A TGB READER STORY: The Skeleton in My Closet

By Cowtown Pattie of Texas Trifles

The skeleton living in my closet is a cross-dresser. A skinny transvestite who thinks he is Versace. Giani Versace. I tell him "Giani" should be spelled with two n's, but he says he's too thin for the extra wasted consonant.

Every morning when I pull the chain to the overhead bare bulb in my closet, Giani groans and tries to hide his eyes in an old but elegant wool muffler with a moth hole that I bought in an estate sale.

He says the previous owner had better taste than me - the label in the side seam says "NeimanMarcus". Giani keeps it draped over his head so everyone can see it. (Like there's ever any vistors to my closet.)

I know he's checked all the labels on the blouses, pants, sweaters and jackets and found them lacking to his discerning eye. That is if he had eyes. I sometimes imagine those empty sockets of bone have amber gold eyes like a lynx.

There isn't much in my wardrobe for Giani to borrow nowadays; once I was a size 9 and forever had to strip him to bare bone so I could wear my favorite Sergio Valenti pair of jeans. Once I accidentally snapped short an index finger that he had stuck through a belt loop during such an argument.

It didn't hurt, he only protested with a whiney voice in his stupid fake Italian accent, "I'm-a beggin' your paw-doan!”

He can be such a vamp, but at least he is good-natured and doesn't try to blackmail me. Much. I laugh and tickle his ribs and tell him he has no pockets for his ill-gotten gains.

But he hates my fat clothes, especially plus sizes that come from Cato's or Macy's. "Get skinny and buy some decent rags! You could shop at The Loft or Nordstroms!" His lamentations are not unreasonable, but certainly tiresome.

Once I bought a traveler's set of slacks and jacket from Chico's - in black. You know that stretchy fabric that defies wrinkles even stuffed long hours in a suitcase? Giani kept pulling the suit off the hanger; it was constantly puddled in my closet floor among my shoes.

Shoes. Oh, lord, I won't even go there.

When we sell our house and move, I wonder if I could manage to pack Giani up in a box to Goodwill? Surely someone would love having his European fashion sense for their very own.

Or, maybe I could donate him to a medical school. He would hate that, hanging from a sterile stainless steel pole with nothing but white sheets in sight for draping. White isn't his color, you know. Too much like camouflage.

Sigh. Giani is too much a part of me. But, maybe you could invite him for a sleep-over with your skeleton? Did I mention he was skinny and doesn't take up much closet space?

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]

The Remarkable Medical and Health Professionals I Know

For the past few months I've taken to saying, “If I didn't know I have cancer, I wouldn't know I have cancer. I like it. I made it up myself – unless I read it somewhere and forgot. If so, my apologies to whomever.

The point is I have hardly any cancer symptoms. In fact, after two years of fighting hard to keep my weight up so not to sink into frailty, I've gained an unplanned 10 pounds since September with no effort.

When I mentioned it to my oncologist, he told me to count my blessings and shooed me out of his office.

My real day-to-day health problem is COPD or, more to the point, breathing. But before the end of this month, I will have completed three months of pulmonary rehab and it has made a remarkable difference.

Before rehab, when walking from the bedroom to the kitchen, a distance of about 20 feet, I had to stop once, sometimes twice, to catch my breath. Taking out trash and going to the mailbox required two or three stops each way. And instead of one, it took two or three trips to carry in the groceries from the car.

The boundaries of my life were shrinking dramatically. Stairs required careful planning so not to end up heaving for air. And it wasn't just hills that were out of the question, it was inclines so slight that I'd not noticed them before COPD became my close companion.

Even showers were impossible, the air being too humid for me to breathe so I traded them in for sit-down baths.

When my primary care physician suggested that pulmonary rehab might be helpful, I was skeptical but I didn't have a better idea so I signed up.

On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, I've been spending a couple of hours on a treadmill of one kind or another, upper and lower body exercises, some involving Therabands, and on Tuesdays, such instruction classes as breathing exercises, energy conservation, the correct use of inhalers, nutrition for lung disease, avoiding exacerbations and a whole lot more.

Most of the upper-body exercises are done sitting down and at first I dismissed them altogether. What good could they do for someone who had done 50 pushups a day among other heavy strength training work until cancer brought that to a halt?

How wrong I was and I'm ashamed now at how dismissive I was. It was hard in the beginning but I've advanced more than I would have guessed. The treadmill too. At first, I could do only 10 minutes at .2 miles-per-hour. Last Thursday, I did 45 minutes at 2.4 miles-per-hour.

I'm not scoffing at any of this rehab now. Just a couple of weeks ago I noticed that I don't stop halfway to the kitchen anymore and I don't remember when that started happening.

As long as I don't try to walk at my former New York City speed, I now get to the mailbox and trash bins without stopping for breath, I can carry in most of the groceries in one go and I'm back to taking showers.

I'm not sure, however, that I'll ever do those slight inclines easily and I certainly won't be walking up San Francisco sized hills in this lifetime.

But most of all, it's the nurses, the three R.N.s who have been teaching us old folks with COPD how to make our lives more livable. They are amazing women – smart, informed, caring, hard-working.

On only my second visit, one of them called out “Hi, Ronni” as I walked in and I noticed that they did that with everyone, even with the new ones who had been there only once or twice.

They knew the details of our individual disease, recalled how well we had done at the previous visit, were patient with our questions and like all the medical professionals at OHSU who have helped me over the past two-and-a-half years, never appear to have a bad day.

The focus of all these people - the physicians, nurses, medical assistants, schedulers, therapists, etc. - is the patients' well-being.

I spent nearly 50 years working in media – radio, television, the internet. I loved the work itself but there was always a lot of ego floating around, fierce competition, deadline tensions and acting out.

No one was much thinking about the other guy. At our best, we worried about the work. At our worst, we worried about besting our colleagues.

As far as I can tell, that doesn't happen in the medical community (certainly not in the presence of patients) and after all the time I've spent with these people now, I've come to understand that they are different from those of us who are not in the helper professions.

The medical professionals I've been able to talk with personally all tell me they chose their careers, usually at a young age because they wanted to help people. They want to help people who can't do it for themselves and until I was diagnosed with cancer, I didn't know how selfless and hard-working they are.

I am so deeply grateful for them.

ELDER MUSIC: 1947 Again

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

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There was no categorising T-BONE WALKER.


He was a guitarist of great skill and he played in whatever style the song required – jazz, blues, even rock and roll later on. The song today, T-Bone Shuffle, is a standard blues song, but he brought in some elements of jazz to add even more interest.

♫ T-Bone Walker - T Bone Shuffle

In 1947, country music wasn’t as formulaic as it became later. This is especially evident in Bob Wills’s contribution down below. It’s also true of MERLE TRAVIS.


There are all sorts of musical types in this song, So Round So Firm So Fully Packed, a slogan taken from cigarette advertisement from the time. The song was written by Merle, along with Eddie Kirk and Cliffie Stone. Several other people had hits with the song over the years.

♫ Merle Travis - So Round So Firm So Fully Packed

I’ll continue in the vein of the previous song with HOAGY CARMICHAEL.

Hoagy Carmichael

Hoagy was not averse to writing and performing novelty songs, and this is a prime example, Huggin' and Chalkin'. He suggests you mark where you’re up to so you can carry on from there next time.

♫ Hoagy Carmichael - Huggin' and Chalkin'

BILL MONROE was a hugely influential musician.

Bill Monroe

Not just himself but for the others who passed through his band. In the song today, one of his most famous, we have guitarist Lester Flatt and banjo player Earl Scruggs. They later went on to form the Foggy Mountain Boys, and later made a name for themselves as just Flatt and Scruggs.

Today, they play and Bill sings Blue Moon of Kentucky. This song was on the very first record that Elvis released.

♫ Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys - Blue Moon Of Kentucky

You don’t usually associate COUNT BASIE with novelty records, but he did some of those.

Count Basie

One of them was Open the Door, Richard! It was recorded by a few people at the time and each version sold pretty well. It was written by several people and was originally a part of vaudeville routines by Pigmeat Markham, Dusty Fletcher and others.

Later, words were added and many people recorded it; the first to do so was Jack McVea. The Count had Harry "Sweets" Edison and Bill Johnson singing on this one. There’s some fine piano playing by the Count.

♫ Count Basie - Open The Door Richard

BOB WILLS’s music has a distinctive style: Tommy Duncan sang the words and Bob chatted away on top of him. I could have done without Bob’s contribution. At least his vocal contribution, he played the fiddle on these records.

Bob Wills

That’s Bob and Tommy in the picture. The song Sugar Moon was written by Bob and Cindy Walker. Cindy was a prolific songwriter, initially for Bob, but later for just about every country artist who needed a good song.

♫ Bob Wills - Sugar Moon

LIGHTNIN' HOPKINS was a singer, guitarist, songwriter and occasional piano player.

Lightnin' Hopkins

He was Houston's poet-in-residence for 35 years and, reputedly, recorded more albums than any other bluesman. He recorded the song Big Mama Jump at least twice (maybe more times), once with him playing piano, and the one we have today, playing the guitar.

♫ Lightnin' Hopkins - Big Mama Jump

EDDY ARNOLD was on a roll this year.

Eddy Arnold

His song I'll Hold You in My Heart was his third number one on the country charts and it crossed over to the pop charts. Indeed, it spent a remarkable 21 weeks at that position. I guess the smoothing out of country songs is not just a recent phenomenon, but Eddy does have a fine voice.

♫ Eddy Arnold - I'll Hold You In My Heart

The next song is attributed to JULIA LEE AND HER BOY FRIENDS. That’s them below.

Julia Lee

Julia was renowned for performing risqué songs, or as she put it, “the songs my mother taught me not to sing”. Sometimes it’s good not to follow your mum’s advice because she made quite a decent living from these. The one today is King Size Papa.

♫ Julia Lee - King Size Papa

To end this year, a pop song pretending to be a country song. Given the real ones above, I don’t know why they bothered. Maybe they thought it wouldn’t be played on the same program, and probably back then, it wasn’t. DOROTHY SHAY gives us her contribution.

Dorothy Shay

Dorothy was billed as the “Park Avenue Hillbilly” which probably explains the situation. The song she sings, her first and biggest hit, is Feudin' and Fightin'. I have to say that this song is quite catchy, and could become an earworm if you played it too often.

♫ Dorothy Shay - Feudin' And Fightin'

INTERESTING STUFF – 18 January 2020


Let's take a moment to acknowledge that we in the United States took on a historic and solemn civic event this week, the impeachment trial of President Donald John Trump.

On Thursday, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts, swore in all the Senate members with a special oath just for impeachment trials. Here is the moment:

“...you will do impartial justice” is the key phrase the senators swore to. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has stated publicly for many weeks that he will not be impartial, that he is coordinating the president's defense with the White House.

Did you know there is no penalty for not doing impartial justice? I didn't until now. So the point of taking an oath is...?


Well, isn't this fun. The Indy Channel, in Indiana, tells us

”Joslyn Grace Guilen Tello was born at 11:37 p.m. on December 31, 2019 at Ascension St. Vincent Carmel and her twin brother, Jaxon DeWayne Mills Tello, was born at 12:07 a.m. on January 1, 2020.”

Let's go to the video tape:

And for the rest of their lives, the twins will be explaining their separate birthdays.


I'll bet you never heard of this endangered animal before. It has a few more scary or icky names, devil dog, snot otter and lasagna lizard. The YouTube page tells us it

”...is one of the largest salamanders on Earth, growing to nearly 2 feet in length. Sadly, humans have been tampering with their natural habitat, and hellbenders are disappearing from streams in the Cherokee National Forest. Nolan, along with a team of researchers at Tennessee State University, are working on relocating the hellbenders to new streams.

If they weren't so slimy, they'd be cute little buggers.


The YouTube page tells us that

”Hay-on-Wye was once declared an independent kingdom of books by the man who appointed himself its king. The United Kingdom's mecca for bibliophiles is less than one square mile in size, but it’s packed with independent booksellers curating all kinds of used and antique reading material.

“Today, the area doesn't just provide a safe haven for books—the books actually help to preserve their home.”


While we are talking about books, here's an interesting item. The New York Public Library, the largest library system in the United States, just issued its list of the most checked-out books during its 125 years of existence. Here are the top three:

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (485,583 checkouts)
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss (469,650)
1984 by George Orwell (441,770)

It would be interesting to know how many of those 441,770 checkouts for 1984 have happened since The Trump administration began.

See the rest of the list along with commentary and some other information at The New York Times or the Washington Post.


And the smallest too. Take a look at this video about Hiromu Inagaki, who serves super-sized sushi at the Umewaka Restaurant in Anjo City, Japan.


Anyone who hangs out with cats knows something about this kind of behavior. As a member of the cat's staff labeled the photo, “Locked My Cat In The Bathroom While I Made A Meal Because He Was Being - - - Annoying. Revenge Was Had.”

Cat Revenge

There are 49 more petty revenge examples at Bored Panda – not all it is about cats.


After the lively discussion pro and con on Monday's post about the new-ish use of the pronoun “they” and its derivatives in the singular, I couldn't resist this.

Because I run this joint on the web and can do what I want with it, here is a marvelously funny comment from TGB reader George Gates that beautifully illustrates how confusing, obfuscating and messy this new usage can (and undoubtedly will) be.

”My university professional son recently asked me, as they periodically does, to edit their updated resume and cover letter. They were replete with them's, their's and they's in reference to singular antecedents.

“When I corrected them for them, they objected and politely educated their dad that they was out of step with their emerging norms in their university environment there. They was adamant about them.

“Not wishing to seem obtuse, I acceded to them and left them there as they had been written by them. They was happier that their language-stickler dad had seen the error of their outdated ways, and appreciated them for their openmindedness, thanking them then and there.

“They were relieved by their son's understanding and patience with their ignorance. Also flabbergasted, gobsmacked and discombobulated (all sadly underused words!) by the entire experience.”


During four winters in Maine, I personally experienced several of these person-versus-winter mishaps. You may have done so too.

In the six years since it was posted to YouTube, the video has racked up more than 11 million views.


She (he?) is brave, resourceful and cute.

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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.


It's that time of the month again – The Alex and Ronni Show wherein the proprietor of Time Goes By and her former husband chitchat about old folks stuff.

One of the subjects that came up on Wednesday when we recorded this episode was the TV game show, Jeopardy!

Most Americans, I think, have watched the venerable program, hosted by Alex Trebek, at least now and then. I certainly have but it had been a long time since I had tuned in. Years, in fact, until last week.

The show brought back the three highest-earning winners to compete with one another for a GOAT show – the Greatest Of All Time game. I watched. It was fun and, if you're not a fan or didn't watch, Ken Jennings won.

Over the evenings of the tournament, as the well-known theme song played, a coziness settled over me. Through the shows, which were twice as long as the regular one, I felt comfort in the familiar format and in the formality of it.

The rules, which are sensible, are absolute and no one breaks them, arguments do not happen, the judges are meticulous and no one lies.

When was the last time that was true in U.S. politics? Or even in the daily news? It's hard to recall.

So it struck me that Jeopardy! is like a little island of sanity in a world of horrible chaos, of daily outrages that don't have time to run their course until the next one – or two or three – land in our laps.

Maybe I'll become a regular viewer of the show for awhile just to help maintain my sanity in an insane world.

There. Now you can fast forward through that part of The Alex and Ronni Show which is near the top of the video.

You can find Alex's show – Alex Bennett's Ramble – on Facebook and Apple Podcasts.

THINKING OUT LOUD: Memory Lapses and Unsuccessful Aging

Three times in an hour-long conversation with a friend this morning, I had reason to say, “Never mind, I lost the thought.” In my case when that happens, the thought is gone forever.

Most TGB readers are old enough to know the problem of forgetting the name of a place, person or thing (these lapses are almost always nouns). It has an infamous twin - walking into the bedroom and forgetting why you're there.

This is an old-age phenomenon, short-term memory being too short to be useful. But Daniel J. Levitin, a 62-year-old neuroscientist says we are wrong.

”This is widely understood to be a classic problem of aging,” he wrote in an opinion piece in The New York Times. “But as a neuroscientist, I know that the problem is not necessarily age-related.”

(Or maybe it is; note how he hedges his statement with “necessarily.”)

He goes on to explain that “short-term memory is easily disturbed or disrupted.”

”It depends on your actively paying attention to the items that are in the 'next thing to do' file in your mind. You do this by thinking about them, perhaps repeating them over and over again...

“But any distraction — a new thought, someone asking you a question, the telephone ringing — can disrupt short-term memory. Our ability to automatically restore the contents of the short-term memory declines slightly with every decade after 30.”

Dr. Levitin tells us that his 20-year-old students make “loads” of short-term memory mistakes.

”They walk into the wrong classroom; they show up to exams without the requisite No. 2 pencil; they forget something I just said two minutes before. These are similar to the kinds of things 70-year-olds do.”

The difference between to the two age groups, he says, is how they each describe the events:

”Twenty-year-olds don’t think, 'Oh dear, this must be early-onset Alzheimer’s.' They think, 'I’ve got a lot on my plate right now' or 'I really need to get more than four hours of sleep.'”

Cognition does slow down with age, says Dr. Levitin, but given a little more time, elders' memory works fine. As others before him have explained, part of the slowing down problem is old people have so much more information stored in their brains that it takes longer to sort through it all.

But there's good news too.

”Some aspects of memory actually get better as we age. For instance, our ability to extract patterns, regularities and to make accurate predictions improves over time because we’ve had more experience.

“(This is why computers need to be shown tens of thousands of pictures of traffic lights or cats in order to be able to recognize them). If you’re going to get an X-ray, you want a 70-year-old radiologist reading it, not a 30-year-old one.”

Dr. Levitin says elders more easily recall events from long ago because they were new when they happened and make strong impressions.

Although little of Dr. Levitin's memory discussion is new to me, I was enjoying reading his piece until I came upon the last paragraph:

”...experiencing new things is the best way to keep the mind young, pliable and growing — into our 80s, 90s and beyond.”

What a bunch of - oh, never mind. I have new experiences every day. Everyone does even if it's as simple as reading something new. That's not going to make anyone's mind young. Instead, it just reinforces the ageist belief that age is inferior to youth.

And anyway, new experiences don't help me remember why I walked into the bedroom.

The Times' article notes that Dr. Levitin's article is adapted it from his book, Successful Aging: A Neuroscientist Explores the Power and Potential of Our Lives.

I was just about to type out a snarky response to that title, but I think most TGB readers will think what I do when see that sorry phrase: please do tell us, then, what is UNsuccessful aging.

A TGB READER STORY: Off to Buy Vitamins

By Deborah Cavel-Greant who blogs at Simple Not Easy

I'm on Facebook, it's how I keep up with my friends and family members. But the "targeted" ads I am served are a hoot and some days are more entertaining than the FB posts.

My favourite is the one about a 50-year-old woman whose dermatologist hates her for her age-defying beauty secret which makes her look 25 (and which she is willing to sell me).

I’m not interested because if I looked 25 people would expect me to act 25 and if there's one thing I love about being old it's that you don't have to apologize for being slow anymore.

Another frequent ad thrown at me is from a dating service that laments the fact that their "senior men" can't find "faithful senior women like you Deborah".

Since I’ve been married to the same old fella for almost 55 years, if I answered that ad I'd not be the "faithful" woman they're looking for would I? Besides their "senior men" (hunky bare-chested models dressed as policemen and firemen and doctors) - are all about 35! My sons are older!

Still hoping they have a merry and potentially wealthy widow on their hands (I gave Facebook NO information other than my name, age and hometown I left at age 11), they offer to move me into a high-end retirement home, then try to entice me to join a single-seniors-only cruise. I sense frustration as they try to find something, anything that I might buy.

An interior designer will come to my home and make sure it doesn't have that "granny vibe" we all fear. Sadly, I do not care for their recommended $12,000 sofa that looks like three metal ironing boards welded together into an isosceles triangle and covered with shiny fuchsia-coloured Naugahyde.

They are flummoxed. Abandoning the hope that I am a high-rolling, world-cruising-cougar, they test the theory that I am a crippled-up, penny-pinching old party pooper and offer to sell me the secret of how to get $35,000 of free money from the government because I am infirm.

When I don't even want to know how to get $35,000 of free-for-the-taking-money, desperation sets in.

It's well known if you are over 65, you are either decrepit or an elderly Olympian so they abandon all semblance of targeting and simply go with alternating stereotypes. They begin rotating advertisements for medical aids with those for hair-raising experiences.

Do I need a new electric wheelchair? No? Do I want to go sky-diving? No? How about standing out in the geezer crowd with a hand-carved cane from Borneo? No?

Surely I'd enjoy a life-changing (I read this as "life-ending") sledding adventure down the North Face of the Matterhorn? NO? Perhaps I need a medical lift or a potty chair to sit beside my bed? NO?

An all-inclusive travel package to Mozambique to run in a marathon? NO???

When I don't pitch my credit card at the screen, I visualize them hunched over their keyboards with knit brows, shuffling ads like a deck of solitaire cards. One, gnawing his thumb knuckle, says tensely, "Pull back a little, offer her (long pause) square-dancing lessons."

They watch with nervous expectation as the ad comes and goes, all Madison Avenue ad agency sweat under the armpits as FB stock ticks lower by the second. A vein in a temple pulses visibly. One swears, and spits out, “The old dame is holding out. She's still not buying ANYTHING!”

In rapid succession they promise to hide my varicose veins, cure my diabetes, lift my sagging bosom, reduce my dewlap and “turkey-neck”, ease my painful gout. This gives me pause. I don’t have any of these problems; perhaps Facebook has a "Coming Afflictions" application I have inadvertently signed up for? Should I worry about this?

But I crumbled when I got a message from my cousin Mack this morning. Facebook has apparently developed an app that does what no other web application has ever done before; transcended that final curtain which we have never peered beyond.

My dearly loved cousin Mack passed away last December. However, I got a message on Facebook from him today recommending a well-known brand of senior's vitamins.

They finally have me. I'm off to buy some. If those vitamins can make Mack feel well enough to post to FB from where he's gone, they might finally make a square-dancer out of me.

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]

Crabby Old Lady Throws a Grammar Fit

With increasing frequency, Crabby Old Lady finds herself in despair over the trajectory of the world on both the macro and micro levels.

For example, in terms of macro, the Australia fires are only the latest harbinger of even more horrific climate disasters to come. In the micro world, it is the word “they.”

As December comes to a close, quite a few organizations issue a “word of the year” and they rarely come up with the same one. This year, the Merriam Webster dictionary's choice got the most attention for “they”, and its derivatives “them” and “their”, with a new and additional definition as single pronouns.

According to those who advocate for the new usage, the point is to avoid the gender pronouns “he”, “she”, “him” and “her” so that people who do not identify themselves as male or female will not be forced to choose words that do not describe them.

Crabby's brief survey of responses to this new definition of they, them, their reveals that a variety of professional wordsmiths overwhelming applaud the change. Apparently they believe that a sentence like this one - “Crabby Old Lady and their friend Chris often have lunch at their favorite sushi place” - makes sense.

Molly Woodstock, who is host of a podcast titled Gender Reveal, spoke with NPR about the new usage:

”It makes a lot of sense to me because I think that they as a singular pronoun, as a pronoun for certain nonbinary folks is increasingly moving from only being talked about in queer and trans circles to the mainstream public consciousness.”

Benjamin Dreyer is vice president, executive managing editor and copy chief of Random House, and the author of Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style. Writing in the Washington Post, he too embraces the new usage because, he says, it is the right thing.

Jane Noll, an instructor and coordinator of undergraduate affairs in the University of South Florida Department of Psychology, told WRLN Radio,

“'We have to remember, for many of us, it's been difficult all along to use ‘he’ or ‘she,’ she said. 'To be respectful of people who don't identify as he or as she, I think we need to put forth the effort and it is going to be an effort for some people.'”

Respect doesn't appear to be an issue for another advocate, Merriam-Webster editor-at-large, Peter Sokolowski, who has no trouble sneaking in a dig at old people:

“Many Americans,” he told The New York Times, “especially older ones, stumble over the use of 'they' as a singular pronoun. For those who haven’t kept up, their complaint is” that “they” as a singular pronoun is ungrammatical.”

You betcha it is, Mr. Sokolowski, and grammar is essential to clear communication. Can you, dear reader, translate this short bio from The New York Times?

”Farhad Manjoo became a Times Opinion columnist in 2018.

“Before that, they wrote The Times’ State of the Art column, covering the technology industry’s efforts to swallow up the world. They have also written for Slate, Salon, Fast Company and The Wall Street Journal.

To their chagrin, their 2008 book, True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact World, accurately predicted our modern age of tech-abetted echo chambers and 'alternative facts.'

“Farhad Manjoo was born in South Africa and emigrated with their family to Southern California in the late 1980s. They live in Northern California with their wife and two children.”

(For the record, Manjoo's Wikipedia entry notes that, “A cisgender (look it up) man, Manjoo prefers to be referred to with singular they pronouns.”)

Crabby Old Lady is still cross-eyed trying to translate that bio from from its mangled English. Not that she can't do it, but untangling those pronoun references just about halves reading speed.

English is one of the richest languages on Earth. We add new words all the time. Others fall out of use and some change meaning. That's all to the good.

At its best, language clarifies and makes it possible, when used well, for us to understand both one another and complex ideas. At its worst, as with the current American president and his sycophants who lie with abandon, it sows confusion, divides people and nations, and can bring us to the brink of war.

Does an additional meaning of they, them, their matter in such a world? Maybe not but instead of unifying people, in this case it divides them. If you think that's overstating it, read this piece from a conservative columnist who agrees with Crabby Old Lady but for very different reasons.

It would be useful to have a word for non-gender people. But it would be better to have one that doesn't poach a perfectly good word that does the heavy lifting in between more glamorous ones.

“They” is right up there in the top 20 most common English words like the, of, to, and, a, in, it, etc. Surely it couldn't be hard to invent a new word for non-gender people.

ELDER MUSIC: Ricky Nelson

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

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Ricky Nelson

RICKY NELSON had many advantages that most of the other first generation of rock and roll singers (and later ones as well) didn’t have. First off, he was good looking. Okay, quite a few of the others were as well.

He had a father in the business who knew the ropes, so Ricky wasn’t screwed over by record companies and managers as virtually all the others were, so he managed to keep his hard earned money.

He was on television every week so he kept his name and face prominent for many years, and he had the best lead guitarist around at the time – James Burton. He also had considerable singing talent and he wrote quite a few songs, something only a few of the others did.

Ricky was also a favorite of mine, so he’s the featured artist in the column today. It might be a bit boring if you’re not a hard core Ricky fan. Most of the songs are from early in his career.

I’ll kick off with It's Late. This was written by Dorsey Burnette. The song did pretty well for him all over the world. Okay, you can say that about most of the songs I’ve included today.

♫ It's Late


Keeping the songwriting in the family, the next one, Just a Little Too Much, was written by Johnny Burnette, Dorsey’s brother. They both had decent performing careers of their own, together in the Rock & Roll Trio, and separately under their own names.

♫ Just a Little Too Much


Probably the best known of Ricky’s songs is Hello Mary Lou. This was the B-side of a 45 that had Travelin’ Man on the obverse. It was a double sided smash. The record has some particularly fine guitar playing by James Burton.

♫ Hello Mary Lou


One of my earliest purchases (or gifts) was the single Never Be Anyone Else But You. It was about the time I left my small country town for the big smoke and I was leaving my girl friend behind. Oh well, we both got over that.

♫ Never Be Anyone Else But You


Be-Bop Baby was written by Pearl Lendhurst for Ricky. Ricky’s output to this time was mostly ballads, so he wanted to show that he could rock as well. The guitar player wasn’t James, but Joe Maphis, which was unusual for his records at the time.

♫ Be-Bop Baby

Sharon Sheeley wrote the song Poor Little Fool when she was only 15. She managed to get Ricky to listen to it and record the song and it became a number one hit for him.

Sharon went on to have a career in songwriting for such people as Glen Campbell, Brenda Lee and most especially Eddie Cochrane, to whom she was engaged until his death in a car accident.

♫ Poor Little Fool


Although the next song references the film Rio Bravo, it didn’t actually appear in it. Ricky did though, as one of the main characters named Colorado, also mentioned in the song.

He and Dean Martin sang a couple of songs in the film though. The tune I’m talking about is called Restless Kid. It sounds like a Johnny Cash song, and it’ll come as no surprise that he wrote it.

♫ Restless Kid


In 1971, Ricky performed at a rock & roll revival concert with Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and others. As he recounts in his song, he sang his hits but also performed new music which upset the audience who didn’t want to see their favorites evolve.

One reference in his song about the concert that evaded me until recently is “Mr Hughes”. He was a neighbor and good friend of Ricky’s: George Harrison. The song is Garden Party.

♫ Garden Party


A single I had as a kid is Ricky’s cover of the Hank Williams song, I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love With You). I didn’t buy it for the song, it was the flip side of the one I wanted – I think that was Just a Little Too Much, but I could be wrong.

It was also on the album “Ricky Sings Again”, which I also later had. It’s one of my favorite Hank songs, and I think that Ricky does it really well. He has the Jordanires helping him with the singing.

♫ I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love With You)


On a visit to Australia he heard Mike McClellan sing his song, Rock and Roll Lady. Ricky was so impressed that he recorded it as soon as he returned home. Alas, that was shortly before he died so it didn’t get the exposure that it deserved.

Ricky’s version is really good, but Mike really nails it. You should seek it out (that’s easily done; it’s on one of my previous columns).

♫ Rock And Roll Lady

INTERESTING STUFF – 11 January 2020


Forty-five years ago, science fiction writer, Arthur C. Clarke, made “the bold claim that one day computers would allow people to work from home and access their banking records.”

Take a look at this 1974 news story about that.


The Netherlands began the new decade by announcing that the country be called The Netherlands, not Holland:

”The Netherlands actually consists of 12 provinces, two of which combined make up Holland, so referring to the Netherlands as a whole as Holland is just wrong,” reports Business Insider.

“The rebrand hopes to manage Amsterdam's over-tourism, which has already been addressed by the country in the form of a ban on guided tours of the Red-Light District, as well as the removal of the famous 'I amsterdam' sign.”

Read more at Business Insider and at Mental Floss.


As the Vimeo page explains,

”When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the United States after being absent nearly 70 years, the most remarkable 'trophic cascade' occurred.

“What is a trophic cascade and how exactly do wolves change rivers? George Monbiot explains in this movie remix.”


Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg announced last week that after treatment for a recurrence of pancreatic cancer, she is now cancer free:

”The 86-year-old justice, one of the oldest to serve on the Supreme Court, offered the health update to CNN in an interview in her chambers Tuesday evening.

“'I’m cancer free. That’s good,' Ginsburg said, with CNN reporting that she was 'sounding energized and speaking animatedly.'

"Ginsburg’s intensive radiation treatment for a malignant tumor on her pancreas in August had followed a diagnosis of lung cancer at the end of 2018 that resulted in the removal of part of her left lung and forced her to miss oral arguments for the first time in 25 years on the bench.”

You can read more at the Washington Post.


According to the YouTube page,

”Don McMillan is an engineer and a comedian so he has the brains to utilize fancy charts and graphs to make his point. He makes some good points about the everyday technology that we use like printer ink and usb devices.”

And I laughed out loud. You probably will too.

There is more comedy from Don McMillan at his YouTube page.


2020 marks 150 years since the Metropolitan Museum in New York City opened its doors. Not to take anything away from other marvelous museums, The Met was one of my most favorite places in the city over the 40 years I lived there.

The Youtube page tells us that the anniversary will be celebrated

”...throughout 2020 with exhibitions, events, and new ways to connect with art. Highlights include Making The Met, 1870–2020, the reimagined British Galleries, and a three-day celebration in June.”

Here are three people – a Museum employee, fashion guru Tim Gunn and a ballet dancer – on what The Met means to each of them:

The Met's website is one of the best on the web. You'll find it here.


I love this story – about social media pages where UPS drivers throughout the world post photographs of the dogs (and some other animals) they meet on their delivery rounds.

In Olympia, Washington:


In Louisville, Kentucky:


In Ottawa, Canada:


There are many more photos at Bored Panda and, of course, at Facebook and Instagram.


David Zinn (not to be confused with the costume and set designer of the same name), has been delighting people in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for many years.

The are quite a few good chalk artists on the internet, those clever folks who make it look like you're about to fall into a chasm if you take one more step forward on the sidewalk.

Zinn can do that too, but his work usually involves funny little characters and a sense of whimsy I haven't see before. Take a look:

Lordy, it must be fun to walk around Ann Arbor.

There are many examples of his work online – video and still photos: Try this YouTube link or his Zinnart website, Facebook or Instagram. Or just google his name.

Thank TGB reader Joan McMullen for this.


Now if only a squad of them could be trained to do the driveway.

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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.