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INTERESTING STUFF – 31 August 2013


There are a number of websites where tech support and customer service representatives vent their frustration with the stupidity of end-users like you and me.

Sometimes their most vile rants are reserved for old people and that's what I thought this one from the Not Always Right site would be. It's longer than what I usually quote here, but I think it's worth it instead of excerpting.

You must stick with it to the end. (Hat tip to Ian Bertram of Panchromatica)

Tech Support | Montreal, QC, Canada | Technology, Top

I work for a company that produces a word processing software, which I am supporting.

Me: Thank you for calling technical support. Can I have your case number?

The customer provides the information. Just by the voice, I know the customer is an older lady. Usually, this means a 45+ minutes call, just because of the technology challenges.

Me: Could you right-click on the start button?

Customer: Okay, I have programs, documents, settings—

Me: That’s left-clicking. Could you please right-click on the start button?

Customer: Okay, but I still get programs, documents, settings.

Me: Could you describe to me, visually and step by step, what you are doing?

Customer: I’m putting the mouse cursor over the right part of the word ‘start’, and I click.

Me: Oh, I’m sorry; I was not clear. Is it possible for you to click using the right mouse button?

Customer: “What do you mean?

Me: “Okay, please pick up your mouse by the wire, and hold it up in the air.”

Customer: “I feel stupid.

Me: “No, ma’am, you’re not. We’re all starting from different points. I’m a geek, so it’s normal if I’m a bit ahead of the curve, as far as this stuff goes. I just need to make sure that we’re on a level field, here.

Customer: “Okay, it’s in the air.

Me: Great! Between your wire and your palm-resting are—”

Customer: What do you mean?

Me: Okay, put it flat again, and put your hand on your mouse, as if to use it.

Customer: Oh, I get it, the place where my palm is resting.

Me: Exactly. Pick it up again. Between the wire and the palm-resting area, there is an area that is divided vertically. How many sections are there?

Customer: Two.

Me: Great! Ma’am, I would like to formally introduce you to your left mouse button and your right mouse button. So when I ask you to right-click—

Customer: You want me to use the right mouse button!

Me: You’re a smart one!

It turns out that the older lady is 96 years old. She was doing her shuffleboard association’s newsletter, and her software had become thoroughly corrupted and needed to be reinstalled.

We spent over an hour and a half. This lady had seen the advent of movies, TV, color TV, had seen the Model T, saw the first planes, radio and all. When I will be 96 years old, I just hope I am as technologically savvy as she is!


As long as we're talking technology, here's a parody that is all too real these days sent by Irene Morris of New York City.


The skit is titled, Do you speak English? From 2008 by Simon Pegg and the Big Train comedy sketch team. It's about an English-speaking tourist in France.


Certainly you have been reading about honey bees dying off and the dire consequences that may have for the world's food supply. Scares me. A lot.

But today, this is a different kind of bee story. A honey story. An ancient honey story from Smithsonian magazine.

”Modern archeologists, excavating ancient Egyptian tombs, have often found something unexpected amongst the tombs’ artifacts: pots of honey, thousands of years old, and yet still preserved.

“Through millennia, the archeologists discover, the food remains unspoiled, an unmistakable testament to the eternal shelf-life of honey.”

I didn't know that. Did you? You can read more here.


And Pacino, Walken and more. Impressionists delight me. I never get enough them and I didn't know Kevin Spacey was so good at it or that his repertoire is so wide.

This is an old clip from four years ago that I just discovered.


Right up front, a warning that some may find this story icky. I think it's amazing and cute. Take a look at the “news” report and ignore the idiotic side trips into unrelated TV shows.

You can read more here.


Every single one of them. For free. Some of the most brilliant and important artists, writers and critics of the contemporary world from 1953 forward.

Just a few names currently residing on the home page: Ray Bradbury, R. Crumb, Louise Erdrich, Tony Kushner, John McPhee, Janet Malcom, Terry Southern.

It is a precious treasure trove of some the the best thinking of the past 60 years. Bookmark it and go back often.


Just total silliness. Stupid even. But wonderful because it's actor Patrick Stewart.


Furthering a recent post of mine about old age being better than I ever expected, elderblogger extraordinaire, Marian Van Eyk McCain, takes on the media's and advertisers' obsession only with poor health in elders:

"As William Thomas says in his brilliant book What Are Old People For? [writes Marian], getting old does often necessitate a search for work-arounds that enable us to keep functioning optimally — in fact he sees elders as walking advertisements for the wonderful human capacity for endless adaptability.

"This ongoing process of adaptation to each change in the ever-changing body doesn't begin at 44 with the first pair of reading glasses however.

"It begins in toddlerhood, with shoes to protect our tender feet, bibs to catch the drool, high chairs to keep us from falling on to the floor and pull-up pants for toilet training. It continues through orthodontic appliances, tampons and nursing bras, dental crowns and hiking poles and all the way through to Zimmer frames.

"Humans are clever animals and we have become really good at finding ways to augment our bodies' functions and deal with their impairments and inconveniences. But these logistics of our lives are not what defines them.

"It is meaning that defines them. It is meaning that gets us up in the morning and meaning that makes our hearts sing."

Go read Marian's entire post at her blog. You'll be glad you did.


I've been remiss lately about including cute or baby animal videos in this weekly post so here is a compilation from TGB reader Jim Hood.


What the hell - let's go for more cute: According to a story in the New York Daily News, two stray kittens shut down the subway for about two hours on Thursday.

Credit: Marc A. Hermann/MTA New York City Transit

"Sandra Polel, 52, was heading home when her train suddenly screeched to a halt. 'The announcer said it had to stop to rescue some cats,' Polel said. 'I didn’t mind. I wanted to get home, but I also wanted the kittens to be safe.'

"[After eluding transit workers for a couple of hours], the 4-week-old kittens were placed in carrying crates at about 6 p.m. and shipped off to the Brooklyn Animal Care Shelter on Linden Blvd, where a spokesman said they will get medical evaluations.

"For now, the two are safe. Rescuers even gave the pair names, Arthur and August."

You can read details of the rescue here. (Hat tip to Bev Carney)

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.

A Budding Fashion Designer for Elders

As I explained in a post earlier this week, an email from a young fashion design student prompted my post on Tuesday about non-existent elder fashion.

When we were arranging our Tuesday Skype chat, Marisol Garza told me that she is in the Central Time Zone so I assumed Chicago maybe or St. Louis – one of those cities in the middle part of U.S.

MarisolGarza2013_150 What a hadn't noticed in her email is that she lives in Monterrey, Mexico – about 500 miles north of Mexico City - where she is in her final year at the University of Monterrey, having recently completely an exchange semester in San Antonio, Texas.


Marisol, who is 22, is a smart, charming, gorgeous – as you can see – and firmly dedicated to making her way in the world by creating attractive fashion solutions for elder women.

(Those of you who are regulars here at TGB know that Marisol stole my heart in her first email when she referred to people our age as “elders” instead of seniors or elderly.)

By the time we Skyped Tuesday morning, she had read every one of your many-more-than-usual comments and organized them into logical categories. Sleeves – everyone wants sleeves – was your number one peeve.

We had a good discussion about elder body types based on your comments. Marisol intends to research and maybe hold some focus groups with elder women to get more information on how our bodies change over time so she can work out a reasonable number to design for.

We went much further than talking about design alone. Of course, I was curious about how she came to be so passionate about making attractive clothing for old women.

It began with her mother's and aunt's needs, she said. Like most TGB readers in the United States, her older relatives have the same trouble in Mexico finding clothes that look good and fit well. Marisol says (I'm paraphrasing but close) that

”...elder women are the forgotten market in the beauty and fashion industry and it should not be that way. It's not good enough that the stereotype of what beauty is, is only young and perfect.”

Marisol says she sometimes feels set apart from her generation. The open sexuality bothers her and she has come to believe that it occurs because young women don't know themselves yet.

Older women, says Marisol, are more interesting, more sensual, more experienced in life, know who they are, don't care what others think about them and “give you (her) better conversation” than many of her contemporaries.

You can see why I am taken with her.

We left off our 90-minute conversation vowing to keep in touch and I will update you from time to time on what she is learning and how she will be applying it. And, sometimes, she may have a few questions and we'll ask for your input.

Next week, I will follow up on another issue raised by Tuesday's fashion post but first – several of you asked for instructions about how Elaine of Kalilily adapts teeshirts to be worn without a bra. She has written a whole blog post about that for you.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dan Gogerty: Big Data, Small Towns and Big Brother in Drag

What Americans Think About Aging - 2013

ITEM: 57% of U.S. seniors state that overall, the past year of their life has been “normal,” versus 42% of those surveyed in 2012.

ITEM: More than half (51%) of seniors expect their quality of life to stay about the same during the next five to 10 years, while 21% expect it to get much or somewhat better, versus 30 percent of those surveyed in 2012.

Those are two of the top takeaways from the United States of Aging Survey 2013, conducted by the National Council on Aging (NCOA), United Healthcare and USA Today.

The survey is based on interviews with 4,000 Americans based on nationally representative samples of age 60 and older, and another group of adults 18 to 59 as a comparison with an oversampling of those 80 and older, low income and people with three or more chronic health conditions.

Here is an infographic of some other survey findings. Click the image to view a larger, more readable version.

All age groups were asked about the preparedness of their communities to handle the needs of a growing elder population. USA Today summarized those responses. Personally, I think they are optimistic in the extreme:

ITEM: 33% of older Americans surveyed say their city or town is not preparing for the future needs of a growing senior population; even more of the younger group (45%) say that.

ITEM: 18% of seniors say their community is not responsive to senior needs; among those younger, 29% say that.

ITEM: Almost a third of seniors rate public transportation and job opportunities in their communities as poor. But three-quarters say health care services are good to excellent.

ITEM: Transportation and affordable housing are the two top areas seniors say their city should invest more in (both 26%); followed by affordable health care and home-delivered meals, both 23%.

My house guest is still here and I am taking most of my time to enjoy our visit so this is just a brief synthesis.

There is a useful survey fact sheet [pdf] and you can find out more by following the various links from this page at the NCOA website.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today: Janet Thompson: The Carnation Milk Can Bed


A TGB reader, Tom Delmore, sent me the poem below. He's a poet too and I told you about him in this post back in May.

Stanley_Kunitz Today's poet, Stanley Kunitz, was born in Massachusetts in 1905, died in 2006 - a long, long life. He was appointed U.S. poet laureate in 2000, when he was 95 years old. His collection, Selected Poems, 1928-1958, was awarded a Pulitzer Prize. Of his work, he said,

“The poem comes in the form of a blessing - ‘like rapture breaking on the mind,’ as I tried to phrase it in my youth. Through the years I have found this gift of poetry to be life-sustaining, life-enhancing, and absolutely unpredictable.

“Does one live, therefore, for the sake of poetry? No, the reverse is true: poetry is for the sake of the life.”

This Kunitz poem Tom Delmore sent - The Layers - is a elegant characterization of our time in life - “realistic optimism” as someone I don't recall once said of it.

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

In general, I don't like hearing poets reading their own works and this is no exception. However, there is some value in having it from the horse's mouth, as it were, so here is Kunitz reading The Layers.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Arlene Corwin: Turning the Thing Around

Quick and Easy Blog Post

An old friend, Jim Stone, is visiting for a few days so posting will be light and brief this week. Yesterday, we drove up to Mt. Hood for lunch at Timberline Lodge – about an hour-and-a-half from home.

You may recall that Timberline was used for the exterior shots of the lodge in the film of Stephen King's The Shining starring Jack Nicholson oh so many years ago. Here's how it looked yesterday:

Timberline Exterior

The lodge, which was dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was built by the WPA in 1936 and 1937, during the Great Depression. Here is one of the plaques about its origin:

Timberline Plaque

Because I want to spend my time with Jim, these trip photos will be minimally annotated. It's hard to tell in this photo how big the fireplace is. It is the centerpiece of the round central hall:

Timberline Fireplace

The round balcony above the fireplace:

Timberline balcony

I like this Art Deco lamp in the room. There are several others in the same style:

Timberline Art Deco Light

Nice architectural detail:

Timberline Architectural Detail

And this fine, stone walkway:

Timberline Stone Arches

This was our lunch table in the Cascade Room. We got there ahead of the midday crowd – barely - so were given a window table. Also, there were free Timberline Lodge matches. It seemed so odd; it is many years since I've seen them in a restaurant:

Timberline Table

Clouds were low yesterday so it was impossible to see the top of Mt. Hood. Here a lovely image from Wikipedia of the mountain reflected in Mirror Lake.


And one more thing. Oregon has some quite interesting town names. Yesterday we passed through Rhododendron, Zigzag and this one – wait for it, always makes me laugh: Boring, Oregon.

Boring Oregon

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Carl Hansen: Letter Writing

Non-Existent Elder Fashion

[Editorial Note: I last wrote about this subject five years ago. Due to that post, on Friday I was contacted for advice by a young fashion designer who wants to specialize in fashion for elder women.

That gives me a good reason to repost the story with a few updates. Mostly, nothing has changed in five years.

One big change in women's clothing since 2008, is the disappearance of sleeves and I directly blame First Lady Michelle Obama. As soon as the media swooned over her toned, upper arms, clothing designers ditched sleeves.

So much so, I'm surprised they have left sleeves on winter coats.

Watch any television news program, especially on basic cable, and every one of the women anchors, pundits and reporters – you know, the ones who all have matching hairstyles - also show up sleeveless in every appearance. Summer or winter. Day or night.

There aren't many elder women who want to expose upper arms that tend to sag by age 50 or 60 but designers don't care about us and we have no choice. There are no other clothes.

'Tis the season now for bargains in summer clothes – a good time to buy for next year - but as I peruse the catalogues that pour in, I see more transparent blouses and even pants than much of anything that actually covers a human body.

The euphemism for transparent, by the way, is “gauze.” Perhaps there are so many left over because even younger women don’t want to be seen in public looking naked.

With few exceptions, even with such retailers as Coldwater Creek that supposedly cater to heftier bodies, there are fewer elastic waists on pants than in the past.

When I wrote this post in 2008, I said: “In my case, that means when a pair fits my hips, the waist can’t be closed since mine – and that of many other elder women - long ago expanded to equal the size of my hips.”

Now that I've lost a good deal of weight, the problem is reversed. Although my waist will never be as svelte as when I was 25, it's small enough that if the waistband fits comfortably, there is enough extra fabric through the hips for another pair of pants.

I think, perhaps, there needs to be another sizing mechanism to go with petite, misses and tall that we have for length. Something that measures hip-to-waist ratio.

In blouses and tops, they are enamored of so-called boat necks that lie about two inches below the back of one’s neck. There aren’t many women who don’t get a bit beefy in that area as we get older and it’s not something I want to show off.

And aside from turtlenecks, a large number of sweater styles meant for cold weather are designed with boat and v-necks. Do all designers live in warm climates and not realize we want something cozy around our necks?

Lately, I’ve been buying winter sweaters in the men’s department. The necks are located in the same place as human necks, they hang much more nicely than women’s sweaters and aren’t made with thin, clingy knits.

It is nearly impossible to find a suit that fits an older body. Designers just add fabric for larger sizes without considering differing proportions so that if a jacket fits at the shoulders, it is unlikely to button at the waist. A larger size results in shoulder seams halfway down one’s upper arms while the matching pants or skirt are then baggy.

Lack of thought in design applies to shirts too. Even with the recent weight loss, I like what are called “big shirts” to wear with pants, but those, too, are missing proportion in petite sizes (I’m just under 5’ 2”).

They are so long, I look like an eight-year-old wearing daddy’s shirt. The problem is easy to see (and should be to correct): clothes are originally proportioned for 5’ 8” and above models, and in sizing down for petites, short legs and short waists are ignored.

Another thing: why do the few dresses designed without waists all look like muu-muus of the 1950s – totally shapeless? There are numerous ways to cut and sew fabrics to give some style to dresses without waists, but no attempt is made to do this.

And don’t go telling me to shop in big-size stores or whatever the polite phrase is for fat-girl shops. Those clothes, too, are designed for younger bodies that although they are larger than clothes for skinny girls, are created for young, not old, proportions.

Our bodies begin to thicken about the time we start menopause (our forties for most of us) and although there were more than 52 million women in the U.S. 45 and older in the 2000 census (37 percent of the female population), and millions more now, we are the forgotten women in the rag trade.

One of the ways old people are maligned are with accusations that we lack a sense of style. Don't blame us. It's the fashion industry which has not given one second's thought to how our body shape differs from that of a 17-year-old.

Tomorrow morning, I will be Skyping with the young fashion designer who contacted me. Wouldn't it be nice if we had a whole lot of good information for her to consider from all the different sizes and shapes of elder women who read TGB. Add your comments and requests below.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jackie Harrison: Splish, Splash

ELDER MUSIC: Windy Songs

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.

Calvin and Hobbes

Chicago is generally referred to as the windy city. Melbourne, where I live, can give it a run for its money in that respect.

We have the Roaring Forties coming at us from right around the world from the west. In winter there are the freezing winds from the Antarctic from the south (okay, we're not talking literally freezing – this isn't Minnesota or Canada). There's often some sort of serious low pressure area in the Tasman Sea giving us gale force winds from the east.

Worst of all, in summer we get the searing north winds from the centre of the continent bringing temperatures that you really don't want to know about. They contribute to, and often cause, the major bush fires each year.

Oh, don't be confused by the term bush fires, these are wild fires beyond your worst nightmares.

Here are some nice gentle wind songs and no, I'm not playing John Denver's song of that name.

I'll start with the first song I thought of and it's by GOGI GRANT.

Gogi Grant

Gogi had a few hits in the fifties as well as supplying the singing voice for several actresses in filmed musicals. The song we still remember her for is The Wayward Wind.

♫ Gogi Grant - The Wayward Wind

I have a fairly mellow bunch of tunes today so you might wonder why I have included JIMI HENDRIX.

Jimi Hendrix

The reason is that this is quite an interesting tune and one that even Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, quite likes and she's not much of a Jimi fan. I think it fits in quite well. The Wind Cries Mary. It's not the only song where the wind is named.

♫ Jimi Hendrix - The Wind Cries Mary

The next two are probably my favorite wind songs. The first of them is by ROD STEWART.

Rod Stewart

Around the time he recorded this he had a real purple patch. Maggie May was from the same album and there were several other classics. Here is Mandolin Wind.

♫ Rod Stewart - Mandolin Wind

There are some seriously good wind songs but I think the pick of them is this next one, Four Strong Winds written by Ian Tyson.

He has a fine solo version but I rather like the one he recorded with his then wife when they were IAN AND SYLVIA.

Ian and Sylvia

Here they are with the song.

♫ Ian & Sylvia - Four Strong Winds

The song Hickory Wind first came to general notice in The Byrds' album “Sweetheart of the Rodeo.” This was a song by GRAM PARSONS who was a member of the group at the time.

Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris

Later Gram recorded it on his solo album “Grievous Angel,” an album that wasn't released until after he died. This version is an alternate take from that album with Emmylou Harris providing backup.

♫ Gram Parsons - Hickory Wind

I had already pencilled in, nay inked in, Bob Dylan for this next spot. I had selected the music, the picture and I had written the text. Then I thought, "No.”

The reason was that the track I'd chosen, Idiot Wind, was one of Bob's most spiteful songs and that's saying something. It was about the time of his divorce from Sara when he recorded the album “Blood on the Tracks” - a masterpiece of venom.

So, Bob got the flick and has been replaced by JO STAFFORD.

Jo Stafford

When I thought of this topic I was going around singing "Wind in the willows, whisper to me, dum de, dum de, dum de" and so on. When I found the track, I discovered it was called Wind in the Willow. Singular, and I had the words wrong as well.

It came out in 1957 and it's still imprinted on my brain. Well, sort of.

♫ Jo Stafford - Wind in the Willow

Vaughan Monroe's name is inextricably linked with the song, They Call the Wind Maria (or Mariah - there seem to be both spellings of the name of the song).

Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, pretty much insisted I use Joe and Eddie's version. However, I had already selected the one I wanted and I'm going with someone you probably aren't expecting, PERNELL ROBERTS.

Pernell Roberts

Yes, that Pernell Roberts - Adam from Bonanza. As well as being an actor (and quite an accomplished one at that), he was also a singer of some talent.

Besides that, he was a civil rights activist, participating in the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965 amongst many other things. An all-round good guy. Here is his version of the song.

♫ Pernell Roberts - They Call The Wind Maria

VINCE GUARALDI wrote the tune Cast Your Fate to the Wind and his trio had a major hit with it.

Vince Guaraldi

A vocal version by Mel Tormé was also a big hit here in Australia but from what I gather, nowhere else. A pity as it's fine version, but we're going with Vince.

♫ Vince Guaraldi Trio - Cast Your Fate To The Wind

I don't think the Summer Wind with which Frank Sinatra had a hit was anything like the summer winds here in Victoria. The song would have been vastly different if that were the case, but I quite like his version nonetheless.

The A.M. has another by Madeleine Peyroux which is well worth a listen. I'm not using either of those.

Instead it's the gentleman who wrote the song, or at least the words, and to get all the people who are involved in this column, for this one I have Ronni to thank for the tune. Here is JOHNNY MERCER.

Johnny Mercer

Johnny's quite an okay singer although he's no Frank Sinatra, However, he's a fine songwriter. Check him out, see what you think.

♫ Johnny Mercer - Summer Wind

Hasten Down the Wind was a big hit for Linda Ronstadt but I think WARREN ZEVON, who wrote the song, had a superior version.

Warren Zevon

Warren wrote some of the darkest and more interesting songs of the seventies. This one isn't very dark but it's certainly a good song.

♫ Warren Zevon - Hasten Down The Wind



As you probably know, I've been on a campaign since March to lose 40 pounds. My inspiration was and is FEAR with capital letters. When it had become difficult to bend over to feed the cat, I FEARED big time for the future of my health.

Although the pounds-per-month has slowed, it is steady and I'm now down 23 pounds. Sometimes, when the number on the scale doesn't budge for 10 days or more, it can be discouraging but I've not given up and eventually it drops another pound.

This week, I found a video that makes my effort seem puny. Don't take that literally – we each have our own burdens and personal ways of dealing with them. But this amazing man overcame a professional medical prognosis of complete defeat.

The music is a bit cloying but don't let that stop you from watching.

You can read more details at the YouTube page.


Australians will soon be voting in a national election after only four weeks of campaigning. (Let us pray: O, god, bring this system to the United States. Please.)

TGB's Sunday musicologist Peter Tibbles, who lives in Melbourne and is an early voter, emailed to fill me in on the ballot:

"There are certainly a bunch of wackos running for the Senate,” he wrote, “the usual lot of right wing cranks...Some of the interesting ones are (these are actual names): (Peter's commentary in parentheses)

"The Sex Party (who made some particularly interesting TV ads)

"The HEMP Party (that's Help End Marijuana Prohibition Party)

"The Pirate Party (these were new to me)

"A Shooters party (no doubt with money channeled from the NRA )

"The Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party (I'm not making these up)

"(And its rival no doubt), The Bullet Train for Australia Party

"The Animal Justice Party (getting wombats on juries, no doubt)

"The Bank Reform Party (sounds like a disgruntled mortgage owner there)”

Earlier in the week, Peter forwarded this video of current Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (running for re-election) commenting, according to Peter, on the election campaign. Turn up your audio and don't turn away – it's very short.


Patrick Vale is an internationally recognized artist who specializes in cities and architecture. This time-lapse video of his drawing of a portion of Manhattan is a load of fun to watch.

You can find out more about Patrick Vale and see more of his work at his website.


Musical flashmobs are a delightful artifact of the internet age – they wouldn't exist without cameras and YouTube.

Our good friend Darlene Costner sent this one that took place in May at Hotel Cordial Mogan Playa in Puerto de Mogan, Gran Canaria. The 30 musicians are from the Band of the Municipal School of Dance and Music of Mogan. The music, of course, is Ravel's Bolero.


There are political issues about which there is legitimate room for debate. And there are others that cannot be argued, that are what they are - as real and true as sunrise every morning.

Facts, for example, like who was president of the United States when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on 23 August 2005.

And then there are Louisiana Republicans. Here are the results of a PPP poll as first reported at Talking Point Memo:

”Twenty-eight percent said they think former President George W. Bush, who was in office at the time, was more responsible for the poor federal response while 29 percent said Obama, who was still a freshman U.S. Senator when the storm battered the Gulf Coast in 2005, was more responsible.

“Nearly half of Louisiana Republicans — 44 percent — said they aren't sure who to blame.”

You can see the poll questions here.


I have always read crime novels and for most of my life Elmore Leonard has been a favorite. His spare, powerful prose fit the genre better than the styles of many other such writers and he has always given me a great deal of fun and pleasure.

The New York Times obituary is here and the paper also produced a video on the phenomenal number of Leonard's books that have been made into movies.


I buy scarves. Not in large numbers, but it's hard for me to resist pretty ones or interesting textures so I have a fair collection. Even so, I hardly ever wear them because draping scarves artfully and attractively is not a skill I have mastered.

Actually, forget “mastered.” I don't even get the rudiments of it and when I try to wear one, it always seems to slip its moorings and just look ratty.

I founds this video at the Travels with the Highland Drover blog. I keep thinking maybe I'll choose one style at a time to learn although I haven't done so yet.


It doesn't matter what religion you practice – or if, like me, you have no religion. Buddhist teachings about old age are universal and Lewis Richmond is among the best Buddhist teachers.

Here is a short video from the PBS program, Religion and Ethics where Richmond discusses getting old.

Watch Buddhist Teachings on Aging on PBS. See more from Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

There is a longer talk from Richmond about Buddhist perspective on aging here.


Watch carefully. It's only five seconds long. You'll definitely laugh and it's possible young people don't get it. (Hat tip to TGB reader Jim Hood)

Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I probably won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog if you have one.

Elders Repeating Ourselves

By the time my great Aunt Edith was into her 80s (she lived to be 89), she repeated her stories a lot. I lived in New York City then, she in Portland, Oregon, and we kept a weekly appointment to chat on the telephone.

These days, I (now living in Oregon) speak a couple of times a week with an old friend in New York City who, in recent years and like Aunt Edith, repeats some of her stories to me.

In neither case did I, nor have I, told them that I already know that story. I let them speak.

Before I go any further, let's get dementia out of the way because that's not what I'm talking about.

It is not uncommon for those diagnosed with dementia to repeat the same sentences or stories again and again, sometimes in quick succession. And if you poke around the web, some “experts” will tell you that repeating stories can be a sign of incipient, as-yet-undiagnosed dementia.

Be that as it may, it's not what I'm talking about today and it is not what afflicted my Aunt Edith or my New York friend. Humans repeat themselves. Young people do it too.

Maybe old people do it more often.

One easy and obvious reason is that many elders' short-term memory is annoyingly inconsistent so we forget we've told the story, or we don't remember to whom we've told it and so end up retelling the same person.

Another reason for our repetition might be to fulfill one of Jung's seven tasks of aging which we all seem to come around to unconsciously: to give meaning to the years we have lived. Repeating stories to ourselves and to others helps put them in context and create a narrative of the life we have lived for ourselves.

It is a given that very young children like to have the same stories read to them repeatedly and god help any adult who, bored out of his or her skull in the 76th reading, skips a paragraph.

My mother told me that she started teaching me to read when I was three because she thought she might shoot herself if she had to read Little Red Riding Hood or Madeleine one more time.

I can sympathize. When Aunt Edith was into her 10th or 12th telling of the story about her childhood kitten Fluffy, I was grateful we didn't have picture phones yet so I could get away with the faces I made that kept me from screaming or pulling out my hair.

They tell us patience comes with age and so it has been for me in recent years - at least in storytelling regard. Even in person now, I no longer need to screw up my face to tolerate repeat stories from friends and acquaintances and sometimes I glean new information from the re-telling.

Plus, I have come to see that there is an inherent human pleasure in re-hearing stories we like. In this age of DVDs and DVRs and endless reruns on cable television, we can see our favorite movies and TV episodes as many times as we like.

And books too can be a pleasure to re-read. It's also why we like books that are series such as Agatha Christie's Miss Marple, Michael Connelly's Los Angeles police detective Harry Bosch or Steven Saylor's books about Gordianus the Finder set in ancient Rome.

Many people take great comfort in such familiar characters and their stories.

So I'm tolerant now of the repetition and hope other elders are with me - even if young people (as I did with Aunt Edith) find it maddening.

That's why it is probably a good thing for old people to hang out with others their age who are indulgent either because they know they do it too or because they don't remember the ending anyway so it's like a brand new story each time.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: On a Morning in New York

Pets and Elders

Those two kinds of living creatures go together well. Many studies show that sharing life with a dog or cat or other kind of pet increases health and well-being of elders, even lowers blood pressure.

Our pets are our boon companions who help relieve isolation for old people who live alone, and dogs in particular get you out of the house at least a couple of times a day – always a good thing. Most of all, they are precious, loyal, loving, furry friends.

On Monday, when we were discussing the tough decisions elders are faced with, there was this short exchange in the middle of many other comments.

Jim wondered, “what to do after our current dog dies. Would it be irresponsible for us to get another pet, knowing it might outlive us? I don't know what is the right decision.”

Amba followed up right away saying that she faced the problem of what to do about her cats if she dies before them:

”I think it's important,” she wrote, “to find someone who will promise to take them if they outlive you.”

Lauren chimed in then with some good advice:

Get the pet, but leave instructions on which rescue to contact if you become unable to care for it. Find one close...and post the name and phone number right on your fridge, or in your freezer with your directive.

“If you don't make that simple effort, your pet will go to a shelter because that's all emergency personnel know to do unless they have guidelines.”

Important stuff Lauren is saying. I know for certain that without an alert on the refrigerator, emergency workers would never know Ollie the cat is here. He races for the back closet when he hears footfalls on the pavement, even before people knock on the door.

There are a handful of possible choices we can make ahead of time about the care of pets after our death:

• Arrange with a trusted friend or family member to take them in
• Set up a trust including leaving money specifically for their care
• Find a no-kill shelter that will take them
• Have them humanely euthanized and buried with you

That last item seems a bit gruesome but it was mentioned somewhere I found online and some people might choose it.

If no family member or friend is willing to adopt your pet, the Nolo law website has a good guide to options for including pets in your will, a trust and other estate plans. And the ASPCA has an easy-to-understand page on pet trusts.

In U.K., the RSPCA has a Home for Life service:

” can rest assured that the RSPCA will be there for your beloved pets after you pass on. All it takes to set up the service is a simple clause in your will instructing that care of your pets is handed over to the RSPCA after your death.”

You can read more about that here.

It's not quite so easy in the United States but there are a variety of possibilities for care. The Nolo website has a page of legacy options that is worth reading.

Lauren mentioned the Petfinder website where you'll find a search page that will list all the animal welfare organizations near you by Zip Code or city and state.

And one more good suggestion (with apologies to the whatever website where I found this. Somehow I lost the URL):

”For your pet's sake, make sure your knowledge survives even if you die. Write a Private Letter to keep with your...will or trust documents, with the name and location of your pet, any pet registration papers and special care instructions.

“Consider including information on any favorite foods, toys or friends and veterinary history, medical conditions, dietary requirements, sleeping and exercise needs.”

And I would never have guessed that there is an entire book on this subject, When Your Pet Outlives You, available at the usual online book outlets.

But let's get back to Jim's original question: Would it be irresponsible for us to get another pet, knowing it might outlive us?

I vote a resounding NO, not irresponsible at all particularly if you prepare for the pet's care when you are no longer here to do it yourself.

My Ollie cat just had his ninth birthday and if my previous cat is any indication, he may have another 11 years to go which means he could easily outlive me.

But if not, I will get another cat and I've decided he or she will definitely be an elder cat. Almost everyone wants a puppy or kitten when they adopt so it is not only a good deed to take in an aging pet, but we old folks – human AND feline or canine – are always a nice fit.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: Hippy Dip

National Senior Citizens Day?

Minus the question mark, that's what a press release Crabby Old Lady received on Monday tells her about today. Ever heard of it? Neither has Crabby and the more she looked into it, the more she wished she hadn't. What a stupid idea.

First the history. The commemorative day was invented by President Ronald Reagan. In August 1988, he issued a proclamation that is, predictably, filled with empty platitudes Crabby won't quote. You can read the short statement here.

It is so completely vapid that Crabby could be convinced the proclamation is in response to another August commemorative day: presidential joke day on the 11th.

It's certainly a bad joke to have a day “honoring” elders sandwiched among two or three dozen other commemoratives for such days as those for bad poetry, sewing machines, garage sales, mosquitos and the Slinky – all in August.

There is also Just Because Day in August paired on the same date, the 26th, as Women's Equality Day. Oh, yes, let's remind ourselves of women's equality because - well, just because.

Crabby Old Lady discovered that there are separate days in August for cats and for dogs but most of all, there are food days:

Trail Mix
Toasted Marshmallow
Raspberry Cream Pie
Ice Cream Sandwich
Rice Pudding

You have probably figured out by now that the majority of silly days are promotional. It doesn't take a president to name a day; anyone can do it for anything they want and it is mostly commercial enterprises that name them to create reasons to clutter our lives with more advertising and marketing.

Although the U.S. celebrates fewer official national holidays than many other nations – 11 annual and one quadrennial public holiday, Inauguration Day - there is a good reason to have few: it gives each one more meaning when they come around infrequently. Too many and they all are cheapened.

Crabby Old Lady is way ahead of you in thinking she is making way too much of this stupid Senior Citizens Day that means nothing and everyone ignores. But it just ticked her off to see elders mashed up together in the same breath with trail mix and mustard.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ross Middleton: Someone Has to Say It

An Old Age Better Than I Ever Expected

Nothwithstanding yesterday's post about the hard decisions we face in our old age, I never expected to feel as alive and vibrant and spirited and vital as I do at this time of my life.

There is little if anything in our culture that would lead me to believe I would feel this good about being an old woman. The media relate to old age almost entirely via health, poor health - and mostly about dementia.

There are more news and feature stories about Alzheimer's, for which no prevention or treatment exists, than reports on all other elder health issues combined.

The New York Times publishes what is now a long-standing, daily blog about and for elders titled The New Old Age. Day in and day out over several years now, it is exclusively about being sick or frail or demented or all three at once as though there are no other states of health in “the new old age.”

Someone ought to tell The Times that 80 percent of old people live independently until they die.

Then there are the politicians. Elders are a big topic for them because we are more frequent voters than younger people and our numbers are ballooning.

But the pols see us exclusively in economic terms, wringing their hands over how expensive we are, a bunch of greedy geezers who they would rather starve than allow a Social Security cost-of-living increase.

Is it any wonder nobody likes old people?

The only positive words about us involve freaks who jump out of airplanes at age 85, reported by the media either as a joke or as an object lesson to all other old folks to get off our duffs and climb Mt. Everest.

As regular readers know, I think about these things a lot and frequently rail against them in these pages. But that doesn't stop me from being amazed at how good old age feels.

This is the most interesting time of life I have known. It seems to happen when I'm not paying attention that a lot of former imperatives fall away, making life easier and far less fraught with shoulds.

I am done improving myself. Self-help be damned. I am what I am and so I shall remain.

My ambitions these days are about how I might be able to contribute to my community and not the next better, higher-paying job. I'm not competing for work or recognition or awards anymore and that takes off a load.

My concern about myself has shrunk to little more than a daily mental checklist on well-being rather than how I compare with others. I have less to prove to them and to myself.

I've almost learned that there are good days and bad days, good and bad moods, and that's all right. Each is as much a part of living as the other.

And, as I've mentioned here before, I have lost my younger sense of urgency, the need to do, do, do. I still find it odd that as my days dwindle down, I more frequently say, “I'll get to it tomorrow.”

I still don't understand that but it sure feels good and for a bonus, I suspect it helps keep my blood pressure in check.

There is time now, finally, to be. Time to follow my interests and instincts, to investigate those avenues – internal and external - I was too busy for in the past. Or not. I get to choose and the freedom I've arrived at to do so thrills me.

Whatever the rest of the world thinks about being old, from my vantage point of 72, it is unexpectedly better and more exciting than I ever guessed it could be.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Deb: Lessons in Mothering

Elders' Tough Decisions

Some of you may recall late last year when I told you about Travels with Epicurus, a lovely little book about living a fulfilled old age written by philosopher Daniel Klein.

In his introduction Klein explains why, at age 72, he rejected his dentist's recommendation of dental implants in favor of dentures.

The implants, he knew, would be far superior but they would also involve more than half a dozen visits to an oral surgeon an hour's drive from Klein's home over the course of a year or more with a great deal of pain for several days after each visit. Not to mention an expense in the thousands of dollars.

So Klein asked himself:

”In my early seventies did I really care if I presented to the world an old man's goofy smile?

“And even more to the point, with my years of clear thinking and reasonable mobility dwindling as quickly as my jawbone, did I honestly want to dedicate an entire year to regular visits to an oral surgeon?

“I did not.”

Klein makes it sound like a quick-and-easy decision; he's even kind of funny about it but I doubt he got there without a personal struggle weighing the pros and cons.

While chatting with an old friend this past weekend, I was reminded of Klein's teeth.

Like many men in their mid-70s my friend, over the years, has had medical problems with his prostate and he knows that prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men.

Surgery is the usual recommendation but there is a variety of serious risks and there is also reliable evidence that when prostate cancer has not spread beyond the organ, men on average live just as long without the surgery as with it.

Knowing all this, my friend is left finding a balance, should it become necessary, between what can be formidable negative side effects of prostate surgery against his expected longevity - of living out his normal life before the cancer has any affect on his well being. Tough choice without many signposts to guide him.

And it's not the kind of decision anyone wants to be wrong about either, given that it's a strange old person who doesn't want to reach the end of life having suffered as few health and medical difficulties as possible.

So if the choice becomes necessary, it is probably going to be a crap shoot.

On decisions of this magnitude, we elders don't arrive at old age with much useful experience. What prepares most of us for making advance directive choices and do-not-resuscitate orders?

Since we can't predict the circumstances or condition we'll be in when those documents come into play, how to decide? And can we be certain the proxy we've named to make those decisions if we are incapacitated will do the wise thing?

No, we cannot, and none of the other late-life decisions that come up are much easier.

No one gets to be old these days without knowing the late actor Bette Davis's dictum: Old age ain't for sissies.

She said that, by the way, following a period of 13 months during which she endured a double mastectomy, four strokes in quick succession and a broken collar bone. So more than many elders, she knew whereof she spoke.

Life isn't fair. Like Ms. Davis, some people are plagued with too many of the diseases and debilities of old age while others are granted passage through the late years with only minor inconveniences. But no thinking person can avoid the tough questions old age imposes on us.

In my two decades of reading, research, talking with experts and ordinary people, no one has mentioned these hard decisions elders must make, decisions for which we have little preparation and for which there are few blueprints.

We are mostly on our own and from what I've seen, we do remarkably well. Even so, I think we should talk more about it among ourselves because god knows younger people don't want to hear these things.

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


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.

As I mentioned in a previous column titled In the Rain, I was born in the desert. Okay, this wasn’t a Sahara type situation, this was a southern Australia style desert. There weren’t shifting sand dunes or anything like that. There was, of course, a severe lack of rain.

Our house had a galvanised iron roof so on the rare times that it did rain, we could hear it throughout the house. It was music to our ears, the sound was magical.

I now live in Melbourne which is certainly not in a desert but still, the amount of rain we receive is rather less than you’d imagine. I live in an apartment on the top floor and the roof is aluminium so whenever it rains it sounds the same as when I was a whippersnapper.

It’s so evocative that if I’m playing music or watching TV whenever there’s a serious rain storm, I will turn them off just to listen to the rain on the roof. So, here are some rainy songs.

Given what I’ve just said, the obvious place to start is with the LOVIN’ SPOONFUL and Rain on the Roof.

Lovin' Spoonful

I’ve liked the Spoonful from the first time I heard them, back when I was at Melbourne University. I particularly liked their main man, John Sebastian when he went solo, and collected his albums, only one of which, “Welcome Back,” really troubled the hit charts.

However, here’s the group with that song.

♫ Lovin' Spoonful - Rain on the Roof

Back in my childhood, the call from many people in town is the name of the next song. The songsters in this case are THE TEMPTATIONS.

The Temptations

The Temps were the biggest group out of Motown and boy they were good. You probably know a lot of their songs and if you don’t, I feel sorry for you. Besides, you must be newcomers to this column if that’s so.

Here they are with I Wish It Would Rain.

♫ The Temptations - I Wish It Would Rain

DEE CLARK was an interesting singer. He could rival Little Richard in outrageous vocals or sing as smoothly as Ben E King. This sometimes happened in the same song. There’s also a touch of Jackie Wilson in there as well.

The one I’ve chosen may be one of those songs. If you’re of an age similar to mine, you’ll probably know already which one it is.

Dee Clark

The song was probably Dee’s biggest hit, Raindrops.

♫ Dee Clark - Raindrops

If there’s any chance of including BUDDY HOLLY in a column I’ll take it and, surprise surprise, here he is.

Buddy Holly

The song is from after Buddy split with The Crickets to go on and perform with more varied musicians, a phase that was cut tragically short. This is Raining in My Heart.

♫ Buddy Holly - Raining In My Heart

JOHNNY RIVERS was one the unsung heroes of the sixties and seventies pop and rock world. Okay, he had a couple of hits but his talent wasn’t really recognised at the time. It still hasn’t been.

Johnny Rivers

He is a fine singer and a good guitar player and why he isn’t a bigger star escapes me. I imagine he has made a good living out of what he did. He’s still out there playing and singing.

This is his song I remember most, Summer Rain.

♫ Johnny Rivers - Summer Rain

It’s always good to get the great GORDON LIGHTFOOT into a column, and here he is.

Gordon Lightfoot

There were a couple of his songs I could have chosen. I guess Toronto is a rainier place than Melbourne. Like Buddy, I’ll slip Gordie into my columns whenever I can. This is his beautiful song, Rainy Day People.

♫ Gordon Lightfoot - Rainy Day People

The appropriately named THE CASCADES bring us some more rainy sound effects on their song.

The Cascades

The Cascades started out singing in the navy, although they didn’t call themselves that at the time. Afterwards, they went through several name changes although surprisingly, no personal changes.

They eventually made it to Los Angeles where they had the infamous “Wrecking Crew” backing them. These were the musicians Phil Spector assembled to back his artists. A couple of people on this record are the great bass player Carol Kaye and some non-entity named Glen Campbell, playing guitar.

The song is their huge hit, Rhythm of the Rain.

♫ The Cascades - The Rhythm of the Rain

The NITTY GRITTY DIRT BAND are real favorites of mine but I haven’t featured them much in these columns.

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

They’ve been performing together now for nearly 50 years and there aren’t too bands around with that sort of longevity, especially not ones as good as the Nittys.

They also have a couple of songs that could have been included. I guess they’re from a rainy place as well. In the end I went for Stand a Little Rain.

♫ The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Stand a Little Rain

If I mention the song Rainy Night in Georgia, I imagine most readers of this column would immediately think Brooke Benton. Well, Brooke had a really good version, but my preferred one is by the gentleman who wrote the song, TONY JOE WHITE.

Tony Joe White

Brooke wasn’t the only one who covered the song; many others have done the same and it’s not surprising as it’s a great one. It first appeared on Tony Joe’s second album and it was this that sparked interest in it.

Incidentally, his first album had a number of songs covered by others including Elvis, so he would have made a nice bit of change from that one as well. Get your ears ready for Tony's version of the song.

♫ Tony Joe White - Rainy Night In Georgia

RANDY NEWMAN has a number of rain songs in his oeuvre. I expect it was due to having spent his younger days living in New Orleans.

Randy Newman

The one I’ve chosen is I Think It's Going to Rain Today. The version I’m using is from his first “Songbook” album, where he rerecorded some of his songs just accompanying himself on piano.

I like this more than the original which was a bit too string-laden for my taste.

♫ Randy Newman - I Think It's Going to Rain Today

INTERESTING STUFF – 17 August 2013


On Thursday, John Oliver finished his summer gig filling in as host of The Daily Show while Jon Stewart directed a movie in the Middle East. There will be a two week hiatus and then the program returns with Stewart in the host chair and Oliver back to being a second banana.

And what a shame that is. To take nothing at all away from Jon Stewart who is brilliant, Oliver's star went supernova during his two-month stint. Of course, he had all the same writers as Stewart (including himself) but he is his own comic person with his own comic take and delivery and I was glued to the program every night - I didn't miss an episode.

The funniest, best piece, for me, was last Monday's comparison of Australian and U.S. election campaigns. It is off the charts funny, one for the record books that should be framed and kept forever. Here it is:


I had begun collecting the links to the batshit craziest things that pop out of the demented Congressionals' mouths when they arrive home for the summer but it got away from me – there are too many to track.

Then I got lucky and found this cartoon. I don't have copyright permission to post this and I shouldn't so it may disappear, but I couldn't resist.

Tea party loons


This video arrived a day too late for me to include in the Social Security anniversary post on Wednesday. (Liberal and progressive organizations are too often a few steps behind their Republican counterparts in advance planning.)

But it is full of important survey information that you'll want to know when Congress returns from its summer recess and the “entitlement” hawks start trying to cut the program again.


From my friend Jim Stone who said in his email that he found this strangely soothing to hear. Or was it, strangely relaxing that he said? Either way I felt similarly when I watched it.

You may be wondering what The Cup Song is. Me too, so I looked it up. You can find out here.


I may have mentioned that I don't read climate change and other environment disaster stories. I can't do it. They scare the crap out of me and they make me weep for all of us and our little, blue planet.

Then John Starbuck of For a Dancer sent this story about a small town in Texas called Barnhart where fracking for oil is sucking all the water from the land. This time I read it most of the way through:

"'The day that we ran out of water I turned on my faucet and nothing was there and at that moment I knew the whole of Barnhart was down the tubes,' [Beverly McGuire ] said, blinking back tears. 'I went: “dear God help us. That was the first thought that came to mind."

“Across the south-west, residents of small communities like Barnhart are confronting the reality that something as basic as running water, as unthinking as turning on a tap, can no longer be taken for granted...

“In Texas alone, about 30 communities could run out of water by the end of the year, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.”

Did you read that last part - "by the end of the year"? And no one is doing anything about it. I feel utterly helpless and totally frightened for us all. The rest of the story is here.


Although it is probably too late to matter, this is the kind of environmental and power decisions our country and the world should be racing to make:

In a related story, solar panels are being installed on the White House this week. Read about it here.


Late night TV host Craig Ferguson's explanation of, in his words, “why everything sucks” isn't as fresh as he appears to believe and it won't be new to you. People our age have known this forever.

But it can't hurt to repeat it now and then and bring everyone else up to speed. (Hat tip to Norma Hall).


This “histomap” of history was created by John B. Sparks in 1931 but don't let that date put you off. The map takes the long, long view of the broad strokes of history so not much is missing without the 80 years since it was published.


That is just a small piece the map. There is a zoomable version here. It's worth spending some time with and you can get more information on the history of the histomap here.


They were born on 15 July and the Atlanta zoo shot a little bit of video every day for nearly the first month. With a hat tip to Tamar of Only Connect, take a look at the cuteness:

If that's not enough for you, ZooAtlanta has installed a pandacam so you can watch at any time.

Not to be outdone, the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China has also installed a 24/7 pandacam. So if one set of pandas is sleeping or off doing baby panda things elsewhere when you want to check in, the ones on the other side of world are probably awake.

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.

The 2003 Blackout

If Wednesday had not been the 78th anniversary of Social Security, I would have written about the tenth anniversary of the northeast blackout. So I'll do it now instead.

It happened, where I was in New York City, on what was a blistering summer day on 14 August but it involved a much larger area and many more people than that – 50 million in all. Here is a map of the affected region:


According to Wikipedia, the cause of the blackout was not overuse of power on a hot summer day as had happened in the past.

”...the primary cause was a software bug in the alarm system at a control room of the FirstEnergy Corporation in Ohio. Operators were unaware of the need to re-distribute power after overloaded transmission lines hit unpruned foliage.”

In other words, blame it on tree leaves or, anyway, the company that didn't trim them away from power lines.

Just after 4PM on that Thursday, I was working at home in my ground-level apartment when my laptop - with no fanfare, not a single pop, click or wheeze - silently went dark. The air conditioner stopped and the two or three lights that were on went out. I sensed more than heard a hush descend on the city.

From past blackouts I recalled how fast essentials disappear from stores so I walked directly to the corner bodega where I loaded up on batteries, candles, bread and deli items. Then I settled down with a book.

No more than 30 minutes later, there was a knock at the door. Surprise! My former husband. Although we had then been divorced for more than three decades, we were relatively friendly and saw one another once a year or so.

He said he happened to be in the Village when the power died but lived on the 24th floor in a building that was 70 blocks north – more walking and stairs than he cared, in his mid-60s, to tackle on a miserably hot afternoon. Could he stay with me for the duration, he asked.

And so we settled in and as we chatted about what had been going on in our respective lives, there was another knock at the door. This time it was a recent past boyfriend of long-standing.

Now let's pause in the telling for a moment. Recall that it had been three decades since my former husband, whom we'll call Alex (since that is his name), and I had been attached either legally or emotionally.

Similarly, although I had dated guest number two (let's call him SG) for a long time, we had been out of touch for two years or so.

And understand that as a single woman from age 31 on, I have enjoyed more than a couple – ahem, many more than that, I would say – of relationships with men almost all of whom have been fascinating people to know.

Through all the years, I have always believed that one should never, ever kiss and tell and I took care to make sure that the paths of these terrific men did not cross – at least, not when I could control it.

You might imagine that when I opened my door to SG, all the above and more went through my mind. You would be correct to do so. SG said he was living in Brooklyn, much farther than he wanted to walk and had, as Alex had explained, found himself in the Village in the vicinity of my home. Could he stay?

What remained of the cool air in my apartment was fast leaking out the door so I quickly invited SG in. I felt awkward but there wasn't anything to do except smile nicely and make introductions which is when I realized that at least they had a lot in common: Alex, the big-city, radio talk show host and SG, the multi-Emmy-winning network news producer.

I was right about the similarity of their interests but did not initially twig to what should have been obvious to me - their competitiveness. It wasn't long before they were trading professional war stories, working hard to one-up each other.

After dark, we strolled out to see what Greenwich Village was like in total darkness. Amazing. With the glow of candlelight in apartment windows, we could almost imagine what those streets had been like at night 100 years earlier before street lights – even before gaslight.

We literally could not see our hands in front of our faces and we had to walk carefully after SG found out the hard way that you can't always hear people approaching from the opposite direction.

Here and there, people were having stoop parties, drinking beer and barbecuing steak and chicken that would go bad in short order. Most stores and shops were closed by then but the Bleecker Street Bakery appeared to be serving by candlelight.

We checked it out and they gave us free tiramisu, already melting, that would sour before morning without refrigeration.

Back home and after sharing a doobie or two, the guys were back to oneupmanship and I was sleepy. In the living room there was a long sofa and another, smaller one that opened into a twin-size bed so there was room for everyone.

I found some pillows and light blankets for the guys and retired to my bedroom for the night wondering what, if anything, two old men who had each once been a lover, would say about me when I was not among them.

I'll never know but I'm pretty sure it wasn't much. These were (still are) accomplished men accustomed to being stars in their fields and sure enough, when I woke in the morning they were still awake and still trying to outdo one another with their stories.

By midday, although there was still no power, they each decided to trek to their respective homes. In my neighborhood, power was restored later that day and life returned to normal.

In all, 11 people died during the blackout, six in New York City. From Wikipedia again:

”Two were deaths from carbon monoxide, two from fire, one as a result of a fall from a roof while breaking into a shoe store, and one as a result of having a heart attack in a neighbor's apartment after climbing the 17 flights to their floor.”

Compared to such disasters as last year's Hurricane Sandy or Katrina before that, midwest floods that happen almost annually and western wildfires, the 2003 blackout was almost benign – more inconvenient for a couple of days than destructive, akin to a snow day off from school.

In my case, it was fascinating to get a glimpse of what night time was like before modern lighting, particularly in a place where so many of the buildings from that earlier era still stand. (No wonder people were afraid to be out at night.)

And it was amusing to watch those two men - each remarkable in his way and each having been such an important part of my life - in a sort of friendly and restrained clash of egos.

This has been a heavy week at Time Goes By – Republican politics, ageism, Social Security. So let's have a little storytelling fun today. Let's hear from those of you who may have found yourself in similar, benign situations as I did in 2003 (some New York readers may have been through the same blackout).

Or maybe you were stranded or lost, or found yourself, one way or another, stuck in a limbo outside ordinary life for awhile. Tell us about it.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dan Gogerty: Your Momma, Andy of Mayberry and 35,000 Bikers

Our Ageist Media – Part 2 of 2

[Part 1 of this series can be found here.]

The term “ageism” was coined in 1968 by the late, renowned geriatrician and Pulitzer Prize winning author, Robert N. Butler. It consists of, he writes in his book, The Longevity Revolution, “myths and stereotypes, disdain and dislike, sarcasm and scorn, subtle avoidance and discriminatory practices.”

Old people, explains Butler, are seen by those who are younger as different and other from them, less than the same kind of human:

“Old men become geezers, old goats, gaffers, fogies, coots, gerries, fossils, and codgers, and old women are gophers and geese. A crone, hag, or witch...[Ageism] is identical, to any other prejudice in its consequences.”

In that 2008 book, Butler recalls two of those consequences in Louisiana in August 2005 and in New York City on September 11, 2001:

”Animal activists evacuated dogs and cats within twenty-four hours after the World Trade Center was attacked, while disabled or older persons were abandoned in their apartments for up to seven days before ad hoc medical teams arrived to rescue them.

Older persons were also invisible in the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.”

The dire situation of elders in New Orleans was relatively well reported by the media. Not so with the elders and disabled left stranded in their homes after 9/11. I was aware before Butler's mention of it only because a friend volunteered delivering food and water to people of all ages who could not get down the stairs on their own.

Such deplorable circumstances are, to a large degree, the result of our barely-acknowledged ageism, the stereotypes created and sustained by the language commonly and widely used about elders every day.

Although ageism is more complex than negative words and images alone and I'll tackle that subject another time, one step in the right direction is to be aware of the words and images, point them out and demand that they be eliminated them from our vocabularies.

Three or four years ago, Dr. Butler's organization, The International Longevity Center, in collaboration with Aging Services of California published a styleguide for journalists, marketers and advertisers titled, Media Takes: On Aging.

In a “reality check” section, the guide quotes Edward Alwood, a journalism historian and associate professor at Quinnipiac University:

”'The capacity of the news media to create and perpetuate prejudice is one of the most unsettling and frightening aspects of American journalism.'

“...perceptions of older people and the views older people have of themselves are directly affected by how older people are depicted in the news media, on television, in film and in advertising.”

A lot of the offensive words and images are based on ignorant stereotypes of the old, beliefs that are rarely true. An example is this phrase from a Wired story about cybersecurity:

”...not dominated by geezers who have other people read and respond to their e-mail.”

Or this from, of all places, Psychology Today:

”While nearly all of us get bitter as we grow older and alone...”

Once you're attuned to this stuff, it turns up everywhere.

In the years I have been writing about ageism and ageist language, invariably there are commenters who say I am over-reacting and that they don't see the problem. Coot is fine with them or biddy or references to Geritol or elder's supposed inability to understand technology or diaper jokes.

Is it that after a lifetime of omnipresent ageist language, they don't even recognize the offensiveness - or their part, in their approval, of it perpetuation? One aging and ageism expert suspects that denial of aging and denial of ageism are two sides of the same coin.

In The Encyclopedia of Aging, Erdman B. Palmore, a gerontologist and professor emeritus of medical sociology at Duke University who has been studying aging and ageism all his professional life writes:

”Age denial is a frequent reaction to ageism...The denial of 'old' as a self-concept may actually be a denial of the negative age stereotypes rather than a denial of chronological age...

“The denial that one is 'old' may simply be an assertion that one still feels as healthy, strong, and vigorous as one did when younger.

“As Butler points out, 'The problem comes when this good feeling is called 'youth' rather than 'health,' thus tying it to chronological age instead of to physical and mental well-being.'”

Not to mention that every time an elder denies her age, or twists himself into a pretzel to explain why obviously prejudicial language is not offensive, every other old person is harmed because such language promotes continued discrimination and repudiates the humanity of all elders.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Arlene Corwin: Secular Sweden

Celebrate Social Security Today

Two weeks ago, we celebrated the 48th anniversary of Medicare. Thirty years before that, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had signed into law the Social Security Act. He did that on today's date in 1935:


So Happy Anniversary, Social Security. In his speech at the signing ceremony on 14 August 1935 FDR said,

"We can never insure one-hundred percent of the population against one-hundred percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life. But we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against…poverty-ridden old age.”

As so it has for 78 years. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) reports, the benefit currently lifts 14.5 million elders above the poverty line.

”Without Social Security benefits, nearly half of all elders - 43.6 percent - would have incomes below the official poverty line. Because of this law, only 8.7 percent do.”

We elders are not the only Social Security beneficiaries. Disabled workers and survivors of workers who have died receive payments including more than 6 million children younger than 18.


And now, as of two months ago, same-sex married couples have the same Social Security rights as every other married couple thanks to the Supreme Court declaring the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional.

Last week, the Social Security Administration announced that it has begun processing claims of same-sex couples.

For now, SSA is paying claims only from couples who were married in a state that permits same-sex marriage and who are living in a state that recognizes same sex marriage at the time of their application for benefits.

”Social Security said it's holding onto those claims that don't meet these criteria,” reports the Baltimore Sun, until it gets more guidance from the Justice Department.”

For some same-sex couples in states without marriage yet, California Representative Linda Sanchez has introduced The Social Security Equality Act of 2013 (H.R. 3050) with 109 co-sponsors. The bill would

”...require the Social Security Administration to provide spousal, survivor and death benefits to same-sex couples in relationships that have been recognized by the state where they live,” [says Sanchez's office].

That would be nine states that allow civil unions. We're haven't gotten to universal same-sex marriage yet, but we're moving forward.


All-in-all, there is a lot about Social Security to celebrate even if people on the right side of political spectrum want to kill the program altogether and, failing that, reduce the program by inflicting a thousand cuts.

With all the shrieking about killing Obamacare this summer season, you may have forgotten about the most recent threat - to use “chained CPI” to calculate inflation which would reduce Social Security cost-of-living increases.

Don't worry, the right political flank hasn't forgotten and they'll renew that effort soon. Meanwhile, there is an important, growing movement not to reduce Social Security benefits but to increase them.

Here one reason for that from Sheryl Tenicat speaking at a senior center meeting in Iowa on 6 August where her senator, Tom Harkin, was visiting that day. (The audio on this video is terrible so below it is a transcript of Ms. Tenicat's most salient points.)

“$624 a month. That’s what I live on. $99 of that goes to my Medicare Part ‘A’ and ‘B’. After I get my check in two weeks, it’s gone. I have nothing. I live on what I eat here. I don’t want my cost of living cut because I’ve paid in since I was 16..."


Paid in since she was 16 with $624 a month to show for it. I know for a fact that at least several Time Goes By readers somehow get by on $800 or less in Social Security benefits. The red-state politicians and their followers always say it's elders' own fault, if they don't have enough money to eat well, for not saving more.

Oh, really? Save when the corporate/government cabal has, for the past 30 years, systematically (and deliberately) destroyed two legs (pensions and salaries) of the three-legged stool Social Security was originally mean to supplement as number three?

How much can anyone have saved who spent a lifetime working for minimum wage, or even twice that amount?

How much can anyone have saved whose 401(k) tanked in 2008? 401(k)s that were not paying off as promised, anyway.

How much can people who got laid off in their 50s have saved while they watched younger people being hired instead of them and now stand all day, if they can get hired at all, flipping burgers for minimum wage?

And, how much does anyone have in retirement when the company they worked for through several decades filed for bankruptcy and pensions went poof? Or governments that reneged on pensions - think what is probably going to happen to retired/retiring police and firefighters in Detroit who paid into local pension plans and not Social Security. It has happened before.


Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, who you saw briefly in Sheryl Tenicat's video above, is a proponent of increasing Social Security. His Senate bill, S.567 - Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013, can be found here.

MoveOn is sponsoring a petition for the bill which you can sign here. No, nothing as radical as benefit increases will happen quickly. But like the tea party on their issues, we need to keep making noise, to keep repeating ourselves until what is right catches on.

You can read about the movement to expand Social Security here or google “harkin social security” for more information and background.


Whenever the right wing gets on their band wagon about killing Social Security, aside from the cruelty of their goal they never consider that almost 100 percent of Social Security benefits are spent right back into local communities.

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) had published a nifty map of the United States where you can click on your state to see a snapshot of how much Social Security contributes to your local economy.

In most cases, it's billions of dollars.


Well, look how far I've gotten to. I really didn't mean for this post to be so lengthy or to harangue you about all this. But Social Security is crucial to just about every retired person in the U.S. except the one percent. It must be preserved and it must be improved.

The forces against Social Security are powerful and well-funded. To fight back, we need to know what's going on and I hope you'll click a few of today's links to learn more. It's a great way to celebrate the anniversary.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Janet Thompson: TSA Terror

Our Ageist Media – Part 1 of 2

Hardly anyone takes ageism seriously – most particularly the daily media: magazines, newspapers, television and video both online and off.

Long time readers of this blog know that I regularly write about ageism and ageist language and I realized it has been too long since my last foray when I received an email from Marc Leavitt, a retired newspaper editor, who contributes to The Elder Storytelling Place and blogs at Marc Leavitt's Blog:

In his note, Marc referred me to a story about aging at The New York Times where the lead sentence ended with, “...the slow, mysterious process that turns children to codgers.”

”Their choice [of codger] pissed me off,” wrote Marc. “I thought about a Letter to the Editor, but as a knowledgeable newsman, I know what that would get me, so I decided to vent by emailing you...

“Merriam Webster lists 20 synonyms for 'codger,' including: 'crackpot, crank, fruitcake, nut, weirdo, and zany.' None of the synonyms are positive.”

Of course, Marc (who further noted that the word “children” in the sentence is a neutral, non-judgmental word) is correct to be pissed off.

From time to time, I make it a point to collect and save examples of ageist language in the media with an eye toward writing such a post as this one. I never last long at it because it's so time consuming; language that stereotypes and patronizes elders is so pervasive that it pops up many times every day.

Here is one from just last week written by one of my favorite political bloggers, Heather Parton, otherwise known as Digby:

”But the effect of this isn't, in the end, to make little old ladies feel safer by confiscating the 8oz bottle of Geritol in their handbags.”

Amazing how much ageist crap can be crammed into one 26-word sentence, isn't it. When referencing old people, writers invariably reach for the most demeaning adjective or metaphor possible.

In an ironic and amazingly tone-deaf statement in a story last week at Huffington Post, the mother of a two-year-old boy reported on a slur shouted at her son by a customer in the store where she was shopping.

In explaining what led to the incident, she wrote this [emphasis added]:

”The fact that he [her son] was wearing a cute girly headband made him feel good, and he was charming all the old ladies by waving like a little pageant prince. I snapped his photo after two old birds came up to tell me just how adorable he was.”

This is an almost perfect example of how slurs against all classes of people are unacceptable nowadays except for those targeting elders. [The story as been removed from Huffington Post due to a police investigation of the incident.]

If that one isn't enough irony for you, try this one – also from last week.

Serial sexter and New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner was participating in an AARP-sponsored (keep that in mind) debate at Hunter College.

Before the event began, Wiener got into an argument with one of his rivals for office, 69-year-old George MacDonald. Let's go to the video tape:

AARP later said the incident was “unfortunate.” That's all? When even the premier organization for old people lets an ageist language incident slide, you know how far away from parity elders are.

Becca Levy is Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Psychology as well as Director of the Social and Behavioral Sciences Division at Yale University. She has been studying the effects of ageism and ageist language on the health of elders for many years.

”In Levy's longitudinal study of 660 people 50 years and older,” reports Melissa Dittmann, “those with more positive self-perceptions of aging lived 7.5 years longer than those with negative self-perceptions of aging. The study appeared in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Vol. 83, No. 2).

“On the other hand, people's positive beliefs about and attitudes toward the elderly appear to boost their mental health.

"Levy has found that older adults exposed to positive stereotypes have significantly better memory and balance, whereas negative self-perceptions contributed to worse memory and feelings of worthlessness.”

Not to put too fine a point on all this, here is New York Times Op-Ed columnist Gail Collins – from one of my earlier collections of media ageism - writing in 2009 [emphasis added]:

“There is something about Romney that causes people to want to change the channel; or, if they are in a senior center in Florida listening to a candidate forum, wander off in search of a second helping of Jell-O. “

I wonder if Collins's self-image is more positive now that five years have passed and she will be 68 in November.

Our Ageist Media - Part 2 of 2

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Henry Lowenstern: Test Tube Burger?

Are Elders Retreating from the GOP?

To my everlasting chagrin as an elder advocate, a majority of old people (those who are 65-plus) vote Republican. In the 2012 presidential election, they went for Governor Mitt Romney over President Barack Obama 56 to 44.

2012 Vote Results AARP

As the above AARP chart shows, even the 50-to-64 age group preferred Romney to Obama by 52 to 47.

It is beyond me why people who rely on Social Security they paid into all their working lives votes for the party that wants to end it. I am baffled by people, at least half of whom could not afford health care without Medicare, who vote for the politicians who want to kill Medicare.

It's not like Social Security and Medicare are fringe issues with the Republican Party. Republican candidates take campaign money from rich conservatives who expect those candidates to do everything in their power to get rid of these two programs.

However, the political affection of this age group may be changing. If a July poll conducted by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg for Democracy Corps is accurate, elders may have had enough of the GOP. Here are a few results:

• 89 percent want to protect Medicare benefits and premiums

• 87 percent want to raise pay for working women

• 79 percent want to expand scholarships for working adults

• 77 percent want to expand access to high-quality and affordable childcare for working parents

• 74 percent want to cut subsidies to big oil companies, agribusinesses and multinational corporations in order to invest in education, infrastructure and technology

• 66 percent of seniors want to expand state health insurance exchanges under Obamacare

As Erica Siefert, writing at The Carville-Greenville Memo noted:

”All of these issues will be critical to the national debate as the 2014 election nears. The more seniors hear from Republicans on these and other issues, the more we can expect the GOP’s advantage among this important group to decline. And we can count on one thing in 2014: Seniors will vote.”

The first commenter on that story, a tax preparer, tells us that several of his elder

”...clients have given considerable sums to the GOP in the past but have cut them off completely because of their positions on Medicare, Social Security, reproductive rights and their war on women.”

Overall in the survey, elders still favor Republicans but that support is dropping. Molly Ball of The Atlantic interviewed Siefert about the Greenberg poll:

”Seifert believes it's largely a reaction to the Republican-backed plan by Rep. Paul Ryan to phase in changes to the Medicare system, which dates to 2011.

“But the slide appears to have accelerated this year: Greenberg clocked Republicans' advantage with the over-65 vote at 11 points in January, 6 in March and 5 in July. 'That's the sort of shift that turns the tables,' Siefert told me.”

In her report on the poll, Siefert noted:

“On almost every issue we tested — including gay rights, aid to the poor, immigration, and gun control — more than half of seniors believe that the Republican Party is too extreme.”

As you would expect, Democratic and progressive pundits are eagerly jumping on these poll results. Here is Ed Kilgore in Washington Monthly:

”If the trend holds, this is a very big deal, folks, not just in the long term but in the immediate future. It’s the grip the GOP had on white seniors that made the 2010 GOP landslide possible, and which had convinced most attentive observers that Republicans possessed a big advantage going into 2014 no matter what was going on across the issue landscape, given the disproportionate turnout of seniors in midterms.

“It’s now becoming impossible to simply dismiss the evidence that this grip is loosening. I’ll be interested to see if other public opinion researchers address it, and what they find.”

Although it would be fortunate indeed if elders are finally getting smart about their own best interests and those of country's too, for now I'm skeptical – particularly because in so many states, the Republicans have gerrymandered such a high number of all-red Congressional districts that a Democratic breakthrough may not be statistically possible.

And let's not forget that this is just one survey that is more than a year out from the midterm Congressional election in 2014. A lot can happen between now and then but I am slightly heartened.

What do you think? You can read the entire survey here [pdf].

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Richard J. Klade: Don't Need One, Must Have One