INTERESTING STUFF – 15 August 2020


...when Carl tied a bunch of helium balloons to his house and sailed away?

”Jonathan Trappe does that in real life,” the YouTube page tells us. "He attaches helium balloons to office chairs, gondolas, boats, even little houses, and he goes flying. Trappe has crossed the English Channel and soared over the Alps. He’s witnessed spectacular sunsets and glorious moonrises.

“Here’s how a guy who is an IT consultant by day made his wildest childhood dream a reality.”


Last Monday, we talked about pandemic loneliness and how we try to mitigate it. TGB reader Rosemary Woodel explained in a comment what she does:

”I started a ukulele band. We have zoom lessons weekly. We also meet once/wk with folks who sing or play weird instruments (kazoo, washboard, washtub bass). We record funny songs (or inspirational songs) using Acapella so we can maintain 6 ft distances apart but apparently be together.”

She posted this one to YouTube:


You read that right - 600 years. Take a look:

Since the video was made, three chicks have been born. You can read more at The Guardian and see a still photo of them.


Have you ever heard of this weather phenomenon? I hadn't. But it happened in the midwest of the U.S. last Monday. According to Wikipedia, a derecho is

”...a widespread, long-lived, straight-line wind storm that is associated with a fast-moving group of severe thunderstorms known as a mesoscale convective system.

“Derechos can cause hurricane-force winds, tornadoes, heavy rains, and flash floods...the wind remains sustained for a greater period of time (often increasing in strength after onset), and may exceed hurricane-force. A derecho-producing convective system may remain active for many hours and, occasionally, over multiple days.”

In addition to toppled trees, damaged homes, power outages, flooding and even an overturned semi-trailer on a highway, there is major crop damage:


The headline is all you need to know. Take a look.


Home Depot is selling a 69-inch-high (that seven inches taller than I am) dragon suitable to leave out on the lawn to scare the kiddoes on Halloween. It sells for $399 and if you spring for an extra $70, you can get a fog machine so that it spits smoke.

Here's the best (not very good) video I could find:

This still photo is much better:


Wow. I love it. If I had one, I'd plunk it down right in my living room. Maybe it would scare away the grim reaper.


Take a look at this cute little guy. Hardly dramatic – just a hamster eating carrot sticks from its purse. Betcha can't watch it only once.


A lovely story of connection and understanding between a man and herd of elephants.

The Youtube page tells us,

“The Elephant Whisperer, wrote a book about them, a book that appealed to animal lovers worldwide. The original herd of 7 Elephants has now increased to 29 Elephants, the maximum sustainable capacity of Thula Thula...”

More at the youtube page.


A tale for our time. Meir Kay writes on the YouTube page,

”What We Can Learn About Life From A Potato, Eggs, And Coffee is a story I read a couple months back and thought how good it would be bring this story to the 'big' screen. I had the pleasure to team up with my good friend, Jay Shetty to bring this powerful lesson to life.”

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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.

Cancer Cures? Do Not Presume

In the past, I've written about fake cancer cures and it is time now to do it again. Except. EXCEPT, this one is not fake. It is a real treatment for pancreatic cancer that is still in development.

In the past few weeks, four or five emails have arrived telling me I should look into this treatment.

It is no surprise that these messages have arrived now. In the same time period there have been several news stories about Jeopardy! host, Alex Trebek, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, and their treatment with the drug, Abraxane.

As Michele R. Berman, MD and Mark S. Boguski, MD, PhD wrote at Medpage Today on 28 July 2020,

”Reid was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in May 2018. He underwent surgery at Johns Hopkins University, followed by chemotherapy and radiation treatments. However, his cancer worsened.

“Fearing he was near death, he got in touch with Patrick Soon-Shiong, MBBCh, inventor of the protein-bound paclitaxel suspension sold as Abraxane. Soon-Shiong was working on a combination treatment that he refers to as a 'triangle offense' for refractory metastatic cancers such as breast, lung, and pancreas.

“Reid became one of four patients in his compassionate use program. Reid traveled from his home near Las Vegas to Soon-Shiong's office in Los Angeles.

“After six months of treatment, no evidence of cancer was found on Reid's scans. A June 2020 article in the Washington Post confirms that Reid is still in remission, nearly two years after his diagnosis.

“Trebek also seems to be showing improvement on the regimen.”

Patrick Soon-Shiong is an intriguing man. The short version from Wikipedia tells us he was born 29 July 1952,

” a South African-American transplant surgeon, billionaire businessman, bioscientist, and media proprietor. He is the inventor of the drug Abraxane, which became known for its efficacy against lung, breast, and pancreatic cancer.

“Soon-Shiong is the founder of NantWorks, a network of healthcare, biotech, and artificial intelligence startups; an adjunct professor of surgery and executive director of the Wireless Health Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles; and a visiting professor at Imperial College London and Dartmouth College.

“Soon-Shiong has published more than 100 scientific papers and has more than 230 issued patents worldwide on advancements spanning numerous fields in technology and medicine.

Oh, wait. In his spare time he is the owner and executive chairman of The Los Angeles Times and The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Soon-Shiong's biography isn't really important to what I'm here to say today but I have included this brief excerpt because I didn't expect something so interesting when I was tracking down the information I needed about Reid's and Trebek's pancreatic cancer treatment.

What I really came here to say is that with the arrival of each email telling me I should look into treating my pancreatic cancer with Abraxane, I became angrier and like so many other things in my life, I suspect I'm not alone in my resentment of the intrusion and the assumption I would run right out and get me some.

Just the word, cancer, is fraught – at least in the United States – so much so that when I was a young woman, it was only whispered when a friend or relative was diagnosed. No one said it aloud.

We have gotten away from that in recent years as a few cancers have become treatable or curable, but it is still the number two killer in the U.S. (after heart disease) and is 23.1 percent of all deaths.

This disease doesn't fool around.

Although I am prepared to think that those people who sent the news stories meant well, they have no idea about my pancreatic cancer or, apparently, cancer in general. They don't know that I also have peritoneal cancer, lung cancer and probably a few others by now - it has been on the move in my body at least since early this year.

COPD, diagnosed more than a year ago, throws another complication into the mix. My doctors undoubtedly know about the trials with Abraxane, but no oncologists like telling patients there are no more treatments available and they don't do it on whim.

We all want to live and to do it for as long as possible so it is cruel for know-nothing strangers to forward links to stories based only, as far as I could tell, on the fact that they have the word “pancreatic” in them.

I have worked long and hard over the past three-plus years to come to terms with my cancer and where it is leading. Most of the time I am doing well at that but it is a delicate balance.

Even someone like me who takes pains to always concentrate on what is real and true can, for a moment, be sidetracked into a fairy tale for awhile, and then must claw her way back to sanity.

Did any of the people who sent those emails bother to read the part of those stories explaining that ONLY FOUR PEOPLE are in the COMPASSIONATE USE TRIAL? Did any of them bother to see if those two celebrities have COPD and two other kinds of cancer?

Maybe Abraxane will turn out to be a successful cancer treatment, something new that will give many patients many more years than most can expect now. God, I hope so.

But would you take an unproven COVID-19 vaccine that only four people have been given? I didn't think so.

It's a better idea to help a friend or relative with cancer get through the activities of daily life than tantalize them with a false hope.

My Medical Aid in Dying Drugs

It could not have been a more fitting time for the delivery. My palliative care provider and I were on a video call when they arrived via courier this morning (Tuesday): the medical aid in dying (M.A.I.D.) drugs.

My journey to receipt of this box of lethal drugs began in earnest in May when I spoke via Zoom with a physician at the medical center where I had been treated for cancer and COPD for the past three years. Our conversation began the legal process that culminated in that delivery.

So here they are and it is no small thing to live next to this box of certain death. Not that I would take the drugs on a whim or just because I'm having a bad day. That's not who I am.

But I suspect that more often now I will take up the questions that have both buoyed and bedeviled me from time to time and even, in a couple of cases, made me laugh:

Will I have breakfast on the last morning? If so, how will I choose? Cheerios? Scrambled eggs? Maybe just a muffin with jam? Should I wash the dishes or leave them for someone else?

And what does one wear to one's own death, especially when you know you are dressing for the final time? To whom should I look for inspiration? Anne Boleyn? Marie Antoinette? Lady Jane Grey?

Certainly not a convicted American woman in orange prison garb.

People will be here, less than a handful – three seems right. Should I arrange snacks? Wine? At least some wine, I think.

Do you find this morbid? I don't, and it's not like I control the thoughts that pop into my head. There are bigger, more important issues but these will do for the time being.

Every day now I can tell that my life is waning. There are good days and bad. Sunday night I slept no more than two hours and lost most of Monday to fatigue.

Even with a full night's sleep, I tire so easily that my productive time has been reduced to about six or eight hours.

Quite a lot of those hours is taken up with with medical activities - pills and inhalers at certain times, oxygen, nebulizer, managing refills, telephone calls and home visits with the hospice people.

Not that I am complaining. These and other medical professionals prolonged my life way beyond the year expected when I was first diagnosed, and the majority of it was much easier than now.

I have been with people during the last months of their lives and so far I experience fewer difficulties than they did. And don't think I'm not grateful for both the extra time and the terrific medical people who find ways to smooth my way as much as possible.

Because I really, really like being alive.

My job now is to find a way to make peace with dying. I've come a long way toward that goal in the last three years but the arrival of the drugs puts a whole new reality to it.

Until that box was in my hands, M.A.I.D. drugs were mostly theoretical. Now they are fact. In my home. There for my use. Or not. There is no rule saying I must take them. But I suspect the only reason I will not is if I die in my sleep or get hit by a truck.

I thought you might like to see what the drugs look like. Quite ordinary, don't you think? Until you remind yourself what they are for.


A TGB READER STORY: Love Thy Neighbor, Over the Fence

By Barrie Levine who blogs at Into the 70s – 72 is the New 72

When our children were grown and my husband Paul and I moved to our current home, our new neighbors welcomed us with a huge tray of homemade eggplant parmigiana.

Carmela and Tony (not their real names), a brother and sister in their early 80s, had never married. Tony, a retired engineer, loved Italian opera videos and made his own red wine. Carmela had formidable expertise in the traditional domestic arts of cooking, baking, and sewing. She knitted colorful afghan blankets for each of our four granddaughters.

Tony confided in us about the hardships he endured as a prisoner in World War II. They emigrated from Italy to the United States after the war and loved their new country with every fiber of their being.

Befriending neighbors was in my DNA. In my childhood, my mom Rose and her neighbor Madge waved through their kitchen windows while washing breakfast dishes. After sending the children to school, they met outside in their aprons and spent the morning chatting over the picket fence.

My husband tended a prolific garden and regularly took over baskets of vegetables and herbs for Carmela’s use. She returned the favor by sharing a platter of antipasto or a jar of homemade spaghetti sauce.

But one year we were plagued by woodchucks who invaded the garden and ruined it often. On an August afternoon, Paul went outside to survey the rows of corn, his pride of the growing season, to find them massacred, the cobs torn off the stalks and strewn on the ground, half-eaten.

He researched his options and bought a Have-a-Heart cage, with the intention of relocating the culprits to a distant wooded area. When Carmela spotted a woodchuck trapped in the cage, she called and screamed into the phone - branding us killers - and that she wanted nothing more to do with “people like us.”

After she slammed down the receiver, I stood there with the phone in my hand, speechless.

Early the next day, a crew appeared to measure the property lines. I knew what that meant - a spite fence would go up along the three hundred foot boundary between us. Whenever the panels blew down in snow or wind storms, Carmela sent for the fence company to repair the damage or replace the sections, keeping the wall intact.

When I heard that Tony passed away, I sent her a condolence card. But Carmela held her grudge and never looked our way to say hello.

Four or five years later, I received another surprise phone call from Carmela - she no longer wanted us to be enemies. I welcomed her kind words and the feeling of connection I had missed.

But by then, my husband was gravely ill. I was his caregiver, trying mightily to keep him out of a nursing home and simply did not have the energy to pursue a neighborly relationship. She may have thought that I didn’t care, but the truth is, my life was in shambles. I had no emotional reserves to welcome anything or anyone into my life - or even to explain.

And our garden suffered from neglect. My husband could no longer figure out how to handle his tools or equipment. We had to sell his tractor with the rototiller attachment. I remember that unbearably sad day when I wrote up a bill of sale and the buyer drove the Kubota onto his trailer and hauled it away.

Last year, I saw Carmela’s obituary in the local newspaper. I mused on both Tony and Carmela, brother and sister immigrants from Italy who lived their American dream together in a brick ranch house on two acres in Massachusetts after losing everything under the Mussolini regime.

I’m sad to lose my next door neighbors, and for my aborted friendship with these good people based upon a silly misunderstanding.

But not everything is possible in life and I had to let it go.

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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.]

Elder Loneliness in the Era of Pandemic

Whatever fairy tales the president of the United States repeats about a vaccine, the world has only three imperfect defenses against the COVID-19 virus: wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hands.

What that means for millions of old people - the age cohort that dies in the largest numbers from the virus - is to stay home alone.

”I try to remember that I’m one of the lucky ones in all this,” 75-year-old Gloria Jackson who lives in Minnesota, told the Washington Post in May. “What do I have to complain about? I’m not dead. I’m not sick. I haven’t lost my job or gone broke.

“I’m bored and I’m lonely, and so what? Who’s really going to care about my old-lady problems? Lately, when I see people talking about the elderly, it’s mostly about how many of us are dying off and how we’re forcing them to shut down the economy.

“I tell myself I should be more positive. I should be grateful. Sometimes I can make that last for an hour or two,” she says.

She is not being unreasonable. We are all stuck in this hard place for an unknown length of time to come.

Experts have been telling us for years that there is an epidemic of loneliness among old people due to social isolation. Among the health risks are high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death.

Now, the three rules of dealing with COVID-19 exacerbate those risks while increasing the number of elders who are vulnerable.

Solutions provided by experts in my admittedly limited survey are mostly what you would expect. Here are the most common with some personal commentary.

Regular Zoom (or whatever platform you prefer) visits with family members or friends.

Although it would not be considered a social visit, I like this for medical check-ins. I read of two women who, before the virus, had met at a coffee shop each morning to do The New York Times crossword puzzle together. They now continue on Zoom.

Last week, I joined my previous in-person current affairs discussion group via Zoom for the first time. It is a smaller group now – six or seven people. I thoroughly enjoyed it and felt more energized than usual when we were finished.

A drawback to computer-assisted visiting is that some elders do not use a computer or are not confident enough to set up an online meeting. But there is the old-fashioned solution for that:

Telephone visits. I regularly talk with east coast friends by telephone, which we have been doing for all the years since I left.

Some are regularly-scheduled appointments, others are more ad-hoc but frequent enough that it is not exceptional – more like we just haven't had time in the past week or two to get together.

Some organizations throughout the United States make a point to telephone their members regularly. Where I live, the Adult Community Center does that and in some towns and cities, people who deliver Meals on Wheels make time to stay and chat for awhile – at a distance from one another, of course.

If you shop for an elder, dropping off the groceries can be an opportunity to stick around and visit for a bit. During good weather, a porch, if it is large enough to keep a distance, can provide a nice spot to sit and talk.

Everyone likes surprises and another idea I found is to drop off favorite foods or candies or a jigsaw puzzle if that is an interest, and so on.

Schedule, personal care and exercise. These seem to me to be especially important in maintaining a positive attitude while living under virus restrictions.

Getting out of bed at the same time as BV (Before Virus). Showering regularly, exercising regularly. If you cannot get out and walk, there are many workout routines for various levels of capability to follow along on television and on the internet.

And it helps a lot to focus on the current moment. That's not always easy for me: what should I write about for Monday's TGB? Do I have all the notes I need for a video meeting with my palliative care provider? But I work on it.

Because I control pain (and general well-being) by taking medications at certain times of day, I'm unlikely to break the schedule. Pain – or, rather, avoiding it – is a great motivator.

In addition to all the video and telephone calls, I have hospice home visits at least twice a week in my home. We both wear masks, keep our distance and wash our hands a lot.

Also, once a week, my neighbor and I spend a couple of hours in the afternoon on her lovely deck sitting six or eight feet apart. A little wine, some cheese and crackers and good conversation.

All of that doesn't count daily emails from friends, blog acquaintances and a variety of inquiries regarding TGB.

Plus there are your comments – I read every one of them, almost always on the day they arrive. It is another form of conversation and I learn as much from you as I do from other sources. It has been more than 16 years and I cannot imagine my life without the blog and you.

Now it is your turn. What is your experience with loneliness during this terrible time and how do you deal with it? What recommendations do you have? The virus isn't going anywhere any time soon. We must learn to live as well as we can and as safely as we can.

Remember: Whatever else, wear a mask, keep your distance and wash your hands.

ELDER MUSIC: Boccherini

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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LUIGI BOCCHERINI was born in Lucca in Italy. His dad was a cellist and double bass player and he taught the young Luigi to play the cello from the age of five, and he turned out to be pretty good at it.

When Luigi was 14, he and dad went to Vienna where they were both employed in the court orchestra.

At the age of 25, Luigi went to Madrid at the behest of the Spanish ambassador whom he met in Paris. He remained in Spain for the rest of his life, being employed to play and compose music for various bigwigs around the place.

He became a cello maestro and many of his compositions feature the instrument to one degree or another. He was greatly influenced by the music of Joseph Haydn and a large percentage of his output consists of chamber music - trios, quartets, quintets, sextets and so on - as will be demonstrated today.

His compositions have been catalogued by Yves Gérard, hence the G number attached to each.

Luigi’s music has been characterised as warm, gentle and elegant but often with an undertow of melancholia - his two wives and three daughters died before he did.

Luigi’s string trios published as Opus 47 are mature works (he was 50 when he wrote them) and although still definitely in the classical mode, they rather suggest to me the coming Romantic style of music that was fast approaching.

This one is his String Trio Op 47 No 5 in D major (G 111), the second movement.

♫ String Trio Op 47 No 5 in D major (G 111) (2)


Although. as I mentioned, Luigi’s composition are Classical in style, this next rather seems to look backward to the Baroque era. It’s not a bad thing to mix the two styles and this is a delightful piece.

It’s his Octet in G (G 470), the first movement. It’s scored for oboe, bassoon, French horn, two violins, viola and two cellos.

♫ Octet G 470 (1)

Luigi wrote a series of arias called “Aria Accademica” based on texts written for operas by Pietro Metastasio. The complete set had 16 of these. He collected 12 of them and presented them to music publisher Ignaz Pleyel (who was also a fine composer as well as a piano maker).

These actually didn’t see the light of day until the 20th Century. One of those is G 549, also known as Care luci che regnate, sung by CECILIA GADIA.


♫ Care luci che regnate (Cecilia Gadia)

Besides chamber music, Luigi liked to write music for his favoured instrument, the cello. Joseph Haydn wrote the two finest cello concertos in music, but Luigi wasn’t far behind him with his 13.

His Cello Concerto No. 9 in B-Flat Major, (G 482) is the most popular and widely performed of his. It’s often used as a teaching tool for budding cellists. This is the first movement.

♫ Concerto for Cello in B-Flat No 9 G 482 (1)


Early in the 1770s, Luigi started composing for the flute. It was at this time he wrote a series of flute quintets, called “little quintets” at the time. These are in contrast to later ones where he was more adventurous.

One series was his opus 19 (which has had several number changes over the centuries) and from that we have his Quintet No 2 for flute and strings in G minor (G 426), the second movement.

♫ Quintet No 2 for flute and strings in G minor G 426 (2)

Another aria from the series “Aria Accademica”, mentioned above, is the G 557, Se d'un amor tiranno. This one is sung by MARTA ALMAJANO.


♫ Aria Accademica in B-Flat Major G. 557 Se d'un amor tiranno


Perhaps it was because he lived in Spain, but Luigi seemed to be fond of the guitar and he wrote a number of guitar quintets, that is a guitar with a regular string quartet. He “cheated” with some of them by using old string quintets or piano quintets and re-scoring them for guitar. It doesn’t matter, they still sound fine.

See what you think of the second movement of his Guitar Quintet No. 4 in D major (G 448). This one is nicknamed "Fandango".

♫ Guitar Quintet No. 4 in D major (2)

Luigi’s Quintet No.3 for Oboe and Strings in D major, Op 45 (G 433) is essentially a string quartet with an oboe plonked on top of it. A lot of his quintets are like that - just string quartets with an extra instrument. Nothing wrong with that, they all sound fine. Here is the second movement of that work.

♫ Quintet No.3 for Oboe and Strings in D major Op.45 (G 433) (2)


Known mostly for his chamber music, Luigi was “asked” by the King of Spain’s younger brother, Luis, Count of Chinchón, to write a liturgical work for him. He produced his Stabat Mater (G 532). From that we have the seventh movement sung by Michele Minne.

♫ Stabat Mater G. 532 (7)

Like all composers of his era, Luigi wrote symphonies. It seems it was a rite of passage for composers back then. He wrote 30 of them that are called symphonies and several more works that really are but under different names.

From his Symphony No 3, op 37 in D minor (G 517) here is the fourth movement.

Symphony G 517 (4)


I’ll end with his most famous, and popular, composition: the String Quintet Op 13, No 5 (G 281). In this case the third movement, a minuet, that is also quite often performed as a standalone work. It’s been featured in many movie scores, most notably the Ealing comedy The Ladykillers from 1955.

String Quintet No. 17 in A Major Op. 13 No. 5 G 281 (3)



And woke up in another.

This was written by British-born, Pakistani singer-songwriter, Harood Rashid and has been making the internet rounds for about three or four months. There are now dozens of video interpretations (just search “we fell asleep in the one world” at Youtube for more of them).

TGB reader Joan McMullen sent it and I like this version of the video.


Animals, lots of animals, giving and receiving massages. Also from Joan McMullen.


People who have lost love ones to COVID-19 are more frequently placing blame in the obituaries they write. TGB reader and political blogger extraordinaire, Jan Adams, sent this one which I believe may be the first.

covid obit

The number of obituaries with political messages has been increasing as the pandemic continues. The Washington Post has covered the phenomenon.


We have always known the president is only semi-literate but his errors and gaffes have been increasing in number and they get funnier. Here are two he delivered this week when he tried to read the words Yosemite and Thailand.


Fairly regularly the polling firm Gallup asks the broad question, “How are things going?” Here's what they have to say about the results of the latest survey:

”Americans have rarely been less satisfied with the state of the nation than they are now. Although the public does not have to be highly satisfied for incumbents to be reelected, the current level of satisfaction sits well below the low-water mark (33%) at which an incumbent has won reelection in the past.

“An even more troubling sign for the current president is that satisfaction is significantly lower now than it was in 1992 (22%) when George H.W. Bush lost his bid for a second term.”

That sounds bad enough but I found it shocking when I looked at the graph:


More information at Gallup but don't make this an excuse for complacency.


The Youtube page tells us:

”Tom Turcich of New Jersey and his adorable pooch Savannah have walked over 18,000 miles through the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Chile, Italy, Turkey and dozens of other countries over the past five years.

“It’s been a life-changing adventure. They’ve survived hardship, and they’ve experienced the kindness of strangers along the way. And they’ve still got miles to go.”


My friend Tony Sarmiento sent this photo. He is a cat person (of course he is):


The photograph, by John Hryniuk, is from a collection of faces of Toronto citizens during the pandemic published at the Washington Post.


I have read a bunch of stories lately about how bored zoo animals get without visitors to entertain them. Here is another. The Youtube page reports,

”Penguins who couldn't be entertained properly at a zoo during lockdown have been cheered up - with a bubble machine...Staff at Newquay Zoo in Cornwall were trying to find a way to keep them entertained, and then someone kindly donated a bubble machine.”


TGB reader Joan McMullen is back again, this time with video of an extraordinary young man who builds an astonishingly elaborate dog house for four abandoned puppies.

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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.

The Alex and Ronni Show. And Trump

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Sometimes when I sit down to write a story for TGB, I quite surprise myself with what's on my mind. That's what happened with this one. I intended only a short piece to lead into The Alex and Ronni Show and it turned into a screed. Or maybe it's a plea. I don't know.]

On Wednesday, my former husband and I recorded our bi-weekly Alex and Ronni Show. We spent a great deal of the time talking about Trump but I think what I said is small potatoes compared to what I have been thinking of late.

I have at last arrived at a place where I think I am done with him or, to be more specific, done with the pull to know every day what unspeakable thing he has done now.

Although he has made many catastrophic changes to our way of life, although he is deeply ignorant, ill educated, incurious, willfully stupid, mean, nasty and (among other ignoble traits) evil according to some, he is such a pathetic, little, blowhard of a man.

But that is not to say he is ineffective.

There are as many “expert” explanations for his abhorrent behavior as there are days in his tenure as president, none of them satisfying, and the worst part of his presidency is how many people he has harmed that, with almost any given normal person in his place, would not have happened.

The so-called experts who turn up in the news almost daily are no better at explaining the unmovable 40 percent of Americans who support Trump no matter what than they are at helping us understand the man himself.

But I no longer see that knowing how he got to be the monstrous person he is would help anything. Nor will any of our elected national lawmakers. They have had nearly four years to thwart his worst (and least) undertakings and have done nothing.

Now that Trump has stocked the leadership (and, often, the rank-and-file) of every federal agency with grifters, crooks, chiselers and dedicated sycophants, the election looks less likely to be fair with each passing day.

But maybe it doesn't matter. Today, I am reminded of this. It turned turned up and made the internet rounds in the spring:

WORLD: There’s no way we can shut everything down in order to lower emissions, slow climate change and protect the environment.

MOTHER NATURE: Here’s a virus. Practice.

To the degree necessary, we aren't doing anything right about the virus and that is discouraging not only in regard to the people who have and will die. It may lead to the disappearance of humankind from our planet.

So vote as if your life depends on it because it does. Maybe – and only maybe – a better person in the White House can change that.

Here's this week's Alex and Ronni Show.

You can check out Alex's online talk show here.

Do Not Go Gentle...

Given what you know about my diseases (cancer and COPD) and my being in hospice now, it probably doesn't surprise you that I think about dying a bit more frequently these days - certainly more frequently than when I was younger.

Triggers for those thoughts arrive from many sources or, sometimes, just appear in my mind from no reason I can figure out. In the past few days, it has been lines from Dylan Thomas's poem, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.

Until now, I had no idea I had memorized it. Maybe repeated readings over decades managed that without my noticing. In case you haven't memorized it, here it is. It's short:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

This is, of course, one of the most famous poems in the English language and it is quoted widely in the literature of death and dying so over the years of running this blog, I have frequently come across it.

Let it be said right away that I do not deny the poem's brilliance. I also like its cadence and how the repetitions work so well. What I reject is the message that we must challenge death: “rage, rage against the dying of the light,” particularly when we are old.

That is because I do not want to “burn and rave at close of day.” I want to “go gentle into that good night.”

Going gentle into my personal good night is one reason I have embraced medical aid in dying. Those drugs will send me on my way quietly without a prolonged period of decline or pain.

The fly in this otherwise well-planned ointment is how strongly I am still attached to our world: pandemic, economy, Trump, election, Black Lives Matter, climate change. It may not be pleasant right now but it is certainly the most interesting time during which I have lived.

I so much want to see some of the outcome - the election being number one – while also taking my leave NOT “raging against the dying of the light.”

You can tell this has become a mild obsession because I've written about it here before – recently even: what I worry about is that my diseases will become difficult enough that the only good choice is to depart but my connection to the world will not have dwindled or dropped away. I surely do not want to die clutching for more.

But I have no earthly idea of how to be certain of that.

While making notes for this blog post, I listened to recordings by a variety of people reading this poem. You would be surprised how many there are online. The actor Anthony Hopkins does a lovely job of it:

For a work as powerful as Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, it seems only right to also include the poet himself:

A TGB READER STORY: Too Close for Comfort

By Fritzy Dean

I don’t know why he scared me so much. He was not disheveled or dirty. He seemed friendly, giving me big smile as he approached, asking, “ Are you okay, sweetheart?”

I knew I did not know him so I objected to being called “sweetheart.” I was about to step off the sidewalk to walk to my car, when I realized my car was not there.

My face must have shown confusion because he then said, “Is your car lost?”

Spotting it in the other direction I said, “No, not lost. Just temporarily misplaced.”

At that point, he walked right up to me and placed his hand on my elbow! I felt a cold fist squeeze around my heart. Who is this guy? What is he doing? Is he a “Good Samaritan?” Or a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

I kept my body stiff and rigid in the few steps it took to get to my car door. I stopped and stood still, waiting for him to step away before I opened the car door. Finally he did, with another twinkly smile, which somehow did not reach his eyes.

I stepped inside and immediately locked all the doors. As he walked into the store I had just exited, I noticed my breath was shaky and my heart was pounding. Clearly my body was reacting to something I could not identify. My body KNEW I had survived a perilous encounter.

A good number of years ago I read a book called, The Gift of Fear by a man named Gavin de Becker. Mr. de Becker (born October 26, 1954) is an American author and security specialist, primarily for governments, large corporations and public figures. He is the founder and chairman of Gavin de Becker and Associates. In the book, he describes many first hand accounts of folks who discounted their fear and came to regret it.

One story I remember very well was about a young woman who dropped her bag of groceries while trying to open the security door to her apartment house. A “nice guy” came along just then, picked up the onions and oranges and cans of food. He insisted he would escort her up to her apartment, since her hands were full.

He chatted in a friendly way as they climbed the stair. But when she tried to turn away at the door to her unit, he took her keys and pushed her inside. For many hours he tortured and assaulted her.

When he went to the kitchen to get a knife, she was able to slip out, naked and trembling. She tiptoed to her neighbor's door where her prayers were answered. Her elderly neighbors were home and admitted her seconds before her door opened and her assailant stormed out looking for her.

They watched through the peep hole as he pounded on all the doors on that floor. Finally he left. She was traumatized, but alive. She admitted to the police to having a “bad feeling” about the man, but didn’t want to seem unfriendly since he was being so helpful.

I cannot truly say I remembered any of this that day on the sidewalk where the “nice guy” wanted to help me. I just knew he did not have my best interests at heart.

That night on the local news I saw a video of a guy chasing down an 81-year-old lady, knocking her to the sidewalk and taking of with her purse. The woman could have been me.

I realize we live in a violent world but my default position has always been to trust. Trust, until I have reason to believed the person is untrustworthy. That day on the sidewalk, my instinct, my self preservation instinct was alert and paying attention.

When the stranger stepped up and invaded my personal space, something inside me knew. That primitive reptilian part of my brain, the part always on watch for predators - it knew.

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