Previous month:
December 2019
Next month:
February 2020

Marijuana and Old Folks

We've discussed this several times before but I think it is worth coming back to because use of cannabis among elders continues to increase but I keep meeting people (in a state where it is legal) who are interested but hesitant to try it.

The little wicker basket next to my bed holds several brands and types of edible cannabis I use for sleep. It's quite a collection now. Currently, there are two kinds of chocolate, four of fruit-flavored gummies, one of lemon hard candies and a bottle of tincture.

Even when they contain the same dosage of THC, the effectiveness of each differs with me depending on how frequently I use it. One of my physicians and several marijuana dispensary employees have confirmed my experience, that the same product used every night will eventually stop working – which happened to me.

So now I keep that nice little variety around to mix it up from night to night.

Currently, 33 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis to a greater or lesser degree. Some restrict usage to what is called “medical marijuana” that for purchase usually requires a card from a physician. Many other states now allow recreational marijuana.

Here is a map of current legal availability as of 25 June 2019. Follow this link for more information by individual state.

LegalCannabisMap

Oregon was the first state to decriminalize marijuana use and later legalized it for people 21 and older – first for medical use and then expanded to recreational use.

In the past month or two, I've noticed that my local Safeway supermarket is now selling CBD products. CBD is the non-psychoactive chemical in cannabis. It's counterpart, THC, gets you high.

When I first started experimenting with cannabis for sleep, I tried CBD. It worked about as well as a glass of water so I switched to THC which not only puts me to sleep, it keeps me there for seven to eight hours which I hadn't slept in a decade or more.

Other people say CBD works well for them.

When the subject of marijuana use comes up in conversation, it is predicable that someone will say, “Oh, but I wouldn't want to get high.” To which I can only say, “Why not?”

Mostly I'm asleep before the high kicks in because that takes about two hours with edibles as opposed to smoking pot which is almost immediate. (No smoking for me with COPD.)

I patronize several cannabis dispensaries in Oregon all of whom have told me that the majority of their customers are old people. WebMD reported on a 2018 survey of elders who use marijuana for chronic pain.

”...it reduced pain and decreased the need for opioid painkillers.

“Nine out of 10 liked it so much they said they'd recommend medical pot to others.

"'I was on Percocet and replaced it with medical marijuana. Thank you, thank you, thank you,' said one senior.”

Many say that marijuana doesn't eliminate pain but it does make it manageable.

Dr. Mark Wallace, a board member of the American Pain Society, told WebMD,

"'The geriatric population is my fastest-growing patient population. With medical marijuana, I'm taking more patients off opioids,' he said.

"'There's never been a reported death from medical marijuana, yet there are 19,000 deaths a year from prescription opioids. Medical cannabis is probably safer than a lot of drugs we give,' Wallace said.”

I've made sure my cannabis use is included on my list of medications so that doctors can consider drug interactions when/if they prescribe something new.

The body of scientific research suggests that cannabis is useful in treating a variety of conditions and diseases such as

• Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
• Anorexia due to HIV/AIDS
• Chronic pain
• Crohn's disease
• Epilepsy or seizures
• Glaucoma
• Multiple sclerosis or severe muscle spasms
• Nausea, vomiting or severe wasting associated with cancer treatment
• Terminal illness
• Tourette syndrome

Note that they don't list sleep but I can't be the only old person who has discovered that use.

The National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML) which has been lobbying for legalization since 1970 reports that

”According to national polling data compiled by Gallup in October 2019, 66 percent of the public - including majorities of self-identified Democrats, Republicans, and Independents - favor adult-use legalization.

"Bipartisan support among the public for medical marijuana legalization is even stronger.”

MarijuanaLegalization

I was in high school when I smoked my first joint. I enjoyed it then and, presumably, I still would if I could stay awake long enough to feel the high.

But what I can't figure out is how, through the decades, I had so much time to fool around - it's not like you get much done when you're stoned. Who knew, back then, that weed would be my key to getting a good night's sleep.

Certainly some TGB readers use cannabis. Let's hear from you, and if you want, feel free to use an alias in place of your name.


The Mystery of How Time Slips Away

Hardly anyone disputes the belief that time seems to speed up as we grow old. If I recall correctly (not an automatic assumption), it starts around age 40. “I went to work Monday morning,” we might say, “and next thing I knew it was Friday.”

Anyone to whom this has happened more than once has a theory about the reason for it but that's not what I'm here to talk about today because a new twist on time's swift passage has turned up in my life.

Think of the new one as the micro compared to the original macro.

Until now, my complaints about time's speed were confined to the long-ish term as in the first paragraph above. Then, recently, I laid out the little boxes into which I count out medications for the coming week.

I have two of them – morning and evening - and I've been doing this for going on three years. I could do it in my sleep. It takes about five minutes and I'm set for the week.

Before I go any further, let me note that I hate this chore. I understand that is an over-the-top response to such a minor task but it is nevertheless true and may or may not relate to the the time issue.

As usual, two or three weeks ago, I didn't get around to counting out pills until nearly dinner time on Saturday. I was timing something on the stove but I knew this dumb little pill task takes no more than five minutes so I could do both at once.

I checked the clock as I started counting. When I finished, I looked at the clock again and 15 minutes had passed. 15 MINUTES??? Did I black out for ten minutes? If so, why was I still standing?

A few days later, it happened again. The walk to the mailbox and back takes about three or four minutes. This time, 20 or 25 minutes went by before I was home again. I know this because I was 10 minutes late for a phone visit with a friend.

Did I stop to chat with a neighbor? Did I wander over to the adjacent park? I had no memory of doing either. Where did the time go?

These small time slippages are turning up in my life more frequently. I'm not worried about incipient dementia or even plain old forgetfulness but I am trying to explain it to myself.

With the pill counting, did I get distracted and stop counting while I thought over something I had read? That's probably not out of the question although I don't remember what it was I might have been thinking. Or, could it have always taken 15 minutes and I thought it was only five?

Maybe the same thing happened on my walk to the mailbox. I do purposefully walk more slowly now to accommodate my COPD. I'd rather things take longer than to go too quickly and be left heaving for breath.

Or could it be...

It's a mystery to me and it doesn't seem fair, does it. I mean, already whole days speed by when we're old, even whole weeks. Now I have to fold missing minutes into my shrinking day?

Does any of this ring a bell for you?


A TGB READER STORY: Still Life With Banana and Avocado

By Ann Burack-Weiss

Banana. Avocado. The very names exude health. Their shapes and colors so pleasing to the eye.

I felt virtuous as I placed them in the supermarket cart, on the price scanner at check out, pulled them four blocks home in my shopping cart, placed them in a hand-made ceramic bowl and set them on the center of the kitchen counter.

They were ripe and ready. I was not. Firm and vibrant when they entered this room, they lived up to their promise. I did not. They weigh heavily on the mind.

I could make an avocado smoothie. Or a banana bread. Or a lot of other things - each involving additional ingredients that appeal to my appetite no more than these bruised, shriveled specimens sitting before me.

Ah, if I could spirit them across the world - or even down the block – to feed the hungry. But who among the familiar homeless on nearby streets would not be insulted by my donation of a piece of sub-prime fruit. I know that I would.

Removing the evidence of my crime is a surreptitious business – even though no one is watching but the ghosts of my conscience.

Under the eyes of the “starving Armenians” I was urged to remember in my childhood, the billions of hungry people who occupy this planet with me, I place them hastily in the garbage bin, twist the top, and doom them to their fate.

* * *

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


Internet Friends Redux and The A & R Show

To my surprise, Friday's post about disappearing internet friends drew a lot more comment that I would have expected. It appears to be a common problem, losing track of web friends.

It was lovely to hear from so many readers who are still here but who don't comment. There is nothing wrong with that; no one should feel obligated to leave a comment. Here are some notes after re-reading through the comments starting with

COMMENT AUTOFILL
Some people mentioned they do not like entering their information every time they want to comment; some others don't have the problem. That is because autofill (or not) is a function of your browser. Plus, new privacy restrictions have recently gone into effect which may have removed your autofill.

Every browser handles privacy issues differently. You can find out how to change your autofill settings by searching “how to enable autofill in firefox”. Substitute the name of your browser (chrome, safari, etc.) for firefox.

SURPRISES
I am surprised to find out how many of you have been reading Time Goes By since I lived in Manhattan, followed along when I moved to Portland, Maine, and then to Oregon in 2010. That is so nice to hear.

A few who have not commented in a long while wondered if I would remember their names and in every case, I do – it is terrific to see you here again.

I was pleased to be able to put one reader together with another to find out what had happened to a third person they both know.

WHEN WE DIE
Regarding my demise, I have a blog post written titled, If You're Reading This, I'm Dead. When I first wrote it, I meant to update it every year but I think I've fallen behind on that and I'll put it on my to-do list.

My good friend, healthcare proxy and executor, Autumn, will post that entry when I die. You might recall her keeping you updated in June of 2017 when I'd had the Whipple surgery and was out of commission for a week or so.

People who have blogs, Facebook pages or some other social media presence can set up something similar. It's everyone else – the people who comment but don't have an online space of their own that we lose track of and I don't have a solution for that.

Thank you to everyone who finds this online place to be worth your time. After all these years, I still enjoy doing it and even more, reading each day what you have to say.

THE ALEX AND RONNI SHOW – 25 January 2020
Alex and I recorded this episode on Saturday, the only day we were both available at the same time. (I thought retirement means you aren't so busy anymore...)

We covered more territory that we usually do: pockets (or lack thereof) in clothing, health (typical old people talk), racism, Alex's beard, hair loss, the impeachment trial and so on.

Here it is:

You can find Alex's show – Alex Bennett's Ramble – on Facebook and Apple Podcasts.


ELDER MUSIC: Introductions

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.

* * *

This column is about songs with introductions that most of us didn’t realise had such introductions. Given that, they are mostly pretty old songs, and the versions are just about as old.

Anything Goes is a famous song written by COLE PORTER.

Cole Porter

Most of us wouldn’t have heard the introduction before; I suspect that Cole is the only one who recorded it. I think this is the original version of the song, as there are references in it that I haven’t heard before, some of which are a little dated.

Anyway, here is the way Cole imagined his song originally.

♫ Cole Porter - Anything Goes


The song Love Letters in the Sand is mostly associated in my brain with Pat Boone. However, he didn’t sing the introduction. I could only find two versions of the song where someone did.

One I eschewed, even though it was the better one, because I’m using him for another song, and including his version in another column - pickings are slim in the category so I had to shuffle things around. I ended up with GENE AUSTIN who recorded it in 1931. It was the original version.

Gene Austin

Gene started in Vaudeville as the result of a dare. He later became one of the first crooners. He was also an early champion of Fats Waller, and besides that wrote numerous songs that entered the canon and are still sung today.

This isn’t one of them, it was written by Fred Coots and Nick and Charles Kenny.

♫ Gene Austin - Love Letters in the Sand


Not only did the song Are You Lonesome Tonight originally have an introduction, it also had an extra verse that those familiar with the more famous versions by Elvis and Al Jolson lack. Also, besides losing things, they added that talkie bit in the middle of the song that’s not in the original.

When I say original, I mean it. This is the original recording by CHARLES HART.

Charles Hart

He recorded this back in 1927, and I notice that he really likes rolling his R’s.

♫ Charles Hart - Are You Lonesome Tonight


Like the previous song, this one not only has an introduction, after all, that’s why we’re here, but it also has an extra verse, or perhaps a bridge, that I’ve not heard in elsewhere. This one is by the BOSWELL SISTERS.

Boswell Sisters

This is the only one where I heard the intro. Even Fats Waller, who as far as I can tell, recorded it first, omits the intro and extra verse. Maybe the Boswells were the only one would record the complete song.

If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, it’s I'm Going to Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter.

♫ Boswell Sisters - I'm Going To Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter


I could have included several songs by FRANKIE LAINE from an album he recorded with Michel Legrand.

Frankie Laine & Michel Legrand

It was a matter of which one that no one else had done. The song I chose is Blue Moon. Years ago I had a column with different versions of that song, so I went back and found none of those had an introduction. Indeed, apart from Frankie’s I couldn’t find another one that did, that’s why he’s included.

♫ Frankie Laine - Blue Moon


I imagine that some of you might be wondering why I included the next song. I know that Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, is one such. The song is one of my guilty pleasures, so it stays. The song is sung by NICK LUCAS as part of the Nick Lucas Troubadours.

Nick Lucas

If you’re wondering what the song is after that introduction (sorry), think Tiny Tim. Yes, you’ve all won a koala stamp for knowing Tip-Toe Thru the Tulips With Me.

♫ Nick Lucas Troubadours - Tip-Toe Thru The Tulips With Me


Back in 1937, Harry Warren and Al Dupin wrote the song September in the Rain for the film “Melody for Two”. That song is only memorable for the song. In that film JAMES MELTON sang it as it was written.

James Melton1

Of course, since then it’s gone on to be a standard, not just for singers, but jazz instrumentalists as well. None of the later versions have the intro.

♫ James Melton - September in the Rain


Normally, I’d include Otis Redding, but he didn’t sing the introduction. I believe that he modeled his version on BING CROSBY’s.

Bing Crosby

I have to take his word on that as they’re as different as night and day. There were a couple of versions before Bing’s but if he’s in the mix, I’ll go with him. The song is Try a Little Tenderness.

♫ Bing Crosby - Try a Little Tenderness


The contribution by ETHEL WATERS not only contains a generally unsung introduction, she also performs extra verses or bridges or something that also don’t usually turn up in her song.

Ethel Waters

Ethel was the real deal, she could sing in pretty much any genre of music and appeared in quite a few films and was nominated for an Oscar for one of those. The song she sings in today’s category is Am I Blue, another I didn’t realise had that intro.

♫ Ethel Waters - Am I Blue


LES GILLIAM recites his intro, rather than singing it.

Les Gilliam

I don’t know if that counts in this category or not, however, it’s a country song so that’s acceptable in that genre of music. The song was a hit in the fifties for several artists, Les not being one that I remember performing it. The song of which I speak is The Shifting, Whispering Sands.

Les Gilliam - The Shifting Whispering Sands


Going way back, indeed to 1928, we have FRANKLYN BAUR.

Franklyn Baur

Back in the 1920s Frank made hundreds of records, sometimes under different names. He performed on radio and made the occasional film. His career declined in the 1930s and he died quite young.

From his heyday, in this case 1928, Frank sings Marie.

♫ Franklyn Baur - Marie


I’ll end with person who is responsible for this column. Well, not quite, that person is Ronni.

She was setting up a column that had LEON REDBONE in it, and noticed that the song had an introduction that generally wasn’t performed by others. We wondered how many other songs out there are like that, and if it could make a column.

Leon Redbone

As you can see, it certainly has. This isn’t the song in question; it’s another as I found that Leon performed several such songs. This one is My Melancholy Baby.

Leon Redbone - My Melancholy Baby


INTERESTING STUFF – 25 January 2020

BEING 97

In a film by his grandson, 97-year-old philosopher, Herbert Fingarette, faces in own death and realizes he has changed his mind since he wrote his book about about death published in 1996.

In that book, he argued that fearing ones own death is irrational:

”When you die, he wrote, 'there is nothing.' Why should we fear the absence of being when we won’t be there ourselves to suffer it?”

At 18 minutes, the video is longer that I usually like to publish at Interesting Stuff but I think this is worth it. You can also read a bit more about it at The Atlantic.

THE WORLD'S LARGEST CRUISE SHIP COOKS 30,000 MEALS PER DAY

I've never once been tempted to take a cruise but I liked this short video about what it takes to serve so many meals. In it, the narrator reports that guests eat EIGHT times a day, and never explains it.

Oh well. The rest of the information is astounding.

THE SHAKESPEARIAN INSULT KIT

You dankish, boil-brained canker blossom. How's that for putting some jerk in his/her place? It's way better than the F-word too many of us fall back on.

Now, thanks to TGB reader, Joan McMullen, we have the Shakespearean Insult Kit in which you choose a phrase from each of three columns and let fly.

Give it a whirl – it's a load of fun even if, like me, you don't know what a lot of the words mean.

ShakespeareanInsultChart

THE UNUSUAL ITALIAN VILLAGE IN WALES

As the Youtube pages tells us:

”Tucked away on the coast of northern Wales is the village of Portmeirion, a truly unique town built with a colorful, whimsical design and an eye for conservation.

“Built between 1925 and 1975 by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, Portmeirion became a home for lost building parts, such as taking the stones of a demolished castle to make a town clock tower.

“But the most striking part of the town is the integration of nature with the town's colorful architecture, modifying nearly every single building to work with the nearby terrain.”

A BOATLOAD OF SNOW IN CANADA

In Canada last weekend, they got a megamonster snowstorm. Bored Panda posted a big bunch of photographs of the snow like you've probably never seen before. Fortunately, these Canadians have sense of humor.

CanadianSnowMeasureingSnow

CanadianSnowDinosaur

CanadaSnowHousescovered

A whole lot more photos at Bored Panda.

HOW MUCH WARMER WAS YOUR CITY LAST YEAR?

The New York Times tells us:

”Scientists announced that 2019 was the second-warmest year on record. In a database of more than 3,500 cities compiled by AccuWeather, about 83 percent saw average temperatures higher than normal last year.

New York City was .07 degrees F warmer than 2018. Washington, D.C.: 2.4 degrees F above 2018. Seattle, Washingnton: 1.1 degree F above 2018.

Check your American city at The New York Times.

CAT FIGHTS OFF THREE COYOTES

Max is one badass cat. Take a look at his owner's security cam footage:

WE SOLVED PARALLEL PARKING 93 YEARS AGO

...and then, apparently, forgot about it. Take a look at how it was done with this car in Paris in 1927.

PATROL DOGS OF JACKSON HOLE

The Youtube page tells us

”The Jackson Hole Patrol Dogs are the hardest working canines in the valley. Day in and day out they work alongside ski patrol practicing search and rescue techniques.

“More than just members of the patrol, these dogs are family members of the patrolers who take care of them.”

* * *

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” at the top 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.


When Online Friends Disappear

“Ghosting” is a slang term among young people (they come and go so fast, this one may already be out of fashion) for having been dropped by someone you thought was a friend or, at least, a good acquaintance.

When someone ghosts you, he or she abruptly stops telephoning or responding to text messages or posting on your social media pages. When I was in high school, we referred to such behavior as cutting someone dead.

Recently, I was perusing some posts from the early years of this blog (TGB has been here since 2004). Reading along day-by-day, I was amazed to see a lot of familiar names, commenters who are still around, who have been contributing to these conversations for a decade and more.

Some of those people are “blog friends”, people with whom I exchange email now and then (or, sometimes, more frequently). Mostly we haven't met face-to-face, but we know one another quite well after all this time. I think of them as friends.

Or, perhaps they are more like neighbors – people we “see” regularly, stop to pass the time of day and continue on our way until next time.

As I continued reading those ancient posts, other names stood out too. Not close internet friends, but people I had come to know through their comments and occasional emails. Why their names leapt out now, however, is that they have not shown up in the comments for a long time, years.

What happened to them?

Certainly, some of them stopped reading Time Goes By and unsubscribed. That happens all the time. People leave, others join and so it goes. Nothing out of the ordinary but still, one wonders.

So I checked some of those names against the subscriber list. Several were no longer subscribed but a larger number are still there and the emails have not bounced which would indicate a closed email account. So they are either still reading TGB or – what?

Are they dead? That is not an unreasonable question for a blog about what it's like to grow old. And it is also not unreasonable to believe that no one unsubscribed them – that's hardly on the to-do list when a loved one dies.

One thing I've learned from producing this blog for so many years is how much of ourselves and our personalities we reveal over time in words, phrases and ideas we choose. Years of reading the thoughts of people on a variety of topics cannot help but lead us to care about them, to feel a connection.

That makes it more than disconcerting when they disappear. Sometimes it happens as I have described above – that I didn't notice for a good while after a reader stopped commenting. Other times, I notice after a couple of weeks: Geez, what happened to Mary, or John, etc.

I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that I doubt any TGB readers are “ghosting” me. Some, undoubtedly, decide they have gleaned all they want from Time Goes By and move on.

But some, too, have died and there is no way for me – or for readers who enjoyed a person's comments – to know.

I suppose it makes sense. Who in a family knows much of anything about what other family members do online. Or further, knows that mom or dad or anyone else in the family has been enjoying conversations, maybe for many years, at a certain website and feels a kinship with those people.

I've written about these cyber-friends in the past and how important they can become.

”I believe that the internet arrived just in time for our generation(s) to develop a new kind of friendship that opens – quite literally – a world of possibilities for human connections that can prevent loneliness, expand our horizons and help us form bonds that can be as nurturing as some in-person relationships.”

About two months ago, a woman who had infrequently but regularly posted comments here over many years emailed to tell me she had entered hospice. She was grateful in her last days, she said, that someone else was doing the small chores that had become difficult for her, and she could die in peace.

We exchanged several emails talking about all kinds of things and then several days went by without a response from her. I knew she had died.

Then I did what I always do when someone I know has died. I lit a candle. I sat quietly for a good while and thought about her. I went went back over some old blog posts and read her comments. What a remarkable memory jog it is to have that – perhaps a little like saved, hand-written, snail-mail letters in days before the internet.

A whole life of many decades gone, to be grieved and honored. Undoubtedly, some of the names that have gone missing from TGB comments have died. I'm so sorry to not know.


Ageotypes – The Key to Personalized Medicine?

For many years, regular readers of this blog have heard me bang away at the boring-sounding but important fact that people age at dramatically different rates.

Unlike infants, whose normal walking, talking, feeding themselves, etc. development can be tracked within a month or so, people grow old at different ages. Some are creaky in their fifties while others may retain the stamina common to a young person well into their eighties or even nineties.

It is important to know that, to understand that in ageing, one size does not fit all. Now it appears that it may not be true of only of ageing in generalized.

If research published last week in Nature Medicine [pdf] holds up under further testing, discovery that our individual organs may age differently from one another shows promise for future development of personalized medicine.

As journalist Sharon Begley reports in STAT, the Stanford University School of Medicine researchers

”...conclude that just as people have an individual genotype, so too do they have an 'ageotype,' a combination of molecular and other changes that are specific to one physiological system.

“These changes can be measured when the individual is healthy and relatively young, the researchers report, perhaps helping physicians to pinpoint the most important thing to target to extend healthy life.”

Biologist Michael Snyder, who led the Stanford study, explains that within an individual, some systems age faster or slower than others:

“'One person is a cardio-ager, another is a metabolic ager, another is an immune ager,' as shown by changes over time in nearly 100 key molecules that play a role in those systems. 'There is quite a bit of difference in how individuals experience aging on a molecular level.'

“Crucially, the molecular markers of aging do not necessarily cause clinical symptoms. The study’s 'immune' agers had no immune dysfunction; 'liver agers' did not have liver disease. Everyone was basically healthy.

“If aging is truly personal, understanding an individual’s ageotype could lead to individualized, targeted intervention. 'We think [ageotypes] can show what’s going off track the most so you can focus on that if you want to affect your aging,' Snyder said.”

So far, the research team has identified four ageotypes: immune, kidney, liver and metabolic but there are really more, they say, because some people may meet the criteria for more than one ageotype.

Obviously, there is a lot more work to be done before ageotypes can be used to create personalized medical treatment for patients. As LiveScience reports

”Snyder and his co-authors plan to follow the study participants to see how their aging profiles morph over time.

“They also aim to develop a simple ageotype test that could be used in the doctor's office to quickly assess a patient's health status, and potentially point them toward the best possible treatment options.”

The study was small, just 43 participants. So why am I telling you about this when it is unlikely to be developed enough to help most of the people who read this blog?

The first reason is that in the days after I read about it early last week, I kept going back to reread the news stories. Then a long-time blog friend, Chuck Nyren, sent me one of the stories.

And most of all, I'm posting this because I read a lot of health news about old people and it's not often I feel researchers are on to something as important as this could be.

Science breakthroughs almost never happen full-blown. If you recall the story from school, it is said that Thomas Edison tried 1,000 times before he came up with a viable light bulb.

When a reporter confronted him with all those failures, Edison said, "I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps."

I figure the Stanford scientists have a lot of steps to go and I wish them well. What a great difference this would make for health care.


A TGB READER STORY: The Skeleton in My Closet

By Cowtown Pattie of Texas Trifles

The skeleton living in my closet is a cross-dresser. A skinny transvestite who thinks he is Versace. Giani Versace. I tell him "Giani" should be spelled with two n's, but he says he's too thin for the extra wasted consonant.

Every morning when I pull the chain to the overhead bare bulb in my closet, Giani groans and tries to hide his eyes in an old but elegant wool muffler with a moth hole that I bought in an estate sale.

He says the previous owner had better taste than me - the label in the side seam says "NeimanMarcus". Giani keeps it draped over his head so everyone can see it. (Like there's ever any vistors to my closet.)

I know he's checked all the labels on the blouses, pants, sweaters and jackets and found them lacking to his discerning eye. That is if he had eyes. I sometimes imagine those empty sockets of bone have amber gold eyes like a lynx.

There isn't much in my wardrobe for Giani to borrow nowadays; once I was a size 9 and forever had to strip him to bare bone so I could wear my favorite Sergio Valenti pair of jeans. Once I accidentally snapped short an index finger that he had stuck through a belt loop during such an argument.

It didn't hurt, he only protested with a whiney voice in his stupid fake Italian accent, "I'm-a beggin' your paw-doan!”

He can be such a vamp, but at least he is good-natured and doesn't try to blackmail me. Much. I laugh and tickle his ribs and tell him he has no pockets for his ill-gotten gains.

But he hates my fat clothes, especially plus sizes that come from Cato's or Macy's. "Get skinny and buy some decent rags! You could shop at The Loft or Nordstroms!" His lamentations are not unreasonable, but certainly tiresome.

Once I bought a traveler's set of slacks and jacket from Chico's - in black. You know that stretchy fabric that defies wrinkles even stuffed long hours in a suitcase? Giani kept pulling the suit off the hanger; it was constantly puddled in my closet floor among my shoes.

Shoes. Oh, lord, I won't even go there.

When we sell our house and move, I wonder if I could manage to pack Giani up in a box to Goodwill? Surely someone would love having his European fashion sense for their very own.

Or, maybe I could donate him to a medical school. He would hate that, hanging from a sterile stainless steel pole with nothing but white sheets in sight for draping. White isn't his color, you know. Too much like camouflage.

Sigh. Giani is too much a part of me. But, maybe you could invite him for a sleep-over with your skeleton? Did I mention he was skinny and doesn't take up much closet space?

* * *

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


The Remarkable Medical and Health Professionals I Know

For the past few months I've taken to saying, “If I didn't know I have cancer, I wouldn't know I have cancer. I like it. I made it up myself – unless I read it somewhere and forgot. If so, my apologies to whomever.

The point is I have hardly any cancer symptoms. In fact, after two years of fighting hard to keep my weight up so not to sink into frailty, I've gained an unplanned 10 pounds since September with no effort.

When I mentioned it to my oncologist, he told me to count my blessings and shooed me out of his office.

My real day-to-day health problem is COPD or, more to the point, breathing. But before the end of this month, I will have completed three months of pulmonary rehab and it has made a remarkable difference.

Before rehab, when walking from the bedroom to the kitchen, a distance of about 20 feet, I had to stop once, sometimes twice, to catch my breath. Taking out trash and going to the mailbox required two or three stops each way. And instead of one, it took two or three trips to carry in the groceries from the car.

The boundaries of my life were shrinking dramatically. Stairs required careful planning so not to end up heaving for air. And it wasn't just hills that were out of the question, it was inclines so slight that I'd not noticed them before COPD became my close companion.

Even showers were impossible, the air being too humid for me to breathe so I traded them in for sit-down baths.

When my primary care physician suggested that pulmonary rehab might be helpful, I was skeptical but I didn't have a better idea so I signed up.

On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, I've been spending a couple of hours on a treadmill of one kind or another, upper and lower body exercises, some involving Therabands, and on Tuesdays, such instruction classes as breathing exercises, energy conservation, the correct use of inhalers, nutrition for lung disease, avoiding exacerbations and a whole lot more.

Most of the upper-body exercises are done sitting down and at first I dismissed them altogether. What good could they do for someone who had done 50 pushups a day among other heavy strength training work until cancer brought that to a halt?

How wrong I was and I'm ashamed now at how dismissive I was. It was hard in the beginning but I've advanced more than I would have guessed. The treadmill too. At first, I could do only 10 minutes at .2 miles-per-hour. Last Thursday, I did 45 minutes at 2.4 miles-per-hour.

I'm not scoffing at any of this rehab now. Just a couple of weeks ago I noticed that I don't stop halfway to the kitchen anymore and I don't remember when that started happening.

As long as I don't try to walk at my former New York City speed, I now get to the mailbox and trash bins without stopping for breath, I can carry in most of the groceries in one go and I'm back to taking showers.

I'm not sure, however, that I'll ever do those slight inclines easily and I certainly won't be walking up San Francisco sized hills in this lifetime.

But most of all, it's the nurses, the three R.N.s who have been teaching us old folks with COPD how to make our lives more livable. They are amazing women – smart, informed, caring, hard-working.

On only my second visit, one of them called out “Hi, Ronni” as I walked in and I noticed that they did that with everyone, even with the new ones who had been there only once or twice.

They knew the details of our individual disease, recalled how well we had done at the previous visit, were patient with our questions and like all the medical professionals at OHSU who have helped me over the past two-and-a-half years, never appear to have a bad day.

The focus of all these people - the physicians, nurses, medical assistants, schedulers, therapists, etc. - is the patients' well-being.

I spent nearly 50 years working in media – radio, television, the internet. I loved the work itself but there was always a lot of ego floating around, fierce competition, deadline tensions and acting out.

No one was much thinking about the other guy. At our best, we worried about the work. At our worst, we worried about besting our colleagues.

As far as I can tell, that doesn't happen in the medical community (certainly not in the presence of patients) and after all the time I've spent with these people now, I've come to understand that they are different from those of us who are not in the helper professions.

The medical professionals I've been able to talk with personally all tell me they chose their careers, usually at a young age because they wanted to help people. They want to help people who can't do it for themselves and until I was diagnosed with cancer, I didn't know how selfless and hard-working they are.

I am so deeply grateful for them.


ELDER MUSIC: 1947 Again

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.

* * *

There was no categorising T-BONE WALKER.

T-Bone

He was a guitarist of great skill and he played in whatever style the song required – jazz, blues, even rock and roll later on. The song today, T-Bone Shuffle, is a standard blues song, but he brought in some elements of jazz to add even more interest.

♫ T-Bone Walker - T Bone Shuffle


In 1947, country music wasn’t as formulaic as it became later. This is especially evident in Bob Wills’s contribution down below. It’s also true of MERLE TRAVIS.

MerleTravis

There are all sorts of musical types in this song, So Round So Firm So Fully Packed, a slogan taken from cigarette advertisement from the time. The song was written by Merle, along with Eddie Kirk and Cliffie Stone. Several other people had hits with the song over the years.

♫ Merle Travis - So Round So Firm So Fully Packed


I’ll continue in the vein of the previous song with HOAGY CARMICHAEL.

Hoagy Carmichael

Hoagy was not averse to writing and performing novelty songs, and this is a prime example, Huggin' and Chalkin'. He suggests you mark where you’re up to so you can carry on from there next time.

♫ Hoagy Carmichael - Huggin' and Chalkin'


BILL MONROE was a hugely influential musician.

Bill Monroe

Not just himself but for the others who passed through his band. In the song today, one of his most famous, we have guitarist Lester Flatt and banjo player Earl Scruggs. They later went on to form the Foggy Mountain Boys, and later made a name for themselves as just Flatt and Scruggs.

Today, they play and Bill sings Blue Moon of Kentucky. This song was on the very first record that Elvis released.

♫ Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys - Blue Moon Of Kentucky


You don’t usually associate COUNT BASIE with novelty records, but he did some of those.

Count Basie

One of them was Open the Door, Richard! It was recorded by a few people at the time and each version sold pretty well. It was written by several people and was originally a part of vaudeville routines by Pigmeat Markham, Dusty Fletcher and others.

Later, words were added and many people recorded it; the first to do so was Jack McVea. The Count had Harry "Sweets" Edison and Bill Johnson singing on this one. There’s some fine piano playing by the Count.

♫ Count Basie - Open The Door Richard


BOB WILLS’s music has a distinctive style: Tommy Duncan sang the words and Bob chatted away on top of him. I could have done without Bob’s contribution. At least his vocal contribution, he played the fiddle on these records.

Bob Wills

That’s Bob and Tommy in the picture. The song Sugar Moon was written by Bob and Cindy Walker. Cindy was a prolific songwriter, initially for Bob, but later for just about every country artist who needed a good song.

♫ Bob Wills - Sugar Moon


LIGHTNIN' HOPKINS was a singer, guitarist, songwriter and occasional piano player.

Lightnin' Hopkins

He was Houston's poet-in-residence for 35 years and, reputedly, recorded more albums than any other bluesman. He recorded the song Big Mama Jump at least twice (maybe more times), once with him playing piano, and the one we have today, playing the guitar.

♫ Lightnin' Hopkins - Big Mama Jump


EDDY ARNOLD was on a roll this year.

Eddy Arnold

His song I'll Hold You in My Heart was his third number one on the country charts and it crossed over to the pop charts. Indeed, it spent a remarkable 21 weeks at that position. I guess the smoothing out of country songs is not just a recent phenomenon, but Eddy does have a fine voice.

♫ Eddy Arnold - I'll Hold You In My Heart


The next song is attributed to JULIA LEE AND HER BOY FRIENDS. That’s them below.

Julia Lee

Julia was renowned for performing risqué songs, or as she put it, “the songs my mother taught me not to sing”. Sometimes it’s good not to follow your mum’s advice because she made quite a decent living from these. The one today is King Size Papa.

♫ Julia Lee - King Size Papa


To end this year, a pop song pretending to be a country song. Given the real ones above, I don’t know why they bothered. Maybe they thought it wouldn’t be played on the same program, and probably back then, it wasn’t. DOROTHY SHAY gives us her contribution.

Dorothy Shay

Dorothy was billed as the “Park Avenue Hillbilly” which probably explains the situation. The song she sings, her first and biggest hit, is Feudin' and Fightin'. I have to say that this song is quite catchy, and could become an earworm if you played it too often.

♫ Dorothy Shay - Feudin' And Fightin'


INTERESTING STUFF – 18 January 2020

SOME SOLEMNITY IS IN ORDER

Let's take a moment to acknowledge that we in the United States took on a historic and solemn civic event this week, the impeachment trial of President Donald John Trump.

On Thursday, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts, swore in all the Senate members with a special oath just for impeachment trials. Here is the moment:

“...you will do impartial justice” is the key phrase the senators swore to. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has stated publicly for many weeks that he will not be impartial, that he is coordinating the president's defense with the White House.

Did you know there is no penalty for not doing impartial justice? I didn't until now. So the point of taking an oath is...?

TWINS BORN IN DIFFERENT DECADES

Well, isn't this fun. The Indy Channel, in Indiana, tells us

”Joslyn Grace Guilen Tello was born at 11:37 p.m. on December 31, 2019 at Ascension St. Vincent Carmel and her twin brother, Jaxon DeWayne Mills Tello, was born at 12:07 a.m. on January 1, 2020.”

Let's go to the video tape:

And for the rest of their lives, the twins will be explaining their separate birthdays.

SAVING HELLBENDERS

I'll bet you never heard of this endangered animal before. It has a few more scary or icky names, devil dog, snot otter and lasagna lizard. The YouTube page tells us it

”...is one of the largest salamanders on Earth, growing to nearly 2 feet in length. Sadly, humans have been tampering with their natural habitat, and hellbenders are disappearing from streams in the Cherokee National Forest. Nolan, along with a team of researchers at Tennessee State University, are working on relocating the hellbenders to new streams.

If they weren't so slimy, they'd be cute little buggers.

A TINY WELSH TOWN WITH LOTS OF BOOKSHOPS

The YouTube page tells us that

”Hay-on-Wye was once declared an independent kingdom of books by the man who appointed himself its king. The United Kingdom's mecca for bibliophiles is less than one square mile in size, but it’s packed with independent booksellers curating all kinds of used and antique reading material.

“Today, the area doesn't just provide a safe haven for books—the books actually help to preserve their home.”

THE 10 MOST CHECKED-OUT BOOKS FROM THE NYC PUBLIC LIBRARY

While we are talking about books, here's an interesting item. The New York Public Library, the largest library system in the United States, just issued its list of the most checked-out books during its 125 years of existence. Here are the top three:

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (485,583 checkouts)
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss (469,650)
1984 by George Orwell (441,770)

It would be interesting to know how many of those 441,770 checkouts for 1984 have happened since The Trump administration began.

See the rest of the list along with commentary and some other information at The New York Times or the Washington Post.

WORLD'S BIGGEST SUSHI

And the smallest too. Take a look at this video about Hiromu Inagaki, who serves super-sized sushi at the Umewaka Restaurant in Anjo City, Japan.

CAT REVENGE

Anyone who hangs out with cats knows something about this kind of behavior. As a member of the cat's staff labeled the photo, “Locked My Cat In The Bathroom While I Made A Meal Because He Was Being - - - Annoying. Revenge Was Had.”

Cat Revenge

There are 49 more petty revenge examples at Bored Panda – not all it is about cats.

IF SINGULAR THEY BECOMES STANDARD...

After the lively discussion pro and con on Monday's post about the new-ish use of the pronoun “they” and its derivatives in the singular, I couldn't resist this.

Because I run this joint on the web and can do what I want with it, here is a marvelously funny comment from TGB reader George Gates that beautifully illustrates how confusing, obfuscating and messy this new usage can (and undoubtedly will) be.

”My university professional son recently asked me, as they periodically does, to edit their updated resume and cover letter. They were replete with them's, their's and they's in reference to singular antecedents.

“When I corrected them for them, they objected and politely educated their dad that they was out of step with their emerging norms in their university environment there. They was adamant about them.

“Not wishing to seem obtuse, I acceded to them and left them there as they had been written by them. They was happier that their language-stickler dad had seen the error of their outdated ways, and appreciated them for their openmindedness, thanking them then and there.

“They were relieved by their son's understanding and patience with their ignorance. Also flabbergasted, gobsmacked and discombobulated (all sadly underused words!) by the entire experience.”

PEOPLE VERSUS WINTER

During four winters in Maine, I personally experienced several of these person-versus-winter mishaps. You may have done so too.

In the six years since it was posted to YouTube, the video has racked up more than 11 million views.

A PENGUIN'S LEAP OF FAITH

She (he?) is brave, resourceful and cute.

* * *

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” at the top 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.


THE ALEX AND RONNI SHOW AND JEOPARDY!

It's that time of the month again – The Alex and Ronni Show wherein the proprietor of Time Goes By and her former husband chitchat about old folks stuff.

One of the subjects that came up on Wednesday when we recorded this episode was the TV game show, Jeopardy!

Most Americans, I think, have watched the venerable program, hosted by Alex Trebek, at least now and then. I certainly have but it had been a long time since I had tuned in. Years, in fact, until last week.

The show brought back the three highest-earning winners to compete with one another for a GOAT show – the Greatest Of All Time game. I watched. It was fun and, if you're not a fan or didn't watch, Ken Jennings won.

Over the evenings of the tournament, as the well-known theme song played, a coziness settled over me. Through the shows, which were twice as long as the regular one, I felt comfort in the familiar format and in the formality of it.

The rules, which are sensible, are absolute and no one breaks them, arguments do not happen, the judges are meticulous and no one lies.

When was the last time that was true in U.S. politics? Or even in the daily news? It's hard to recall.

So it struck me that Jeopardy! is like a little island of sanity in a world of horrible chaos, of daily outrages that don't have time to run their course until the next one – or two or three – land in our laps.

Maybe I'll become a regular viewer of the show for awhile just to help maintain my sanity in an insane world.

There. Now you can fast forward through that part of The Alex and Ronni Show which is near the top of the video.

You can find Alex's show – Alex Bennett's Ramble – on Facebook and Apple Podcasts.


THINKING OUT LOUD: Memory Lapses and Unsuccessful Aging

Three times in an hour-long conversation with a friend this morning, I had reason to say, “Never mind, I lost the thought.” In my case when that happens, the thought is gone forever.

Most TGB readers are old enough to know the problem of forgetting the name of a place, person or thing (these lapses are almost always nouns). It has an infamous twin - walking into the bedroom and forgetting why you're there.

This is an old-age phenomenon, short-term memory being too short to be useful. But Daniel J. Levitin, a 62-year-old neuroscientist says we are wrong.

”This is widely understood to be a classic problem of aging,” he wrote in an opinion piece in The New York Times. “But as a neuroscientist, I know that the problem is not necessarily age-related.”

(Or maybe it is; note how he hedges his statement with “necessarily.”)

He goes on to explain that “short-term memory is easily disturbed or disrupted.”

”It depends on your actively paying attention to the items that are in the 'next thing to do' file in your mind. You do this by thinking about them, perhaps repeating them over and over again...

“But any distraction — a new thought, someone asking you a question, the telephone ringing — can disrupt short-term memory. Our ability to automatically restore the contents of the short-term memory declines slightly with every decade after 30.”

Dr. Levitin tells us that his 20-year-old students make “loads” of short-term memory mistakes.

”They walk into the wrong classroom; they show up to exams without the requisite No. 2 pencil; they forget something I just said two minutes before. These are similar to the kinds of things 70-year-olds do.”

The difference between to the two age groups, he says, is how they each describe the events:

”Twenty-year-olds don’t think, 'Oh dear, this must be early-onset Alzheimer’s.' They think, 'I’ve got a lot on my plate right now' or 'I really need to get more than four hours of sleep.'”

Cognition does slow down with age, says Dr. Levitin, but given a little more time, elders' memory works fine. As others before him have explained, part of the slowing down problem is old people have so much more information stored in their brains that it takes longer to sort through it all.

But there's good news too.

”Some aspects of memory actually get better as we age. For instance, our ability to extract patterns, regularities and to make accurate predictions improves over time because we’ve had more experience.

“(This is why computers need to be shown tens of thousands of pictures of traffic lights or cats in order to be able to recognize them). If you’re going to get an X-ray, you want a 70-year-old radiologist reading it, not a 30-year-old one.”

Dr. Levitin says elders more easily recall events from long ago because they were new when they happened and make strong impressions.

Although little of Dr. Levitin's memory discussion is new to me, I was enjoying reading his piece until I came upon the last paragraph:

”...experiencing new things is the best way to keep the mind young, pliable and growing — into our 80s, 90s and beyond.”

What a bunch of - oh, never mind. I have new experiences every day. Everyone does even if it's as simple as reading something new. That's not going to make anyone's mind young. Instead, it just reinforces the ageist belief that age is inferior to youth.

And anyway, new experiences don't help me remember why I walked into the bedroom.

The Times' article notes that Dr. Levitin's article is adapted it from his book, Successful Aging: A Neuroscientist Explores the Power and Potential of Our Lives.

I was just about to type out a snarky response to that title, but I think most TGB readers will think what I do when see that sorry phrase: please do tell us, then, what is UNsuccessful aging.


A TGB READER STORY: Off to Buy Vitamins

By Deborah Cavel-Greant who blogs at Simple Not Easy

I'm on Facebook, it's how I keep up with my friends and family members. But the "targeted" ads I am served are a hoot and some days are more entertaining than the FB posts.

My favourite is the one about a 50-year-old woman whose dermatologist hates her for her age-defying beauty secret which makes her look 25 (and which she is willing to sell me).

I’m not interested because if I looked 25 people would expect me to act 25 and if there's one thing I love about being old it's that you don't have to apologize for being slow anymore.

Another frequent ad thrown at me is from a dating service that laments the fact that their "senior men" can't find "faithful senior women like you Deborah".

Since I’ve been married to the same old fella for almost 55 years, if I answered that ad I'd not be the "faithful" woman they're looking for would I? Besides their "senior men" (hunky bare-chested models dressed as policemen and firemen and doctors) - are all about 35! My sons are older!

Still hoping they have a merry and potentially wealthy widow on their hands (I gave Facebook NO information other than my name, age and hometown I left at age 11), they offer to move me into a high-end retirement home, then try to entice me to join a single-seniors-only cruise. I sense frustration as they try to find something, anything that I might buy.

An interior designer will come to my home and make sure it doesn't have that "granny vibe" we all fear. Sadly, I do not care for their recommended $12,000 sofa that looks like three metal ironing boards welded together into an isosceles triangle and covered with shiny fuchsia-coloured Naugahyde.

They are flummoxed. Abandoning the hope that I am a high-rolling, world-cruising-cougar, they test the theory that I am a crippled-up, penny-pinching old party pooper and offer to sell me the secret of how to get $35,000 of free money from the government because I am infirm.

When I don't even want to know how to get $35,000 of free-for-the-taking-money, desperation sets in.

It's well known if you are over 65, you are either decrepit or an elderly Olympian so they abandon all semblance of targeting and simply go with alternating stereotypes. They begin rotating advertisements for medical aids with those for hair-raising experiences.

Do I need a new electric wheelchair? No? Do I want to go sky-diving? No? How about standing out in the geezer crowd with a hand-carved cane from Borneo? No?

Surely I'd enjoy a life-changing (I read this as "life-ending") sledding adventure down the North Face of the Matterhorn? NO? Perhaps I need a medical lift or a potty chair to sit beside my bed? NO?

An all-inclusive travel package to Mozambique to run in a marathon? NO???

When I don't pitch my credit card at the screen, I visualize them hunched over their keyboards with knit brows, shuffling ads like a deck of solitaire cards. One, gnawing his thumb knuckle, says tensely, "Pull back a little, offer her (long pause) square-dancing lessons."

They watch with nervous expectation as the ad comes and goes, all Madison Avenue ad agency sweat under the armpits as FB stock ticks lower by the second. A vein in a temple pulses visibly. One swears, and spits out, “The old dame is holding out. She's still not buying ANYTHING!”

In rapid succession they promise to hide my varicose veins, cure my diabetes, lift my sagging bosom, reduce my dewlap and “turkey-neck”, ease my painful gout. This gives me pause. I don’t have any of these problems; perhaps Facebook has a "Coming Afflictions" application I have inadvertently signed up for? Should I worry about this?

But I crumbled when I got a message from my cousin Mack this morning. Facebook has apparently developed an app that does what no other web application has ever done before; transcended that final curtain which we have never peered beyond.

My dearly loved cousin Mack passed away last December. However, I got a message on Facebook from him today recommending a well-known brand of senior's vitamins.

They finally have me. I'm off to buy some. If those vitamins can make Mack feel well enough to post to FB from where he's gone, they might finally make a square-dancer out of me.

* * *

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


Crabby Old Lady Throws a Grammar Fit

With increasing frequency, Crabby Old Lady finds herself in despair over the trajectory of the world on both the macro and micro levels.

For example, in terms of macro, the Australia fires are only the latest harbinger of even more horrific climate disasters to come. In the micro world, it is the word “they.”

As December comes to a close, quite a few organizations issue a “word of the year” and they rarely come up with the same one. This year, the Merriam Webster dictionary's choice got the most attention for “they”, and its derivatives “them” and “their”, with a new and additional definition as single pronouns.

According to those who advocate for the new usage, the point is to avoid the gender pronouns “he”, “she”, “him” and “her” so that people who do not identify themselves as male or female will not be forced to choose words that do not describe them.

Crabby's brief survey of responses to this new definition of they, them, their reveals that a variety of professional wordsmiths overwhelming applaud the change. Apparently they believe that a sentence like this one - “Crabby Old Lady and their friend Chris often have lunch at their favorite sushi place” - makes sense.

Molly Woodstock, who is host of a podcast titled Gender Reveal, spoke with NPR about the new usage:

”It makes a lot of sense to me because I think that they as a singular pronoun, as a pronoun for certain nonbinary folks is increasingly moving from only being talked about in queer and trans circles to the mainstream public consciousness.”

Benjamin Dreyer is vice president, executive managing editor and copy chief of Random House, and the author of Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style. Writing in the Washington Post, he too embraces the new usage because, he says, it is the right thing.

Jane Noll, an instructor and coordinator of undergraduate affairs in the University of South Florida Department of Psychology, told WRLN Radio,

“'We have to remember, for many of us, it's been difficult all along to use ‘he’ or ‘she,’ she said. 'To be respectful of people who don't identify as he or as she, I think we need to put forth the effort and it is going to be an effort for some people.'”

Respect doesn't appear to be an issue for another advocate, Merriam-Webster editor-at-large, Peter Sokolowski, who has no trouble sneaking in a dig at old people:

“Many Americans,” he told The New York Times, “especially older ones, stumble over the use of 'they' as a singular pronoun. For those who haven’t kept up, their complaint is” that “they” as a singular pronoun is ungrammatical.”

You betcha it is, Mr. Sokolowski, and grammar is essential to clear communication. Can you, dear reader, translate this short bio from The New York Times?

”Farhad Manjoo became a Times Opinion columnist in 2018.

“Before that, they wrote The Times’ State of the Art column, covering the technology industry’s efforts to swallow up the world. They have also written for Slate, Salon, Fast Company and The Wall Street Journal.

To their chagrin, their 2008 book, True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact World, accurately predicted our modern age of tech-abetted echo chambers and 'alternative facts.'

“Farhad Manjoo was born in South Africa and emigrated with their family to Southern California in the late 1980s. They live in Northern California with their wife and two children.”

(For the record, Manjoo's Wikipedia entry notes that, “A cisgender (look it up) man, Manjoo prefers to be referred to with singular they pronouns.”)

Crabby Old Lady is still cross-eyed trying to translate that bio from from its mangled English. Not that she can't do it, but untangling those pronoun references just about halves reading speed.

English is one of the richest languages on Earth. We add new words all the time. Others fall out of use and some change meaning. That's all to the good.

At its best, language clarifies and makes it possible, when used well, for us to understand both one another and complex ideas. At its worst, as with the current American president and his sycophants who lie with abandon, it sows confusion, divides people and nations, and can bring us to the brink of war.

Does an additional meaning of they, them, their matter in such a world? Maybe not but instead of unifying people, in this case it divides them. If you think that's overstating it, read this piece from a conservative columnist who agrees with Crabby Old Lady but for very different reasons.

It would be useful to have a word for non-gender people. But it would be better to have one that doesn't poach a perfectly good word that does the heavy lifting in between more glamorous ones.

“They” is right up there in the top 20 most common English words like the, of, to, and, a, in, it, etc. Surely it couldn't be hard to invent a new word for non-gender people.


ELDER MUSIC: Ricky Nelson

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.

* * *

Ricky Nelson

RICKY NELSON had many advantages that most of the other first generation of rock and roll singers (and later ones as well) didn’t have. First off, he was good looking. Okay, quite a few of the others were as well.

He had a father in the business who knew the ropes, so Ricky wasn’t screwed over by record companies and managers as virtually all the others were, so he managed to keep his hard earned money.

He was on television every week so he kept his name and face prominent for many years, and he had the best lead guitarist around at the time – James Burton. He also had considerable singing talent and he wrote quite a few songs, something only a few of the others did.

Ricky was also a favorite of mine, so he’s the featured artist in the column today. It might be a bit boring if you’re not a hard core Ricky fan. Most of the songs are from early in his career.

I’ll kick off with It's Late. This was written by Dorsey Burnette. The song did pretty well for him all over the world. Okay, you can say that about most of the songs I’ve included today.

♫ It's Late


Ricky

Keeping the songwriting in the family, the next one, Just a Little Too Much, was written by Johnny Burnette, Dorsey’s brother. They both had decent performing careers of their own, together in the Rock & Roll Trio, and separately under their own names.

♫ Just a Little Too Much


Ricky

Probably the best known of Ricky’s songs is Hello Mary Lou. This was the B-side of a 45 that had Travelin’ Man on the obverse. It was a double sided smash. The record has some particularly fine guitar playing by James Burton.

♫ Hello Mary Lou


Ricky

One of my earliest purchases (or gifts) was the single Never Be Anyone Else But You. It was about the time I left my small country town for the big smoke and I was leaving my girl friend behind. Oh well, we both got over that.

♫ Never Be Anyone Else But You


Ricky

Be-Bop Baby was written by Pearl Lendhurst for Ricky. Ricky’s output to this time was mostly ballads, so he wanted to show that he could rock as well. The guitar player wasn’t James, but Joe Maphis, which was unusual for his records at the time.

♫ Be-Bop Baby


Sharon Sheeley wrote the song Poor Little Fool when she was only 15. She managed to get Ricky to listen to it and record the song and it became a number one hit for him.

Sharon went on to have a career in songwriting for such people as Glen Campbell, Brenda Lee and most especially Eddie Cochrane, to whom she was engaged until his death in a car accident.

♫ Poor Little Fool


Ricky

Although the next song references the film Rio Bravo, it didn’t actually appear in it. Ricky did though, as one of the main characters named Colorado, also mentioned in the song.

He and Dean Martin sang a couple of songs in the film though. The tune I’m talking about is called Restless Kid. It sounds like a Johnny Cash song, and it’ll come as no surprise that he wrote it.

♫ Restless Kid


Ricky

In 1971, Ricky performed at a rock & roll revival concert with Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and others. As he recounts in his song, he sang his hits but also performed new music which upset the audience who didn’t want to see their favorites evolve.

One reference in his song about the concert that evaded me until recently is “Mr Hughes”. He was a neighbor and good friend of Ricky’s: George Harrison. The song is Garden Party.

♫ Garden Party


Ricky

A single I had as a kid is Ricky’s cover of the Hank Williams song, I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love With You). I didn’t buy it for the song, it was the flip side of the one I wanted – I think that was Just a Little Too Much, but I could be wrong.

It was also on the album “Ricky Sings Again”, which I also later had. It’s one of my favorite Hank songs, and I think that Ricky does it really well. He has the Jordanires helping him with the singing.

♫ I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love With You)


Ricky

On a visit to Australia he heard Mike McClellan sing his song, Rock and Roll Lady. Ricky was so impressed that he recorded it as soon as he returned home. Alas, that was shortly before he died so it didn’t get the exposure that it deserved.

Ricky’s version is really good, but Mike really nails it. You should seek it out (that’s easily done; it’s on one of my previous columns).

♫ Rock And Roll Lady


INTERESTING STUFF – 11 January 2020

A 1974 COMPUTER PREDICTION

Forty-five years ago, science fiction writer, Arthur C. Clarke, made “the bold claim that one day computers would allow people to work from home and access their banking records.”

Take a look at this 1974 news story about that.

DON'T CALL OUR COUNTRY HOLLAND ANYMORE

The Netherlands began the new decade by announcing that the country be called The Netherlands, not Holland:

”The Netherlands actually consists of 12 provinces, two of which combined make up Holland, so referring to the Netherlands as a whole as Holland is just wrong,” reports Business Insider.

“The rebrand hopes to manage Amsterdam's over-tourism, which has already been addressed by the country in the form of a ban on guided tours of the Red-Light District, as well as the removal of the famous 'I amsterdam' sign.”

Read more at Business Insider and at Mental Floss.

HOW WOLVES CHANGE RIVERS

As the Vimeo page explains,

”When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the United States after being absent nearly 70 years, the most remarkable 'trophic cascade' occurred.

“What is a trophic cascade and how exactly do wolves change rivers? George Monbiot explains in this movie remix.”

NOTORIOUS RBG SAYS SHE IS CANCER FREE

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg announced last week that after treatment for a recurrence of pancreatic cancer, she is now cancer free:

”The 86-year-old justice, one of the oldest to serve on the Supreme Court, offered the health update to CNN in an interview in her chambers Tuesday evening.

“'I’m cancer free. That’s good,' Ginsburg said, with CNN reporting that she was 'sounding energized and speaking animatedly.'

"Ginsburg’s intensive radiation treatment for a malignant tumor on her pancreas in August had followed a diagnosis of lung cancer at the end of 2018 that resulted in the removal of part of her left lung and forced her to miss oral arguments for the first time in 25 years on the bench.”

You can read more at the Washington Post.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A NERD AND A GEEK

According to the YouTube page,

”Don McMillan is an engineer and a comedian so he has the brains to utilize fancy charts and graphs to make his point. He makes some good points about the everyday technology that we use like printer ink and usb devices.”

And I laughed out loud. You probably will too.

There is more comedy from Don McMillan at his YouTube page.

THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM IS 150 YEARS OLD

2020 marks 150 years since the Metropolitan Museum in New York City opened its doors. Not to take anything away from other marvelous museums, The Met was one of my most favorite places in the city over the 40 years I lived there.

The Youtube page tells us that the anniversary will be celebrated

”...throughout 2020 with exhibitions, events, and new ways to connect with art. Highlights include Making The Met, 1870–2020, the reimagined British Galleries, and a three-day celebration in June.”

Here are three people – a Museum employee, fashion guru Tim Gunn and a ballet dancer – on what The Met means to each of them:

The Met's website is one of the best on the web. You'll find it here.

UPS DOGS

I love this story – about social media pages where UPS drivers throughout the world post photographs of the dogs (and some other animals) they meet on their delivery rounds.

In Olympia, Washington:

UPSdogsOlympia

In Louisville, Kentucky:

UPSLouisville

In Ottawa, Canada:

UPSOttawaCanada

There are many more photos at Bored Panda and, of course, at Facebook and Instagram.

DAVID ZINN – CHALK ARTIST

David Zinn (not to be confused with the costume and set designer of the same name), has been delighting people in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for many years.

The are quite a few good chalk artists on the internet, those clever folks who make it look like you're about to fall into a chasm if you take one more step forward on the sidewalk.

Zinn can do that too, but his work usually involves funny little characters and a sense of whimsy I haven't see before. Take a look:

Lordy, it must be fun to walk around Ann Arbor.

There are many examples of his work online – video and still photos: Try this YouTube link or his Zinnart website, Facebook or Instagram. Or just google his name.

Thank TGB reader Joan McMullen for this.

THE SQUIRREL SNOW REMOVAL SERVICE

Now if only a squad of them could be trained to do the driveway.

* * *

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” at the top 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.


How Old Age Shrunk My Life and Why That is a Good Thing

On Monday's post, long-time TGB reader Salinda Dahl made reference to one particular way her life has changed:

”My life, though so much 'smaller' than in the past...I stand smiling, befuddled, feeling somehow less-than. But when my secret life is in sway, oh the inexplicable wonder and beauty, and sometimes terror! Big, very big.”

(I'm inviting her to expand on that thought in the comments below today.)

Although I'm not certain, I think I know some of what Salinda means. My life has become smaller for reasons that can all be filed under one header, “You Got Old.”

Even before the cancer diagnosis in 2017, I had begun slowing down my life. It's not that I made a decision to change my activity level exaxtly; mostly I just followed inclinations as they appeared.

Fewer social evenings out. Internet purchases and delivery instead of shopping trips. And I generally gave up entertaining at home and on holidays because my energy and stamina began going south in relation to my intentions.

I had some earlier practice at cutting back social life after I took a job that involved a four-hour, round-trip commute which. If you've never done that, you might not realize that although you can get a lot of reading done, it is all about work and sleep during the week and chores catch-up all weekend.

There is no time for much else when you lose 20 waking hours from a week.

During my three years at that job, I think I became accustomed to having a smaller social life and some friends disappeared when I so regularly declined invitations because there was simply no time for a social life beyond a quick coffee date, for example, among weekend chores.

But that's not an excuse anymore. All kinds of things change as old age settles upon us. Certainly less energy in general leaves me tired but there are other reasons too.

Sleep overtakes me much earlier now. It's hard for me to follow a conversation let alone participate after 6PM. My brain seems to stop parsing language by then. Mostly, nowadays, I see friends for lunch.

For some reason too (I think we've touched on this one previously in these pages), more than one trip out of the house per day is all I can handle. If I've done the grocery shopping, stopped at the pharmacy and driven to the cannabis dispensary, I'm done for the day.

Sometimes I'm stuck doing all those things in addition to rehab or seeing a doctor. On those days, there is not a chance of budging me from home once I get back there.

Another important contribution to a smaller life: Old age is greedy – it wants all the time it can steal from you and even more if you plug in a disease or ailment.

Our bodies are wearing out as we reach late life and force us to slow down almost everything we do. Household chores I once did for myself require a handyman or specialist – more time gone. For decades, I cleaned the house on Saturday morning. The goal was to finish by noon and most of the time I did. Now? It's a joke. I do a little every day but I don't finish everything every week anymore.

More doctor visits. Weekly pill counting into little boxes. If you don't live in a big city and give up driving, trade in that half-hour trip to the dentist for 60 or 90 minutes each way on public transportation.

COPD has cut my normal walking speed at least in half. Something in my condition or perhaps a medication has weakened my hands so I cannot carry as much weight – e.g. groceries – as I did not long ago. More time gone. And so on.

There is no telling how many books I haven't read, movies I haven't seen and blog posts that are not written because life's boring maintenance, which I hardly noticed for 70 years, takes so damned much time now.

I feel the walls of my life closing in, making the room - life itself – smaller.

But here's the great surprise: For all this shrinkage, my life doesn't feel small. It feels huge, much larger than all those years I worked in a glamorous media business, traveled the world and was always on the go when I was home.

Let it be said that I'm no stranger to lots of time alone. I've always needed more of that than many people but now my inner life is so much richer, filled with new curiosity, understanding and insight to life and to myself almost daily discovering my truths, if not universal ones.

Maybe that's the purpose of old age, to slow us down just so we can have the time to savor and delight in the realizations that become available to us now if we pay attention. To quote Salinda again,

”Oh the inexplicable wonder and beauty, and sometimes terror! Big, very big.”

What a splendid thing to have happen when all the rest of the world believes old age is a bummer. This has become the best time of my life – just as I believed every earlier time was the best when I was living them.


2020 Blog Housekeeping

On the first day of this new year, I was poking around the internet while making some notes about potential future blog posts when I landed on a column from one of my favorite New York Times columnists, Farhad Manjoo. It was right on point with one of the stories I was doodling around with.

”I enter the new decade with a feeling of overwhelming dread,” wrote Manjoo. “There’s a good chance the internet will help break the world this year, and I’m not confident we have the tools to stop it.”

He enumerated some of the many things that can make the internet a horror and offered some suggestions about how we – ordinary users - can avoid a personal run-in with them. I'll get back to that in a moment but first:

I've been doing this blog for nearly 16 years. You, dear readers who comment, make it a joy. But every six months or so it becomes necessary for me to repeat some of the rules of the road. It's a short list and then you'll see why I've dragged Mr. Manjoo in to this.

PERSONAL MESSAGES
At the top of every page just under the banner are four links of which one is Contact. That is how you can send a private message directly to me that is not a comment on the topic of the day.

This is useful if you have suggestions for blog posts or have items that might be good for Saturday's Interesting Stuff post, etc.

Through the years, I have tried to answer all those messages but the number has increased in recent years at the same time that living with cancer and COPD have cut my energy and increased the maintenance time they require leaving me with fewer useful hours in a day.

So sometimes I just run out of steam and can't sit at the keyboard for one more moment in a day. I usually leave the unanswered email in my inbox thinking I will get to it tomorrow. Yeah, right.

So when the inbox items number more than a thousand (including many messages unrelated to TGB) and I can't stand seeing them all anymore, I just hit delete. I'm sorry about that but it happens.

HOW TO COMMENT FROM THE EMAIL TGB
If you receive this blog via email, you cannot comment by clicking “reply.” That just sends your comment to me, personally. It arrives by email in my inbox.

To comment, you must go to the blog online. You do that by clicking the title of the story (in the email you received) that you want to comment on. Then scroll to the bottom of the story online, click the word “comments” and a new page will open where you can write your comment.

Hitting the reply button to comment suggests that perhaps some people don't know there are comments. If that is you, you are often missing the best part of this blog: what readers have to say.

FACEBOOK
Some of you follow TGB on Facebook. Some of you leave comments on Facebook. Some of you send me notes, links and such on Facebook.

The thing is, I don't use Facebook, I never look at it except to be sure the day's blog post is there for readers who use the service. I accept “friend” invitations only to clean up the page. That's all I do there. I do not read anything on Facebook.

If you read TGB on Facebook and leave comments there, know that the number of readers at the website vastly out-numbers Facebook readers and is much more of a community where commenters relate to one another.

Plus, for a variety of reasons, I am considering closing the Facebook page. I haven't decided yet and I'm slow at that sort of thing, but it may happen relatively soon.

NO LINKS
You are not allowed to include links in your comments. I delete all of them. Reason: people who do not read this blog leave comments that are meant to sound flattering about the blog but exist only to leave a link to their commercial website. It's just advertising.

I don't have time (nor inclination) to check each and every link so I delete them all. Occasionally, if I recognize a name on the comment, I will remove only the link. But it's time consuming and I don't always feel generous so I delete the whole comment for sanity's sake.

If you want to direct people to somewhere else online (not a personal, commercial or retail website), just tell us within your comment what to google to find it. (You can link to your own blog by including the URL in the footer of a comment where there is a line for it.)

See, that wasn't too bad – just four items. Here is the nut of what Farhad Manjoo has to say about avoiding the dystopia that large swaths of the internet have become.

”It can sometimes seem as if all the internet is deep fakes and culture wars, Trump tweets and influencer scams. It’s not, of course,” he writes.

“The internet still abounds in lovely, wholesome niches — the fantasy sports circles, the YouTube and Instagram communities devoted to any kind of craft, the many subreddits where strangers come together to help one another out of real problems in life.

What distinguishes the productive online communities from the disturbing ones? Often it’s something simple: content moderation. The best places online are bounded by clear, well-enforced community guidelines for participation.

“Twitter and Facebook are toxic because there are few rules and few penalties for flouting them. A Reddit community like r/relationships, meanwhile, is a haven of incredible, empathetic discussion because its hosts spend a lot of effort policing the discussion toward productive dialogue.”

Thank you, Mr. Manjoo. I've been saying that for almost 16 years. It works.

You can read Farhad Manjoo's entire story at The New York Times.