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THEIR FIRST PRIDE DAY

Some young people took two elders to their first Pride. After he watched the video on Twitter, Chris Evans says, he was sobbing. Me too. And maybe you. Thank my friends Jim Stone and John Gear for this.

These young people took LGBT seniors to their first pride 🏳️‍🌈 ever in their lives.

And now I'm sitting here sobbing. pic.twitter.com/XhYKSiafMq

— chris evans (@notcapnamerica) July 16, 2019
THE BEST BAGUETTE IN PARIS

It's a toss-up whether I like baguettes or croissants more but either one, if made well, is better than other breads. Well, for me, anyway.

Here is a guy who won first prize in a 2018 contest for best baguette in Paris.

The Best Baguette in Paris - YouTube

DEATH WITH DIGNITY FOR ANIMALS

As The Guardian tell us,

”Alexis has a life-threatening disease. She spends her time in the wooded expanse of northern Scotland where she takes care of dozens of others who are also sick, wounded or dying.

“Some have terminal cancer, some were about to be killed because of their disabilities, some were saved from slaughterhouses. Alexis provides palliative care for animals.”

Here is a video about Alexis and a neglected sheep she takes in. It is longer than I usually post – 15 minutes - but is peaceful and loving and uplifting.

Crannog - the woman who helps animals to die with dignity - YouTube

You can read an article written by Alexa about her animal hospice here, and The Guardian story is here.

WOW! A JELLYFISH LARGER THAT A HUMAN

As reported in the Washington Post,

”Lizzie Daly was diving Saturday off the coast of Cornwall in Britain when she saw something large in the distance and did a double take. Daly had seen a barrel jellyfish before but nothing of this size.

“Daly, a biologist and broadcaster, swam up to the peach-colored creature gliding through the water, as cameraman Dan Abbott captured the encounter.

“'We weren’t expecting anything,' Daly said. 'It was an absolute delight to get that experience.'”

No kidding. Take a look at the video:

Giant jellyfish spotted by divers - BBC News - YouTube

You can read more about the giant jellyfish encounter here.

”MY AMERICA”

Comedian Jeff Allen shares some thoughts on how America is a lot different today than when he (not to mention you and I) was a kid.

The America I Grew Up In. Jeff Allen - YouTube

IS THE DUNNING-KRUGER EFFECT EXPLAIN THE WIDE SUPPORT OF TRUMP?

I'm no psychologist so I can't evaluate this explanation for the widespread support (35-40 percent) for Trump by the American people but I think Psychology Today might have a handle on it.

”The [Dunning-Kruger] effect is a type of cognitive bias, where people with little expertise or ability assume they have superior expertise or ability. This overestimation occurs as a result of the fact that they don’t have enough knowledge to know they don’t have enough knowledge.

“This simple but loopy concept has been demonstrated dozens of times in well-controlled psychology studies and in a variety of contexts. However, until now, the effect had not been studied in one of the most obvious and important realms: political knowledge.

“A new study published in the journal Political Psychology carried out by the political scientist Ian Anson at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, not only found that the Dunning-Kruger effect applies to politics, but it also appears to be exacerbated when partisan identities are made more salient.

“In other words, those who score low on political knowledge tend to overestimate their expertise even more when greater emphasis is placed on political affiliation.”

The fuller explanation is clear and easily understood. You can read it here. Thank TGB reader Naomi Dagen Bloom for the tip.

BIOLOGIST REVIVES RARE SPECIES OF BUTTERFLY

TGB reader Joan McCullen sent this one. What a good story about how a beautiful blue butterfly has escaped extinction thanks to one young biologist in California.

Academy of Sciences Biologist Reviving Rare Butterfly In Native San Francisco Habitat - YouTube

CAT ON THE GOLF COURSE

This video has been all over the web this week and sent to me by many readers (thank you). Cats are well known to be perverse. Maybe this one thinks the point of golf is to keep the ball OUT of the hole.

Ben the playing golf cat - 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.


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I didn't plan it this way but today's post has turned out to be the natural continuance of all this week's previous posts, my two and the Reader Story on Tuesday.

As I of write here, the few news stories about elders, a large number are about those, even 80 and older, who climb mountains, jump out of airplanes, run marathons and otherwise outdo even much younger people at physical challenges.

These super-achieving old people are always portrayed as heroic, as the ideal, and that the rest of us should be out there biking the brutal Tour de France or its equivalent.

The result is, of course, a not-so-subtle pressure for all elders to keep doing, keep achieving and push, push, push ourselves to be like 30- and 40-somethings until we're dead.

What those reporters, young 'uns themselves, don't know is that the old people they are interviewing are the aberration. A large majority of us are quite happy to stick closer to home and take our exercise, and our lives in general, in lighter form.

What important today is that In many cases it is not just a preference, it is all we are capable of. On Wednesday, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, noting that “energy in an arc, and it bends over a lifetime toward depletion”, wrote

”I’m 54 now, and aging is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s also the greatest blessing that I’ve ever been given: I’m not just still around, but I also savor the wisdom of greater perspective and the freedom of letting many of the demands I once made of myself fall by the wayside.

“The hell of aging is limits. But that’s the heaven of it, too. Sometimes to have the parameters of your life shrink is to be unburdened of too many decisions and of indecision itself...” *

All true and it may be the first time I know of that a reporter wasn't giving us the usual “but...” about running at least a half marathon or starting a new business from scratch.

Those limits Bruni mentions? Whether a result of illness or “just” old age, they are impediments even to everyday, ordinary tasks as my most recent mystery malady has made clear.

Without going into detail, it is mostly joint and body pains that come and go and move around my body. An over-the-counter pain killer makes them mostly tolerable but leaves some everyday activities difficult to do.

I can't reach the microwave without a sharp pain in my arm. Getting in and out of bed produces shots of pain from neck to knees. Sometimes my hands hurt so much I can't hold the toothbrush. You get the idea and compared to some I know, I'm doing well.

Yet as difficult as it can be, most old people keep going. Maybe slower, maybe not getting out and about as frequently as they once did and taking more rest breaks but as much as possible, they are doing the things that need getting done along with the pleasures, old and new, they can accommodate.

As Frank Bruni understands, they can “...savor the wisdom of greater perspective and the freedom of letting many of the demands I once made of myself fall by the wayside.”

Yes. Old people know a lot about how unimportant are the things that once seemed crucial. And even as physical demands become more difficult, that “perspective” of which Bruni speaks comes into great play in old age, just when we need it most.

How lucky for us.

It is the patience, creativity and persistence of old people, largely without complaint, that allow them/us to adapt to the one thing that is constant in everyone's life: change. There is just more of it coming at us faster when we are old.

For all that, to me it is not the elder mountain climbers who are heroes to be held up as paragons of old age. It is the majority of old people, the millions who take the lemons life gives us and make the best lemonade we can in our individual circumstance.

They are the ones who deserve our hero worship and hurray to all of us.

* The Frank Bruni quotations are from his weekly, email newsletter which is not yet available online.


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Every day, my email box fills with half a dozen, often more, newsletters urging me to do, do, do. (AARP and Next Avenue are particularly prolific at this.)

Walk 10,000 steps, they tell me, volunteer, get a part-time job, take a class, declutter my home and much more depending on what a new book or media star is recommending this week.

One important thing about these messages: I can't prove it of course, but I believe they are written by younger adults (let's call them pre-elders for now) who haven't a clue yet what old age is like.

This idea has been rolling around in my head for awhile now. I had intended to write about it but TGB reader Ann Burack-Weiss beat me to it in a TGB Reader Story that I published on Tuesday titled My Comfort Zone.

”You’d think they’d let up by the time you reach your 80s,” writes Ann. “That all you need do to keep yourself going is to keep yourself going. But no; everything you hear or read pushes you toward new horizons...

“Old folks are repeatedly told to heed the siren call of the untried that, from the beginning of time, has lured humans from their caves into the sun of enhanced existence...”

After giving a bunch of good reasons to reject this kind of thinking about elders, Ann concludes:

”So I’ll stay right here. Comforted by the familiar, buoyed by memories. Relaxing? Lolling? No, wallowing – that’s the word I’m looking for, wallowing, in my comfort zone.”

The comments on Ann's post, with only one demur as I write this on Tuesday, join me in enthusiastically supporting her point of view.

These days, I like being home. One trip per day out the door is about all I can tolerate now – to the grocery store, lunch with a friend, and in my particular case, doctor visits. I love it when friends come to my home for a visit. Home is my comfort zone and I “wallow” in the days I don't need to go somewhere – no matter what the pre-elders think I should be doing.

If you missed Ann's story yesterday, check it out.

* * *

On The Alex and Ronni Show this week we covered a bunch of topics that are in the news this week. Alex emailed to say the picture freezes at some point but the audio is okay, then the video comes back. Sorry. As he says, "I'm getting to hate all technology."

Ronni Bennett 7/16/19 - YouTube

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By Ann Burack-Weiss

You’d think they’d let up by the time you reach your 80s. That all you need do to keep yourself going is to keep yourself going. But no; everything you hear or read pushes you toward new horizons.

That thrill of completion that I feel when finishing the Sunday crossword puzzle (well, all but three small words) is meaningless. It does not spark those neurons or create new pathways in the brain; all it does is deepen familiar ruts.

Worse, it is a solitary pursuit. Surely dementia and social isolation are brewing in the toxic waters of my comfort zone.

Old folks are repeatedly told to heed the siren call of the untried that, from the beginning of time, has lured humans from their caves into the sun of enhanced existence.

Learning Chinese in the company of elderly peers would be just the thing.

Or I could put aside the knitting of one color, one pattern scarves that I’ve enjoyed since the age of 18 – an activity that is especially pleasant on long winter evenings cuddled on the couch listening to the classical music I’ve enjoyed just as long.

Better to join a class in needlepoint. It takes lots of different colored threads to construct a tapestry – you must keep your wits about you in order to keep them sorted, threaded and hitting just the right spot all the while chatting with others engaged in the same task.

They mean well, the young dears. It is just that they are afraid of their own senescence. Neuroscience offers hope. And yes, I’ve seen the graphs, read the papers. I know enough about research to agree that the findings are statistically significant.

But it’s a long way from statistical significance to my apartment, to my life, where I have to say that the findings are not significant at all.

* * *

You see, we are often afraid. The unknown is only filled with wonder if you feel power within you to grab out to it and turn it to your uses.

We are afraid as young children are afraid – so much in life they don’t understand, can’t control. The things that hide out in the shadows and can pounce at any time are particularly scary when they are alone in the dark. So they ask for glass after glass of water, ask to hear the same story the same way over and over. Skip a page in the book, change a few words and they get upset.

Ours is not a second childhood – for we know full well the names and workings of what is hiding in the shadows. We do not imagine animals escaped from the zoo to hide out under our beds (as I remember doing at the age of four) but the bed itself springing steel sides pulled up high over which tubes ferry fluids in and out of our bodies.

We do not imagine that our screams won’t be loud enough to reach powerful adults who can come to our aid. We know the limits of the powerful adults no matter how caring they might be.

So like children, we cannot see change as a learning opportunity, a chance to face our fears and triumph over them. Instead, change strips us of all sense of certainty, of control, leaving us quaking in its wake; strips us of our memories and the sense of self that they reinforce within us.

The Sunday crossword puzzle I am working on today holds vestiges of every puzzle of my life, everyone who was around me on those long ago Sundays – the places I carried it with me during the week to fill in a clue or two; the people – so many no longer here – with whom I exchanged passing references to its difficulty or ease or cleverness of theme.

The long scarf on which I rip and redo as often as I move ahead, and the music that accompanies it, go all the way back – first, my room at home, then a college dormitory room filled with smokers and bridge players where, doing neither, I found my place and many happy hours with the knitters.

Those last months of pregnancy with each of my now middle-aged children when I surprised myself by branching out to blanket, sweater, and bootie sets – enough even to gift to others.

So I’ll stay right here. Comforted by the familiar, buoyed by memories. Relaxing? Lolling? No, wallowing – that’s the word I’m looking for, wallowing, in my comfort zone.

* * *

[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.]


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It's a joke, that headline phrase, isn't it? And not a good one. In fact, it's ageist in its assumption that old people cannot or will not change, and most of all, it is wrong.

That is not to say there aren't plenty of stubborn people in the world, but they come in all ages. And in the case of old people, the nature of ageing makes change a requirement if you are going to navigate these advanced years.

We'll get back to that in a moment but first, what about our life-long habits? Are they necessarily bad? Do people who believe all old folks are “set in their ways” should change things just because they've been doing them for many years? (I'm not talking about smoking cigarettes and other dangerous undertakings.)

The web has only a skimpy amount of useful material on the subject and with a few exceptions they want old people to change. At least one even has a numbered list of instructions on how to get others to adopt your way of doing things.

But consider where we old folks are in life: We have decades of trial and error in pretty much all aspects of our lives along with sometimes cherished habits that over years turned into favored rituals.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend mentioned that she wouldn't want one of those machines makes a single cup of coffee from the insertion of a little pod. Aside from the environmental disaster they cause, she said, she prefers the ritual of a French press.

I'd never thought of it that way, but I now embrace the idea of ritual with my own French press I've been using for going on 40 years. I like that routine first thing in the morning. It feels comfortable and after all this time, it doesn't require thought (if you don't count the recent morning when I measured the coffee into the cup.)

The other thing about coffee is that even after more than 14 years, I have my favorite blend sent from the shop where I bought it in New York City. A bonus was when I figured out that even with shipping costs, it is cheaper than buying coffee where I live now - particularly so when you know you're getting a full pound (16 ounces) rather than the 10 or 12 ounces at the market.

These are good habits to be set in my ways about – they reliably bring me pleasure and I get to do it every morning. How terrific is that and why would I change?

By the time we reach old age, we have made hundreds, maybe thousands of decisions so we have a lot of practice at making good and not-so-good choices to inform new ones that come along.

If, as some say, a portion of young people do change their minds more frequently than old people, it is because they are just starting out. There's a lot to learn about living, much of it through trial and error.

But it is in old age where willingness to make changes becomes crucial to well-being. Linda Breytspraak of the Center on Aging Studies, University of Missouri-Kansas City (quoted at missourifamilies.org/) explains more succinctly than I could:

”The majority of older people are not 'set in their ways and unable to change,'” she writes. “'There is some evidence that older people tend to become more stable in their attitudes, but it is clear that most older people do change.

“'To survive, they must adapt to many events of later life such as retirement, children leaving home, widowhood, moving to new homes, and serious illness.'”

She's right that survival depends on our ability to accommodate our changing circumstances as we grow old.

I've learned a lot about adapting in the past two years since I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. In one case, I eat what I consider a terrible high calorie, high fat diet nowadays to help keep my weight up so I don't become frail.

As the chief oncology nurse said to me when I objected, “The cancer will kill you long before the diet will.”

And so I eat a lot of the foods I shunned for most of my life and it has kept on the weight. If I skip even a single meal, I lose a pound or so overnight so I am diligent about eating as I never was when I was younger.

In another bid to have a healthy life for as long as possible in my predicament, I sleep a full night every night. For the past year, I've been using cannabis, an edible or tincture) to help ensure a full six to seven hours if not always eight hours. It works and, cancer notwithstanding, I feel a lot better than all those years I woke after only three or four hours of sleep.

Did I mention recently that I made a new rule? No more climbing ladders. Thanks to chemotherapy, I am shaky on my feet sometimes and I surely don't want a broken hip or back or neck from a fall.

For the same reason, I look down when I walk around my apartment complex so that I don't trip on one of the pine cones that are everywhere.

It is doubtful that we will convince others that being “set in our ways” is not a bad thing and can even be a life saver for old people. But we can embrace our habits and rituals and enjoy them. We spent a lifetime learning these lessons, often the hard way.


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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.

* * *

After The Beatles, The Kinks were probably the most important British band from the sixties. Like the Fab Four, they vastly expanded the topics about which pop and rock song could be written.

They were formed by brothers Ray and Dave Davies in Muswell Hill, North London. Ray was the songwriter, singer and rhythm guitarist and Dave played lead guitar and sang backup.

They were completely different personalities: Ray was a quiet intellectual who preferred the home life, and Dave was the quintessential sixties, rock-star party animal. What could possibly go wrong?

They were joined by Pete Quaiffe, a school friend of Dave’s on bass, and Mick Avory on drums. They were a volatile mix, especially the brothers, often arguing and fighting – even on stage. Pete has said that performing with the brothers was like being on stage with Jimi Hendrix on one side and Noel Coward on the other.

Ray and Dave were constants throughout with changes in the other members from time to time. They later added a regular keyboard player.

The Kinks burst on the scene with a song that contained snarling vocals and snarling, dirty, distorted guitar achieved by slashing the speaker cones with a razor blade. This one made all the other bands at the time sit up and take notice. Its influence on punk, grunge music, heavy metal and garage bands of all sorts is incalculable. That song is You Really Got Me.

♫ You Really Got Me


After three or four top 5 hits in the original style, the Kinks completely changed direction in their music. This is because of Ray’s song writing ability. The songs became more observational, many of them mini-short stories in song form. Some biting or sarcastic, some affectionate, others merely reflections. One rather pointed song is Dedicated Follower of Fashion.

♫ Dedicated Follower Of Fashion


Ray has said that he was really depressed when he wrote Sunny Afternoon, on the surface a quite happy song. Not so if you listen to the words.

It gave the impression that the group was really rich and they were complaining about trivial things. The reality was quite different as, along with a lot of performers of the time, their managers ripped them off so they saw virtually nothing of what they had earned.

♫ Sunny Afternoon


Ray’s songs aren’t nostalgia exactly, more a celebration of times gone by and things that are lost to the modern world. Picture Book really is a photo album, but I imagine that the title scans better in a song.

♫ The Kinks - Picture Book


The Kinks came up with a couple of what would later be called “rock operas” some time before The Who did the same thing. One of these is called “Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire)”, which is rather self explanatory about its subject.

From that is the song, and a reasonable hit for them, Victoria. This one really rocks out, in spite of its subject.

♫ Victoria


Sorry about going back to the beginning for those who aren’t really into heavy rock and roll, but here’s their second hit, All Day and All of the Night. I can see an influence for the Oz rock band The Easybeats in this song.

♫ All Day And All Of the Night


It’s pretty amazing that the band that had a huge influence on punk and grunge music also produced indubitably the most beautiful song from the sixties. Certainly the most beautiful by a rock group anyway. That song is Waterloo Sunset.

There’s a long-standing story that Terry and Julie, referenced in the song, are Terence Stamp and Julie Christie who were an item at the time the song was written and recorded. Ray has said repeatedly that this is not so, it’s about his sister (and presumably another Terry).

He and Dave had six older sisters some of whom have made an appearance in other songs, so I’m inclined to believe him.

♫ Waterloo Sunset


This is just a silly throw-away song, but we need some of those now and again. This one is Apeman. I think it was just an excuse for Ray to play his National steel guitar, also used in the final song today.

♫ Apeman


It’s really admirable, astonishing really, that for young men, just in their mid-twenties, to observe that things were changing really quickly and asking are we losing something valuable?

Well, they might notice the first part, but it was unusual for them to reflect upon the second. It’s generally years later that people gain that insight. There was an album (actually more than one) devoted to this concept, and from that we have The Village Green Preservation Society.

♫ The Village Green Preservation Society


Also from “Arthur”, mentioned above, is the song. Australia. You know I couldn’t resist a song with that title. It’s about the Oz government’s campaign to induce British people to emigrate to Australia back in the fifties and sixties. It was rather successful. This one gives Dave a good workout on the guitar.

♫ Australia


Ray wrote Come Dancing as a tribute to his sisters who were all older than he was. They used to go out dancing at the weekends and the music they danced to was from an earlier period – big band and the like. He and Dave absorbed that music as they were growing up by listening to their sisters’ records.

♫ Come Dancing


I’ll end with an example of the idea that songwriters often don’t know the quality of their own songs. This one is probably their biggest seller (okay, that’s not necessarily a guide to quality), and Ray has said, “It’s a nothing song, not really important”.

The song is Lola. It’s based on a real event that happened to their manager at the time. Dave has said that Ray is brilliant at compressing small details into a song and making them come alive. He certainly did on this one.

♫ Kinks - Lola



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HUMMINGBIRDS IN SLOW MOTION

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I included a slow motion video of dogs shaking water off their coats?

Here's a slowmo of hummingbirds so we can actually see their wings.

Hummingbirds in Slow Motion! | Earth Unplugged - YouTube

WHY TIME SEEMS TO MOVE FASTER AS WE GET OLDER

For most of my life I've been collecting speculations on the near universal experience of time seeming to speed up as we grow older. Here's the latest sent TGB friend, Chuck Nyren.

Why time seems to fly as you get older | BBC Ideas - YouTube

50 FACTS FOR THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF APOLLO 11

On 21 July, it will be 50 years since Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon.

Mental Floss has made a list of 50 interesting things you might not know about the first manned moon landing. Among them:

President Richard Nixon had a speech prepared in case the Apollo 11 astronauts never came home.

Your toaster is more advanced than Apollo 11’s command module computer.

Pieces of the Wright Brothers’ first aircraft were onboard Apollo 11.

You can read the other 47 facts at Mental Floss.

SANCTUARY FOR MUTTS IN COSTA RICA

As the website tells us,

”This awesome dog sanctuary for mutts was created by Lya Battle who has a passion for animals and homeless dogs in particular. It’s easy to see that these dogs think they have already gone to heaven as they run free in the lush green hills of the sanctuary.

Welcome to Dog Paradise - YouTube

More at Territorio de Zaguates.

BEAUTIFUL MORBID CAKES

Yes, beautiful - at least I think so. The Atlas Obscura website tells us that

”English pastry chef Annabel de Vetten crafts what may be the world’s most fantastically morbid confections. Her Birmingham studio and cooking space, the Conjurer’s Kitchen, is filled with feasts of macabre eye candy rendered with ghoulish precision.”

Here are two.

De Vennen's nickname is “Annabel Lecter.” There are more images of "morbid" cakes and additional information at Atlas Obscura.

BIRDS OF PARADISE - PART 2

Remember last week when I posted a video of some magnificent birds of paradise?

Well, this week I ran across another video – this one of BBC program host, David Attenborough, trying to do his standup for the show while one of the birds of paradise keeps interrupting him.

Bird interrupts David Attenborough - Attenborough's Paradise Birds - BBC Two - YouTube
WHAT ARE CLINICAL TRIALS? HOW DO THEY WORK?

Sometimes, when there is no or no useful remedy for a terrible disease, people opt for participating in a clinical trial. There is a lot to know before making that choice and the U.S. National Institute of Aging has just published a booklet that answers questions.

It is titled, Clinical Trials and Older Adults and is a free PDF download here.

Even if you don't need this information now, it might be good to file it away in case you or someone you know can use it in the future.

RONNI'S READS

There is a fascinating story at the Los Angeles Times about a man who has spent years creating a secret habitat for sea horses. A short excerpt:

”The visitor confirms that she did see Bathsheba, an 11-inch-long orange Pacific seahorse, and a grin spreads across Hanson’s broad face.

“'Isn’t she beautiful?' he says. 'She’s our supermodel.'

“If you get Hanson talking about his seahorses, he’ll tell you exactly how many times he’s seen them (997), who is dating whom, and describe their personalities with intimate familiarity. Bathsheba is stoic, Daphne a runner. Deep Blue is chill.

“He will also tell you that getting to know these strange, almost mythical beings has profoundly affected his life.

“'I swear, it has made me a better human being,' he says. 'On land I’m very C-minus, but underwater, I’m Mensa.'”

Read the whole story here – it's fascinating.

MISPLACED MOTHERING - SO CUTE

Anyone who has been reading this Saturday post for even a short awhile knows that I have a fondness for odd or unusual animal friendships and other connections. Here is my latest find of a cat who adopted a bunch of ducklings.

Cat Adopts Baby Ducklings | Animal Odd Couples | Real Wild Short - 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.


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EDITORIAL NOTE:
It's been a rough couple of weeks here with unexplained body and joint pains keeping me from doing much of anything except this blog and sleeping. Finally yesterday morning, I got out of bed without wincing and it feels now like I'm on the mend.

However, I'm really, really tired. Too tired to write a new blog post and I need a nap. Because I have no idea what caused this extended period of pain, I'm going to re-publish a related story from only a couple of months ago that a lot of you seemed to enjoy and caused a few laughs among you.

On first publication, it was titled “Cancer, Chemo or Old Age?" - . I'm not currently taking chemo so this time, maybe it should be “Cancer, Old Age or What the Fuck now?” (Sorry if I offended anyone.)

I'll be back tomorrow with the Saturday Interesting Stuff.

* * *

CANCER, OLD AGE OR WHAT THE FUCK NOW?
That's the question I spend some of my time trying to figure out. A new pain in my elbow. Nausea if I eat one more bite. A nose so runny I use up one-and-a-half boxes of Kleenex in a day.

I'll go with old age as the cause of a pain in an elbow. Nausea is probably from the chemo. And who knows (nose?) what's causing my constantly running nose.

I suppose it doesn't matter. Cancer, chemo or old age doesn't change the fact of whatever is bothering me. But it might be helpful to know which does what so that perhaps a medication can be adjusted - although I'm not pretending that symptoms at this simplistic level can in any way be compared to pancreatic cancer.

When I was first diagnosed two years ago, my idea was to follow the instructions of my various physicians and nurses while making preparations for my death. The statistics tell the irrefutable story: fewer than 10 percent of pancreatic cancer patients live beyond one year after diagnosis so I've already won this lottery.

Time went by. It took nearly a year to entirely recover from the 12-hour Whipple surgery. The pain I experienced then was anything but a mystery: 22 surgical staples along with the removal and/or rearrangement of several organs.

Some chemo followed but was stopped when it was deemed ineffective. Eventually, my current chemo regimen began and so far, as I have reported here, it is working well and – amazing – with each treatment the side effects have lightened or disappeared.

Just like not knowing what is responsible for my improved chemo side effects, I have no idea how long this situation of such a good response to the chemo will last. It will end at some point; I just don't know when.

The only thing I think I know about living a reasonably untroubled daily life with such a noose hanging over me is that I must find a way to make peace with it. Which is pretty much the same thing as making peace with dying.

The psilocybin session I underwent in December, the benefits of which so far are holding strong, get me partway there. The rest is one of the passages people in my predicament have to deal with several times.

It's doubtful that any of this is unique to me. I'm just surprised that no one I can find talks about it. Does anyone reading this know what I am not too clearly trying to say?


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EDITORIAL NOTE: A couple of weeks ago, Andrew Soergel, who is is studying aging and workforce issues as part of a 10-month fellowship at The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, interviewed me about retirement and a whole bunch of other topics. We had a lively time together, the story has now been published and you can read it here.

"Andy tells me that when he's got some time, he pull together some of the other things we talked about for another story. I'll let you know when that is published.

* * *

Last week, my oncologist told me that I look much better, much healthier than when he canceled my chemotherapy two months ago. I was surprised; I hadn't realized I didn't look well.

He also said that I had hardly laughed at all when we met that day. Laughed? I asked. He said I'm big laugher - about my cancer, about all kinds of things - and he particularly appreciates my sarcasm.

He went on to tell me that he believes there is a connection medical science doesn't yet know much about or understand between good humor and health.

There has been some research about this possible connection which Washington Post reporter Marlene Cimons summarizes:

”Laughter stimulates the body’s organs by increasing oxygen intake to the heart, lungs and muscles, and stimulates the brain to release more endorphins, according to the Mayo Clinic,” [she writes].

“It also helps people handle stress by easing tension, relaxing the muscles and lowering blood pressure. It relieves pain, and improves mood. Laughter also strengthens the immune system.

“'When we laugh, it decreases the level of the evil stress hormone cortisol,' [professor of medical oncology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science, Edward] Creagan says.

“'When we are stressed, it goes high and this interferes with the parts of the brain that regulate emotions. When that happens, the immune system deteriorates and becomes washed in a sea of inflammation, which is a factor in heart disease, cancer and dementia. Cortisol interferes with the body’s immune system, putting us at risk for these three groups of diseases.'

“For sick people,” writes Cimone, “laughter can distract from pain and provide them with a sense of control when they otherwise might feel powerless, experts say. Moreover, it’s often the patients themselves who crack the jokes.

“'Some of the funniest patients I have ever met were those dying of cancer or struggling with alcoholism,'” Creagan says.”

Sven Svebakis, professor emeritus at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, has studied the health impact of humor for more than 50 years. Referencing a large study of more than 53,000 participants he and colleagues conducted, Svebakis told WaPo's Cimons,

”Humor also seems to stimulate memories and improve mental acuity in the elderly, especially among those with dementia.

“The therapeutic benefits of 'clown therapy' for hospitalized pediatric patients is well-established, but elder clowns are now also helping seniors in residential settings, says Bernie Warren, professor emeritus in dramatic arts at the University of Windsor and founder of Fools for Health, a Canadian clown-doctor program...

“He has seen Alzheimer’s patients engage with clowns 'and become lucid and aware', Warren says. 'There’s anecdotal evidence that suggests clowns help greatly with memory, language and communication and awareness of self in the present.'”

Personally, I find clowns to be more creepy than funny but if it helps others, that's a good thing.

All of this makes sense to me and even if it eventually proves not to help much, laughing always feels good. So I'll just go on making (mostly) mordant jokes about my predicament and be happy to have some of my doctors laughing along with me – while sometimes making the jokes themselves:

When I saw my primary care physician for the first time soon after I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer two years ago, he flipped through a printout of my recent test results and said:

“You're very healthy, Ronni, except for the cancer.”

That was my first cancer joke and I've been finding a lot more to laugh at about cancer ever since.


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By Karpagam “Jeeks” Rajagopal

It is a near-perfect day, with a benevolent sun and a gentle breeze riffling the surface of the pond. A couple of hundred geese mill about on the shore, perforating the ground with their beaks.

A tattooed young man carries a Frisbee as he walks his dogs off-leash. He seems torn between tossing the frisbee for the dogs and finding someone with whom he can play. One of the dogs is a rambunctious golden retriever, the great weather a catalyst that kicks his natural exuberance into high gear.

He does his business on the grass, and earns a “Good boy” from his dad who bends down to scoop it with a plastic bag. He is fit to explode with pride at his accomplishment and a gleam appears in his eye.

While his dad is distracted, he spots the geese and the progression of his thoughts is evident. He charges down the gentle slope towards the smallest gaggle of geese, convinced that even the landscape has every intention of enabling his escapade.

Warned by their lookout, the geese take flight in an explosion of feathers and squawks, indignantly levitating and splashing down in the water. I hear his dad telling him, “Don’t go in the water”, and he reins himself in, braking hard on the verge, caught on the wings of this dilemma.

The gears are clicking fast as he assesses his distance from his dad and the expanse that separates him from the remaining scores of geese. He sees a shining opportunity and seizes it. He runs headlong towards them, euphoric, his fur flying, his tongue a pink flag declaring his exultance. Almost as one, they take off en masse as he chases them into the pond.

This time around, he doesn’t even pretend to stop. He splashes in with abandon, paddling after the geese. Heedless of his dad’s whistles, he tries to herd them to the center of the pond. Now that the geese have quieted down, he can clearly hear his name and the command to return to shore.

Reluctantly, he turns around and it is clear that his heart is not in it. Or maybe he is using the time to strategize. Even though there is no current to battle against, he slowly makes his way back to shore, sodden and chagrined.

As he emerges from the water, it is clear that he knows what to do. He skulks out, tail drooping, the very image of abject chagrin, regret and apology. To see him you would think he had been forced into the pond under duress. He shuffles towards his dad, trying to ingratiate himself by crawling on his belly.

A few feet along, he can sense forgiveness and the change in his posture is so marked as to be unrecognizable. He has realized that apology is far better than permission, and that he does not need to sacrifice fun for good behavior.

The tail springs back up, redemption is at hand, and life is good once again as he goes tearing off through the park, unbridled joy in his every muscle. Through the rest of my walk, I have a smile in my heart and a spring in my step.


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