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ELDER POETRY INTERLUDE: Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night

By Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas

This is one of Thomas's last poems – an elegy to his dying father. I have never agreed with it – at least, not for me as a prescription for old age. I want to die in my time at peace with doing so. When it comes up for discussion, I am usually alone in this feeling.

Thomas didn't make it to old age. Born in Wales in 1914, he died at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City in 1953 at age 39. It is said that his last words, spoken at the White Horse Tavern on Hudson Street in Greenwich Village were, "I've had 18 straight whiskies. I think that's the record."

Here is Dylan Thomas himself reading Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jacklynn Winmill-Lee: My Mom was NOT Old

Older Than My Old Man Now

EDITORIAL NOTES: If anyone has been waiting for me to answer an email for more than three or four days, it is probably to do with spam filters at your end.

I have been getting a lot of returns of sent mail lately and my email provider tells me they are not blocking it. Sorry, but I've spent all the time I possibly can on this problem now.

It's been awhile since I last received a submission for Where Elders Blog, but there is now a new one from Karen Zaun Kennedy which you can see here. And here are instructions for submitting your own blogging/computer space.

category_bug_eldermusic Peter Tibbles usually handles the music around this blog on Sundays, but I'm taking on this new album from Loudon Wainwright III, Older Than My Old Man Now, because it is entirely concerned with getting old.


The album interests me not so much for the music - although that's part of it, of course – but for my curiosity about how an artist who is a contemporary of mine, approaches “my” subject.

The answer is, with a lot of melancholy, mixed feelings and woe for everything that has gone wrong in his 65 years. It is deeply – and often literally - autobiographical, these 16 songs, wherein Wainwright covers family, marriage, divorce, kids, health, sex, regret, guilt, mortality, death and just plain getting old.

And he does it all with some sadness, a good deal of humor and an occasional bit of wisdom. The title tune, Older Than My Old Man Now, begins with a reading of words about his own life written by Wainwright's father, a respected columnist and editor at Life magazine.

♫ Loudon Wainwright III - Older Than My Old Man Now

There is a second recital of Loudon Wainwright, Jr.'s writing on his own a aging as the introduction to The Days That We Die.

Among the singers who accompany Wainwright on various tunes are all four of his kids, a current and a former wife and Ramblin' Jack Elliott who takes opposing verses on a lovely song, Double Lifetime.

Not all is serious and melancholy. My Meds is what you would expect – a humorous litany of the long list of prescription drugs some people our age are stuck with keeping track of.

And I Remember Sex is a duet with Dame Edna Everage (Barry Humphries) that is labeled “explicit.” Actually, the lyrics are both true and funny. Here's a sample:

I remember sex. That thing we used to do
Where you'd lay down and usually I'd lie on top of you
Sometimes you'd lie on top of me. We tried that out a bit
But it didn't work as well, I guess something just didn't fit

I remember sex. We had it at night
A few times in the morning and then after we would fight
And on special occasions when we'd had too much to drink
Once in a Morris Minor, a convertible, I think

Although no one would call me a fan of Loudon Wainwright III, I've enjoyed him from time to time over the years and I think he's done a nice a job here with a large number of the kinds of things we ruminate on as we reach the upper decades of life.

He has a darker view of his life and old age than I do but then, he's been writing autobiographical songs for nearly half a century so undoubtedly has better reminders of past events than I can dredge up.

The album is available in all the usual places. At Amazon, the CD costs (currently) about US$13. You can download it as MP3s for only US$8.99 (or 99 cents per song) and with that you'll get an extra that is not on the disc, No Tomorrow.

I don't know for how long it will last, but as of yesterday afternoon, you can stream the entire album at the New Yorker website.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: The Blue Schwinn Bicycle

What to Do With Your Ashes

If you would rather be buried in a casket, this post probably is not for you. But after Saturday's Interesting Stuff item about James Doohan's ashes being carried into space last week, I wondered about the ways people deal with ashes of loved ones.

Some urns, like my father's, are buried in cemeteries or mausoleums. Burial at sea or, at least, on water, is not uncommon these days. My mother was a member of the Neptune Society and we scattered her ashes off Marin County just under the Golden Gate Bridge.

My stepbrother Joe's sailing club friends took his ashes 30 miles out into the ocean from San Francisco near the Farallon Islands. In Joe's case, he loved the sea above most everything else. My mother (I suspect, but cannot be certain) was just being practical and she loved the San Francisco area.

Of course, ashes can be scattered on land too. If it's your property, no problem. If not, you need to check local regulations and get permissions.

Many years ago, a friend rented an apartment in Greenwich Village in which a box of human ashes sat on the fireplace mantle. I have forgotten the details, but a woman whose name was Charlotte had been murdered there many decades before and by deed, her ashes were required to remain with the house. (I don't know if that's true, but it's my general recollection.)

Remember last year when I told you about a book by Gail Rubin, A Good Goodbye, with lots of excellent information on planning funerals? In checking out information for this post, I ran across a recent article Gail wrote about the top ten things people can do with ashes (Oops. I think I'm supposed to say “cremated remains” but I draw the line at “cremains.”) Here is the abbreviated list:

  1. Scatter on land
  2. Scatter on sea
  3. Scatter by air
  4. Bury in a cemetery
  5. Bury at home
  6. Keep an urn at home
  7. Place in a columbarium
  8. Share with family
  9. Create a reef
  10. Build a monument
Of the last idea, Gail writes,

“Pros: Speaking of mixing cremated remains in concrete, why not make a monument? You can set it up on your property, or even make it a centerpiece at family reunions!

“Cons: Some family members may not be amused.”

No kidding. You can read what Gail has to say about all ten options here.

A trip around the web led to hundreds, if not thousands, of styles of urns including this one that left me speechless:

“Now we can create a custom cremation urn for ashes in the image of your loved one or favorite celebrity or hero, even President Obama!

“...Personal urns can have hair added digitaly [sic] for short haired people, as in the sample of President Obama.”

Barack Obama Urn

Do you think the president knows about this? Like I said, I'm speechless.

There is, apparently, a growing trend toward wearing dead relatives as diamonds made from their ashes. The diamonds can be quite pricey ranging from about $4,000 to $25,000 depending on color and size.

As to the purpose, as one company explains, diamond pendants or other jewelry are “a way to embrace your loved one's memory day by day.”

Uh-huh. I can hear it now: “Why, Jane, what lovely earrings. Are they new?”

“Yes, they're my late husband, George.”

“Oh, what a lovely gift.”

“No, they ARE George.”

Even if your loved one prefers burial to cremation, you can still wear him or her as jewelry. At least one ashes-to-diamonds company will make a gem from a lock of a loved one's hair.

I have definitely opted for cremation and have long made arrangements with a young friend to scatter my ashes in what I consider my real home, New York City - specifically along Bleecker Street between 6th and 7th Avenues saving a little to leave in front of my long-time home on nearby Bedford Street.

What about you?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary B Summerlin: Best Laid Plans

Welcome to Summer

category_bug_journal2.gif Well, for friends in Australia, New Zealand and other places in the southern hemisphere, it's the beginning of winter. Nevertheless, where I live, today – Memorial Day – is the unofficial beginning of the summer season.

It's a three-day weekend in the United States and with all the family gatherings, backyard barbecues, beer and all, I wonder if sometimes we don't pay enough attention to what this holiday is for.

On Friday, Vice President Joe Biden spoke to a group of Gold Star Families - those who have lost a loved one in war. Poor ol' Joe is often chastised for speaking out of turn, of putting his foot in his mouth, of being a reliable gaffe machine. But not on this day.

Biden's extraordinary speech, in the words of MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, was "raw and emotional" and, I would add, personal and wrenching and true and good.

As far as I can find online on Saturday (when I am writing this), Maddow's show is the only place where Biden's speech was broadcast in full, if at all. Please watch. It's only about five minutes and you will be glad you did.

This video is also posted at The Elder Storytelling Place. The publication of daily stories from contributors will return there tomorrow.


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.


GEORG PHILIPP TELEMANN would have been the most famous composer of his era except for a certain Mr Handel who was hanging around at the time. This didn't worry Georg as they were really good friends, and besides he was raking in the money as well.

Also around then was Johann Sebastian Bach. He was also a friend of Georg's. So much so that Georg was godfather to at least one of Johann's sons. Indeed, at the time he has considered a superior composer to Bach. Time has put paid to that notion but he's still pretty good.

Georg was a self-taught musician, teaching himself to play the violin, flute, zither and various keyboards by the age of 10. You don't hear the zither much these days, not since Anton Karas left the scene.

Georg later taught himself flute, oboe, chalumeau (no, I didn't know what it was either; it's a forerunner of the clarinet), viola da gamba, double bass, and bass trombone.

Hmm, no mention of the bagpipes or the kazoo. Perhaps his friends suggested he eschew those instruments.

His family didn't approve of this music caper and insisted he enroll at university to study science and languages. While there, he formed the student Collegium Musicum and they gave many public concerts to great acclaim.

The family finally caved in to the inevitable. After graduating, he soon left town (Leipzig) as the music bigwigs disapproved of him because he was too good and showed them up. Besides he had used students in his concerts thus usurping the places of established musicians.

He got a job as Kapellmeister to Count Erdmann II in Sorau (now Zary, in Poland) but that didn't last long as the Swedish army invaded the place. The Swedes! They’ve changed a bit.

He eventually ended up in Hamburg where he remained for the rest of his life (apart from visits to Paris and Rome and elsewhere). The years spent in Hamburg were the most productive period of his life and boy, was he productive. It wasn't all plain sailing as the church condemned some of his operas for "inciting lasciviousness.” Nothing has changed.

He was offered the position of Thomaskantor (whatever that is) back in Leipzig but turned it down. The next person in line couldn't take it due to an existing contract so they had to make do with the third best candidate, J.S. Bach. You have to wonder about the folks selecting these positions.


The orchestral suite was Telemann's forte. Georg once claimed that he had written 600 of them. About a quarter of that number have survived that we know about, so maybe he wasn't fibbing.

Here is part of one of those, the second movement of his Suite for Viola Da Gamba in D Major.

♫ Telemann - Suite for Viola Da Gamba in D Maj (2)

Here is a cantata about a cat killing and eating a canary. Old Georg knew how to take on the serious topics of the day. The person who commissioned this work is long forgotten but I presume he was a pet lover. The pet being a cat rather than a canary, I imagine.

The baritone is the great Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and the cello player is Irmgard Poppen, Dietrich's wife who died in childbirth in 1963. This is the Canary Cantata. I would have thought that he’d call it the Cat Cantata but what do I know?

♫Telemann - Canary Cantata

For a complete change of pace, here is a piece for a single instrument, the violin. It’s the Fantasia No 10 for Solo Violin.

♫ Telemann - Fantasia No 10 for Solo Violin


Georg’s personal life was a bit troubled to say the least. His first wife died only a few months after their marriage.

He married his second wife, Maria Textor, to gain citizenship so he could work for the Prince of Bayreuth. This marriage didn't work very well as she had a bunch of extramarital affairs and ran up a large gambling debt before leaving him. It can't have been all bad because they had nine kids.

Telemann's friends organized a collection to pay off her debts and keep him from bankruptcy. Maria outlived him and ended up in a convent in Frankfurt. Hmm.

Georg died at the age of 87 of some sort of a chest ailment and his position was filled by his godson C.P.E. Bach. Georg was one of the most prolific composers of all time with more than 3000 compositions that we know about.

He was a major link between the late baroque and early classical periods. Of importance too was that he published his own works, setting a precedent for regarding music as the intellectual property of the composer.


I’ll continue the violin music with the second movement of the Concerto for 3 Violins in F Major.

♫ Telemann - Concerto for 3 violins (2)

While in Paris, Georg wrote a number of quartets that these days are collectively called the Paris Quartets. Let’s play the first movement of Quartet No. 4 in B Minor, probably the most famous of them.

♫ Telemann - Quartet No. 4 (1)

Georg was quite fond of the overture; he wrote a bunch of them. To me, an overture suggests the beginning of something or other. He treated this form as another extended piece of music with several movements. Perhaps the overture concept changed over the years.

This one has eight movements which really wouldn’t leave room for anything to follow it. Here is the first movement from the Overture La Changeant. It was pretty radical at the time as each of its movements was in a different key. You won’t hear that though, as I’m only playing one of them.

♫ Telemann - Overture La Changeant (1)

And now another cantata. Like most composers around that time, Georg wrote a bunch of them. This is the first movement from Seele, lerne dich erkennen, a cantata for soprano, recorder, and basso continuo.  The soprano is Monika Mauch.

♫ Telemann - Cantata TWV1-1258 (1)

Georg also seemed to like the trumpet somewhat as he wrote quite a bit for this instrument but then, he wrote quite a bit for every instrument. I’ll finish with the third movement of the Sonata for Trumpet in D Major. It’s not a sonata as we know it today, it sounds more like a trumpet concerto to me.

♫ Telemann - Sonata for Trumpet (3)


When James Doolin who played Star Trek chief engineer, Scotty, died in 2005, his will specified his desire to have his ashes sent into space. Two attempts failed for various reasons.

Finally, last Tuesday,

”The unmanned Falcon 9 blasted off at 3:44 a.m. EDT (0744 GMT) from here at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, carrying the Dragon capsule filled with cargo bound for the International Space Station.

“Also packed aboard the rocket was a secondary payload carrying remains from 308 people, including Doohan and Mercury program astronaut Gordon Cooper, according to ABC News and Reuters.”

Here is a video from NASA of the liftoff. Beautiful.

Surely you remember when former Wyoming senator and cat food commission co-chair Alan Simpson referred to Social Security as a “milk cow with 310 million tits,” among his other – uh – colorful descriptions of people he doesn't like, mostly old ones.

In April, he reacted to a flyer, produced by the California Alliance for Retired Americans, against his deficit reduction plan. From his letter to the organization on his official ex-senator stationery [pdf]:

”What a wretched group of seniors you must be to use the faces of the very young people that we are trying to save, while the 'greedy geezers' like you use them as a tool and a front for your nefarious bunch of crap. You must feel some sense of shame for shoveling this bullshit."

National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) president and CEO, Max Richtman, issued, in part, this response [pdf]:

”I know this letter is likely an exercise in futility. However, I'm writing to you today with one simple request – please cease and desist with the mean-spirited, denigrating and hate-filled personal attack on America's seniors.

“Sure, some in the press still love the profanity laden poison-pen letters and insulting soundbites, but it only denigrates the serious policy work many honest and caring people on both sides perform each and every day...”

Former Senator Potty Mouth is the sort of elder who gives the rest of us a bad name.

After her visit here in Oregon Norma, Peter Tibbles' assistant musicologist, moved on to the east coast of North America and sent me this postcard from Montreal:

Quebec Postcard

The description on the card says: "Designed in 1999, this 5-story, 3-dimensional, trompe l'oeil painting tells the story of Quebec depicting the seasons and showing many famous quebecois artists and writers."

As I've indicated on these pages in the past, I love being fooled by all forms of optical illusion – most particularly, trompe l'oeil – so I tracked down more information about this wall painting online.

You can see larger photographs of it and close-ups of many details of the painting at the website of Cite Creation which has made many such paintings on buildings throughout the world.

And here is someone's short tourist video of the Quebec trompe l'oeil:

Many months ago, my online friend Cynthia Friedlob interviewed me about “reinventing yourself” for her podcast, Experience Talks Online. If you're here before 8AM Pacific time today, you can read about the interview at the podcast website.

There is a link on that page to the Listen Page where the program will be available after 8AM or, here's the direct link to that page.

And look at this terrific bonus for readers of The Elder Storytelling Place. One of that blog's newest contributors, Lia Hirtz, is also interviewed on the show.

Thank you, Cynthia, for an interview that was a pleasure.

I think one of the coolest perks of being president of the United States is that you don't have to leave home to see the best musicians in the world. Pretty much anyone you ask shows up.

Obviously, it's an exclusive, invitation-only event when these performers appear at the White House but the videos, now posted regularly for the rest of us, are a good substitute. This is Stevie Wonder from the evening he was awarded the Gershwin Prize on 26 February 2009.

You can watch full concerts or selected performances at this White House website.

I ignore all sports so I had never heard of Sophie Gustafson until the Nikki, who blogs at From Where I Sit, sent this video to me last month.

Sophie is a professional golfer from Sweden who, earlier this year, was given a Ben Hogan Award from the Golf Writers Association of America. She also has a severe stutter which, in the past, kept her from doing media interviews.

This time, however, she taped the speech for playback at the award ceremony. It is a beautiful exercise in courage and an inspiration to others, particularly kids with her affliction.

In Needham, Massachusetts, there is a company called Vita Needle Factory. It employs a lot of old people – the median age of workers there is 74 and at least one is a centenarian.

”Vita Needle’s business model is based on a workforce of part-timers,” writes marketing expert Erin Read Ruddick. “That means elders and teenagers and everyone in between. The factory has workers born in almost every decade of the last century.

“At the North Hill program last week, you could see the obvious friendship and respect. And you could hear them laughing frequently, together, with humor that cut across the ages.”

The “program” Read refers to was the recent launch of a new book, Retirement on the Line, by anthropologist Caitrin Lynch based on her five-year study of “eldersourcing” at the Needham needle factory. Employing elders is a win-win for the company and the workers:

”Many of the workers told Prof. Lynch that outside of Vita Needle they are unrecognized or even invisible. Many old people feel that way. 'Old people just want to matter,' said Lynch.”

There needs to be a lot more of this kind of information about elder workers. You can read more here.

I started my first job in television as a lowly production assistant at the late-night Dick Cavett Show in December 1971. During my first week of employment, I witnessed up-close-and-personal a program that would become infamous.

It involved an ongoing feud between writers Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer. Both men were booked on the show that night along with Janet Flanner, the well-known writer, under the pen-name Genet, of the Letter from Paris column that appeared in New Yorker magazine in those days.

You don't get that much intellectual star power on today's late night talk shows and it certainly was a high glitterati/literati moment. Or, rather, was supposed to be.

None of these people, including Cavett, was a shrinking violet and the program turned into a deliciously vicious exercise in high and low wit that I doubt has been achieved on a talk show since that night, 2 December 1971. Here is a short clip:

A few years ago, Cavett wrote about the show in his occasional New York Times column. It's worth a read.

Nothing to know here. Just watch their wonderfulness.

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.

How Spending Changes in Retirement

We were speaking of retirement earlier this week and when I ran across a news item I had saved, I decided why not go whole hog in one week on this topic.

According to a study by the Employee Research Benefit Institute (EBRI), overall spending drops on average by about 20 percent after retirement from a median of $39,945 annually in working households to $31,365 in retirement households.

EBRI found the only major expense that increases after retirement is healthcare. In the working, 50-64 age group, health expenses account for about 9 percent of income. After age 85, it has doubled which, of course, makes sense.

Here are the EBRI survey results and how I stack up with them in the other five major expense categories:

HOUSING is the single largest expense for people of all ages, says EBRI.

”Home-related expenses represent 47 percent of all costs for people ages 50 to 64, which declines to 44 percent between ages 65 and 74.”

I've never spent that much. With a mortgage, homeowners insurance and property taxes, I was spending about 25 percent of income on housing before I retired. I have no mortgage now but counting homeowners association dues, ever-increasing property taxes and insurance but much lower income, I spend about the same 25 percent on housing.

TRANSPORTATION costs drop dramatically in retirement especially without a commute – from 14 percent of income for 50-64 year olds to a low of 8 percent for those 85 and older. Couples often can get by with one car in retirement rather than two.

I hardly notice auto costs. Especially during winter when I don't stray far from my town, I fill up the car with gas about once every six weeks. With insurance and registration, I spend about four percent of income on auto-related expenses.

EBRI says the amount spent on FOOD AND CLOTHING doesn't change much in retirement – 12 percent and 3 percent respectively. I know that with dry cleaning and my shoe fetish I spent a lot more than 3 percent on clothes when I was working. Nowadays, 3 percent or less sounds about right.

Food, however, is where I indulge myself. I eat out about twice a week and cook all my other meals. In the past eight or ten years, my grocery costs have been down because I hardly ever eat meat, but fresh vegetables and fruit prices have skyrocketed just in the past two or three years. It evens out, maybe, with the fact that varieties of good fish can be found frequently for only four or five dollars a pound.

I don't know the percent of my income food and clothing account for, but I don't feel constrained in spending for what I need and I don't feel deprived of either.

Without giving a percentage, the EBRI study says that GIFTS AND DONATIONS increase a great deal with age – for indulging grandchildren and because people “may decide as they age that they don't need all that money.”

It's hard to believe that the $31,365 average income of retired households is “all that money” to anyone. During my last few years of employment when I was trying to pay off some high medical bills and then the interim years following when I was scrimping by until eligible for full Social Security, donations were out of the question.

Well, if you don't count the no-kill pet shelter for which I squeezed out money. Now, I can better do my part although I often wish I had more to give.

The EBRI study reports that the amount of money spent on ENTERTAINMENT stays the same in the first few years of retirement and then declines with further aging. It starts out, they report, at about 9 percent of income.

I think it all depends on what you count as entertainment.

”How retirees choose to fill their new-found hours of leisure time can make a big difference in their retirement security. 'They can either spend this time on activities around the house that reduce overall spending, such as doing more home repairs yourself, preparing more meals at home, doing your own cleaning rather than getting someone else to do the cleaning, and going out and looking for deals and smart spending opportunities, or they could spend this time traveling or entertaining - and that takes money,' says Rohwedder. 'It very much depends on what people do with their newly gained time.'"

Cooking at home, house cleaning and DIY projects may or may not fall into a given person's idea of entertainment. In my case, “going out and looking for deals and smart spending opportunities” is a fairly close definition of hell. Aside from food, I despise shopping.

Some of us have a wider definition of entertainment that these survey folks: books, magazines, movies, television, blogging, classes, volunteering, gardening, etc. Some of these cost money, some don't. I suspect entertainment costs vary widely depending on definition and from person to person.

So I wonder how spending has changed for you in retirement. And if you are not retired, how you expect it to change. You can read the full EBRI report here [pdf] or a shorter overview from U.S. News here.

ADMINISTRIVIA: Some readers who have emailed a message or information to me may be waiting for a response. Thanks to a vicious spam blocking service called Spamcop, my responses are sometimes returned to me because your ISP uses this service to try to keep spam to a minimum.

It doesn't matter that I don't send spam. If too many others on the same email service I use are spamming, everyone is blocked (forever or shorter, but no way to know which) and the “service” pretty well refuses to remove anyone unfairly blocked.

So if you've been expecting an answer from me and have not received it after three or four days, I've probably received a refusal to deliver from Spamcop. Sorry, but I do not have the patience to try to undo this – reports all over the web say it's nearly impossible, as does my email provider.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lia Hirtz: To Belong


By Stanley Kunitz

Summer is late, my heart.
Words plucked out of the air
some forty years ago
when I was wild with love
and torn almost in two
scatter like leaves this night
of whistling wind and rain.
It is my heart that's late,
it is my song that's flown.
Outdoors all afternoon
under a gunmetal sky
staking my garden down,
I kneeled to the crickets trilling
underfoot as if about
to burst from their crusty shells;
and like a child again
marveled to hear so clear
and brave a music pour
from such a small machine.
What makes the engine go?
Desire, desire, desire.
The longing for the dance
stirs in the buried life.
One season only,
            and it's done.
So let the battered old willow
thrash against the windowpanes
and the house timbers creak.
Darling, do you remember
the man you married? Touch me,
remind me who I am.

From Passing Through: The Later Poems, New and Selected - (W. W. Norton, 1995)

Stanley Kunitz

Stanley Kunitz is one of America's most celebrated poets. He was twice poet laureate and winner of a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award winner and many more. Born in Massachusetts, he divided most of his time in his adult years between his homes in Greenwich Village and Provincetown.

Kunitz was born in 1905 and died at age 100 in 2006. Here he is reading Touch Me, introduced by Garrison Keillor.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jackie Harrison: How Do We Appreciate the Arts

Peter Tibbles' Travel Travails and Salmon Recipe

category_bug_journal2.gif As regular readers know, Peter Tibbles owns Sundays at this blog where he weekly posts his delightful Elder Music column. But there's more to Peter than music (as if that's not enough) and I think you will enjoy this report from the road: Peter's return to Portland after a visit with relatives in Idaho, just across the border from Spokane, Washington:

We got to the bus station in Spokane in plenty of time of course and approaching departure time, we lined up in an orderly queue outside gate 3.

Well, 11:35AM came and went without a sign of any bus type substance. Then came the announcement over the loudspeaker: The bus to Portland will be delayed for half an hour as the bus from Missoula is late and ours was lurking around somewhere or other waiting for that one.

Well, by now we folks in line were real pals and we discussed whether the train or a plane would have been the better option.

Eventually a bus pulled up. And another and another and another and another and another. We figured that one of those should be ours and so it proved to be.

After a while there was another announcement that the bus to Portland is now loading at gate 1. What? Mad dash for gate 1, every man for himself. Another queue (different order from the first, of course).

A couple of minutes later, another announcement (and you can probably see where this is going) that the bus to Portland would be loading at gate 3. Another mad rush, every woman for herself.

Back at gate 3, they separated us into two queues, those with luggage to check and those with carry-on. Fortunately, I was in the carry-on queue, as we boarded first, and I got a nice seat with a big window (the front one had a woman with a small baby, so I stayed away from that).

We got everyone on board and the driver got on. Ah good, we all thought, but no. It seems that they loaded the checked luggage on to the wrong bus.

Well, we just sat around on the Group W benches playing with our pencils. We eventually got under way an hour late (and didn't make up time along the way).

Oh, the air conditioned failed not too long out of Spokane. Fortunately, it didn't get too hot. Also the intercom didn't work.

The driver did an admirable job under trying circumstances. When we arrived late in Pasco, the bus station was closed. He apologised for this saying that he had organised champagne and hors d'oeuvres for us all but with the station closed we'd miss out.

Ronni here again. A week ago, I showed you photographs of the results of the salmon dinner Peter prepared here one evening. It was dee-lish-us. Several of you asked for the recipe so I double-checked with Peter and here it is with his commentary. This serves two people.

Chunk of salmon (“enough for a good, one-person serving”)

About 2/3 cup of fermented black beans (“crush them a bit but don't go overboard”)

Add to the beans about 1 cup of mirin and a splash of sesame oil. Stir these and put aside.

Thinly slice a two-inch piece of fresh ginger

Thinly slice 5 or 6 cloves of garlic

Slice cross-wise into small pieces 7 or 8 spring onions (usually called scallions or green onions in the U.S.)

Line the steamer plate with the ginger, garlic and onions reserving a smaller amount for later.

Slice the salmon “as for sushi (small sushi, not big bits)” and place on top of the vegetables in a single layer (overlap if there's extra).

Pour the black bean mix over everything.

Add some more spring onions on top (“and garlic and ginger if you like”) Here is ready to be steamed:

Salmon Ready for Steamer

Steam for somewhere between 3 and 5 minutes depending how thick the salmon slices are.

Serve with rice at the table – and yum-mee it is.

Salmon being Served

A couple of nights ago, I made the dish again – everything the same as above except I substituted a whole halibut steak for the sliced salmon and it was equally good. I think you could use chicken too or just about anything that strikes your fancy.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Deb: The War of the Mashed Potatoes

Retirement Stories – Part 2

Like some of the elders discussed in Part 1 of this series, I was forced into retirement before my time but luckier that it was before the 2008 crash. Laid off in 2004, my young colleagues were finding new jobs within six, eight or 10 weeks while my unemployment dragged on.

There were not many interviews and some of the hiring managers who were eager to meet me after speaking on the telephone, suddenly discovered the job they'd listed had been filled overnight when this 64-year-old face showed up the next day for the interview.

Because I had been employed as a independent contractor (probably illegally), I was ineligible for unemployment insurance and after a year, the only solution to my alarming debt that climbed higher with each passing month was to sell my New York City home and find somewhere less expensive to live.

That took another year. Then I scrimped by until I was eligible for full Social Security at age 65 and eight months.

My point in repeating all that (2005 posts about it here and here) is that I did not choose to retire and in fact, oblivious to the passing years, I had never thought about when I might stop working or made any kind of plan. I'd had no idea the day I was laid off with a dozen colleagues that I would not work again.

Other people, looking forward to their retirement, do plan for it. Like this guy, Tony Lopez, whose first day off the job was 16 March:

That video is from “Day One Retirement Story,” a promotional campaign for Prudential who would undoubtedly like to become your and my financial adviser. Ordinarily, I steer away from anything on this blog that would promote commercial services, but I think this is a well-done series with some thought behind it that applies to us at TGB.

One of the most common things I hear from other retired people is their joy in giving up the alarm clock, of no longer living on someone else's schedule. I agree and so does Nadine Peterson whose first day of retirement was 31 July 2011.

At the Day One website is a growing collection of audio, video and still photos with quotations from recent retirees who have been interviewed for the project. As you would guess, health, family and grandchildren are common topics of the retirement stories but the three folks who made these observations put a big smile on my face:

“Happiness is an inside job.”

“I am even considering joining the Peace Corps.”

“I'm going to start building another boat.”

In this video, Mujahid Abdul-Rashid, whose Day 1 was 30 July 2011, says the prospect of retirement made him realize that he had almost skipped the father part of life and now he wants to do the grandfather part a little differently. Here's his story:

I'm a bit jealous that I slid unknowingly into retirement and don't have a Day 1 after the job. Now, eight years later (has it really been that long?), this blog and through it, trying to demystify what getting old is really like, has become my job.

In the past few months, I've taken on a couple of volunteer positions related to aging with the city I live in and the county, but the blog and exploration of age remain foremost. Except that I don't get a paycheck, my days are not much different from when I worked, almost as though I've not retired and that's fine with me.

If I had my druthers, I would still be in my apartment on Bedford Street in New York City. I would like, too, to have been gainfully employed for at least an additional five or six years.

But life doesn't always go as we want and given the circumstances of the economic times we live in now, it would be a churlish of me to complain. Retirement just rolled a different way for me than for many others.

Now, it's your turn. If retired, did you plan how it would go? How's that working out? Or if you're not retired yet, what are your plans? Do you think you will be able to achieve them? And for both circumstances, how has the recession/depression affected your retirement?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Stroppy: What Makes a “Readers' Write?”

Retirement Stories – Part 1

Reporter Floyd Norris, writing in The New York Times on Saturday, had this to say about retiring from the workforce:

”THE retirement dream seems further away for a lot of baby boomers, and they appear to be responding to that by holding on to their jobs if they can. But that may have worsened the employment prospects for younger workers.

“Labor Department figures indicate that the percentage of workers over the traditional retirement age of 65 is at a record high.”

Two things to know about Norris's opening statement: The “traditional retirement age,” usually defined as the age at which workers are eligible for full Social Security benefits, has not been 65 for a decade. As mandated by Congress in 1983, it is currently at 66 and is gradually increasing until it reaches 67 in 2022.

Second, it is a growing and irritating media meme that working old people are at fault for high unemployment among young people. This is not true. As a certain Cajun campaign consultant said 20 years ago, “It's the economy, stupid,” and it is devastating for both young and old in differing ways.

Retired people and those nearing retirement were hit with a triple whammy during and after the 2008 crash. They lost a large percentage of their 401(k) and other retirement savings; many thousands were forced into early retirement during the millions of layoffs following the crash; homes they had intended to sell to take out the accumulated equity for retirement are underwater or have lost a third or more of their value.

Actually, there is a fourth whammy too. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reports that age discrimination complaints had, in 2011, increased since 2007, by more than 21 percent.

And a fifth whammy: to survive, many laid-off old workers are forced to take early Social Security at age 62 decreasing their benefit for the rest of their lives by up to 30 percent, according to the Social Security Administration.

The gigantic difficulty for elders, compared to younger workers, is most do not have the time to recoup the losses to their 401(k)s; their homes will not reach their pre-recession value in their lifetimes (mine has dropped more than 20 percent since I bought it two years ago); and for those forced into early retirement, there is little chance of being rehired as we are reminded ad nauseum that employers will not take on people (of any age) who have been out of work for more than about six months.

Is it any wonder then that, as Norris reports, “the percentage of workers over the traditional retirement age of 65 is at a record high”? What choice do elders have? Norris also tells us:

"For the first time since the government began keeping track of the numbers in 1981 — and probably the first time ever — one in nine American men over the age of 75 was working in April. About one in 20 women over that age have jobs.

"In general, for workers it was better to be older in the current cycle. The employment-to-population ratios are higher now than before the recession began for both men and women in all age groups above 65."

What Norris does not tell us, however, is what kind of jobs they have. Walmart greeters? Whatever they work at, salaries are low across the board. In Virginia, a Presbyterian minister was laid off by her church in the downturn of 2007. She has struggled since then with temporary jobs and signed up for Social Security in 2010.

"For spending money,” reports Reuters via Huffington Post, “she plans to start teaching a water aerobics class to earn $40 a week. 'I'm not going to get wealthy on that,' she said. 'It's not really the ministry I expected to have.'"

Last Tuesday Senator Herb Kohl, who is chair of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, held a hearing focusing on long-term unemployment of older workers. At the hearing, Kohl made public a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) which, said Kohl, notes that

”...the number of long-term unemployed workers aged 55 and older has more than doubled since the recession began in late 2007. About 55 percent of unemployed older workers, or 1.1 million, have been unemployed for more than six months, up from 23 percent, or less than 200,000, in 2007.”

And less likely to find work with each passing day. Listen to these voices of the long-term, older unemployed as interviewed by the GAO last year:

It must be devastating to be a young worker with a freshly-minted college degree today, filled with energy and eager to take a first shot at changing the world. Surely you remember what that was like. Jobs were plentiful in my day and I don't envy today's graduates.

There is that gigantic student loan debt of tens of thousands of dollars even before they find their first job. Most jobs pay no more than the did 20 years ago while the price of rent, food, gas and clothing climb every month - and don't forget those loan payments right out of the first paycheck and thereafter for a decade or more. Few of us had anything like that.

But one thing young workers have that elders do not – 40 or more years to build a retirement nest egg. That doesn't make their lives any easier than elders in this economy, but they do have time on their side.

All people of the 99 percent are between a rock and a hard place these days so let us not blame elders for young folks' employment problems. Put the blame where it belongs – with the billionaire bank executives who brought us all to this calamity.

Tomorrow we'll discuss a lighter side of retirement.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Diane Linch: The Girl and Her Dad

ELDER MUSIC: Drinking Songs Part 1

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.

Bass Phillip

Okay we’re at ground zero for blues and country music songs here. Where would popular music be without these tunes?

I have a confession to make: I’m an Australian and I don’t like beer (I also don’t like Vegemite so that makes me doubly unAustralian. But Vegemite isn’t really the topic today, although it’s sort of related for those who know how it’s made).

I’m also not a spirits drinker - no whisky or whiskey, no cognac, no vodka. Okay, I like a glass of wine now and then (A GLASS!!! I can hear my friends saying). Alright maybe more than one.

In spite of the reputation of my country as big beer drinkers, wine sales have outstripped those of beer for some years now, so I’m not alone.

Getting back to the music, Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, and I came up with enough tracks to fill more than three columns without breaking a sweat. This is the first of them.

The obvious place to start is a song from my own country. Well, it was obvious to me. These strange dudes are called MENTAL AS ANYTHING.

Mental as Anything

The Mentals met at art school in Sydney, but unlike all those English groups from the sixties who did the same, these folks kept going with their art. They’ve had several exhibitions, both separately and as a group, and at least one of them makes more from his art than his music.

I imagine being famous rock stars helps, but only initially; they need to have some talent to continue in the art caper and these folks have that. They are terrific musicians as well.

This song was a hit in the eighties for them. Somewhat recently, they recorded an album of some of their earlier songs including this one. It was sort of an “unplugged” album - well, more a reinterpretation of their old songs. I like the new version better than the original so I’m going with that one. The Nips Are Getting Bigger.

♫ Mental as Anything - The Nips Are Getting Bigger

There were any number of versions of this next song but we decided on JOHN LEE HOOKER. Okay, I decided on him; the A.M. had an inkling for Amos Milburn but we (all right, I) decided to use him with another song.

John Lee Hooker

John Lee’s style is more akin to piano boogie woogie than to that of a guitarist. He often played a single chord throughout a song but with his great rhythmic variations, his expressive singing and often with a great backing guitarist to add color, he was one of the finest blues performers.

His influence is everywhere, particularly in the boogie style of rock & roll (I’m thinking of Canned Heat and George Thorogood especially). Here’s John Lee’s version of One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer.

♫ John Lee Hooker - One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer

GARY STEWART is a mandatory inclusion. Indeed, checking his oeuvre, I found that he could have had a column to himself on this topic and still have songs left over, so it’s difficult to come up with just one track for Gazza.

Gary Stewart (Gazza)

He was the ultimate honky-tonk performer, at least of recent years. He wrote (most of) his own songs, was an accomplished guitarist and piano player and a singer that took your breath away - mainly because you were wondering if he’d get out of the song alive.

Alas, that flippant comment proved to be true. Gary took his own life a few years ago soon after his wife of more than 40 years died of pneumonia. This song sounds as if it were based on his own life; I guess we’ll never know now. She’s Got a Drinking Problem (and It’s Me).

♫ Gary Stewart - She's Got a Drinking Problem

Now for a complete change of pace, a swerve over to left field, here is MARIO LANZA.

Mario Lanza

Mario was supposed to play the lead role in the film of The Student Prince however, the director, Curtis Bernhardt, didn’t like his singing. Mario told him he could direct his acting but not his singing and walked off the set.  The studio didn’t like that at all and got another actor, Edmond Purdom, to play the role, lip synching to Mario’s music.

Of course, by the time they had gotten around to doing this, the director had flown the coop and had been replaced by another who was a friend of Mario’s but it was too late. Edmond later became more well known playing the harried inspector in the Pink Panther films.

We’re just interested in the music though and here is Mario with Drink, Drink, Drink from that film.

♫ Mario Lanza - Drink, Drink, Drink

There were several options for the next song. Jerry Lee Lewis was the front runner but we have him for another song, so he missed out this time. The chosen one is STICK (or Sticks) MCGHEE.

Stick McGhee

I think I prefer Jerry Lee’s version of the song, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles, or some such cliché.

Stick was born Granville and gained his nickname as a child when he used to push around his older brother in a wagon with a stick. That brother had had polio, so it was difficult for him to walk. That didn’t stop him in the long run, he was that great blues guitarist Brownie McGhee.

Jerry Lee’s wasn’t the only cover version by a long shot; there have been scores, maybe hundreds of others. This is the original though. Drinkin' Wine, Spo-Dee-O-Dee.

♫ Stick McGhee - Drinkin' Wine, Spo-Dee-O-Dee

If there’s ever an opportunity for AMOS MILBURN to appear in a column, the A.M. will certainly take it. He had several songs that could be included but we decided to stick to one per person (unless we change our minds about that, of course).

Amos Milburn

Amos had a great sense of humor that was reflected in his music that’s mostly about partying, drinking and generally having a good time. He started out as a smooth stylist similar to Nat King Cole but he quickly jumped on the jump blues bandwagon and it’s this style for which he’s most known these days.

This is Bad Bad Whiskey. Incidentally, he also has a song called Good Good Whiskey as well as one called Vicious Vicious Vodka. There seems to be a bit of a theme there.

♫ Amos Milburn - Bad Bad Whiskey

You knew that DEAN MARTIN would have to be here somewhere and you’re right.

Dean Martin

This song isn’t really Dean’s style at all; it could be mistaken for a country track. I guess that’s appropriate given the topic. Here we have Dino with Little Ole Wine Drinker Me.

♫ Dean Martin - Little Ole Wine Drinker Me

TOM PAXTON was probably the first of the sixties’ singer/songwriters to make a name for himself. He predated Bob by several years in this caper and people were recording his songs quite early on.

Tom Paxton

Tom writes songs about every conceivable topic – protest songs, love songs, children’s songs, silly songs, songs about nothing, songs about the most important things, so you know there will be a drinking song in there somewhere.

This one is fairly famous, as it’s been recorded by several people: Bottle of Wine.

♫ Tom Paxton - Bottle of Wine

Now we have someone who knows a thing or two about drinking, GEORGE JONES. I’m really surprised he’s still alive.

George Jones

Often considered the finest male singer in country music (although I think Merle Haggard would more than give him a run for his money, the A.M. is unequivocal in her support for Merle), George has a formidable reputation in the field of drinking as well as singing.

Indeed, there are many stories about this and you probably know some of them, especially the ride-on lawn mower incident but we won’t go there. I’ll let George sing to you: If Drinkin' Don't Kill Me (Her Memory Will).

♫ George Jones - If Drinkin' Don't Kill Me (Her Memory Will)

I’ll finish with the interesting trio DILLARD HARTFORD DILLARD.

Dillard Hartford Dillard

These are brothers Rodney and Doug Dillard and John Hartford. Rodney and Doug formed the group The Dillards, although Doug left the group after a few albums. That group was one of the finest country rock groups who ever strut the stage, maybe even the best.

John Hartford was a fine songwriter (he wrote Gentle on my Mind among many others) and was a riverboat pilot who liked nothing better than sailing down the Mississippi and entertaining the passengers with his music when wasn’t piloting.

The three got together to record several interesting albums and today’s song is taken from one of those, No Beer in Heaven, with John singing lead.

♫ Dillard Hartford Dillard - No Beer in Heaven



Eileen Emeline Ingles

In April, Eileen Emeline Ingles of Invercargill, New Zealand, turned 100. Until a year ago, writes reporter Gwyneth Hyndman, she ran to the mailbox every morning. I like what Ms. Ingles says about her age:

"Lots of people growl about being old – but you come to it gently. Sometimes you are a bit ratty, but we all have our bad days. I've always been a worker; I'm not one of those people that sits around."

You can read more here. (Photo by Robyn Edie/Fairfax NZ)

For the “what will they think of next” file sent in by doctafil:

[From the YouTube page] ”Here's one comfortable commute. A man in China has souped-up his recliner and is taking it to the streets.”

The title is limiting – plenty of husbands care for their sick and dying wives. So do parents, children and friends. It is no easier for them than wives and there is enough good, non-gender-specific information in the book that friends and other relatives should not be put off.

The Caregiving Wife's Handbook

What IS off-putting (for me, anyway) is that every one of the six “real-life” caregiving wives writer and psychologist Diana B. Denholm quotes at length are embarrassingly whiny – not just once but repeatedly throughout the book. Three examples from among many:

“I want to be a good wife,” says one, “but I am getting older and don't want to give up what's left of my life.”

“Something else I'd really like to say to him is, 'You ruined our retirement plans. We had to scrap them, and I missed my chance.'”

“Until the very end, I want to be there for him emotionally so this is easier for him. But I don't want to be his scrub nurse! I trained to be a teacher, not a scrub nurse.”

How hard did Denholm need to look to find these selfish, faithless women? I know how exhausting caregiving is; I've done it. I know how unpleasant and “icky” it can be. And it can go on for years and years and years. But who else should do it? And whatever happened to “in sickness and in health”?

There is nothing morally or ethically special about me and there is plenty in my life I am ashamed of. But it never crossed my mind while caring for my mother to question what I was missing or giving up. Everyone has a bad day now and then, but these women sound resentful about every single day.

All that doesn't mean The Caregiving Wife's Handbook isn't useful, especially for those who seek psychological support and suggestions for coping. It is available in print at all the usual book outlets. There is no ebook edition.

Tarzana sent this video of Peeping Tom, a Brussels-based dance and theater company. Their work, says the group's homepage, "explores the idiosyncratic behaviour experienced in close relationships." It is both quirky and beautiful.

There was a big hoo-haw on the internets this week when the well-known TEDTalks refused to publish a March presentation by millionaire Amazon investor, Nick Hanauer, about who is and who is not a job creator.

Unlike Mitt Romney, Jamie Dimon and other rich people who say only they create jobs, Mr. Hanauer believes it is the middle class who does and of course, he is correct.

But this is hardly startling information. Thom Hartmann, among others on TV and radio, has been harping on this for years and if you only vaguely follow political news and commentary, you have read dozens of economists and others who explain how and why this is true.

Pretty much only Mr. Romney, his supporters and most Republicans don't know this - or pretend they don't in a continuing effort to preserve their low tax rates and loopholes.

Enough dust was raised by websites accusing TEDTalks of elistism in not publishing Hanauer's presentation that they finally relented, releasing part of the talk on Thursday. I'm pretty sure TGB readers - or, at least, the ones who comment here - are way ahead on this issue but just in case, here is the Hanauer TEDtalk.

I love its speed and convenience, but the New York City subway is also dirty, gritty and loud. Nevertheless, last Wednesday, 72 musical acts auditioned at Grand Central Station to win prime subway positions where they may perform for a year amid the din and crowds.

Here's a little story about those musicians produced by the MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority).

The funny folks at I Can Haz Cheezburger have a whole bunch of photos of cats as they would look if they were fonts. Here are Trajan Pro, Courier and Wingdings:

Cat Font Trajan

Cat Font Courier

Cat Font Webdings

You'll get a good giggle from the rest of them too – just click here.

Remember last year's amazing demonstrations in Milwaukee Madison? Tens of thousands of people for days and days in the depth of winter protesting against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

They got enough signatures to recall the governor and the election is coming up soon. TGB Reader Bev Carney sent along this video, You're Fired, by rapper Jasiri X.

Yeah, it's time for a Recall
United we stand divided we fall
We tired of being treated like we small
You forgot you work for us and we the boss

The rest of the lyrics are here.

Unless it's a laughing baby in a bathtub playing with the dog.

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.


Orrin Onken Orrin Onken writes the twice-monthly TGB Elderlaw Attorney column in which he discusses legal issues of concern and interest to elders. He is an elderlaw attorney licensed to practice in the state of Oregon. He also keeps his own blog, Oregon Elder Law, and you can read more about his background here. All his Time Goes By columns are collected in this list.

Okay folks, I finally got up the nerve to address trusts and how to use them to avoid probate. I offer this with a warning that applies to a lot of things in life: Just because you can do something does not mean that you should.

Remember my last post where I suggested that when it comes to estate planning you first need a plan. A trust may or may not be part of your plan. If it is, here is how it works.

We all know about contracts. A contract is a legal transaction between two people. At Walmart, I make a contract with the Walmart corporation by offering a dollar for a can of soup. The clerk accepts the offer, Walmart gets my dollar and I walk out with the soup. I have completed a contract. Lawyers study contracts for a year to get a handle on this.

A trust is a legal relationship among three people. The first person is the trustor. The trustor puts up money. In my example today, the trustor will be Uncle Scrooge.

The second person is the trustee. The trustee protects and manages the money. Our trustee will be Stern Bear Trust Company.

The third person is the beneficiary. Let's make our beneficiaries, Huey, Dewey and Louie.

In the normal trust case, Scrooge writes a trust and puts a bunch of money in it. Stern Bear manages the money and doles it out to Huey, Dewey and Louie so that the three nephews go to college instead of spending it all on sex, drugs and rock-and-roll. Lawyers don't spend a year studying trusts, but they probably should.

So how does this three person legal relationship help people avoid probate?

It is a legal trick.

Having too much time on their hands, lawyers came up with the idea that instead of having three different people make up a trust, they would do a trust with one person wearing three different hats.

Let's say that Uncle Scrooge doesn't really want to hand over control of his money to Stern Bear at all. He wants to have full control of all his money until he is dead after which Huey, Dewey and Louie can have it and use it however they want. And he doesn't want probate judges snooping around his estate. Here is what he does.

Scrooge creates a trust in which he is the trustor. That part is just like the normal trust. This trust, however, does away with Stern Bear because Scrooge names himself as the trustee too. Being trustee, he gets to manage the money he put in the trust.

Then he names himself as the sole beneficiary for as long as he lives. Thus, he is able to spend the money on himself or anyway he wants for the rest of his life. Rather than having three people in this trust, we have Uncle Scrooge wearing three hats.

Just to make sure that nothing goes wrong, Scrooge also makes his trust revocable. That means he can close down the trust, change it or take money out of it whenever he wants.

Most people's first response to an arrangement like this is to say that what Scrooge did is really not a trust at all. It is just one guy with three hats who gets to do whatever he wants with the money.

If this is what you think, a lot of people agree with you.

One of the people who agrees with you is the Internal Revenue Service. That organization calls these kinds of trusts "disregarded entities." Trust income is taxed directly to Scrooge as if the trust did not exist, and most other trust transactions will be attributed solely to him.

So who does recognize these things? Well, a lot of people but most importantly, banks, brokerages and title companies.

Under normal conditions, if Scrooge were to die with title to his mansion in his name, there is no way the mansion could be transferred to Huey, Dewey, and Louie unless a court gave someone the legal authority to sign the deed. That person would be the executor of the estate, and executors only exist if there is a probate.

If, on the other hand, Scrooge dies and title to the property is in the name of the “Uncle Scrooge Three Hat Trust,” the trust will contain the name of the person who takes over as trustee when Scrooge dies. That person has the authority to transfer the mansion, the brokerage accounts, and all other trust property to the nephews, and the trust tells him to do just that.

If the trust is carefully done, Scrooge has successfully used the three hats to avoid probate.

You should notice that Scrooge's plan works only if, right after creating his Three-Hat Trust, he transfers his mansion and all his bank accounts into the name of the trust. We lawyers call this “funding the trust.”

If he fails to transfer anything to the trust, the trust is an empty container and therefore worthless. If he transfers only half of his property to the trust, Huey, Dewey and Louie get to do both a trust administration and a probate - the worst result of all.

I don't put much faith in the idea my clients will fund their own trusts so I write the deeds. I make sure the bank accounts are closed and reopened in the name of the trust.

For all this extra work I charge more. Trusts are harder to write than wills and the funding takes time and effort. That means trusts cost more. Trusts probably save money in the long run, but you can never be sure about that.

I tell people who are undecided about a will or a trust that they are facing a pay-me-now or pay-me-later choice. If you want to make your death as inexpensive as possible for your kids, pay me the big bucks now to write the trust, record the deeds and deal with the broker.

If you figure the kids are getting a big wad of free money in the form of an inheritance and the least they can do is pay a few legal fees, you hire me to write a will. The kids will pay me later out of their inheritances.

Some folks pay up front, others leave it up to the kids to pay. For me, it works out about the same.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: The Great Sauerkraut Fiasco

Fixing (Not Destroying) Social Security

category_bug_politics.gif As reported here two days ago, a bunch of rich, white men (and two or three equally privileged women) met in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday resulting in a bit more media attention than I had expected.

What they reported, mostly, was House Speaker John Boehner's threat to shut down the government later this year over the debt ceiling if Republicans don't get the budget cuts they want (remember the government default battle from last year?).

Of course, those cuts involve Social Security, Medicare and safety net programs that have never been more crucial than during our extended recession/depression. If you want to know more about the Fiscal Summit, check out Richard Eskow's story.

What the media failed to cover was last Friday's Congressional briefing on a significant new report about the need to modernize Social Security. Did you know...

• Even with Social Security, 12 percent of women live in poverty

• Even with Social Security, 15 percent of widows live in poverty

• Even with Social Security, 26.1 percent of African-American women and 21.4 percent of Hispanic women 75 and older live in poverty

• In 2010, 46 percent of elder unmarried women overall and 58 percent of unmarried elder women of color rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their total income

• In 2009, the average annual Social Security income for a retired man was $15,620; for women, $12,155.

These statistics are from a new, 22-page report, Breaking the Social Security Glass Ceiling: A Proposal to Modernize Women's Benefits [pdf] that you can read here.

NCPSSM Social Security Report 2012

It is a joint project of The Institute for Women's Policy Research, The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) and the National Organization for Women Foundation.

Don't be fooled by the title of the report and all those repetitions of the word, women. Although there is a great deal of disparity between men's and women's benefits that needs rectifying, this report is equally important for men. Among the report's proposals for change:

• Provide Social Security credits for caregivers whose workforce participation is interrupted, often for many years

• Strengthen the cost of living adjustment (COLA) by switching from the CPI index to the more accurate for elders CPI-E index.

• Restore benefits to students of deceased working parents up to age 22 (instead of current 18) to help families get their kids through college

• Full benefits for same-sex married couples and partners

These are a few highlights. I urge you to read the report which is clearly written and with much more information than I have room for here including additional research, background and proposals with details of each along with options for funding the proposed changes and resolving the minor Social Security shortfall.

Or, you could watch a video of last week's briefing on the report, packed with information from Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), National Organization for Women Foundation President Terry O’Neill, Institute for Women's Policy Research President Dr. Heidi Hartman and Institute for Health and Aging at the University of California Founding Director Dr. Carroll Estes.

These are all smart, accomplished women who are on our – elders' – side, something Peter G. Peterson and most Republicans in Congress are definitely not.

NCPSSM President/CEO Max Richtman is also on our side and he showed up, with Senator Bernie Sanders and others on Tuesday, at the demonstration against Peterson's Fiscal Summit. In his remarks at the rally, Richtman said in part:

”Pete Peterson, the sponsor of this summit, is spending one billion dollars to promote the false and dangerous choice that to save Social Security and Medicare we have to destroy these vital systems through privatization and huge benefit cuts.

“Unfortunately, all too many members of Congress believe in the false choice of trading tax increases for cuts in Social Security and Medicare benefits.

“What is happening behind us today is a cynical attempt at manipulating the American public into believing that the only choices to fix Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are to:

“1. Cut benefits, and

“2. Repeat choice #1”

You can read the rest of his speech here.

Although public polls continue to agree that a gigantic majority of Americans of all ages and political leanings oppose cutting Social Security in any way, Congress only talks about cuts.

That's because the majority of Americans aren't giving millions of dollars to Congress members. But we – you and I and our neighbors and friends – have another kind of power. I reached out to the NCPSSM and Max Richtman emailed this message for us and all elders:

"It’s no accident older Americans remain those most likely to vote. After all, they’ve probably seen it all politically over the years and they also have the power of conviction.

"However, I hear from seniors all the time that often life provides too many roadblocks for real political engagement outside the ballot box. Whether it’s limited transportation, health, or even finances I’m always asked, 'What can I do even if I can’t storm City Hall anymore?'

"My answer is simple - engage. Write or call your Congressman in Washington – often. Write a letter to the editor. There is still power in grassroots mobilization and with the internet, net roots mobilization.

"Do everything you can to get to your local Congressional Town Hall meetings. Believe me, your Congressional members are being told each and every day the only way to fix our fiscal mess is to cut middle-class benefits.

"They have been bombarded with a billion dollar fiscal hawk lobbying and PR campaign to ensure ‘no good crisis goes to waste.' These folks see this economic nightmare as a once in a lifetime opportunity to shift blame from what truly ails our nation to phony crisis calls about programs they’ve targeted for decades.

"Believe me, you and your neighbors will be the only ones to remind your Member of Congress that all these plans to cut Social Security and Medicare may sound good to politicos who don’t need them but out in the real world where people are still suffering in this economy, cutting already modest benefits simply isn’t an option.

"Even if you’ve never written to Washington, do it now. If you’ve never called Capitol Hill or the White House, now’s the time. If you have the means to contribute to an organization that can put your donations to work for you, this is the election year to do it.

"I believe the future of Social Security and Medicare could very well be decided this November and in the lame duck session of Congress that follows."

The threat to Social Security and Medicare in the current political climate is real and serious. I have asked you to take action in the past and now I'm asking you to read Max Richtman's message to us carefully and to follow up.

There are many websites that make it easy to contact your Congressional representatives and the White House and if you use them, please do so again now. But I'm talking about the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare today, so here are their links:

• Members of Congress email addresses

Your local newspapers (click the word “media” in the header and then enter your Zip Code for a list of papers with contact information

• When you contact Congress and media about this Social Security report, include the link to it

If you keep a blog, write about this yourself and spread the word to your readers. Feel free to use anything from my post – just be sure to include the links to the report and other media you quote.

The NCPSSM is working hard for us against enormous monetary odds. You can help do a lot of good for all generations of elders - if you can afford it - with a donation or by joining the organization (just $12). Do that here. (Disclosure: The NCPSSM gave me a “Media Excellence Award” in 2008 for this blog.)

Remember the old joke about “vote early and often”? Call and write your Congress members and your Congressional candidates EARLY AND OFTEN, especially this year. Get your relatives and friends to do it too.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Night Sounds

Peter Tibbles' Trip to Oregon – Part 2

category_bug_journal2.gif Ten days ago or so, I posted some photos of Time Goes By Elder Music columnist Peter Tibbles and his Assistant Musicologist, Norma, during their stay with me here in Oregon.

On 3 May, I saw them off to Idaho where they visited relatives. A week later, the AM flew to the east coast of the U.S. to see friends and Peter returned to my house for a few more days.

Among the interests Peter and I share is food and wine so a lot of our time was expended on thinking about, talking about, shopping for and preparing meals. What I did not realize until now, as I was going through the photos, is that we might as well have been in Japan.

Kurata Lunch

That, above, is part of our meal at the excellent Japanese restaurant in Lake Oswego, Kurata, where we had lunch one day. And here is Peter at another excellent Japanese lunch at Mio in Portland a few days later. I've forgotten what the waving around of the $10 bill was about.

Peter at Mio

After Peter described a salmon and black bean dish he likes to cook, we made a trip to the nearby Japanese supermarket, Uwajimaya, to purchase supplies for the dinner. Here is Peter deep into preparation:

Peter Salmon Prep

Here are the salmon and black beans ready to steam.

Salmon Ready to Steam

While Peter played chef for this meal (and many others at home), I set the table.

Dinner Table

It was a glorious meal that I will try to repeat on my own sometime soon.

Peter Serving

In past posts about Ollie the cat, I've told you how shy he is when people visit – straight under the bed he goes when anyone who is not me walks through the door. Maybe it was the length of Peter's stay or maybe he really, really likes Peter or maybe in his old age, Ollie is relaxing – as he did in this chair.

Ollie in Chair

He even allowed himself to get oh-so-cute while Peter was here as in this poorly lighted shot of him peeking at us in the dining room.

Ollie Peaking from Chair

He even reverted to some odd behavior I haven't seen in more than a year when he dropped a mouse into his water bowl one day. There's no way to know what that's about.

Mouse in Water Bowl

Unlike the first week Peter was here with Norma, there was glorious weather during his second stay. On the day we had lunch at Mio in Portland, we also spent some time at the Portland Japanese Garden. This stone lion is one of two that greeted us at the entrance.

Japanese Garden Lion

The garden is as beautiful as you would imagine. Although the wisteria wasn't ready yet, spring flowers and shrubs were in bloom. Peter and I both found a lot to photograph.

Peter at Japanese Garden

And this flat garden is, obviously, serene whatever the season of the year.

Japanese Flat Garden

At home (when we were not eating), Peter educated me on Australian TV comedy shows, we both read a lot and aren't we all happy for modern communications that make it easy to keep up with email when we're away from home.

Peter at the Desk

Peter is spending another couple of weeks with his sister in the San Francisco area before flying home to Melbourne. Last Sunday afternoon, I drove him to Union Station in Portland for the train trip south.

It's amazing the friends we make on the internet and I have to remind myself now that I can't just call Peter to invite him and Norma to dinner or suggest we meet at Mio or Kurata for lunch. It was hard to say goodbye and I sat in the car for a while until my eyes cleared up enough to drive.

Union Station

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary Hertslet: Life Lessons Learned

The Elite Meet on Social Security Today

category_bug_politics.gif You've heard of Peter G. Peterson, haven't you? He is the billionaire financier who has, for decades, been spending his money in pursuit of privatizing Social Security. Whenever you read the word “privatize” in that regard, read “loot.”

Here is what Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and TGB contributor Saul Friedman wrote about Peterson in these blog pages two years ago:

”Give Peterson his due; he’s smart enough to know that Social Security is not in serious difficulty, that it’s not a big drag on the federal budget and that it’s not a 'Ponzi scheme,' as some ignorant right-wingers charge.

“But Social Security’s nearly $800 billion a year in income and its growing trust fund are tempting for a shrewd financier and the Wall Street crowd...

“What a prize it would be for the wonderful world of finance if, as Peterson now proposes, at least part of Social Security’s revenues and its trust fund could be available for investment or government programs to his liking.”

(If you've never thought about it, consider where you would be today if part of your Social Security account had been invested on Wall Street in 2008.)

As you read this blog post on Tuesday 15 May 2012, The Peter G. Peterson Foundation is holding its third annual, all-day Fiscal Summit in Washington, D.C. where participants include

Former President Bill Clinton
House Speaker John Boehner
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner
Senator Rob Portman
Congressman Paul Ryan
Former Senator Alan Simpson.

Do you see a pattern among these Summit speakers? What these “Peterson people” will talk about today is that the deficit is so awful we must slash public spending (read food stamps, unemployment insurance, etc.) and “reform” (always means “cut”) what they refer to as entitlements but we know we have paid for with dollars we earned over a lifetime – Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

The ignorant media - those who operate as stenographers - will report what is said at this Summit as gospel truth. You will be reading and hearing the lies tomorrow and the next day with no attempt from the stenos to correct the record.

While I'm on the topic of the media, on the list of speakers and panelists at the Fiscal Summit webpage, are a number of well-known, celebrity journalists listed not as reporters but as participants:

Tom Brokaw, NBC
Erin Burnett, CNN
John F. Harris, Politico
Patricia Murphy, The Daily Beast/Newsweek
George Stephanopoulos, ABC
David Wessel, Wall Street Journal
Judy Woodruff, PBS

Personally, it does not gladden my heart to see the elite of national media (who have no need of Social Security for their retirement), taking part in the meeting organized by a billionaire whose decades-old goal is to dismantle Social Security and Medicare.

Attendance at the Peter G. Peterson Fiscal Summit is by invitation only which makes the above lists of speakers and participant journalists look even worse than they would without such exclusivity.

Here is a much better-looking list of people who, excluded from the Summit, will be demonstrating outside the meeting venue at the Andrew Mellon Auditorium at 1301 Constitution Avenue, N.W. In Washington, D.C. today:

Bernie Sanders, U.S. Senator
Terry O’Neill of NOW
Max Richtman of NCPSSM
Roger Hickey of Campaign for America's Future

Among the sponsors of the rally are Health Care for America Now, CREDO, Social Security Works, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, National Committee to Protect Social Security and Medicare and National Organization for Women.

The Protest the Fiscal Summit rally (more about it here) begins at 1PM today and if you are in the D.C. area and are reading this in time, it would be terrific if you would lend your presence. Here is what Roger Hickey wrote about the reasons for the demonstration:

”One more thing Peterson has been selling: House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. Even many deficit hawks have attacked Ryan's budget plan - supported by almost all Congressional Republicans - because its tax cuts and unspecified and unlikely loophole closings would make the deficit much worse.

“Democrats claim they will run against the Ryan budget as the epitome of everything wrong with the Republican party, as it is. Yet at the last Peterson Summit, a year ago, former president Bill Clinton came to the defense of Paul Ryan and his plans for Medicare.”

I know I do bang on about the threats to Social Security and Medicare and I know your eyes glaze over when you see these posts. But without those programs, I would be living under a bridge and so would a lot of you. We must fight back against the elites who would do that to us and to future generations.

Here are a couple of reports on today's Peterson Fiscal Summit from people who know a lot more about it than I do:

Dean Baker - co-director of CEPR

Dave Johnson - Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Michael Gorodezky: My Grief

President Obama Endorses Gay Marriage – Finally

The latest cover of the New Yorker magazine on newsstands today. Isn't this terrific:

New Yorker cover May 21, 2012

Compared to Congress and the judicial branch of government, a president has few actual powers. However, his position does imbue him with the authority to influence and, in time, even to change the course of the social zeitgeist.

That happened last week when President Barack Obama endorsed same-sex marriage:

Now the public conversation about full rights for gays and lesbians is altered.

Among the zillions of words spoken in response to the president's announcement were some important ones from our own Jan Adams at her blog in a post titled, BHO made me happy.

I should say something about the President having completed his 'evolution' to accept and endorse gay marriages (under state laws). The president made me happy. I'm surprised at how happy he made me...

“I'm glad he came out with this the day after North Carolina again voted my kind off the island. If it hasn't happened to you, you have no idea what it feels like to have your fellow citizens declare by popular vote that there is something so wrong with you that you shouldn't be allowed full rights. It stinks and it hurts.”

If you are straight and are having any trouble understanding that, imagine your life if you had been barred from marrying your wife or husband. Many gay and lesbian couples have lived decades in that second-class condition. Please go read the rest of Jan's post.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: Love's Memories

ELDER MUSIC: Buddy Holly

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.

category_bug_eldermusic Self indulgence time today (as if all these columns aren’t just that).

Buddy Holly

BUDDY HOLLY was the most famous musician to come from Lubbock, Texas, and yes, there were others.

Born Charles Hardin Holley, he always claimed to be related to the notorious gunslinger John Wesley Hardin. I won’t go into whether that’s so or not as it’s really irrelevant to what we are about today - and that is music. No gunplay will be in evidence.

Buddy Holly

Buddy has been described as "the single most influential creative force in early rock and roll" and I wouldn’t disagree with that assessment.

He defined the genre by writing the songs himself, having a self contained band, The Crickets, in which he played guitar and sang, produced his own records, and recorded them at his own speed without record company interference, utilizing unorthodox instruments in his songs.

You could almost be describing The Beatles upon whom he had an overwhelming influence. This wasn’t obvious at the time; it’s only in retrospect that this became clear.

Buddy Holly and the Crickets

There are a number of songs that are so iconic I don’t need to mention them. I won’t be featuring them today. Well, not many of them. I just want to show that there was more to Buddy than the hits.

Indeed, the progress he showed in the last year of his life in songwriting, producing and general musicianship is remarkable and, of course, it raises the “what if?” question. Buddy was 22 when he died. We’ll never know the answer so I’m not going to dwell further on that.

Buddy Holly

Due to all sorts of legal shenanigans, Buddy was contracted to two separate record companies, one as himself and another as a member of The Crickets. Thus, twice as much music was released at the time which was good for us but led to problems down the track. I won’t bother you with that, I’ll just get into the music.

The second album I bought with my own money was “The Buddy Holly Story, Volume 2” (Volume 1 was the first, although it didn’t have the “Volume” on it).

This second one was rushed out when the first sold a million or more. That first one contained all the hits that everyone knew. The songs on Volume 2 were what were then considered also-rans. They have proved to be some of his most enduring songs over the years. There will be a few from that one today.

So much for my initial premise of only having lesser known songs - here’s one of Buddy’s most famous. It was originally called Cindy Lou after Buddy’s niece - the name was later changed to Peggy Sue. This was the name of Jerry Allison’s girl friend and later, wife. Jerry was the drummer in The Crickets and he produced that wonderful rolling drum beat throughout the song.

♫ Buddy Holly - Peggy Sue

Buddy kept the story of Peggy Sue going with this next song. There were various versions of Peggy Sue Got Married released after he died. This is the first I encountered on the album “Volume 2”.

It was overdubbed, but not as badly as some other versions of the song that had different additions to it. There is Buddy’s original version out there, the one he recorded in his apartment in New York and that’s really the pick of the bunch.

I have used that one before and you can find it in a column called Singer Songwriters. Here’s the version I first heard when I was young.

♫ Buddy Holly - Peggy Sue Got Married

Listen to Me sounds to me rather like a calypso song. Calypso music was big around then, so I wouldn’t be surprised. There’s also Buddy’s distinctive Stratocaster guitar playing throughout and even a talky bit to add a touch of country.

♫ Buddy Holly - Listen to Me

Buddy Holly

Crying, Waiting, Hoping seems to be the song that has had the most overdubs on various releases over the years. None of these is very good and some are atrocious.

Given that, I’ve selected the version with just Buddy and acoustic guitar that he recorded in his apartment in New York before going on the last tour.

♫ Buddy Holly - Crying Waiting Hoping (original)

A song that wasn’t a big hit in its time is Not Fade Away. It was the flip side of Rave On, a 45 I bought as a whippersnapper. The Rolling Stones covered the song early in their career and made it a hit.

Buddy’s version beats the Stones’ version easily. Buddy usurped the Bo Diddley beat as did the Stones in a lot of their early records. Bo said that if he could have copyrighted that he’d have made a fortune. He probably wouldn’t have as he didn’t get much from the songs he wrote either.

However, Bo remained a great performer for the rest of his life. This is about Buddy though.

♫ Buddy Holly - Not Fade Away

Buddy Holly

Words of Love was a song The Beatles covered in their early recording days. Their version wasn’t bad but not as good as Buddy’s.

♫ Buddy Holly - Words of Love

Valley of Tears was written by Fats Domino and is a rare cover from Buddy. Fats had a minor hit with the song in 1957. I prefer Buddy’s version, but not by much.

♫ Buddy Holly - Valley of Tears

Buddy Holly

I first discovered Well, All Right on my album of “Volume 2”.

Here it is as I heard it as a callow youth.

♫ Buddy Holly - Well, All Right

Mailman, Bring Me No More Blues is a fine example of the “hiccup” style of singing for which Buddy was renowned. He said that this was just a Texas way of singing. I don’t know. I’ll have to ask some Texans. However it came into being, I like the song.

♫ Buddy Holly - Mailman, Bring Me No More Blues

Buddy Holly

Okay, here’s another famous one. As I mentioned up above, this was the single I bought that had Not Fade Away on the flip side. I didn’t know about that song when I first got it but I sure knew about this one, Rave On.

♫ Buddy Holly - Rave On

Buddy Holly


An estimated half million Amercians age 75 and older are afflicted with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) along with, eventually, the resultant blindness. Two years ago, the Federal Trade Commission approved an amazing space-age treatment for some with AMD:

video platform video management video solutions video player

You can read more here.

And if you happen to live in the Spokane, Washington area, have we got a gift idea for you.

Mother's Day Gun Advertisement

Peter Tibbles found this and passed it on. Nothing says love like a family holiday at the shooting range.

On 2 May, Harvard and MIT announced a joint non-profit partnership that will offer free online courses from both universities. And that's only the beginning:

”...Harvard and M.I.T. have a rival — they are not the only elite universities planning to offer free massively open online courses, or MOOCs, as they are known.

This month, Stanford, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan announced their partnership with a new commercial company, Coursera, with $16 million in venture capital.”

As good as these educational developments will be for young students, I believe they are an excellent learning source for elders who in retirement have time to pursue interests they were too busy for during the mid-years of life.

A year or so ago, I told you about the free online-only lectures at the then-new Khan Academy. At the time, most of the topics were in mathematics but there is now a growing collection in history and the humanities. I liked this discussion of the famous 1434 painting of Giovanni Arnolfini and his wife by Jan Van Eyck.

Synesthesia is a fascinating neurological condition in which the brain's crossed wires allow some people to, for example, taste colors or hear sounds when they smell certain odors.

Indice_auras2 Now, take a little memory trip and recall that time in the sixties when seeing auras around people was in fashion. It always felt like a hippie dippie kind of thing to me and probably fraudulent. But now researchers in Spain have done some work suggesting that some who claim to see auras may actually see those glowing colors due to synesthesia:

”...synesthetes present more synaptic connections than 'normal' people. 'These extra connections cause them to automatically establish associations between brain areas that are not normally interconnected,' professor Gómez Milán explains. New research suggests that many healers claiming to see the aura of people might have this condition.”

Okay, yet another study filled with weasel words like “may” and “suggest” which means no one knows yet if this is true or not. But I still think it's interesting.

(Hat tip to Darlene Costner)


“I hate them. It’s like making believe there’s another kind of sex. There isn’t another kind of sex. There isn’t another kind of book! A book is a book is a book."

Give up? It was the author of Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak, who died last week at age 83. You can read more about him here.

For our celebration of his life today, here is Sendak's interview in two parts with Stephen Colbert.

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.