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March 2012

Crabby Old Lady on Awareness Junk

You could say that Crabby Old Lady is on a tear this week, what might be called a bitch roll. First Komen, then White House communication and today, awareness junk – the ribbons, car magnets, wristbands and other trinkets that trivialize cultural, political, medical and personal issues that deserve better.

Crabby got herself wound up in this topic coming off the Komen/Planned Parenthood brouhaha. She was interested to learn, from the trailer for the new Canadian documentary, Pink Ribbons, Inc., the origin of the pink breast cancer ribbon; it was the idea of Charlotte Haley, then appropriated by corporate America.

(The full Pink Ribbons, Inc. trailer is here.)

Crabby will get back to ribbons in a moment but long before there were awareness ribbons, there were bracelets. Crabby's first – um, awareness of them was in 1970, when people began wearing copper and nickel bracelets engraved with the names of American servicemen captured or missing in the Vietnam War.

A lot of effort went into finding names and dates for these bracelets. Here are two of three that are on display at the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution.

POW Bracelets

Today, bracelets are usually made of stretchy silicon and are only slightly less ubiquitous than ribbons used, in addition to disease awareness, as giveaways at birthday parties, weddings and as corporate swag. Crabby has seen people whose wrists are covered in half a dozen or more rubbery bracelets, each in a different color.

Find a Cure Crabby assumes the this pink silicon bracelet has escaped a lawsuit by Susan B. Komen For the Cure because the wording - Find a Cure instead of For the Cure - does not match the Komen trademark.

Red_ribbonThe first symbolic ribbons in the signature foldover shape that Crabby recalls seeing were red ones in early 1991 for AIDS/HIV awareness. Where she lived then, in Greenwich Village, they were suddenly on everyone's lapel and for a good portion of that 90s decade, the red ribbon was a fashion accessory without which no actor dared show up at the Academy Awards ceremony.

Diamond ruby aids pinWhen Crabby began writing this post, she had a vague recollection of having been disgusted back then at seeing some well-known person wearing a bejeweled red ribbon. A quick check around the web shows that her memory is probably intact on that subject. This diamond and ruby red ribbon sold at Christie's in 2000 for $21,837.

Goldred926Or, if that's too rich for your pocketbook, how about this ruby and 14K gold red ribbon to hang on your charm bracelet. It's a bargain, just $926.10 marked down from $1029 at

PinkjeweledbellybuttonringamazonThe pink ribbon is trademarked in Canada by the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation so there are probably not as many variations of it there as in the U.S. Crabby's current favorite piece of cash-in-on-cancer junk is for sale from BodySparkle at Amazon, a pink “jeweled breast cancer awareness ring” for your belly button at $16.99.

There is no mention on any of these websites that the disease organizations get a dime of the price - expensive or cheap.

It is no longer just pink and red ribbons. There are dozens of colors for every conceivable disease and condition. When they ran out of colors, they started combining them into stripes and checks and other designs. Here is a tiny representation of ribbon types a screen grab of part of a long page at Google. There are thousands more.

Many Ribbons

While multitudes of colors have confused awareness of everything, ribbons are further debased by no longer representing one disease or condition, but many including, now, political issues.

100px-Green_ribbonGreen is for aging research awareness (did you know that? Crabby didn't), cerebral palsy, kidney cancer, Lyme disease among seven others.

100px-Orange_ribbonOrange is for ADHD, animal cruelty, leukemia, multiple sclerosis, malnutrition and – wait for it, self-injury.

100px-Blue_ribbonBlue now represents at least 15 problems, among them addiction, chronic fatigue syndrome, colon cancer, the Electronic Freedom Foundation for online free speech, von Hippel-Lindau and sex slavery.

Red_ribbonEven red stands for more than AIDS/HIV. It represents heart and stroke, substance abuse (not to be confused, Crabby is guessing, with addiction which is blue's responsibility) and vasculitis.

Gray-ribbonGray is for asthma, brain cancer, diabetes and – get this! - zombie awareness. That must be a joke, right?

But how could it be and still take real disease seriously. And that is, of course, part of what is wrong with all this. It's time to put away all ribbons and bracelets. They have become meaningless.

Now you might think all this puts Crabby in a really bad mood but you would be wrong. It is possible to be angry and not unhappy plus, all this talk of awareness ribbons has reminded Crabby of one of the best practical jokes she ever heard of.

100px-Yellow_ribbonIt happened some years ago when Crabby Old Lady's friend, Neil Thompson, noticed at a mall two identical SVUs SUVs parked next to one another. In every way but the license plates, they were indistinguishable except for the big, yellow, magnetic ribbon on the back of one.

If you knew Neil as well Crabby Old Lady does, you would easily understand that this was an irresistible opportunity for him. He checked to be sure no one was watching and as he strolled toward the store, casually plucked the ribbon from its mooring, plunked it in a similar position on the second car and continued on his way.

Crabby Old Lady thinks everyone should continue on their way without the awareness junk. It has long outlived its usefulness.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: A Lifetime of Speeding Tickets

Youth, Day, Old Age and Night

Lately, I've been reading some poems about old age. A large number are painful, angry or sad. And then there is this one:

Youth, large, lusty, loving - youth full of grace, force, fascination,
Do you know that Old Age may come after you with equal grace,
force, fascination?

Day full-blown and splendid - day of the immense sun, action,
ambition, laughter,
The Night follows close with millions of suns, and sleep and
restoring darkness

- Walt Whitman 1819-1892


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Stroppy: Losing Things

Crabby Old Lady and the White House

Here we go again.

Remember when Crabby Old Lady told you about a letter emailed from her house to the White House? And then, a few days later, the pro forma reply that bore not a single reference to the subject of Crabby missive?

Last Friday, Crabby received a second email from the White House (full message is below) - this time addressing elder issues in general but again, making no meaningful reference to the topic of her letter.

Crabby had written to President Barack Obama about Social Security but more than half the latest response is about how wonderful the Affordable Care Act is for Medicare recipients. (It is, if not wonderful, a welcome improvement in some areas.)

Only three sentences of the five-paragraph, boilerplate letter address Social Security. One is simply PR, another is a pitch for the president's request that Congress authorize another one-time, $300 payment to Social Security beneficiaries as was distributed when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (i.e., the “stimulus bill”) was passed by Congress in 2009. (Don't hold your breath.) A third says this:

“By protecting Social Security from risky privatization plans, we are preserving its solvency and maintaining it as a reliable income source for seniors.”

It's not at all clear that is what the Obama administration is doing but more importantly, it makes no mention of Crabby's point that by giving workers a two percent break on the payroll tax and replacing that money in the Social Security trust fund from general revenue, the seal on the trust fund door as been seriously breached.

Because it holds the budget purse strings, Congress can, if it chooses, refuse repayment thereby NOT “maintaining [Social Security] as a reliable income source for seniors.” Who needs protection from privatization when the trust fund door is left wide open?

Plus, there is no mention of the possibility, put forth by some in Congress during the last session, to change the method of computation of the cost-of-living adjustment that would drastically reduce those adjustments from what they are now.

The letter finishes with a bunch of links to government web pages for elders that, like the letter, do not address the reason Crabby wrote her letter in the first place.

If Crabby Old Lady were running the White House office to answer citizen mail, she wouldn't allow such claptrap out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. First, she would commission software to flag email with too many expletives. Just save them in the F*** File.

Crabby's software would also sort for keywords related to current and ongoing issues: Social Security, Medicare, Afghanistan, taxes, ACA, housing, unemployment, Wall Street, Occupy, banking, Wall Street, Syria, Israel, abortion, immigration, unions, budget, etc. etc. which would, obviously, be updated as needed.

Snailmail would be sorted by hand but could be easily scanned into the electronic file folders.

The White House communications office would supply Crabby's mail-answering crew with briefing books by topic so that responses would conform to fact. All the crew would be supplied with email addresses and phone numbers of designated federal experts on each topic or subtopic for fact checking.

Of course, there would also be parameters past which the workers are not authorized to speak/write.

Workers then could respond with answers that make sense. The letters would not need to be long or elaborate. But they could address the writer by name (the computer could do this part too) and speak to the actual point of the writer's message. Crabby would not have been disappointed to read:

Dear Crabby Old Lady:
Your point about the trust fund breach is well taken and the White House keeps its eye on that. The president also agrees with you about not changing the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment calculation...

(Or, they could have said, “disagrees” and briefly explained why.)

Now and then, as the White House tells us they occasionally do, a handful of really good letters could be shown to the president for him to answer personally. Yeah, they can promote doing it; that won't offend Crabby.

Crabby's point is that to her, the boilerplate letters are counterproductive. They make her feel a bit foolish for having wasted her time slaving over a hot keyboard to write a smart letter that made her points clearly and, maybe, effectively.

In fact, in an era when only wealth has access to power in Washington and the problems for the middle class seem insurmountable, the president could score a lot of points with disaffected voters by nothing more than greeting letter writers by name: Dear Crabby Old Lady:

That would have worked or, at least, softened the boilerplate.

Here is the White House letter, below which is the daily link to The Elder Storytelling Place.

February 3, 2012

Dear Friend:

Thank you for writing. I have heard from many Americans about issues affecting older Americans. Today's economic climate further intensifies the unique challenges faced by seniors, and I appreciate your perspective.

My Administration continues to support older Americans encountering unfair treatment, financial hardship, or difficulty obtaining health care. The historic Affordable Care Act strengthens Medicare by providing free preventive care and improving care coordination. It gradually closes the "donut hole gap" in prescription drug coverage, and provides individuals who fall into this gap a $250 rebate. This law also helps prevent and eliminate elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

Additionally, the Affordable Care Act implements unprecedented measures to fight waste and fraud, and to improve the quality and outcomes of care for Medicare beneficiaries. It ends unwarranted subsidies to private insurance companies, and takes important steps to reduce unnecessary hospital admissions, improve patient safety, modernize payment systems, and streamline record-keeping. It also realigns incentives to reward medical providers for the value, not the volume, of their care. For resources and information on how to prevent, report, and stop Medicare fraud, visit: To learn more about the Affordable Care Act, please visit:

By protecting Social Security from risky privatization plans, we are preserving its solvency and maintaining it as a reliable income source for seniors. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included an additional payment to supplement Social Security benefits for seniors struggling to make ends meet, and I have called on Congress to extend this relief again. Together, we will ensure all our citizens, not just a privileged few, can retire with dignity and security.

Finally, as we work to keep America's promises to senior citizens, we are helping ensure older Americans can continue to enrich communities across our Nation through service and community involvement. By expanding the Senior Corps and implementing the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, we are creating more opportunities for seniors to share their knowledge and experience with younger generations.

Thank you again for being in touch. To find assistance for senior citizens and their families, visit or call 1-800-677-1116. For help with Medicare, call 1-800-MEDICARE. Additional information and resources are available at:

Barack Obama

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ellen Hellos: The Church was Closed but Angels were on Duty

Crabby Old Lady on Komen/Planned Parenthood

The first thing Crabby Old Lady did last week when she read about Susan G. Komen For the Cure withdrawing their grants to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings was send a donation to Planned Parenthood.

Apparently, she was not alone. Hundreds of thousands of others agreed with Crabby, and Planned Parenthood raised $3 million or more, effectively overnight.

Of course, Crabby's contribution was not anywhere near as large as the $250,000 matching grant promised by New York City billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but Crabby's sentiment was not any smaller than his. For many years, Crabby has been suspicious of the pink-ribbon campaign in general and the Komen organization in particular.

It started sometime in the mid- or late-1980s when Komen was relatively new. Someone affiliated with them contacted Crabby about getting her friends to pay money to sponsor her participation in an upcoming walk. Crabby politely declined and thought that was the end of it.

But oh no. Then the high-pressure tactics began. Several calls from Komen associates at home over the next two or three weeks trying to guilt Crabby into agreement and then more calls to Crabby's office. Crabby was at a loss to understand why her personal participation was so important to someone. She never found out.

The calls eventually stopped and life went on without Crabby much noticing Komen campaigns except that through the years, she felt uncomfortable about the increasing number of pink-packaged, breast cancer products associated with Komen.

Crabby couldn't identify what bothered her until she read a 2001 rant from advocate journalist Barbara Ehrenreich, herself a breast cancer survivor, against Komen, other breast cancer charities and the relentless cheerfulness cancer patients are pressured to display:

"If you can't run, bike, or climb a mountain for the cure - all of which endeavors are routine beneficiaries of corporate sponsorship - you can always purchase one of the many products with a breast cancer theme...Bears, for example...

"What sustained me through the 'treatments' is a purifying rage, a resolve, framed in the sleepless nights of chemotherapy, to see the last polluter, along with, say, the last smug health insurance operative, strangled with the last pink ribbon.

"Cancer or no cancer, I will not live that long of course. But I know this much right now for sure: I will not go into that last good night with a teddy bear tucked under my arm."


Ms. Ehrenreich is interviewed in a new Canadian-produced documentary titled, Pink Ribbons, Inc. which takes on the corporatization of breast cancer. Here is a trailer:

Unlike Ehrenreich, it was not pink teddy bears that crystallized Crabby Old Lady's ire with Komen; it was when the organization partnered with KFC in 2010, putting pink ribbons on big buckets of greasy fried chicken. It turns out that other products wrapped in Komen pink are unhealthy too.

There is an excellent backgrounder on Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the current controversy by Susan Seltzer at Alternet.

For Crabby Old Lady, it has been many years of disheartening behavior by Komen that fed her growing anger about their motives. One of the biggest is this: Komen trademarked the phrase “for the cure” and according to several reports, spends at least a million dollars a year defending that trademark against other, smaller charities. From Huffington Post in 2010:

”So far, Komen has identified and filed legal trademark oppositions against more than a hundred of these Mom and Pop charities, including Kites for a Cure, Par for The Cure, Surfing for a Cure and Cupcakes for a Cure - and many of the organizations are too small and underfunded to hold their ground.”

A year ago, Stephen Colbert handled the Komen trademark issue much better than Crabby can do it for you:

So it wasn't much of a surprise to Crabby when Komen canceled their breast cancer screening grants to Planned Parenthood particularly after Congress voted last year to defund Planned Parenthood. She always suspected the Komen leadership was as much about political power (Republican in this case) as cancer research.

Just yesterday, Crabby learned this from breast cancer advocate, Betty Pinson, reporting at Daily Kos:

”In 2009, Komen lobbied behind the scenes to weaken the health care bill (ACA) as it was being debated in Congress. They hired Hadassah Lieberman, wife of Joe, in an effort to convince Joementum to vote against the Public Option. Komen spent over $1 million in 2008 & 2009, on behind the scenes lobbying related to the health care reform bill, so who knows what else was on their agenda.”

Compared to Komen's flashy, rhinestone pinkness, Planned Parenthood is a no-nonsense - you might even say, boring - organization that goes about the day-to-day business of providing women's and children's health services.

According to Planned Parenthood, 75 percent of their clients have incomes at or below 150 percent of the U.S. poverty level. For many of them, Planned Parenthood is the only health care they can afford and/or is available in their area. Some people estimate that over the years, as many as one-fifth to one third of American women have used Planned Parenthood's services at least once in their lives.

In a rare moment of political kumbayah, the backlash against Komen was instant and fierce forcing the organization to restore funding to Planned Parenthood – sort of. Here is the less than fulsome retraction on the Komen blog posted Friday:

“We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities.”
Whatever that means.

For many years there have been public indications that the agenda of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure is not as pinkly pure as they want us to believe. Crabby Old Lady thinks an important reminder from this episode is that it's good to follow our instincts and also do some research when deciding where to put our charitable dollars.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Andrea Kline: Nameless Neighbors


PeterTibbles75x75This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.


ANTONIO VIVALDI's most famous work won't be featured in today's column nor, indeed, in any column I write. You'll have to go elsewhere if you want to listen to it. I’ve heard those seasons so many times over the years I’d be quite happy never to hear them again.

There’s not much known about Antonio's personal life but what is known could be the basis of one of those best selling airport books or made into a film by Ken Russell. I’m surprised that he didn’t do it.

On the surface it sounds scurrilous: Antonio travelled about Europe with two sisters less than half his age; for most of his professional life he was the head music teacher for a girls’ orphanage; he earned serious money and lost it by investing in the opera business; he died a pauper far from home and his reputation languished in obscurity until the 20th century when vast amounts of his work were rediscovered all over Europe.

Alas, the surface isn’t the reality as far as we know. There probably wasn’t any hanky panky going on with the sisters or any of the girls at the orphanage because Antonio was really devoted to composing and playing music. But we’ll never know.

The sisters were Anna Girò (or Giraud) who was his favorite opera soprano and her sister Paolina. They lived with Antonio in Venice and, as mentioned, toured with him.

Anna was about 17 and Antonio 48 when they first met. Things were said about him in his lifetime. Guido Bentivoglio refused to allow Antonio to stage an opera in Ferrara. He claimed that Vivaldi was unfit for such an honor. He seems like yet another jumped-up city official who has an inflated opinion of himself. Those types are still around, unfortunately.

Antonio was technically a priest; however, he refused to perform mass. He said that his asthma hindered him from this performance. It didn’t seem to affect his ability to travel, write great works, perform them, teach or manage an opera house but who are we to quibble?


He took the position at the Ospedale delle Pieta (the Hospital of Pity or Compassion) the same year he was ordained and didn’t actually compose any religious music for the first 10 years in the job; it was all secular music.

This does rather suggest he became a priest only because it offered him a chance to compose and play his music.

The position called for him to teach the girls to play music and he had to write two concertos every month for them to perform. This is almost certainly the reason that he wrote works for many different instruments - to allow all of the girls a chance to perform. They must have had considerable ability as the works he wrote are quite challenging and not for any old hackers.


His position was up for grabs each year and he often came and went as the whim took him but off and on, he spent 35 years at the Ospedale.

In between, he liked to travel, especially to Rome but also Amsterdam, Dresden, Bohemia and Vienna. Towards the end of his life, his music was out of fashion but Emperor Charles VI offered him a position in Vienna. Antonio sold a bunch of his manuscripts to finance the journey as he was rather skint at this point.

Unfortunately, Charlie died just after he arrived so there was no job there for him. Antonio died soon after and is buried somewhere there in a pauper’s grave.

J.S. Bach knew his works well and he transcribed several of his concertos for other instruments. They didn’t ever meet though; Bach was a bit of a stay-at-home person.

That’s pretty much what we know about Vivaldi.


That’s enough talking, let the music play.

I’ve always liked the Baroque trio sonata; Handel was a master of this form. I see them as a sort of forerunner to the Classical string quartet, although there weren’t always just string instruments; Handel liked to bung in a flute or two in some of his.

Antonio wrote a number of these and I’m including one of them, Trio Sonata Op 5, No. 5 RV76, the third movement.

♫ Trio Sonata Op 5, No. 5 RV 76 (3)

Nisi Dominus (RV608) is a setting of Psalm 126. Here we have the fourth part (not really a movement) called Cum dederit. The violin in this rather reminds me somewhat of “Winter” in that work of Antonio’s that I’m not mentioning or playing.

♫ Cum dederit

Concerto Op. 4 No. 7 in C major RV185 is taken from a set of concertos called “La Stravaganza.” Gramophone magazine describes these 12 concertos as quite extravagant stuff (not surprising, given the name), full of fantasy and experiment – novel sounds, ingenious textures, exploratory melodic lines, original types of figuration, unorthodox forms.

Well, we’ll see about that in the second movement of that concerto.

♫ Concerto Op. 4 No. 7 in C major RV185 (2)

Mandolins are rarely heard these days outside bluegrass bands, but Antonio rather liked them, on the basis of his output. I don’t know how they were heard over the other instruments; even with modern recordings the rest of the instruments do rather dominate proceedings.

I’ve decided to go with the third movement of his Concerto for Mandolin, Strings and Continuo RV134.

♫ Concerto for Mandolin, Strings and Continuo RV 134 (3)

Antonio’s set of concertos for flute was not only the first collection of flute concertos published in Italy, it may have been the first set of flute concertos ever published. The one today has a name, “Il Gardellino,” the goldfinch, named thus because of flute passages that supposedly sound like a goldfinch chortling away.

I don’t know, I wouldn’t recognize a goldfinch if I tripped over one. Anyway, here is the first movement of the Flute Concerto in D, RV428.

♫ Concerto in D major (1)

The wonderful Cecilia Bartoli has recorded an album of Vivaldi’s works and naturally I’m going to include something from that. This is the aria, Dite, oimè from the opera “La fida ninfa”. The notes from the album describe this as having a melancholy lyricism. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

♫ Cecilia Bartoli - Dite, oimè

Next we have what folks in the music trade call a concerto for a bunch of things. Those with a technical bent might want to call this the Concerto in F major for violin, 2 horns, 2 oboes, bassoon, strings and bass continuo, RV569. This is the first movement.

♫ Concerto in F major RV569 (1)

One of Antonio’s commissioned liturgical works was the oratorio “Juditha Triumphans devicta Holofernis barbaric” that celebrates the victory of the republic of Venice over the Turks and their recapture of the island of Corfù. Here is an aria from that work by the mezzo-soprano Gloria Banditelli called Quo Cum Patriae Me Ducit.

♫ Quo Cum Patriae Me Ducit

I’ll finish with a cello sonata, indeed, cello sonata in B flat major, RV46 - the first movement of that one. Accompanying the cello there are an organ and a theorbo.

For those who are unfamiliar with that last instrument - and that would have included me until I did a bit of investigating - it’s a long necked lute, but has a second set of tuning pegs half way along the neck. It looks like this:


♫ Cello Sonata in B flat major RV46 (1)

INTERESTING STUFF – 4 February 2012

Mr. Morris Lessmore. On last week's discussion of e-readers versus “real” books, Marian (sorry, the link you left to your blog doesn't work) left a reference to a little animated movie titled as above. It's magical and wonderful and nominated for an Academy Award this year. Here is the film from Moonbot Studios via Vimeo:

There is also an interactive iPad app for children available here. You can read more about the movie here.

Shocked the hell out of me to read that the City of New York has put out a request for bids to replace 1172 aging electric typewriters that various city agencies, including the police department still use.

“'The offices that use them here have to fill out old-style standardized requisitions and purchase orders, etc. — forms that have multiple carbonless-copy pages and which need an actual keystroke to make a copy on all the pages,' said Department of Transportation spokesman Seth Solomonow.”

Can it be that it has occurred to no one in city administration that nowadays there are apps for that along with printers and scanners and all? Read more here.

Nancy Leitz sent this video from Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC about the most important reason for us all to vote in presidential elections.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

he says has been making the rounds in New York.

Q. How did Newt get Sheldon Adelson to give him $18 million?

A. He promised his next wife would be Jewish.

Keeping a svelte feline figure. (Hat tip to Darlene Costner)


It's not just the federal government that gives the rich a break on taxes. All 50 states and the District of Columbia do it too. Yesterday, Kevin Drum at Mother Jones:

” from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy shows that in the median state (Mississippi, as it turns out) the poorest 20 percent pay twice the tax rate of the top 1 percent. In the worst states, the poorest 20 percent pay five to six times the rate of the richest 1 percent.”

You can see all the data for your state at the Corporation for Enterprise Development's scorecard page.

From the YouTube page (Hat tip to Darlene Costner):

”Imagine, you are a singer and you accompany yourself on the piano. You have a small dog who is your constant companion and watches as you rehearse. Got the picture?

“Now, imagine that you must be away for a few hours and leave the dog alone at home. Here is what happened while you were away.”

You have to wonder who thinks up these surveys and more, who bothers to answer such questions as, do you use your phone while you're on the toilet. Here's one answer [emphasis mine]:

”The survey of 1,000 people by the marketing agency 11mark found that private contemplation has given way to toilet-time talking, texting, shopping, using apps, or just surfing the Web, by both sexes and most ages. Among those 65 and older, however, only 47 percent have used their mobile devices on the toilet.”

You can find out more than you ever wanted to know about other people's technology/bathroom habits here.

Our own music maestro, Peter Tibbles, spent the past couple of weeks glued to television watching the Australian Open. Well, probably not glued, but still. He sent along this commercial that was broadcast several times during the tournament.

The “ball” in the commercial is a sugar glider, a small possum native to Australia. You can read more about them here and see tons of photos here.

Apparently sugar gliders are sold as pets in the U.S. but Peter tells me the cute, little marsupials are a protected species in Australia so not allowed to be owned as pets in that country.

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.

What It's Like to Get Old – on This Day, Anyway

category_bug_journal2.gif Well, I mean yesterday, Thursday. It's been happening about every two months for the past five years or so, as it did yesterday.

I awakened at my usual early hour and followed my normal routine. Fed the cat, made the coffee, read some news and answered some email for awhile before I showered, dressed and had breakfast - the usual for a winter morning: hot oatmeal with fresh fruit. Yesterday it was half a banana, some blueberries and homemade apple sauce.

Then I got undressed and went back to bed.

As I said, it doesn't happen often but fairly regularly. I wake, apparently feeling fine and ready for the day. But an hour later, I don't feel fine. I feel tired and a bit sick. Nothing I can identify - like a fever or a cold or aches or pains or anything I'd bother a physician with. I just feel crummy.

It's not that I haven't had enough sleep – plenty of that. I'm not a drinker except for wine at dinner with friends which has not been the case for a week.

And so I spent the morning sleeping, broke for a light lunch, went back to bed again and alternately snoozed and watched an episode of an old British police drama on Netflix that I've come to like.

In the late afternoon, I rose again, dressed and prepared for an evening community meeting feeling fine and dandy. In fact, feeling as though I'd spent the day resting in bed – whether I needed it or not.

A good while ago, I decided to chalk it up to old age – that sometimes the ol' body and mind need time off from life for a day even if they haven't been overtaxed. It's another plus for retirement: I do it because I can.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mark Sherman: Idiot Moments

Elder Occupy

category_bug_politics.gif On yesterday's post about a (non)answer from the White House in response to my letter about Social Security, Jan Adams, Letha, Frank Paynter and Linda all noted that this is an example of what the Occupy movement is about and that we elders need to do some occupying.

As serendipity sometimes provides (hat tip to Margie), on the same day at Campaign for America's Future, Leo Gerard wrote about the dozen elders, “men and women in their 60s, 70s and even 80s” who have been occupying a median strip in front of a closed Century Aluminum plant in Ravenswood, West Virginia since mid-December.

”In tents and under tarps, a small group stays overnight, despite hypertension, arthritis and other old age ailments,” writes Gerard...

“These vulnerable people expose themselves to weather extremes although some have no health insurance at all. Century cancelled it. That’s why they’re occupying Century.”

Here is a photo of the some of these occupiers that I copied from their Facebook page.

Occupy Century Aluminum

The Ravenswood plant was shut down in February 2009, putting 650 employees out of work. A comfort, however, was the company's promise through all the years of their toil that they would receive lifelong health coverage would be paid for by the company. Gerard explains what happened next [emphasis is mine]:

”Nine months after the shutdown, [Century Aluminum] announced it would terminate as of June 1, 2010 health benefits for retirees eligible for Medicare. Then on Nov. 1, 2010, Century told its retirees who weren’t yet eligible for Medicare that it would stop paying for their coverage as of Jan. 1, 2011.”

The recently fired CEO of Century Aluminum was paid $4.9 million in 2010 and given $6.2 million to leave the company last November. (The greed of the one percent never ends; he is suing for $20 million more.) But the company is still fighting the retirees over payment for the health coverage they were promised.

In an odd move, Century Aluminum has provided port-o-potties for the elder occupy protesters; I have no idea what to say about that. You can read of other developments in this story here.

Temperatures in Ravenswood were 39F overnight and expected to be 54F today so at least the weather is helping. The West Virginia governor and the state's senators are supporting the elder occupiers but there has been no resolution and I know it must be physically hard – I'm not sure I could be out there next to a highway day in and day out.

Here is the 2 January Facebook announcement about one of the occupier's health:

“A very sad day at Occupy Century yesterday. One of our champions, Sonny Hinzman, was taken to the hospital with indications of a stroke. Please keep him in your prayers.

“Sonny had no co insurance because it was costing him $1700.00 a month to insure just his wife and daughter with COBRA. It was cost prohibitive for him to include himself. This is why we will never give up and endure whatever weather is thrown at us! This is murder without a gun!”

You might want to stop by the Facebook page to offer some encouragement.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Terry Hamburg: Cruisin'

The White House Responds and...

category_bug_politics.gif...there is nothing to know. Did we really expect anything else?

Remember last Friday when I posted a letter here that I had emailed the White House asking President Barack Obama not to sell out elders in regard to Social Security?

Yesterday, Tuesday, I received a reply. Well, I assume it is a reply to that note since I haven't sent any others in the past couple of months. It's hard to tell since there is zero reference to me or to the subject of my letter:

January 31, 2012

Dear Friend:

Thank you for taking the time to share your ideas. I appreciate hearing from you.

Our Nation faces serious challenges, and we will only overcome them by involving all Americans in shaping the policies that affect their own lives. My Administration is continuously working to engage individuals in innovative ways. I encourage you to explore, which is regularly updated and more interactive than ever before.

Thank you, again, for contacting me and providing your thoughtful suggestions.

Barack Obama

Not even a personalized salutation like “Dear Ms. Bennett” or an “about Social Security” at the end of the first sentence.

I have no doubt many of you have received similar communications in response to your own messages to Congress or the president - that is, polite, knee-jerk phrases completely devoid of meaningful information.

What a bunch of hooey. I feel like a third grader who's been patted on the head by her elders for doing good work in school today.

I am torn in two directions about this stuff. On the one hand, I understand that there is not enough money for the White House (or members of Congress) to hire the number of people – smart ones, too – who would be needed to read through, consider and give a thoughtful response to every letter received.

On the other hand, it infuriates me that the only people who can get the president's (or a Congress member's) attention for a serious conversation about real issues are captains of industry and finance or those (usually the same ones) who can bundle millions of dollars for election super-PACs – as though the accumulation of money is the definition of intelligence, knowledge and thoughtfulness.

It seems to me that this system precludes – entirely – any conversation and policy ideas that do not benefit the wealthy to the detriment of everyone else.

It's not that I don't see the problems – probably insurmountable - in taking seriously letters from citizens. A large number of them are from cranks and crazies. I know this from hundreds of pieces of fan mail delivered every day that, in my youthful employment on radio and TV shows, were my job to plow through.

A whole lot more are from people who have no idea what they're talking about along with those who just want to chat, let the president know what's going on in their family and by the way, could he send an autographed photo.

Oh, and don't forget the ones spewing pages of vitriol about how stupid the president is and how much he is hated. That leaves one or two in a hundred that are legitimate questions or thoughts that in a perfect world should require a reasonable response and maybe even a conversation.

An aide to Senate Leader Harry Reid once told me that the positions in all letters to senators are tracked. That is, if you write your senator supporting a bill, that's added into the others and compared to the number of letters that oppose the bill. (The aide did not say if the totals affect the senators' votes.)

I wonder if the White House tracks numbers of letters it receives on various policy issues.

Meanwhile, off on a tangent: Do you suppose there is such a thing as federal government or presidential grammar? If you look at the nation's founding documents, you'll see that compared with what we use today, 18th century scribes had interesting ideas about which words to capitalize.

Look at the capitalization in part of the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty...”

Odd isn't it, capitalizing People, Order, Justice, Blessings, etc. Now look at the capitalization in part of the email note from the White House:

“Our Nation faces serious challenges, and we will only overcome them by involving all Americans in shaping the policies that affect their own lives. My Administration...”

Nation? Administration? Weird.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jackie Harrison: Put on a Happy Face