at age 76. Hawking was our generation's Einstein, the loveable genius who had miraculously survived beyond age 24 that doctors had given him, and who made physics sexy.

Leonard Mlodinow, writing in The New York Times following Hawking's death put the same idea more clearly than I did:

”In popular culture Stephen was another kind of miracle: a floating brain, a disembodied intellect that fit snugly into the stereotype of the genius scientist.”

He was/still is one of my top favorite celebrities.

I read his first book, A Brief History of Time when it was published in 1988, and a few years later, The Universe in a Nutshell, believing – at least while I was reading them – that I actually understood. Yeah. Right.

The Guardian published a few of the many accolades from people who knew, loved or admired Hawking:

“'Stephen was far from being the archetypal unworldy or nerdish scientist. His personality remained amazingly unwarped by his frustrations,' said Lord Rees, the astronomer royal, who praised Hawking’s half century of work as an 'inspiring crescendo of achievement.' He added: 'Few, if any, of Einstein’s successors have done more to deepen our insights into gravity, space and time.'”
”Hawking’s children said: 'We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today. He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years. His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world. “'He once said: “It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.” We will miss him for ever.'”
”The Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield lamented on Twitter that 'Genius is so fine and rare', while Theresa May noted Hawking’s 'courage, humour and determination to get the most from life was an inspiration.' The US rock band Foo Fighters was more succinct, calling Hawking a 'fucking legend.'”

In 2014, John Oliver interviewed Hawking for his HBO program, Last Week Tonight. The encounter was priceless then, moreso now:

Actor Eddie Redmayne played Hawking in the film, The Theory of Everything. If you haven't seen it, you should track it down. Redmayne won the best actor Academy Award for his portrayal of Hawking.

Here are just a very few of the many accolades and tributes and memories of Hawking from around the web:

Interview about the existence of heaven

Hawking on climate change

Why Hawking was not afraid of death

A brief bio from the University of Cambridge, where he worked

A short overview of his career

And here is a video of 10 memorable quotations from Professor Hawking. The Youtube page is correct: “Some are funny, others are thought-provoking, but all are incredibly wise.”

The world lost one of the greatest men of our generation this week. I feel blessed to have “known” him, even at a great distance.

Small Pleasures

As many TGB readers noted on the posts I wrote about my cancer, small pleasures are closely related to the idea of living in the moment.

We usually develop an appreciation of such commonplaces throughout our lives but are so busy in our midyears that we hardly recognize their importance.

Nevertheless, they accumulate over time. Here are a few that never fail to please me.

Hot showers. Twice in my life, men I was dating thought it was a sexy idea to shower together. Hmmmph. They both suffered from the same malady: to me, what they called hot felt like jumping into a flowing river in January.

But alone, ahhhh - the hot, hot water pouring over my head and shoulders and down my body from above, perhaps just a tad too hot so that it becomes almost a meditation. It is sublime and best of all, I get to do it every day.

A great perk of being retired is snuggling in bed on a cold, winter morning. Even though in retirement there is nowhere I need to be, I still feel a little giddy, like I'm getting away with something, and the bed (why is this?) is never more comfortable than just before rising.

Cat watching. As much time as they spend sleeping (some say 17 hours a day), cats are busy little creatures when they are awake.

There is a lot of “laundry” to do keeping their fur groomed and if you pay attention you will see that they pause now and then to stare into space – as though the licking maybe makes them high.

Cats are especially fascinating when they don't know you're watching but even then, it's hard to catch them doing anything that isn't as graceful as a ballerina. Which is, of course, what make it so funny when they miscalculate a jump.

It's even funnier when they know you've caught them being ungainly and they try to pretend they planned it that way.

Full moon. For reasons I don't know, it seem more beautiful in winter than summer; I never tire of seeing a full moon etched against the dark sky on a cold, clear night – like someone hung it up there just for me.

What a pleasure it is to have a book you can't put down and strain to keep your eyes open while reading in bed at night, eager to find out what's next. Even better is looking forward to getting back to such a book later after you did fall asleep while reading.

Ice cream. Need I say more?

New-fallen snow early in the morning. I will quote myself on this one as I wrote it 12 years ago:

”Is there anything better than waking in winter to the special hush a new snowfall brings to the big city? It is different from silence. Listen carefully and you will find that the sound of the quiet can be heard, especially at dawn.

“It is irresistible then to bundle up in layers, pull on a fur hat and go out into the street just as the sky is turning from black to sapphire blue - and be the first on my block to make footprints, and even an angel, in the snow.”

That worked in New York City and I miss it now. We don't get enough snow in northwest Oregon to be able to hear the silence, and certainly not to make a snow angel.

The first crocuses. What you can take pleasure in in Oregon, however, are the first crocuses that surprise me every year when they peek their purple or white heads up when you think it's still too early for them to bloom. They always makes me smile.

Here is a little video dissertation I found on the importance of small pleasures.

When small pleasures really pay off, I think, is in our late years when natural decline or illness can prevent our grander pleasures, especially physical ones.

What are your favorite small pleasures?

Elders and Technology

PERSONAL NOTE: In December, freelancereporter Debbie Reslock interviewed me about my pancreatic cancer experience for the Next Avenue website. Her story was published this week and you can read it here.

* * *

Do you use Facebook? How about Twitter? Or Snapchat, Instagram, Reddit? Have you got a smartphone? A tablet? A home assistant like Alexa maybe?

For many years, polls showed that elders' use of technology trailed way behind that of youth and younger adults. That's changed now. We're catching up.

According to the recent Technology Use and Attitudes among Mid-Life and Older Americans report from AARP, more than 90 percent of Americans age 50 and older own a desktop or laptop, 70 percent own a smartphone and more than 40 percent own a tablet.

Here's a chart showing device usage by the 50-and-older cohort. (Larger version here [pdf] – scroll down to page 7)


As the report explains:

”Traditional activities dominate computer use for adults over 50, but a sizeable minority are using their device to manage medical care or learn online.

“Among those who own such devices, top activities include surfing the internet, making purchases, getting news, and banking.

“Adults 70+ do fewer activities on their computers than those under 70, with a couple exceptions such as gaming (over half play games on their computer) and email.”

According to another factoid, apparently I am not keeping up by abstaining from texting:

”Nine in ten (91%) of those with devices say they use technology to stay in touch with friends and family.

“Among those under 70, text messaging has overtaken email as the tool most used to stay connected, though most use three channels (email, texts, and social media).”

In addition, 72 percent of the 50-plus crowd use some form(s) of social media - 75 percent of those age 50-69; 65 percent of people 70 and older.

Most frequent online activities start with email (68%), browing the internet (63%), getting weather (63%) and checking social media (58%). It looks like not many of us are dating which comes in dead last on the activities list at one percent.

Me? Well, I'm not dating online (or anywhere else) but if you don't count texting, most of my life is online. I read a large number of news, information and opinion sites, fool around on YouTube and other video websites, email, weather, banking, bill paying, Skype, track all my medical information (including making appointments, asking questions, etc.), shopping, research for this blog and for personal curiosity, not to mention writing and coding the blog, track down podcasts and music – and I'm certain I've left out more.

One other thing: unlike the 58 percent of 50-plus Americans who spend time with social media, I use Facebook and Twitter ONLY as automatic distribution channels for TimeGoesBy - which accounts for my lack of response to readers who leave comments and questions on Facebook.

My goal is to spend less time online, not more, but that's not going well.

It is gratifying to see the growth of internet use by old people. So much of our lives is moving online that a growing amount of important and/or useful information is not even available anywhere else. Note the growing number of times you see in print such directives as “For more information, visit our website at ...” whether we like it that way or not.

It is the oldest old who either do not use the internet at all or use much less of it than younger people but that will change as they (we?) die off.

So, your job to day is to tell us how you use the internet, what you like, what you don't like, what you wish you could change and your thoughts in general on how the internet has become such a large part of daily life.

Here are links to the Technology Use and Attitudes among Mid-Life and Older Americans report from AARP:

Full report (lots of charts)

Pet Adoption and Old People

A few days ago, TGB reader Trudy Kappel emailed about elders and pets:

I am the same age as you and my beloved and aged cat died a few weeks ago,” wrote Trudy.

“Right now it is much too soon for me to adopt another one but I wonder if it is really too late. My most recent cats lived between 18 and 20 years. I think it is unlikely that I will live that long and worry about what would happen to kitty when I'm not able to care for her.

“My friends remind me of the benefits of pet ownership (not clear who owns who) and that 'The only reason Grandpa got out of bed was to care for Fluffy.' I'm not there yet but it could happen.”

I “think” I wrote about adopting senior pets in the past but if I'm right (I didn't check) it was long enough ago that it's worth a second go.


During the months I spent recovering from my surgery for pancreatic cancer and the followup chemotherapy, I thought a lot of about Ollie the cat (he is 13 years old) and what would happen to him if I died. He's not the friendliest fellow you ever met and a scaredy-cat too about anything new so that might be a stumbling block for adoption by a friend or stranger.

At other times I have wondered about adopting another cat if Ollie dies before I do. I've always had a cat and it wouldn't feel like home without one. But during that surgery recovery, I learned a bit about what the difficulties might be having a pet as we grow older.

For two months following the surgery, I was not allowed to bend over or twist my body. That made feeding Ollie and keeping his litter box clean a difficult endeavor. Fortunately, I have a wonderful neighbor who helped out every day.

But there are a lot of less deadly afflictions that could make it difficult or prevent an old person from the daily care of a cat or walking a dog and cleaning up behind him/her.

In addition, one of the hard parts of being old is that even if you are physically capable now, anything could happen tomorrow (and does from time to time) to change that. There is no way to know.

On the other hand, there are many positives to having a pet: companionship, stress relief, entertainment, unconditional love, and the sense of wellbeing that comes from being responsible for another living being.

So in addition to one's age, there is one's health to consider in adopting a new pet along with arrangements for a new home should we die.

Like a lot of other things in life, age and health are a crap shoot – mostly we don't know beforehand how healthy we are going to remain and how long we will live. If it's important enough to us, sometimes we just have to close our eyes and take the leap. I don't have a better solution.

One solution to the third question, however, is adopting an old pet. In doing so, you are probably saving a life because most people want kittens or puppies so abandoned elder pets are often euthanized.

In addition, older pets are calmer than kittens and puppies (they probably won't climb the curtains or tear up the sofa), and their personalities are set so you know what you're getting.

Old pets may also be less expensive to adopt – they have had the vaccinations that don't need repeating and reputable adoption services will know about any medical problems.

Speaking of that, there appear to be organizations that provide financial aid to pet owners in need of such assistance. The Humane Society has a list on their website.

There are other national (U.S.) websites to help with local pet adoption. Here are two:

Pets For the Elderly is a non-profit organization that promotes adoption of older pets and can help pay veterinarian costs if they are part of the adoption fee. There is a list of participating shelters alphabetically by state here.

Petfinder is another elder pet locator. Follow that link and then click “Find a Pet” at the top of the page. On the next page, when you enter your location and choose from other criteria (dog, cat, breed, gender, etc.), you will get a list of cats or dogs or other kinds of pets that are available for adoption.

Here are a couple of short videos about adopting an older dog or cat:

Do you have any experience with adopting an older pet?

Crabby Old Lady and Kids' Names for Grandparents

We are nearly at the end of the 2018 TGB donation drive to help support the costs of maintaining Time Goes By. Just two more days to go. You can read the donation drive details on Monday's post.

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

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The news this week has been loathsome (White House security-clearance scam), and also unbearably sad (Parkland, Florida, school massacre). Without disregarding either of those events, Crabby Old Lady thought that this might be a good week to give ourselves a break with something a lot less consequential.

For as long as Crabby has been writing this blog, about every year or two there has been a flurry of news stories about names grandparents want the grandchildren to call them.

They apparently take a different direction from days of yore when we were children. None of this grandpa or grandma stuff for today's elders. Not even the old-country traditions of bubbe, opa or nana.

Jane Brody, writing in The New York Times last month, tells us that a new book, Georgia Witkin’s The Modern Grandparent’s Handbook, lists 251 grandparental names,

”...divided by gender into three categories: Traditional, Trendy and Playful. I wouldn’t volunteer to be known as Sweetums, G-dawg, Faux Pa or Grandude, however playfully, but apparently some folks have,” writes Brody.

You can bet your booty that a grandchild of Crabby's (if she had any) would call her “Sweetums” only once.

Like most of the past stories Crabby Old Lady has seen on grandparent names, Brody blames the boomer generation for the untraditional new names, who will do pretty much everything possible to pretend they are not getting old, including this name silliness.

'...here’s my deeper suspicion:” she writes. “However mightily my peers may pine for grandchildren and adore them when they arrive, some don’t want to acknowledge being old enough to be dubbed Grandpop or Granny.

“Such names conjure up gray hair and orthopedic shoes, along with a status our society may honor in the abstract but few boomers actually welcome. We too often won’t use hearing aids, even if we need them. We may not claim the senior discount at the movie theater.

“We don’t want these wondrous new creatures calling us names that signify old age, either.”

This is where Brody – or, more specifically, the boomers she knows – goes off the rails: what is wrong with gray hair, Crabby wants to know? Or with orthopedic shoes? Or movie discounts?

Worst of all, if you don't wear needed hearing aids, you are too stupid for Crabby Old Lady to bother with you.

If Crabby were a grandmother, she'd go with Grandma or Granny. Both of them state a fact – always a good thing – and slide off the tongue nicely. What about you? Accusations of boomer ageism notwithstanding, let's see if there is a consensus about grandparent names around this blog.

What do the grandchildren call you? Do you like it? Who chose it? And what's the most inventive or interesting or odd name you've heard for Grandma or Grandpa?

How Old is Old?

Almost universally, surveys reveal that people believe old age begins at some time beyond the age they are at the moment. This is particularly so of age deniers but many of the rest of us congratulate ourselves, if only privately, on our youthfulness.

Other surveys ask how old people feel compared to their current age. A common answer is, “I feel 10 years younger than I am.” You can substitute 15 or 20 years which turn up regularly in those polls.

Here's my perennial response that: This makes no sense. It is an unanswerable question because whatever you feel at your current age is how that age feels – at least, for you.

And a lot of how old people feel depends on their health.

Some gerontologists and geriatricians divide old age into three (or four) general age groups. The Wikipedia page on old age (which is a good overview) reports several such definitions including these two:

Young old – 60-69 years
Middle old – 70-79 years
Old old – 80 plus

Young old – 65-74 years
Middle old – 75-84
Old old – 85 plus

There are more such divisions, but you get the idea. Personally, those few years of difference among the categories don't amount to a hill of beans but although ageing is not an exact science, the categories are useful in medicine for identifying life changes that are generally expected if you live long enough.

Still, we age at dramatically different rates. Some people at 60 are in severe decline; others at 90 are robust. But that doesn't make either of them young.

The age at which people are considered old is important socially, commercially, politically and governmentally. Retirement age is set depending on a culture's perception of old age which determines access to social security benefits, health care and allows legislators to set public priorities and spending for elders.

(It has occurred to me that if the age deniers I've met controlled the definition of old age, none of us would have Social Security benefits or Medicare – and that's only halfway a joke.)

Then there are the young young's definition of old. In my reading around the web over many years, I have seen uncounted blog entries by 29-year-olds terrified of their impending 30th birthday when, they say, they will be over the hill, unattractive and unsexy.

That tells you a lot about what young people think of their parents and grandparents. I recall that when I started dating at about age 16, I was appalled – and embarrassed - that my mother, recently divorced from my father, was starting to date too, at age 40. To my teenage self, she was way past the age when a person could fall in love.

My experience with a cancer diagnosis over the past seven or eight months has reinforced how much one's health has to do with accepting old age. My age is 76, 77 in April, and as noted above, that is the age I feel. I've always felt to be whatever age I am at the moment.

But I am more aware now of decline. These days, I plan my activities carefully because I tire more easily than before the surgery last June. One event a day is about all I'm willing to undertake and “event” can mean even a longish telephone conversation with a friend.

A visit to the doctor is usually enough for one day or dinner out with a friend or a shopping trip with more than one stop, etc. Recently, I invited neighbors for dessert with some cheeses and ice wine because I couldn't face cooking a whole dinner. (Yet. Maybe soon.)

A young person with a serious health problem can, in most cases, expect to bounce back to full capacity. Most old people won't. And if you are lucky enough to escape a terrible and/or debilitating diagnosis, gradual decline is your future. That is the difference between old and young.

Lots of people like to say that age is only a number. Oh yeah? I don't mean to be harsh, but you will die and most of us die because we are old. That is the nature of life.

Our job in old age (whatever number you put on it) is to make peace with that inevitable which doesn't mean there are not a lot good things about growing old.

When did you (or will you) accept that you are old?

Unsettling Changes and a Book Giveaway

Two items today – one that is probably close to universal among people past a certain age, and a second that undoubtedly has a more limited audience. Doesn't matter – it's all good. Let's start with

Many of you know Calvin Trillin, the long-time New Yorker columnist, humorist, novelist, journalist, food writer, etc. extraordinaire.

About a week ago, The New York Times published Trillin's essay that began with our now-changing usage of our thumbs – both physically and in speech:

”I was on the subway, watching a teenager text on his smartphone," writes Trillin, "when I realized that the idiom 'all thumbs' might be doomed...

“As his thumbs danced over the tiny screen, I realized that 'all thumbs' cannot much longer mean clumsy with one’s hands. And I realized how much I’m going to miss it. It has always seemed to me a way of noting a deficit without being vicious about it...

“But how can that man be labeled all thumbs if the teenager sitting across from me can use his thumbs on his smartphone fast enough to take dictation from a cattle auctioneer?”

This line of thought led Trillin to wonder how many others in his subway car were, like him, wearing a wristwatch

”...as opposed to reading the time digitally on a small device. It was a warm autumn day, and a number of people were in short-sleeves. From what I could see, almost none of them wore a wristwatch.

“That got me to thinking about 'counterclockwise.' When all of the analog watches and clocks are gone, will there be generations of people who don’t know what it means when the instructions say, 'Turn the bolt counterclockwise'?”

Trillin made a related observation about newspapers – the hard-copy kind:

”The train was crowded, but I had a seat. I was the only person in the car who was reading a newspaper rather than staring at a small electronic device — a singularity that should have provided another hint about where I fit in demographically these days.

“At the 86th Street stop, a gray-haired gentleman entered the car and, locking his arm around one of the vertical poles, unfolded The New York Times. I noticed that he was wearing a wristwatch. Catching his eye as he held out the paper to turn a page, I nodded. He nodded. I nodded again and offered him my seat.”

As much as old folks are exhorted to keep up with current trends, there can be a comfort sometimes in recognition of our common experiences of a lifetime whether or not they are fading.

(Because I know many of you do not have a subscription to The Times, I offer these excerpts – unfair as they are compared to the entire essay - because it is such a touching, little tribute to old age (Trillin is 82) and to the memories and habits of a lifetime, some of which may disappear until no one knows what they mean anymore.)

If you live in the U.S. and watch MSNBC now and then, you probably know Malcolm Nance, the widely-respected former cryptology analyst and counterterrorism expert who frequently lends his knowledge of terrorism, torture and insurgency to the cable news channel.

My friend Jim Stone recently met Mr. Nance. I'll let Jim explain:

”I went across the mighty Hudson, and shook Malcolm Nance's hand at a farm which he and various backers are starting to benefit returning veterans of latter-day Republican adventures in foreign lands...

He did not give a talk on any political subjects, but mainly spoke about the project...I bought two copies of his latest tome, ISIS, which I had him sign...He's pretty good, as you probably know, having a steady job on the talk circuit, and he has something to say.”

And then Jim offered to let me give away his two signed copies to TGB readers. And so we will.

DefeatingIsisThe book – full title, Defeating ISIS: Who They Are, How They Fight, What The Believe - could have been a dry, difficult read.

Instead, it is well organized and Nance has seen that it is enhanced will photographs, other illustrations, lists, historical context, descriptions of ISIS centers of influence throughout the world, and much more mostly broken up into short, clear sections.

In his review of the book in 2016, U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations retired Colonel Millard E. Moon praised Nance's structure of the book as a reference source and further wrote,

"Nance has done a really good job of providing detailed information about the growth and activities of ISIS components...there is a wealth of factual information on ISIS".

It's a good read if you have an interest in current history, counterintelligence and terrorism in our modern world.

We'll do the giveaway of the two copies as we always do:

Just tell me in the comments below that, “Yes, I want to win one of the books.” Or, you could say, “Me, me, me.” or anything else that indicates your interest.

Winners (you can live in any country) are selected by a random number generator and I will have your email addresses from the comment form. I will then email the winners to get your snailmail addresses to send off the books.

The contest will remain open through 12 midnight Pacific Time on Wednesday 10 January 2018, and the winners will be announced on Friday morning's regular post, 12 January 2018.

Welcome to the New Year 2018

Ella Wheeler Wilcox was a popular and well-known poet of the late 19th and early 20th century. I know a lot about her because my mother often quoted her poetry from memory.

Wilcox is the person who wrote this that you will surely recognize – from her poem, “Solitude”.

Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone.
For the sad old earth must borrow it's mirth,
But has trouble enough of it's own.

No kidding. As much as she was acclaimed in her day, Wilcox, her biographer tells us, should be considered a bad major poet.

Tell that to my mother. And me too, I suppose, having learned many of Wilcox's poems before I could read.

This is titled “1910” which, I think, pretty well sums up most years:

What can be said in New Year rhymes,
That’s not been said a thousand times?

The new years come, the old years go,
We know we dream, we dream we know.

We rise up laughing with the light,
We lie down weeping with the night.

We hug the world until it stings,
We curse it then and sigh for wings.

We live, we love, we woo, we wed,
We wreathe our brides, we sheet our dead.

We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,
And that’s the burden of the year.

Yes, all those things. Happy New Year, everyone.


Happy Thanksgiving 2017, Everyone

Given the condition of the national government (not to mention some state governments), we in the United States could be forgiven for wondering what there is to be thankful for this year.

May I suggest we go micro, local, personal.

The biggest for me is old and new friends including all of you at this blog who have been so open, generous, understanding, giving and loving. Not that you haven't always been so but without your constant and powerful support since my diagnosis of pancreatic cancer earlier this year, I know I would not be nearly as positive as I am.

You are all wonderful people.

Secondly, I am thankful to the gods or to whomever arranges such things in the universe that I was among the 10 percent of people with this diagnosis who are eligible for the Whipple procedure.

In addition, the chemotherapy has so far been relatively easy with none of the gruesome side effects that can happen. How did I get so lucky?

And then there are the innumerable staff at the Oregon Health & Science University clinics and hospital where, without exception, every one is smart, thoughtful, experienced, caring and as far as I can tell, never has a bad day.

Moving on then to the celebration of this year's holiday...

In 2013, I vowed that due to my delight at rediscovering Arlo Guthrie's epic Thanksgiving fable, Alice's Restaurant, after the decade or two it lay somewhere in memory limbo, I would make the song the annual holiday anthem of TimeGoesBy.

As I noted that year, I was equally delighted to discover that with a couple of minor lapses, I still knew the entire monologue by heart. I can't say why but it gives me a great deal of pleasure to sing along for the entire 18 minutes, which I took the time to do (with gusto again this year) while readying this post.

Maybe you would enjoy doing that too. All together now...

It's a fine ol' song, don't you think.

At this point, I need to slip in a practical note: Last weekend, a huge, big box of baklava arrived at my door from Libanais Sweets. It has been a favorite treat – baklava – for many years.

Alas, there was no card enclosed nor could the nice woman at Libanais help me with a name when I telephoned so I have no idea who to thank. Please do let me know – the baklava, in several types, is wonderful.

Just because I can, I'm taking tomorrow off from the blog but will be back here on Saturday with the a new edition of Interesting Stuff.

For my baklava benefactor and everyone who honors me year 'round by reading, commenting and/or generally hanging out here,


Elders and Dog Sharing

Day in and day out, there is so much bad news, I decided that in keeping with the holiday tomorrow, we should have a week of light news and commentary. God knows such things as sexual misconduct, tax reform, net neutrality and whatever else comes up will need our full attention next week.

Meanwhile, in a recent story in 1843 Magazine, Edward McBride discusses dog sharing in London. Mostly, he is talking about working people whose dogs get lonely during the day:

”For those whose schedules make it hard to pay their dog enough attention, outfits like BorrowMyDoggy are a godsend.

“They match owners, who need someone to stop Fido getting so bored he chews the skirting boards and pees on the sofa, with people who volunteer to walk or dogsit lonely pooches because they want the fun of having a dog to play with occasionally without the hassle and expense of owning one full-time.”

Personally, I think such people have no business having a pet but let's go with premise for the sake of this story.

It's more than just dog walking, it's an actual visit and the idea has spread to Canada (Part-time Pooch) and Australia (Dogshare). It's that name “Dogshare” that got me thinking about pets (well, dogs in particular) and old people.

I'm perfectly happy with my cat Ollie, I'm home most of the time so he doesn't need a drop-by friend and it is in the nature of most cats that they are slow to warm up to new people so I'm applying my idea to dogs.

Ollie is 13 now. My previous cat lived to be nearly 20, but what if Ollie doesn't and what if I would like a new pet when he is gone? It is widely understood that pets and people are good for one another and that dogs are amenable to more than one person at a time:

"Most of the world’s dogs [says Alexandra Horowitz, who teaches canine psychology at Columbia University in New York], are strays living in the developing world.

"Their natural habitat, as it were, is the proximity of humans, but they do not have a specific owner. Instead, they attach themselves temporarily to whoever is nice to them.

"There is good evidence that dogs form genuine attachments to humans, and can become depressed when these bonds of affection are sundered. But they need not be exclusive. As Roger Mugford, an animal psychologist who helped to train the queen’s corgis, puts it, “'You can overplay the idea of loyalty to the last gasp.'”

Most people want kittens or puppies but there are services that pair up elder people with elder pets. A good idea. But do I really want to face outliving another pet, if it comes to that?

So taking a page from Part-time Pooch and Dogshare, what about a real shared ownership between an elder and a younger person? The dog could live at each person's house for a week at a time, then switch.

It should start when the dog is a puppy, of course, so that having two homes feels normal to him or her. Each person can enjoy the pet in a week on/week off relationship, share expenses, work out vacation time with one another and when the older person dies, there is no worry that the dog won't have a home.

Give it some thought and let us know what you think.

Making Hearing Aids as Cool as Eyeglasses

A neighbor leaned in close, putting her ear near mine. “Can you hear it?” she asked, referring to her new hearing aid? Yes. Yes, I could hear her hearing aid announcing that it had been inserted correctly.

They haven't gotten any cheaper (the average price for a pair of hearing aids hovers around $4,000) and users often find them less than satisfactory. Further, many who could benefit don't use hearing aids because there is a cultural stigma attached to them.

Recently, Barnard College professor, Jennifer Finney Boylan, in an opinion piece in The New York Times, wrote about the cultural acceptance gap between eyeglasses and hearing aids:

”Why, I wonder, is it that devices to keep you from being blind are celebrated as fashion, but devices to keep you from being deaf are embarrassing and uncool? Why is it that the biggest compliment someone can give you about your hearing aids is 'I can hardly see them'?”

I've often wondered that myself. Hearing aids may not work as well as eyeglasses do, but that or the need to feel “cool” shouldn't be a reason for so many people to choose silence. Ms. Boylan continues:

”Among those in their 50s, 4.5 million people have some hearing loss. How many wear devices that would enable them to better hear the world? Less than 5 percent.

“Wearing hearing aids can change your life in an instant — not to mention that of the people you love, whose actual voices you may have been unable to hear. But we don’t get help.

“Because coverage by insurance carriers is inconsistent. Because we don’t know where or how to get our hearing tested. Because we’re afraid of what others might think. Because hearing loss is uncool.”

And they are wildly expensive but Boylan takes that on too while explaining some of the advances that are making hearing aids more successful for users.

Earlier this year, CNN reported on 78-year-old New Yorker, Peter Sprague, another who wants to make hearing aids cool. He's gone so far as to create a prototype of his idea, to start a company and to seek venture capital funding. Here he is in a short video explaining it all:

The hearing aids are called HearGlass which is, according to Sprague's company website, a

”...disruptive wearable device that incorporates full audio spectrum HiFi [hearing aids] into eyeglasses, allowing for a directional hearing experience superior to traditional [hearing aids]. Bluetooth/WiFi capabilities allow for hands-free music streaming, telephony, voice-activated commands and on-the-fly setting changes.”

You can find out more at the website. HearGlass is not yet available, Sprague is still in the fundraising phase and I have no idea if they work well. I'm not here to sell them.

I just like the idea that there are some people trying to remove the stigma from hearing aids so maybe more people will use them.

The Democratic Wins in Tuesday's Election

Let's have a little political talk around here today as a switch from too much health chitchat.

Democratic candidates got an amazing number of wins over their Republican opponents in Tuesday's election and in some cases did it in a walk. The biggest spread in the vote count was in the Virginia race for governor between Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie – a vast nine points dividing them.

The Democrats had a good run that night too in Virginia's House of Delegates. Four seats are still too close to call as I write this on Thursday afternoon and the final count could end up with a 50/50 split in the formerly bright red House.

Not as dramatically, some other states leaned heavily toward blue in this election, notably the Democratic win for governor in New Jersey, which is giving Republicans heartburn for the 2018 midterm election.

Yastreblyansky posted a cogent response to these developments at The Rectification of Names blog which I will quote more extensively than I usually do,

First he points out that of the 16 Virginia districts that went to Northam on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton won 15 of them in 2016.

”...one reason [this election] was so like 2016 is that so many people voted — 47%, the highest turnout in a Virginia gubernatorial election in 20 years,” writes Yastreblyansky.

“In a normal off-off-year election, the same kind of idiocy we're stuck with in New York City and New Jersey, the candidate of the leisured, the management, the retired, has an advantage. Not this year: voters just came out.

“And not just voters; candidates too. In 2013, 56 out of 100 districts had no opposition (mostly Republican seats), and no election was required at all; 71 of them in 2015.

“But in 2017 there were just 12 Republican seats with no opposition (28 Democratic seats unopposed by Republicans), because Democrats came out in Virginia to challenge everybody they could, and they won such a startling number those seats because they showed up.

“That simple. (Apparently Trump really inspired folks to run, particularly women, just by being so disgusting.) (Guy on MSNBC—Stuart Stevens, Wikipedia says he's a travel writer—saying every woman running as a Democrat nationwide just won her race.)”

The New York Times followed up on how much this Democratic Party-leaning vote involving wins by so many women and minorities means or does not mean for the midterms that are still a year away:

”Some are skeptical of reading too much into one off-year election. And even Democrats have had heated disagreements over whether identity politics help the party or drive people away.

“But David Ramadan, a Republican who served in the Virginia General Assembly from 2012 to 2016 said the warning for his party was clear.

“'Tuesday’s results show that unless the Republicans go back to being mainstream conservatives and run on issues like education, jobs and transportation instead of sanctuary cities and Confederate statues, they will hand not only Virginia to liberals, but they will hand the country to liberals and Congress to liberals next year,' Mr. Ramadan said.”

At New York magazine, Ed Kilgore walked readers through the various county vote numbers vis a vis the same counties in 2016, concluding:

One would be tempted to guess Northam won a good number of anti-Trump Republicans. But the exits suggest he won only 4 percent of self-identified members of the GOP. What seems to have mattered more is that self-identified Democrats were 41 percent of the electorate, as opposed to only 31 percent who were Republicans.

“That is a testament to the Democratic voter targeting and turnout operation, and possibly an indication that Republicans are losing a significant number of Virginia’s white suburban voters altogether.”

Two things about that: The daily effort the resistance has been making day-in-and-day-out since the 2016 election is working. It's fallen off my radar a bit since June with the distraction of my health issue and I haven't been reminding you to keep after your D.C. representatives on votes as they come up. Do keep at it for the coming year. If you can, help out your local grassroots efforts too.

Second, what do you make of this week's elections? Depending on your political leanings, are you encouraged, worried or, like me, concerned that so much happens, so much changes, every day in our current Trump world, everything is forgotten in the worldwind and almost nothing applies anymore after a week has gone by.

Crabby Old Lady and End of Literacy

Okay, maybe Crabby Old Lady is overstating it in that headline, but voice and and tiny little pictographs appear to be taking over human communication at the expense of the written word.


It's not just email and texting. When you add Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterist, Snapchat, etc. - all of which often use more photos, video and emoji than words – it appears that the written word is in danger of disappearing.

Before she goes any further, let Crabby admit that since last January, she has owned two Amazon Echo devices – one re-gifted from a TGB reader who didn't want it and another that Crabby, who was amused by the first one, bought for the bedroom at the other end of her home.

She doesn't use them as extensively as many people (and she certainly does not have a “smart home” to command with them), but just by asking she can find out the weather forecast, set a timer, listen to radio or to music or order up the latest news to be read to her, or a book, add items to her grocery shopping list, check the instructions on a recipe while she is cooking and much more.

You can see the insidious attraction.

California entertainment lawyer, Jon Pfeiffer, reported recently on a Harris poll that asked people of varying ages if emoji communicate better than the written word:

”...36% of millennials said that emojis convey their thoughts and emotions better than traditional words. About half as many baby boomers agree.

“However, when you look only at emotion, around 40% of baby boomers prefer emojis. This is not quite as many as the 66% of millennials, but it is still a huge percentage nonetheless.'”

Pfeiffer also quotes Professor John Sutherland on the subject:

“'In the future, less words and letters will be used in messaging as pictures and icons take over the text speak language.'”

(Crabby would be more inclined to take Sutherland seriously, however, if he – a professor of modern English literature at University College London - did not have such a poor grasp of English language grammar.)

Nevertheless, she still worries that these two men are on to something.

Crabby knows that every generation, especially as it ages, believes the world, now run by younger generations, is going to hell in a handbasket. So far that hasn't happened but the loss of widespread literacy would have devastating effect on civilization.

This loss seems to be progressing on several fronts beyond pictures replacing words.

Consider the assault on thought, focus and concentration of the modern workplace. Even before Crabby retired in 2004, cubicles had taken over and she, a writer and editor then, had been give a “cube” next to sales people on two sides of her who were on the phone all day. Yak, yak, yak as Crabby tried to bring clarity to her own and others' writing.

Nowadays, they've even removed cubicle dividers in favor of open space and shared tables, and as voice commands increasingly become the norm over typewriting and tapping, it's not just literacy that is in peril, but thought itself.

Another development is the increased use online of video news reports without an accompanying print story. Even though Crabby produced television shows for more than two decades, she was keenly aware that pictures are an enhancement that are incapable of transmitting nuance and detail in a two- or even five-minute story.

Not to mention that is takes much longer to watch a video news story than read it in print.

Plus, we're talking to our screens almost as much as we are reading them or writing onto them. Some business researchers expect that 50 percent of searches will be done by voice by 2020. If you're not concerned about literacy, at least consider the cacophany – yet another way to prevent reason, intellect and understanding.

Crabby's concern about all this was raised by Lori Orlov's bi-weekly online column, Aging in Place Technology Watch. On Monday, Orlov concluded:

”Our devices, our adult selves – what happened to words? So we are speaking (or shouting) 50% of our queries to our devices, texting selfie animojis and receiving a word or two plus more emojis in return.

“And to add to our not-so-smart phone use, we are overwhelmed by auto-play videos in Facebook, Twitter, and Google Chrome...

“Imagine those noisy employee meetings at Apple (median age 31), Google (median age 30), and Facebook (median age 28) as staffers hunch over their emoji menus, play videos by accident and spend quality time searching for a charging location.”

Those age demographics Orlov includes are not about how youngsters are befouling our literacy. The greater importance is that they will grow older and this will be their normal when it's their turn (not so far off) to run the world.

In case you're not up to speed on this stuff (Crabby was not until now), here are links to what may soon pass for communication and thought, an emojipedia and an emoji keyboard. These are hardly the only ones.

What's your take on all this?

Ursula K. Le Guin on Growing Old

TGB reader John Starbuck recently forwarded to me an old issue of Brain Pickings, Maria Popova's weekly blog post of her thoughtful writing on books, art, philosophy, the internet and, over the years, just about anything that captures her interest and attention.

The operative word in that paragraph is “thoughtful.”

TheWaveoftheMindBI recalled that article immediately because it had given me a perspective on a certain essay from a book that sits on my favorites shelf, The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader and the Imagination, by Ursula K. Le Guin.

The book gained favorite status as soon as I read it the first time, when it was published in 2004. The essays go back in Le Guin's life even farther, the oldest having been published in 1988.

On re-reading it this week, what surprised me is that in all the years I've been writing Time Goes By, since 2004, I've have never mentioned the book or – most particularly - the essay that Popova featured in 2014.

To rectify that oversight, I'm going to give you a taste of it today. It is titled, “Dogs, Cats, and Dancers: Thoughts About Beauty” and it is about all those things. All those things and another omitted from the title, growing old.

For some perspective, you should know that Ms. Le Guin is speaking from life, from experience. She was born in 1929; this essay was written in 1992, when she was 63.

Selections from Dogs, Cats, and Dancers: Thoughts About Beauty by Ursula K. Le Guin.

“One rule of the game, in most times and places, is that it's the young who are beautiful. The beauty ideal is always a youthful one. This is partly simple realism. The young are beautiful. The whole lot of 'em. The older I get, the more clearly I see that and enjoy it.”

Le Guin tells us it's hard to look in the mirror, wondering who that old lady is and what happened to her waist. “How large can a knuckle get,” she wonders before it becomes a kneejoint?”

”And yet I look at men and women my age and older, and their scalps and knuckles and spots and bulges, though various and interesting, don't affect what I think of them. Some of these people I consider to be very beautiful, and others I don't.

“For old people, beauty doesn't come free with the hormones, the way it does for the young. It has to do with bones. It has to do with who the person is. More and more clearly it has to do with what shines through those gnarly faces and bodies.”

Further on, Le Guin discusses how, even though children supposedly look forward to becoming adults, puberty isn't always welcome to them. "When I was thirteen and fourteen," she writes, "I felt like a whippet suddenly trapped inside a great lumpy St. Bernard. I wonder if boys don't often feel something like that as they get their growth."

"The change is hard," she writes. "And then it happens again, when you're sixty or seventy."

"But all the same, there's something about me that doesn't change, hasn't changed, through all the remarkable, exciting, alarming, and disappointing transformations my body has gone through. There is a person there who isn't only what she looks like, and to find her and know her I have to look through, look in, look deep. Not only in space, but in time."

Speaking of her mother, who died at age 83, Le Guin wonders how we remember, how we see a beloved person who has died - particularly, as in the case of her mother, one who was, at the end, in pain from cancer, her body misshapen from disease.

”It is a true image, yet it blurs, it clouds, a truer image. It is one memory among fifty years of memories of my mother. It is the last in time. Beneath it, behind it is a deeper, complex, every-changing image, made from imagination, hearsay, photographs, memories.

“I see a little red-haired child in the mountains of Colorado, a sad-faced, delicate college girl, a kind, smiling young mother, a brilliantly intellectual woman, a peerless flirt, a serious artist, a splendid cook – I see her rocking, weeding, writing, laughing – I see the turquoise bracelets on her delicate, freckled arm – I see, for a moment, all that at once, I glimpse what no mirror can reflect, the spirit flashing out across the years, beautiful.

“That must be what the great artists see and paint. That must be why the tired, aged faces in Rembrandt's portraits give us such delight: they show us beauty not skin-deep but life-deep.

“In Brian Lanker's album of photographs I Dream a World, face after wrinkled face tells us that getting old can be worth the trouble if it gives you time to do some soul making.”

You've noticed, I'm sure, that I've left out the dogs and cats and dancers of the essay's title. They are absolutely germane, they enrich the subject further and so these excerpts are not entirely fair.

If you want to read the rest of Ms. Le Guin's essay, not to mention others in the book, it is available at all the usual online sources.

Blogging and Privacy

We live in an age of oversharing, of what many consider TMI (Too Much Information), of social media websites that make it easy for millions to bestow upon the world the most mundane aspects of their lives as though the rest of us care what they had for dinner last night.

So widespread is the belief that the world is waiting with bated breath for any given person's (usually misspelled) thoughts on watching paint dry that the president is hardly the only one who can be labeled narcissist.

(You can be forgiven at this point if you're thinking now that I fall into the same category, and move on to some other webpage.)

Today's post was prompted a few days ago when a TGB reader and friend named Ann emailed to ask about how my chemotherapy is going, that I hadn't written lately about any cancer developments. She was quick to note too, however, that she believes

“...I speak for many who understand and respect your need to keep the private, private.”

As chance would have it, I had just finished writing Monday's post with an update on the chemo treatments that had taken me awhile to get around to because there was nothing useful to say: it's going well. Next?

But it did get me thinking about privacy and the choices I make about what and how much personal information to reveal on this blog.

It was easy to decide to write about my diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Such a thing is so shocking to hear, so hard to believe at first, accompanied for awhile by a near certainty someone has made a mistake that there was no room in my brain for anything else.

In that regard. I hardly had a choice. If I hadn't made it public, Time Goes By would have disappeared because I could think of nothing except cancer.

On the other hand, writing about growing old is what I do, it orders my days, and when the initial impact wore off I remembered that cancer is more common in old age than any other time of life. It is one of the "diseases of age", as they say, one of the topics of this blog – or should be - so perhaps my diagnosis and I get to be the guinea pig.

There was more. As I explained to Ann, my silence about the cancer was

”...not about privacy. I don't believe in it. Privacy, that is, although I do believe it is up to each individual to choose how much to say. I long ago learned that if it has happened to me, if I have done it or it has been done to me - so it has been with millions of others.

“And that, for me, pretty well removes any sense of privacy and more, perhaps requires that we DO talk about things many people don't want to mention.

“That thought came to me eight or ten years ago when I wrote about urinary incontinence for the first time. I wrote the blog post and let it sit in the computer for several days because it seemed there was some propriety involved. We just don't discuss such things.

“But it's a common affliction of old age so finally one day, I took a deep breath and hit the publish button. It was hours before I had the nerve to check comments and nearly fell off my chair when I did - dozens and dozens of people talking about their difficulties and/or solutions, pleased that someone had given them permission to talk about it openly.

"So nowadays, I consider privacy only if the subject involves another person whose story or information I have no right to share without permission.”

That doesn't mean my life is an open book. In general, whatever personal information I reveal relates to some aspect of ageing although I've allowed myself to stretch that definition here and there.

The thing about blogs, at least for a former journalist like me, is that they are a hybrid. It is important when I report on Medicare, Social Security, health issues, age-related politics and so on, that it be straightforward, factual and trustworthy.

But TGB is also a personal blog that hardly has a raison d'etre without my opinion of whatever is being discussed which often requires some degree of personal disclosure.

Over the years, finding the balance has been a challenge. In the earliest years, there was hardly anything about me. Nowadays, as in regard to the cancer, my personal experience is sometimes the example from which to expand and explore.

It's not always easy to decide what is or is not going too far with that – I definitely am not writing an autobiography or memoir. The goal here, while still coloring mostly within the lines, is to try to figure out what it's really like to get old.

A Portrait of Elders on the Internet and a Book Giveaway

Did you know that the number one reason people 65 and older use social networking websites is to connect with family? I suppose I could have guessed that but since I don't participate in social networks beyond publishing Time Goes By on Facebook (it is set up to happen automatically) in addition to this blog, I was mildly surprised.

The next two reasons for using social networks in this age group are to stay in touch with friends and the number three position is related to work and career although that has dropped from the number one between 2013 and 2016.


I know these things and a lot more due to a new eBook, Social Silver Surfers – Where to Find (and How to Win!) Mature Consumers Online written by my cyberfriend Erin Read and Kimberly Hulett, published this week by their employer, Creative Results.

The company specializes in branding and other useful and usable information for marketing professionals, home builders and developers, and C-suite executives concerned with figuring out ROI (return on investment) in the digital marketplace of old people.

It's not immediately apparent that it's the sort of website I would need or want to read for this blog but it is packed with good, solid information about what old people do online that has been invaluable to me over a lot of years providing of variety of insights about how we grow old on the internet.

I'm featuring some of the findings from their newest survey today because it's always interesting to find out what's going on with one's own tribe (and not, of course, because Erin and her co-writer/researcher have quoted both me and Crabby Old Lady in the book).

Here's a chart of the most popular social networks. Certainly it was easy to guess number one, Facebook by more than half of even the second most popular:


Although email shows up at the bottom of that list as a social network, no one mentions blogs.

Per this latest survey, 38% of social silver surfers say they read or post blogs. And only 28% subscribe to blogs. As Erin and Kimberly explain in the eBook:

”Now, many of them may not realize when they’re reading a blog. Some blogs look just like news websites. Others are considered 'newsletters' or 'messages' by older adults because their subscriptions are delivered by email.

“For example, Erin suggested her mother sign up to receive Erin’s favorite blog. Time Goes By is a fantastically well-written, intelligent, thoughtful and, at times, emotional study of aging in America by journalist Ronni Bennett.

“With permission, Erin entered mom’s email address at timegoesby.net and subscribed her. It’s a rare day that Erin’s mom doesn’t start a conversation with 'You’ll never guess what Ronni said in her email today' or 'Ronni’s note to me this morning had the most amazing thing…'

“As if they’re having a personal, one-to-one email conversation, mom and Ronni. (Erin actually does have one-to-one conversations with Ronni and she tattled on her mom. Ronni’s response? 'Oh, I love that I’m writing just for her. Perfect.'

“Which is exactly why so many older adults believe this warm and intelligent writer is sending them personal emails.)”

(You didn't think I'd leave out that part, did you? What's the internet for if not to boast a bit now and then.)

The authors' conclusion about blogs and older people online:

The percentage of social, silver surfers saying they use blogs has increased 9% since 2010.

When mature consumers do subscribe to a blog, it has greater impact. They trust the content coming into their inboxes. They read it and feel personally touched.

It makes sense that old adults have been slower to adopt the internet than younger ones but I was surprised at how few still don't use it:


Here is what Erin and Kimberly say about that:

“Household income, educational attainment and geography play a part – rural Americans are about 2x as likely as urban Americans to never use the internet. Per the US Census, the median age for a rural citizen is 51 years old, vs. 45 years for someone who dwells in an urban area.”

In addition, rural area access to the internet is more limited than for those who live in cities. They are often stuck with dialup because broadband has not reached them yet and so it can be too slow to see the usefulness or entertainment value.

A lot of social media users make purchasing decisions based on what they read on social networks. But take a look at this graph, organized by age group, at what happens as people grow older:


I wonder if that happens because many older people have less money in retirement than when they were working or if they have become more discerning in old age? I can't decide.

This post doesn't scratch the surface of the survey's findings about elders' online lives. There is plenty more to know and if you are not or were not a marketing professional, you can skip those conclusion sections of the book. It's still a great read – a snapshot of us in time.

You can find out more about the book at the Silver Surfers website.

Social Silver Surfers – Where to Find (and How to Win!) Mature Consumers Online, Third Edition, is available to purchase now on Amazon for download to Kindle for $5.95, and will be available at iBooks next week. But Erin and I worked out a deal just for TGB readers. Three winners will receive a PDF copy of the book.

To enter the giveaway, just tell me in the comments below that, “Yes, I want to win one of the books.” Or, you could say, “Me, me, me.” or anything else that indicates your interest.

Winners (you can live in any country) are selected by a random number generator and I will have your email addresses via the comment form to arrange your PDF copy. The contest will remain open through the weekend until 12 midnight Pacific Time on 1 October 2017, and the three winners will be announced in Monday morning's regular post, 2 October 2017.

For non-winners (so sorry), I will supply the link to the Apple iBook version when it becomes available next week.

Congratulations to my friend Erin and to Kimberly for an intriguing and useful update on my age cohort's internet lives.

A Question of Organ Recitals


A few days ago in a comment, a reader made an approving reference to a friend who refused to take part in groups of old people who indulge in “organ recitals” - that supposedly clever but disparaging phrase for discussion of medical problems.

(It is always applied to elders. Young people who talk about their health are never accused of being boring but we'll save discussion of that kind of ageism for another day.)

Certainly we have all known people who carry on at mind-numbing length or go through the details of their surgery at inappropriate moments – Thanksgiving dinner comes to mind. But there is another side to this issue.

A couple of weeks ago, on a post here in which Crabby Old Lady was writing about her cancer, reader Rina Rosselson who blogs at age, ageing and feature films, left this note in the comments:

”Thanks for your crabby post. At 82 I still have not heard what my friends had been going through when struck by a serious illness. There is such reluctance and fear to communicate and share these feelings. Your posts make it easier to talk about these changes.”

Rina is right. As much as some organ recitals can be excessive, plenty of other people go too far in their silence about serious medical issues. It helped me a lot, eased my mind to a degree, especially when I was first diagnosed, that people I know – in “real life” and on this blog – passed on what they had experienced during cancer treatment.


Even if it would not closely match my experience, it helped me understand how difficult or easy my treatment might be and, most important, that those people had got through it - a real question when facing so much that is frightening and new.

Here is another thing that happened – to me, anyway – after the surgery and during recovery from it; even as I desperately wanted to not become a “professional patient” and wanted to hang on to my pre-diagnosis life, cancer is insidious in at least one additional way beyond the physical attack on the body:

Over time, and not all that long a period, it creeps into every cell of your brain. Trying to read a newspaper or a book? The mind strays to cancer. Watching a movie on TV? Next thing you know you're wondering if the chemo will actually work, and you've lost the thread of the film story.

Even washing dishes or making the bed, you suddenly worry that you forgot to take your pre-meal pill at lunch.

But perhaps the worst? Those ubiquitous commercials for various cancer treatment centers scattered in cities around the U.S. that always imply that they can cure cancer.

They enrage me. As much as I suspect a generally positive attitude is helpful in treating cancer, I resent being lied to as though I'm incompetent. And although, if you listen carefully to every word, they don't promise a cure, few of us pay that kind of close attention and it sounds like that's what they are saying.

Either way, there you go down the cancer rabbit hole again.

One thing I've noticed is that too often when I've told people about my diagnosis, they don't know what to say – they are stunned - understandable - and I think part of that is our general reluctance to discuss such things at all.

So I'm with Rina. I think discussing details of our serious diseases and conditions (appropriately, for sure) is a big help in reducing fear in everyone involved – friends and family as well as patients. Talking about these dramatic changes, when they hit us, with loved ones goes a long way to finding a way to live with them.

I am reminded of the large number of doctors and nurses I have been dealing with through these months. They answer every question with the truth, even the hard truths, with compassion, understanding and a good deal of humor. The rest of us should be doing that too.

Friends Having Lunch

Some Advantages of Being Old


Crabby Old Lady and I have spent a lot of time here in the past couple of months writing about one of the big downsides of old age, serious medical problems. Let's do something different today.

Here is a list of some of the advantages to growing old. I forgot to note where this came from so apologies to whomever I've cribbed it from.

Oh, and if you think some of these are ageist, don't. It's okay among ourselves as you'll see when you realize you're nodding in recognition at each one.

You no longer think of speed limits as a challenge.

It's okay to talk to yourself.

You can't remember when you last laid on the floor to watch television.

You can nap whenever you feel like it.

You can reread old books because you've forgotten the ending anyway (similarly for TV shows and movies).

Your eyes won't get much worse.

Your secrets are safe because your friends' memories are no better than your own.

Almost all the difficult, major decisions in life are behind you.

You can stop trying to keep up with technology.

You could call that list a bunch of silliness, but admit, you've had these thoughts yourself.

The list came to mind recently when I read a story at Lifehack titled 6 Benefits of Getting Older You Probably Never Expected.

You can tell from the headline that it is written for people who are much younger than you and I and in fact, there is nothing in the article that I didn't already know.

But it is good thing nonetheless because it is important that young people and American culture at large be repeatedly reminded that life doesn't end at age 40 or 50 and often gets better as the years pile up.

Noting that no one escapes growing old and that young people's fears of old age are not necessarily invalid, they probably have not considered the advantages. Here are writer Devon Dings' six benefits:

1. We Have Much Clearer Priorities
As we grow older, we are able to differentiate our needs from our wants while focusing on the matters and goals in our lives that are relevant.

2. We Don’t Care As Much What Others Think
It is when we realize that others’ judgment isn’t fatal that we will finally be able to start taking the chances and risks that we’ve held back from.

3. It’s Easier to Manage Our Emotions
We realize how little the opinions of others really affect us, and are able to transform the anger and sadness that we receive into motivational thoughts.

4. Headaches Are Fewer and Further Between
At the start of the study [in 1994] all patients claimed to suffer from one to six migraines a month. When Dr. Dahlof followed up with the patients in 2006, at least 30% of them had not experienced a migraine within the last two years.

PERSONAL NOTE: I never suffered migraines but I had a headache several times a week for most of my adulthood. They diminished as I got older and disappeared entirely 10-15 years ago.)

5. We Have Higher Sense of Self-Worth
At this point in time we have proven over and over that we can do it, and that there isn’t a better way to learn than by failing.... We base our choices [now] on what we can do, or are interested in achieving.

6. We Can Learn From Our Children and Grandchildren
Our children and grandchildren, who have grown up in this new world, will have the capability to assist us and fill in any information gaps. We will have taught these individuals the necessities of living, and the skills required to survive, now they will assist us to do the same.

You can read Dings' full explanations for each one at Lifehack and I am wondering what you would add to his list. Let us know below in the comments.

INTERESTING STUFF – 26 August 2017


It's all over now but let's have one more go at the 2017 total solar eclipse. This video was shot from the shores of Palisades Reservoir, Idaho:


By comic strip artist Dan Dougherty, this series features a dad and his daughter growing up and beyond.It is charming. A sample:




Visit Bored Panda for the entire strip and keep scrolling for the full effect.


I've seen this video before and can't recall if I've posted it so, what the hell. Maybe it's the second time around. Here's the intro from the YouTube page:

”Locked behind black steel doors in Northumberland, England, the Poison Garden at Alnwick Castle grows around 100 infamous killers. From deadly nightshade to hemlock, the only way a plant can take root in this garden is if it is lethal to humans.

“Created by the Duchess of Northumberland, this is one garden where you won't want to stop and smell the flowers.”


Although I've been reading the 16th century essayist, Michel de Montaigne for as long as I can remember now, I have discovered a marvelous companion volume I'm reading now.

In How to Live or A Life of Montaigne, Author Sarah Bakewell makes strides toward answering that universal question about how to live based on her years-long study of Montaigne's essays.

Montaigne isn't the only person to discover that paying attention to the present moment is the secret to a good life; he's just the first (if you don't count the ancients he studied).

Here is Alan Watts take on the same issue:


I didn't even know there was such a thing as a alphorn, let alone an international competition. Here's what the YouTube page tells us:

”The Valais Drink Pure Festival in Nendaz, Switzerland, is an international meeting of alphorn players where the best of the best come to play the iconic elongated horn in its traditional Swiss setting.

“While 16-year-old Tim Lin might seem like an unlikely alphorn enthusiast, he is quite the prodigy. Born in Germany to a Chinese father and a Belarusian mother, Lin took home last year’s top prize in the youth category, and hopes to do it again this year.”


Although President Trump has no legislative accomplishments to brag about, he frequently insists that he has surpassed all previous presidents' accomplishments in his first six months. It is simply not true:

What Trump HAS done, however, is reverse a lot of important rules, tools and policies and it can make you cry. Washington Post reporter Philip Bump has compiled a comprehensive list of them. Here are a few of the most terrible:

⚫ Withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership

⚫ Repeal of a rule allowing states to create retirement savings plans for private-sector workers

⚫ Withdrew from the Paris climate agreement

⚫ Blocked the Clean Power Plan

⚫ Ended a study on the health effects of mountaintop-removal mining

⚫ Reversed an Obama ban on drilling for oil in the Arctic

⚫ Rescinded a limit on the number of sea animals that can be trapped or killed in fishing nets

⚫ Ended a rule banning dumping waste from mining into streams

⚫ Removed a bike-sharing station at the White House

⚫ Withdrew federal protections for transgender students in schools

There are many more that will break your heart and even if we could stop Trump now, it would be years before we could restore these important policies. Read the entire list here.


These are the Burlington Beadles which YouTube tells us is “possibly the oldest and smallest private police force in the world.”

”For nearly 200 years, the beadles have stood guard over one of London’s most exclusive shopping centers, preventing shoppers from committing brash acts of rudeness—such as whistling, singing and hurrying.

“Dressed in period clothing, head beadle Mark Lord still makes sure that people mind their manners in this most (proper) English way.”


Mental Floss has compiled a list of the smallest town in each one of the 50 American states. A surprising number of them boast states with just one resident.

In my state, Oregon, the smallest town, with a population of two, is Greenhorn which also has the distinction of being at the highest city at 6,306 feet.

Greenhorn oregon sign

The town was founded during the gold rush and today

”...serves as a vacation retreat and hunting outpost for a handful of part-time residents. Two people, Joyce Pappel and Ron Bergstrom, account for the town’s entire permanent population. Greenhorn collects no taxes and has no sewers, power lines, or police.”

You can look up the smallest town in your state at Mental Floss.


Have you ever heard of these? Fainting goats? I never had until a house guest, my friend Jim Stone, showed me a couple of videos. Here's another video about them from National Geographic. They make me laugh every time.

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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.

Being a Professional Patient

As I have mentioned once or twice since my pancreatic cancer diagnosis, I have always said I never wanted to become a professional patient. Nevertheless, here I am doing just that and there is a surprise: some aspects are quite pleasurable.

One of those is visits to the hospital.

On Tuesday, in preparation for my upcoming six months of chemotherapy, I underwent a short, minor surgical procedure to implant a port, sometimes called a port-a-cath, under the skin of my upper chest through which the chemo medications will be administered.


(It's hard to tell in this photograph, but the port raises the skin about a quarter of an inch. I have no idea what that bruised area on my neck is although it is related to the placement of the port.)

The surgeon who performed my Whipple procedure in June was there on Tuesday to lead the team and I was glad to see him; I feel safe in his hands.

In addition, even though the nurses, CNAs, two anesthesiologists and other caregivers who looked after me were not the same people who did so in June, they were equally patient, kind, caring, knowledgeable and expert at their jobs.

Each one carefully explained the parts of the procedure that were in their bailiwick, answered all my questions in layman's language I could understand and in a situation where just about any patient would be apprehensive, even frightened, their manner made it seem almost like we were just having a friendly visit. As it was the day after the eclipse, we shared our stories about that in between the medical information.

Given the ambience they created, if it hadn't been 6AM I might have expected drinks to be served.

With this diagnosis, I entered a world almost as different from my life's experience as landing on another planet would be. It is fascinating, if you pay attention, in a way that is similar to reading Studs Terkel's book, Working, from years ago for which he interviewed many dozens of people about what their jobs were like.

A hospital is a self-contained universe expressly designed to give aid and comfort to people whose bodies have betrayed them in some manner. The people who work in that domain have their own language, their own tools, rules, rituals, practices, customs, protocols and codes of conduct.

And when you – the patient – are lucid enough, you get an intriguing peak into this alien environment. Safety is, as you would imagine, paramount. About nine or ten people came to talk with me in the curtained pre-op room on Tuesday. Every one of them first asked me to repeat my full name and birth date which they checked against my computer record.

Undoubtedly that is to ensure they don't amputate the wrong leg, as it were.

I am impressed that although my legal name, listed on all my records and documents is Veronica, they had taken the time to determine that I prefer to be called Ronni – also in my records – and not one ever missed that nicety.

Each one, too, is careful never to overstate the bounds of his or her area of expertise. When I asked an RN if it would be possible to insert the port on the left side of my chest, she deferred to the surgeon – it was his call, not hers.

When a couple of physicians were explaining the release I needed to sign, a group of nurses just outside my room were having a coffee klatch and getting quite loud. The doctors stopped our discussion, went out to quiet the nurses and when they returned, started from the top to be sure I knew what I was signing.

Some hospital personnel apparently have prodigious memories. As I was wheeled toward the operating room, the woman at the desk where I had checked in an hour earlier waved and said with a big smile, “See you when you get back here, Ronni.”

How many people had she checked in that morning? And she remembered my name?

All this accommodation is to the good and is a result of the relatively new doctrine of “patient-centered care”, a concept physicians' offices, clinics and hospitals have been developing over the last decade or so. Quite successfully as far as “my hospital” is concerned.

So if I must become a professional patient, I'm having a fine ol' time investigating hospital culture.

In that regard, here's a nugget of information worth knowing: at this hospital, operating rooms are numbered 1 through 25 but there is no number 13. Even in a place where cutting edge medicine is practiced every day, superstition remains.