ELDER MUSIC: Toes Up in 2017 - Part 2
Housekeeping Notes for This Blog

Unsettling Changes and a Book Giveaway

Two items today – one that is probably close to universal among people past a certain age, and a second that undoubtedly has a more limited audience. Doesn't matter – it's all good. Let's start with

Many of you know Calvin Trillin, the long-time New Yorker columnist, humorist, novelist, journalist, food writer, etc. extraordinaire.

About a week ago, The New York Times published Trillin's essay that began with our now-changing usage of our thumbs – both physically and in speech:

”I was on the subway, watching a teenager text on his smartphone," writes Trillin, "when I realized that the idiom 'all thumbs' might be doomed...

“As his thumbs danced over the tiny screen, I realized that 'all thumbs' cannot much longer mean clumsy with one’s hands. And I realized how much I’m going to miss it. It has always seemed to me a way of noting a deficit without being vicious about it...

“But how can that man be labeled all thumbs if the teenager sitting across from me can use his thumbs on his smartphone fast enough to take dictation from a cattle auctioneer?”

This line of thought led Trillin to wonder how many others in his subway car were, like him, wearing a wristwatch

”...as opposed to reading the time digitally on a small device. It was a warm autumn day, and a number of people were in short-sleeves. From what I could see, almost none of them wore a wristwatch.

“That got me to thinking about 'counterclockwise.' When all of the analog watches and clocks are gone, will there be generations of people who don’t know what it means when the instructions say, 'Turn the bolt counterclockwise'?”

Trillin made a related observation about newspapers – the hard-copy kind:

”The train was crowded, but I had a seat. I was the only person in the car who was reading a newspaper rather than staring at a small electronic device — a singularity that should have provided another hint about where I fit in demographically these days.

“At the 86th Street stop, a gray-haired gentleman entered the car and, locking his arm around one of the vertical poles, unfolded The New York Times. I noticed that he was wearing a wristwatch. Catching his eye as he held out the paper to turn a page, I nodded. He nodded. I nodded again and offered him my seat.”

As much as old folks are exhorted to keep up with current trends, there can be a comfort sometimes in recognition of our common experiences of a lifetime whether or not they are fading.

(Because I know many of you do not have a subscription to The Times, I offer these excerpts – unfair as they are compared to the entire essay - because it is such a touching, little tribute to old age (Trillin is 82) and to the memories and habits of a lifetime, some of which may disappear until no one knows what they mean anymore.)

If you live in the U.S. and watch MSNBC now and then, you probably know Malcolm Nance, the widely-respected former cryptology analyst and counterterrorism expert who frequently lends his knowledge of terrorism, torture and insurgency to the cable news channel.

My friend Jim Stone recently met Mr. Nance. I'll let Jim explain:

”I went across the mighty Hudson, and shook Malcolm Nance's hand at a farm which he and various backers are starting to benefit returning veterans of latter-day Republican adventures in foreign lands...

He did not give a talk on any political subjects, but mainly spoke about the project...I bought two copies of his latest tome, ISIS, which I had him sign...He's pretty good, as you probably know, having a steady job on the talk circuit, and he has something to say.”

And then Jim offered to let me give away his two signed copies to TGB readers. And so we will.

DefeatingIsisThe book – full title, Defeating ISIS: Who They Are, How They Fight, What The Believe - could have been a dry, difficult read.

Instead, it is well organized and Nance has seen that it is enhanced will photographs, other illustrations, lists, historical context, descriptions of ISIS centers of influence throughout the world, and much more mostly broken up into short, clear sections.

In his review of the book in 2016, U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations retired Colonel Millard E. Moon praised Nance's structure of the book as a reference source and further wrote,

"Nance has done a really good job of providing detailed information about the growth and activities of ISIS components...there is a wealth of factual information on ISIS".

It's a good read if you have an interest in current history, counterintelligence and terrorism in our modern world.

We'll do the giveaway of the two copies as we always do:

Just tell me in the comments below that, “Yes, I want to win one of the books.” Or, you could say, “Me, me, me.” or anything else that indicates your interest.

Winners (you can live in any country) are selected by a random number generator and I will have your email addresses from the comment form. I will then email the winners to get your snailmail addresses to send off the books.

The contest will remain open through 12 midnight Pacific Time on Wednesday 10 January 2018, and the winners will be announced on Friday morning's regular post, 12 January 2018.


I would love to win one of the books.

Trillin is his usual observant and articulate self in this article you've shared. I've enjoyed his writing ever since first reading a 1976 article by him in The New Yorker in his U.S. Journal section, titled "Rockford, Illinois: Schools without Money." I live in Rockford Illinois and he had some provocative and spot-on observations at that time. I found myself thinking about that again today as I read your post, and the questions he raises today. On a recent trip to visit an old friend in Texas, when I looked around the plane, both going and coming, the seats were filled mostly with people much younger than me. As far as I could see, all the young adults were focused on one or more devices. I think the winner was a young man who had 3 going -- a small laptop, a tablet, and his phone.

Although the book sounds very interesting and I would undoubtedly learn a lot if I were to read it, please exclude me from the selection. I have accumulated far too many books that I can't keep up with, and need to leave others to those who have the interest and time for them.

And if I can mention something here, I always look to your headers for hints about how things may be going, and I think my heart-rate was a bit elevated when I read, "Unsettling changes." I suspect you know what I, and others, might have thought at first. It was a relief to read what came after that, rather than going where I thought you might have been leading.

Have a great week, and I hope that the weather there is as pleasant as it promises to be here in northern Illinois this week. Time for the country to thaw out!

I wonder what the age cutoff is for comfort with the new technology. I'm 70 , retired now, but used computers at work (for writing and communicating, once the internet arrived) for, I'd guess, 3o plus years. I don't wear a watch. I don't read paper newspapers (I use both my kindle and ipad) and am totally comfortable texting with my thumbs.
It could be because in my jobs I was surrounded by kids. But maybe there is a significant difference between boomers and pre-boomers on this technology stuff.
Or, as I age, I will return to my pre-web ways.
When one of my kids imitates me, he uses a thick foreign accent (Yiddish-y). I was born here, as my parents were, and have no accent.
I say, "come on, Pete. I don't have an accent."
He says: "No, you don't. But you will."

If I knew he would read it, I'd ask you to send one to Mr. T. He may find it helpful. Then again, perhaps he'd get deeper into the swamp, LOL. If the spirit moves me, I'll get mine at the library.
Nice to hear the weather is good in Illinois. It's terrible here in NE Ohio. Have great week. Dee:)

Michael Rosenberg--For what it's worth, here's my input on your question about the "age cutoff". As a pre-boomer (10 years your elder), I can tell you that I was a computer "user" in 1959 - mainframe computers, of course. I couldn't begin to enumerate the computers/computer languages/computer systems that I've used in the years since - analog/digital/hybrid analog-digital. As one who made her living as an engineer, I am comfortable with all sorts of technology; but, that doesn't mean I feel the need to use every last piece of it.

I wear a watch until about noon, each day, at which time it goes back on the bathroom counter. You see, I do my walking/swimming/yard work before lunch and it is handy to be able to time the activity. I read a newspaper for pleasure. A newspaper doesn't "go to sleep" if I put it down for a few minutes, and I can mark items for my husband's attention when he reads it - not that I don't send him at least one or two emails each day with something that came up online. I do not use a Kindle or iPad, but I do have two computers, one a laptop (with a docking station that I can't, for the life of me, recall why I thought I needed to buy, never having used it). I find that I sleep better if I limit screen time.

In 1959, I was the youngest in the office; by retirement, I was among the eldest - working for a "kid" 2/3 my age. She, my first female boss since 1955, was (as were most of my bosses over the years) a delight. One of my peers is still working at a job for that same company, doing about the same thing as he was doing when we first met in 1974. Although that would not have suited me, who could tolerate no more than 2 years on a project, it suits him at age 80.

Smart phone? I bought one in early 2007 - and - use one just like it, today, having had to switch when I switched carriers 8 years ago, before phones migrated from one carrier to another. I keep it because it runs Office which I like for use with Excel & Word files imported/exported from my desktop. No, I no longer have a landline.

Hope the feedback is helpful.

While I have no problem with seniors who don't find today's technology useful, I do find it sad that many of us won't even try it.

I would like this book.

I would like a copy of the book.

I would like a copy of this book. Long been an admirer of Malcolm Nance.

I would like this book

A thoroughly enjoyable post, Ronnie! Have a great week. You already have a wonderful start to 2018!

Me, me, me. Sounds like a great book.

I’m a Nance fan. I’d love the book.

Yes, please. I listen to him whenever he's a guest on WAMC.

I would love a copy of the book!

I just turned 73, so am a year ahead of the boomers, being born in 1945. I own & use an iPad, an iPhone, & a desktop computer. I can message & tweet, but can’t get over the need for punctuation & spelling! I have a land line in addition to my iPhone. I have a watch that I wear when I leave the house, as I have clocks in every room at home so don’t need it there. I get a real newspaper, & one of the great joys of retirement is to read it with a cup of coffee in the morning. Also, I like to clip articles from it for friends who don’t get the paper. I read two newspapers online, as it is much cheaper than getting a paper copy.

The weather here in Florida is warmer, as I have the house open today. The lizards can defrost now & move about! Hope everyone has a great day!

Havenever read anything by Mr. Nance and would really like the book anout ISIS to be the first item by him that I read.

I would love to read Nance's book. Sounds like it will be both insightful and informative - and possible give me some hope that we can all manage to survive in a world that seems to go crazier every day.

I would love to win this book. Thanks for your informative newsletter.

Yes, please! I'd love to have the book.

I would love to win the book. I've been trying to learn more about Isis.

I would love to win a copy of this book.

As an aside, I'd like to add a note about NY Times subscriptions: I've had a digital subscription for years, it was a lifeline for me living and working in the middle of the deep red rural. As my fortunes have waned over the years, from retirement to illness, their subscription department has been really good about offering me specials on subscription rates when I would call to cancel. (There are a few of us here, mostly descendants of Roosevelt democrats.)

Yes, I would love a copy of this book.

Would love to learn more about ISIS. Also, figure my chances of winning are slightly better than with the lottery.

I'll pass on the book lottery, as I am still trying to scrub certain images out of my brain from a weekend gallop through the latest expose from Washington. It was easily available on my e-reader/tablet as soon as it was released on Friday.

As far as electronic equipment goes, I've been a user since 1970, but am selective, owning now only a desktop and that e-reader/tablet. My phone is a landline, and with watch firmly attached to my wrist, my daily reading material consists of up to five newspapers (Monitor, Post, NYT, Examiner, Chronicle) but paper issues come only on Sunday.

The hard copy New Yorker comes once a week which brings us back to Calvin Trillin, whose work is a must read. I'm so glad you posted that excerpt. I missed the essay when printed, so will go back and look for it. Thank you!

I still wear a watch. Doesn't matter that there are clocks on my computer, on the TV, and all over the house. I'm used to glancing at my wrist. I also have a smartphone but rarely text except for brief responses to texts from son or grandson. Then I end up poking at the screen with my index finger rather than my thumbs. I gave up paper newspapers years ago when delivery became "at the curb" instead of "at my door."

I would love a copy of Nance's book.

Ah, the digital age. Haven't worn a watch in years. My best friend who spends most of her time in a wheel chair and is well into her 80's and living in a rural area of WA, has finally given in and gotten a cell phone. She still drives but she shouldn't and can't walk more than 20 feet on her own. If her ancient station wagon broke down she could be out on that road until spring. She's also getting rid of her landline at the same time. Good for her and a relief for the rest of us. Her daughter is helping her and we asked her to turn on the GPS on the new phone.

Yes, I would like a copy of the book.

Would love a copy of the book.

I would love to win the book. Keeping my fingers crossed!


Yes Please! Thank you for thinking of us!

I suppose if we follow the trend, my 9 year old granddaughter's thumbs will eventually fall off, she will be short-sighted (too much screen time), she won't need to count (no cash).

I believe that each generation figures out what is needed to survive, and because we belong to another generation we can have no idea how that will happen. Nil desperandum. They will manage without hard copy news, watches, and all the other things we think are necessary to our lifestyle.

Thank you for a good blog!
NO ISIS book please.

YES and YES. (Does that count as two? LOL)

Gail and I devoured all the pre and post GWB books on the Middle East; "Fiasco" was the most interesting.

"ISIS" would naturally provide a segue into defining any future involvement in that volatile region.

Me, me, me, me. In case me volume counts for something! Cheers

Sounds good to me.

I love Malcolm Nance and would love a book!

I had a similar experience as Calvin Trillin the other day at the gym. I was weighing myself on a doctor's scale in the locker room when a young women (early 20's) asked me how to use it! I was dumbfounded, but then realized that in her short life, she was probably used to a digital scale of some sort. Perhaps "balancing the scale" will become a term of the past too!

I enjoy reading your newsletters and wish you significant better health in this new year.

I would like to win a copy of the book- thanks. Touching essay today. I guess I’m a “young “ baby boomer, born at the tail end of the ‘50’s. I have pretty much stopped wearing a watch about a year ago, mostly because I wore out my Movada watch band. I quit getting a newspaper 5-6 years ago, after my kids “encouraged ‘ me to do so. I have Dear Abby emailed to me every day, but I miss the comics! Thanks for your blog, and wishing you good health in 2018!

I would like to read DEFEATING ISIS.

78 and still have a landline, a desktop computer, a second generation Prius.
I have not a worn a wristwatch since 1995, because my body/pulse/whatever will not let a wristwatch stay on time, either speeds up or slows down.

I found it very freeing to be without a wristwatch as I had just taken early retirement and had less need for keeping track of time on many days.

please, let it be ME!

I would love to win one of the books.

I'd like to win a book

I'm a fan of Malcolm Nance but will let others have first crack at his book. I'm awaiting delivery of Michael Wolff's "Fire & Fury" which should arrive this week and likely will take me a while to read. I'll get to "ISIS" eventually.

At 81 I still wear a watch and read our local newspaper daily although I struggled with the $200 to renew my subscription for 6 months (January-June--another $200 due in July). I mourn the demise of newspapers, although I realize that it will probably continue; hopefully, ours will last as long as I do! I enjoy reading an actual paper. That said, I do have a smartphone. It's useful at times but, unlike many today, my phone is NOT my life. Almost certainly, many of the things "The Silent Generation" took for granted will disappear in the next 25 years, but then so will we so the losses may be noted only in passing.

I used a computer on the job for many years and was considered fairly "tech savvy" at the user level back in the day. No longer. Living on social media has left me behind. Although I'm on Facebook and Twitter, I don't use them every day. (The fact that The Orange Apparition is addicted to Twitter is a HUGE turnoff for me. Such a despicable individual!) IMO, Facebook tries to do too much; it was never designed or intended to be a source of serious news. Then there's the problem of hacking and loss of privacy in general, which doesn't seem to concern young folks at all--yet.

Interesting bit about Trillon's observations and I would like the book by Nance. :)

Both writers and their books are of interest to me, partucularly Nance's. I always find his comments on MSNBC illuminating and provocative.

Regarding CALVIN TRILLIN'S "ALL THUMBS" MEDITATION: First of all, thank you for introducing him to me. You have led me to some good people that I would not have "met" otherwise.

Second, his quoted writing reminded me of how many words and expressions have been lost, dropped and otherwise disappeared from our language alone due to progress. Does anyone remember "withershins" (counterclockwise, in the opposite direction from the sun, etc). I come from a part of the West Virginia mountains where a rare and disappearing form of Elizabethan English was still spoken when I was a child (am 81 now) and learned a lot of the old words as part of the daily vocabulary in order to talk with people from "up the hollers". And I still use some of them just to see the puzzled looks on faces.

And like Elizabeth Rogers comment above, I too am 81 and use a computer to do bookkeeping, get the news, read your column and watch Netflix, use a Kindle Fire to read and my phone for the current time/date/ day. What a funny old world this has become in just our short 81 years!

I would like a copy of this book!

Thank you, Ronni. I would love a copy of this book. And me, me, me if that works.
But I see that so may other people want a copy of this book and so how in the world will you go about deciding?

I would love to win the book.

Good read!

Me, me, me.

I love Calvin Trillin. I moved to NYC in 1984 and my then boyfriend, now husband, who had gone (from the Midwest) to college in the city, showed me how to fold the Times like a "real" New Yorker. It involves folding the newspaper in quarters vertically in such a way that it is easy to read and turn the pages whilst taking up as little room as possible if one is standing up on a crowded subway train. Everyone used to do it.

I also abstain from social media and love old technology. I still own and use analog clocks and watches, a manual typewriter, a film camera and a tube radio. I like things with moving parts, I guess.

I like Malcolm Nance and would love a signed copy of his book.

Yes! Please put my name in the hat for the book drawing!

I, too, would be interested in a copy of the book.

We still get a daily paper and read it, taking it with us when we go out for breakfast. It comes with free digital access so we can read it while traveling. I particularly enjoy the crossword puzzle. I do not enjoy puzzles on the computer.

I have not been able to wear a watch for the past 20 years or so, because the weight of one hurts my wrist. I have a small cell phone (not smart) that is usually in my pocket or purse, and that helps me with the time. Retired, so time is not so important.

I've been thinking recently of objects and terms that are obsolete, or soon to be - explaining to my 10-year-old granddaughter how we did not have a phone in our home when I was her age (1958), while she has never had a land line in her home. (and how my farm cousin did not have hot water in her house until she was 13, nor a shower).

Looking forward to a good read. Bring on the coffee and comfy chair!

would love to read this book...and then pass it on

Me, me, please. For some reason, I have had good luck with winning books, including a signed copy of Finding Your Roots, by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (my favorite TV show) and a couple from one of the publishing companies that regularly run book giveaways. I never win anything anywhere else, unless you consider a life blessed with friends, offspring --kids, grands, and great-grands, and talent to be able to support myself with what I love (music) and continue until 85, so far, with my other passions as well--writing and photography. All of those are at the computer. Also, being handicapped, it is a wonderful way to stay connected with friends, family and the world, but I have said about the other gadgets: it is enough. I have a landline, and a cell phone that I hate, and a desk-top. That is more than I want. However, I do have voice-operated software installed and just waiting for me to learn, and recently added a converter to put into MP3's a lifetime of my music performances to share with family and friends. I would love to win the book. me, me, me

I’ll be 61 yrs. shortly. I, too, miss a physical newspaper. I live in the middle of the U.P. and can’t buy a decent paper! I have a kindle but it’s not the same. I wear a watch, use a pay-as-you-go phone and also a landline. I am writing this on my iPad. I came to computers kicking and screaming. I’ve since made my peace, sort of. I also enjoy Mr. Trillin although I haven’t read anything of his in a long while. Word on the street is that young people are starting to go back to the ‘old ways’. I’m not seeing it but what do I know?
I always enjoy your site, Ronni!

Me, Me, Me

Oh please oh please oh please! I would love to win a copy of "Defeating ISIS: Who They Are, How They Fight, What The Believe". If I don't win, thanks anyway.

I missed Trillin's essay and laughed out loud when I read it. So one more saying 'bites the dust' but then .. there's that one! I'm a bit more than 70, still work full time, use a computer and smart(er than I am) phone, wear a watch bec it's far less distracting when I do training or am in a meeting to look at it than a phone to know the time. I read in print (oh how I love print!) and digitally. And I think that if one has children or grandchildren or any young people in their lives, it should be noted that those who go into repair of HVAC systems, plumbing, and those who specialize in hand surgery will be the most valuable professions to come.

Oh and YES! I'd love to win Mr. Nance's book - I'd read it cover to cover as I do w/ others.

Thank you for all you write, are and do.

I once met Calvin Trillin at a book signing at the Guild Bookstore which closed when Borders came along. So many bookstores closed back then. The Trib just carried his column where he observed most of his fans looked like librarians. I told him I wasn't a librarian. He just looked at me & didn't say anything.

I wear a watch. I like the back up of a cell or ipod but I like being able to turn my wrist to see the time instead of fishing around for my cell or ipod.

I miss the daily paper newspaper. I've been reading it on Kindle for several years but it's just not the same. I think I remembered news stories better because of their placement on the page, harkening back to a memory of time and place.

I read a very good book last year about ISIS called Black Flags.

Saw him on tv. Would love to win his book!

I, too, would like a copy of the book.
I, too, read a real newspaper with my coffee in the morning.
I, too, preceded the baby boomers in my birth.
I, too, live the disparity between mental and physical age.

Yes, I would love to have a copy of this book, Ronni


Hi Ronni, I would love a copy of this book. Thank you for considering me.

I don't know if my thumbs are too big or my cell phone is too small, but thumb-texting is beyond me. I poke at the screen with a single finger, making texting a very slow process. I am envious of those young folks who can text so rapidly with their thumbs!

I never really liked wristwatches so I used to use a pocket watch instead. After losing the last one I decided not to replace it and just use my phone. If the process of metrication in Canada is any indication (slow and incomplete), we will use analog terminology for some time to come. I think "clockwise" will have staying power (it's a useful concept without a digital equivalent), but perhaps "quarter to three" won't.

And please enter me in the ISIS book lottery!

As recently as 2012, when I was a daily commuter via BART (our subway equivalent), I was able to photograph a blog post showing what my fellow riders with reading. I think it would be all phones and tablets now. I'll be on BART this afternoon and will check. :-)

You are on my wavelength...or maybe it's Calvin Trilling the Magnificent. I too have been writing about unwelcome changes in our fast moving world. For instance, the ad that popped up as I tried to write this with the baby voice saying, "congratulations, you have been selected..." which I have finally figured out how to delete and keep on doing what I started out to do.
Rooting for that cancer to totally go away and leave you your cogent, vibrant and perspicacious self!!
ps - The New York Times in paper 7 days a week is my biggest extravagance!


Here's hoping I win! Thanks so much Ronni !

I would like to read this book and then pass along to my friends who might be interested. I will also be able to determine if the heads-up penny I found a few days ago conferred any "luck." (lol)

Thank you for this most thought provoking blog -- my favorite of any I read!

I would like to win a copy of the book.

I wear a wristwatch, subscribe to my newspapers online, and I'm all thumbs in the earlier sense of the phrase when it comes to manipulating my smart phone.

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