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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.

In celebration of Earth Day this year, NASA released a selection of their best photographs of Earth taken from space.

This one is Cairo and the Nile Valley at night:

Cairo and the Nile Valley_1923_428-321

And look at this! Manhattan on 11 September 2001. Wow.

911 from space

You will find NASA's collection of 40 Earth Day photos here. If you have never explored the website, do take some time for that – it is amazing in many different ways.

People with hearing loss now have a new tool – a free one, thanks to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – to give them easier access to the telephone. Clear Captions is an internet service that provides real-time closed captioning on your computer as you are on the telephone.

Currently, it works with landlines and iPhones but other mobiles phones will be added this year. The captioning also works with an internet-connected iPad and iPod Touch. Here is a video about the service:

For the moment, this brand-new service works only with incoming calls, but outgoing calls will be added. The captioning is done by live – that is, human – transcribers and not voice recognition software.

It seems to me that this is a terrific service. Find out more here where you can also sign up. Remember, it is free.

Sometimes those YouTube videos you want to post on your blog are just way too long and you want only a portion of them. Hard to do if you're not into video editing.

But now there's a free service, TubeChop. Enter the URL of the video (the link that's supplied on the video page when you click “share”; not the one in the address bar), click “search” and follow the simple instructions. Anyone can do this. Give it a try.

The audio on this video – the unrelenting barking dog – is really annoying. But otherwise, it's funny.


Wolfson News Stand

I know this building in Greenwich Village. It's on the northeast corner of Sixth Avenue and 11th Street. I must have passed it a thousand times. I picked up newspapers and magazines there hundreds of times.

The phone booth is long gone now and I don't recall the detective agency name painted on the second-floor window but it could easily have been there once. Check out the other details – the fire hydrant, the stained bricks, the trash at the curbs.

Vintage photo, right? Wrong! It is a miniature sculpture by artist Alan Wolfson who creates every tiny bit of his urban sculptures from scratch of wood, cardboard, paper, plastics and metal. Here's Wolfson's Brooklyn Bridge subway station.

Wolfson Brooklyn Bridge Station

There are a whole bunch more you can see at his website.

Another graph from my friend, Kent McKamy.

Facebook Graph

It always amazes me how easily dogs and cats, with all that fur on their faces, convey how they feel with their expressions. This dog goes further, behaving amazingly like a kid who has been caught out. (Hat tip to Darlene Costner of Darlene's Hodgepodge)

If a proposed U.S. State Department Passport Application idea – the Biographical Questionnaire – goes into effect, about 74,000 people who would be required to use it each year will probably be denied a passport. Before you read further, take a look at the questionnaire [pdf].

Among the impossible-to-answer-questions is to list “all residences in and out of the United States starting with birth until the present.” WHAT? I've lived in 42 places – I don't even remember at least a dozen of them.

Or, how about: “Did your mother receive pre-natal or post-natal medical care” requiring name of hospital, name of doctor and dates of appointments.

This is a joke, right??? It doesn't appear to be. The announcement of the proposal and request for public comment is here. Of course, by the the time I learned of this the period of time for comment has ended.

There is more information at the Identity Project blog which reports that the State Department estimates it would take an average applicant 45 minutes to compile all the information. What are they thinking? I wouldn't be able to do it at all. Period.

Thanks to Darlene Costner, I now know that there is an annual sand castle contest right here in Oregon at Cannon Beach. And what sand castles they are:


Building begins as the tide goes out and must be finished and judged, of course, before it returns to wash away these amazing sand sculptures. Take a look at these from the 2010 contest – all the more astonishing for their ephemeral nature.

The Great American Freak Show

category_bug_politics.gif On Wednesday night, following President Obama's release of his non-legal, long-form Certificate of Live Birth, Jon Stewart, his sidekick Jason Jones and Stephen Colbert each pleaded – down on their knees in all but fact - with Donald Trump to run for president in the 2012 election.

Who could blame them. Trump is the ultimate god's gift to comedians. After taking credit for the president's action - “I'm honored, I'm proud to have done this great thing for my country” - Trump wasn't satisfied.

Saying, “people have told me” that Obama isn't all that bright, the self-appointed birther leader now wants the president's college transcripts, hinting that there must have been some nefarious doings for someone so dumb to get into Columbia University and Harvard Law School.

Then, former self-appointed birther leader, Orly Taitz, suggested that the Certificate of Live Birth is a fake because the race of Obama's father is listed as “African” instead of “Negro.” Oh, and now she is questioning the validity of the president's Social Security number too. Pure looney tunes.

On a day, Wednesday, when tornadoes were killing scores of people in the south, and eight American soldiers were shot dead at Kabul airport, the media - even sidelining that other bread-and-circuses distraction, the Windsor wedding - devoted hours to Trump, Taitz and other birthers who refuse to accept Obama's legitimacy.

Poor ol' Ben Bernanke, holding the first-ever press conference by a sitting chairman of the Federal Reserve on Wednesday, was consigned to a headline crawl at the bottom of television screens as he crushed the hopes of millions of unemployed by telling reporters inflation control is more important than job creation.

This is a freak show and it's not just Wednesday's events. It's the whole damned political scene.

What other way is there to describe Representative Paul Ryan's “Path to Prosperity” budget that would end Medicare in all but name by providing low-ball government vouchers to be turned over to private insurers? Ask just about anyone with private coverage how well that works out for them.

And anyway, it's crazy time to think big insurance would even write policies for a bunch of old people whom the insurers know will have increasing health problems. I found that out, when my COBRA expired, trying to buy coverage for three months until I turned 65; no one would insure me at any price.

Ryan budget supporters like to tell us oldest folks not to worry because we'll be able to keep the current Medicare – as if we would willingly throw our children and grandchildren under the austerity healthcare bus.

Not to mention the grotesque spectacle of current 54-year-olds, when handed their vouchers in 2022, rightly enraged that everyone older than they are have excellent, affordable care they are denied.

Sane Americans, which include almost no Congressional Republicans and too few Democrats, know that the only way to bring down health care costs to a reasonable level is Medicare for All. It works well in other countries, but ownership of the federal government by corporations, including the insurance industry, prevents them from investigating how Sweden's system (or Denmark's or Germany's or France's, etc.) might be adapted to U.S. needs.

Nationwide, local governments are busting unions, closing schools, laying off teachers, fire fighters and police, selling off city services to corporations as far away as Saudi Arabia. The governor of Maine has the gruesome idea to rescind child labor laws. At least one town wants to combine the police and fire departments. Just what I need – a cop when my house is burning down.

Lunacy rules the land.

Back in Washington, the extremism extends to the most immediately insane possibility – those in Congress who say they will vote against raising the debt ceiling. If you think a government shutdown is a bad idea, wait until you see the worldwide chaos that will produce. 2008 will look like a picnic in comparison.

As the budget battle rages, Democrats who until now have been the traditional defenders of social programs, are listing toward Social Security cuts, raising the age for Medicare and cutting social programs for the poor.

Republicans keep repeating that these cuts alone can balance the budget as they take tax increases “off the table.” We can't raise taxes on the rich, they say, because that's where the jobs come from. Huh? We've done that for ten years. Do you see any new jobs?

What we have is a trickle UP economy. And if you don't think so, take a look at this study, released on Tuesday, requested by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) that shows

“...numerous instances during the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 when banks took near zero-interest funds from the Federal Reserve and then loaned money back to the federal government on sweetheart terms for the banks.

The banks made billions in taxpayer money on that deal. Nevertheless, “shared sacrifice” has become the near unanimous mantra in Congress (even the president repeats it) – so much so that it is becoming orthodoxy even in some progressive circles.

Shared sacrifice? In three short years, we have already sacrificed everything we once had – life savings, homes, jobs, children's college educations. There is nothing left for the people of the nation to sacrifice.

This is all crazy talk, but what else can be expected of politicians and their supporters who believe global warming is a hoax, contraception causes abortion and the rapture will appear on 21 May.

It makes perfect sense to me that Jon Stewart, Jason Jones and Stephen Colbert are praying for Donald Trump to run in the next election. But comedians don't really need him. There are plenty of other freaks to skewer.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Upon Reaching 60

Are You Taking Full Advantage of Medicare?

category_bug_journal2.gif Four years ago or so, my physician recommended a colonoscopy. It was my first and it cost me a fortune – at least, by my retired income standards. Now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA, health care reform, Obamacare – whatever you choose to call it), Medicare pays for this exam along with other colon cancer preventive tests.

That is, if you have original Medicare with Part B coverage and your physician accepts Medicare assignment. People enrolled in Medicare Advantage programs need to consult their provider.

Be aware, on the colon exam, that if polyps are found and removed during a colonoscopy, there will be costs to you for the removal procedure.

As of 1 January 2011, many new preventive tests are free or available for a small copay under Medicare, but nowhere near enough people know this or are taking advantage of them. This is an overview for you with links to helpful Medicare pages.

If you are new to Medicare, you are entitled to an initial, comprehensive wellness exam to review your medical history and a number of preventive tests that will help you and your doctor create a plan to keep you healthy.

This is a free visit with no deductible or copay, but must be done within 12 months of joining Medicare. More information here.

After that first visit, you are entitled to a yearly examination without cost. This applies even if you did not have the initial visit during your first year on Medicare.

Covers cholesterol, lipid and tryglyceride levels which are free.

You pay nothing for an annual flu shot nor for the pneumococcal shot which most people need only once in their lifetime. The three-shot Hepatitis B course is also available free for those with medium to high risk.

This is free for people at risk for osteoporosis or who have certain medical conditions.

The screenings are free. You pay 20 percent of the cost for supplies and training.

Free for people with diabetes, renal disease and those who have had a kidney transplant within the past three years.

These are available for people whose physicians say they are at high risk. There is a 20 percent copay.

Up to eight free sessions per year for people who have no tobacco-related illness.

Medicare pays for this test once a year, but you usually pay 20 percent of the cost of the doctor visit.

Mammograms, Pap smears and pelvic exams for vaginal and cervical cancer are free.

Both digital and PSA exams are covered. There is a 20 percent cost for the first; the PSA is free.

This list is a brief overview. At the Medicare website, there is a more detailed, 28-page booklet titled, Your Guide to Medicare's Preventive Services [pdf] that is worth downloading or printing.

AARP and Walgreens are sponsoring a “Wellness Bus Tour” in more than 3,000 cities throughout the U.S. - including Puerto Rico - where anyone 18 and older can get the following tests free:

  • Total cholesterol levels
  • Blood pressure
  • Bone density
  • Glucose levels
  • Waist circumference
  • Body mass index

You get the results instantly and certified health professionals will explain the results.

You can find out more at The Medicare Blog. And check for dates of the Wellness Tour in your area here. Click on “Find a stop near you” in the left sidebar.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joanne Zimmerman: Fashion and Courtship

Old Feet and Fancy Shoes

category_bug_journal2.gif Considering that I spent a dozen years or so of my childhood and teen years cramming my feet into toe shoes five days a week at ballet class and another 35 years prancing around daily in three-inch, strappy sandals or pumps, my feet are in relatively good shape at age 70.

I would be wearing those high-heeled shoes still except that one day, a decade or so ago while dressing for work, I stepped into a gorgeous pair, walked into the kitchen for coffee and thought I'd pass out from the pain.

To this day, I'm not certain if my feet had always hurt that much and I had successfully ignored it or if that was the moment my feet rebelled against their life-long torture.

Scrounging around in a closet overflowing with more than a hundred pairs of to-die-for, high-heeled shoes, I found an old pair of flats that morning and although I tried the high heels some mornings over the next several months, I finally had to admit that my days of wearing beautiful shoes were done.

Until that happened, I am pretty sure I alone kept Dr. Scholl's in business with my regular purchase of corn pads for 35 years. It was automatic – buy a new tube of toothpaste and pick up a couple of packages of corn pads.

My feet have been corn-free now for a decade and I no longer have calluses behind my big toe. Also, I've never had a bunion or any other kind of foot problem except, once, a broken toe. But that doesn't mean I can ignore my feet now.

In my old days of pretty shoes, I tried them on at the store and if they felt good, I could wear them the next day, never needing any time to break them in. That stopped a long time ago. Unless they are backless, new shoes always – always - give me blisters on the back of my heels, so I must wear them around the house for an hour or two a day over a couple of weeks until I can go out in them.

This (admittedly minor) problem came up again this week when I wanted to wear a new pair of my standard, everyday shoes. Here is a photo:

Gold Shoes

Once broken in, these are the closest thing I've found to going barefoot. They come in a dozen or more colors from two manufacturers, but I always buy gold (or bronze) because that color goes with everything and is more interesting than black. I keep a pair by the door to slip into whenever I leave the house.

That means they wear out within a year, so it's an annual purchase with an annual break-in period. I've had this new pair for a couple of months and have been putting off the break-in because I so love living with pain-free feet.

It's hard to be sure, but I think my feet, without the daily distress of several decades, have become more tender in the heel area. One solution is backless, flat or near-flat shoes and I've found a new way to indulge my fetish for gorgeous shoes.

If you hunt around, there are amazingly beautiful shoes that are comfortable. These aren't meant to be shoes; they are slippers and I wear them a lot at home.

Red Slippers

Here are several others, shoes that may appear, with their beads and bangles and embroidery, to be for dress-up occasions but since there are few of those in my life now, I wear them with casual clothes:

Green Shoes

Pink Shoes

Black Shoes

Beige Shoes

Nowadays, even the heels on the last two pictured are too high for extended walking so I wear them only when I know I won't be moving around much as in going out to dinner, a movie, concert, etc.

Or, when I'm home alone like today, writing a blog post or reading a book. I wear them then, just for me. It makes me happy to see these sorry, old feet all dressed up.

Maybe you don't share my fancy shoe fetish, but I wonder if you have problems with old feet too.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ernest Leichter: Retirement Blues – April 14, 2011

Gay Marriage Complexities

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.]

We are living a strange moment in the ongoing struggle to win full marriage rights for same-sex couples. We're clearly making progress.

Full marriage, with the same rights and obligations as heterosexual couples, is currently available in five states and the District of Columbia. Some ten or so other states maintain registries of domestic partnerships which give partners various legal rights depending on local laws.

The federal government is barred by the Defense of Marriage Act (1996) from recognizing any of these couples, but President Obama has said the Department of Justice should cease defending DOMA in court. However the Republican House of Representatives has hired its own law firm to defend the law.

Meanwhile, several national polls including one just this week from CNN say majorities now approve of gay marriage. This is a stunning, happy turnabout in the last few years.

What I want to share here are a couple of stories about some of the strange anomalies gay couples encounter because of the legal flux we are living in. Here's a bit of what it is really like to get older as part of an LGBT couple in this betwixt and between time.

A lesbian friend of mine recently reached the magic age of 65 - the moment so many of us anticipate with anxious hope - when Medicare eligibility kicks in. Her partner (they are registered with their city) has good health insurance from an employer so they have both been on that.

Mary visited the Social Security office and was told that yes, she would be put on Medicare Part A, but she didn't need to sign up for Medicare Part B because she could stay on her existing group plan without penalty as long as her younger partner was able to qualify them both. Great - that's settled.

Except then she got a letter saying that she would be penalized for failing to sign up for Medicare Part B. Huh? The clerk had made a mistake, a natural one.

It turns out that because of DOMA, the federal government can't recognize the health insurance she was already getting through a partner whose existence the Feds aren't allowed to notice. It took some work and several months delay to get that fixed and Mary onto Medicare Part B.

Interestingly, AARP has the best explanation I've seen of this wrinkle in the Medicare rules:

A domestic partner - someone who is not formally married to the employee but covered under his or her insurance as a family member — is also entitled to a special enrollment period. But this applies only to domestic partners of the opposite sex, according to the Social Security Administration.

Under the Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex partners — even those who are legally married under the laws of their state or country — do not get the same consideration.

The covered employee can delay Part B and later qualify for a special enrollment period in his or her own right. But his or her partner, though covered as a dependent by the same insurance, is not entitled to a special enrollment period and must therefore sign up for Part B at age 65 to avoid late penalties.

This Medicare wrinkle has nothing on the conundrums related to filing taxes.

Last December, after 32 years together, my partner and I decided we had better get registered with the state of California. Having grown up and grown older without any expectation that the state should be involved in our relationship, we'd never gotten around to this. But the experience of her lying in a trauma center waiting to see if she needed emergency brain surgery after a bicycle accident convinced us that we should reinforce our existing powers of attorney with everything we could find to assure we were treated as connected in any emergency.

So, without any particular romance, we trotted off to a notary public to fill in domestic partnership forms. Yhen we learned that the IRS had made a rule change last year that threw our tax preparations into complete confusion.

We had each always simply filed separate returns, paid up or gotten our refunds and that was that. But the IRS has decided it must take into consideration domestic partnerships in the community property states of California, Washington and Nevada even though domestic partners are still required under DOMA to file individual returns!

So domestic partners must also file joint returns as well even though those joint returns don't count. Or, at least, that's the best I could make of this rule. And better financial and legal minds than I didn't do much better.

I can convey the level of confusion this development caused gay couples by sharing what TurboTax, the tax prep software, advised.

Accurate tax return preparation for couples in this situation relies on the review and analysis of each couple’s individual agreements and related state law, within these new guidelines. Decisions on how to split income and expenses are based on a state’s community property law and the individual legal agreements made between couples at the time of their registered domestic partnership or same sex marriage. Given this, we can’t provide a fully guided federal experience in TurboTax at this time.

At this time, you have 3 options:

Option 1 – Manually prepare your individual federal tax returns in TurboTax by reporting your community income. We recommend this only if you are a couple with income just on W-2s, you don’t itemize deductions, and you are 50/50 partners. You will need to file these individual returns by mail.

Option 2 – Get help preparing your tax returns from a tax professional, especially if you have investments, rentals pensions or a business.

Option 3 – File an extension before April 19, 2011 and deal with this after that date when we expect to have more functionality and guidance built into the TurboTax experience.

That is, even the tax professionals are punting on the complications introduced by this federal decision. A New York Times blog had a good post on the various complications, some of which may end up beneficial to some gay couples, as well as unquestionably to tax preparers.

It turned out we didn't have to figure it out, for this year. In mid-March, while we were researching the rules, we received a notice from the California Secretary of State indicating that though we had submitted the papers in December 2010, they hadn't gotten around to filing our domestic partnership until 2011.

Rescued by official negligence! Our accountant friends assure us that by next year the Feds will have made some sense of the rules. We hope so.

Meanwhile we do get one tax benefit from having made our relationship legal. My health benefits used to be taxed by the state of California as income to her. Now she can deduct them on her California taxes. It's not a huge amount but every little bit helps.

Understand, I'm not really complaining. When gay couples finally do share in the legal structures that govern marriage, our lives will be more secure, just a little bit safer. In the long run. And we want, like most people, to be able to stand before the world and say, "This is the person who I love and we are making our lives together."

And I sure hope we get through this transition period on the way to legal marriage as soon as possible so we can stop dealing with the strange set of extra hoops that gay folks now have to jump through.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcia May: Felicity and the Birthday Cheese

Adventures in Moving Far Away

Last week, on my post that was mostly about the new paint job in my apartment, Lee left this comment:

”Ronni, you and Celia started a conversation I'd like to eavesdrop on a little longer about moving to a new place when one is no longer young.

“When I was young, I moved constantly: If I got a pay raise I could move to a safer neighborhood; if I found a cuter apartment or wanted housemates, I'd just move. It was never disruptive, only exciting. I didn't have much stuff and it was all used, anyway, so I'd have a garage sale and then buy new stuff (also fun) at my favorite thrift stores.

“But now that I'm grayer, the idea of a move as dramatic as yours, Ronni, is kind of intimidating. Did you already have friends in your new home after Maine? I know you've written that you like your own company, but what was it like to uproot like that?”

Did you ever have sleepless nights? Or is it still an adventure to you? I'd love to hear TGB readers on that one, especially if they've moved to completely different places, even to another country, after they've left career jobs.

That's a worthwhile discussion for us to have today. I can speak only for myself, so here goes.

I'm not new to moving. Like Lee when I was young, I moved often and on whim for many of the same reasons. After I married, we moved from city to city until we landed permanently in New York City. It was love at first site, I never tired of it and I would go back in a minute if I could afford to.

I had every intention of living in my Greenwich Village apartment until I die. But a long bout of unemployment made that impossible; the only way to go on eating was to sell my home and find a less expensive way to live.

That was the killer decision. Agony. It took a three-day, sleepless weekend of wailing and sobbing to make peace with the inevitable. But because my survival was at stake and I am nothing if not practical, I emerged – however exhausted and sad - ready to move forward.

Since New York had become my home over 40 years, I had nowhere to return to and had no idea where to go. So I made a list. Although it might be an adventure to live in another country, I didn't want that much new in my life and did not consider it.

I eliminated the entire lower half of the U.S. because I deeply dislike hot weather. Then I got rid of the middle northern part because I like oceans. And I like cities. So I winnowed it down to Seattle, Boston and the two Portlands – Maine and Oregon. I didn't put San Francisco on the list because I'd lived there during my late teens and half of my twenties – been there, done that.

I'd worked in Boston for short periods over the years and it never sang to me. Seattle seems to me to have all the disadvantages of big cities, but few of the advantages.

In the end, I chose Maine for its proximity to New York and the idea that New York friends would be more likely to make that trip for a visit than clear across the country to Oregon. And I could visit New York in a one-hour plane ride.

After four years, I knew I had made a mistake. Portland, Maine with 65,000 population is not a city by my definition, and I was beginning to wonder how much longer I would be physically capable of digging my car out of snow a couple of times a week for six months of the year. So in 2010, I moved to Oregon.

Because my initial move to Maine was due to necessity, I did not, could not, spend time thinking about the enormity of leaving everything and everyone I'd known for 40 years. (I think I got through that part over that long, weepy weekend.)

Although I didn't think of it as an adventure, it was exciting to contemplate a new kind of life while my apartment was on the market and I traveled to Maine half a dozen times to check out neighborhoods and homes to buy.

A number of people suggested I rent for a year while I learned my way around the city and I could see the wisdom in that. But I was on a tight budget and didn't want to throw away thousands of dollars that I could put toward the purchase a new home, the need to own a car and the costs of the move.

Using common sense and, after the experience of 42 moves in my lifetime, I chose well, within my price range and was happy with the apartment in Maine – just not the town.

There were no sleepless nights, Lee, but that isn't in my nature. Sleep, in difficult times, has always been my escape. So I think it's important in big moves, to know yourself well.

In a new location, it is not as easy to make friends as when one is working. It was a long time, in Maine, before I found a few people to hang out with. Again, I think one's nature is important in this regard.

Since childhood, I have always spent a lot of time alone and it's not a burden to me. Additionally, during the 1980s, many of my closest friends – the kind you don't replace easily in any circumstance or at any age – along with neighbors and acquaintances died young. I learned then that friendship is not forever. I welcome it, but I don't count on it.

Without a job in a new town, we need to make other kinds of effort to find people with whom we are simpatico and all I can suggest is to follow your interests. Here, I have my brother and his wife and I'm meeting people through my t'ai chi classes, the local library, local politics and my ongoing research into all things aging.

And here's an advantage to blogging: Over these eight years of Time Goes By, I've made many good friends. Yes, most are at a distance, but they are no less important to me for it.

Once I was unpacked and settled in Maine, having these daily interactions through the blog, email and, sometimes, phone meant I was not alone. That part of my life went on uninterrupted and I suspect the continuum of it was important to being comfortable in a new place.

Overall, the moving itself is big-time pain in the ass. I wish never to pack or unpack a hundred or more boxes again. I will go to great lengths now, after having done it twice in four years, to never do it again. So choose your destination carefully.

It doesn't seem like I've really answered your questions, Lee. Except for missing New York which has become something I just live with, I'm happy with this last move. And maybe I'm not the one to answer since the first move to Maine was a financial necessity and the second one to Oregon was a spiritual necessity. I think there would be different considerations without those imperatives.

So now it's your turn, TGB readers. In addition to Lee's questions above, if you are contemplating a move to a new place, how do you feel about it? How are you choosing the new town or city? And, of course, why are you moving?

If you have already relocated, how has it worked out? Have you had second thoughts? What has settling in been like? Tell us – and Lee - your stories.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Aunt Knett


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.

This is an on-going series featuring the music of a particular year. These aren't the Top 10, Top 40 or Top anything, they're just tunes I selected from the year with no apparent logic behind it.

What happened in 1953?

  • Well, I was in third grade
  • Jonas Salk released a polio vaccine
  • Ian Fleming published his first James Bond book (Casino Royale)
  • Elizabeth Windsor was coronated
  • Hugh Hefner published the first edition of Playboy
  • Albert Schweitzer won the Nobel Peace Prize
  • Australia won the Davis Cup (again)
  • Hank Williams died

LES PAUL pretty much invented the electric guitar as we know it. He also invented multi-track recording techniques, back in the day of two-track recorders so that was even more impressive.

He was one of the greatest guitarists who ever lived (or at least recorded) and with his wife Mary Ford had a bunch of hits in the Fifties.

Les Paul and Mary Ford

As you can see Les had many strings to his bow, although he didn't use one of those. I imagine he could have, as Jimmy Page did when he played his Les Paul guitar when he was trying to be pretentious. Okay, that's something Les never had to do, be pretentious.

Back to Les and Mary as I wandered off the track there for a bit, and probably my favorite song of theirs, Vaya Con Dios, even if the song's sentiments are an anathema to me.

♫ Les Paul and Mary Ford - Vaya Con Dios

There are few more interesting entertainers than EARTHA KITT.

Eartha Kitt

As is evident from this track, Eartha spoke French fluently. She was also proficient in several other languages.

When she was young, she attracted the attention of a French entrepreneur who took her to Paris to perform. She was a great success.

Years later when she was invited to a lunch with the first lady (that one was Lady Bird Johnson), Lady Bird made the mistake of asking Eartha her opinion on the war then raging in Vietnam. Eartha assumed she was serious and that this wasn't some fluff piece lunch, so told her what she thought of it in no uncertain terms.

The Johnsons, vindictive to the core, ensured she'd never play in their country again (at least until Jimmy Carter invited her back) so Eartha spent lots of years again performing in Europe and particularly France.

There's a lot more to her life that deserves mentioning but there's not enough space. This is C'est Si Bon.

♫ Eartha Kitt - C'est Si Bon

I always thought that Sonny Til and the Orioles were the first to record Crying in the Chapel. What a sausage I am. That claim goes to DARRELL GLENN.

Darrell Glenn

Darrell's dad, Artie Glenn, wrote the song and Darrell recorded it while still in school. This version made it big on the charts. Sonny and the boys recorded their version that same year and it also went gangbusters. Since then, everyone's recorded this song from Ella Fitzgerald and Elvis on down.

Artie and his band, the Rhythm Riders, provided the backing for Darrell on his record. The record company didn't think Darrell was talented enough or old enough to support so they they did nothing to promote the song. In spite of this it became a huge hit.

Here's Darrell with Crying in the Chapel.

♫ Darrell Glenn - Crying in the Chapel

I've always liked the insouciance of DEAN MARTIN. He made it look easy as if he's not really trying. You know, or at least I do, that there's a vast amount of work going on in the background.

I get the impression that Mozart was the same; I imagine that he could whip up a piano concerto or a symphony at the drop of a powdered wig. He almost certainly could. However, checking his papers and diaries you can see the amount of work that went into his outward display of nonchalance.

Dean Martin

One of my long-time work mates had the surname of Amore. I hope he doesn't mind my referencing him here. He said that when this song came out it made his life at school hell.

I'm sorry about that but the song must be included. Here's Dean with That's Amore.

♫ Dean Martin - That's Amore


Nat King Cole

It sounds as if I'm tired of him but nothing could be further from the truth. It's just that Nat has turned up so often in my columns that finding something else to write about him has become difficult, so I've given up. Here's Nat with Pretend.

♫ Nat King Cole - Pretend

PATTI PAGE is someone else I've featured quite a bit over the years.

Patti Page

As with Nat, I'm scratching my head about what to say as I don't want to recycle stuff I've said before. Of course, that may be preferable to my waffling on about how I have nothing new to say.

Clara Fowler, for that's what her folks knew her as, began recording in 1947 and hasn't stopped. She had hit after hit in the Fifties and most of them are great (because she recorded Tennessee Waltz I will overlook Doggie in the Window). And she is one of the biggest selling artists in history.

Patti continues to perform to this day. You wouldn't want to play Changing Partners back-to-back with Tennessee Waltz; you'd think it was the same song. However, as the waltz is not in sight, here is Changing Partners.

♫ Patti Page - Changing Partners

By 1953, rhythm & blues was creeping into the consciousness of the musical public outside its natural constituency. One of the best creepers, as it were, and possibly the man who invented rock & roll, is BIG JOE TURNER.

Big Joe Turner

Before he sang Shake, Rattle and Roll and sent shock waves through the parents of teenagers and younger folks, he recorded a song called Honey Hush, a sort of blues song that's yet another contender for the first rock & roll song.

♫ Big Joe Turner - Honey Hush

Alexander Borodin sure gave us a lot of hits. Of course, he didn't know about that because he thought they were just the second string quartet, the opera Prince Igor and his Polovtsian Dances.

It was these musical sources that Robert Write and George Forrest pinched when creating the music for the musical “Kismet”. This show had many hummable tunes, thanks to Alexander, and many were hits outside the musical itself.

One singer, among many, to have a hit with one of the songs is TONY BENNETT.

Tony Bennett

Tony's is generally considered the definitive version of this song, but The Four Aces and Tony Martin also had some success at the time. Since then there have been numerous versions. Here is Tony with Take My Hand I'm a Strange Looking Parasite. Okay, the jokes are from 1953 as well as the music, but you know what I mean.

♫ Tony Bennett - Stranger in Paradise

I'm sorry, but I really don't like the lush orchestral sound that was popular throughout much of the Fifties. I'm not picking on PERCY FAITH, for that's who's next; it's all of his ilk.

Unfortunately, 1953 was a really bad year for interesting music so I'm going along with Percy just this once.

Percy Faith

I've included it because it's not just lush strings but it also has a vocal refrain by FELICIA SANDERS.

Felicia Sanders

Besides, it's the theme from the film, Moulin Rouge, the 1952 version. This was an entertaining flick, if not particularly good. Anything with José Ferrer wandering around on his knees and Zsa Zsa Gabor being Zsa Zsa Gabor is worth a look.

The fairly recent remake, if that's the right word, is less than ordinary although it does have Kylie Minogue as the Absinthe Fairy – that alone made it worth watching. However, it doesn't have this song called the Song from Moulin Rouge (Whenever We Kiss).

♫ Percy Faith - Song from Moulin Rouge

From the way I see it GEORGIA GIBBS made a career of covering other songs better done by those other people.

Georgia Gibbs

Of course, this is a rather glib synopsis of her career, but glib is what happens when I'm trying to come up with something interesting to say about 100 different singers in a short time.

She had a difficult childhood. Her father died when she was young and she was put in an orphanage, separated from her siblings. She liked to sing and made her recording debut around about age 16.

This song was recorded by many people, most notably from my point of view, Patsy Cline and Wanda Jackson. However, here is Georgia with Seven Lonely Days.

♫ Georgia Gibbs - Seven Lonely Days

1954 will appear in two weeks' time.


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.

Elders get a bad rap for playing bingo; it's the ultimate media image of boring old folks. But now, apparently, bingo is not just for elders anymore. According to The New York Times, it is a growing fad on college campuses with a twist for this new generation of players:

”This may be a church-lady game, but it’s big at Bryant (University in Rhode Island). And this is bingo for the XBox generation: to break a tie, players bust moves in a dance-off.”

The prizes have been updated too: a prime parking space, textbooks, Snuggies, iPods and even a big-screen TV. Read more here.


Corner house optical illusion

Optical illusions have tickled me since I was a kid. From Escher to trompe l'oeil to 3D chalk drawings – I'm hooked on them all. This one is Canada's attempt to improve road safety:

Girl in street

Yep – the girl is painted on the street. You will find these and hundreds – maybe thousands – more at the Mighty Optical Illusions website where I lost myself for about two hours a few days ago.

Remember last December when Republicans in Congress fought hard to defeat the “Zadroga bill” that would extend medical and financial aid to 9/11 first responders whose health problems continue? It was a mighty fight, but the bill finally passed.

Now we find that during the debate, an unconscionable provision was attached to the legislation. The police, firefighters, construction workers and other who survived

”...will soon be informed that their names must be run through the FBI’s terrorism watch list, according to a letter obtained by HuffPost.

“Any of the responders who are not compared to the database of suspected terrorists would be barred from getting treatment for the numerous, worsening ailments.”

Given all the other pounds of flesh Republicans want from everyone but the top one percent of earners, is there any reason left for Republicans to exist? Read more here.

My friend Kent McKamy sent along a bunch of graphs like this one. I'll be featuring some more in coming weeks.

Laser Pen small

She and her then-husband Gower starred in several movie musicals and for a time, in their own television show.

At age 81, she starred on Broadway in a revival of Follies and now, here she is at 91 talking about getting old in a video from Guideposts.

Everybody loves baby animals, but we hardly ever see images of elder animals. This is Pumpkin, a Morgan Arabian who is 28 years old.


Isa Leshko keeps a website of an ongoing project photographing old animals:

“I have been especially drawn toward photographing farm animals. Because of the nature of their existence, farm animals typically do not live out their natural life spans. I was intrigued to observe and photograph working animals that actually reached a geriatric age.”

You can see more elder animals here – click on the “elderly animals” link. (Hat tip to Cowtown Pattie of Texas Trifles)

Making the rounds this week, tickling a little penguin who seems to be giggling.

Republican budget proposals want to end Medicare and Medicaid as we know them in favor of market-based systems in which insurers compete for customers. In his New York Times Op-Ed column yesterday, Paul Krugman makes the crucial point that patients are not consumers:

“Medical care, after all, is an area in which crucial decisions — life and death decisions — must be made. Yet making such decisions intelligently requires a vast amount of specialized knowledge.

“Furthermore, those decisions often must be made under conditions in which the patient is incapacitated, under severe stress, or needs action immediately, with no time for discussion, let alone comparison shopping.

“That’s why we have medical ethics. That’s why doctors have traditionally both been viewed as something special and been expected to behave according to higher standards than the average professional.

“The idea that all this can be reduced to money — that doctors are just people selling services to consumers of health care — is, well, sickening.”

Read more here.

Everything we know about animals argues against this video: cats generally don't like water; a dolphin could eat a cat for lunch in one gulp. But of course you know this video refutes that.

In-Laws, Outlaws and Granny Flats

We have been talking a lot this past week or so about housing – home maintenance, home safety, decorating, updating, painting and all. There is also, in our awful economic times a question, perhaps, of doubling up.

Parents may need help in daily living. Or their home has become too much for them to care for on their own. Or, given the unemployment numbers, sometimes adult children have nowhere to go but home to their parents, often with spouses and kids.

What to do?

For several weeks, I've been perusing a new book, in-laws, outlaws and granny flats, by Michael Litchfield who has been renovating houses for 30 years. It is a treasure trove of practical information and advice on turning a single-family home into two independent living units.

This 360-square-foot space with a Murphy bed, started out as a one-car garage. Now, a couple lives here, when not traveling, while they rent the main house where they had raised their children:

Murphy bed

The first few chapters of the book thoroughly cover the considerations, navigating permits and permissions, plans, materials and fixtures including the surprising number of options for items all homes need. I was shocked to see how many types of toilets there are. Who knew?

The majority of the book details 26 case studies, each with gorgeous color photos, floor plans and tips for just about every contingency I could imagine.

I was impressed with this bed space in a dormer on the second floor of a garage where built-in shelves were included because there is no room for night stands.

Garage dormer bed

Because most of the spaces are small, the book includes many clever accommodations such as these two small sinks in a corner kitchen.

Tiny kitchen space

At the back of the book, there is an excellent primer on universal design elements to consider – wide doors for wheelchairs, adjusted countertop heights, shower seats, etc. And there is a section of resources for green and special needs building and a long list of websites of manufacturers of products for small spaces.

I doubt much of what this lovely book offers is inexpensive, but you don't need to be doing a total renovation or building an addition for an aging parent or adult child in need to find it worthwhile.

For several months off and on, I've been searching for a photo to match the picture in my head of how I want to remodel my bathroom that currently has an execrable plastic tub/shower. I found what I've been imagining in in-laws, outlaws, and granny flats:

Bathroom Shower

Author Michael Litchfield maintains a website, Cozydigz, with more photos and useful information.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz: Fashion Plate

The Secrets (or Not) to Long Life

Last week in Great Falls, Montana, the world's oldest man died of natural causes. Walter Breuning was 114.

Whenever someone reaches great age, usually 100 or more, it is tradition that a reporter from the local newspaper asks how he or she managed to live so long. To what do you attribute your long life? Is the standard question.

For many years it has been an irregular, minor hobby of mine to keep track of the answers - not because I'm looking for advice, but because the first one I remember noticing, when I was a kid, was funny: “I smoke a pack of cigarettes and drink a quart of whiskey every day.”

Many of the answers elders give echo the health experts and could be inscribed in fortune cookies:

  • Have a positive outlook
  • Lots of laughter
  • Keep busy
  • Honest, good, clean living
  • Know yourself

Undoubtedly good advice, but not interesting. Harry Truman didn't do much better: “Take a two-mile walk every morning before breakfast,” he said.

I'm pretty sure this less famous man was pulling the reporter's leg: “I made sure I got up every day.”

Although it was a man who said this, just about every woman I know wishes this were the secret to long life: “A little chocolate every day.”

Here's another involving food from a British elder: “No alcohol, no cigarettes and plenty of fish and chips.” I guess all that grease didn't matter to her in the long run.

Extremely old people often mention food and smoking - pro and con:

“Be nice to everyone, drink your wine and rest.” Don't you like how she snuck in the wine there in the middle.

“Eat, drink and raise hell.”

And my recent favorite as written down by the reporter: “...going to bed early, not drinking and giving up smoking in her 90s.”

Walter Breuning gave one of the lengthiest answers I've ever read in the story noting his death at The New York Times:

• Embrace change, even when the change slaps you in the face. ("Every change is good.")

• Eat two meals a day ("That's all you need.")

• Work as long as you can ("That money's going to come in handy.")

• Help others ("The more you do for others, the better shape you're in.")

Then there's the hardest part. It's a lesson Breuning said he learned from his grandfather: Accept death.

"We're going to die. Some people are scared of dying. Never be afraid to die. Because you're born to die," he said.

There are a few TGB readers I know of who are living in their ninth decade who might have some pithy advice about long life. But why not let everyone else take a whack at it today, too. To what do you attribute your long life – so far?

Me? I suspect the centenarians who answer this question find it kind of dumb but are too polite to say so and make up stuff. But if I take it seriously, I can't do any better than those fortune cookie sayings: I think how long we live is just the luck of the draw.

Even so, I like reading what others say.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Vicki E. Jones: Strider and the Baby Bunny Rabbits

NCOA Chronic Disease Workshop

category_bug_journal2.gif According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 80 percent of Americans 65 and older live with some form of chronic illness (pdf) – heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, arthritis, stroke, anxiety, osteoporosis and more.

These conditions can cause years of pain, disability, loss of function and independence – not to mention early death. So far, at age 70, I've been lucky to avoid these, but I know from email and comments over the years at this blog that many readers live with one and sometimes several of these conditions.

By 2030, the population of 65-plus elders will nearly double to 70 million which will put a lot of pressure on the health and medical establishment. That means we all need to educate ourselves to deal with as many health issues for ourselves as is reasonably possible. Physicians just won't have the time we would like to spend with us.

Now, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) has come to the rescue with Better Choices, Better Health – a free, online workshop to help people manage chronic conditions.

This is no checklist or brochure to read in a couple of minutes and toss in the round file. It is an online, six-week, comprehensive program developed and tested by the Stanford University Patient Education Center which has been used for some years in the U.S. and internationally with an excellent success rate.

The workshop is led by trained facilitators who, themselves, live with chronic conditions. It can be accessed from any computer – broadband is not necessary to fully participate. Here is a description from the NCOA of the six-week course:

“A pair of trained peer facilitators moderate each workshop. Each week, participants are asked to log on at least three times for a total of about two hours.

“Weekly activities include reading and interacting via the Learning Center, making and posting a weekly action plan, participating in problem solving and guided exercises on bulletin boards, and participating in any appropriate self-tests and activities.

“Participants are encouraged to post chronic disease-related problems on a bulletin board and help other group members with their problems.”

There is a book involved with the workshop, Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions, 3rd Edition, which is mailed free to each registrant.

Better Choices, Better Health is an extraordinary opportunity to learn the skills and techniques needed to manage condition(s), lead a more active life and make informed treatment decisions.

Here are the links you need:
• Learn More here and here [pdf]

NCOA Better Choices, Better Health Overview page

Registration page

There is, as we know, a lot of health and medical information on the web. But it is scattered, often dubious and you are not going to find anything as comprehensive and targeted as this NCOA workshop with experienced leaders and a chance to interact with others who share your concerns.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Terry Hamburg: What's in a Name

Unnecessary Personal Update

category_bug_journal2.gif While discussing home maintenance for elders last week, I mentioned that I was having my apartment painted and as many of you commented, just the idea of it – taking down everything from the walls, moving furniture, the hassle of hiring someone to paint, choosing colors – can seem too disruptive and exhausting to go through with it.

There is a lot to be said, however, for personal comfort and I never liked the previous owners' colors. Knowing when I moved here last year that I was going to paint, I had hung very little on the walls, so there wasn't much to do.

Well, there was more than I estimated, but nothing I couldn't finish in half a day.

The painter, Casey, was here for three days and he was meticulous. Without being asked, he pulled out the stove and the refrigerator to paint behind them. All the tiny spaces were done with no slopping onto baseboards or door frames. And not a drop of paint on the ceiling, floors or carpets.

For 20 years until 1996, I had a cat named Beau Bennett, an Abyssinian who loved every human he met (including, apparently, a couple of burglars over the years). He particularly liked workmen, so much that I thought he might have been a handyman in a previous life.

He always had his nose in the worker's toolbox, watched carefully as the man (or woman, sometimes) pounded nails or sanded or fixed an electric outlet or painted. Sometimes I wondered if I should get him his own little tool belt.

Ollie Bennett, however, is afraid of people. Whenever there is a knock at the door, he runs for the bedroom and does not venture out until the visitors have left.

Until Casey.

Certainly Ollie is not as fearless as Beau, but he spent all three days in his normal activities while Casey worked – snoozing in his favorite chair, poking around in his toy box – and checking out the paint paraphernalia. He's never before been so curious about a stranger.

Do you think there is something about cats and home repair we don't know about? Anyway...

Because I'm having another brain freeze day, here are the before and after photos.

Living Room Before:

Living Room Before

Living Room After:

Living Room After

This living room photo is the most true to the actual color – a light gray green. By the way, I haven't yet killed that orchid plant I got for my birthday. That's amazing.

Hallway Before:

Hallway Before

Hallway After:

Hallway After

Here's the Dining Room Before:

Dining Room Before

And the Dining Room After:

Dining Room After

The color on this one is way off and I don't know how to fix it. The chairs are a darker gray-green as you can see the before photo.

Office Before:

Office Before

Office After:

Office After

Side-by-side with the old, the new color look kind of boring. But I like it, it is relaxing, suits my furniture and rugs better and the old colors were poorly chosen - late in the day and at night, they turned muddy looking. It will be less monochrome when I finally get all my pictures hung.

Now I have to save my pennies for a couple of months to pay for the bookshelves so I can finally unpack those 30 boxes.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Steve Kemp: On Going For It

Home Safety for Elders: Preventing Falls

category_bug_journal2.gif Last Friday, we discussed home maintenance for elders. It was about general upkeep and decorating so I think it is important to talk about safety issues too.

Twelve or 14 years ago, I ran the website of the Professional Team Physicians, mostly orthopedists who treat the injuries of pro sports players – famous and not.

The site was aimed at accomplished amateurs who were equally prone to ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), meniscus and other joint traumas that often require surgery and sometimes lengthy at-home recovery.

One of the most popular stories we ran was about how to prepare a home for a safe recovery when the patient is likely to be on crutches, hobbling about with a cane or moving around tentatively until fully healed.

What's good for a young athlete applies equally to an elder's well being because among people 65 and older, falls are the leading cause of injury deaths and serious injuries, and about half of all falls happen at home. So that's what we'll concentrate on today.

Number one: throw rugs: Get rid of them. Failing that, use heavy-duty, double-sided tape to attach them to the floor and replace the tape regularly for optimum stickiness.

Put away toys. That's what we told young parents and it could apply to grandparents who keep playthings around for when the kiddies visit.

Even without grandchildren, there are all sorts of things to remove from walking areas: piles of newspapers, magazines and books; clothing; shoes; golf bags leaning against the wall; musical instruments.

Years ago, I damaged a boyfriend's guitar when I tripped on it, but in old age it might have been me too. Whatever you accumulate, place it where no one can bump into it.

Particularly, keep anything at all off stairs, and it should go without saying that all stairs should have strong handrails.

Cables, cords and wires. Make sure none of these cross traffic areas. If a cord must run along a wall to reach an electrical outlet, tape it to the wall or use staples that are made for that purpose available at all hardware stores.

Remember, too, that electrical cables should never be placed under rugs, mats and carpeting. That is a fire hazard.

Grab bars. In the shower, tub and next to the toilet – at least one and preferably two in each place.

Non-skid mats in the tub and on the bathroom floor. Soap residue is extremely slippery.

Arrange your kitchen with most frequently used items on lower shelves so you don't need a step stool to reach them. When you must use one, be sure it has rubber-grip feet and is stable.

Because our eyesight fades with age, lighting is important. Brighter lights may be necessary. Stairwells should be well lit with switches at both the top and bottom of the stairs. It is good to add lighting to dark corners and nightlights are useful to guide us to the bathroom in the dark.

Recently, I discovered a new falling hazard the hard way: a too-long bedskirt that I tripped on while making the bed. So check your home for anything in which you might get your foot tangled.

(By the way, if anyone knows where to buy bedskirts with a 12-inch drop, do let me know. There seem to be none any shorter than 14 to 18 inches. Who sleeps in beds that high off the floor anyway? And wouldn't that be another fall hazard?)

In future posts, I'll talk about other kinds of home safety measures for elders, but if I've missed anything about falls today or you have other suggestions, please leave them below in the comments.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lois Cochran: A Wet Monday

ELDER MUSIC: Chamber Music

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.

Chamber Music or Room Music, if you prefer, is music that's played in a room. Who'd a thought that?

Of course, most classical music is played in a room of some kind, but I'm talking of a specific type of music. This is music played by few people.

The string quartet is the best known, but the number of players can be anywhere from three to eight or so. More than that and we're starting to become an orchestra of some kind, fewer and we'd have to call it a sonata.

Because of its intimate nature, chamber music has been described as "the music of friends." A lot of chamber music is still played by amateurs and even professional players often like to get together informally to play this type of music.

We'll start with the main man, the inventor of chamber music and in particular, the string quartet, JOSEPH HAYDN.

Joseph Haydn

Papa Jo wrote a bunch of string quartets, 78 according to Hoboken's catalogue, although five or six of those are considered spurious. Well, spuriously attributed to Haydn that is. Anyway, I had no intention of going with one of those.

Very early in his career, Jo was often invited to Baron von Fürnberg's castle. There, he'd get into an impromptu jam session with the Baron's steward, a priest and a local cellist. The Baron asked for some new music for them to play and the string quartet was born.

We'll go right back to the beginning if opus numbers are any indication. This is opus 0. It seems that this quartet was included in early editions of opus 1, however, it was lost for a long time until its manuscript was discovered in the 1930s and they decided to make it opus 0.

I don't know what would happen if they found any even earlier one. Opus minus 1 perhaps? This is the fourth movement of the String Quartet in E flat major, Op 0.

♫ Haydn - String Quartet Op 0 (4)

GEORG PHILIPP TELEMANN wrote a lot of chamber music of all kinds.

Philipp Telemann

The one I'm interested in today is one of the "Paris" quartets. Georg visited Paris because of copyright violations; there were unauthorised collections of his quartets doing the rounds. He soon put a stop to that and issued them under his own name.

However, his quartets were already so popular in the city that he hung around for months enjoying the acclaim and patronage of the musical public.

These quartets are an interesting mix of instruments – violin, harpsichord, viola da gamba and flute. This is the first movement from the "Paris" Quartet No 4 in B minor.

♫ Telemann - Quartet No 4 (1)

MOZART wrote quite a number of string quartets that somewhat resemble those of Haydn. Indeed, he wrote several now called the Haydn Quartets in honor of his friend. These were some of his best.

However, we're going for variety so I'll ignore those and instead feature his Clarinet Quintet. This is actually a string quartet with a clarinet thrown in for good measure. This was originally written for the basset clarinet. That's a clarinet played by a rather lugubrious looking dog. These days the regular clarinet is used and there's not usually a dog in sight.

This is the only piece of his of this type that still exists; there is a fragment from the score of another but unfortunately, it's lost to us. At least we have this one, the first movement from the Clarinet Quintet in A, K. 581.


♫ Mozart - Clarinet Quintet In A, K. 581 (1)

I saved the string quintet category for LUIGI BOCCHERINI.

Luigi Boccherini

The one I selected is his most famous and the movement I've chosen is so popular it's often played as a stand-alone piece. That's what I'm doing today.

This one is sometimes called a cello quintet as it's a regular string quartet with an extra cello. I imagine he did that because Luigi himself was a cellist of note in his day and wrote many pieces featuring the instrument.

This is the third movement, a minuet, from his String Quintet Op 13, No 5 in E major.

♫ Boccherini - String Quintet Op 13, No 5 (3)

FELIX MENDELSSOHN started composing at a very young age. Indeed, some of his greatest works he wrote before he was eighteen.

Felix Mendelssohn

Like everyone in today's post, Felix wrote string quartets. It seems to be de rigueur. He also wrote many chamber works that involve the piano. Some say these are Schumannesque in style. I say phooey to that, they are much better than Schumann's.

Here is a sextet for piano, violin, two violas, cello and double bass. An interesting combination. It is the fourth movement from the Piano Sextet, Op 110.

♫ Mendelssohn - Piano Sextet, Op 110 (4)

BEETHOVEN wrote string quartets that rival those of Haydn and Mozart. Some say surpass those but I wouldn't go that far.


Again, I'm not going with the string quartet. In this piece, Ludwig went for a single clarinet, bassoon and horn rather than doubling up on these instruments. This was the first time anyone had done such a thing.

He also made the clarinet as important as the violin. There were mutterings in the dress circle about that sort of thing.

Anyway, here is the fourth movement from the Septet in E flat major, Op 20 for clarinet, bassoon, horn, violin, viola, cello and double bass.

♫ Beethoven - Septet Op 20 (4)

The Trout Quintet is the popular name for the Piano Quintet in A major by FRANZ SCHUBERT. He wrote it when he was 22 years old, however, it wasn't published until a year after he died.

Franz Schubert

This isn't the standard piano quintet - i.e. a string quartet with a piano thrust in the middle. This is scored for piano, violin, viola, cello and double bass. The reason for this is that some musicians were to play one of Hummel's works with that arrangement and Franz thought that was a good idea.

Its name comes about because he grabbed one of his own melodies for the fourth movement. The tune is from one of his songs, Die Forelle which I'm led to believe means The Trout. Here is that movement.

♫ Schubert - Piano Quintet D 667 ('Trout') (4)

I started this column at the birth of the string quartet and I'll end with another string quartet by a composer who is still with us, PHILIP GLASS.

Philip Glass

Philip's early musical education came from the unsold records his father brought home from the record store he owned. These were mostly modern classical works by such as Bartók, Schoenberg and Hindemith.

Philip's music is often described as minimalist, that it’s trite and repetitive, but that doesn't do it justice. I hear the influence of Bach in his music, perhaps Schubert as well. Philip is on record as saying that if you don’t like my music don’t listen to it. An admirable sentiment. I’m a liker and a listener.

This is the fourth movement of his String Quartet No 5.

♫ Philip Glass - String Quartet No 5 (4)


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.

Both personally and professionally, I miss Saul Friedman every day and I know many other TGB readers do so too.

Saul Friedman

The spring edition of the quarterly newsletter, Age in Action from the Virginia Center on Aging and the Virginia Department for the Aging has republished one of Saul's 2010 columns that is most pertinent now during the continuing budget wrangles in Congress.

Titled “The Consequences of Unequal Wealth Distribution,” you can read it here [pdf]. It's a pdf, so scroll down to page 13.

Last Sunday, 60 Minutes broadcast a rare visit inside the Vatican Library where documents, books and images up to 2,000 years old are stored – and they are not all related to Catholicism.

You and I can't use this library; only scholars are allowed in so this is a very special video.

You can watch it on a larger screen here and explore more related videos here.

When I mentioned last week that I'm feeding a cute little stray cat that comes around every day, some asked for a photo. It's not very good, but I finally got one. Isn't she beautiful.

Stray Kitty

She is still too shy to let me touch her, but I'm getting closer little by little when she stops by.

It is safe to assume that most people who blog or read blogs care a lot about words. In fact, earlier this week Lyn Burnstine published a story at The Elder Storytelling Place titled Words.

The words we choose can make an enormous difference as shown by this little video Darlene Costner sent around. You will be charmed.

I try to keep Time Goes By a Palin-free zone, but this is too much fun to pass up. If you're a political conservative, you won't think this image taken from a Fox News broadcast is funny. If you lean more left, maybe you'll laugh as hard as I did.

And no, it was not Photoshopped – it really happened while someone in the Fox control room wasn't paying attention.

Sarah Palin Fox News

Darlene Costner has a knack for finding amazing, interesting, beautiful and odd things around the web. Take a look at this human Statue of Liberty done in 1918. (Click here for larger image and use your browser zoom function if necessary to see more detail.)

Human statue of liberty 1918

Some facts about it:
• Right Arm: 340 feet
• Right thumb: 35 feet
• Nose: 21 feet
• Number of men in flame of torch: 12,000
• Number of men in torch: 2,800
• Number of men in right arm: 1,200
• TOTAL MEN: 18,000

You can read more statistics here along with more information about how it was done.

Darlene Costner came up with a lot of winners this week. This video of Maria the Goose will leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy.

Home Maintenance in Old Age

[EDITORIAL NOTE: I enjoyed my conversation yesterday with reporter Patty Henetz of The Salt Lake Tribune. We talked about elders in relation to Representative Paul Ryan's budget proposal and President Obama's Wednesday budget speech. She was kind enough to quote me. You can read Patty's story here.]

On yesterday's post Mage Bailey, who blogs at Postcards, left this comment about the painting I'm having done in my home this week:

”Don't laugh if I suggest that a post or two on elder home upkeep/redecorating might be appropriate. I've been to too many estate sales where the home's walls are stained, the upkeep not kept up and life in that house frozen in the 1960's. That too is an important part of aging.”

So while the painter is here today, I'll take a first stab at it.

There is no telling how many apartments I've painted in my life. Years ago, it didn't seem to take much effort. I got up and down the ladder with ease, shoved furniture out of the way, wielding the brush and roller with enthusiasm.

I rather enjoyed it and at most, I strained an arm muscle or two reaching for out-of-the-way corners. Nothing serious and I had the energy to paint on whim, just because I wanted a new color.

No more. At 70, I'm aware that a fall could break a bone and I'm not willing to chance that. Plus, painting no longer strikes me as fun as it once did. The last time I did it myself, about ten years ago, parts of my body I hadn't known I had ached for several days after I finished.

Today, while I write this and get some other chores done, it's a different kind of fun watching the transformation as the painter makes his way around the walls.

This time I am painting because I don't like the color choices of the previous owners. But the time will come when it will need refreshing. It's hard to know when that will be. In New York City, the regulation for renters is that the landlord must paint every three years and that has been the standard interval for owners too.

I will have to wait to see how long this paint job holds up. At least elders don't have kids marking up walls with crayons. But I wonder if elders let their home go, as Mage mentions, because our eyesight fades with the years and perhaps some don't see the stains and dirt that accumulate?

Or that it seems to be more work – even to take down pictures and pull nails, etc. - than they have the energy for? Or, too, there might not be enough money for a painter. Or maybe an elder can no longer get around easily enough to go to the store to select colors?

I don't have any, but I would think adult children and grandchildren would help aged parents with minor repairs and painting when needed. Given my childless circumstance, I don't know if that is common or not.

Mage didn't explain enough for me to be sure, but we may part company about redecorating. For example, I've had my sofa – which needs recovering – for about 25 years and it was nearly an antique when I bought it. Although it needs some other work, which I'll get around to in time, I'm quite attached to it now and it's not going anywhere before I die.

My ancient, round, oak dining table will stay too. I bought a new set of chairs for it about five years ago which should last for whatever the definition of indefinitely is to a 70-year-old – probably death in my case. My large, wide desk falls into that category too; I see no reason to replace these pieces of furniture with anything new.

Maybe I just don't “get” redecorating - I like the main pieces I have and work with them whenever I need anything new – lamps that are broken, a worn-out chair or replacing something I bought on the cheap because I couldn't afford better at the time.

My home has no identifiable style. I guess I go for comfort and I wonder if those homes Mage has seen that are “frozen in the 1960s” are not still comfortable to their owners or if they cannot afford to redecorate. Of course, that's an entirely different issue from repairs and paint.

I agree with Mage that upkeep of elders' homes is important for well-being and self-respect. But I can understand that, depending on age and diminishing capabilities, needed maintenance can get away from someone who can otherwise generally care for themselves.

What's the solution in that case?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Unbelievable, But True

Elders and Obama's Speech

category_bug_politics.gif Did you watch President Obama's speech yesterday afternoon? Whew! It was better than I feared it would be. Kinda busy today (Wednesday) so mostly I'll stick to the major points affecting elders.

If you will recall, Paul Ryan's deficit reduction plan, widely praised by Republicans, would turn Medicare into a voucher program which, as the president said, “would end Medicare as we know it.”

“It says that ten years from now, if you’re a 65 year old who’s eligible for Medicare, you should have to pay nearly $6,400 more than you would today,” said Obama. “It says instead of guaranteed health care, you will get a voucher. And if that voucher isn’t worth enough to buy insurance, tough luck – you’re on your own...”

“They want to give people like me a two hundred thousand dollar tax cut that’s paid for by asking thirty three seniors to each pay six thousand dollars more in health costs? That’s not right, and it’s not going to happen as long as I’m President.” [emphasis is mine]

Write that down, everyone. Paste it on your desk and as the debate on the budget continues in Washington, let's not let him back down.

One of the biggest budget busters in Medicare is the prescription drug plan. Rammed through Congress during the Bush II administration by a Louisiana legislator, Billy Tauzin, who almost immediately left Congress for a $2 million per year job as head of the pharmaceutical industry lobby, the bill specifically denies Medicare the right to negotiate drug prices as the Veterans Administration does.

Yesterday, Obama sounded like he wants to rescind this horrendously expensive giveaway to big pharma:

“We will cut spending on prescription drugs by using Medicare’s purchasing power to drive greater efficiency and speed generic brands of medicine onto the market.”

Medicare is the largest purchaser of prescription drugs in the country and allowing negotiation would go a long way toward reducing Medicare costs. I'm pretty sure the board rooms of drug companies are going ballistic this morning while planning their assault on Congress members to reject this idea.

Referring to Medicare and Medicaid, Obama said he would reform these programs, “but we will not abandon the fundamental commitment this country has kept for generations.”

”That includes, by the way, our commitment to Social Security,” he continued. “While Social Security is not the cause of our deficit, it faces real long-term challenges in a country that is growing older...

“[B]oth parties should work together now to strengthen Social Security for future generations. But we must do it without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market.”

Okay, he rejected privatization of Social Security. That's good. He wants to protect current beneficiaries and not “slash” benefits for future retirees. That's sort of good. Unfortunately, he left the door wide open for some kind of cuts for people younger than 55, for smaller cost-of-living adjustments and made no reference to maintaining the current retirement age.

And there was no mention, either, of raising the salary cap which, if it were to be eliminated, would fix almost all the Social Security shortfall for the next 75 years. So, there are still some red flags to Obama's commitment that we need to keep our eyes on.

Those are the big points relating to elders. I like it when Obama gets all warm and gooey about what America is (or should be), as in this passage of his speech:

”The America I know is generous and compassionate; a land of opportunity and optimism. We take responsibility for ourselves and each other; for the country we want and the future we share.

“We are the nation that built a railroad across a continent and brought light to communities shrouded in darkness. We sent a generation to college on the GI bill and saved millions of seniors from poverty with Social Security and Medicare.

“We have led the world in scientific research and technological breakthroughs that have transformed millions of lives.

“This is who we are. This is the America I know. We don’t have to choose between a future of spiraling debt and one where we forfeit investments in our people and our country. To meet our fiscal challenge, we will need to make reforms.

“We will all need to make sacrifices. But we do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in. And as long as I’m President, we won’t.”

Nevertheless, I was struck by the president's offhand acknowledgment of a sad truth about you and me and everyone who is not rich. While enumerating the many things wrong with the Ryan budget proposal, Obama said,

“There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. There’s nothing courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill. [emphasis is mine]

That's the president saying out loud that if you're not rich, you don't have a say in government which implies that any benefits for the middle class and poor are left to the largesse of the corporate controlled government. Oy vey. What an admission.

If you missed the speech, the full text is here.

Okay, that's the best I can do right now. Beginning today, my entire home is being painted and yesterday (while writing this too), I needed to prep for it by removing everything from the walls and moving stuff around to make space for the painter to work.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Madonna Dries Christensen: Touching Norma

Elder Brains and Multi-tasking

category_bug_journal2.gif If the number of emails from readers yesterday regarding the announcement of a new study about elder brains' “failure” at multitasking is an indicator, there is broad interest in it.

The result of the research is not that elders are more likely than young people to forget the original task when interrupted, but that they have more difficulty letting go of the distraction and are slower to regain focus on the first task.

This is not new information. Previous studies show similar results but this one, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (abstract only available without a fee), helps researchers understand better what happens neurologically during interruptions.

The report was widely covered in the press yesterday. The Los Angeles Times, based in that bastion of Botox and cosmetic surgery, gave it a more negative spin than others:

“Put simply, the ability to switch easily tasks (sic) fades with age...

“For now, getting older means losing functions like multi-tasking and processing speed, said [neuroscientist and co-author Adam] Gazzaley.

“'But your vocabulary stays constant, and wisdom improves. It's not entirely a gloomy picture,' Gazzaley said.”

In reality, it's not all that gloomy and other publications were more neutral. The study was conducted with about 40 participants half of whom were young (mean age 24.5) and the other half old (mean age 69.1).

I have no education in statistics, but I was flabbergasted, given the headlines and discussion that elders fail at multitasking (The New York Times characterized it as “significant”), how small the difference was between young and old. From U.S. News:

”At the end of the exercise, which was repeated several times, the subjects were instructed to try to match the image that had been shown first.

“Older adults were able to successfully refocus and get the right answer 96 percent of the time with no interruption and 88 percent of the time when they had to think about the second image...

“In younger adults, that ability to refocus ranged from 94 percent to 90 percent.”

So apparently the numbers show that elders are two percent better than young people at getting the correct answer without distraction and only two percent worse with distraction.

Am I nuts to think that two percent is a statistical wash? Well, as I said, I have no knowledge of statistics.

However, although I know that all my life I have sometimes found myself standing in the bedroom, for example, wondering why I went there, my sense is that it happens more frequently in my old age. And often enough to be frustrating, when I've gone to the grocery with only three things on my mental list, I return home with just two of them and no memory of the third until I need it later.

So I was interested in Gazzaley's unanswered question about how cultural differences between generations may affect multitasking failure (I'm not convinced that the old participants failed this test): what affect is there from the fact that elders' brains were shaped in an era with many fewer distractions than young people have today.

Many studies convincingly show that trying to do too many things at once results in a poor outcome of all the tasks. And no wonder. You don't need to be a scientist to understand the negative effect of constant interruptions we are subject to from multiple sources:

  • Reading online has become a horror with pages moving up and down, ads walking across the words, requests to take surveys, sudden music or commercial pitches from moving ads in the sidebars
  • Radio and TV commercials constantly interrupt any potential thought about the news story just reported or the plot of the movie
  • Monday, Amazon announced the coming of a cheaper Kindle with ads, so in the middle of Moby Dick, I presume, readers will suddenly be pulled out of the story with an advertisement for deoderant or Pringles
  • Some weeks ago at the drug store, while I was trying to sort out which of 200 shampoos to buy, someone started talking to me: “Hey there,” a woman's voice called. It was a small video screen with a TV-style commercial about some other product. These are motion activated and so common now, I can't walk down a store aisle without a barrage of screeching pitch men and women

That last item surely helps explain why I can't get home with everything on my list.

Undoubtedly, elder brains slow down, just as our bodies do, but I don't believe, particularly given only a two-point spread between elders and youth, that this study should be given as much attention as it is getting.

While writing this post, the phone rang. When the call was finished and I returned to the computer, it took a couple of minutes to regain my train of thought. This is not a surprise at any age and I'm not concerned about it.

What I am waiting for are some respectable studies about what all the distraction is doing to our – young and old – ability to concentrate. I don't believe it is benign.

It is a form of noise pollution run amok and it cannot possibly be good for us – nor for a culture. How can we solve today's complex social and political problems if no one can concentrate for more than five minutes at a time?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today: William Weatherstone: Canada Invades the U.S.A. - 1952

The Fight of Our Lifetimes

category_bug_politics.gif After last week's budget battle, the lines are drawn. Two factions are in control of the debate for the future of the United States:

  • The religious zealots who intend to make their ignorance the law of the land
  • The corporatocracy who intend to bleed every last dollar from the rest of us for their personal use

Aside from a small number of sane pundits dismissed by the other two groups as leftwing or socialists (horrors!) and a few Congress members (of whom only Bernie Sanders and Harry Reid regularly speak up) hardly anyone, including President Obama, speaks for the people.

The budget debate last week, devolving into an abortion argument over funding of Planned Parenthood, got so stupid I wanted to fire everyone. Crazy, ignorant legislators in Congress apparently never heard of the Hyde Amendment which has banned federal funding of abortions since 1976.

Having defeated the president (who weirdly claimed a win), the zealots were all over the media telling us what we are in store for. Following on Senator Paul Ryan's draconian and fraudulent deficit reduction plan, they made no secret of what's next.

Here is House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va) talking on Fox News Sunday about a proposed $750 billion in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid (transcript via ThinkProgress – my emphasis):

CANTOR: We are in a situation where we have a safety net in place in this country for people who frankly don’t need one. We have to focus on making sure we have a safety net for those who need it.

WALLACE: The Medicaid people — you’re going to cut that by $750 billion.

CANTOR: The Medicaid reductions are off the baseline. So what we’re saying is allow states to have the flexibility to deal with their populations, their indigent populations and the healthcare needs the way they know how to deal with them. Not to impose some mandate from a bureaucrat in Washington.

WALLACE: But you are giving them less money to do it.

CANTOR: In terms of the baseline, that is correct…What we’re saying is there is so much imposition of a mandate that doesn’t relate to the actual quality of care. We believe if you put in place the mechanism that allow for personal choice as far as Medicare is concerned, as well as the programs in Medicaid, that we can actually get to a better resolve and do what most Americans are learning how to do, which is to do more with less.

”Most Americans.” Except for rich people, of course. And don't forget that Social Security is in their sights too. Eric Cantor, again, in March:

“If we want America to be what WE want America to be”?

Which “we” would that be? I sure don't want the America he describes.

It's not just Republicans who are pushing for an increased transfer of wealth from the poor and middle class.

David Plouffe, a White House senior adviser, also made the chat show rounds (emphasis mine):

"'We can't take a machete,' Plouffe said on ABC's This Week. 'We have to take a scalpel, and we're going to have to cut, we're going to have to look carefully.'”

[According to AP, Plouffe also] “said Obama was committed to finding ways for the nation to spend within its means, including reducing Medicare and Medicaid, the government's chief health care programs for seniors and the poor.”

Why in the world are the Democrats – the White House in particular – selling out elders to the zealots and corporations? Perhaps they are counting on support in the 2012 election from the growing number of old Americans who increasingly vote against their own and their offsprings' interest.

Here is another possible reason: The current New York magazine has a graphic showing the previous employment of 14 high-ranking White House advisers. Seven of them, half, are former executives of Goldman Sachs. The rest were hired from Lehman, Citi, UBS, Hartford Financial and JPMorganChase.

These are the people who already stole an estimated $2 trillion in life savings from the people of the United States, an additional $3 trillion in home values through fraudulent mortgage practices, have sent millions of jobs overseas and who pay lower tax rates than you and I.

Now that corporations can contribute unlimited, unreported money to candidates, do you really expect them NOT to do everything else in their vast power to grab all the money that now goes to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security?

With a list like these 14 talking to the President Obama every day, do you really expect him NOT to bow to their demands?

Tomorrow, he will deliver that speech about deficit reduction. I am frightened for us and for all future elders. Obama's past record is not good. He has capitulated to the zealots and corporatocracy at every opportunity and although I hope David Plouffe will be proved wrong, I am not expecting that to be so.

It looks like we are in for the fight of our lifetimes. I don't know if we can win, but there is no choice except to try.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: Words

A Week's Worth of One Elder's Trivia

category_bug_journal2.gif Monday posts are becoming problematic. I always write a day ahead and lately, my brain seems to take a holiday on Sundays leaving me both slothful and mute. I putter around, read a bit, take a walk, maybe watch a movie, listen to the radio (more about that below) and then I discover the day is gone.

Last Monday, I skipped writing altogether. This week, I am filling in with a few photos of recent events of interest to me, but I doubt for you. If Sundays continue to be flat, I hope I can figure out something better for Monday over time.

It's been raining or overcast here for many weeks. Someone told me it has been 58 days in a row. Last Wednesday, however, there was an astonishing interruption – a gigantic hail storm.

It started with no warning - nickel-sized hailstones rattled down for about 20 minutes – rat-a-tat-tat-tat-tat – pounding on the sidewalks and bouncing off the windows. It was amazing to watch.

Here's what the front of my apartment looked like right after it stopped and the sun came out for about 10 minutes.


Thirty minutes later, it had all melted. If you'd been napping, you'd never have known it happened.

Certainly I must have spent tens of thousands of dollars over my working life having things done to my hair. I swore, when I stopped working, I would never enter a hair salon again. For six or seven years, it grew and grew until, recently, it became more effort to care for than I want.

So on my birthday I got it whacked off – in a salon. Here are the before-and-afters.

Old and New Hair

Not much different, but it's sure easier to take care of now.

Speaking of my birthday, I celebrated that evening with my brother and his wife at home here for dinner. They brought this beautiful orchid plant which I hope not to kill.


And this birthday cake – black forest with cherries hidden in it – with seven candles (instead of 70).


Back when most of us here were kids, there was no television yet and I've been a radio listener since childhood. But internet radio is difficult or, anyway, has been for me. Some stations stream their live programming, some don't and the stations frequently cut out suddenly for no reason I can figure.

It is harder than you would think these days to buy a radio that doesn't cost hundreds of dollars. I've been bitching about my lack of a good radio for a long time and I guess my brother and sister-in-law heard me because they also brought this internet radio.


I am thrilled. First, it is simply and gorgeously designed – elegant enough, I think, for the Museum of Modern Art design collection. It connects through my Wi-Fi to thousands of worldwide stations and, if I want, to Pandora.

Although I received the radio on Thursday, I didn't get around to setting it up until Saturday evening - which goes a long way to explaining how Sunday got away from me, having a new toy.

Before now, the only radio I had was in the car. You have no idea how much time I spent there after returning home to finish listening to a piece of music or a news broadcast. This solid, sturdy new radio with an excellent speaker will now change my life.

Here's an older photo of Ollie the cat who has not wanted to cooperate recently when I've had the camera in hand.

Ollie on the Bed

But that's just a lead-in to tell you about the possibility that there may be a new addition soon to our little family. I've been feeding two stray cats who come by the apartment. One, a big black-and-white, has no interest in me beyond cadging a meal.

However, the other is a brown, stained glass cat, not much more than a kitten, who is almost Ollie's twin even down a necklace. She is cute and very shy but little by little, over the past weeks, she has been allowing me to get closer to her although not to touch her yet and I haven't dared to try a photo.

When I go in the house, I fancy that she seems to look longingly through the door.

Time will tell. Why do I think, if she decides to live here, that Ollie will be a pain in the butt about it?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, June Calendar: Intruder