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1980s Technology Troubles (Or, Technology Troubles – Day 2)

You are STILL not getting a regular blog post. I'm going slowly, carefully and taking a lot of rest breaks so I don't pull out what's left of my hair.

It is times like these that I desperately crave cigarettes. To Nancy Wick who suggested yesterday that in place of tobacco, I might toke a little weed - nice thought, Nancy, but I really do want to finish this chore in a reasonable length of time.

Moving right along, today, I will regale you with my first-ever tech troubles story.

It took place back in the mid-1980s when personal computers were relatively new to the general public. I was sort of familiar with them from work (actually, only at the network video library for searching footage; we still used typewriters at our desks) and a few tech-savvy friends.

It cost a frightening $1500 and if you recall, in those days they looked something like this:

1980s personal computer

The machine was delivered with all its parts: tower, keyboard, mouse and gigantic monitor. I unpacked it onto the dining room table along with the two-inch thick user manual. Remember, the book was for DOS then – no graphical interface as Windows hadn't arrived just yet, though it soon would.

Not to mention, this is important to the story, that the manual was written by and for techies. Not of word of it made sense to me.

The parts sat there on the table for a few days. The manual (that might as well have been written in Swahili) scared the crap out of me. At last, I decided to tackle it.

And here is what the mostly obtuse computer manufacturing industry did right and did right from the beginning: each plug was a different shape so that there was no way I could mistake which cable fit where. No manual needed.

So I easily got the monitor plugged into the computer, the keyboard and mouse into the computer, the computer into the wall. Then I pressed the “on” button.

Remember, if you had a pre-graphical interface computer, that there were just words on a black screen – usually orange or green. Mine happened to be orange. And right in the middle of the screen, it said:


I thought I had “fatally” broken the computer. I quickly turned it off (who knows, it might explode) and wondered if I could get back my $1500.

And so it sat until a technician could make time to come to my house a few days later to make things right.

Okay, I admit it: way too long a story for such a lame punch line so as a reward, here's some cool news.

Yesterday, Jon Stewart's replacement for The Daily Show was announced. He is Trevor Noah, the show's newest correspondent with just three appearances under his belt.

Trevor Noah
”Noah, who is 31, brings an unusual background to the job: He's from South Africa, the son of a black woman and a white man, speaks six languages, and may be better known overseas than he is in the United States.” reports The Atlantic.

“(To give The New York Times a comment about his appointment, he had to call from a tour stop in Dubai, where he relayed his reaction: 'You need a stiff drink, and then unfortunately you’re in a place where you can’t really get alcohol.')”

You can read more at The Atlantic and undoubtedly, all over the web.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Claire Jean: Supermarket Self-Check

Technology Troubles

There are days in life, it is said, that will become so troublesome there is no point in getting out of bed. I say nay. I say there are entire weekends in that category and now I know they can spill over into the following week.

After losing half of last week to what was a bad cold or light flu – take your pick – and mainly recovered by Sunday, I intended that day to catch up with a pile of email and other computer chores.

But among the surprises are two technology problems involving this blog and my email – big problems. I won't bore you with details but neither are simple fixes and unlike many necessary tasks that are only irritating and/or tedious, these are also crucial, detailed and difficult.

Well, difficult for me but not impossible. That's unfortunate. If they were impossible, I could justify spending money for someone else to do it. But (another) nay. I'm just half-smart enough to do this.

I understand the general idea for each and I've fixed similar issues in the past but not for a long time so they require a lot of reading, testing, time. Like all day. Maybe two days. Maybe more. Who knows what will go wrong or what I'll screw up and have to figure out how to fix before I can fix the original problems.

This sort of work requires a lot of cigarette breaks. Oh, wait. I haven't smoked tobacco in years. Damn.

You can probably tell that this kind of stuff, the kind that can go wrong with just one misplaced keystroke, makes me really bad-tempered. Yes, I know that doesn't help but it's baked into my nature so I've packed Ollie the cat's bag and sent him on vacation for a few days.

Well, not really but before I'm finished, he'll undoubtedly wish I had.

Heh. Look at that. I intended a short note to have a place to post the link (below) to today's Elder Storytelling Place story and got carried away. I'll shut up now.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sharon Ostrow: A Muse


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.

What happened in 1973?

  • Rufus Wainwright was born
  • Richard Nixon told us he wasn't a crook. Yeah right
  • Gravity's Rainbow was published
  • Pablo Picasso died
  • The Sting was released
  • Richmond were premiers

1973 brought us STEVIE WONDER's finest recorded moment with the album “Innervisions.”

Stevie Wonder

The centrepiece of the album is the song Living for the City. This song has very tough lyrics suitable for a song about the times we were living through then.

You can hear Stevie's voice getting angrier as the song progresses. It's not a pretty song but it demands to be heard.

♫ Stevie Wonder - Living for the City

DAVID BOWIE was going through a bit of a strange period in 1973. Okay, that doesn't narrow things down too much.

David Bowie

This was the time of Ziggy Stardust and the song is Space Oddity. The song was actually recorded and released in 1969 and re-released in 1973 to cash in on the new persona.

♫ David Bowie - Space Oddity

Mentor Williams wrote the song Drift Away and it was originally recorded by John Kurtz. No one took much notice until DOBIE GRAY had a go at it.

Dobie Gray

It proved to be a great success and has been covered many times. It's also used by a lot of bands to finish their gigs. Ace session guitarist Reggie Young plays the wonderful guitar parts in the song.

♫ Dobie Gray - Drift Away

GLADYS KNIGHT AND THE PIPS was a family affair – the Pips consisted of Gladys's brother Merald (or Bubba) and their cousins Edward Patten and William Guest.

Gladys Knight & the Pips

Rather surprisingly, many of their hits were written by a country music songwriter (and occasional singer), Jim Weatherly. This is one of those, Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye).

♫ Gladys Knight & The Pips - Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First To Say Goodbye)

Over the previous few years VAN MORRISON had released five of the finest albums of the era.

Van Morrison

This year saw "Hard Nose the Highway" which wasn't quite up to the standard of the previous ones but was very good anyway. Van had recorded more than enough for a double album (with songs left over) but was convinced to release a single one.

A few of the tracks popped up on the next album but most didn't appear for years when a double CD of unreleased tracks was unveiled to the public. Many of those were so good we wondered why that hadn't seen the light of day before. But that's Van.

The song today is Snow in San Anselmo, which is all about snow falling in San Anselmo (a rare event).

♫ Van Morrison - Snow in San Anselmo

JIMMY CLIFF wrote the song Many Rivers to Cross in 1969 and it did nothing at the time.

Jimmy Cliff

Later, Jimmy had the lead role in the film The Harder They Come and the song, along with other songs of his, was featured in it. More especially, it was on the fine soundtrack album which became a big seller (and is one of the finest soundtrack albums ever).

♫ Jimmy Cliff - Many Rivers to Cross

There are many cheating songs out there, it's a staple subject of country music, blues and, well, any sort of music really.

This one though is a little unusual as it's from the perspective of the cheaters. Okay, I know a couple of others but not too many. The singer on this is BILLY PAUL.

Billy Paul

The song is Me and Mrs Jones. If you listen carefully to the introduction, the sax player plays a brief bit of Secret Love. Very tongue in cheek.

♫ Billy Paul - Me and Mrs Jones

This was some year for ELTON JOHN.

Elton John

Not only did he release the monumental "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" album earlier this same year, he also put out "Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player.”

Artists these days seem to take years to produce albums (and they don't come up with anything near the quality of these two). The song Daniel is from the latter mentioned album.

♫ Elton John - Daniel

Tina Turner wasn't a songwriter generally but she did write this one about the town where she grew up. Not surprisingly, given their history together, this was the last song that AND TINA TURNER recorded together.

Ike & Tina Turner

Ike didn't play guitar on this track; it was Marc Bolan who was a fan of the duo (but especially Tina). The song is Nutbush City Limits.

♫ Ike and Tina Turner - Nutbush City Limits

JIM CROCE's song, Time in a Bottle became a number one hit a few months after his death in a plane crash.

Jim Croce

The song was used in a TV tele-movie and the next day the TV network was inundated with calls wanting to know what the song was and was it available as a single.

It wasn't but that was soon rectified. The words gained greater poignancy with his recent death.

♫ Jim Croce - Time In a Bottle

1974 will appear in two weeks' time.



You will recall we discussed elder dating in three posts over the past week or so. Darlene Costner send one more update for us. Enjoy:

Daughter: Daddy, I am coming home to get married. Take out your cheque book. I'm in love with a boy who is far away from me. I'm in Australia and he lives in the UK. We met on a dating website, became friends on Facebook, had long chats on Whatsapp, he proposed to me on Skype and now we've had two months of relationship through Viber. Dad, I need your blessings good wishes and a big wedding.

Father: Wow! Really!! Then get married on Twitter, have fun on Tango, buy your kids on Amazon and pay through Paypal. And if you are fed up with your husband, sell him on eBay.


Easter's almost here. Maybe that's what accounts for this story that surfaced yesterday in Portland, Oregon.


This note and video arrived a few days ago from Peter Tibbles, the TGB music correspondent who holds forth here on Sundays. Here's his introduction:

”John Clarke and Bryan Dawe are [Australian] national treasures. Each Thursday for two minutes just before the news they do an 'interview' – Bryan interviews John as a government or opposition member or some other prominent figure.

“Here is last night's piece and it will show how the country is going far better than any lengthy article.”

Ronni here: Not to mention that their bit pretty well explains U.S. government too.


One of the minor funny things about John Oliver's HBO show, Last Week Tonight, is how often the titles of the essays – that is, the names of the topics - are so snooze inducing that if you didn't know who John Oliver is and what his crew can accomplish, you would skip right past.

This is one of them: municipal violations. Ho-hum. Go ahead and think that if you like, scroll past to the next item. You will have missed something funny, wonderful and important.


As Kaiser Health News reported this week, even in a career where women outnumber men 10 to one, men make more money – a lot more.

”...even after controlling for age, race, marital status and children in the home, males in nursing out-earned females by nearly $7,700 per year in outpatient settings and nearly $3,900 in hospitals.

“The biggest disparity was for nurse anesthetists, with men earning $17,290 more.”

There is more information at Kaiser and the original report is in The Journal of the American Medical Association - abstract only without subscription.


One of the things about living in the northwest that can either amuse or irritate depending on one's mood is how many people, even natives, bitch about the rain. Hul-lo. It's not like the weather and reputation for it are secrets.

Seattle has an equally wet climate and reputation but an artist there with the wonderful name of Peregrine Church has used it to charming advantage. Take a look:

You can see more examples of Peregrine's (just HAD to sneak in that terrific name again) rain-activated art at his website, Rainworks!


Hardly a day goes by without a horrific report of a child killed or accidentally killing another with a gun left lying around the house. And there are plenty of other deaths and injuries among adults that would not have happened without easy access to guns.

From the website of GWH (Guns With History):

States United to Prevent Gun Violence is a national non-profit organization working to decrease gun death and injury and build healthy communities by supporting and strengthening state gun-violence-prevention organizations and nurturing new state organizations.

“Together with our 28 state affiliates – and our combined 200,000 grassroots supporters – we are dedicated to making our families and communities safer through stronger laws, community education, and grassroots action.”

Take a look at what happened when, to foster their goals, they opened a gun shop in Manhattan. (Hat tip to Jim Stone)

You can find out more at Guns With History.


Has there ever been a senator as disingenuous and irritating as Ted Cruz. Take a look at this:


It's amazing the genres of humor the internet has spawned. Where could this possibly have happened before the World Wide Web came along. (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 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 .

Old People and Weather

[PERSONAL NOTE: I've not been feeling well for a couple of days – a bad cold or mild flu (this year's vaccine missed a strain or two) – so when I take a few minutes off from napping, I'm writing easy stuff. Translation: no thinking involved.]

When I was young – I'm pretty sure that means when I was a kid and young adult but you never can tell at my age with how time passes – it irritated me that all the old people I knew were overly interested in the weather.

Not “old” like my parents, more like grandparents' ages, retired people or those getting close to it.

They discussed a coming rain storm and what that would mean for the garden. Or that a big temperature drop was expected so be sure to wear a sweater tomorrow.

They seemed to talk a lot, too, about past weather. “Remember of blizzard of '29? Now, THAT was a winter to remember.”

“And who can forget the Vanport flood.” (I may or may not have heard exactly that but it was a real flood in Portland when I was a kid.)

Over Sunday dinners, at holidays and anywhere more than one or two old folks gathered, weather appeared to be their main fascination and for whatever reason, it exasperated me so much I recall vowing that when I got old I would never bother with weather beyond knowing if I needed an umbrella or boots.

Cut to now. I'm old. At least as old as many of those old people in the 1940s and 1950s.

Right here on my computer is a link to a wonderful weather website. It allows me to bookmark any number of locations all around the world. So when I fire up the laptop every morning, I first check what weather to expect in my vicinity for the day.

Then I check Melbourne (where Peter Tibbles and the Assistant Musicologist who do the Sunday music column here live) where it is always night when I wake up along with, of course, being the opposite season from my home in the U.S.

Then it's on to New York where there remain many friends from the 40 years I spent in that city. Phoenix and Tucson, too, where for some reason quite a number of TGB readers live.

San Francisco and Los Angeles matter for friends and blog readers who live there along with London, the Washington, D.C. area, Boston and Portland, Maine where I once lived for four years.

If some spectacular weather is going on somewhere, the website usually has some excellent video. The amount of snow in Boston this winter was amazing to see - at least for someone who didn't have to drive or walk in it.

It is not lost on me that my interest in weather around the globe first thing in the morning as my coffee is steeping is just an updated version of all those old people who made me nuts about the weather when I was a kid.

Are you with me on this? Whether (weather?) you are or not, I'm pretty sure I'm correct about old people and weather in general. Why do you think that is?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Deb: No Milk, No Cookies

Can You Trust Online Health Information?

Or, for that matter, any other kind of information? There are some general rules of thumb that anyone with even minimal critical thinking skills probably uses:

Who is doing the writing? What are his/her credentials? (If there is no author name AND link to the author's bio, reject it.)

Who sponsors or owns the website? That is, who pays the bills to keep it running and updated? (For health information, a commercial enterprise or an individual is a yellow alert. Check further.)

How is the information sourced? (These could be links to research material or not. At good health sites, often the physician writing the article is the expert.)

Who, if any, are the advertisers and what is the physical relationship on the pages to the stories? (Nothing wrong with advertising to help keep the doors open but if, for example, an ad for a prescription drug is placed next to an article about the condition or disease it treats, alarm bells should go off.)

Does it pass the smell test? (If a health information website is selling miracle cures or a one-pill-cures-all nostrum, leave.)

Those are just a few tests and you probably know them.

About a week ago, the National Institute on Aging (NIA), one of the institutes and centers of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), published what they call an Age Page with guidelines on how to tell if health information online is reliable.

It is a useful checklist, as far as it goes. They suggest some of the same items I do (above) along with reminders to check for privacy protections and suggest that health sites of the federal government, medical schools and large professional or non-profits are the most reliable.

I don't agree that those are the only trustworthy health websites and until I find out otherwise, I would question “large professional and non-profits” for an agenda of their own.

Another requirement for a trustworthy site to me and to the NIA is dated articles.

An amazing number of websites don't date their stories which, aside from the headline, is the first thing I look for. Then (if it's not just a silly website for vegging out to cat videos) I check for an author name and if all three are present, I read. If one is missing, I leave.)

Whether it is news or any other kind of information, it cannot be assessed without knowing when it was written. That doesn't mean older dates make information useless (depends on the topic) but you will think differently about a story on, for example, nutrition if it was written before the newest research on salt and sugar intake began circulating.

Dating articles is crucial and I rank it with misspellings and poor grammar as an instant alert to suspect material. For me, every page of a website must have a published date.

As I was beginning to prepare this blog post and although I am reasonably familiar with NIA website, I checked the About Page, probably for the first time. No date. Plus, it states that the 65-plus population of the United States is 39 million. That seemed off to me, and it is.

I checked with the U.S. Census Bureau and the most recent semi-annual estimate, from last July, was 44.7 million; it hasn't been 39 million since before 2010.

You could say a undated About Page is unimportant but it's often the first page newcomers read and out-of-date information is a big red flag calling an entire website into question.

Does that mean I believe the NIA website is dubious? Absolutely not. They produce an large amount of good health information (even if you do need to wade through a lot of professional material not intended for consumers like you and me).

And all the health and medical stories I checked include dates, author names and links to their bios. I've not used this website frequently but I've bookmarked it now although I am partial, as a first but not only stop for general information, to the non-governmental WebMD.

Here is the webpage version of the NIA guide to trusting online health information. The PDF version is here.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joyce Benedict: Spring Whispers

Driving While Old

Whenever there is an auto accident involving an elder driver, there are hysterical calls to snatch licenses from people when they turn 65.

What makes me laugh (ruefully) is that U.S. elected officials are eager to raise retirement age for Social Security and eligibility for Medicare because, they say, we are healthier in old age than past generations so we should work longer. But apparently, for some of them, that doesn't mean we are healthy enough to drive.

Not necessarily, say the people who track driving statistics for a living at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an agency of the Department of Transportation. They tell us health matters more than age.

And that tells me that unlike elected representatives, the NHTSA is doing its homework and knows that people manifest negative signs of ageing at dramatically different rates. In some cases, a 50-year-old is too debilitated to drive; in others, a 90-year-old is capable; with all the variations in between.

Here are some recent statistics about teen drivers and elder drivers from the Insurance Information Institute website. First, teens:

”Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among 15- to 20-year olds, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

“In 2012, 1,875 drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 died in motor vehicle crashes and an additional 184,000 young drivers were injured, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.”

And here are some similar numbers for elder drivers from the same source:

”In 2011, there were 35 million licensed drivers age 65 and over according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“5,560 people age 65 and older were killed and 214,000 were injured in traffic crashes in 2012.

“In 2012 drivers age 65 and older accounted for 17 percent of all traffic fatalities.

Of course, what's missing from these numbers is information on who is at fault for the accidents and their ages.

Even so, a study reported by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety a year ago indicates that driving is becoming safer in all age groups:

”At the beginning of the study period, drivers 80 and older had by far the highest fatal crash rate, at nearly twice the rate of drivers ages 35-54 and 70-74. By 2012, the fatal crash involvement rate for drivers 80 and older improved to 1.4 times the rate of the other two age groups.

"'Older drivers are not only less likely to crash in recent years, they also are sharing in the benefits of newer and safer vehicles. It also helps that older people in general are more fit than in years past, with better access to emergency services and health care,' McCartt says.”

Also, elder drivers tend to self-police their capabilities which younger people may not. Here is a chart showing conditions under which men and women age 65 and older avoid driving:


I've been avoiding night driving since I first got my license at age 16. I never have been able to drive confidently with car lights from the opposite direction blinding me. And nowadays, I'm not fond if highways at any time of day.

None of this means that one day, some of us won't need to turn in our car keys for our own safety and that of everyone else. And yes, it is frightening to contemplate losing the independence cars provide especially for those of us who do not live in cities with good public transportation.

In the past when I've written about elders and driving, the reasons we might have difficulties have been vague – reaction times slow, vision fades, etc., but nothing specific.

Recently, however, I ran across some short videos from the NHTSA about how specific health conditions can affect driving quality. Here is the general overview video:

As I said at the top, it is one's health that matters more in regard to driving than age. Here are links to other short videos with information about driving and specific medical conditions most commonly seen in elders.

Alzheimer's disease
Parkinson's disease
Sleep Apnea
Vision Disorders
Severe Arthritis

In addition to these links and the others above, the National Institutes of Health website has a large, useful section on elder driving. And the Centers for Disease Control has a good fact sheet about elder drivers.

Not every old person will need to stop driving but I believe we all have a responsibility to monitor ourselves as the years go by and make plans for alternatives to driving before they become critical.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: Packing It In at 75

Yes, Another Elder Online Dating Post – Part 3 (Unplanned)

Yesterday's post, Part 2 of this series, was supposed to be the end of it. But two pertinent things happened that make it worth extending for a day – especially because I think the topic of elder dating deserves a bit more depth and humor than my experience gave it.

Over several years, I have accumulated a modest collection of DVDs about old age. A few are documentaries but what I am more interested in are dramas, in how filmmakers approach the subject and how well they carry through either in interpretation of what I already know or enlightening me anew.

Sunday I rewatched a Peter O'Toole movie from 2006, Venus. O'Toole plays Maurice, a London actor in the twilight of his years who falls for Jessie, a pretty enough but slovenly, education-impaired 20-something from the provinces sent by her family to care for Maurice's declining friend, Ian.

As A.O. Scott observed in his New York Times review, the movie provided the filmmakers with a “rare opportunity to show how complicated, how impetuous, how alive older people can be.”

And so O'Toole/Maurice is. His desire for Jessie (whom he renames Venus after his favorite painting) arrived unexpectedly, late in life after his career and fame have waned. A diagnosis of cancer shadows his attraction for the young women but not the joy she brings him as he shows her around his London, showering her with gifts and his longing.

The film is beautifully written, magnificently acted, a poignant meditation on old age, desire and love of living. David Ansen described it well at the time in Newsweek: “A heartbreaking comedy that is simultaneously funny and sad, raunchy and sweet, funky and elegiac.”

Here is the original trailer:

Venus is available to stream on Netflix and can also be found to stream, rent or purchase at Amazon, Itunes, YouTube, Google Play and other venues.

O'Toole received a slew of best actor nominations for Venus including the U.S. Academy Awards. He died in 2013, leaving us with a library of great films portrayals that will always be there for us to watch again.

My second find turned up yesterday. I don't remember from whence (you know how it goes clicking around the web). This is an entirely different mood and is, unlike O'Toole's movie, specifically about elder dating.

First you need to know about Australia's annual Tropfest, said to be the world's largest festival for short films. It began in 1993 and now involves venues in 33 countries, according to Wikipedia.

This little film, titled Makeover, won second place at the 2014 Tropfest. Even though you, like me, will probably figure out what's coming, that doesn't make it any less funny and wonderful.

Elder Dating Part 1
Elder Dating Part 2

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Henry Lowenstern: TV Baseball

I Flunked Elder Online Dating – Part 2

As I reported at the end of Part 1, I was flattered to receive the first response to my profile and photo within about five minutes of posting them to and OurTime: “Great profile,” it read. “I'd love to hear from you.”

In less than another five minutes, three or four more arrived with, word for word, the same message.

So much for preening over my scintillating prose and gorgeous photo. Obviously, there are canned responses users can choose by checking a box. Hey, fellas. I made a reasonably good attempt to write a profile that would give you a small idea of what interests me. Couldn't you do the same?

Apparently not. Over the length of this experiment (less than two weeks), other canned responses arrived including “I like your photo” and “I saved you as a favorite.” Again and again and again those same messages and nothing more.

I tried to follow the attached links (not as easy as it should be) to find out about these guys who may or may not have wanted to hear from me.

One was 27 from North Carolina. (Recall that I'm in Oregon, age 73.) Another was 43 from Texas. A third said he was was 49 in Indiana and the fourth was in his late 60s, lived in Oregon but in a town that is 150 miles away. Come on. Why would you think I would drive that far for a coffee date?

At this point I didn't know if these men were idiots or if the services were broken.

It got worse. Every day each of the services sent messages, the most frequent being: “We have 12 (or however many) matches for you.”

Nowhere in those emails or on the websites could I find an explanation of what a “match” is – a fairly important question since the majority of the matches from one service lived in other states and covered a 40-year age spectrum.

This, of course, led to my confusion about how to tell the difference between a response from a living, breathing human and an algorithm. I still don't know.

When I clicked the link in the “match email” from one service, the website informed me that I had to pay a fee to see the names and profiles of the matches.

Uh, no thank you. Moving right along...

In the 10 days I could tolerate this experiment, among the 70 or 80 messages and “matches,” there were two men near my age who lived in my vicinity and responded with what seemed to be real messages. Sort of.

“Let's meet for coffee in (name of nearby town)” wrote one for three or four days in succession even though I had clicked the “no thank you” button.

The other, who said he was retired, wrote a dozen excruciatingly long and detailed paragraphs about his former middle-management career, bad spelling and poor grammar included.

In my own searches around the sites for men in my age range who live close enough that it would not be a trek if we wanted to meet, there was not a single one.

Certainly my genuine disinterest contributed to the difficulty. First, I clicked past anyone who listed a religion; that eliminated well more than half. I also ditched the ones who hadn't bothered to comb their hair or trim a beard for the photo; you'd be surprised how many unkempt old men there are on these websites.

A large number of those who remained mentioned they are hunters. Uh, no guns around if I'm doing the choosing. And as much as I like the Oregon coast, it's a two-hour drive from here so we wouldn't be doing much walking hand-in-hand at sunset, fellas. Certainly you could come up with something better than that.

Oh, and almost all profiles I read of men in my age range assured me they are “young at heart” or “look younger than their years.” One even specified that he looks six years younger than his age. Is that so? Exactly?

What I did not see even once was a mention of books, movies, music or even food and wine.

You can accuse me of being inflexible and you might even be correct. I just see it as flunking internet dating which isn't much of a minus in life.

This was one of the hardest things – probably the hardest - I have done for this blog in all the 10 years I've been writing it and not because I didn't really want a date.

It is because these were the worst designed, most poorly built websites I have visited that are not crappy click-bait sites.

But actually, they ARE crappy click-bait sites with ugly advertising plastered all over; no attempt at attractive or usable design; no organization; links that appear to be one thing but lead only to to pop-ups demanding more money for different services; and the need to navigate through half a dozen of such pages before getting to where you thought you were going but have now forgotten.

And you know for sure you are on a cheap-jack, untrustworthy website when you cannot find a way to cancel membership.

I had to use Google to search the web for instructions on how to unsubscribe from OurTime so I would not be charged for another month. Even with help, it was difficult.

It wasn't much easier on POF. Although they didn't have my credit card information so withdrawing was not as crucial, my account couldn't be deleted until I was forced to answer a battery of questions about why I wanted to leave, how many dates I'd had, whether I'd gotten married, etc. etc.

There's that old saying about getting what you pay for meaning, of course, that free won't get you much. But the better website of these two (which is not an endorsement) was the free one, POF.

Yes, there were constant popups hawking me to pay for an upgrade and/or additional services and the navigation didn't make much sense. But those things are wrong with the other, paid service too.

Bunches of commenters on Part 1 of this series said they met their spouses on such internet dating sites so I suppose I am the outlier. Or maybe not. Most said you've been married now for many years so perhaps the websites were better then.

Me? I'm done. The experience on these sites is embarrassingly bad, the websites are unattractive, unwieldy and unprofessional, and I wonder if that is reflected in the quality of users they get – the ones I saw were far from interesting, let alone impressive enough to bother with.

Or maybe, as I've heard from single women of all ages all my life, it's just that the good ones are taken.

Overall, I'm glad I'm not looking for a mate or even a date.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Colonoscopy

ELDER MUSIC: Jerusalem

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.


Poor old Jerusalem, having three world-wide religions fighting over it – killing, maiming, raping, torturing, destroying, slaughtering all in the name of peace and love.

I can't help but feel sorry for its citizens (except those who are complicit in the above). That's all I'll say. The music, I hope, will go just a tiny way to ameliorate the situation.

There's no better way to start this column than with the great ODETTA.


I imagine most readers know about Odetta. If by chance you don't, check her out – she's far too important for me to gloss over in a paragraph or two. She needs a full column. One day. She performs O Jerusalem.

♫ Odetta - O Jerusalem

SHAWN COLVIN got into music by listening to her dad's record.

Shawn Colvin

Since then she's played with many of the artists she listened to as a kiddie, and younger artists are lining up to play with her these days. Her contribution to today's topic is called American Jerusalem.

♫ Shawn Colvin - American Jerusalem

I'm surprised nobody has made a film about CARLO GESUALDO, who was a composer of considerable facility.


Carlo was a minor prince of some minor area in southern Italy in the 16th century who married his first cousin (a lot of that going on back then).

She started an affair with a duke and managed to keep it secret for quite a while until one day Carlo came home and found Donna Maria and Fabrizio (for those were their names) at it in the marital bed.

Well, Carlo ran them through with his sword (a large number of times apparently), and he shot the duke as well. He then left their mutilated bodies in front of the palace for all to see.

The authorities couldn't do a thing about it 'coz he was a prince (hmmm), however, Donna Maria's and Fabrizio's families weren't going to let the matter rest.

Carlo then bumped off his father-in-law when he came after him. Some say that he also murdered his son because he thought that the duke might be the father. He then hired a whole bunch of bodyguards and hightailed it out of town.

He settled in Ferrara and married again (brave woman) and continued composing – he hired singers and musicians to play his compositions. After a few years, he returned to his castle in his hometown (I guess the hue and cry must have died down, although he still had his bodyguards) and carried on creating music (more hired folks – he must have been worth a bit).

Carlo became estranged from his new(ish) wife who claimed he abused her and she tried to get a divorce. When that failed she left town and went to live with her brother.

According to one biographer, "She seems to have been a very virtuous lady, for there is no record of his having killed her." He's referring to Carlo, of course, not the brother.

Later Carlo suffered severe depression and he started paying his servants to beat him daily as a penance (they probably would have done it for nothing) and that continued for the rest of his life.

In spite of all the above, he composed some of the most beautiful music ever written. This is Venit lumen tuum Jerusalem (Your light has come, Jerusalem).

♫ Gesualdo - Venit lumen tuum Jerusalem

I'm a bit surprised that there were very few songs about Jerusalem in my gospel music records. Even the great Mahalia had only one (in my collection, although she may have recorded more). This is the best of the songs I found. It's by SOUTHERN JUBILEES.

Southern Jubilees

I think that's a picture of the group. The track I selected was on a compilation album and there was no information about them. There seem to several groups with the same or similar names so I won't say anything in case I get it wrong.

Here they are with There's a Man in Jerusalem.

♫ The Southern Jubilees - There's A Man In Jerusalem

J.S. BACH composed only one cantata that specifically references Jerusalem. That's rather a surprise as he often wrote several on the same theme.

JS Bach

Anyway, J.S. wrote this for the change of council (or Ratswechsel) in Leipzig where he was living at the time. This isn't the only one he produced for this purpose; there are four others that do the same thing but none of them mention Jerusalem.

It's the cantata BWV 119, Preise Jerusalem, den Herrn (Praise the Lord, o Jerusalem), the first movement.

♫ JS Bach - Preise Jerusalem, den Herrn BWV 119 (1)

I think DON MCLEAN is being extremely optimistic with his song.

Don McLean

It's from an album called "Believers" so that may be why. I don't know about the all roads leading to Jerusalem, as he sings in the song; I thought that was Rome, a city I'd much rather visit. Don's song is called Jerusalem.

♫ Don McLean - Jerusalem

The NITTY GRITTY DIRT BAND's contribution is from the second of their interesting experiments of bringing old country artists together with rock musicians and younger country performers.

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

These were all a resounding success and they were called "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," named after the Carter Family song. Indeed, Maybelle Carter was on the first of these and her daughters June, Anita and Helen were on the second one, from which this song is taken.

There are no Carters on the track, though, which is called Don't You Hear Jerusalem Moan.

♫ Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Don't You Hear Jerusalem Moan

STEVE EARLE is multi-talented.

Steve Earle

Besides being a musician and songwriter of note, he's acted in films and television, he's written a novel, a bunch of short stories and a play. He's also been married seven times (twice to the same woman) and he's a political activist for causes with which most of the readers would agree.

Oh, he sings a bit too, and here he does just that on Jerusalem.

♫ Steve Earle - Jerusalem

Back in 1804, William Blake wrote a poem called "And did those feet in ancient time.” The composer Hubert Parry later wrote some music for this poem and called it the more manageable Jerusalem.

It was instantly popular and I'll say is pretty stirring even though I'm not English (for it is about England in spite of its title).

It's usually performed as a choral work but today it's sung as a solo by the opera singer LESLEY GARRETT.

Lesley Garrett

Well, sort of solo. It sounds to me as if they brought in a rock & roll drummer to accompany her along with the choir.

♫ Lesley Garrett - Jerusalem

I'm not surprised that DAVID OLNEY has the best song about the city.

David Olney

He has a knack of hitting the essence of a song spot on. He does so in this one, Jerusalem Tomorrow.

♫ David Olney - Jerusalem Tomorrow



As you know, Larry Wilmore has taken over the Comedy Central spot at 11:30PM formerly held by Stephen Colbert who is preparing to step into David Letterman's position at CBS-TV in the fall.

Recently, Steve Garfield alerted me to an interview with Wilmore in The New York Times where one of the questions was this:

”Do you worry about the fact that there’s a lot of bias in television against old people? You’re 55, and part of your job is to get these younger viewers.”

I'm not not sure whether I'm pleased or irritated that the interviewer, Jim Rutenberg, so easily admitted to and accepts media ageism. Here is Larry Wilmore's response:

”I’m 53. Thanks for making me older. And I don’t look at it like that. I did a lot of college appearances over the last years when I was on The Daily Show, and I have always done really well at colleges.

“The thing that I’ve gotten from the students is they are into authenticity — not really age. They love Jon, and he’s a year younger than me.”

If that turns out to be generally so for the latest generation graduating from college, it could change attitudes toward old people for the better. You can read the rest of the interview here.


Perhaps I have read about goshawks in the distant past but it is not a bird or even word that has turned up on my radar probably for decades. Until now.

Goshawks seem to be having their 15 minutes of fame.

HisforHawkMacDonaldFirst, a new book from England, H is for Hawk, is getting a lot of attention and prizes. It recounts how the writer, Helen MacDonald, dealt with the grief at her father's sudden death by training this kind of fierce predator in the manner described by author T.H. White in his 1951 book, The Goshawk.

I haven't read either one and in fact, they both came to my attention only after I found this video online. It is a New York Times science video about how goshawks hunt. The researchers were able to work out the birds' technique by fitting one with a helmet cam.


As much as I admire John Oliver and the excellence of the video essays on his weekly HBO program, Last Week Tonight, I almost thought I would skip this one from last Sunday.

It is about the current NCAA basketball March Madness of which I have so much disinterest that I'm irritated it is reported as “news.” But my admiration for Oliver won out and I am not sorry.

College basketball, I learned, is a billion dollar business with coaches paid in the range of Wall Street one percenters and zero pay for the athletes because, those who reap the million-dollar salaries tell us, they must remain amateurs.

Some of those kids go hungry. Their “education” is a sham. And if they are injured, they lose their scholarships and have no health coverage. I sort of knew about all this but not in any kind of detail as Oliver supplies. It is a shocking report.


I think this debate must have been going on since the invention of toilet paper:


However, a recent report about the original patent for perforated toilet paper appears to resolve the issue once and for all.

Are you an under or over enthusiast?


And just because I feel contrarian about it, here is the internet's Le Chat Noir, Henri, considering the Blight of Spring.


I've tried not to bore you too often on Saturdays with my deep fascination with 3D printing but I found an amazing video about its medical developments I had intended to post here.

However, the code was wonky so I looked around and surprise! I found an even more interesting video about medical 3D printing. It is astonishing how far this technology has come and how many different uses are being devised.

This video is seven months old but medical 3D printing is developing so quickly there are bound to be even more breathtaking advances already.


Trudi Kappel, who contributes terrific stories at The Elder Storytelling Place, emailed this video about Ida Pieracci. Generally, I don't like stories of old people doing extreme sports. They usually imply that every elder who doesn't climb Mt. Everest is failing old age.

But Ida, now 102, isn't doing that. She plays golf. As she has done all her life. And what is important about this modest, little video is to know that people of great age are not, by default, sick and dependent just because they are not bungee jumping.

Take a look:


Picture this: I'm set up in bed, as usual early on Sunday morning. There is freshly made coffee at my side, Ollie the cat is curled up at my feet, Steve Kornacki's on the tube discussing the past week's politics, my laptop is on a bed table so I can catch up with email while I listen to Steve.

A few clicks of the mouse take me to the video I'm about to show you. It's amusing for awhile. I'm thinking it might be good for the final, animal item in an upcoming Interesting Stuff post when BAM! Something so funny happens it takes my complete concentration not to spew coffee all over the laptop.

You have been warned.

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 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 .

I Flunked Elder Online Dating – Part 1

There are certain elder topics that are difficult for this blog because I have no personal experience. I can imagine but I don't really bring anything useful to the party.

Never having been a mother, I'm not much good at considering relationships with adult children and grandchildren. So I don't. Having been divorced since 1971, I can't contribute intelligently, for example, to a conversation about losing a spouse of many decades. So I don't do that either.

But there is one, it occurred to me about a month ago, for which I could do some personal research: online dating in old age.

Before moving forward with the idea, I spoke with a young friend who has some professional experience with dating websites. She suggested which ones would best suit an oldie like me and provide some variety for my report to you.

She warned me to create a new email address; to not use my own. And to reveal only my first name. The online dating business, she said, is fraught with lies and scammers and even with users who are sincerely looking for a match, it is not uncommon for them to post stock photos.

I laughed at that. One question I'd had was about whether it would be be ethically questionable for me to sign up since I am not interested in dating, just in seeing how it goes. I stopped worrying.

The three services we chose were because it is the largest and most well-known; because it is especially for people 50 and older (owned by; and Plenty of Fish ( because it is (mostly) free.

I created my new address at a free web-based email site with a name that bears no resemblance to my own. Then I started signing up – POF and OurTime first.

It was a lengthy process. Besides the usual sign-up information we are asked for anywhere on the internet, there was personal information to add, preferences to choose from and lengthy “personality tests.” It took me way too long to figure out the last category was not required.

Of course, too, I had to write a profile of myself and a paragraph about the kind of person I was looking for. Now there's a dilemma.

I wasn't really looking for anyone and I have no idea how to describe myself that would provoke responses. Obviously, the only way to play it was to pretend that I really wanted a date but that didn't help with the profile.

Whatever the reputation of the online dating business, I decided to be completely honest except that there would be no mention of this blog. If, by chance, I met someone in person who was genuine, I would explain that part of my life when the time came. For better or worse, here is the profile I went with:

”Former television producer, journalist, internet developer now retired. Interested in good books, good food and wine, the arts, politics, good conversation who is endlessly curious about growing old. Former New Yorker who passionately wishes she were still there. Oh well – stuff happens.

"You're smart, well read, curious about life in general and whatever it is that fascinates you. You're somewhere near my age (73), not afraid of growing old and comfortable in your own skin.”

2015-02-25Hat150Fairly bland but after two hours of thinking and research (yes, you can find advice online about how to write a successful dating profile), I was too tired to give it more effort. I used this photo that some of you may have seen when I decided to use it on Facebook too.

By the time I finished all the setup at OurTime and POF, the afternoon was shot, my butt was tired from sitting in the desk chair so long and there is only so much, dear readers, I am willing to sacrifice for you. So I ditched the third website,

FYI, here is how pricing of the three shakes out.

POF is mostly free. There is no monthly subscription cost although you pay for such services as receiving alerts when someone reads your profile.

OurTime costs US$19.99 per month and you will be autobilled each successive month unless you remember to turn it off. is the most expensive. It is $41.99 per month if you purchase each month singly. It becomes less expensive if you commit for three months, six month, etc. down to $20.99 per month for one year.

It didn't take long after my profiles at the two sites went live to receive my first response: “Great profile,” it read. “I'd love to hear from you.”

I was flattered until a short time later, three or four other messages arrived with exactly the same wording.

Part 2 is here.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, William Weatherstone: Alzheimer's Finale

Wise and Wily Old People

One of the good things the ageing of the huge baby boomer generation has spawned is an upsurge in research about old people, particularly brain and cognition research, and I follow it closely. Well, as much as possible.

Most study results are published in expensive professional journals so I must rely on second-hand reports. Today's comes from Benedict Carey, a science reporter at The New York Times whom I have read for a long time and trust. He specializes in brain and behavior topics.

Although many cognitive skills peak early in life, a new paper, reports Carey, suggests that old brains offer different ones.

”Elements of social judgment and short-term memory, important pieces of the cognitive puzzle, may peak later in life than previously thought.”

Here's some context you need to know:

”The study evaluated historic scores from the popular Wechsler intelligence test, and compared them with more recent results from tens of thousands of people who took short cognitive tests on the authors’ websites, and”

[PERSONAL NOTE: Checking the website, I now recall taking these tests at testmybrain, so I'm one of the participants although I have no memory of my results; it was several years ago.]

A drawback of this study, says one researcher, is that the same people were not followed over many years. But the nature of these studies in general, I have found, is that they move our understanding forward in small, tentative increments. We are gradually learning more about older cognition.

”They took a large battery of tests, measuring skills like memory for abstract symbols and strings of digits, problem solving, and facility reading emotions from strangers’ eyes.”

The age of individual participants was taken into account on each test and what they found is that different abilities mature or ripen at different ages.

”The picture that emerges from these findings is of an older brain that moves more slowly than its younger self, but is just as accurate in many areas and more adept at reading others’ moods — on top of being more knowledgeable...

“No one needs a cognitive scientist to explain that it’s better to approach a boss about a raise when he or she is in a good mood. But the older mind may be better able to head off interpersonal misjudgments and to navigate tricky situations.”

“'As in, “that person’s not happy with all your quick thinking and young person’s processing speed — he’s about to punch you,”' said Zach Hambrick, a psychology professor at Michigan State University.”

As with most brain research, this study is preliminary and far from definitive. But as reporter Benedict Carey notes (more politely than I), it does give some support to that ancient joke about old age and treachery beating youth and skill.

You will find much more detail at Carey's story in The New York Times.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sharon Ostrow: The Bear Encounter

Crabby Old Lady on (Literally) Dying of Boredom

On Monday's post about Donald Hall's Essays at Eighty, Crabby Old Lady made particular note of a couple of readers who picked up and ran with the poet's thought about what bores him:

”You know what I find boring?” commented Jane. “Bathing and brushing my teeth.”

“What I find boring is cutting my nails,” said janinsanfran. “Why do they grow so fast?”

Exactly. Those same three things, in recent years, have come to bore the crap out of Crabby too. But then, she has a long relationship with boredom, most particularly with exactly those types of necessary details in life.

In her 30s and 40s, Crabby suffered periodic bouts of black depression. Because she had no one to fall back on, she managed to get to her job each day and do just enough work to keep from being fired during the several weeks they lasted.

Other than that, Crabby stayed in bed. She accepted (and certainly instigated) no social engagements. She did not answer the telephone. She couldn't even consider her usual pastimes – books, TV, movies, walks in Manhattan, etc. She hardly even ate.

What Crabby did do when not at work was pull the bed quilt over her head. Since no one can sleep around the clock, that left a lot of empty brain time and how she filled it was with mental calculations of how many times she would need to do the boring things in life.

How many more rolls of toilet paper will she need to buy if Crabby lives to be 70?

How often will she need to drag the bag of dirty clothing, bed linen, towels, etc. down the block to the laundry if she lives to be 80?

My god, how many more dental appointments will she need to suffer through if she lives to be 90?

And then she would go back to recalculate each one (and plenty of others) with different ages at death.

This was, then, and probably is now not the established protocol to battle depression but it's what Crabby did and eventually the depressions lifted, the last visitation being sometime in her late 40s.

However, the number of personal and household chores that try Crabby Old Lady's soul seems to increase now with each passing year. Add to the above, in no order:

Taking out trash
Sorting for the recycle bins
Hair cuts
Cleaning the cat litter box
Changing beds
Folding clean laundry
Oh, and cleaning the vacuum afterwards
Sorting through email detritus for the good stuff
Charging phone, Kindle, tablet, power packs, etc.

There are certainly more that don't readily come to mind at the moment and in time, new ones will be added to the list of boring stuff that eats up whatever time Crabby has left on earth.

And why do these chores become boring? BECAUSE EVEN THOUGH WE HAVE DONE THEM TENS OF THOUSANDS OF TIMES BY THE TIME WE REACH OLD AGE, THEY STILL WON'T GO AWAY. Even though we have practiced them all our lives and there is noting left to learn about them, we still will never, ever finish.

As she was writing this, Crabby saw a comment arrive by TomSightings on yesterday's TGB blog post. Although he was discussing the day's topic, forgetfulness, it seems to be at least tangentially related to boredom in old age.

First noting that when we were younger, we could leave the house with just a wallet and keys. But nowadays,

”We have keys and a wallet; plus a phone and a camera. Plus glasses - reading glasses, distance glasses, maybe sunglasses too. We likely carry an iPad or a kindle, and an extra sweater in case it gets cold. We go out of the house like we're pack mules setting out across the desert.

“We have so much to keep track of, it's no wonder we forget things!”

And another thing: Crabby is pretty sure the phenomenon of speeded up time in old age contributes to the boredom factor. On Monday, Donald Hall noted precisely this:

”Days are the same, generic and speedy,” he said. “I seem to remove my teeth shortly after I glue them in – and weeks are no more tedious than lunch. They elapse and I scarcely notice.:

So there you have it: boredom from decades of repetition, too much stuff to keep track of and the increased speed of time eating up more and more personal time as years go by.

Crabby Old Lady is pretty sure that if old age doesn't kill her, boredom with the maintenance of daily life will.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Arlene Corwin: Negative News

A Reason Old People Forget Things

About ten days ago, I wrote about being so forgetful now that I had gone to the store with only one item in mind and got home with six other things but not the apples I intended.

According to the number of comments, I have a lot of company. I was particularly interested in this idea from three readers:

”My theory is that our minds are like a closet stuffed so full it is hard to find the blouse you are looking for.” - Lisa

“Maybe we 'forget' because our minds are clearing space so we can be more in the present moment...” - Susan

“As my daughter succinctly put it: 'You've got too much flotsam and jetsam up there.' I liken our brains to a sponge - so when it gets supersaturated stuff starts to fall out when it can hold no more. Anyway, that's my theory and I'm sticking with it!” - Lola

They are right, you know, and it's not just me saying so; science has my back. A while agp, I had written about some studies with the same conclusion and can't find it now but I tracked down the information elsewhere online:

”Older people do not decline mentally with age, it just takes them longer to recall facts because they have more information in their brains, scientists believe,” [reports Sarah Knapton, science correspondent for Britain's The Telegraph].

“Much like a computer struggles as the hard drive gets full up, so to do humans take longer to access information, it has been suggested.

Researchers say this slowing down it is not the same as cognitive decline.

“'The human brain works slower in old age,' said Dr. Michael Ramscar, 'but only because we have stored more information over time.

“'The brains of older people do not get weak. On the contrary, they simply know more,'” he says.]”

And here's another interesting thesis to go with that: One of the standard tests for mental capacity may be inadvertently skewed in favor of young people because it asks test subjects to remember unrelated pairs of words such as necktie and cracker.

Prof. Harald Baayen, who heads the Alexander von Humboldt Quantitative Linguistics research group where the work was carried out said: 'The fact that older adults find nonsense pairs harder to learn than young adults simply demonstrates older adults’ much better understanding of language.

“'They have to make more of an effort to learn unrelated word pairs because, unlike the youngsters, they know a lot about which words don’t belong together.'”

These results are preliminary, of course, and need follow-up work but it is nice to think so. And I like that elder intuition was ahead of the researchers.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Janet Thompson: It's St. Paddy's Day and I've Never Forgotten Mavis

“At 80, We Understand We are Extraterrestrial”

Maybe you know of Donald Hall. He is a well known as a poet. In fact, The Library of Congress appointed him poet laureate in 2006.

ImagesAfterEighty He tells us now in Essays at Eighty that the muse of poetry has abandoned him but the essay is not new to him; he has been writing them along with children's books, plays, memoirs, biographies, critiques, sports and textbooks as prolifically as poetry all his many years. Writing is what Donald Hall does:

”Exercise is boring. Everything is boring that does not happen in a chair (reading and writing) or in bed.”

I couldn't agree more. Even though I do force myself to do a few other things, the chair, the laptop and the bed (where I read, make notes and watch movies) always beckon.

Most of the pieces in Essays after Eighty have been previously published but they hold together as though they were written to be collected in just this manner. At 86, Hall is a treasure on the subject of getting old, the changes, disappointments and pleasures. He is, at moments, poignant, lyrical, direct, elegant, inspirational, wise and in this case, blunt about the dwindling of life:

”I feel the circles grow smaller, and old age is a ceremony of losses, which is on the whole preferable to dying at forty-seven or fifty-two. When I lament and darken over my diminishments, I accomplish nothing. It's better to sit at the window all day, pleased to watch birds, barns, and flowers. It is a pleasure to write about what I do.”

The speed of time – fast or slow - has been a mild obsession of mine since childhood and I often write about it here. Even so, Hall has a closely observed sense of the slipperiness of it in old age:

”In the past I was often advised to live in the moment. Now what else can I do? Days are the same, generic and speedy – I seem to remove my teeth shortly after I glue them in – and weeks are no more tedious than lunch. They elapse and I scarcely notice.

“The only boring measure is the seasons. Year after year they follow the same order. Why don't they shake things up a bit? Start with summer, followed by spring, winter then maybe Thanksgiving?”

Did I mention how funny Hall is? Funny and real all at once, like this:

“However alert we are, however much we think we know what will happen, antiquity remains an unknown, unanticipated galaxy. It is alien, and old people are a separate form of life.

“They have green skin, with two heads that sprout antennae. They can be pleasant, they can be annoying – in the supermarket, these old ladies won't get out of my way – but most important they are permanently other. When we turn eighty, we understand that we are extraterrestrial.

“If we forget for a moment that we are old, we are reminded when we try to stand up, or when we encounter someone young, who appears to observe green skin, extra heads, and protuberances.”

Essays at Eighty is filled with truths simple and profound beautifully, maybe perfectly, told. A book to hold close. To read again. And again.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Chuck Nyren: In and Out of the Hospital


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.

What happened in 1972?

  • Patrick Rafter was born
  • Gough Whitlam was elected Prime Minister
  • Australia's first aeroplane hijacking ("Take me to Alice Springs")
  • The Auntie Jack Show premiered
  • Silent Running was released
  • Carlton were premiers

Shel Silverstein wrote most of the hits that DR HOOK had, including this one.

Dr Hook

Although he had a vivid imagination – he wrote children's books, was a cartoonist, poet and wrote for films as well – the song Sylvia's Mother is not just based on facts, Shel said that it pretty much happened as sung.

The only thing he changed was Sylvia's surname (because it didn't scan, not to protect the innocent). A lot of people thought it was a parody, but it was the real deal.

♫ Dr Hook - Sylvia's Mother

ALBERT HAMMOND is an English singer and he decided to leave the country and seek warmer climes.

Albert Hammond

He wrote a song about it with his friend Mike Hazlewood, summing up what was in store for him. By doing so he had a world-wide hit.

In case you don't know what the climate is like, It Never Rains in Southern California.

♫ Albert Hammond - It Never Rains in Southern California

JOHNNY NASH was a Texas singer/songwriter who was taken by reggae music.

Johnny Nash

So, he went to Jamaica to record (including some songs with Bob Marley playing and producing before he became famous). I Can See Clearly Now was a song for the album of the same name, but this one was recorded in London.

♫ Johnny Nash - I Can See Clearly Now

ROD STEWART certainly hit a purple patch in the early seventies, and this year is no exception.

Rod Stewart

You Wear It Well sounds to me like a companion piece to Maggie May from the previous year. Another winner from Rod.

♫ Rod Stewart - You Wear It Well

Papa Was a Rolling Stone was written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong. It was first recorded by The Undisputed Truth. Their version is largely forgotten because it was later done by THE TEMPTATIONS.

The Temptations

Norman also produced The Temps' version and did a really fine job of it. There's a 12 minute version of the song as well, but that's just a bit too much.

♫ The Temptations - Papa Was a Rolling Stone

DON MCLEAN had a couple of hits in 1972. This isn't the really long one.

Don McLean

It's from the same album and is about Van Gogh. The song is Vincent, probably the finest song about a painter.

♫ Don McLean - Vincent

BILLY THORPE AND THE AZTECS started out in the mid-sixties wearing white suits and singing covers of Beatles' and Coasters' songs.

Billy Thorpe

Then around 1970 Billy switched the suit for jeans and t-shirts, donned a Les Paul Gibson, turned the amplifier up to 11 and proceeded to produce music that made any self-respecting Boeing 747 cover its ears.

They were the loudest group I have ever heard in my life. The song Most People I Know, fortunately, doesn't reflect this.

♫ Billy Thorpe - Most People I Know

If you thought that Sylvia's Mother was a sad tale, GILBERT O'SULLIVAN can beat that with this absolute tale of woe.

Gilbert O'Sullivan

The song is Alone Again (Naturally). This one isn't autobiographical, according to Gilbert.

Incidentally, he won a landmark case against a rapper who sampled the song without permission. The first of such cases. Now they have to be wary before they do that sort of thing, and pay royalties. Good thing too.

♫ Gilbert O'Sullivan - Alone Again (Naturally)

By 1972, RICKY NELSON had established himself as one of the foremost country rock artists. He was also going by the name Rick.

Ricky Nelson

He'd occasionally play oldies gigs but he wasn't particularly welcomed by the crowd because, unlike many of the other acts, he had moved on and was making music relevant to the times.

As he sings in Garden Party, he played the old songs but no one listened because he didn't look the same. You tell them, Rick.

♫ Ricky Nelson - Garden Party

By the sound of this song it seems to me that JOE TEX anticipated rap music by some years.

Joe Tex

Joe was always innovative – he taught James Brown everything he knows. Joe really hasn't received the kudos he deserved. I guess original artists often miss out. Not always of course, but in this case, yes.

The song is I Gotcha.

♫ Joe Tex - I Gotcha

1973 will appear in two weeks' time.



I feel safe in saying that the majority of us at this blog have strong memories of the 1950s. And if not, at least a few memories of the era because decades don't come in neat packages that begin in years with a zero and end in one with a nine.

Here's a well done reminder – so familiar and so foreign all at once.


From Jim Stone – this will break your heart in the best way possible. (If the translations at the bottom of the screen are too small to read, click the YouTube logo in the lower right corner to watch it larger format at the YouTube page.)


I was shocked to find out that this classic image from cartoonist Peter Steiner that we all know so well was published in The New Yorker way back in 1993.


It became and remains an icon of the internet age. Then, just a few weeks ago, the magazine published an update by another cartoonist, Kaamran Hafeez, acknowledging how much has changed in 22 years.


If that's too small to read, it says “Remember when, on the internet, nobody knew who you were?”

You can see more Peter Steiner and Kaamran Hafeez cartoons here and here.


On his Last Week Tonight essay last Sunday on HBO, John Oliver took on voting rights and U.S. territories. I felt ashamed when I watched this particularly knowing that no one with the power to change it will do anything in my lifetime.


Much honored Irish geriatrician Desmond O'Neill is among the growing number of ageing experts who refuse to support the age deniers' idea of growing old.

”...he doesn’t believe the 'Pollyannaish' approach suggested in popular books like the Younger Next Year book series is helpful,” [writes reporter Peter McDermott at New American Media].

“People used to talk about ‘successful aging.’ It means that if you didn’t reach the criteria of successful aging, you’d failed,' said O’Neill.

“Henri Matisse did not successfully age in a physical sense. After decades painting standing up, he was forced to adjust his style radically sitting down. 'Through his disability, he grew and changed and produced something new,' O’Neill said.

“'So what we’re actually talking about is ‘optimal aging’ that understands the existential hits that we’re going to take in terms of disability and creates a system that frees you from unnecessary constriction by that disability,' O’Neill said.”

What is enormously important and exciting, he says, is that there is a “seismic” change in attitudes among the people who work in various fields of ageing (and, I might add, it's about time).

“'The narrative has been a simplistic one of loss and decline,' said O’Neill, professor of Medical Gerontology at Trinity College and consultant physician in geriatric and stroke medicine at the Tallaght Hospital campus. 'There’s a huge swing back against that.'

“He continued, 'We’ve got to recognize growth in later life. And also not only recognize growth, but also the extraordinary abilities of people in later life to cope with the existential problems they have.'

“O’Neill noted, 'Older drivers have the highest levels of illnesses that might affect driving, yet they’re the safest group of drivers on the road. So, their adaptive abilities, their mastery of how they engage with their environment, is brilliant.'

“There is now a fascinating body of literature on the older worker, according to the Dublin physician.

“'If you have come down in the Hudson and survive, do you want an almost 60-year-old with all his life experience or do you want a 25-year-old?” O’Neill said, alluding to Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger’s successful navigation of Flight 1549 on Jan. 15, 2009.”

I quote at such length because in my mind, O'Neill has taken the place of the late geriatrician Robert Butler is consistent and important reminders of what ageing can and should be.

You can read more here.


I have been a big fan of Christopher Walken for most of my adult life and even I did not think of him as a dancer. In fact, he originally trained in dance for musical comedy.

Here is a wonderful montage of a lot of the dancing he has done in films. The music is Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now by C+C Music Factory. (Terrific video editing too.)


Silly statistic, right? What's the point? Who cares? Well, it got my attention and I wanted to know. These are my results counting from today.


Maybe you're curious too. You can find out here and thank Darlene Costner for the link.


From Darlene again and YouTube tells us that in seven year since this was posted, it has racked up more than 17 million views. Have fun.


I want to get this posted before winter goes away for the year. I had never thought about drunk squirrels in my life but apparently it happens. Too many fermented crab apples in this case, they tell us.

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 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 .

Poem: On Approaching Seventy and Baking Bread

More than 40 years ago there was, in the weekend house in upstate New York I shared with the man I then lived with, a woodburning kitchen stove. That's it. You either built a fire or you didn't get hot coffee in the morning. Or hot food.

Over many weekends, I taught myself to make bread in that wood burning stove. I experimented with white bread, wheat bread, rye bread, sweet breads and most of all, challah. It took a lot of trial and error but it became my most successful loaf.

When the relationship ended, so did my bread baking. Until last week.

Living alone AND carefully watching what I eat so not to regain the 40 pounds I lost a year ago, I don't eat much bread these days. But I really do like bread in all its many forms and flavors. What I don't like is throwing out bread because loaves are too big for a single person to finish before they become moldy or hard.

So last week, for the first time in more than 40 years, I baked a small loaf of bread – soda bread for the season and because I didn't have yeast in the house. After all, this was an experiment to see if I still have the touch.

It was pretty good, the soda bread. Not fantastic, but okay. The recipe needs work. And, of course, the cooking vessel – wood-fired, electric or gas - changes the qualities of bread so the recipe must be altered depending on the type of oven.

My bread baking background so long ago is only in a wood stove oven so if I am to continue making bread (I still have my book of trial-and-error bread recipes from the 1970s), I'll need to figure out how to adjust for an electric oven.

While thinking this over, I recalled that not long ago, Tom Delmore send me a poem by Joan Seliger Sidney. It is titled, On Approaching Seventy which doesn't give you the first clue that is also about making challah.

Watching the hands of my son
kneading challah dough
on the maple cutting board
in my kitchen, a memory

rises of my mother
bending over our kitchen table
in Flatbush, pressing, stretching,
folding flour, water, eggs

into a living elastic.
Sometimes in my dreams, Mom
appears, whispers of her mother
in her kitchen in Zurawno

in the pre-dawn dark,
by the light of the kerosene
lamp, pulling and pushing
the yeasty challah

until my son covers it
with a clean white cloth
and leaves it in the warm
electric oven to rise.

Here is Garrison Keillor reading Sidney's poem from his Writers Almanac website.

🎤 Garrison Keillor reading On Approaching Seventy

The poem is from Joan Seliger Sidney's collection Bereft and Blessed published in 2014.

Is anyone else around here resurrecting an old skill?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Trudi Kappel: Matzo Ball Soup

2015 Best Media Effort in Combatting Ageism

Pretty much all media is rife with ageist references and language. Just now as I begin writing this post, Today show host Matt Lauer, droning on in the background, said that actor Florence Henderson is “81 years young.”

Some people believe that's harmless. Others think it's cute. It is neither.

Every time someone uses a euphemism or phrase designed to hide the idea of old age, all old people are incrementally dehumanized. As the man who coined the term "ageism," the late great geriatrician Robert Butler, explained in his introduction to the Encyclopedia of Ageism, there are real-world consequences:

”[Ageism] is found in the reduced delivery of services, time limits to mortgages, depiction in the media and by Madison Avenue, poor nursing homes, passed over promotions, and other prejudices in the workplace. Age discrimination is present in our language and even within families.”

Ageism is commonplace and everywhere but now and then a usually nameless media person strikes a elegant blow against it. That happened Monday evening on an NBC medical drama called Night Shift, set in the emergency room of a fictional hospital in Texas, San Antonio Memorial.

There are plenty of soap opera aspects to the show and, as we discussed a few days ago, more blood and guts than I think is necessary, but this episode also contained a lovely, little lesson about the dangers of ageism.

Before I get further into that, let me note that I awarded the first best media effort to combat ageism way back in 2007 to a police procedural titled,The Closer.

In that episode, a retired reporter named Baxter first confesses to poisoning residents of the nursing home where he lives, then recants his confession. He had used it as a ruse to get the police, who had ignored his warnings about some murders, to pay attention.

When Chief Johnson, played by Kyra Sedgwick, becomes involved in the case, this conversation ensues:

TAYLOR: [The officer who took Baxter’s complaint] Gordon found Baxter uncooperative. In fact, the old guy was more interested in asking questions than answering them. So Detective Gordon dumped his complaint in the round file. You know, Chief, we get this kind of stuff all the time. It’s hard enough staying on top of the crimes we find much less the ones people make up.

JOHNSON: (perusing file) I know exactly what happened. Mr. Baxter is old and difficult and because of that he was just dismissed out of hand. [I know] that’s what happened because that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do to him myself.

As I wrote all those eight years ago:

”Chief Johnson - who could have been speaking for every bureaucrat, healthcare worker, comedian, reporter and thousands of other television shows who regularly condescend to elders - makes an attitude adjustment and with the help of Mr. Baxter's clues, solves the crime.”

Hurray and hallelujah. Such scenes are, to everyone who sees them, important little lessons in understanding, just as negative commentaries, references and language are instructions for continued prejudice and bigotry.

Let me give you the background on Monday's wonderful little lesson. Paul Cummings, played by Robert Bailey, Jr., is the youngest doctor on the emergency room team, serving his internship.

When the longer serving physicians note the arrival of a regular patient, an aging, pain-in-the-ass hypochondriac they know to be the matriarch of the hospital's biggest donor family, they sic her on Dr. Cummings.

Marilyn Capshaw, played by Phyllis Somerville, is behaving in a mildly disruptive and incoherent manner and she tries flirting with Cummings as he tries to examine her.

All the tests come back normal and it takes one of the more experienced doctors to check Capshaw's eyes and tell Cummings that she is stoned out of her mind on weed. Cummings had not tested for cannabis because – you guessed it - she's old.

Here is the excellent little scene in which Capshaw sets Cummings straight about that:

Isn't that a fine piece of writing to debunk a hackneyed assumption about old people? If, while watching it, you did not extrapolate the point into wondering what could happen if such an assumption led to overlooking a life threatening condition, you should have.

Meanwhile, let's hear it for episode writer, Zachary Lutsky, and the show story editor, Gabe Fonseca. There aren't enough of such moments in any media and we must celebrate when they appear.

There must have been other such examples between the 2007 vignette on The Closer and this one but how much television can one old woman watch. It would be a good thing if you, dear readers, kept these two media moments in mind and let me know the particulars when you run across any in the future.

If you want to know more about the show, Night Shift, you'll find plenty of information at the NBC website for it.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Clifford Rothband: What am I, a Duck?