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INTERESTING STUFF – 11 May 2013


OLD PEOPLE DRIVING

Two-and-a-half years ago, I showed you a clip from a 24-minute documentary about three oldest old people – near centenarians – driving. Here it is again:

This week the producer, Shaleece Haas, emailed to tell me one of the featured drivers, Herbert Bauer, died a few days ago at age 103. She sent this photo of the two of them together last year.

Shaleece and Herbert

In January this year, Shaleece's grandfather Milton, another of the featured drivers in her film, turned 100. Here's a photo of him at his centennial party.

Milton 100 birthday

You can find out more about the Old People Driving film here.


SEND YOUR MESSAGE TO MARS

November 18 is the scheduled launch date for an unmanned Mars mission (MAVEN) to study the upper atmosphere of the planet. Here's an artist's animation of what the spacecraft will look like in orbit:

NASA is inviting the public to send their names and messages to be carried via DVD on the spacecraft, particularly messages in the form of a haiku. Every name submitted will be placed on the DVD, but only three of the haiku.

“The deadline for all submissions is July 1. An online public vote to determine the top three messages to be placed on the DVD will begin July 15.”

You can read more about the message program here. The submission page is here.


PASSWORDS ANXIETY

I know just how comedian Don Friesen feels about passwords. They drive me nuts keeping track. The wonderful Darlene Costner sent this video.


DASHCAM SAMARITANS IN RUSSIA

Two weeks ago in this Saturday column, I showed you a video of a good Samaritan stopping his car in traffic to help an old woman cross the street.

Now, I've discovered a compilation of many Russian good Samaritans caught in the act on dashcams. In fact, the one I showed you before is included near the middle of this one – and an amazingly large number of these are protective of elders. It's good to see...


EIGHT YEARS AND NOTHING HAS CHANGED

TGB Reader Cathy Johnson emailed to tell me her husband, Roger, had been laid off suddenly without notice from his job of 20 years. COBRA health coverage costs too much and Roger won't be old enough for Medicare for several months.

That happened to me – a few months without health coverage – and it's so frightening, you don't want to get out of bed for the duration for fear of injury. I wish Roger well.

Meanwhile, he hasn't lost his sense of humor. Cathy sent along this cartoon, by Wiley, her husband had saved from the Bush era in 2005. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Retirement Cartoon Wiley


ALAN CUMMING AS LADY MACBETH

If the name is not familiar, perhaps you know Scottish actor, writer, singer, director, producer Alan Cumming as the host of Masterpiece Mysteries on PBS. Or maybe in his brilliantly done turn as the cunning election campaign chairman in the wonderfully written TV series, The Good Wife.

Cumming is currently starring on Broadway in MacBeth. But not just as MacBeth himself; he is playing every significant role in Shakespeare's powerful tragedy making it all but a one-man show.

Here is a short clip of Cumming as Lady MacBeth:

You can find out more about the production in The New York Times review.


”TO FIND BEAUTY AND ART IN DECAY"

My old friend Frank Paynter sent this photo of a sculpture by Charles Sherman.

Sculpture Decay

Sherman explains that this piece, on display at MOCA's Urs Fisher Clay Project, is in a state of gradual decomposition. [emphasis is mine]

”When a sculpture made from clay is not kiln fired it will dry out, lose it's strength, and eventually fall apart,” says Sherman. “Unfired clay work is called green ware and as such may be recycled...

“The decomposition process in the Urs Fischer exhibition raises questions about beauty and decay, art and life.

“As we age, we look at ourselves in the mirror, see wrinkles and make an esthetic choice: Am I beautiful or am I wrinkly and ugly? The lesson in this exhibition is to find beauty and art in decay.”

TWO MONTHS ON AN ANTARCTIC ICE BREAKER

Cassandra Brooks narrates this video of a two-month voyage at the bottom of the world compressed into in less than five minutes. There's a nice little surprise for you at the end.


SEA OTTER'S ABLUTION

Here is another seagoing creature with a much more pampered life at the Lisbon Zoo having a morning scrub.


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.



New: Hospital Price Transparency

Remember last February when we discussed Steve Brill's illuminating (and infuriating) results of his investigation into hospital pricing?

Now, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (which administers Medicare and Medicaid) for the first time ever, has released data showing what nearly 3400 hospitals around the country charge Medicare for 100 of the most common inpatient procedures. (All data is for fiscal year 2011.)

The price disparities among them, even within the same cities, states and regions, are shocking. Some examples from The New York Times story:

”A hospital in Livingston, N.J., charged $70,712 on average to implant a pacemaker, while a hospital in nearby Rahway, N.J., charged $101,945.

“In Saint Augustine, Fla., one hospital typically billed nearly $40,000 to remove a gallbladder using minimally invasive surgery, while one in Orange Park, Fla., charged $91,000.

“In one hospital in Dallas, the average bill for treating simple pneumonia was $14,610, while another there charged over $38,000.”

According to the Times analysis of the HHS data, the wide variations exist even for standardized procedures without complications:

”For a cardiac procedure in which a small tube, or stent, is implanted to open up a clogged blood vessel, the average hospital charge is over four times the average Medicare payment.

“In addition, bills submitted by profit-making hospitals to Medicare are typically higher than those submitted by nonprofit centers, the analysis found.”

This is the first time in Medicare (or any healthcare) history that patients are able to know (average) prices before fainting when the bill arrives. So now, if we are not unconscious and it's a scheduled procedure, we can make choices as we do for other kinds of purchase.

Gerard Anderson, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Hospital Finance and Management, was interviewed for the Times story:

“'If you’re charging 10 percent more or 20 percent more than what it costs to deliver the service, that’s an acceptable profit margin,' Mr. Anderson said. 'Charging 400 percent more than what it costs has no rational basis in it at all.'”

The data is published at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) website. There are a lot of filters to choose from on their dense Excel spreadsheet which prints out, according to Steve Brill, at more than 17,000 pages.

For me, at least, the filters on the spreadsheet make it a steep learning curve. With patience, it can be done, but here is a better idea - not to mention, a good reason to appreciate the work of The New York Times for the extraordinary effort they made in creating an interactive map of the data in a format that is close to stupid proof.

NYTmedicaremap

Just enter a city/state name or Zip Code in the box and you'll get a map with colored circles representing local hospitals. Hover over a circle to get a hospital name and click it to see side-by-side comparisons of the average that the hospital billed Medicare with what Medicare pays on average for dozens of procedures.

Some states (California is one) have published this kind of information for several years and of course, price is not necessarily the best (and certainly not the only) gauge that is useful in choosing a hospital. But the new transparency in pricing gives us an important tool to add to the mix.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dani Ferguson Phillips: A Gentle Man and a Scholar



“I'm a Sexually Liberated Woman, Finally - at Age 80”

Regarding what you will read below, I am torn equally between unbridled admiration and wretched jealousy. This the kind of writing, particularly about aging, that makes me want to just give up what I do here.

This gorgeous essay, which closely mirrors my own feelings on the subject, having been published on 1 May in The Globe and Mail of Toronto, was sent to me yesterday by a reader named Barbara LeDucq.

All the paper tells us about the author is that her name is Laurie Lewis and she lives in Kingston, Ontario.


Old age is my territory now. I have sailed past septuagenarian status and landed relatively peacefully in the octogenarian zone.

Here, truly, lies the Age of Invisibility when we disappear – certainly as physical, sexual beings.

“Once you pass 80 they will applaud you just for standing up,” my mother used to say. These days, I get a laugh when I stand up and tell people that.

Becoming an old woman has been a sexually liberating experience for me. It has given me, among other things, a great ability to love generously, since I am not impelled to act out that love.

While it became clear to me some years ago that no one other than my aged, now deceased, spouse was interested in my body, I could feel the passion of my own awareness and a new kind of love of people – enormous love and appreciation of friends of all ages, of their beauty and their ways; of girls and young women; boys and young men; of the vigorous bodies of cyclists and woodsmen; of the open and watchful faces of children, the perfection of their eyes. The warmth and softness of my overweight friend, and the smoothness of her skin. And my skinny buddy with her arthritic thumb, across the table at lunch – the crispness of motion.

I see young women walking down the streets in summer. I love their sexuality, appreciate their bodies both in the totality, the vitality, of the young animal, and the details of curve and line and the glow of skin. This is not desire, but perhaps some chromosomal memory, a generic sexuality, a love for and of the human female.

“They are so lovely,” my mind sighs. I have a hazy memory that says I might also have been lovely a long time ago, had I but known.

There was a young woman at Queen’s University whose bare midriff displayed a plain silver ring in the nest of her navel. What I loved especially was her long and perfect skull, with its shaven stubble of red hair, balanced on the stalk of her neck, and the courage and gaiety and humour with which she spoke and moved.

I feared that she would be cold – winter was, after all, upon us. But she told me her jacket was warm. “You’d be surprised at how warm it is,” she said, opening her coat to show me, radiating her own heat. Of course.

One recent summer, a young man came to rebuild the steps on my back deck. The sun shone on the brown muscles of his arms and the thick, curling, yellow hair at the back of his neck.

For two or three days I sat on the deck and watched him work. I drank iced tea and pretended to read a book. “Giving my hormones a workout,” I called it.

Some memory of sexual desire? Perhaps. But it seemed to me to be the pure adoration of the beauty of a physical being.

Ronni here again. Go read the whole thing at The Globe and Mail. I promise you will be happy you did.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Teeth



Words of Aging Wisdom

Everyone needs some quiet time, a place apart from what we do all day and that is where I find myself this week. So instead of a real post, here is something easy for me to put together - some quotations about aging I like.

I've posted at least some them in the past but that doesn't make them less cogent or inspiring or thoughtful.

“We grow neither better nor worse as we grow old, but more like ourselves.”
- Mary Lamberton Becker
“The old woman I shall become will be quite different from the woman I am now. Another “I” is beginning and so far, I have not had to complain of her.”
- George Sand
“I love everything that’s old: old friends, old times, old memories, old books, old wine.”
- Oliver Goldsmith
“There is nothing more notable in Socrates than that he found time when he was an old man to learn music and dancing, and thought it was time well spent.”
- Michel de Montaigne
“Time and trouble will tame an advanced young woman, but an advanced old woman is uncontrollable by any earthly force.”
- Dorothy L. Sayers
“To hold the same views at 40 is 20 stupefied.”
- Robert Louis Stevenson
“The heads of strong old age are beautiful beyond all grace of youth.”
- Robinson Jeffers

Do any of these speak to you?


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Arlene Corwin: Good Yoga



Playing in Old Age

Last week, in discussing purpose in retirement, some commenters hit on something that I had deliberately omitted from my post, saving it for another time:

”After raising 2 generations of children for over 40 years, I am very happy to have this time for ME,” wrote Diane. “I...spend much of my time doing whatever I want in the outdoors - walking, swimming, exploring my city and creating art...I feel privileged to have this time for 'wandering.'”

Charlotte Dahl chimed in on this theme more forcefully:

”Now I can do what I want without feeling guilty. Well, maybe a twinge now and then. Life - I'm lovin it! You other guys can go be productive.”

America abhors a productivity vacuum. We are exhorted into hyperactivity – do, do, do - nearly from birth. As Daniel Klein explains in his important little book, Travels with Epicurus, that after childhood, we lose our built-in capacity for aimless play and fooling around:

“...our current dedication to sports as self-improvement, complete with personal trainers and strange garments made of Spandex, has virtually wiped out any lightheartedness remaining in play.

“Even when taking a walk, distance and elapsed time are now often recorded, then measured against previous records as we compete with ourselves for our personal best.

“Play is no longer something we do with our idle time; it is another ambitious activity crammed into our schedules.”

Klein goes on to discuss how the point of play is to lose ourselves and our sense of purpose in it. He quotes 20th century philosopher Bertrand Russell chiding us for not having more fun:

”'The modern man thinks that everything ought to be done for the sake of something else, and never for it's own sake...'

“Russell got it right,” says Klein, “just having fun for its own sake has been devalued to a waste of time, and as a result we seem to have lost our capacity for one of life's greatest delights, a delight to which we old folk are singularly suited.”

I agree with all of this. Nevertheless, for now, this blog provides a satisfying purpose to my life and to a large degree, it is fun – although not the different kind of joy that results from aimless play.

Charlotte and Diane and Daniel Klein are telling us – me, anyway - something important and I think I can figure out how to make time for both.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: On Punctuality



If Gray Hair Were “Curable”

Well, apparently it is now.

I subscribe to a lot of health and aging newsletters. You don't hear about most of what I read because – as I think I've noted here in the past – they usually contain a lot of conditional words such as “may” and “might” and “could” which isn't much use to us.

Last week, however, there was a definitive announcement in The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology - whew, let's just go with FASEB [emphasis is mine]:

”...the need to cover up one of the classic signs of aging with chemical pigments will be a thing of the past thanks to a team of European researchers.”

The full study is behind a paid firewall but the FASEB press release briefly explains the discovery and the treatment:

”...people who are going gray develop massive oxidative stress via accumulation of hydrogen peroxide in the hair follicle, which causes our hair to bleach itself from the inside out...

“[M]ost importantly, the report shows that this massive accumulation of hydrogen peroxide can be remedied with a proprietary treatment developed by the researchers described as a topical, UVB-activated compound called PC-KUS (a modified pseudocatalase).”

(As it turns out, there is what I consider is a more important use – the same treatment works for the skin condition, vitiligo, to which Michael Jackson attributed his lightened skin color. You can read more about vitiligo here.)

The press release and abstract cover only the bare bones of the discovery leaving a lot of unanswered questions:

• How is the topical compound applied?

• How long is the treatment required? Is the change permanent or must it be used indefinitely to be effective?

• Is gray hair itself re-pigmented or does hair grow in with new color?

• What color does hair become – one's original color or something else?

• Are there side effects?

And so on.

If I were Clairol or L'Oreal, I'd be working overtime to find out more about this discovery. There is not a single hair color commercial on television that does not prominently state that their product “covers gray completely.”

When I was a kid and through most of my twenties (I'm now 72), women who bleached or dyed their hair were a bit suspect. It was quite risque of me, in that third photo in my banner above, to bleach my hair nearly white when I was 18.

When hair coloring became acceptable, for a good while the idea was to have it look as close to natural as possible. Since at least the 1980s, all kinds of unnatural hair colors have become next to standard in some circles – green, blue, pink and any combination of them.

Nowadays, hair color is a playground of individuality, sometimes among older people as with young.

So until this new discovery is developed for commercial use (I doubt it will take long), we could speculate about how it might affect cultural attitudes toward hair coloring and old people.

Personally, I am much more interested in a cure for baldness than gray hair and even assuming the treatment is relatively easy, inexpensive and can be done at home, I don't think I would bother.

What about you? Is this a breakthrough you've been waiting for?


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, June Calendar – April: Long Beach



ELDER MUSIC: Joe Camilleri

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.


Joe Camilleri

Most readers of this column will probably be unfamiliar with the person featured today but Australian readers will know the national musical treasure that is JOE CAMILLERI.

Joe was born in Malta, the third of 10 children, and his family moved to Australia when he was two. He grew up in Port Melbourne. Joe says,

"My father played the tuba, and my brother played the piano accordion – two things I could have done without. Not only did I know every song on the radio, I knew every song my mother had in her record collection.

“My mother would sing; it made her happy. She was a big fan of Ray Charles - she loved to sing and dance to his records.

“It wasn't until the sixties that you could get really good records. It was very difficult to find any blues records. I think Ross Wilson [another Australian musical legend] was one of the first people I knew who had Muddy Waters records and Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry.

“In 1964, I fell into being in a band. We went to see a band and my friends, wanting a bit of a laugh, threw me up on stage. Suddenly, I was in the band as their lead singer.

“The guitarist had a cherry-red guitar. He was a pastry cook. My buddy was the drummer. I played the bass as well as singing. It was just the three of us, but we made an incredible racket.

“I would take the bass in to where I worked and practise when no one was looking. It took me weeks to learn how to play it. It became very apparent I was never going to be a bass player, so we got another guy on bass. Later, I heard Eric Dolphy and decided I wanted to play the saxophone.

“So where did the name Jo Jo Zep come from? Well, my mum always called me Zep, so I was calling myself Jo Zep. Then we came up with Jo Jo Zep. I added The Falcons and it was perfect."

Joe Camilleri

Although he had been in bands before, Joe came to general notice, or mine anyway, as the front man for JO JO ZEP AND THE FALCONS in the mid seventies.

Jo Jo Zep

The Falcons were a sort of soul/funk group and had a bunch of fine musicians in the band with Joe playing sax as well as singing. They also had one of this country’s premier sax players, Wilbur Wilde, in the group as well.

In live performances, they would play duets/duels on the sax much as bands who had two great guitarists would. Come to think about it, they had two great guitarists as well. Here they are with the Zeps' (we like to call them by different names) biggest hit, Hit and Run, a song that took the band around the world.

♫ Jo Jo Zep - Hit and Run

After the Falcons (or the Zeps), Joe formed THE BLACK SORROWS, initially to play zydeco music but after a couple of albums, they expanded their repertoire and became one of Australia’s most successful bands.

Here is one of the Sorrows' early songs, Before I Grow Too Old.

♫ Black Sorrows - Before I Grow Too Old

Black Sorrows

The Sorrows were often augmented with the first-call Melbourne session musicians and despite whatever official band membership configurations existed at any given time, the Sorrows made extensive use of those session musicians for both recordings and live shows throughout their career.

They are still a functioning group but Joe goes off and does other projects as well, as we’ll see later. On one of those early Sorrows' albums, he took the jazz standard What a Difference a Day Makes and played with it in interesting ways. Here it is.

♫ Black Sorrows - What a Difference a Day Makes

Black Sorrows

They later had huge commercial success when they left their early incarnation and became a premier pop/rock band performing their own material. It was at this time they had their biggest selling record (and one of the biggest in this country's history), Harley and Rose.

♫ Black Sorrows - Harley And Rose

The most successful version of the Sorrows featured sisters VIKA AND LINDA BULL as co-lead singers with Joe. Since leaving the Sorrows, they’ve had a successful career and will no doubt show up somewhere in one of these columns again (they have been included previously in the column on sibling duos).

Black Sorrows

Here they are featured prominently in Chained to the Wheel.

♫ Black Sorrows - Chained To The Wheel

Joe initially started the Sorrows as a covers band but after a couple of albums he couldn't help himself and he was writing all his own material. So, in the spirit of that early experiment, he formed THE REVELATORS as an R&B/Country covers band.

Of course, again he couldn’t help himself and this group increasingly performed original material. He does really good versions of Bob Dylan songs and also channels Gram Parsons. However, the singer he performs best (besides himself) is Van Morrison.

He was already performing Van's songs in the earliest version of the Sorrows. Joe’s voice is often uncannily similar to Van’s and on a couple of tracks you’d be hard-pressed to tell which was which. I’ll let that thought float away, however, as I won’t feature any of Van’s songs.

Here is Ruler of my Heart, one of Joe's own songs.

♫ Revelators - Ruler of My Heart

Returning to the original inspiration of the Revelators, we have a cover version of the song True Love Travels on a Gravel Road. The song was written by Dallas Frazier and Doodle Owens and although it wasn't the hit version (that was by Elvis) Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, thinks that Percy Sledge recorded the definitive version of the song.

I agree with her. However, Joe and the Revelators did a terrific interpretation (different from those others).

♫ Revelators - True Love Travels on a Gravel Road

Joe Camilleri

As mentioned in The Revelators, Joe likes to have a band where he can play cover versions of songs without the expectation of having to play his hits. The next band he formed to do that was BAKELITE RADIO.

Naturally, as with all the other bands, the idea of performing just covers didn't last long and here is another of Joe's songs, Midnight Rain. Here he sounds like Martin Sexton (or probably vice versa as Joe was around for a couple of decades before Martin).

♫ Bakelite Radio - Midnight Rain

In more recent times, Joe has teamed up with Nicky Bomba in a group called LIMESTONE to play reggae music. It's not really a group; it's just the two of them and whoever happens to be around at the time. Of course, as it's Joe, there are any number of musicians who are happy to play with them.

Joe Camilleri

Here they are with Suzanne Beware of the Devil.

♫ Limestone - Suzanne Beware Of The Devil

Of course, the other bands don’t go away and he can turn up at any time in any of them. Even Jo Jo Zep has been revived now and then, especially recently with their 40th anniversary imminent.

That's the overview, and here is a bonus track, Fool Notion.

♫ Black Sorrows - Fool Notion



INTERESTING STUFF – 4 May 2013


56 ACRONYMS FROM MENTAL FLOSS

Mental Floss host John Green runs through the meaning of 56 acronyms. Who knew the Ms in M&Ms actually stand for something? There are plenty more, some you know and some you don't. (Hat tip to Bev Carney)


POETRY MONTH AND CATS

TGB reader Tony Sarmiento sent in this page. May, apparently, is poetry month so NPR and illustrator Francesco Marciuliano teamed up to create a poetic tribute to cats with quotations from well-known poets including, among others, Baudelaire, Edward Lear and T.S.Eliot. Here are two I like:

Elizabeth Bishop

Margaret Atwood

You can see more cat poetry here.


WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS DINNER

Last weekend the annual White House Correspondents Dinner was held in Washington, D.C. and tradition requires that the standing president of the United States become a stand-up comedian.

Barack Obama's comedy timing is actually quite good and he isn't shy about zinging reporters and Congress members. Here is my favorite moment from his performance.

I know just how he feels.


ARE ELDER TRAILER PARKS THE ANSWER?

As the blurb on a story at Pacific Standard magazine notes at the top:

"A healthy, inexpensive, environmentally friendly solution for housing millions of retiring baby boomers is staring us in the face. We just know it by a dirty name."

With the number of elders increasing daily and the amount of affordable housing at abysmally low levels, reporter Lisa Margonelli explains how trailers parks – bad reputation and all – could be the answer:

In a paper published in the Journal of Housing for the Elderly,” writes Margonelli, “[Professor Andree] Tremoulet speculates that mobile-home parks can, for some seniors, do a better job of meeting needs than more-traditional arrangements in apartment buildings or in the suburbs.

“The design of the community allows seniors to own and modify their homes, have dogs, and putter around with hobbies like gardening in a way they couldn’t in an apartment building.

“Meanwhile, because parks have boundaries and streets, they function a bit like a gated community, where residents feel safe and have an easier time making friends than in either an apartment or a suburb.”

All that may be quite true and it's a compelling thought but what is most interesting about Margonelli's story is the detailed profile of the Pismo Dunes Senior Park (and its colorful residents) on the central coast of California directly across the road from the beach.

Pour a cup of coffee and settle down for a good read. It's well worth your time. (Hat tip to Joe Erlich)


SOME AMAZING, EXCITING SCHOOL KIDS

(And their teachers) Marvin Waldman is a seasoned advertising consultant and friend of Time Goes By. He is also a founder and trustee of the Bronx Charter School for Better Learning in New York City.

This year is the school's 10th anniversary and in celebration, Marvin made this film about it. The teachers are an inspiration and the kids are too making the whole film a joy to watch. Doing so will make you happy.

You can find out more about Marvin here and about the school here.


GOOGLE GLASS FOR ELDERS?

Have you heard of Google Glass? Although it's not on the market yet, supposedly it will revolutionize our lives. Supposedly. Here is a short video explanation:

It sounds like something all the cool kids will want. To me (so far), it seems like one more way to distance ourselves from experiencing life as it is happening and good god, it obviously means, too, a zillion more of the worst kind of YouTube videos.

But Tom Foremski at ZDNet says Google Glass is the killer app for old people:

”Where Google Glass will make its mark, and find a large and loyal customer base is in helping families and communities deal with the ravages of old age.”

Yes, “ravages.” From there, Foremski goes on to characterize old people in one of the most horribly ageist pieces I've read in a long time.

In Foremski's world, elders are defined only by sickness and frailty. If you had just popped in from Mars and read only his story, you would believe all old earthlings are demented, drooling cripples whose only interest is reruns of The Rockford Files.

The funny thing is, however, that Foremski could be on to something important in his overall premise. It may turn out that Google Glass will have many good uses particular to old people that will be both entertaining and helpful.

You can give it a read here and try to get past Foremski's bad attitude to ponder how these glasses might be worthwhile for you and me.


THE WORLD WIDE WEB'S 20TH BIRTHDAY

Last Tuesday, the public World Wide Web celebrated 20 years since it was opened up to the public – 30 April 1993. For the anniversary, CERN (where the web was invented by Tim Berners-Lee) released the world's first web page at its original web address (URL).

First www page

Simple by today's standards and what a revolution it has wrought - you and I wouldn't be here today without it.

You can see that page full size online here and you can read about the birth of the World Wide Web here.


SEEING EYE PEOPLE

The funny and fun people at Improv Everywhere, collaborating with Buzzfeed, have been at it again, this time getting their tribe to pose as city workers helping citizens who text while walking. Reader Nikki Lindquist found this video for us.

You can read more about the “mission” here.


SPARTA HAS SIX BABIES

This video is two years old with more that four million views at YouTube so may have seen it. Still, it's worth it again. In a note on the YouTube page, Sparta's family said planned to have her spayed after this litter. Also:

”All these wonderful new little kittens all got adopted into wonderful homes. Sparta lives in London (UK) and the people that were talking in the background was in Lithuanian.”


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.



Rest in Peace Roy Leitz

Many of you who read TGB's companion blog, The Elder Storytelling Place, will certainly know Nancy Leitz, one of the best storytellers we have at that blog. She has been missing from the mix for the past several months after her husband, Roy, became seriously ill last fall.

I am so sorry to report that Roy died quietly at home on Wednesday. As Nancy explained in an email to friends:

”Roy passed away this morning a little after 10:00 A.M. He was not responding to either the Hospice nurse or the aide and both came to tell me that.

“I had just been talking to him a few minutes before so I thought they must be mistaken. I said, 'Oh, he will respond to me.' I went to his bedside and gently put my hand on his shoulder and called his name. He sighed one big sigh and passed away.

“The hospice nurse told me that she thought that he was just waiting for me to be at his side before he went away forever.”

As anyone who has read Nancy's stories through the years knows, Nancy and Roy have spent a lifetime – a wonderful, happy, laugh-filled lifetime - in one another's daily company. Nancy's email continues:

“We were together for 67 years. We met in High School when I was 16 and he was 17. That was in 1946. We married 4 years later in 1950. I will always be grateful to have had such a wonderful husband who was also the best Dad in the World to our children.”

There is no doubt about that. Nancy's stories are almost entirely about her family, extended family and their many domestic adventures through the decades. And what any reader quickly learns in reading them is that there would always be a perfect surprise laugh in the last sentence.

I feel - and I'm sure Nancy's other readers do too - that through those stories, I came to know Roy as well as Nancy.

I don't think I'm giving away anything about Nancy's stories to tell you that I once asked via email if the quoted punchlines – from herself or one of the kids or Roy – was maybe, um – embelleshed a little in hindsight? You know, just for effect?

And in response she allowed as how – in that way she has always has of putting a smile into the written word – that yes, that might be true now and then.

I've never met Nancy in person. We've never even spoken on the telephone. But as happens with blogs and comments and online stuff, she is my friend. And my heart breaks for her this week.

If it is that you happen not to have read Nancy's stories, there are, beginning here, links to the more than 50 she has contributed. Take a look. They will delight and entertain you and help you understand what a special life these two terrific people have shared. And you'll laugh a lot too.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dan Gogerty: Skatin' Along in the Hog Barn



21st Century Media Failure

Due to other obligations yesterday, I didn't have time to write a proper post but I don't like leaving this page blank when there needs to be a link to The Elder Storytelling Place.

So, here's something that, if we were having lunch or coffee together, I might mention as one of those “huh?” moments in life that is simultaneously funny, sad and maddening. In this case, it's about a single little corner of the media.

One of the email newsletters I receive is the Harper's Weekly Review which includes links to the magazine's current online stories and three paragraphs, each a short essay usually in reference to something recently in the news.

Here is one of those paragraphs from a recent mailing pretty close to how it appears in the email. There are two more of similar length and layout in each newsletter. (Hint: I don't mean you should actually read this. I just want you to see how it looks.)

“Three days after bombs went off near the finish line at the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring 219, police cornered two suspects, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, aged 19 and 26, respectively, in Watertown, Massachusetts. The brothers allegedly lobbed explosive devices from a stolen Mercedes S.U.V. and exchanged fire with law-enforcement personnel until both sides had exhausted their caches, then, after an officer tackled Tamerlan, Dzhokhar accidentally ran over his brother with the Mercedes and dragged the dead body a short distance before escaping on foot. Authorities locked down much of the Boston area, excepting several Dunkin’ Donuts locations that remained open at the request of the Boston Police Department, while more than 9,000 law-enforcement officers conducted a house-to-house dragnet. CNN falsely reported that the suspect had been apprehended, the Czech Republic began trending on social media after it was reported that the Tsarnaevs were ethnically Chechen, and the New York Post ran a cover photograph of two innocent men it claimed were wanted by police. “The Czech Republic and Chechnya are two very different entities,” said the Czech ambassador to the United States. “We stand by our story,” said the Post’s editor. “We did not identify them as suspects.” Police apprehended Dzhokhar, who had been shot in the neck and was unable to speak, after a resident discovered him hiding aboard a boat called the Slipaway II. The Department of Justice announced that the suspect would be tried in civilian court on charges of using weapons of mass destruction. “I can’t imagine how people in other parts of the world live like this,” said one Watertown resident, “with all the bombs, guns, and uncertainty.” Legislation designed to strengthen gun control by expanding background checks was defeated in the Senate after failing by six votes to reach a filibuster-proof 60-vote threshold. “It’s almost like you can see the finish line,” said the father of a man who was injured in the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech, “but you just can’t get there.”

Ronni here again. Frequently, the first few words engage me and I would like to read the essay. But without the eye-easing paragraph breaks in the text, I never do; I just delete it after the first line or two.

(This is not an age-only problem. It as as difficult on young eyes to read long chunks of unbroken text as it is for elders.)

Finally, on Tuesday, after years of this annoying weekly routine, I sent a note to Harper's about the problem indicating my difficulty and that it has been widely understood for at least 15 years that reading on a screen is so much harder than reading on a page, stories need to be laid out differently when published for online use.

It didn't take long for a reply to arrive - a message that in its two short sentences manages to be as arrogant and dismissive as its logic and meaning are impenetrable:

”Sorry about that, but that has been the format of the Weekly since its inception about a decade ago. It's meant to be written as prose, with an emphasis on arrangement — for that, the paragraphs are essential.”

Although it's hard to follow, the message seems to be that “prose” is supposed to be hard to read. And I have no idea what “paragraphs are essential” means since there are none in each essay.

Apparently Harper's – founded in the 19th century - is damned if it will join the 21st.

Come to think of it, I haven't read much in the print edition for a long time. I skim through most of it but aside from Thomas Frank's up front monthly essay, I don't find nearly as much of interest lately as I did during the earlier 25, 30 or more years I've subscribed.

Even so, I might have continued to renew out of habit. Not now. I'm way ahead of you in realizing this is picayune problem, but it's been irritating me every week for many years and that condescending response made me realize I haven't needed Harper's for a long, long time.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Vicki E. Jones: The Yearbook



Purpose in Retirement

Many years ago, I spent some time with a man whose talents and accomplishments were many. Michael was erudite, well traveled and had a vast knowledge of literature and music (I think he and Peter Tibbles would enjoy one another).

He was a magnificent cook, having once worked as a professional chef for one of the world's wealthiest men, but he did not do desserts. He told me that he was saving pastry cooking (which is as much science as art) to learn in his old age when he would also do the work necessary to finally understand the the music of Wagner.

Although that little conversation was had between us mostly in passing, I never forgot it. When it came to mind over the years, I would take a stab at trying to plan how I would spend my own old age. Nothing came to me.

Several times I have told the story here of how and why, 17 years ago, I started researching aging. I was still working in 2003, when I launched this blog as a place to write down what I was learning and try to make some sense of it all. And here I am, a decade later, still doing it.

The longer I do it, the more complex and compelling the subject becomes and what I had not counted on ten years ago is that it would change me from being merely a reporter of aging issues into an advocate for elders' well being.

That has led to participation in some local boards that work to better and enrich the lives of the aged in my community and together these things have become as much a full time job as any I was paid to do over more than 45 years in the workforce.

So unlike Michael who made a thoughtful and deliberate decision about what specific things he wanted to do with his late years, I fell into mine.

In the beginning, I never thought “researching old age” would take nearly 20 years and that even then I would still be nowhere near done. Nor, if you had asked back then, would I have believed I would still care about it today.

Now and then, when I get frustrated with some of the consequences of the blog or just tired of the hours it takes to do this reasonably well, I try to imagine my life without Time Goes By and I don't like what I see: vast amounts of time with no purpose to them.

I'm pretty sure I would find other ways to fill the hours, days, months, years and that some of it would interest me although probably not with the passion I feel for what I am doing now. But maybe that's not so. I am capable of great amounts of work (certain kinds) but also of equally great sloth for long, long periods.

Time Goes By and The Elder Storytelling Place give me purpose in retirement. Even if only a handful of people read these blogs (which was true for many months when I began), it would provide the same purpose for it is in trying to write clearly what I have learned that I am able to understand it myself.

(British novelist and essayist E.M. Forster once said, “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” which proves true for me every day.)

From what I gather in various media about retirement, many people carefully plan what they intend to do with their time after their careers end. For me, even with the recurrent memory of my conversation with Michael, I didn't plan to retire. In fact, it was a shock, after a layoff, that no one wanted or was willing to hire a 63-year old.

Nowadays, 10 years after the launch of TGB, I am grateful I had the foresight to start it before I really needed it. Okay, that's a lie – I didn't start it to have something to do in retirement; it just turned out that way and sometimes I wonder what would have become of me by now without it.

UPDATE: Geez - after the first couple of comments, I think I need to say that I am surely not looking for blessings and thanks (what a bore). I was hoping some of you would talk about your experiences or thoughts about purpose in retirement.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sharon Ostrow: Stream of Consciousness