ELDER MUSIC: Musicians You Should Know About - Part 1
GAY AND GRAY: Fun in the Sun

Ollie the Cat and My Time Deficit

REMINDER: Don't forget the new FEATURED ELDERBLOGS in the left sidebar. Each Monday five blogs, selected from the complete list, are called out for the week to help us find new gems we hadn't known about or remind us others we might have lost track of.

category_bug_journal2.gif In the Elder News post on Saturday, I mentioned a recent research study (a rather silly one) that purports to explain how cats control us by means of a special meow. My feline housemate Ollie – although a talkative sort in general – has no need for vocal urging. He commands my behavior quite easily with a variety of insistent nudges, pokes, prods, winsome appeals and the occasional evil eye followed by a whack to my ankle - each one an effective motivator.

We rise early partly due to my faulty, internal clock, but reinforced by Ollie's belief that 4 - 4:30AM is exactly the right time for breakfast, and that I exist to serve his demands.

What this means at the other end of the day is that by 6PM only the reptile portion of my brain remains functional and my body wants to be horizontal. If the next day's blog post is unfinished, it will remain so until 4AM when muscles and frontal cortex, sufficiently rested, kick in again.

Evening reading is limited to nothing more demanding than detective novels and when, sometimes, even that feels like a mental stretch, there is an endless supply of cop shows on television to which I can veg out until sleep arrives.

I hate this. It means losing three or four hours out of 24 that could be used more productively and there are other things I would rather do – listen to music (I'm not a background music kind of person), read books that require more concentration than light novels and so much to learn and know, things I put off during my working years expecting (not having counted on Ollie the cat) to have more time in this third age of life.

For several months, I have been trying to free up time (within the limitations of Ollie's schedule and my late-day weariness) for these pursuits and have now devised two solutions.

Last week, I gave in and bought an iPod (am I the last in America?) - a small one called the Shuffle which I can fill up with MP3s from my computer to use in the bedroom, the only place in the house where at 7PM, Ollie (and there is no denying him - see paragraph one above) requires 30 to 40 minutes of communal playtime, emphasis on communal. For me, it is mindless and now he doesn't have any idea that my attention is elsewhere. What does a cat know of earbuds.

The second innovation is a new use for my little Eee PC. Remember that? I discovered at the aging conference in New York last month that it is too small for serious writing or note-taking, but for functions not involving speedy or precision typing, it is excellent.

First, you must understand that my bedroom television time is repeatedly taken up with removing Ollie from in front of my face. He does not (to his credit, but my irritation) approve of television. But audio does not offend his sense of where my attention ought to be directed.

So what I do now, some evenings, is use my Eee PC to listen to the expanding number of lectures, talks and presentations available on the web from experts worldwide on just about any subject you care about, want to know more about and didn't even know you cared about until your interest was piqued.

For whatever reason, I can concentrate on these even when I'm tired and since many are audio-only and video talking heads don't require watching, Ollie is mollified while I am learning a great deal.

Now that you have indulged my cat fancy, here is the part of today's post you might actually care about.

Most of us know about TED Talks, FORA TV and BigThink – websites with an astonishing array of smart, accomplished people eager to share their knowledge. Thousands of them talking about everything from the history of hip-hop to minor poets of the Renaissance to current events and politics to aspects of physics (even in language a lay person can understand) and, here and there, some useful takes on aging.

There is so much available that I'm pretty sure if you organized your listening and followed up with some well-chosen reading, you could gain the equivalent of a master's degree in anything you want. And all for free from some of the best-known people in their individual fields doing the teaching – people you would be unlikely to encounter if not for the internet.

Remember when television was in its infancy how they told us this is how it would be used? It didn't work out that way, but the internet, unlike television, has no boundaries of space and time and now this worthy goal is being realized.

While experimenting with ways to carve out more time while accommodating the whims of the cat and my aging rest requirements, I have discovered many more such websites than the big three listed above.

Here are links to some of them, in no particular order, where you are certain to find some fascinating people and information. Talk about lifelong learning...

Academic Earth

Project Tuva

YouTube EDU Channel

PBS Video

WGBH Forum Network

Best Online Documentaries

Annenberg Media

Open Culture

Edge Video

One World TV

Link TV – Television Without Borders

MIT World – Distributed Intelligence


That should get you started.

Plus, the iPod has a further good use now to guarantee sufficient daily exercise. I just tie on my sneakers, download an hour-long lecture and don't allow myself to return home from walking until it's finished.

It is not fair to have blamed my time deficit entirely on Ollie the cat, but he does contribute and by doing so has now contributed to the solutions. He is redeemed.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Celia Jones: Elinor and Her Dog Stud.


Thanks for the links. They will be very useful. Maybe Ollie should have ear buds so he can become an educated cat.

What a great idea!!!!

I love the Annenberg site. I need to load up my lil' Sansa with some good words and grab my quarter staff and head to the nearby park's walking track.


Thanks for the wonderful links. I have just 2 thoughts: how on earth do you retain any of the info? I can barely remember what I had for dinner last nite! :)Also, I may use a walkman to listen to some music, but on my walk I just want to be mindfully meditative & enjoy a beautiful day, unencumbered with more "stuff". Slowing up a bit is more my speed these days, but nonetheless, I applaud all you techies out there. Dee


Retain? Well, who knows - but there's no test.

As for mindful meditation - that's first thing in the morning and sometimes at night. And you're not accounting for all my other quiet moments like staring off into space for large increments of time I can't account for during the day.

Marvelous post -- my last employer got me an iPhone so I could stay in touch from anywhere. This has vastly expanded my reading, as I can listen to podcasts while exercising, driving and other partially attentive activities.

And nearly all of this mind-expanding material is FREE! Thanks for some new links!

Ollie is a cat's cat, all right!

I admit that my younger brother's cats - Moose, Delilah and Francie have me trained. Aftre all I feed and water them, clean their litter boxes and get up when Delilah (the town crier) tells me to do so.

Even while she steals it right and left, my cat saves me time (mostly seducing me to chill out/meditate on cuteness moments). This time I might otherwise spend stressing, worrying, thinking nasty thoughts.

I subscribe to free radio, TV, and special programs downloadable from iTunes so that I am endlessly provided with updates of favorite commentators, moderators, interviewers, etc. Among those I listen to on my iPod: Diane Rehm, Bill Moyers, Bob Edwards, Kista Tioppett. Too many to keep up with on my too-short walks.

Great list! You know these resources are available but just never quite manage to get them all together. I find good ones and lose them. Now, I have a Video File. Thanks!

No, you weren't the last to get an ipod...I still don't have one. And I have no idea what the ee thing is. But I'm fully there with you regarding the time that the cat takes. I have three who insist on that communal time in bed each morning. They're so cuddly that I sometimes fall back asleep, further wasting precious waking hours. You've given me food for thought and I absolutely loved the way you wrote it!

Good list. I always liked the Annenberg Media site. And it's nice to visit YouTube for something that's not inane :-)

Gosh, thank you for the sites. The older I get the more my time shrinks. Maybe these sites will help keep the little grey matter alive. :)

And no........no iPod here yet. Tinnitus instead.

I already spend so much time on the computer that if I check out those links, I will have to be fitted with a harness that holds the computer out in front of me at all times.

And I don't have an ipod and don't want one.

Ollie sounds like a proper cat. Our three get my husband up at 4:00am too--do you think it's a conspiracy?

I'm bookmarking this post so I'll get back easily to the links.

I enjoyed your blog years ago but lost touch when we moved. Am glad to have found it again through Beth Westmark of 'Switched at Birth'.

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