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Ease and Routine

category_bug_journal2.gif As an aside in her story today at The Elder Storytelling Place (link below), Marcia Mayo says this:

“With me at my advanced age, it had to be early and it had to be easy. I no longer like to stay up late and I don’t look forward to much of anything enough to go to much trouble to take part in it.”

Although that is not the point of Marcia's story, it was a minor Aha! moment for me. Without making a conscious decision, I have behaved in this manner for a number of years now – at least a decade.

Back in my youth – which extended into my fifties – there must have been hundreds of mornings, as the alarm clock dinged, that I regretted having been out and about into the wee hours the night before.

And I'm not even talking about having imbibed a glass or two more wine than I should have, although that was known to happen too.

It was that heavy, foggy, brain-dead feeling that comes with getting less than seven hours of sleep that I knew would infect my entire day making every small effort – walking two blocks to the subway – feel like pushing a boulder uphill. I despised that every time it happened.

What's that old joke about knowing in the morning that this is the best you're going to feel all day?

One of the great, unsung perks of retirement is that I don't set an alarm clock anymore, and further – because early mornings are the best part of the day for me – I don't stay up late at home or for almost any reason.

I don't remember now when I last ruined an entire day from too little sleep and I intend to keep it that way. Who knows how many days I have left and I want be bright and shiny for them all.

It is also the “trouble” Marcia refers to. If I am invited to a dressy occasion, how far will I need to walk in pretty shoes that god intended only for show-off purposes from the comfort of a chair? Does getting there or back involve driving on a highway at night? Or, how often do the buses run? Will it be crowded? I hate crowds.

If the event is important enough, I might hobble there in my impractical shoes, but I won't drive farther than a couple of miles – on slow-speed, familiar, city streets only - in the dark. (That's a lifelong rule. Even in my twenties, I couldn't judge distances to tail lights at night.)

Like Marcia, I find that little is compelling enough these days to go to any trouble to attend and that is particularly so if it involves an airplane.

No longer is there just one day lost to travel. It's two days, as the second is needed to recover from the exhaustion of

• Nearly undressing for the TSA

• Walking five miles each to and from the gate

• Hauling an overnight case all that way

• Sitting in a cramped space too small for child for up to six hours

• Perhaps missing a connection

• Being stuck at the airport for six hours until the next flight

• Repeat the above to return home

A total of four days lost from my life. There had better be a million-dollar check at the far end of the plane ride if you want me there.

It is also the reason I do as much shopping online as possible these days. In New York, everything I needed or wanted was in walking, subway or taxi distance and so much to see and enjoy in the getting there.

In Maine, almost everything except food was at the mall, a five-mile drive from my home on a lightly traveled highway but not much visual or mental stimulation.

And here, the necessities are scattered in several malls, all involving different, poorly marked highways and I've never not gotten lost on the way home. Yeah, yeah, yeah – I'll learn my way around in time, but it's easier to open a browser. I'll save the driving for more compelling reasons than shopping.

In addition to the trouble, it is breaking routine. Until I read that portion of Marcia's story, I hadn't realized how much I cling to routine these days and that messing with it takes a lot of planning to keep tiredness at bay.

For most of my life, I jumped at last minute invitations, eager to see friends, a show, a concert or dine at a new restaurant. Nowadays, I need time to plan to do those things, to parcel out my stamina.

What a bore that is and by extension, I am. But that's only from someone else's perspective. I'm fine with it.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcia Mayo: Let It Roll

ELDER MUSIC: Roots of the Stones

PeterTibbles75x75You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.

Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones are the most famous rock band in the world. They have also been billed as the best rock band in the world and for a time in the early seventies, this was no doubt true.

The Jagger/Richards combination has given us some classic songs, however, early in their career, they were essentially a covers band. I'm going to play some of those songs as performed by the original artists.

The Stones always had good taste in the music they covered, and there's no better way to start than with Buddy Holly.

Buddy Holly

Buddy was certainly the most influential of the early rockers. He and the Crickets were a self-contained unit who wrote their own songs. Well, Buddy wrote most of them in spite of the almost arbitrary way credits were assigned by their manager, Norman Petty.

They played their own instruments, made their own recordings at their own pace without a record company breathing down their necks. They set an example that The Beatles and many other were to follow in the next decade.

Buddy pinched the rhythm in this song from Bo Diddley. The Stones also pinched it and used it many of their songs. This is Not Fade Away.

♫ Buddy Holly - Not Fade Away

The Stones weren't the only ones to cover songs by Arthur Alexander. The Beatles did also, as did Elvis, The Hollies, Joe Tex, George Jones, Ry Cooder and Willie DeVille amongst others. That's certainly an interesting lot.

Arthur Alexander

Arthur was born in Alabama, the son of a guitarist who played in various juke joints at weekends. Arthur joined a gospel group before he was even a teenager. Later, while working as a bellhop, he started writing songs with a fellow hop and gained the ear of future musicians Dan Penn, Spooner Oldham, Rick Hall and Billy Sherrill.

Later, Arthur and Rick built a recording studio at Muscle Shoals that's become one of the most fancied places to record for all manner of musicians. Arthur was the first musician to record there. That song was You Better Move On, which became a reasonable hit for him.

♫ Arthur Alexander - You Better Move On

When I played the tracks I had decided to use for Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, she asked, "Where's the Red Rooster?" Mental head slap.

I'd forgotten what is, probably, The Stones most famous cover song. So, another tune got the flick and Howlin' Wolf enters the list.


The Stones were once asked to appear on an episode of Shindig. They said they'd do it but only if Wolf was on as well. It's interesting seeing that footage again - Wolf, loud and uncompromising, singing some of the grittiest blues around surrounded by the terminally perky Shindig dancers and the Stones at his feet.

Fortunately, this is now available on DVD. I must save my pennies. This is Howlin' Wolf with The Red Rooster.

♫ Howlin' Wolf - The Red Rooster

I like to think of the next song as being by Bobby Womack, however, that's not strictly true. More to the point, it's the Womack Brothers. At the time of recording this next song, though, they weren't called that either. They were known as The Valentinos.


The Valentinos were Bobby, Friendly, Harry, Curtis and Cecil Womack. No sign of Sleepy or Doc. There were already groups called The Valentinos so they pretty soon reverted to the Womack Brothers.

While they were still The Valentinos, they were discovered by Sam Cooke while he was still a Soul Stirrer and he signed them to his record label. At the time, Curtis was the lead singer but Sam liked Bobby's style and under his tutelage he became the lead.

After Sam's death, the group was signed by Chess Records but they split up after a year or so. They all became soul singers to some degree, Bobby most successfully.

Bobby married Sam Cooke's widow not long after Sam's death. Later, Cecil married Sam's daughter. Interesting times in the Womack and Cooke families.

Here are The Valentinos with It's All Over Now.

♫ The Valentinos - It's All Over Now

Rufus Thomas has always seemed to be the happiest of rhythm & blues artists. He didn't really take his music too seriously.

Rufus Thomas

Rufus was born in Mississippi but the family moved to Memphis was he was two. He made his artistic debut playing a frog in a school play. During his childhood we would imitate many animals and also became a tap dancer.

Later, he worked at a textile plant but simultaneously he got a job as a DJ on a Memphis radio station. His radio gig lasted a long time and he was often billed "The Voice of Memphis" even after he made a bit of a career as a singer himself. Rufus is credited with discovering B.B. King at a talent show he ran.

He recorded initially for Sun Records, pre-Elvis, and later for Stax Records where most of his musical legacy was made. Rufus is the father of Carla Thomas and they made a number of records together.

This is Rufus with Walking the Dog.

♫ Rufus Thomas - Walking the Dog

Chuck Berry is the bedrock upon which rock & roll was built.

Chuck Berry

With his distinctive guitar style copied by every budding rocker along with his literate and occasionally sly lyrics, he set a standard everyone else aspired to reach.

He refined and developed the rhythm & blues he started playing, copping licks from T-Bone Walker along the way, and along with his pianist Johnnie Johnson, developed a new art-form.

Without Chuck there would have been no Stones, no Beatles, no Beach Boys. Maybe no Dylan and certainly no artists of lesser quality than those mentioned. This is Chuck with Carol.

♫ Chuck Berry - Carol

In my opinion, Otis Redding was the greatest of the soul singers. I imagine I'm not alone with that opinion.

Otis Redding

Otis's recording career began when he was at Stax records as Johnny Jenkins's chauffeur while Johnny was recording a new song. The recording session finished early and Otis asked if he could record a song he'd written.

So with the house band, Booker T and the MGs, Otis laid down These Arms of Mine and the rest is history. The MGs often toured with Otis, but fortunately for them, and us, they weren't on the fateful flight. Unfortunately for the Bar-Kays, they were.

Mick didn't do a bad job with Pain in My Heart but Otis, naturally, did it better. Here's his version.

♫ Otis Redding - Pain in My Heart

Don Covay, or Donald Randolph to his folks, was from South Carolina originally, however, the family moved to Washington D.C. while he was still a boy.

Don Covay

He and his siblings formed a gospel group but when Don was in high school, he switched to a doowop group. This evolved into a soul-flavored outfit.

Later, Don landed a job as chauffeur for Little Richard. He also opened Richard's show as a solo performer. Richard produced Don's first record and he was on his way.

He is a songwriter of some note, writing for such as Jerry Butler, Wilson Pickett, Gladys Knight as well as for himself. The song of his the Stones covered is Mercy Mercy. The guitarist on this track is a little-known strummer by the name of Jimi Hendrix.

♫ Don Covay - Mercy Mercy

Marvin Gaye changed his name from his birth name, Marvin Gay. That would sure fool a lot of people. Perhaps he was emulating Sam Cooke.

Marvin Gaye

Marvin began his professional musical career in the doowop group, The Moonglows. After this group disbanded, he joined Motown Records (actually Tamla, a subsidiary) as a session drummer and pianist. He went on the road backing The Miracles and developed a close friendship with Smokey Robinson as a result.

He eventually got to record some songs but was still used as a session musicians on some of Motown's biggest hits. Some of his songs are the finest in the Motown canon and he was influential later going beyond the pop single and recording the ground-breaking album "What's Going On.”

Marvin was shot dead by his father when he returned home to celebrate his birthday.

This is Can I Get a Witness.

♫ Marvin Gaye - Can I Get a Witness

I can cheat and pretend to have more as I've previously featured some other songs. You can find Bobby Troup performing Route 66 here, Dale Hawkins with Susie Q here and the great Robert Johnson with Love in Vain here.

All three of these and every other song in today's post were covered by the Rolling Stones.

INTERESTING STUFF: 26 February 2011

Category_bug_interestingstuff 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” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I probably won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog if you have one.

Beginning last Monday, the weathermen here were in a tizzy about an expected snowstorm in Portland and its surrounds. It finally arrived on Thursday and this is the worst it got anywhere near me and in most of the rest of the Willamette Valley.

Snow 2011_02_24

One of the best things about leaving Maine is that I'm not digging out my car once or twice a week anymore. And even if we ever do have a gigantic storm in this part of Oregon, I have a carport now, so I'll never see my little red car like this as I did one morning last winter.

Snow covered car

After his nine-hour filibuster on the Senate floor in December, Bernie Sanders asked his constituents to send him their stories of struggling through the recession.

Now he has published those letters in an online booklet titled, Struggling Through the Recession: Stories From Vermont. Here is just one from an 89-year-old woman:

“The current depression is much worse than that of the 1930s. As to the effect on my life, living on Social Security, the lack of cost of living increase which is very real, makes it hard to make ends meet. I have a very good health program...but the cost goes up and up. Property taxes are extremely high in Dorset. I must sell my property.”

Imagine being 89 and needing to sell your house in this real estate market. You can read the entire booklet here [pdf] and it's worth your time.

Forty years ago Rudy Resta, now 77, lost his wallet. All these years later, he's got it back again. Watch:

How often does that happen. You can read the accompanying story here.

I buy a lot of stuff I need online and for the past two or three months, I have been using a small browser add-on called InvisibleHand, Most of the time, it sits quietly as a little green arrow at the bottom of the screen.

But if there is a better price when I'm shopping, a bright yellow strip appears at the top of the screen with the cheaper price of the product I'm looking at and a link to the page where I can get it.

It is a terrific service. I haven't kept track of how much I've saved so far but in many cases, the amount has been substantial. It works with Firefox 3.5+, Safari, Chrome and Internet Explorer. You can find out more about it and download it for free here.

There was a lot of news to keep up with and research to do this week so my collection of items for this Saturday post got lost in the shuffle and it doesn't even have a weekly cat video.

Sorry about that. You can help by sending your suggestions for next week. Here's today's final item.

Thanks to TGB reader Sharry Sullivan, we have this fantastic video of five Taiwanese elders – old friends in their 80s, all sick with cancer, heart disease and other conditions who take off on a cross-country motorcycle trip together. I promise – you'll love it.

Update: Social Security and Government Shutdown

category_bug_politics.gif May I just say: Good god, I'm tired of this shit.

Congress members spend 50 percent of their time raising money from corporations for their next campaign; another 25 percent yammering inanities at media cameras; and when you subtract meal and potty breaks, maybe they work 10 or 15 percent of the time.

Okay, I'm better now.

Congress has made not one step forward in ending the impasse that would lead to a government shutdown seven days from today. The Republicans say it's the Democrats' fault, the Democrats say the reverse and they don't actually do anything.

Meanwhile, the media, punditocracy and the people wonder what happens to everyday life during a government shutdown. The concern on this blog is Social Security benefit checks.

If you do not listen to President Obama, Senate Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – all of whom have said Social Security checks will not go out during a shutdown – elsewhere the consensus is, with a reservation or two, that they will be mailed and deposited as usual.

The Christian Science Monitor reports correctly that checks were delivered on schedule during the 1996 shutdown, but further notes that

“OMB officials say they are not responding to such hypothetical questions, because they don't expect a shutdown.”

Really. And your reason for that belief is?

CNN Money rounded up a couple of reasonably well-credentialed folks who are certain they know Social Security payments are safe:

"'I am absolutely sure the checks would be sent out,' said John F. Cooney, a partner at law firm Venable who designed shutdown plans for the government while employed at the Office of Management and Budget.

“Robert Reischauer, president of the Urban Institute and a trustee of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds, backed that view, saying claims that benefits won't be paid are 'not true.'"

AARP spokesperson, Heather Heppner, isn't so sure:

”In particular, she said, those who are dependent on Social Security checks might face delays that could be devastating depending on a person's economic situation.”

AP says unequivocally but without sourcing that “Social Security checks would go out.”

As far as I can discern from a few phone calls and way too many hours searching the web yesterday, none of these people know what they're talking about. (I just hate it when I use up an entire day looking for a fact or two and all I get out of it is a post like this one with no answers. Which may account for my crankiness in the first couple of paragraphs.)

Who are we to believe when the top three Democrats in Washington say we will not get Social Security checks but most others disagree?

What the latter are basing their opinions on is that checks were sent during the 1996 shutdown, but there is no federal law requiring that to be so as there is for the military, FBI, security services and others to remain functioning.

Because 54 million people depend on Social Security, many for their entire income, you would think someone in government would step forward with a definitive answer. I mean, we're not talking movie money here; it's food and rent and heating and medicine. It is crucial to elders' planning to know if they can count on their Social Security benefit.

Earlier this week, I arranged for a transfer of some cash to my checking account and if my benefit check arrives, I can return it. But as some of you noted in Monday's comments, many people don't have that option.

Like I said above: god, I'm tired of this shit.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary B Summerlin: The Dentist

Something's Happening Here

category_bug_politics.gif “Here” being the Middle East. In Tunisia and Egypt, tyrants have been toppled. Their counterparts in Yemen, Bahrain and Libya are in deep trouble and there is growing unrest in Jordan, Morocco, Algeria, Iran and Sudan. There may be more soon.

“Here” is also the U.S. In Wisconsin, protesters have demonstrated for days against the governor who is trying to fob off union busting as budget balancing – a financial shortfall of the governor's own making.

Now, Ohioans are demonstrating too against the same kind of attempt by a governor to kill state workers' right to collective bargaining and yesterday, Democratic legislators in Indiana, like those in Wisconsin, fled the capitol to stall an anti-union vote.

In a gesture of global solidarity, donors from dozens of countries, including Egypt, have ordered up pizza to be delivered to the demonstrators in Madison, where temperatures hover around freezing.

And all this week there are rallies around the U.S. in support of the Wisconsin and, by extension, Ohio and Indiana demonstrators.

Something is definitely happening here, Mr. Jones.

Although types of government in the two regions of protest differ dramatically, there is at least one commonality. In the Middle East countries of unrest, unemployment ranges from about 10 to 35 percent. In the U.S., the national unemployment rate is officially 9.8 percent but as the reality-based community knows, it is closer to 16 or 17 percent.

The people are being squeezed everywhere and the dissatisfaction is reaching a boiling point.

Although citizens of the U.S. are not detained, imprisoned, tortured, executed or shot in the streets as in some Arab countries, we are nonetheless oppressed. Our government, in long-time cahoots with the corporate elite, started decades before this current financial crisis to steal for themselves all but the shirts on our backs.

The truest thing I've read in the past several days – something few have ever stated as baldly - is in a story titled, Plutocracy Now: What Wisconsin is Really About, from Kevin Drum at Mother Jones:

”American politicians don't care much about voters with moderate incomes. Princeton political scientist Larry Bartels studied the voting behavior of US senators in the early '90s and discovered that they respond far more to the desires of high-income groups than to anyone else.

“By itself, that's not a surprise. He also found that Republicans don't respond at all to the desires of voters with modest incomes. Maybe that's not a surprise, either. But this should be: Bartels found that Democratic senators don't respond to the desires of these voters, either. At all.” [original emphasis]

We have always deep down known that, even as we write, phone and email our representatives. We the people, even in concert, cannot possibly match the billions of dollars corporations lavish on legislators (if that's what democracy has become) who never fail to fulfill the demands of the monied interests.

The ultimate insult is that they took a gigantic portion of that money from you and me through corporate-friendly regulation, taxation and legislation.

To understand the enormity of it, Drum helpfully supplies some graphs from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. This one is the change in average household income by economic strata before taxes from 1979 to 2007 in dollars:


Notice those flat lines at the bottom of the graph. This second graph shows the change in share of income after taxes by percentage from 1979 to 2007:


These lines are worse than flat; they are in the negative. If you are not enraged, you should be.

This does not happen by accident or through some natural phenomena of a free market system (there is no free market). It is deliberate and one of the reasons it has been possible is that in the past 30-odd years, the corporate-dominated government neutralized and destroyed the last populist institution – unions – with the size and resources to at least hold the line against the economic rape of the people.

Here's one more graph from Kevin Drum's story that tells the sad, criminal story (click here to see a larger version):


Here is what I think (and hope) is happening in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana, and in the solidarity rallies throughout the country: I think the attack on state employees' right to collective bargaining is a last straw and the people are not going to take it anymore.

These public employees and protesters are teachers, firemen, EMT workers, sanitation workers, snow plow drivers, etc. They are the people's neighbors, friends and fellow PTA members and I think we have finally understood that if our neighbors go down, so do the rest of us.

In Wisconsin, they agreed to increased costs for benefits in the bill they oppose, but they know that stripping their collective bargaining rights has nothing to do with the budget and they know that if they agree to that, they have lost their last bit of leverage against a rapacious system hell bent on taking every last cent from them.

If I am right about what they and their supporters are doing, the protests will spread throughout the land, particularly when the weather warms up in a few weeks. Massive street protests are the only power we the people have left against the corporate/government plutocracy.

God, I hope I'm right, that these people are the vanguard of what is coming. If so, it will be a long and bitter struggle against Mr. Jones, but I don't see an alternative. We must fight back even if, in the end, we lose.

One of my few heroes, Chris Hedges, is much more eloquent and passionate than I am capable of being about our national predicament and I believe it is as important as this excerpt states to stand up in every way possible, large and small, against the corporate/government steamroller:

“We may feel, in the face of the ruthless corporate destruction of our nation, our culture, and our ecosystem, powerless and weak. But we are not. We have a power that terrifies the corporate state.

“Any act of rebellion, no matter how few people show up or how heavily it is censored by a media that caters to the needs and profits of corporations, chips away at corporate power. Any act of rebellion keeps alive the embers for larger movements that follow us. It passes on another narrative.

“It will, as the rot of the state consumes itself, attract wider and wider numbers. Perhaps this will not happen in our lifetimes. But if we persist we will keep this possibility alive. If we do not, it will die.”

The protesters in the Midwest and the 14 state legislators who fled the state to avoid a vote on the bill against an overwhelming Republican majority that is with the governor need and deserve our support.

Send a pizza – here's a telephone number in Madison: (608) 257-9248. Sign this petition. If there is a support rally in your city, join it. And be ready to do more in the coming weeks and months. Help keep this nascent movement alive.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: Outhouses I Have Known

GAY AND GRAY: BlackedOUT History

JanAdams75x75Gay and Gray is a monthly column at Time Goes By written by Jan Adams (bio) in which she thinks out loud for us on issues of aging lesbians and gay men. Jan also writes on many topics at her own blog, Happening-Here, and you will find her past Gay and Gray columns here.]

category_bug_gayandgray.gif For this month's Gay and Gray post, I want share some writing from a young friend of mine. Renee currently has an internship through Americorps with the Gay-Straight Alliance Network.

According to their website:

”Gay-Straight Alliance Network is a youth leadership organization that works to empower youth activists to end harassment and discrimination in schools based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

A few weeks ago, Renee sent her friends a happy email - she was learning a lot while working in this volunteer service program and she wanted to tell us about it.

Along with other young staff, she'd noticed how few resources existed for students that highlighted LGBTQ (lesbian-gay-bi-trans-questioning) heroes during Black History Month and she set out to remedy the omissions. Here's what she posted at the organization's blog:

* * *

BlackedOUT History
Like many people, I thought I knew all that happened during the Civil Rights Movement. I mean, I went to a school named Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Experimental Laboratory School from kindergarten through eighth grade! I was taught about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and a tiny bit about Malcolm X. I thought I knew it all!

“When I went to college, I started learning about Bayard Rustin, Angela Davis, Audre Lorde and countless others who made huge contributions to the movement. Who were these people? Why were they not mentioned in my grade school classes? Is it because they were gay and lesbian? Why, as a black student, am I not learning my own history?

“To learn more, I watched Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin. I was very inspired by his life and the film, so I started researching more of his story.

“He was a non-violent activist who worked behind the scenes to create the non-violent Civil Rights Movement through the mentorship of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In 1963, Bayard Rustin, along with A. Philip Randolph, organized the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which was where Dr. King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

“Due to Rustin being openly gay, the NAACP chairman did not want Rustin to be credited for organizing the march. After the success of the March on Washington, Rustin went on to organize The New York City School Boycott, write as a columnist for the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) newspaper, and create change for many other Civil Rights and LGBTQ issues.

“After learning so much about Bayard Rustin, I was still eager to learn more. I, along with Geoffrey (GSA Network staff), began to compile information about Black LGBTQ figures in history so that the students of today don’t have to read the watered down version of their history. We encourage you to stand up, TAKE ACTION and partner with other school clubs and organizations, such as Black Student Clubs...

”As Bayard Rustin said, “We are all one. And if we don't know it, we will learn it the hard way."

* * *

GSANetwork posted more resources for students here.

Sometimes we elders encounter young people who think they know it all and nothing we bring to them could possibly teach them something. It's always heartening to meet a young person like Renee who wants to retrieve what history can teach - and find a way to use history as a springboard toward contemporary action.

This week I got another email from Renee. Apparently our new Republican Congress wants to eliminate funds for her program.

”I have had the most amazing experience here in San Francisco and I have learned so much over the past six months. Without AmeriCorps and Public Allies (the direct program I am with), I would not be able to serve all of the amazing middle and high school youth that I work with and I would not have had the opportunity to clean up parks and rehab schools with the 40 other Allies in Public Allies with me.

“I truly treasure the experiences that I have had so far and I hope that others are able to have the same experiences in the years to come. Please help us keep this amazing opportunity alive.

“I really hope/urge you to call your Congressperson to tell them not to cut AmeriCorps funding. Please take a couple minutes and call (202) 224-3121 and ask for your Representative's office or send them a quick email.”

There's something elders can do for the young.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joyce French: Alzheimer's Disease

Having No Children – Regrets?

category_bug_journal2.gif Many elderbloggers post photos of their grandchildren, tell wonderfully cute stories about them and about the the joys (or, sometimes, heartaches) of grandparenthood.

I can't do that. I didn't have children, a choice I renewed through the years.

When I graduated from high school in 1958, many of the women (girls, really) in my class married right away – some within a week or so in weddings they had planned throughout our senior year. Two or three were already pregnant and the rest couldn't wait to become mothers, as was generally expected of us.

Although few women attended college in mid-20th century America and marrying at 17 or 18 was common then, going from the confines of school and home to what I considered the equally confining boundaries of suburban domestication was not for me.

I wanted to live on my own, explore the world around me, meet new people, travel to faraway places, go dancing, drink wine and talk politics all night. I wanted to find out what kind of person I was still to become and I knew in my bones I would never get to do those things if I was keeping house and changing diapers. I'll do that later, I told myself, much later.

That is not to disparage those who chose the marriage path so young; it just didn't sing to me and I knew I was nowhere near grownup enough yet to raise babies.

Six or seven years later, I did marry – one of the larger mistakes of my life. It was apparent before a year had passed that we were not going to make it and although I hung on and hoped for six years, I made sure there were no children.

Bad marriage, good choice because at age 31, I found myself with no husband, no home and no job.

That righted itself and for the next several years, I created a terrific career, dated some extraordinarily interesting and accomplished men and did not marry any of them.

The late 1970s arrived and many of my friends had married, moved off to married-people land, had babies and we had little in common anymore. I cannot express how deeply I did not (and still do not) care about the relative merits of Pampers versus Huggies or of various brands of baby carriages - conversations I struggled to politely endure when visiting those friends. It's probably a genetic failing if not a moral one.

But I was fast approaching 40, a good cutoff date for pregnancy, and it seemed time to seriously consider motherhood before it was too late. So I spent the next year or so weighing the question.

It was clear, I reasoned, that I was not a woman who bubbled over with maternal longing. On the other hand, I am thoroughly responsible and if a baby or two were thrust my way, I'd throw myself into it – Pampers, soccer games (ugh) and all – because, well, how can you not. There is no other choice than to do the best you can to successfully guide a kid from the cradle to adulthood.

I had been on my own for more than 20 years by the time I was doing all this thinking and journaling and wondering about children. I was curious about that kind of life, about the feeling parents described of overwhelming love for their newborns that was different from other kinds of love.

And I had certainly been awed watching friends' children go from babbling to full sentences within a short space of time. The thrill, if the child is your own, must be amazing.

Another consideration was that there was no potential husband on the horizon. Would I be willing, was motherhood important enough to me, to bear a child and raise him/her on my own? And if so, should I? Was it a good or right thing to do, to choose half a home for a kid from the getgo and not from later circumstance, divorce or death?

That part was easy for me – no. I could not imagine holding down a full time job, the odd hours, the weekend work at home while juggling the needs of a child without a father. And I did not want the disappointment of coming home to a caregiver who told me the kid took his/her first step that day or spoke a first word while I was gone. It would break my heart.

(Just so you know, I'm aware there is much more to motherhood than those two milestones, but it was on my mind then.)

Of course, I also could not avoid the question of whether I would be sorry, regretful when I was old, that I did not have children. There was no way to know.

So I decided that if, in the next couple of years, a man I wanted to marry appeared in my life and he wanted a child, I would do that. But not on my own.

Time passed, the man did not materialize and here I am 30 years later, never a mother and therefore not a grandmother.

Do I have regrets now? Only in the sense of missing an experience so common to most of humankind. I am equally curious about having married young and spent 50 or more years with the same person – how different from my life and what an astonishing connection that would be to have lived intimately with one person for so long.

But I also wish I knew what it is like to walk on the moon or be able to sing like Kathleen Battle or dance with Fred Astaire. I would like to have worked in the White House, to know it from the inside. Or Congress. I wish I had asked my mother and father a whole lot more questions than I did. And I wish so much that I were smarter than I am and could understand many things about which I fall short of “getting.”

Some of these are impossible, others are choices and none are regrettable. Nor is not having children/grandchildren and I suspect that turned out just right for me. But then, how would I know?

I'm pretty sure grandparents could tell me how much I am missing, but I don't feel a hole in my life. Overall, it's turned out pretty well. As I approach my 70th birthday, I'm comfortable with myself and my life, and I wonder if other childless elders have regrets about that. Or not.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Cats

The Social Security Attack

category_bug_politics.gif I know, I know – that headline is hardly news. But the zeal with which tea partiers and many other Republicans in Congress are attacking it means you and I need to be thoroughly informed. Let's start with the immediate danger.

The House budget for fiscal year 2011, passed in the wee hours of Saturday morning, calls for about a $1.7 billion cut to Social Security. But wait.

If you have been following Time Goes By posts about the program over the years, you know that Social Security is self-funded, including administrative costs. So what gives? How come Congress can cut those administrative costs?

Here is how: Social Security and SSI benefits are mandatory spending, meaning they are authorized by permanent law. They can be changed under certain circumstances, but that is not what is at risk right now.

Administrative costs, which have remained at about one percent of revenue for many years while providing excellent service, are discretionary spending. This means they are subject to the annual appropriations process (the budget) and Congress can change the amount every year affecting the number of employees and therefore, level of service.

Right now, because the government has lacked a budget for FY2011, administrative costs are frozen at 2010 levels - $11.5 billion - and the House budget cut of $1.7 billion, passed over the weekend, would leave only $9.8 billion.

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM), in a 18 February letter to Congress, pointed out what this cut means to the program:

“It means having to wait longer to get an appointment to file for benefits. It means not receiving a decision in a timely manner. It means getting a busy signal when you call an office or the Agency's toll-free 800 number telephone service.

“It means not having your change of address or direct deposit information processed in a timely fashion.

“And finally, it means significant employee furloughs or even office closures, resulting in even greater degradations of service to America's seniors.”

Having made a move across country last year, I know how well the Social Security Administration has handled that bank deposit change in the past and how difficult it would have been to my finances if the switch to a new bank had been delayed for even one month – something likely to become common if the budget cut is enacted.

Regarding the “furloughs” mentioned by the NCPPSM, on the day before that letter, the Social Security Administration sent a letter to the employees' union requesting the start of negotiations on furloughs that would be required under the proposed cut.

Should the cut to Social Security administrative costs remain in the final bill and should President Obama sign it, the furloughs and all they mean to Social Security beneficiaries will go into effect.

Congress is cutting the time for the budget bill close. The House has sent it to the Senate, but the Senate is not in session this week returning on 28 February, just five days before 4 March.

And what is the significance of that date?

Because a budget for FY2011 could not be agreed upon last year, the federal government is currently operating under a continuing resolution that will end on 4 March. That is the day that many fear the government will shut down because they can't spend any money if a new budget has not been signed by the president before then.

Given the draconian cuts to virtually every federal agency (including Social Security) the House budget contains, many of which will be disputed in the Senate (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised no cuts to Social Security), what do YOU think the chances are of having a signed budget by 4 March?

Yesterday on CNN, Republican Senator Richard Luger of Indiana told host Candy Crowley:

”I would not support the entirety of the House bill, but I think the basic problem presently is there's very little time. There is the imminence of a government shutdown.”

Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York said on the same program that “Speaker Boehner seems to be on a course that would inevitably lead to a shutdown,” and from what I read, Republicans in general seem to be eager for it, especially those new tea partiers in Congress. Schumer suggested a stopgap budget to forestall a shutdown, but that seems a remote possibility.

If the federal government shuts down, non-essential employees cannot go to work. Last week, both the president and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Social Security checks would be delayed, and that would almost immediately affect those of us (about half of Social Security recipients) who receive our Social Security direct deposits or checks on the second Wednesday of the month (9 March).

If your monthly budget is as tight as mine, that is a disaster. Sure, I can eat, but some people won't. And depending on how long a shutdown lasted I, like many others, couldn't pay some bills on time. The 1995 “Newt Gingrich shutdown” lasted five days and Congress is much more polarized this time.

So in preparation, I'm arranging to transfer some money from elsewhere into my checking account. What about you?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Kristine Scholz: Back in the Saddle

ELDER MUSIC: Delbert McClinton

PeterTibbles75x75You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.

Delbert McClinton is one of the two finest white male soul singers ever. The other is the tragic Eddie Hinton. I must do a column on him one day.

Delbert is not only a great soul singer, he's one of the best country and rock & roll artists as well. He can also belt out a blues number with the best of them.

Delbert McClinton

Delbert was born in Lubbock, Texas, a town that's given the world some quality musicians. His family moved to Fort Worth when he was 11. It was in the clubs around that city that he mastered the art of keeping the hard-drinking rednecks, cowpokes and roustabouts entertained all night long.

He and his band also supplied backing for musical legends such as Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson and Jimmy Reed.

Delbert McClinton

Early in his career he toured England, opening for Roy Orbison and accompanying Bruce Channel. Last on the bill was a little known English group called The Beatles.

Delbert has made maybe the coolest comment in all of rock & roll. It went something along the lines of: "I taught one of the Beatles to play the harmonica. I've forgotten which one."

It's a good story but not true. Well, not quite. John was the Beatle, of course, and he already knew how to play harmonica (not very well, it seems). Delbert did show John how to play better. Incidentally, it was Delbert playing on Bruce Channel's Hey Baby, which is why they were touring together.

Here are John, Delbert and Bruce.

John Lennon, Delbert McClinton, Bruce Channel

Delbert's first albums were with Glen Clark as Delbert and Glen, a mix of country and soul. These are interesting precursors to his later solo efforts, however, because of the quality of what followed. I'll just skip over these – although they're not too bad – as I've already selected my quota of songs.

Some earlier recordings have surfaced recently as “The Crazy Cajun Recordings” including such songs as These Boots Are Made for Walkin', for heaven's sake. We'll just ignore these.

Delbert McClinton

The first album of his I bought was "Genuine Cowhide," generally considered his finest. That may be so but several from the last ten years or so would give it a run for its money.

Cowhide was a covers album of early New Orleans rock and R&B songs, something he does really well. I asked the Assistant Musicologist which track we should play as this is her favorite album of Delbert's and she suggested Lipstick, Powder and Paint. And so it shall be.

Delbert McClinton

♫ Delbert McClinton - Lipstic, Powder and Paint

Another fine early album, indeed it was his first solo album, was "Victim of Life's Circumstances". There's now a "twofer" CD with this and Cowhide on it, you'd rarely find better value than that.

On this one was the song, Two More Bottles of Wine, covered so well by Emmylou Harris and others. However, I'll go with the title track, Victim of Life's Circumstances.

♫ Delbert McClinton - Victim of Life's Circumstances

Delbert had a bit of bad luck in his record companies. The first went bust after those first couple of albums in 1977. The second went into bankruptcy after he recorded a couple more albums in 1979. His next record company was dropped by its distributor in 1981 and another one crashed just after an album of his was released.

He stopped recording for seven years after that and just toured. Currently, things seem to be going okay. Let's hope so.

Delbert McClinton

With the next track, Delbert goes beyond soul, beyond country into something else entirely and creates a masterpiece. This is one of his finest recordings. Even among his great body of work, he has recorded only one other comparable track and you'll find that one down at the end. This one is You Were Never Mine.

Delbert McClinton

♫ Delbert McClinton - You Were Never Mine

Here we are in country mode, almost Marty Robbins territory. El Paso is mentioned and the guitar playing does remind one a little of Grady Martin. The version on his live album even has Mexican trumpets, but we're going with the studio track. This is When Rita Leaves.

Delbert McClinton

♫ Delbert McClinton - When Rita Leaves

Roy Buchanan was one of the great, underrated guitarists of our time.

Delbert McClinton

He was once offered the spot of lead guitarist for the Rolling Stones. He refused. Perhaps he should have taken the offer, he might be alive today. (I added that bit as a touch of irony.)

Roy recorded an album called "Dancing on the Edge" back in 1986. He asked Delbert to sing on three of the tracks. This is one of them, a song that's been recorded by many people, but there is no better version than this one. This is The Chokin' Kind.

♫ Delbert McClinton - The Chokin' Kind

Delbert McClinton

Besides the categories mentioned above, Delbert could make a rather decent jazz singer as well; you only have to listen to this track. It's not jazz but it's pretty close. It would only need a slight tweak and it'd be there.

♫ Delbert McClinton - Just You and Me

The A.M. and I disagree over which are Delbert's best songs. She goes for the up-tempo ones and I prefer the slower ones. This isn't restricted to Delbert, it's pretty much across the board. Of course, that doesn't mean I dislike the rockers. Au contraire.

This one will set your toes a-tapping, it's called Sun Medley, although it could also have been called Elvis Medley. The songs are Mystery Train, My Baby Left Me and That's Alright Mama. For those who are interested, the guitarist is Danny Gatton.


Delbert is a champion of lost love, love gone wrong, someone stole my baby, my baby left me songs. You know the ones, staples of country music. I've already featured some of these but I really like them (I don't know what that says about me). Here's another, Kiss Her Once For Me.

♫ Delbert McClinton - Kiss Her Once For Me

The other really great song he recorded was written by John Hiatt. This one has been covered by many people, most notably Joe Cocker, Jo-El Sonnier and John himself (if one can cover one's own song). All of them are terrific interpretations.

I have a friend who is a big fan of Hiatt's and I played Delbert's version for him and he shook his head and said that it was better than John's. I, naturally, agree with him. It is Have a Little Faith in Me.

♫ Delbert McClinton - Have a Little Faith in Me

Delbert McClinton

INTERESTING STUFF: 19 February 2011

Category_bug_interestingstuff 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” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I probably won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog if you have one.

As Colleen Skinner of Meanderings said in the email she sent with this video, “Something to do when we're old and lonely.” Watch and giggle.

We all know that falling is a serious affliction of elders and can be deadly. Now, according to The New York Times' New Old Age Blog, t'ai chi has been added to medical guidelines in the U.S. and Britain as an effective way to help prevent falls.

I'm glad I've been attending those classes regularly.

Does anyone else think at first glance that this New York Times headline is about a couple of Chinese attorneys and not superstitious ones?

In a Field of Reason, Lawyers Woo Luck Too

I think I once ate a Chinese restaurant with that name.

You may have read about the publishing sensation in France, Indignez-vous! written by 93-year-old Stephane Hessel who was a resistance fighter during World War II.

With the revolutions in the middle east (not to mention our own Wisconsin), it takes on greater significance and an English translation is now available from The Nation magazine, but only if you are a subscriber. There is a short excerpt here and longer story about the author and the essay here.

To quote Hessel:

“To you who will create the twenty-first century, we say, from the bottom of our hearts,


Here is a video that went viral about 70-something Ann Tilson who used her pocketbook to stop some robbers.

Stories about old people physically standing up to crime or injustice are not uncommon and what I like about them is that invariably, when the elder is asked about their audacity, they shrug as though saying, “Wouldn't anyone do this?”

Here's the follow-up interview:

The initimitable Matt Taibbi is back in Rolling Stone with a new story explaining why no one has or ever will be prosecuted for bringing down the world's economy.

“The mental stumbling block, for most Americans, is that financial crimes don't feel real; you don't see the culprits waving guns in liquor stores or dragging coeds into bushes,” writes Taibbe.

“But these frauds are worse than common robberies. They're crimes of intellectual choice, made by people who are already rich and who have every conceivable social advantage, acting on a simple, cynical calculation: Let's steal whatever we can, then dare the victims to find the juice to reclaim their money through a captive bureaucracy.”

The entire story is long and worth every minute of your time.

Many of us have mentioned here that because it is so painful, cramped, tiring and just plain ugly, we do our best to not get on airplanes. Look at how it once was on the flying Clipper ships in the 1930s and '40s:

Clipper Plane Dinner

Planes were slower then and there were even individual sleeping compartments. See more photos here.

By now, most of us are accustomed to electronic measurement by megabytes, gigabytes and even terabytes. But wait till you read this:

”[R]esearchers calculate that humankind is able to store at least 295 exabytes of information...

“In 2007, humankind successfully sent 1.9 zettabytes of information through broadcast technology such as televisions and GPS. That's equivalent to every person in the world reading 174 newspapers every day.”

Confused about exa- and zettabytes? Thankfully, Wikipedia provides a nice chart of explanation. And you can read the original story here.

Sometimes I think I will die right on cue when I can't stand U.S. culture anymore. What are they thinking with a full line of make-up for eight-year-olds?

“This is mascara, blush, lipstick, the works. The product line’s 69 offerings even include anti-aging products like antioxidant-loaded exfoliants for extra smooth and healthy skin...”

Hopefully, mothers of America will resist. Read more here.

Or 10,000 of them. I saw this commercial a long while ago and had forgotten it. I may even have posted this before. I still love it anyway.

The Smartest, Sanest Senator in Congress

category_bug_politics.gif There is so much stupid, uninformed, ignorant and racist crap spewing forth from elected politicians in Washington and the various states that you would think we are living in exceptionally good times in America and they had nothing better to do than to sit around and think up these atrocities. Three examples from the past week or so:

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, who has presidential aspirations, sees nothing wrong with honoring the founder of the Ku Klux Klan with a license plate.

A state senator in Missouri wants to repeal child labor laws eliminating the prohibition on employing children under age 14, while also removing restrictions on the number of hours and which hours of the day those children may work.

A legislator in Rapid City, South Dakota, introduced a bill that defines the murder of abortion providers as justifiable homicide.

My god. These are people we call leaders. I am sure it must be an accident of timing that every one of them is a Republican. But am I the only one who is repeatedly awe-struck by what can only be called mean mindedness of so many people affiliated with the GOP? There are many more similar examples than these.

On the other hand, there is a bright, shining star in the U.S. Senate – neither Democrat nor Republican – who is firmly grounded in the Constitution and understands that the business of government is to serve the people.

He is the guy who, in December, held forth on the Senate floor for more than eight hours filibustering in opposition to extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. They passed anyway, but that doesn't stop Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont from keeping up the good fight.

Earlier this week, PBS reporter Judy Woodruff interviewed Sanders about President Obama's budget proposal. Watch the video or read the transcript below it and then go tell Bernie that you love him at his Senate contact page.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Next, we get another perspective on the debate over U.S. spending and budgets. It comes from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. He's the longest serving independent member of Congress. He caucuses with the Democrats. And he serves on the Senate Budget Committee. Welcome, Sen. Sanders.

First off, tell us what your main impressions are of the president's $3.7 trillion budget proposal for next year?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: (I-Vt.): Well, Judy, I have got a lot of problems with the president's budget. I think it's bad.

But I think the Republican budget is a lot worse. And my job, along with other progressive members of Congress, is to help create a budget which is fair and which protects the most vulnerable people in this country at a time when the poverty rate now is higher than at any time since 1948.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what would you do to achieve that? What changes would you make in the budget blueprint the president sent forward?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, that's a good question, Judy. And I think the answer is you have got to look at what's happening economically in America.

And what that's about is that our middle class is collapsing. Our median family income has gone down. Poverty is going way, way up. And the gap between the very, very rich and everybody else is going wider.

So, I think, before you look at budgets or how you deal with the deficit, you have got to take that into consideration. For example, the top 1 percent today earn more income than do the bottom 50 percent. They earn about 22 percent of every dollar earned in America. And that gap is growing wider.

Meanwhile, what this budget includes are massive tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. So, you have a situation. The rich are getting richer. Their tax rates have gone down for many, many years. Their effective tax rate right now -- people like Warren Buffett talk about this -- at 16 percent, is lower than at any time in recent history, and yet we're giving them huge tax breaks, while poverty in America is increasing.

We have the highest rate of childhood poverty in the industrialized world for our children, and we're cutting programs for those people. So, the first thing we have to deal with is revenue. And, as a nation, we have got to say, sorry, the rich are getting richer. They're doing really well. Our friends on Wall Street, we shouldn't have to worry about. They get huge amounts of compensation.

We cannot continue to give huge tax breaks to the wealthy, cut back on programs for the vulnerable. So, that's the first issue I think we have to deal with.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, the president has talked about corporate -- corporate tax reform. And he said, in two years, in -- for 2012, he's going to propose letting all those tax cuts expire that were allowed to continue in December.

You spent, what, eight-and-a-half-hours on the floor of the Senate in December in a -- in a protest against that. Are you confident the president is going to let the tax cuts expire?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: No, of course I'm not. I mean, that's what the president said when he ran for president. And yet, when the Republicans stood up to him and said, we want to give more tax breaks, extend the Bush tax breaks, essentially, the president gave in.

When the Republicans said that, we want to lower the estate tax, Judy, which appeals - which only applies to the top three-tenths of 1 percent - these are not rich folks - these the very richest people in America - the president gave into that.

So, the president may tell us that he has this in mind, but I think the record is that he has not fought for those principles. The American people want him to fight for those principles.

And I think what this whole budget debate is about is do we stand up and say, no, we're not going to cut programs for those who need it?

The other issue that I think we have to talk about is, in the president's budget, he talks about Social Security. And he makes me a little bit nervous, because I think, as many of our listeners know, the Social Security trust fund today has a $2.6 trillion surplus.

Social Security can pay out every benefit owed to every eligible American for the next 27 years. Social Security, because it is funded by the payroll tax, hasn't contributed one nickel to the deficit.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me just interrupt you and point out, as you know very well, Republicans are criticizing the president for not tackling Social Security. In fact, some Democrats are saying he didn't embrace what his own fiscal reduction -- deficit reduction commission recommended.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: But that fiscal -- that's correct. But that reduction commission was made up of a conservative Democrat and a right-wing Republican.

Of course the Republicans have long wanted to privatize Social Security and destroy it. But Social Security has been the most important and valuable social program in the history of the United States. For 75 years, it's worked perfectly. It can pay out every nickel for the next 27 years, at which time it pays out 78 percent.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But it's not tackled in this budget.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, it's mentioned. You're right. It's not tackled, but it's mentioned.

And, in my view, when you have 16 percent of our people who are unemployed or underemployed, that's an issue that we have got to deal with, not worry so much about a program which can pay out every nickel for the next 27 years.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I know one thing you're concerned about, Senator, is the president's cuts in the low-income families' home heating assistance.

The president was asked about that at his news conference yesterday, and he said -- he talked about the price of heating, of energy going down that makes it more possible to do this. But he went on to say, "Yes, I'm frustrated." He knows people are struggling, but he said -- and I'm going to quote -- he said: "My job is to make sure we're focused on the long term. And the most important thing I can do as president is make sure we're living within our means, getting a budget that's sustainable, investing in the future."

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, first of all, if the president thinks the price of oil is going down, I invite him to come to the state of Vermont. Heating oil is going up. Of course, the price of gasoline at the pump is going up.

If the president is concerned -- concerned about the long-term sustainability of our budget, then he should not have caved into the Republicans and provided huge tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires.

What I get a little bit frustrated about is, we're giving money away to people who don't need it, and then we're really tough on students who are trying to get by on Pell Grants. You got the Community Service Block Grant. You know what that is? That is the infrastructure by which we protect low-income people all over America. The president has proposed a 50 percent cut in that.

So, I think what the American people understand is that, when we have such an unequal distribution of income right now, you don't give more to the people who don't need it and cut back on people who are hurting.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator, what about all those voices on the Republican side, and including in the Democratic Party, who are saying, all of you in government right now need to be worried about the debt about...


JUDY WOODRUFF: ...the fact that within - we're already borrowing so much more than the country can afford...


JUDY WOODRUFF: ...and - and so tough decisions have to be made about spending?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Absolutely, Judy. You're absolutely right. And the deficit is a very serious problem. Please, do not mishear me to suggest that it is not.

The deficit primarily has been caused by two wars unfunded, huge tax breaks to people who don't need it, an insurance-company-written Medicare Part D prescription drug program, and the bailout of Wall Street.

The cause of it is not hungry children in this country or people who are sleeping out on the street. So, we have got to deal with the deficit, but you do it in a fair and progressive way. For example, this year alone, we're losing a hundred billion dollars in revenue because corporations, the wealthy, are stashing their money in tax havens in the Cayman Islands.

This year, ExxonMobil, the most profitable corporation in the history of the world, is not paying a nickel in federal income taxes, despite having made $19 billion last year. In 2005, one-quarter of corporation -- large corporations in America making a trillion in revenue didn't pay a nickel in taxes. You have got a military budget which in many ways is still fighting the old Cold War.

So, I believe that we have to move toward significant deficit reduction, but you don't do it on the backs of the middle class and working families who are already suffering as a result of this Wall Street-caused recession.

You want to know the way to raise money? Put a transaction fee on Wall Street, so maybe we can curb some of the speculation and raise some money.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, we hear you. And we're going to leave it there.

Thank you very much for talking with us.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, A. Peri: sometimes...

TimeGoesBy Comment Rules

blogging bug image It doesn't seem like much of a big deal anymore, does it? You start a blog because you'd like to join the global conversation and you think you have something to say that others might like to read. Plus, you kind of enjoy writing – it's like thinking out loud and helps sort out things.

Most blog services are free these days and they have lots of tools that make it easy to get set up. A few clicks of the mouse, some tinkering - you're getting the hang of now - and you're ready to go.

You figure out how to post images, you grab some video from YouTube you'd like to share and voila! Soon readers start showing up and you're making new friends too.

What could go wrong.

Due to some recent occurrences, I was going to enumerate those problems but instead, they will become evident in these

1. Comments containing defamatory, bigoted or hateful language about anyone will be deleted. You get only one shot at this and if it happens, you will be permanently banned without notification or recourse.

2. Argument, disagreement and opinion are good. Just keep it to the point(s) you dispute, not the writer, and maintain a civil tone. You get two shots at this after which, see the second sentence in number one above.

3. We are all grownups here and sometimes it's hard to make a strong point without a bit of - uh, “colorful” language. Fine – just don't overdo. Deletion or editing of the comment is at my discretion.

4. No advertising or promotion of commercial products and services is allowed. They are deleted.

5. Health, medical, financial and legal advice or recommendations are not allowed and are deleted. I have no way to know if you are qualified.

6. Comments that are off-topic are deleted.

7. Links are allowed, but be sure they relate to your statement or argument.

8. Blog conventions are pretty well settled. One of them is that if you include the URL to your blog in the comment form, your name after the comment becomes a link to your blog. Links to your blog within the comment are deleted.

Note that this applies to personal blogs. Links to your commercial/retail websites or blogs are removed wherever they appear. I don't accept paid advertising on this blog and you don't get to advertise here for free.

Because it is amazing how many new ways people find to disrupt a good conversation, additional or amended rules will be implemented as needed and I'll let you know if or when that happens.

I like a neat and tidy blog and I work hard at maintaining that. The following are not rules. Let's call them

• Please use standard capitalization. All-lower-case is difficult to read and your comment is less likely to be noticed.

• Even more so, long blocks of uninterrupted text are hard on the eyes, especially old ones like mine. Please leave a blank line between paragraphs. This is for your own benefit; no one reads three or four or more inches of solid text.

• As always, in email and anywhere online, messages in all capital letters are considered shouting not to mention that, as with the first two suggestions, they are hard to read. Please use all caps only for emphasis of individual words or phrases.

To be clear, the numbered list above covers all the reasons for which I delete a comment or ban anyone. Disagreement with me, as some have accused, is never a cause.

Finally, if your comment does not appear or does not appear right away, please don't jump to the conclusion that you have been disallowed. Sometimes it can be operator error – yours.

Other times, it might be a program glitch or it can be a server slowdown and on extremely rare occasions, it might be a server shutdown. Try again or give it some time before you start yelling at me via email.

Just so you know, there are not all that many comments I have deleted and in all the years TGB has been here, I have banned only three commenters.

I apologize for taking up an entire day's post with this. The rules apply to a small number of readers, but some recent events seemed to make clarification useful.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: Smells

Social Security and the President's Budget Proposal

category_bug_politics.gif Okay, we had a lot of fun yesterday discussing our disappearing derrieres. Now it's time to do some serious elder work. Stick around. This is crucial to you and to the future of your children and grandchildren.

President Obama released his 2012 budget proposal [full text here] on Monday. Pretty much nobody likes it. Predictably, Republicans object it on grounds that it is not draconian enough and doesn't cut "entitledments."

Others used words like “timid” and “it could be worse” and “falls short” and “flawed” and “unrealistic” - you get the idea.

Of course, it covers the entire federal government and I'm not qualified to comment on a lot of it. The Medicare section will take more study and thought (Saul Friedman, where are you now that I need you). But I do know a thing or two about Social Security.

In the overview, the budget states the president's overall position on the program:

“Although Social Security does not face an immediate crisis and is not driving our short-term deficits or long-term debt, it does face a long-term financing shortfall.

“Failing to strengthen Social Security will result in substantial benefit cuts for future retirees and will undermine the basic notion that a lifetime of hard work should be rewarded with dignity in retirement.

“If we address these long term challenges early, we can help ensure that Social Security’s compact remains strong and progressive for future generations.” [p. 26]

That is encouraging and I give the president a B+. But a few pages earlier, there is this in reference to wider issues including Social Security:

“Taking on many of these long-term funding issues will take months, if not years, of discussion and deliberation. The Fiscal Commission’s report opened a debate on many of these topics, such as tax reform and Social Security. The President hopes to build on the work they did to create space to discuss these issues...” [p. 23]

Hold on here. There is no official Fiscal Commission report, just some pages from a few of the Republicans on the Commission that couldn't get a majority of votes from the 18 members, and it decimates Social Security.

So that statement is worrisome. You gotta carefully watch every word of these politicians, including the president, all the time; they are good at leaving themselves loopholes to crawl through later.

This up-front portion of the budget also lists the president's “six principles” for Social Security reform. [pgs. 26/27]

  1. Any reform should strengthen Social Security for future generations and restore long-term solvency.

  2. The Administration will oppose any measures that privatize or weaken the Social Security system.

  3. While all measures to strengthen solvency should be on the table, the Administration will not accept an approach that slashes benefits for future generations.

  4. No current beneficiaries should see their basic benefits reduced.

  5. Reform should strengthen retirement security for the most vulnerable, including low-income seniors.

  6. Reform should maintain robust disability and survivors’ benefits.

I am most grateful for the unqualified number two and overall, I support these. But those “shoulds,” in the context of Washington politics, seem to leave a lot of wiggle room and number 3's “all measures...on the table” seems to counter the other statements.

In a later section on Social Security alone [pgs. 163-165], the president proposes

• Measures to reduce the backlog of disability claims

• New efforts to ensure payments are made to the right person in the correct amount to reduce waste

• A pilot program to improve outcomes for children

• And another pilot simplifying disability work rules that would no longer terminate benefits based solely on earnings.

Of course you know that the president's proposal is only the first salvo in what will be a long and brutal battle over the budget. There is no doubt that tea party and other Republicans (and a few Democrats) will do everything in their power to cut Social Security. Their real goal is to eliminate it.

The mainstream media, print and television, will be no help. Every time they mention the deficit – even those that are accused by the right of being leftwing - they lump in Social Security as one of the problems.

It is not. Social Security has never contributed one penny to the deficit. Over the coming weeks, I will be posting stories that in simple terms will give you the facts and the ammunition you need to do your part to hold the president to his principle to “oppose any measures to privatize or weaken the Social Security system.”

Personally, I want to change that “oppose” to “veto.”

You will find the entire budget here and there is a good interactive graphic of it from The New York Times.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Me

What Happened to My Butt?

category_bug_journal2.gif We all had some silly fun with the Naked Guys' Balloon Dance in the Interesting Stuff post on Saturday.

I am sure that Marcia Mayo (who blogs at Well Aged With Some Marbling) is not the only one among you who, as she wrote in a comment, “kept trying to watch their crotches” to see if she could “check out their stuff.”

Come on, now. Admit it. You did the same thing. I certainly did.

Even so, I was more interested in their butts or, since they are British, their arses. What a nice collection of round, juicy, pat-able posteriors. Take a look:

Naked Balloon Guys Butts

Aren't they cute? Don't you want to grab them and squeeze?

That isn't common with guys. I remember a boss I had 40 years ago who, in his meanderings around the office, often passed my desk with his fanny directly in my line of sight. It was flat as a pancake, nothing there at all and I used to think that was a shame. He was otherwise such an attractive, interesting man.

Most men have moderately good bottoms – at least some small amount of meat to fill out their trousers – and the lucky few, like the balloon dancers, have spectacular backsides of the sort that show off particularly well in snug-fitting khakis, less so in jeans and hardly at all in suit pants.

Far more women have nice hind ends and although my sexual orientation leans otherwise, I can still appreciate a well-shaped female derriere.

For example, my own. Unlike guys, my tush looked best in jeans, especially men's Levi's 501s, and even better when paired with high-heeled shoes. I took full advantage of that in my younger years.

It's been a long while since I pranced around so attired and anyway, it's no longer possible, with a waist as wide as my hips, to fit into those sexy 501s.

But I still have to ask, what happened to my cute keister? It's not exactly flat now but there is no shape. I know this because – only for the purpose of this blog post, you understand - I checked it in an angled mirror.

There is none of the definition that once made men glance my way as I walked past. And it is not even a particularly fat ass. I am currently on my biennial diet to get rid of the excess weight that accumulates, but it doesn't gather in my rump. My body is more like that of an aging beer-drinker – all the fat goes to my waist and belly.

My hindquarters do not appear to have dropped much either, but the oomph is gone. (By the way, I produced a television show many years ago with the actress Julie Newmar who had invented - and patented - pantihose that lifts your buttocks.)

I can't say much about other elder women's bums but I suspect, since I don't recall having noticed any, that they are generally no more beauteous than my own.

A lot of old men, like that boss I mentioned, have no rear end at all, walking about with nothing to fill their saggy pants. Where do you suppose it goes?

I don't mind my wrinkles or little jowls anymore and I've accepted the crepe that is beginning to drape my neck. But, you know, I miss my quite excellent youthful fundament even though I have no idea what I would do with it if it were still there.

A final note: The English language has an amazing number of names for our bums and behinds. For no more reason than to amuse myself, I've used as many as I can think of without once repeating myself or checking a thesaurus. Have I missed any?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Peter Tibbles: The One That Got Away

Egypt and the United States

category_bug_politics.gif Watching the exuberant celebration on television Friday, who could not weep with joy for Egypt.

I seem to have always been weeping for Egypt. I've never visited, but I spent many days editing video tape of the historic peace treaty between Egypt and Israel in 1979, along with footage of the extraordinary meeting between Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin. For many of those hours, I was wiping happy tears from my eyes for both of their countries.

Two years later, I again found myself in an editing room working around the clock for days with the awful pictures, in closeup and still burned in my brain, of Sadat's assassination. I wept then too, in sorrow for a great and courageous man. And his country.

Thirty years later now, I am thrilled – literally to tears - to see this revolution, to see what the people can do – without guns or bombs – to rid themselves of a tyrant.

It is during events like this one that cable news shines and I want to call out the reporting of CNN's Arwa Damon. She has long covered the middle east, is extraordinarily well-informed about the region and it helps immensely that she is an Arabic speaker. Her interviews with the people gathered in Tahrir Square on Friday night after Hosni Mubarak had left, were more insightful than any others I saw.

On Saturday, Ms. Damon broadcast a story with about half a dozen men, old friends, gathered in a Cairo cafe. They spoke with feeling about their happiness and relief at being able to speak openly with one another for the first time in their lives about what they believe.

Hearing them, I wept again. Imagine knowing you could be imprisoned and tortured for saying your leader is an idiot or evil or stupid and suddenly, in the space of little more than two weeks, that ends. Imagine the joy.

One of the men, a studio director for the national television channel, said he was faced with the decision about whether to protest against his employer which broadcast only government propaganda. In the end, he said, he knew he was choosing between right and wrong - and joined the protest. I wish I could be certain I would have such courage because at that point, no one knew the revolution would succeed.

Of course, the hard work comes now. There is no obvious leader yet and no experience with messy democracy. It will take a long time for Egyptians to build a new kind of government and there will be many disputes over how to do it. But a new day, a democratic day, has dawned in a formerly repressive country.

I could not help thinking that as Egypt makes its dramatic move toward freedom, our country - supposedly a beacon of democracy for the world - falls ever more precipitously into a corporate autocracy whose only interest is its own profit even over our dead bodies – perhaps literally (see Arizona Medicaid).

The tea party and other Republicans are hell bent on removing every public service they can get their hands on while creating new and even larger tax breaks for the rich.

With the Citizens United decision a year ago, the Supreme Court lifted all restrictions on corporate campaign spending ensuring that the people's most singular voice will be distorted in favor of business.

The president packs his White House adviser rolls with corporate CEOs like the latest, Jeffrey Immelt of GE, and corporate lobbyists spend billions of dollars a year – on top of their unlimited campaign spending – telling Congress members how to vote, even writing the legislation for a compliant Senate and House.

Is there anyone left now to speak for we the people?

After making some notes for this post, I took a break to read the papers on Saturday and found that Bob Herbert of The New York Times Op-Ed page had some of the same thoughts about this unpleasant comparison between Egypt and the U.S.

“As the throngs celebrated in Cairo,” he wrote, “I couldn’t help wondering about what is happening to democracy here in the United States. I think it’s on the ropes. We’re in serious danger of becoming a democracy in name only.”

He goes on:

“While millions of ordinary Americans are struggling with unemployment and declining standards of living, the levers of real power have been all but completely commandeered by the financial and corporate elite. It doesn’t really matter what ordinary people want. The wealthy call the tune, and the politicians dance.”

And more:

”The Egyptians want to establish a viable democracy, and that’s a long, hard road. Americans are in the mind-bogglingly self-destructive process of letting a real democracy slip away.”

Precisely. We were told, during the revolution, that President Mubarak confiscated, one way or another, 50 cents of every Egyptian dollar for his personal use. How is it different in the U.S.?

Trillions of dollars in life savings are stolen from our individually meager investment accounts. Our homes are snatched away based on non-existent legal documents. Our jobs are shipped overseas and those that remain pay peon wages as the middle class sinks further into poverty.

Schools are shut down. Police, fire and other essential public services are cut. Government employees are being fired by the tens of thousands or their salaries are being frozen. The parking meters, for god's sake, in Chicago and other cities are sold to Saudi Arabian shell companies who repeal free parking on Sundays, holidays and for street fairs.

Futile wars are conducted by corporate mercenaries who “lose” billions of tax dollars meant for projects to help the people of wartorn Iraq and Afghanistan. Banks and corporations collect more billions in free loans from the government transferring large portions of the money to executives who then hide their company and personal profits in tax havens while demanding more tax cuts.

Meanwhile, our air and water are poisoned, our roads, bridges and sewer systems crumble, and tent cities and “Hoovervilles” continue to grow in number.

Today, the budget battle begins in Washington as Congress and the president compete to see how many more public services can be cut and how much more blood can be squeezed from the people's turnip without a word from either of them about increased taxes on corporations and high earners. (See here and here.)

Is all this not tyranny? Is it not repression? Are we not as subjugated as the Egyptians were? The takeover of our government by its corporate masters is nearing completion now. Bob Herbert again:

”It’s a perversion of democracy, indeed, when individuals like the Kochs have so much clout while the many millions of ordinary Americans have so little. What the Kochs want is coming to pass. Extend the tax cuts for the rich? No problem. Cut services to the poor, the sick, the young and the disabled? Check. Can we get you anything else, gentlemen?”

Egypt had a single autocrat; ours is a cadre of wealthy elite whose power has corrupted our democracy beyond recognition and we the people are silenced. Bob Herbert:

”I had lunch with the historian Howard Zinn just a few weeks before he died in January 2010. He was chagrined about the state of affairs in the U.S. but not at all daunted. 'If there is going to be change,' he said, 'real change, it will have to work its way from the bottom up, from the people themselves.'”

The Egyptian people, who should be an inspiration to us, reached their tipping point three weeks ago. When will we reach ours and rise up, as the Egyptians did, against our corporate masters?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Old Webster: At Home in Black and White


PeterTibbles75x75You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.

EDITOR'S NOTE: In case you missed it in Interesting Stuff yesterday, Peter Tibbles' fame is growing. He has been interviewed at Boomer Turn-Ons specifically about this Sunday column he writes. You can read it here.

That is not someone's name; it should, perhaps, be called Bob Re-sung. This is about others interpreting Bob Dylan's songs.

These have been selected by Norma, The Assistant Musicologist. As usual, she's left me to do the writing. She selected the tracks and I'm to write the column "because you're so good at it," she said, echoing my sister when she wants to get someone else to do what she doesn't want to do.

That's okay, I quite like tippy-tapping away. The A.M. wants to say: "Peter thinks that songwriters are the best ones to sing their own songs. However, I think there is also a lot to be said for fine singers and interpreters of such good songs as these."

The first song is by Peter, Paul and Mary.

Peter, Paul and Mary

The A.M. says that it was through them that she first heard Bob's songs. It turns out that during their first visit to Melbourne, she and I were both in the audience quite unbeknownst to each other, as we didn't know each other then.

In the way of these things she was up in the bleachers, having got the very last ticket and I was in the front row. "That'd be right," was the A.M.'s comment when she found out.

PP&M did much to bring then-little known songwriters to a larger audience – notably Gordon Lightfoot, Tom Paxton and John Denver. But it's Bob we're interested in and their version of When the Ship Comes In.

♫ Peter, Paul and Mary - When the Ship Comes In

Jennifer Warnes is a particular favorite of both the A.M. and mine.

Jennifer Warnes

She released a terrific CD of Leonard Cohen's songs a while back but we're Bobbing today, not Lenning.

Jen started out as a folk singer and got her big break playing the lead role in Hair. Wish I'd seen that. From then, her singing career continued with her as a rather Linda Ronstadt sound-alike initially. She has since forged her own individual style. She sings Sign on the Window.

♫ Jennifer Warnes - Sign on the Window

Chris Smither is a really fine singer/songwriter, if you ever get a chance to see him, take it.

Chris Smither

He worked around the folk clubs in Boston in the early days and still occasionally sings other people's songs. He did so in his album "Leave the Light On" which I consider his best.

While I'm on the topic of best, there are always interesting discussions on what is Bob's best song. This can never be resolved, but this one would probably be in most people's top five, Visions of Johanna.

♫ Chris Smither - Visions of Johanna

Linda Ronstadt has done a bunch of Bob's songs over the years. The A.M. couldn't select music for a column like this one without her presence. There probably isn't much we need to tell you about Linda, she's been around performing in a variety of styles for so long. I won't even attempt to précis her career.

Linda Ronstadt

This is Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues. There are several fine versions of this song – Nina Simone and Judy Collins are two that come immediately to mind. Bob's live version from Liverpool in 1966 is blistering. You can hear that here.

♫ Linda Ronstadt - Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues

Eric Bibb was born into song, and grew up around music.

Eric Bibb

His father was the singer, Leon Bibb, his uncle the great jazz pianist, John Lewis. Paul Robeson was his godfather (couldn't do better than that). Besides, there were always people dropping in – Pete Seeger, Odetta, Josh White and so on. It would be difficult not to become a musician with that upbringing.

He made his first public appearance at age 16 on his father's TV program. Talk about being thrown in at the deep end. These days he is based in London and performs extensively around Europe. His song is Buckets of Rain.

♫ Eric Bibb - Buckets Of Rain

Next we have a song about which there is complete agreement between the two of us. I think this is the best Bob cover ever; it's better than his version. I give you Maria Muldaur.

Maria Muldaur

The song was originally on Bob's “Shot of Love,” one of his lesser albums. Of course, pretty much all his albums from the eighties could be put in the lesser category. Fortunately, he got out of that slump and the last several have been excellent.

Maria recorded an album of Bob's songs called "Heart of Mine - Love Songs of Bob Dylan" which is a pretty fine album. This is a song, no, THE song, from that album, Heart of Mine.

♫ Maria Muldaur - Heart Of Mine

Cassandra Wilson is classically trained on the piano and plays the clarinet. She switched her interest to guitar when she was a teenager.

Cassandra Wilson

She's one of the few people who can successfully blend jazz, pop, folk and blues without it seeming contrived. Her earlier musical career was as a straight jazz singer but she incorporated these other elements into her music as time went by. This is Cassandra's version of Shelter From the Storm.

♫ Cassandra Wilson - Shelter From the Storm

And now to the man himself.

Bob Dylan

The A.M. actually likes Bob doing his own songs - well, some of them. Okay, this one.

It is from the album of his that I suspect is her favorite. Hard core Bob fans will disagree but on several listenings, I admit that it holds up really well. It's also the one that came immediately after "Self Portrait" and everyone went "Ahhh, he's regained his mojo.”

Its reputation declined over the years. It's time to reinstate "New Morning." The track selected is If Dogs Run Free, not your standard Bob track.

♫ Bob Dylan - If Dogs Run Free

INTERESTING STUFF – 12 February 2011

Category_bug_interestingstuff 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” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I probably won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog if you have one.

Gail Rubin keeps a blog, The Family Plot (you can guess from the title what it's about), and she has also written an excellent book with everything you could possibly want to know about burying loved ones.

Goodbye-FrontCover2-200x300 A Good Goodbye is filled the practical and ephemeral from the dealing with funeral homes to obituaries, customs of various religions, green funerals, pet funerals, odd funerals, eulogies, webcasts of funerals, a large section on preparations for memorial receptions, TSA rules for taking cremated remains on an airplane, clear through to continuing remembrances long after burial.

There are even instructions for a true Irish wake and you'll be surprised how elaborate it is. A Good Goodbye is well-researched and, as the cover might indicate to you, not at all the grim read you might think it would be. It's the sort of thing to have around just in case – sooner or later we'll all need to know these things.

You can find out more here and the book is available at all the usual online and offline booksellers. Ebook versions coming soon.

Pam Peterson sings Memories with a whole new batch of lyrics just for us. It's very funny. (Hat tip to Nikki of From Where I Sit.)

You all know Peter Tibbles who writes the terrific Elder Music column here on Sundays. Now he's been interviewed at the Boomer Turn-Ons blog specifically about his weekly musical ruminations. You can read it here.

Having been plagued with barking dogs where I lived in New York and in Maine – I mean three, four, five hours of dogs barking without letup - I can get behind this story from Italy.

The top appeals court sentenced four people in Sicily to two months in jail because they refused to keep their 10 dogs quiet at night despite complaints from neighbors who had repeatedly picked a bone with the owners over lost sleep.

The four were also ordered to pay court charges and a fine of 500 euros ($684) each.

Lia of Yum Yum Cafe sent this video of cat's play slowed way down so you can see every leap, jump and twist in detail. It is also unexpectedly calming.

Social Security expert Nancy Altman gives us a story about a man most of us have never heard of, Robert M. Ball, who died three years ago at age 93.

“Mr. Ball was a giant,” writes Ms. Altman. “The longest-serving commissioner in the history of the program, he was instrumental in Congress' enactment of the Disability Insurance program, Medicare, and the automatic inflation protection that beneficiaries enjoy, among many other achievements. Moreover, historians credit him with helping to save Social Security at least four times.”

Along with geriatrician Robert N. Butler and journalist Saul Friedman, both of whom died last year, all elders owe Robert M. Ball our undying gratitude. Read more here.

Having improved my electronic organizational skills, I don't print nearly as many web pages as I once did. Still, I seem to need to replace printer cartridges way too often at exorbitant prices. This short video explains how you might be able to extend the life of printer ink. (I haven't had reason to try it yet.)

Marian Van Eyk McCain keeps the excellent ElderWomanBlog, and she also produces a monthly Elderwoman Newsletter filled with stories on health, spirituality, some poetry, beautiful images and more.

You can read the February issue here.

I really hesitated to post this – it is so silly, stupid even. But I watched it several times and with each viewing I giggled more. See what you think.

The Meaning of Happiness

category_bug_journal2.gif I know we discussed this not long ago, but I'm doing it again anyway because I have had some interesting new input.

Happiness has become big business. There are dozens of books about how to achieve it. More people have been setting themselves up as “happiness coaches” - whatever that is. And growing numbers of social scientists spend their entire careers studying happiness.

Many of their research projects report that people become happier as they get older. One reason was posited by Laura Carstensen, the lead author of a recent happiness study:

“'As people get older, they’re more aware of mortality,' Carstensen said. 'So when they see or experience moments of wonderful things, that often comes with the realization that life is fragile and will come to an end. But that’s a good thing. It’s a signal of strong emotional health and balance.'”

Further, according to Carstensen:

“People who have lived a long time typically have made their peace with life’s successes and failures, while young people experience more frustration, stress, and disappointment over things like test scores, career goals and finding true love.”

That's certainly true for me. I don't, as we used to say, “sweat the small stuff” as much these days which is undoubtedly related to the fact that I am more able to distinguish between what is important and what is not.

I am not sure, however, that this relates to happiness as scientists, coaches and many others define it. I would not count myself less happy washing the dishes than when I am experiencing a “wonderful moment” that Carstensen refers to. I think I reserve unhappiness, in its usual definition, for heartbreak, grief and despair (or a painful dental appointment) and the rest of the time, I'm happy.

The notion of happiness has always puzzled me because when asked if I'm happy (as a friend I'd not spoken with in long time did on Wednesday), I suspect we are not talking about the same thing.

I suppose, as I sit here writing, I am happy in the sense that I am not unhappy, sad, depressed, annoyed or angry. Even then, I can be mightily pissed off at, for example, a particularly ignorant politician who is promoting legislation that would make our lives worse and I might even be railing against him or her in unprintable terms. But I could, if asked, honestly say I am happy at the same time.

So I think the idea of happiness is much more complex that we give it credit for and that the word happiness is too sloppy to explain what we mean.

All this came to mind earlier this week when I watched a TED Talk about happiness. The speaker, Daniel Kahneman, is a Nobel laureate and the founder of behavioral economics.

Now, don't let that scare you off. He confirms for me my sense that the notion of happiness is, as he puts it, a “confused mess,” and that how we perceive it depends on whether we are experiencing events in the moment or in memory.

Here is his 20-minute TED Talk.

Kahneman doesn't resolve my murkiness about happiness, but he did explain how I can be thoroughly pissed while feeling generally happy, and he certainly gives me more compelling ways to think about it. I hope you noted what he said at the end about expecting happiness research to affect public policy in the future.

Although Kahneman did not distinguish much between younger and older people in his talk, certainly what Carstensen says about an aging society is pertinent to Kahneman's assertion:

“'This all suggests that as our society is aging, we will have a greater resource,' Carstensen said. 'If people become more even-keeled as they age, older societies could be wiser and kinder societies.'”

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ernest Leichter: Some Wishes Really Do Come True

Baby Boomers and Other Elders

It's been going on for a long time, but since the oldest baby boomers started turning 65 last month, there has been a steady uptick in references to boomers as the definition of old – and it's got Crabby Old Lady's knickers in a big-time twist.

There are a zillion headlines about them every day:

”Boomers Severely Impacted by Financial Crash”

”Cities Adapt to Aging Boomers”

”Baby Boomers at Risk for Hepatitis C”

”Boomers Show Strain of Caregiving”

”Boomers Leading Gray Sex Revolution”

Just a damned minute here. Who thinks boomers have cornered the market in elder sex? Is Crabby to be ignored for risk of Hep C? Are those who are older than 65 not also caring for aged parents? Did the financial crash not steal more than third of Crabby's life savings?

It's bad enough that old people in general become invisible but now, people older than 65 are becoming non-existent.

It even happens here at Time Goes By which gets linked to on lists recommending blogs and websites for boomers - as if Crabby Old Lady, older by five years than the oldest boomer, is not welcome at her own blog.

Crabby won't embarrass you by naming names, but too many commenters on this blog reference “we baby boomers” or something similar when they obviously mean everyone who reads Time Goes By.

Crabby counts a lot a baby boomers among her friends and individually, they are lovely people. But collectively? Gawd, Crabby Old Lady is tired of their belief that they invented everything starting with the wheel.

Let us be clear: aging boomers are a subset of elders. There are 35 million who are older and Crabby intends to vigorously resist being ignored or subsumed into the boomer category.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: The Wooden Bench

How Would You Fix Social Security?

Separate from the determination of some members of Congress to cut Social Security across the board, is the program's shortfall. It is not serious but it is real and even though several do-able solutions have been discussed for years, the government has taken no action to correct the problem.

A few days ago, the University of Maryland Program for Public Consultation issued the results of a survey of about 2,000 people taken last fall asking how they would solve a variety of budget issues facing the nation.

Here are the results from the section on Social Security's shortfall. (There is more discussion of each choice and results of some broken down by age and political affiliation at the survey [pdf]. The Social Security section begins on page 38.)

1. Raise the payroll tax [FICA] ceiling to $156,000.
Solves 25 percent of the problem.
83 percent found this acceptable.

2. Completely eliminate the payroll tax ceiling.
Solves 75 percent of the problem.
78 percent chose this.

3. Increase the payroll tax 1 percent over 20 years.
Solves 45 percent of the problem.
85 percent agreed.

4. Calculate starting benefits based on the inflation rate of prices, not wages. *
Solves 25 percent of the problem.
79 percent chose this.

5. Adjust cost-of-living increases to buying patterns most relevant to older Americans. *
Solves 25 percent of the problem.
75 percent agreed.

6. Raise the retirement age to 68 by 2034.
Solves 13 percent of the problem.
65 percent agreed.

7. Raise the retirement age to 70 by 2048.
Solves 38 percent.
41 percent agreed.

8. Increase Social Security tax 1 percent over 20 years.
Solves 75 percent.
38 percent chose this.

9. Reduce benefits by 25 percent overall.
Solves 50 percent.
19 percent chose this.

* Both of these would result in slightly lower benefits.

Personally, I would choose items 2 and 4. I am loath to raise the retirement age and I don't want to lower benefits particularly since millions who have been unemployed for years and millions of others whose salaries have been cut will already receive smaller benefits than if the economy had not tanked.

If these were the only choices, what would you do?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Vicki E. Jones: Banjo Was a Good Ol' Hound