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Following my 12-hour surgery last year, I was plagued with what I learned is popularly called “anesthesia brain,” a relative of “chemo brain.”

Among the symptoms are

Confusion
Difficulty concentrating
Difficulty finding the right word
Difficulty multitasking
Being disorganized
Feeling of mental fogginess
Short attention span

Inability to concentrate, mental fogginess and shortened attention span were my biggest difficulties. For a few weeks, it affected my ability to carry on conversations, to read and even to follow a movie or TV plot.

I had no trouble knowing the meaning of each word, but there was a lag time of a second or two in putting together the meaning of an entire sentence – just enough for me to notice (and be irritated by) the slowdown of my brain. I learned to take notes when doctors were speaking with me so not to lose important information.

Nurses in the hospital assured me this was a temporary consequence of long anesthesia and that it would dissipate over time.

Fortunately it did, but the experience of the temporary diminished cognition got me wondering how anesthesia brain compares to the brain changes that can accompany old age. The U.S. National Institute on Aging (NIA) tell us that among common changes to thinking in old age are

Increased difficulty finding words and recalling names
More problems with multi-tasking
Mild decreases in the ability to pay attention

Sounds a lot like anesthesia brain to me. In fact, however, I couldn't multi-task well when I was 20 or 30, and recalling words and names? Don't even ask. But the NIA also tells us that elders have more knowledge and inisight due to a lifetime of experience and contrary to all-too-common myth, can still

Learn new things
Create new memories
Improve vocabulary and language skills

A frustrating thing about looking into brain and cognition science is that researchers, as hard at work as they are, don't know much. Almost every statement includes such weasel words as: it may be, the results suggest, could be associated with, is far from clear, etc.

In a story from last year, Medical News Today (MNT) tell us that

”As we age, all our body systems gradually decline - including the brain. 'Slips of the mind' are associated with getting older. People often experienced those same slight memory lapses in their 20s and yet did not give it a second thought.

“Older individuals often become anxious about memory slips due to the link between impaired memory and Alzheimer's disease. However, Alzheimer's and other dementias are not a part of the normal aging process.”

Here is some of what is known about normal physical changes to the brain as we grow old – again from MNT:

Brain mass: Shrinkage in the frontal lobe and hippocampus - areas involved in higher cognitive function and encoding new memories - starting around the age of 60 or 70 years.

Cortical density: Thinning of the outer-ridged surface of the brain due to declining synaptic connections. Fewer connections may contribute to slower cognitive processing.

White matter: White matter consists of myelinated nerve fibers that are bundled into tracts and carry nerve signals between brains cells. Myelin is thought to shrink with age, and as a result, slow processing and reduce cognitive function.

Neurotransmitter systems: Researchers suggest that the brain generates less (sic) chemical messengers with aging, and it is this decrease in dopamine, acetylcholine, serotonin, and norepinephrine activity that may play a role in declining cognition and memory and increased depression.

(Did you notice all the weasel words: may, is thought to, suggests, etc.? It can't be helped with science's current level of understanding.)

Nevertheless, eventual results from such studies will help researchers discover what therapies and strategies can help slow or prevent brain decline. Meanwhile, you probably know the current prescription to help preserve cognitive ability:

Regular physical activity
Be socially active
Manage stress
Eat healthy foods
Get enough sleep
Pursue intellectually stimulating activities

In regard to the last item, sales of so-called brain games bring in millions if not billions of dollars a year to their purveyors who promise their products will improve or, at least maintain memory and brain function. Studies are showing otherwise.

A year ago, Psychology Today reported on a study from The Journal of Neuroscience:

”The results were disappointing. There was no effect on brain activity, no effect on cognitive performance, and no effect on decision-making.

“The participants who trained with Lumosity did improve on the cognitive assessment, but so did the control group and so did a group who played no games whatsoever.

“In other words, it wasn’t the game that was having an effect. Kable attributes the gains to the fact that everyone had taken the test once before.

Research into ageing brains is not far enough along for us to have much understanding of who may be afflicted with declining function and who not.

Meanwhile, I'm sticking with those suggestions for maintaining a healthy brain because it is well known that they also contribute to good health overall.


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This 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.

* * *

In the past I have written of several of the more famous classical families – J.S. Bach and his sons plus their extended family, Mozart's father and son, the brothers Joseph and Michael Haydn and some others.

What I have today are some families who aren't as well known as those. Quite a few of them, the majority really, are Czech composers.

I'll start with the Stamitz family. JOHANN STAMITZ was a major composer in the period between the baroque and classical periods. He’s the first of our Czech composers, born Jan Stamic.

Johann was the link between J.S. Bach and Mozart, and was contemporaneous with CPE Bach, the most famous son of the master - although he didn't live anywhere near as long CPE, but longer than Mozart, dying at age 39.

Jo was important in the development of the symphony. He created the four movement structure that is (mostly) the standard to this day. He also expanded the role of wind instruments.

Having said all that, I’m going to play the first movement of his Orchestral Trio in C minor, Op.4 No. 3.

♫ Johann Stamitz - Orchestral Trio in c minor Op.4 No. 3 (1)


Johann had two sons who became quite well known in their time as composers. He also had a daughter who didn’t go into the music biz. The elder, and better known, son was CARL STAMITZ.

Like his dad, Carl wrote a bunch of symphonies and concertos for various wind instruments. He travelled extensively but eventually tired of that and settled down in central Germany.

Alas, he fell on hard times and died in poverty. To hear what he can do with wind instruments, here is his Clarinet Quartet in A major Op14 No 6, the first movement.

♫ Carl Stamitz - Clarinet Quartet in A major op14 No6 (1)


Next son was ANTON STAMITZ.

Both brothers were taught violin by their dad, and that remained Ant’s main instrument. He went to Paris with his brother and he established himself there. Later, he played at Versailles. He spent the rest of his life in France, but little is known of what happened to him after the revolution.

He is thought to have died in 1809. Here is his Caprice No 1 in G.

♫ Anton Stamitz - Caprice No 1 in G


Next we have father and son Hertel, the father being JOHANN CHRISTIAN HERTEL. Alas, no picture of him.

JCH’s dad was also a musician, a capellmeister in a couple of places. JCH taught himself to play the violin and later took lessons in various keyboards and viola da gamba. Although he was quite a prolific composer, much of his work has been lost or wasn’t published at all.

Something of his we do know is Sinfonia No. 1, for 3 trumpets, timpani, 2 violins, viola and continuo in D minor. Here is the third movement.

♫ J.C. Hertel - Sinfonia No. 1 (3)


J.C.’s son was JOHANN WILHELM HERTEL.

JWH was a whiz on the harpsichord and often accompanied his dad when he toured. He was also pretty good on the violin, having learnt from Franz Benda (see below). In later life he mostly wrote music, and occasionally gave lessons.

One of his compositions is the Bassoon Concerto in E-flat major. This is the first movement. Bassoon players like him as there aren’t many works for the instrument.

♫ Johann Wilhelm Hertel - Bassoon Concerto in E-flat major (1)


The half-brothers Wranitzky came from Nová Říše in the Czech Republic. I'll stick with their more common spelling of their name and start with the elder, PAUL WRANITZKY (or Pavel Vranický).

He spent most of his life in Vienna where he became friendly with Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. Indeed, he was so respected by them that both Haydn and Beethoven often chose Paul to conduct their new works. He composed the usual operas, symphonies, string quartets and the like.

Also concertos, of course, including the Cello Concerto in C Major. Op. 27. This is the second movement.

♫ Paul Wranitzky - Cello Concerto in C Major. Op. 27 (2)


ANTON WRANITZKY (or Antonín Vranický) was Paul’s younger brother.

Ant was a highly regarded violinist and initially he’d travel between Prague and Vienna (and towns along the way). At the urging of Paul he finally settled in Vienna where he got to know the musical bigwigs as well.

His compositions were well thought of at the time and are still played today. His two daughters and two sons all became performers. This is the first movement of the String Sextet in G major.

♫ Anton Wranitzky - String Sextet in G major (1)


We have yet another Czech family, this time it’s the Benda crew, starting with FRANZ BENDA (or František Benda).

Franz was considered the top violin player of his time and he wrote a number of books on the subject (as well as other books). He also spent some time as a composer for Frederick the Great, which means that he wrote a bunch of music for the flute as old Fred had a penchant for the instument. One of those is the Flute Concerto in E Minor, the first movement.

♫ Franz Benda - Flute Concerto in E Minor (1)


Franz’s younger brother was GEORG ANTON BENDA (or Jiří Antonín Benda).

Like his big brother he played in Fred’s band, in his case as a violinist. He later skipped around Germany and Austria performing and composing. One of the things he wrote was the Symphony No. 3 in C Major. This is the first movement.

To continue the family tradition, it is played by the Prague Symphony Orchestra conducted by Christian Benda, a direct descendant of Franz.

♫ Georg Benda - Symphony No. 3 in C Major (1)


Franz had a daughter who followed her dad into the composing trade. Her name was JULIANE REICHARDT.

Juliane was living with the family in Potsdam where dad was playing in Fred’s band. Also playing was Johann Reichardt whom she married. Juliane was an excellent singer, pianist and composer.

One of her compositions is the Sonata in G major, the second movement. It’s played on a fortepiano, the forerunner of the modern piano.

♫ Juliane Reichardt - Sonata in G major (2)


The Reichardts had two kids, the second of whom was LOUISE REICHARDT (or Luise, both spellings seem to be in common use).

Louise wrote songs and choral music. She was also a conductor of her works but not in public as the powers that be didn’t allow that sort of thing. She tried to marry twice but both times the husband-to-be died shortly before the wedding. Hmm.

One of Louise’s vocal works is Unruhiger Schlaf. It is sung by soprano Susan Owen-Leinert.

♫ Louise Reichardt - Sonata in G major (2)


The Benda line continues to the present day. In the Czech Republic, Christian Benda is a conductor and his brother Georg Benda a classical pianist. They are descended from the original Franz Benda.


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WHY THE TOWER OF PISA DOESN'T FALL OVER

And why it leans in the first place:

Why does the leaning tower of Pisa lean? | Sci Guide with Jheni Osman | Head Squeeze - YouTube

More at the Washington Post.

YOUR BRAIN ON READING

On Monday in these pages, Crabby Old Lady complained about video/audio only news stories and explained (along with many commenters) why she prefers reading. Then, a few days ago, she ran across this story at Medium.

”Your brain on books,” explains writer Thomas Oppong, “is active — growing, changing and making new connections and different patterns, depending on the type of material you’re reading.”

He goes on to explain that reading heightens brain connectivity, enhances the ability to reason, improves emotional intelligence and concentration. In addition,

”Reading involves several brain functions, including visual and auditory processes, phonemic awareness, fluency, comprehension, and more.

“The same neurological regions of the brain are stimulated by reading about something as by experiencing it.

“According to the ongoing research at Haskins Laboratories for the Science of the Spoken and Written Word, reading, unlike watching or listening to media, gives the brain more time to stop, think, process, and imagine the narrative in from of us.

'Reading every day can slow down late-life cognitive decline and keeps the brains healthier.”

TGB readers probably don't need to be told to read but this is a good reminder anyway that audio- and video-only news reports fall short in maintaining brain health. Read more here.

WHY FLOWERS ARE NOT ALLOWED IN CONGRESS

Well, I can't say that I ever noticed or knew about the rule before watching this video but it's fun knowing this obscure little piece of political history.

HOW NOT TO BE AN INVISIBLE OLD WOMAN

TGB reader NWpup sent this video from Alice Bad titled Se Cree Joven (She Thinks She's Young):

Alice Bag - Se Cree Joven (with subtitles) - YouTube

HAS SCIENCE INVENTED A WAY TO PULL CARBON DIOXIDE OUT OF THE AIR

Scientists at Harvard together with a company called Carbon Engineering, which is funded by Bill Gates, say they have created a way to cheaply pull carbon out of the air and that it can be done to scale.

“'What we’ve done is build a [direct-air capture] process that is—as much as possible—built on existing processes and technologies that are widespread in the world, said David Keith, a professor of applied physics at Harvard and the lead author of the new study. 'That’s why we think we have a reasonable possibility of scaling up.'”

And,

“'The strongest part of this paper, in my opinion, is the fact that they’ve actually tested the technology in a prototype plant for a few years. That’s a big deal, and offers a proof of principle that’s way stronger than simple calculations or computational models,' says Scott Hersey, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at Olin College.”

Of course there is a lot more to know and a lot more development first. But it worth reading about at The Atlantic and at Technology Review.

JOHN OLIVER ON THE MUELLER INVESTIGATION

Among the many reasons to keep up with host John Oliver's weekly HBO program, Last Week Tonight are the clarity he brings to complex topics and his sense of moral outrage at the politics under which we live these days in the U.S.

On last week's show, he dismantled the right wing's “stupid Watergate” method of attacking the Mueller investigation.

Stupid Watergate II: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO) - YouTube

NEW WAY TO TREAT CAVITIES WITHOUT DRILLING?

Terrible teeth run in my family. Both my parents lost all of theirs by the time they were 40 and what left of mine are a few on my lower jaw. So this story is too late for me, but if it is real, if it becomes fact, what a boon for people like me and my family:

”Scientists have developed a new substance to treat dental cavities without making a costly and unpleasant trip to the dentist.

“Inspired by the proteins in our bodies which form teeth, the new product uses peptides—which are structurally similar to proteins—to repair the enamel on the part of the tooth which requires treatment...

“The researchers hope that the formulation could one day be sold in over-the-counter products such as toothpaste to prevent and treat tooth decay, or put into clinical products used by dentists.”

Some scientists are skeptical about the new research but after a lifetime of having spent tens of thousands of dollars on my teeth, a girl can hope even if it's too late for her.

Read more here.

KLM'S CANINE LOST-AND-FOUND WORKER

If I cared to check, I'm almost certain I've posted this video before but I want to believe it's real - it's so damned cute so here it is again. (Apologies to whoever sent it; I misplaced your name.)

KLM Lost & Found service - YouTube

Okay, I'm sure you already figured out the real story is that the video is a publicity stunt. You can read about it at the Washington Post.

* * *

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 IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.

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Pretty much all old people who live in places where public transporation is scarce resist the idea of giving up their car keys and dread reaching the day when it might become necessary. Who can blame us.

In recent years, families, physicians and caregivers are becoming more conscious of the need to help elders decide when it is time to stop driving, but what about firearms?

Do you own a gun or two or more? Does an elder you know or care for have access to guns? What about someone you know with dementia, even early dementia?

The size of the elder gun-owning population is larger than I had imagined. According to a Pew Social Trends survey, about 33 percent of people aged 65 and older in the U.S. owns a gun, and another 12 percent of that cohort lives with someone who does.

In addition, “A 1999 study estimated that 60% of persons with dementia (PWDs) live in a household with a firearm.” And, reports The New York Times,

”More than 8,200 older adults committed suicide in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among men, those over age 65 are the likeliest to take their lives, and three-quarters of them use a gun.”

Obviously the potential for tragedy involving elders with dementia who have access to guns is an important issue that hasn't been well addressed.

Last month, a group of physicians got together to publish an essay in Annals of Internal Medicine about this. In particular, they made a plea for the medical community and others to find a way to make life safer for people with dementia and their potential victims.

The doctors note that federal laws do not prohibit purchase or possession of firearms by people with dementia and only Hawaii and Texas mention those conditions in firearm statutes:

“Hawaii prohibits possession by any person under treatment for 'organic brain syndromes', which could include dementia or similar neurodegenerative conditions. In Texas, persons diagnosed with 'chronic dementia' are ineligible for a license to carry a handgun in public but may purchase and possess firearms.

“Many questions on firearm access in dementia remain unanswered,” wrote the doctors, “but the need to address the problem is here now.

“We believe that a concerted, cooperative effort making the best use of the data at hand can help prevent injuries and deaths while protecting the dignity and rights of older adults.”

There are plenty of anecdotes about near catastrophe involving guns and people with dementia. The authors note in the “Annals” essay that as dementia progresses, family members, health aides and other visitors can be at extreme risk. The Times article includes a story from Dr. Michael Victoroff, a family medicine specialist at the University of Colorado School of Medicine (and a certified firearms instructor):

”One of his patients, a retired police officer, had long slept with his service revolver by his bed. But as he neared age 80 and his dementia deepened, 'he would wake up at night and not recognize his wife, see her as a stranger in his house,' Dr. Victoroff said.

“Once Dr. Victoroff learned that the man had pointed the loaded .38 at his wife, the situation grew urgent. They turned to the man’s former partner on the police force, someone he trusted, to persuade him to give up his weapon.”

The essay doctors compare the firearms safety issue with that of driving and suggest that families should discuss giving up guns with relatives diagnosed with dementia. The best time to do that, they say, is when the person can still make decisions for him- or herself:

”Families might consider a so-called 'firearms retirement date,' when they will give up any guns in the home to avoid the potential for these weapons to be in the house when they’re no longer able to store them or use them safely, the paper’s authors suggest.

“Or, in much the same way that people may set up an advance directive giving a loved one the ability to make medical decisions on their behalf, older adults might designate someone they trust to have the authority to take away their guns when the time for this comes.”

Lead “Annals” author, Dr. Marian E. Betz, told Reuters, “'In later stages of dementia, behavioral issues like paranoia or aggression should raise concern, as should threats about suicide or threats towards others,' Betz said. 'Families and friends can then lock up or disable guns or move them out of the home, depending on what works for the family and according to state firearm transfer laws.'

“When guns do remain in the home, they should be locked so that the person with dementia doesn’t have unsupervised access to firearms, and they should be stored unloaded and separate from ammunition, the doctors also recommend.”

To me, never a gun user or owner, implementing these (and even stronger) safety recommendations for people with dementia seem as obvious as giving up driving licenses when the time comes. But according to The New York Times article, it is not as clearcut as I believe:

”Many gun enthusiasts argue that while driving is a privilege, the Constitution protects keeping and bearing arms. And they find firearms a crucial part of their identities and sense of security.

Here we go again – the same old Second Amendment argument, even for people with dementia. There has got to be a middle ground, don't you think?


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About a year and a half ago, Next Avenue published a story about how adult children and grandchildren these days don't want their parents' “stuff”. As Susan Devaney, president of NASMM [National Association of Senior Move Managers] told the writer:

“'Young couples starting out don’t want the same things people used to have. They’re not picking out formal china patterns anymore.'”

The executive director of the NASMM agrees:

“'[Millennials are] an Ikea and Target generation. They live minimally, much more so than the boomers. They don’t have the emotional connection to things that earlier generations did,' she notes. 'And they’re more mobile. So they don’t want a lot of heavy stuff dragging down a move across country for a new opportunity.'”

I've heard this from other sources. Times and cultural preferences change.

Probably because I don't have children and grandchildren, I'm not as concerned as some that relatives would reject my stuff and I have been working recently on cleaning out the detritus so that when the time comes, it will be easier for Autumn to close down my home.

Well, that's a bit of a lie. I've been thinking about ridding myself of the lifetime of stuff and haven't gotten around to actually doing it. That's just laziness but in all this thinking I have been surprised at how old so much of my stuff is.

When I was a kid, it was my job to polish the sterling silver every week. Oh, how I hated that boring job. Now, however, I've had that silver flatware since my mother died in 1992, saving it for dinner parties which are a rare occurrences these days.

(Funny how attitudes change when you grow up. I now recall those Saturday polishing sessions in the 1950s fondly.)

My mother began buying her silver in the late 1930s, piece by piece and when the family had a bit more money, place setting by place setting.

Those knives and forks and spoons I finally decided to use every day are nearly 90 years old and some pieces are pretty beat up but they connect me to my childhood and I like using them.

My set of china came from my great aunt and her sister, my grandmother, each of whom collected over decades one dish, one cup, one bowl, etc. at a time of the same 19th and early 20th century pattern while sharing extras to help one another complete their collections. I like using it every day.

Even my sofa has a long history. I bought it in 1983 at a Salvation Army resale shop (thank you, Joyce) for $250. It was already old then – an antique dealer friend told me it was at least 40 or 50 years old – but newly recovered, and I've never had a reason to get rid of it. I still like it.

Clothing too. I lost enough weight due to the surgery last year that a lot doesn't fit me now but is good enough for resale shops so I have emptied some of my closet (the only actual recycling I've done).

Even with that, I'm amazed at how old some of my clothing is – ten or so teeshirts, more than 20 years; two coats, 30-plus years; a few sweaters, at least 20 years

A good deal of my cooking equipment is ancient. In fact, I have the first pan I bought when I left home in 1958 – a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Several strainers and graters go back at least to the early 1970s and I noticed the other day that my best knives, still in good shape, date to 1977 or so, if I recall correctly but close enough.

rrr

Then there is my grandmother's hand-made quilt. I found it, never used, when my brother and I cleaned out her home after her death. She was born in 1892, and in those days girls in their teens made quilts for their trousseaux.

That makes it about 110 years old. It had been sitting on a shelf since Grandma Hazel died in 1984, and only in recent years did I pull it down to use on my bed in the warm months.

It's a remarkably modern design for its time, don't you think.

I'm impressed by the age of this stuff I have used for so long but by far, the oldest thing I own has no personal connection - it is a handle broken off a 2500-year-old amphora that an archaeologist at a dig I visited in Israel in 1999 (thank you, Sali) let me keep.

I like touching it regularly, holding it in my hand, placing my thumb in the indentation undoubtedly made by the thumb of the worker who crafted it.

To hold it awes me in the same way walking the old city of Jerusalem does: both strengthen my sense of belonging to the family of mankind - that people have walked those same streets, put their feet in the same places I put mine, for 5,000 years and we are all linked one to another through these many centuries.

Some people have no attachment to things, to stuff. As the above shows, that's not me. I like the memories that come with wearing old clothes, using those excellent knives I spent too much money on (and am glad I did) and even what I once thought of as that damned sterling silver.

When I was young, very young, the idea of living half a century was impossible to imagine – to me then, it might as well have been as long as Jerusalem has been there.

Now at age 77, I have no trouble knowing what living 50 years is like and more, I can see how certain pieces of my stuff, having been part of my daily life for decades, mean too much to my sense of myself and my life to get rid of any time soon.

(Sorry, Autumn, you'll have to figure out what to do with it when the time comes.)

Now, dear readers, it's your turn. How old is your stuff? What does it mean to you? Or maybe you're one who doesn't get attached to things. Let us know.


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Crabby Old Lady winds up in a snit these days every time she reads – or, rather, TRIES to read - online news.

Certainly she has her favorite news websites, but Crabby regularly visits a wide variety of other news sources too, several dozen in fact, and although she can't read every one every day, she's familiar with them all from her decades of use.

For several years now, however, a growing phenomenon is making it harder and harder for Crabby to find written news stories (you know, the kind with detail and explanation, the kind that make it easy to backtrack when she wants to re-read a sentence or paragraph) because more and more news websites are publishing all or some of their stories as video only without providing a transcript.

By their nature, video news stories are always more shallow and less informative than written ones because the medium does not lend itself to explanation and detail.

(Documentaries are a different animal. Their length allows producers to present a more thorough report than one-to-three minute news pieces can accomplish.)

Crabby doubts she is the only person who knows that it takes at least twice as long and sometimes more to watch a news video than to read a written one.

Further, she can't skip forward watching a video because she has no way to know if the information she wants is next. With words on paper or a screen, she can always skim the tiresome parts.

Video news can be useful when Crabby can listen while she has something mindless to do – wash the dishes, make the bed, etc. But it doesn't do much for understanding our complicated world; that requires the concentration that reading involves.

Even the grand dames of legacy publishing are posting more video/audio-only stories, The New York Times, the Washington Post among them. And Crabby watches hardly any of it mainly for the reasons stated but also because the majority are so poorly produced and written.

And according to at least one source, Crabby isn't the only person who rejects video/audio-only reports.

A two-year-old study from Digital News Publications found that except during times of important breaking news, online video news is driven more by “technology, platforms and publishers” than consumer demand.

”Around 75% of respondents to a Reuters Institute survey of 26 countries said they only occasionally (or never) use video news online.”

But the respondents were watching more news video on third-party sites such as Facebook, Snapchat, etc. and further, according to the study:

”We find that the most successful off-site and social videos tend to be short (under one minute), are designed to work with no sound (with subtitles), focus on soft news, and have a strong emotional element.”

Which may account for the gazillions of cute kitty video compilations.

Crabby doesn't recall where but she was encouraged recently to read that after dramatic drop-offs, book sales are up slightly giving her reason to believe that reading which, unlike video news, requires actual thought might not be deteriorating after all. But then this turned up last week:

Michael Lewis, one of the most successful non-fiction book writers in the world (with good reason) announced that his next magazine article will be published only in audio:

“'You’re not going to be able to read it, you’re only going to be able to listen to it,' Mr. Lewis [told The New York Times]. 'I’ve become Audible’s first magazine writer.'”

Michael Lewis just lost one fan. Can others be far behind?

The Times tells us that other top-line writers including Robert Caro and Jeffrey Deaver have signed on to publish with Audible, which is also producing original audio books, even plays.

Crabby believes there is a place for audio books (as long as they are also available in print or on screen), and given a long drive or train trip, for example, she would probably stock up.

Her problem is that she doesn't commute anymore and it doesn't take long enough to wash dishes or make the bed to be bothered.

People our age have seen an amazing number of ideas, inventions and technological advances we could not have guessed at when we were young and there is a tendency to believe that new is always good. Crabby Old Lady doesn't believe that - especially about audio-only news and books.


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This 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.

* * *

I first heard of JESSE WINCHESTER via a rave review in Rolling Stone for his first album in 1970. When I read that several members of The Band were involved I bought it immediately.

After listening to it I was hooked. He is one performer I would always go and see wherever possible and buy each new album (there haven't been all that many). Unfortunately there won't be any more new albums as Jesse died in 2014 at the too young age of 69.

From that first album a song that resonated with me at the time (and a couple of other times later), Yankee Lady.

♫ Yankee Lady


The song If I Were Free had to be present, but I was tossing up whether to include the version from his album "Humour Me" or the one he performed here in Victoria just with an acoustic guitar.

In the end I decided on the latter as it demonstrates the song beautifully without extraneous instruments getting in the way. I suppose I could have done that with all the songs, but I didn't.

♫ If I Were Free


Getting back to his first album we have The Brand New Tennessee Waltz. This was one of his songs that showed his ambivalence of living in Canada while his roots were in the south of America. Jesse recorded it on another album as a country tune but I prefer the original. Besides it has a couple of members of The Band playing along.

♫ The Brand New Tennessee Waltz


The album that comes closest to the quality of the first one is "Gentleman of Leisure". The next song is the opening track on that one. In Club Manhattan, Jesse has a line, "Just close your eyes, he's a young Steve Cropper" referring to the guitar player in the club.

In a bit of a sly joke, he has the not-so-young-anymore Steve Cropper playing lead guitar on the track, a track where Jesse gets as close to rock & roll as he ever did. Steve was the guitarist for Booker T and the MGs.

♫ Club Manhattan


Jesse was the master of the self-deprecating love song. The best was probably If I Were Free but No Pride at All isn’t far behind.

♫ No Pride at All


Jesse was born in Louisiana but grew up in Mississippi, so he knows about that region. One of his most famous, and most atmospheric, songs refers to that - Biloxi.

♫ Biloxi


Now a song that Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, pretty much insisted must be present. It's one that, unusually for me, I was only vaguely familiar with. That's been rectified. That song is A Showman's Life.

♫ A Showman's Life


I thought that the song Tell Me Why You Like Roosevelt came from the thirties, but when I researched it I found it was written and first recorded in 1946. Otis Jackson was responsible for it then. Here is Jesse’s updated (to the mid-seventies) version.

♫ Tell Me Why You Like Roosevelt


Like many musicians, Jesse would pick his instrument and play it in times of stress. He turned that into a fine love song (or a love gone wrong song). It doesn’t matter, it’s still beautiful. I Turn to My Guitar.

♫ I Turn to My Guitar


The song Nothing But a Breeze contains the wonderful line, "I want to live with my feet in Dixie and my head in the cool blue North". This probably summed up his situation at the time perfectly, as he was from the south of the USA but was living in Montreal.

♫ Nothing But a Breeze


As you've been such a good audience (and besides, it's Jesse), here is a bonus track, Dangerous Fun.

♫ Dangerous Fun


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THE VANISHING LINGO OF NEW YORK SODA JERKS

There is a fascinating article at Atlas Obscura about the slang of soda jerks during the heyday of their existence. There were

”...half a million employed at tens of thousands of soda fountains across the United States in the 1930s and 1940s. They had white coats, swift fingers, and even swifter tongues—indeed, their linguistic concoctions were as much of a draw as the sweet treats they served up.”

Some examples of those linguistic concoctions:

• All Black: Chocolate soda with chocolate ice cream
• Add Another: Coffee
• Baby: Glass of fresh milk
• Black Bottom: Chocolate sundae with chocolate syrup
• Black Cow: Root beer
• C. O. Cocktail: Castor oil prepared in soda
• Canary Island Special: Vanilla soda with chocolate cream
• Choc In: Chocolate soda
• Choker Holes: Doughnuts
• Coffee And: Cup of coffee and cake
• Cowcumber: Pickle
• Draw Some Mud: Coffee

Visit Atlas Oscura for more of the soda jerk slang and the story of the now long-gone drug story phenomenon.

TWINKIES IN THE PARK WITH GOD

Trust me – you're going to be charmed by this:

Eating Twinkies With God - YouTube

SHERLOCK HOLMES ACTOR FENDS OFF CYCLIST ATTACKER

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch has played a fine Sherlock Holmes in a television series set in the modern day and co-produced by the BBC and WGBH. Recently, in London, the actor went to the aid of a bicyclist attacked by a muggers:

”His actions meant the attackers fled, it was claimed, as he bravely fended the perpetrators off who allegedly smashed the cyclist over the head with a bottle,” reported The Telegraph.

“According to witnesses, he dragged the four muggers off the victim, who was in his 20s, after screaming at them to leave him alone. One of the men had tried to steal the cyclist’s bike, but nothing was stolen.”

And it all happened just around the corner from 221B Baker Street, here with Martin Freeman who plays Dr. John Watson in the series Cumberbatch.

CANON ENDS SALE OF ITS LAST FILM CAMERA

A sign of the times, the end of era.

Actually, the company stopped production of their last film camers, the EOS-1v, in 2010, since then they have been selling remaining stock.

”The translated page from Canon’s website delivers the news casually: 'Thank you very much for your continued patronage of Canon products. By the way, we are finally decided to end sales for the film single lens reflex camera ‘EOS – 1v...'

“Although this means Canon is no longer selling any film cameras, it doesn’t spell the death of film — at least, not yet. Nikon still sells two film cameras, the F6 and FM10.”

One more thing we will need to explain to the younger set – that we used to drop off film (what's film> they will ask) at the drugstore and wait a week to see our photos.

More information at The Verge.

THE FEATHER FAMILY OF FRANCE

As the YouTube page explains:

”Since 1929, Maison Février has been responsible for adorning cabaret performers in an extravagant array of gear and garb. They have created elaborate costumes for greats, such as Josephine Baker and Zizi Jeanmaire. Today, under the watchful eye of Editte Février, the latest generation of the 'feather family' continues the legacy, spending months creating showstopping garments for the storied cabaret, Moulin Rouge.”

The ‘Feather Family’ Creating Costumes for Moulin Rouge - YouTube

CUCLI

At 17 minutes, this video is a good deal longer than I usually post but I think you will find it worth your time.

It tells the story of Ramon, a widow and long-distance truck driver who lives with his parents. He has a special companion on those trips who has helped lift his grief and taught him a new kind of love.

Short Film - CUCLI by Xavier Marrades - YouTube

There is some more information at Aeon.

CARTOONIST BLOWBACK

Whatever you think of Donald Trump, he has given new life to editorial and political cartoonists. In fact, he supplies so much material that there is hardly any other subject for cartoonists these days.

Darlene Costner emailed this one after the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

LIVING IN THE ROUND

According to the YouTube page:

Located about an hour outside Amsterdam is a village of spherical homes straight out of your futuristic fantasies. From a distance, Bolwoningen’s domes appear to be a set of golf balls, but up close, they are the architectural masterpiece of Dutch artist and sculptor Dries Kreijkamp.

“Built in 1984, each home contains three levels with round windows that give view to the scenic canal. The intent of the complex was to bring residents closer to nature.

Living in the Netherlands’ Futuristic Homes - YouTube

ANOTHER INTERSPECIES FRIENDSHIP

If you've been here for awhile, you know I can't resist interspecies friendship. Here's another from reader Cathy Johnson – a prairie dog and a German shepherd.

Precious Prairie Dog Befriends German Shepherd: CUTE AS FLUFF - YouTube

* * *

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 IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.

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EDITORIAL NOTE: At the bottom of this post is the latest episode of The Alex and Ronni Show - a now-and-then conversation between me, the proprietor of Time Goes By, and my former husband, Alex Bennett. There is a lot of health talk in this one with a lot of laughing too. But first, some thoughts about living for hundreds, even a thousand years.

* * *

In just 100 years, average life expectancy at birth worldwide has more than doubled, from 31 years in 1900 to 69 years in 2016. It differs wildly among nations from 50 years in Sierra Leone to 83 years in Japan.

However, the longer we live, the higher our life expectancy becomes so currently, average world-wide life expectancy at age 65 ranges from 74.7 years in Sierra Leone to 86.8 in Japan.

Throughout history, humankind has sought eternal youth - we are familiar with Ponce de Leon's search for the fountain of youth along with other who sought the storied philosopher's stone, varieties of panaceas and the elixir of life.

Today, people are looking harder than ever for a magic formula that will allow people to live to be hundreds of years old.

Some people put stock in learning about how to extend their lives from the “blue zones” scattered around the world. Blue zones, explains Reuben Westmaas at curiosity.com is, broadly,

”...a place where people live to be 100 at extraordinarily high rates, have an extraordinarily average high life expectancy, or an extraordinarily low mortality rate for middle-aged people.”

Millions of others believe a variety of supplements peddled online by hundreds of people claiming to be life extension “experts” will keep them alive for longer than without the supplements.

One of the earliest extreme longevity researchers is Aubrey de Grey, chief scientific officer at his own charity, the partially self-funded Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (Sens) Research Foundation in California. de Grey claims the first person to live to be 1,000 is already alive.

Here's a little video about de Grey from Canada's National Post. (Thank you, doctafil, for the link):

Will humans live for a thousand years? - YouTube

Zillionaire Silicon Valley venture capitalist, Peter Thiel, who helps fund de Grey's research firm, is among some other wealthy individuals who are funding life extension and anti-aging research. Australian geneticist David Sinclair believes a pill that would extend human life is only 10 years away.

The two founders of Google are spending spending big bucks on extending life too:

”In 2013, Google started Calico, short for the California Life Company. Employing scientists from the fields of medicine, genetics, drug development and molecular biology, Calico's aim is to 'devise interventions that slow ageing and counteract age-related diseases.'”

Another tech billionaire, Larry Ellison, funds a research foundation that goes even further with a related, more expansive idea. The Guardian explains:

”They investigate the details of the ageing process with a view to finding ways to prevent it at its root, thereby fending off the whole slew of diseases that come along with ageing.

“Life expectancy has risen in developed countries from about 47 in 1900 to about 80 today, largely due to advances in curing childhood diseases. But those longer lives come with their share of misery. Age-related chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, stroke and Alzheimer’s are more prevalent than ever.”

Jay Olshansky, a sociologist at The University of Chicago School of Public Heath, rejects the standard approach of curing one disease at a time. He believes the life extension goal can be reached by concentrating on “healthspan” rather than lifespan:

”By tackling ageing at the root [heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's] could be dealt with as one, reducing frailty and disability by lowering all age-related disease risks simultaneously, says Olshansky. Evidence is now building that this bolder, age-delaying approach could work.”

And then we can all happily live de Grey's thousand years. Disease free. Right?

Every time I peruse the most recent life-extension literature, I am astonished that hardly anyone mentions the enormous drain on the planet's already strained resources that would ensue if we all lived hundreds of years.

South Africa and some other places are already running out of water. Once fertile lands around the world are turning into deserts. More frequent and disastrous weather events are wreaking havoc around the world. The oceans are rising and there are more problems to come from climate change that we have yet imagined.

Most basically, where would we put everyone? How would we feed them? The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that one-tenth of the world population, about 815 million people were dealing with chronic undernourishment in 2016.

I doubt that number has dropped in two years and I am hard pressed to believe that efforts to feed the hungry would be any better with a longer-lived world population than it is now.

Even if you can shrug that off, there are important ethical and philosophical questions. To scratch only the surface...

Would life be as meaningful without death?

How long would people be expected to work?

Would everyone's lives be extended or only rich people's?

Would marriage mean the same thing?

With more time, would people have more children?

Would life become boring?

Paul Root Wolpe, chief bioethicist for NASA and director of the center for ethics at Emory University, told the National Post:

“Look, I want to live to 150, too. I mean, don’t misunderstand me. I want to see my great-grandchildren. I want to see the first people on Mars. I want to see all that Aubrey [de Grey] wants to see. I just don’t pretend that it’s not a narcissistic desire because I can’t think of a single good that would give society.”

I'm with Wolpe on that. What about you? Would you want to live 200, 500, 1,000 years?

* * *

Here is the latest episode of The Alex and Ronni Show recorded on Wednesday 6 June 2018.

If you would like to see Alex's entire two-hour show with other guests after me, you can do that at Facebook or Gabnet on Facebook or on YouTube.

Ronni Bennett 6/6/16 - YouTube

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Last year, inflation was so low that Social Security recipients received only a 2 percent cost-of-living (COLA) increase for 2018. But that was a relatively giant raise compared to 2017 (.3 percent) and 2016 (nothing).

Of course, I can't speak for you, but I live almost entirely on Social Security (about 85 percent of my income) and in each of the named years above, my expenses for Medicare Part B, Part D and supplemental coverage along with auto insurance and certainly food increased at much high rates.

In no way do I mean you should think I'm destitute or anywhere near. For many obvious reasons, it is much less expensive to live in retirement than during earning years and every month I surprise myself that I have money left over to add to the emergency fund.

But not a year goes by that the increases in my fixed expenses don't go up between five and 10 percent.

That doesn't sound like much except that over even a few years, it adds up to a great deal more than the Social Security COLA covers so I worry a bit about future price hikes.

Even so, I don't feel deprived but I know a good number of elders who live on Social Security only and whose benefit is smaller than mine. In those cases, hardship can be a daily reality.

So for many of us frugality and thrift are in order and, at least for myself if not others, I'm pretty good at it.

My most successful single savings came not quite two years ago when my Verizon cell phone bill jumped to just over $105 a month. Fed up, I finally did the homework and switched to one of the small providers that gives me the same service – unlimited calls and texts and one gigabyte of data - for $22 a month. How great is that, and the service is as reliable as with Verizon.

Since then, however, expenses for necessities listed above have more than eaten up the $83 I saved in that one change.

There isn't much other wiggle room in my budget. I would be willing to cut cable TV from my life but that company is the only local broadband provider in my area and they charge more for internet-only than for internet with basic cable. (Grrrrrrrrrrrr.)

I may cancel Netflix soon. In the past year or two, the dreck increasingly exceeds the better quality offerings. But that saves only $10 a month. Amazon Prime is, even with the recent 20 percent per year increase, still worth it for me. I save hundreds of dollars on shipping costs each year and more often than not, prices are better than elsewhere online.

Over the past year I lost a lot of weight. So much so that I've had to replace part of my wardrobe. There are a couple of excellent resale shops here so I've done well to get the replacements I need while spending embarrassingly little, and several items were brand new.

I still prefer to read on paper thank a screen of any size so I have kept a few hard-copy magazine subscriptions. Somehow my favorites are the most expensive but I'm going to continue them until I'm stretched too thin to not give them up.

It's easy to cut down on whim shopping especially (I'm being blunt here) having faced what I thought was certain death within a handful of months and so what could I possibly need to purchase.

Now that I have been given a reprieve from the cancer for whatever period of time, I've already got a year's practice in that kind of thrift.

That leaves the possibility for further cuts to types of necessary spending that can be down-sized, like food. On Saturday, I visited the second farmer's market day of the season and I was shocked that the price of a locally-made jam I like has increased from $5 to $7 over winter.

A bunch of six – SIX! - small, sweet turnips are up to $4.50 now while fresh halibut, never cheap, is $25 a pound. (I stuck with the cod.) It's high season for certain strawberries and I can't remember if a pint was $4 last year or less but that's the price now.

I'm not a rabid coupon cutter but I watch for sales especially on food items I like to always have in the house. That's what supermarkets are for and I suspect I'll be buying fewer items at the farmer's market this year.

I think we should all buy local when we can, to keep our dollars in the community, but the prices at that market this year take my breath away.

And, finally, restaurants. I don't eat out often enough to need to reduce that spending and there are some good, reasonably priced restaurants near me.

You've probably noticed that gas prices are up and expected to climb further over the summer. Some experts are predicting that depending on how Trump administration foreign and domestic policy changes play out, we could be in for increasing inflation (which has already climbed a couple of points this year) and higher prices in general.

So this would be a good time, I think, for us to crowdsource our best ideas to keep down personal and household expenses.

Most TGB readers are old enough to have weathered several economic downturns and a few remember growing up in the Great Depression. That ought to be good for some suggestions. Who among us are cutting back and how are you doing it? What are your best tips and secrets for surviving hard times?


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