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.
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...Edge Video
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.