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Internet Advertising and My Brain Health

Today is Net Neutrality Day and thousands of websites have joined together in a brief slowdown of the loading of their pages to point out what will happen if the FCC decides to create paid internet “fast lanes” for big corporations like Comcast and Netflix.

At first, I intended to join them until I discovered that doing so involves a pop-up announcement with a link to a page where you can let lawmakers know you support net neutrality.

As you will find out further down this post, pop-ups (and other forms of advertising) have become so debilitating to human brain function that I will not add even this one to our decreasing abilities to concentrate. You can support net neutrality here – and please do.

In recent years, intrusive advertising has so increased in amount, length, sound volume and repetition that it outnumbers news, information and entertainment on webpages. This is no longer an exaggeration.

[Before we go any further with this discussion, let it be understood that anyone thinking to advise me about Adblock should go immediately to the back of the class. I have bank and other important accounts that do not function if Adblock or similar programs are in play and I do not want to be constantly enabling and disabling it.]

Most advert intrusions fall into either audio/visual or pop-up categories. Here are some the worst examples:

AUDIO/VIDEO: Music, narration or other audio – always a commercial - begins the moment the page loads. The source is, nowadays, hidden somewhere so far below the fold as to be unfindable (deliberate, of course) so to end it, all computer audio must be muted – not a useful choice.

Among many others, Huffington Post, TalkingPointsMemo, Time, Salon and The New York Times are offenders and USA Today doesn't even supply a mute or stop button so that the only escape route is to close the page. Which I do and now I've stopped visiting the site.

So many other websites have recently copied the no close/no mute button practice that I'll soon have no way to read the news online.

Another awful practice presented itself from Reuters. I had left open the page while I checked email and suddenly a commercial blared forth.

There were about 10 tabs open in my browser and no way to know which one was the culprit without taking the time to go through them all and search each page for the hidden audio.

While, of course, I had lost my train of thought and even what email I was dealing with.

I rarely visit the AARP site but was not too surprised last week to find that they have taken up the practice of suddenly blaring audio when I was well into reading a story, with no indication of how to find the origin.

POP-UPS: Pop-up (under, over, behind, etc) purveyors have become expert at timing the intrusion until you have read just enough to be engrossed and then they cover the exact paragraph and sentence you are reading.

Daily Kos does this and they pain you further by providing a close button but guess what? It won't work for about ten seconds. Do they really believe I'll keep visiting their site after that's happened several times? I have unbookmarked them.

The New York Times has their own annoyance that a few other sites I visit regularly have adopted. You've just settled into the story. You might already be at paragraph three or four when whoosh! The entire story is pushed below the fold by a giant, full-screen advertisement, often a movie poster, sliding down from the top.

But wait. If you are fool enough to scroll down as fast as you can in hopes of finding the place where you left off reading, Surprise! Just as you do, the advertisement closes by sliding back to the top, dragging the text with it and you've lost your place a second time.

Then there are the slide-ins. Truthdig does this and like the pop-ups, they are timed to cover what you are reading – but it's not even an ad. It begs you, for god's sake, to like them on Facebook. Interrupt me for something as silly as that and I'm gone. Forever.

TalkingPointsMemo also uses slide-ins from the sides but they have graduated to repeating them – again and again – as you move your cursor around trying to stop them from opening and closing. Nigh impossible.

But it is Raw Story that has taken the interruptions to the limit of human endurance – you know, the point where you smash your head into the computer screen.

A video starts blasting as soon as you arrive. It takes a minute or more to find it somewhere near the bottom of the screen and when you scroll back up, re-read a few sentences to find the place where you left off – at exactly that moment, a pop-up covers the entire page.

There seems to have been a big uptick the number and annoyance factors of these interruptions in recent months and while keeping this “intrusion diary,” I've become painfully aware of how short my attention span has become and worse, how jumpy I have become in general.

Reading a long (paper) magazine story or a book (paper or Kindle) has become hard. After 10 or 15 minutes, my mind wanders and feel myself searching for a distraction.

I realize it has been a long time since I have lost myself in a narrative and that, since I first learned to read, has been one of my greatest pleasures in life. I miss it and am determined to get back that kind of enjoyment but I doubt it will come easily.

I am convinced that as much as TV has, over decades, shortened our ability to focus, the internet, even before pop-ups and instant sound, have made it so much worse that I now question my ability for productive thought and for me, that is as terrifying as dementia. Hey, maybe it is a form of dementia.

So I have cut my online subscriptions (paid and free) and alerts at least in half including a lot of my favorite news and aging sources. I am limiting my reading to my morning coffee, lunch when I'm home and half an hour in the late afternoon just before I shut down the computer for the day.

I was lucky enough, as managing editor of the first cbsnews.com website beginning in 1995, to be part of the creation of the news and commercial web. It was a fascinating time – we were inventing it, making it up as we went along.

When the technology advanced far enough for audio, video and animation, my colleagues and I along with virtually all other reputable websites rejected automatic starts. Users, we believed, should make the choice of when to listen or watch.

That sane decision is gone now, I am seriously concerned about my brain health and further, I find it extremely odd that for all the time I've spent online until now, I have never seen a rant about this issue. I wonder if I'm the only one who is worried.

Don't forget to let your voice be heard on net neutrality.


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


When Blog Friends Go Missing – Take Two

A few days ago, TGB reader Linda Crim left a comment on a post from three years ago titled, as today's is, minus the “take two.” She wanted to know if there has been an update. Well, not until now.

”One of my dearest friends died from a fall,” wrote Linda. “She lived alone and was not found for over a week. She lived in NJ, I am in MO. I was frantic...She and I discussed this subject a week before her accident, we are both very active online.”

In the decade I've been writing this blog, that has happened to me more times than I care to recall although not, as in Linda's case, with close friends but with online friends I have not met in person or met only a couple of times.

There are a few online friends whose family would know to contact me but there are others who have just disappeared and I've never known what happened – did they get tired of the internet or have they died, not an unreasonable question if you run a blog about and for elders.

As I mentioned in that old post, those of us who do blog should write a final post. Mine is titled, If You're Reading This, I'm Dead and now I am reminded that I have not updated it in several years and should.

If you do that, you must leave a prominent note somewhere telling survivors where the post is and how to publish it. But what about people who don't keep blogs.

In that post, I suggested a registry where survivors could let online friends know and I asked for suggestions on how to set up something like that. Although there was a lot of general response and conversation that day, no one was helpful in that specific regard.

If that is even feasible, someone else should run it – I can't take on any more duties here.

But to Linda's question about friends who live alone and might die without someone knowing for awhile, there is a remedy we can all use. Make a deal with a friend to check in with one another via phone or email every day by an agreed-upon time.

Be sure you each have the name and phone number of someone to call if there is no check-in.

How important this can be becomes obvious when you know that according to the U.S. Census, 30 percent of people 65 and older live alone.

I did a little checking while thinking about today's post and discovered a free program of the Newport News Sheriff's Department called Safety for our Seniors, reported in the local Daily Press:

”Every weekday morning, between 7:30 and 8 a.m., regular as clockwork, the phone rings in the home of Newport News resident John Babbs.

“Each day, when the 95-year-old picks up, he's greeted by a cheery voice checking on his well-being. Most often they're the welcoming tones of Gloria Johnson or Wanda Sigler, both members of the Newport News Sheriff's Office.”

In a cursory Google check, I could not find other such services but I doubt Newport News is alone in providing this. And it certainly sounds like something that should be more widely available.

I am sure we are all eager to read more and better solutions in the comments below.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: A Special Moon


The Rest of My Life

Last week, intending to telephone a woman who is near my age, I instead reached her mother who is 103 years old. The wrong number had been given to me in error but it turned out to be a seredipitous encounter.

We spoke for some time about all sorts of things in our community, got sidetracked onto other topics and I recalled that someone had told me she has said to others that her body doesn't work well anymore but her mind is just fine.

And so, as I found out for myself that day, it certainly is.

Since then I have been thinking hard about the fact that she is 30 years older than I am. Think of that. 30 YEARS more than my 73. That's almost half as long as I've already lived. It is as many days, months, years as it took me to get from age 43 to now.

A lot happened to me in that period of time. I worked hard at mostly fascinating jobs. Met compelling, interesting people. Had a bunch of wonderful romances with terrific men. Bought and sold two or three homes. Lived in three different cities in just the last ten years.

Of course, there were some painful bumps in that road – big time, in a couple of cases such as being forced out of the workplace long before I had any intention of leaving but eventually, I found a way to make that forced retirement work fairly well for me.

And that doesn't begin to cover the adventures of those 30 rich and eventful years. Now, unless illness or other debility intervenes, I have no reason to believe the next 30 shouldn't be as full and fulfilling.

During our working lives – well, my working life anyway – we're on autopilot. Mortgages to pay, kids – if you have them – to educate, career ladders to climb, taxes to pay, retirement to save for. It was about keeping the outgoing flow of money from overtaking the incoming.

Now, for me, that pursuit is finished but until that lovely conversation last week, it had not occurred to me that there might be a lot – a whole lot - of time that I should not fritter away.

It struck me that I might be able create a plan for using that time to better advantage than to just let it happen.

This blog remains a good project for the foreseeable future and the development of Three Rivers Village that is taking more of my time with each passing month will make elders' lives here better than they would be without it – a worthwhile endeavor.

But being hit now with the idea that I might live another 30 years leaves me feeling strongly that I don't want to just drift through three decades willy-nilly.

It is not that I want a detailed plan with a list of goals and dates. Instead, I would like to develop an overarching principle or two or three to help guide me in choices as (to coin a phrase) time goes by. That's on my mind now.

Of course, nothing says I won't die long before I am 103. But so what if I do? However long or short it is, I want the rest of my life to be at least as rich and eventful and satisfying as the first 73 and I would like to do that consciously.

What I would like to happen is that when I am at the far reaches of my lifespan, someone younger, after spending a little time with me, would have as much to ponder as I do following that enlightening conversation I had last week with a 103-year-old woman.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Clifford Rothband: Dogs Steal a Police Car


ELDER MUSIC: U.S. States – Hawaii to Maryland

Tibbles1SM100x130This 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.


Continuing with songs about the occasionally united states in alphabetical order.

Hawaii125We're starting today with the newest state of them all, and having an Australian to sing about it – GLENN CARDIER.

Glenn Cardier

The song is taken from his terrific album "Rattle the Cage" and is called Hawaiian Sands.

♫ Glenn Cardier - Hawaiian Sands

IdahoFlagThere were only a couple of Idaho tracks in my database. In the end I opted for COUNT BASIE.

Count Basie

This is an instrumental so you'll just have to take my word for the fact that it's called Idaho.

♫ Count Basie - Idaho

IllinoisFlagI'm not all that familiar with the BODEANS.

BoDeans

In fact, I have only a single track of theirs in my entire collection. Fortunately, that track is called Locked up in the State of Illinois. It sure sounds as if they listened closely to Buddy Holly.

♫ BoDeans - Locked up in the State of Illinois

IndianaFlagDUKE ROBILLARD can play blues with the best of them. He can also play jazz with the best of those as well.

Duke Robillard

In this case he's more into jazz mode with the old song (Back Home Again) In Indiana. This song was written in 1917 and was just pipped at the post by Maryland as the oldest song in the series.

Ballard MacDonald had a hand in writing both songs, this time with the help of James Hanley.

♫ Duke Robillard - Back Home Again, In Indiana

IowaFlagGREG BROWN was born and bred in Iowa so he knows what he's singing about.

Greg Brown

Greg seems to fly under the radar somewhat, but he's an excellent songwriter and performer and worth seeking out. In spite of the low profile, he's made a couple of dozen albums over the years.

The song, The Iowa Waltz came from an early album called “Iowa Waltz.”

♫ Greg Brown - The Iowa Waltz

KansasFlagPretty much all the Kansas songs refer to Kansas City so I'm stretching the point and going with one of those.

There are a lot of them, but when I spotted LITTLE RICHARD I decided that was the one.

Little Richard

It was one of the vast number of songs written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Little Willie Littlefield had the original version and the biggest hit was by Wilbert Harrison. I'm very partial to Little Richard so we're going with him.

♫ Little Richard - Kansas City

KentuckyFlagKentucky brought up quite a few songs, mostly in a country mode or early rock and roll. I've gone for the former with MERLE HAGGARD.

Merle Haggard

There's nothing about blue moons, rain or waltzes in this song. It's all about gambling, not something usually associated with the state. Never mind. The song is Kentucky Gambler.

♫ Merle Haggard - Kentucky Gambler

LouisianaFlagLouisiana is a state with a myriad of riches in every genre of music possible.

I decided to continue the country theme and have RODNEY CROWELL perform the state's song.

Rodney Crowell

It's a song Rodney wrote and has been covered really well by Emmylou Harris amongst others.

Rodney is a songwriter with few equals and is a fine performer as well. His song is Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight.

♫ Rodney Crowell - Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight

MaineFlagWith Maine, I have a first today. This is the first time I've had LEON RUSSELL in any of my columns.

Leon Russell

I saw Leon at the Fillmore back in 1970 and was very impressed. I expected him to be a superstar. It didn't eventuate (so much for my judgment), but he is an excellent musician and that probably matters more.

Today, Leon is travelling From Maine to Mexico.

♫ Leon Russell - From Maine To Mexico

MarylandFlagMaryland has probably the oldest song in our collection. This isn't the oldest version though, it's by STEVE GOODMAN.

SteveGoodman4

The song, There's a Girl in the Heart of Maryland. was written by Ballard MacDonald and Harry Carroll. It first made the charts in 1913 with a version by Andrea Sarto who was also known as Edgar Stoddard. It was also a hit for Harry Macdonough not long after.

♫ Steve Goodman - There's A Girl In The Heart Of Maryland

More states in two weeks' time.


INTERESTING STUFF – 6 September 2014


DROP YOUR PANTS AD CAMPAIGN

Yes, it's a commercial for Depends and it works on every level – it is well produced, attention-grabbing fun with exactly the right slogan for and about elders: “because wearing a different kind of underwear is no big deal.”

Take a look.


FELLING A DOUGLAS FIR IN CLOSE QUARTERS

As Darlene Costner's email including the link to this video said: “And you think you're good at your job?”

I say, think again.


HOW TO COMPLAIN TO MEDICARE

Without anywhere near enough fanfare, on 1 August this year, Medicare changed the phone numbers by which complaints can be made. Worse, they made the numbers hard to find. As The New Old Age Blog at The New York Times explained:

”What you have to do to find the new ones through Medicare.gov, apparently, is go to this Medicare Helpful Contacts page, look down the “select an organization” menu for 'Quality Improvement Organization (Beneficiary and Family Centered Care), then enter your state. The proper Livanta or KePro number then materializes. Intuitive, right?

“It’s simpler to find the new numbers by consulting the state by state guide that the United Hospital Fund has posted.”

There is much more good information about this at The New Old Age Blog. You should save it on your computer and also print it out to put with your paper Medicare files because when you need it is not the time to be trying to figure this out.


FRANK UNDERWOOD ON COLBERT REPORT

If you are a fan of Stephen Colbert and of Kevin Spacey in his role as Frank Underwood on the Netflix series, House of Cards, you'll love this short piece from the Colbert Report last week.


TRAILER FOR JON STEWART'S FEATURE FILM

Remember when Jon Stewart took the summer off from The Daily Show (and made a star of his substitute host, John Oliver) last year? He spent that time in the middle east directing his first film, Rosewater, based on true story.

The movie will hit theaters in November. Here's the first trailer:


51 YEARS LATER

This photo from my friend John Brandt is a charmer – a couple, names unknown, posed in the same place, same way in 1963 and again in 2014.

Brandt1963-2014


GRAPHENE

Pretty much forever I've been saying that, for me, the worst thing about dying is that I won't see how so many things I care about turn out.

For many years, I was referring to politics and world affairs. In the past decade or so, I have included technology innovation that I won't live long enough to use and be amazed by. This is one that if the developers don't move fast enough I'll be sorry to miss. (Hat tip to Darlene Costner)


101 DALMATIONS

Okay, maybe not 101, but there sure are a lot of them. How many do you count? (Hat tip to Darlene again)

Dalmations370


HUGE MEN, LITTLE TINY KITTIES

The guys say they don't like cats. Watch what happens.


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 include the name of the blog and its URL.


A Short Lesson in Critical Reading

It doesn't matter if you disagree with me on this blog. Among other things, that's what we're here for – to exchange thoughts, ideas and opinions about what it's like to get old and maybe learn a thing or two from one another. It usually works that way just fine.

But now and then I just shake my head in bewilderment. Wednesday was one of those days.

At least half, probably more, of the readers who posted comments blasted me for being unfair to an entire generation. Apparently, they missed the word “professional” in front of the word “boomer” which I carefully chose to make it clear I was talking about one insufferable baby boomer, not a generation.

Professional baby boomers have been around since they were old enough to wield a pencil and they are the ones – not I - who, in all forms of media, have stuck boomers with the narcissistic, self-absorbed, it's-all-about-me label.

I stand by every word I said about that writer's article, and to the commenter who snarked about the story I've told regarding the day I noticed I was the oldest kid in the room? Perhaps you skipped an important part: that the realization sent me on what is now a 20-year research project, continuing still, to find out everything I could about aging.

No whining, no preening that teenagers think music I like is cool. Just deep curiosity about a time of life the culture I live in refused then (and continues to refuse) to discuss honestly.

Really now – some of you must start paying closer attention to not misinterpret what you're reading.

[On the other hand, I suppose I should thank you. I had other obligations on Thursday and needed a quick post idea for Friday.]

But wait. I'm not done yet on the subject of comments. For the past couple of weeks, John Oliver's HBO program, Last Week Tonight, has been on hiatus. To make up for the hole that leaves in our lives, he has been posting a short video now and then.

In the most recent one John, like me, reveals irritation with some comments – in his case, on the program's YouTube page. The only real difference between him and me is that he is actually funny which I am not. Oh, and also more profane.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Daniel B. Martin: A Twilight Zone Experience


James Hillman on Why We Age

It's not that I have kept count but by now, I have undoubtedly read hundreds of books about aging and while some are okay, the majority – vast majority – are a waste of time, telling us nothing that we don't already know on our own.

And then there are the few that are brilliant, thoughtful, meaningful and wise. Some of them are listed in that link over there in the right sidebar, Best Books on Aging, and among them is James Hillman's The Force of Character and the Lasting Life.

It's not Hillman's only book and maybe not his best. But I have been re-reading it and checking around the web to see what I could find on Hillman, who died in 2011 at age 85.

He was a Jungian psychologist with a deep, abiding and humane belief in each person's individuality and the importance of old age.

But in this book (and others), he doesn't so much tell us what to think or believe about growing old as open up possibilities – drawing on mythology, the Bible, philosophy, poetry, even rock-and-roll lyrics, among other sources – for us to consider.

The Force of Character and the Lasting Life was published in 1999, and on YouTube I found an interview with Hillman conducted at that time by the Canadian host of In Conversation with... Allan Gregg.

I don't know anything about Gregg except that, unlike many interviewers, he asks good questions and leaves the guest to answer without too much interruption.

So here is the 11-minute interview in which Hillman discusses cosmetic surgery, elder eroticism, physical deterioration (“no joke”), grandparents and, among other subjects, the purpose of aging.

If you are interested in more from Hillman, there are literally hundreds of video interviews with him posted at YouTube.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: Anti-Aging


Professional Boomers Aging Badly

Did you read that baby boomer who was whining in The New York Times last Sunday about – surprise! - getting old? More particularly, about those damned other people who insist on being younger.

It is not the real-life issues related to aging that bother Michele Willens. It's that she's not the center of attention anymore:

”Friends are dying, joints are aching, and memories are failing,” writes Willens. “There are financial issues, with forced retirement and unemployment, children needing money and possibly a bed, and dependent parents.

“But for many of us, it is a psychological quandary that is causing the most unpleasantness: looking around and suddenly being the oldest.”

Because professional baby boomers have always believed they are more important than anyone else, Willens tells us that getting old is more painful for her age group than others before them.

And then she consults – who else in professional boomer land? - a psychiatrist who is, apparently, a fellow baby boomer eager to encourage Willens' delusion:

”'It’s a huge issue,' says Dr. Anna Fels, a psychiatrist in New York. 'I see so many who are trying to adjust their lives to this new phase, which for some reason none of us really pictured ourselves going through.'

“Why didn’t we?” asks Willens. “We knew that eventually more people around us would be younger rather than older. But it still rankles. The image of a room filled with younger people is the perfect symbol.”

Willens supposes that her generation of old people divide themselves into two categories: those who hang out with younger people (age deniers of one kind) and those who hang out in retirement communities where they are sure to find people even older than they are (age deniers of another kind).

The latter group includes Willens who cannot resist an opportunity to take a smack at the older people she seeks out:

I — as of this moment a fit 65 — do my lifting and stretching at the 92nd Street Y, where they still lament that Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis broke up.

“This is one of the last places I am considered a kid. My 90-year-old aunt accuses me of showing up at her assisted living facility so often because I am far and away the youngest person on the premises.”

Smart woman, that aunt.

For the remainder of her story, Willens perambulates around the edges of her new-found seniority without once getting anywhere near conceiving of the idea that old age might be an engaging time of life with its own merits equal to and at least as interesting as every earlier stage of life.

Instead, she gives us an anecdote about the approval she received from some young college students for being a fan of Sam Cooke, and then quotes a retired former CEO of a local New York cable TV channel who, she supposes, proves her point about how awful it is to be the oldest generation:

“'I used to color my hair, now I don’t,' says Mr. Rodgers, who is serving on some boards. 'Yes, being the youngest person in the room was more exciting and empowering. This is not the same, but it’s the new reality.'”

I would be angry if both of these people and that psychiatrist were not so pathetically incurious and bent on proving how superficial many people believe boomers have always been. Instead, they make me tired.

In fact, Willens et al in this piece are so self-centered, they don't realize there are a lot of us – millions – who are even older than they are. But don't let that get in the way of a professional baby boomer's narcissism.

This Times story came to my attention via Marc Leavitt who blogs at Marc Leavitt's Blog. He was pissed off big time particularly when he realized comments were not allowed on the story. So he took out his ire in an email to me. I'll let him have the last word today:

”Stop whinging about getting old. Did you wake up this morning? Enjoy your coffee? Decide to call a friend?

“Guess what? You're alive. Billions of people aren't. If you have to feel apologetic about your age, and wear that apology on your sleeve, too bad for you. You’re born, you live, and you die. What you do in-between, at every stage, is what counts...

“Old people have done more and learned more than younger people; that’s why wisdom is often associated with age. To paraphrase Gloria Steinem, 'I’m in my mid-seventies, and this is what the mid-seventies look like.'

“Get a life.”

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Henry Lowenstern: A Fearful Prospect


Elder Health and Influenza

The Labor Day holiday always reminds me that it's flu shot season and even if I had forgotten, signs were already up last week at the supermarket pharmacies.

Maybe you know the statistics about flu and old people. Or maybe you don't:

9 out of 10 flu-related deaths each year occur in people age 65 and older

As do six out of 10 flu-related hospital admissions

Flu is particularly dangerous for elders with such chronic conditions as COPD, diabetes and heart disease. (86 percent of people age 65 and older have at least one chronic condition)

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) the best way for elders to avoid the flu is with an annual vaccination

For elders, getting the flu vaccine early in the season is associated with greater benefit

Dr. Paul Sax, clinical director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and a professor at Harvard Medical School, notes in the September Harvard Health Letter:

”Although we know that flu activity starts in the early winter and subsides by spring, our ability to predict the severity of a given season is very limited.”

The CDC notes that people at high risk (elders, among others) should begin getting vaccinated soon after flu vaccine becomes available, ideally by October, so that as many people as possible are protected before flu season begins.

As in previous years, there are two kinds of flu vaccines this year – the traditional, standard-dose and the higher-dose made especially for old people whose immune systems suffer from age-related decline.

At the CDC's key facts webpage is a list of all the various flu variatioins including those for very young children, nasal spray and egg-free with links to explanations about each one of them.

As always, check with you physician before taking the vaccine.

An annual flu shot is a Medicare Part B benefit. tTis means that the vaccine is covered with no copay for Medicare beneficiaries 65 years of age and older.

The CDC has an amazingly thorough flu section at its website, probably more than you ever wanted to know but it is always good to have as much information as possible because individual situations can be so different.

And one more thing: don't forget everyday precautions for yourself and others:

Wash your hands frequently to help prevent transmission of germs

If you are sick, stay home so you don't infect others

Stay away from sick people

Just last week, at a volunteer-related gathering, a woman sat down at my table as she announced that she had come out for the event even though she was sick. I doubt she had the flu this early in the season but she didn't say what kind of sick she was.

I have no patience for such irresponsibility, nor should you. I moved as far away as I could and still be at the table and I did not partake of the finger food she offered to share.

Flu - more formally, influenza - can be deadly to elders. Be sure you keep yourself and others as safe from it as possible.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, William Weatherstone: Paddy Rice – A Great Loss


Holiday Art Tour – Year Five (and Book Winner)

Last Wednesday, I offered up an extra copy I have of Julian Barnes' brilliant memoir of grief, Levels of Life. It was a random drawing and all you needed to do to participate was to leave a comment stating you wanted the book.

Eighty of you did that, enough so that I wish I had more to give away. Since I don't, the winner of the electronic drawing is – drum roll – David R. Newman, and the book is already winging it's way to him in Eugene, Oregon - yes, my state.

David tells me he is 77 years old, mostly retired but he still writes book reviews for Northwest Senior News where for 12 years he wrote features and a monthly column. Before that he was, as he tells me, "a reporter in the real world" in Washington, D.C.

Congratulations, David.


The town where I live, Lake Oswego, Oregon, takes outdoor art seriously with dozens of sculptures scattered throughout the city.

Bread-upon-waterJerryJoslin
Bread Upon the Water by Jerry Joslin

That one, a favorite of mine, is permanently installed in a pond at City Hall. Most, however, are temporary – on loan for a year or two – and each year in the fall, new selections are unveiled after several weeks of being shrouded in fabric.

ShroudedSculpture

Four years ago, I began using the excuse of this last summer holiday to show you some of this outdoor art. What I haven't mentioned before is that these sculptures are from the previous year's installation because the new ones are not revealed until after Labor Day.

So continuing what I guess has become a tradition at TGB now, here are some of the 2014 selections.

Angel-flightJim Willis
Angel in Flight by Jim Willis

ContrappostoFrancisco Salgado
Contrapposto by Francisco Salgado

This next one is an interactive sculpture. Each of those "pins" can be pushed from one side to the other. I can't tell you why but it's loads of fun to play with.

MutatioBenDye
Mutatio by Ben Dye

MatelasseReven Marie Swanson
Matelasse by Reven Marie Swanson

EggJamesLapp
Egg by James Lapp

This next one is for you, Millie Garfield.

SunflowerPatricia Vader
Sunflower by Patricia Vader

Outcropping-anewavidTurner
Outcropping Anew by David Turner

MerkabaduraJoeBurley
Merkabadura by Joe Burley

Every year, the public is invited to vote for a People's Choice Award, one sculpture that is purchased for the permanent collection. The 2014 winner is Guardian of the Lake by artist Brian Mock.

Guardian-lakeBrianMock
Guardian of the Lake by Brian Mock

You can find out more about all this at the Arts Council of Lake Oswego website.

Enjoy the rest of the holiday weekend, everyone.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Arlene Corwin: Wishes of an Always Dying