Deathpods and the Deathlab

For many years, decades if I'm honest, I've said I want to cremated when I die and have a friend distribute my ashes among two or three certain places in Manhattan. This is no longer a good idea.

In recent years, environmental concerns have militated against traditional cremation and as we have discussed here in the past, there is a growing number of new ideas for green burials that respect both the deceased and, particularly in avoiding embalming, the environment.

Nowadays, in many U.S. communities, you can be buried in a simple shroud, in a mushroom suit or in a pod from which a tree will grow - in which case you can even choose the type of tree. There are other choices too.

In addition to environmental concerns pushing new notions of burial, we are just plain running out of space to put dead people, not to mention how prohibitively expensive cemetery plots have become.

This week, Atlas Obscura published a fascinating story about some proposed innovations in burial.

”Imagine the Manhattan Bridge twinkling from underneath with hundreds of small pods filled with decaying biomass – the final resting place of many former New Yorkers, shining like stars in an otherwise dark sky.

“There, you might lay flowers near a pod containing the remains of a loved one, until decomposition finishes its course and all that remains is a container to keep as a remembrance.”

It's being called Constellation Park and the light results from “microbial digestion” of corpses in which microorganisms consume bodies without the need for oxygen, reducing them to light. Here is an illustration of how it might look:


This idea in the brainchild of the DeathLab, a trans-disciplinary research and design space at Columbia University. Here is a closer view of what the researchers have imagined for Constellation Park.


This project is nowhere near creation let alone conclusion. It hasn't even been presented to the city council. Even so, it is already

”...facing fierce opposition from the funeral industry,” reports A.M. Brune in Atlas Obscura.

“But like a lot of things in New York it might, eventually, come down to a numbers game: if built, Constellation Park, could accommodate around 10 percent of deaths in the city each year—a number that seems small until you start to think about the alternatives, which can be environmentally disastrous.”

And there is at least one precedent now. A similar idea is underway at the historic Arnos Vale Cemetery in Bristol, England, where lights will be powered by decaying biomass. Take a look at a rendering:

Arnos Vale Cemetery

I would be more than pleased to give up my long-held dream of having my ashes scattered in Manhattan in exchange for powering a light on the Manhattan Bridge for awhile. As Karla Rothstein, who is an architecture professor at Columbia and director of the university's Deathlab, told Atlas Obscura:

“Socio-cultural needs and desires are not static. Honoring our dead is a basic human endeavor, and there are many valid practices, including new models, that can support this need.”

You can read the full story at Atlas Obscura. There is a lot more information there than I've passed on here.

The Good Old Days

The theme on one side of this endless presidential campaign is a reminiscence for the good old days. Okay, the Trumpists refer to it as the days when America was great, but it's the same thing.

The anti-Trumpists like to say that America is still great but I'm not here to argue partisan politics today. I'm interested in how remarkable it is that whether our causes lean left or right, our individual cultural identities of the moment are so often determined by choices we made 30, 40, 50 or more years ago.

To stick with the campaign for just a paragraph or so, I first became interested in politics when I was quite young. The Eisenhower/Stevenson campaign of 1952 was my first presidential contest. I was 11.

On election night, my parents let me stay up to listen to the returns come in on the radio. (If television had made it to Oregon yet that year, my parents had not bought one yet.)

I settled into my mother's big, comfy Queen Anne chair with the side wings that made me feel like I was in my own private space. I scrunched myself up in a blanket with pad and pencil at the ready to keep track of the votes as the numbers were announced (until I fell asleep).

Pre-election day polling was a nascent science in those days and I have no memory of hearing about any horse race in the 1952 campaign. Of course, I was a kid and probably didn't pay close-enough attention to the news to notice but there certainly was not the amount or detail of polling we get today.

That means there was little in the lead-up to election day to indicate who might be winning and I have often thought, as an adult, how much more interesting and informative the presidential elections would be if polling were not allowed - particularly because they make it too easy for the news media.

Think about it: I'm guessing that about 90 percent of all election-related news stories are numbers and percentages. Without them, we all - candidates, media and voters - would be “stuck” with conversation about actual policy positions. Imagine that.

Or am I just being nostalgic for the good old days? Is it possible, do you think, that as social, cultural and technological changes come along for societies not to adopt them? Even when the fact of actual advancement is questionable? Probably not.

What I suspect, however, is that even when old people go along with the changes, we sometimes miss the old ways of doing things, the ways of our youth.

Let me take this general idea into another area of culture.

On Saturday, I posted Peter Tibbles' tale of a short conversation he had with a young woman at the fish market who told him her name is Bianca. Here it is again:

PETER: Oh, like Bianca Jagger.

YOUNG WOMAN: (blank stare)

PETER: Mick Jagger's ex-wife.

YOUNG WOMAN: (blank stare)

PETER: Mick Jagger. The Rolling Stones.

YOUNG WOMAN: (blank stare)


YOUNG WOMAN: That'll be $10.90.

It's a funny and doleful reminder that we're old and the pop world has passed us by. After all, the Rolling Stones have been around for half a century and there is no reason Bianca should know who one of them was married to for a short while more than 40 years ago however familiar the story is to many of us.

But when I thought about it further, I realized the same conversation could be had in reverse if Peter Tibbles were the same name as the lead singer in Bianca's favorite band. Most of us older than 60 or 65 wouldn't know who she was talking about.

And so it seems to go for each generation. One of the most important things we do in our youth to ensure that we can live independently as adults is to separate and distinguish ourselves from our parents and grandparents.

One big way we do that is to adopt new, up-to-date, cultural artifacts – music, fashion, movies, slang terms, types of entertainment, social and political points of view – many of them deliberately chosen to shock older people.

In time, of course, parental shock wears off but what Bianca and her contemporaries don't know – and we did not know when we were doing the same things at her age – is that they are forming tastes, opinions, preferences and sensibilities they will carry with them unto the grave.

Thus, the good old days - whether we define them by poll-free election campaigns, rock bands of our youth or back when America was great – change from one generation to the next to the next.

What is interesting about that as we work our way through the decades of life is how often – not always but often - we see those choices we made at age 18, 20 or 25 as preferable or somehow superior to what the “kids” coming up behind us choose.

And so it is with each generation. Everyone gets a few years to control the zeitgeist and then the privilege moves on.

Medicare Open Enrollment for 2017

It's amazing how much the presidential election has changed our lives this year. In the case of an important annual event for elders that I report on here every year, it got postponed due to the third Clinton/Trump debate.

So here we are today, 10 days late with the information you need.

October 15 marked the start of the Medicare Open Enrollment period which lasts until 7 December. During this time, people 65 and older may, if they choose, make changes to their Advantage programs and their Part D prescription drug plans.

Oh joy. It shouldn't be this hard to keep up one's health care coverage year to year and it wouldn't be with a single-payer system like most western democracies have. But for now we're stuck with Medicare - and I'm awfully glad to we have it - so here is what you need to know.

(This is a long post. I am hoping I have created enough bold headers that you can skip to the information you care about and ignore the rest.)

If you currently have traditional Medicare, you are allowed to change to a private Advantage plan – or vice versa. Traditional Medicare does not provide drug coverage so you need a separate plan (Part D) for that.

Some Advantage plans cover drugs and others do not, so if you choose a plan without drug coverage you will need a stand-alone drug program as traditional Medicare enrollees do.

• Part A covers inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing, hospice and home health care. It is free.

• Part B covers preventive care, outpatient services and doctor visits. The monthly premium is deducted from your Social Security benefit.

Optional • Medigap (or Supplemental) coverage pays for the “gap” between what Parts A and B cover and your out-of-pocket costs. You MAY NOT CHANGE this coverage during this 15 October-7 December open enrollment period.

• Part C is another name for Advantage plans. These take the place of original Medicare (Parts A, B and Medigap). Premiums are usually lower, they often cover drugs but physician choice is limited to the company's network and physicians are allowed to drop out of the program mid-year.

• 2017 Medicare Costs
As we discussed last week, there will be a .3 percent increase in Social Security benefits in 2017 but we do not yet know if or how much that will effect the Medicare Part B premium that is deducted from the monthly Social Security payment.

For the past two years, without a Social Security cost-of-living adjustment, the Part B premium has remained at $104.90. The new premium will be announced in November.

Certain people pay higher Part B premiums. Medicare costs in general for 2017 are not yet available. You can see last year's costs at this webpage where next year's costs will be available when they are released.

Medicare is a gigantic, complicated program with many permutations depending on individual circumstances. I cannot possibly pretend I understand it all and if I did, I could not account for them all here. What I can do, is provide some good links to help you through this year's ordeal to making changes (or not) you might want.

Remember, even if you think you are happy with your current coverage, prices change, deductibles are added, subtracted, increased, etc., and drugs are added and deleted from companies' formularies. So it is just good sense to review your plans each year at this time.

The website is not perfect but it gets better and easier to use each year. You can check your current enrollment, premiums, drugs list and find all sorts of general health information.

When you get there, click on the line: “Medicare Open Enrollment starts October 15 and ends December 7 Review your health and prescription drug coverage options” near the top of the home page to get into the open enrollment area with both your current coverage and options for 2017.

One of the best things about the selection tool for drug coverage is that if you take the time to enter all your prescriptions and their dosages, you will get a list of plans that cover what you need and you can then compare other criteria to select the plan that works best for you.

In my case, I use no prescription drugs and since there is no way to guess what might happen to me and what kind of drugs I would need, I punt.

I choose the least expensive plan and hope (how's that for an intelligent healthcare program?) that whatever happens to me, I will be able to afford the drugs I require until next enrollment period when I can select a different plan based on my drugs.

This year, there are 27 prescription drug plans available to me. I'm lucky that my current plan has reduced the premium by 7.6 percent (whoever heard of this?). The deductible goes up by just over 11 percent but there is no increase in the in-network co-pays.

It's a no brainer for me this year; I stay with the plan I have.

The annual open enrollment period is open season for scammers. You will likely receive many snailmail advertisements for Advantage and drug plans, and phone calls too. Be smart.

Never give out personal information such as Medicare and Social Security numbers, account numbers, etc. to anyone who has telephoned you. Ever. Medicare representatives never call to ask this kind of information.

If you are due a refund for any reason from a private insurer, it will be sent to you via postal mail. If anyone calls asking for personal information to receive your refund, it is probably a scam. Hang up.

Many legitimate companies are offering a variety of health coverage plans during this period. But some are not who they say they are or will employ high pressure tactics to try to sell you coverage you don't need. Be aware.

Many offers of “free” medical supplies or checkups via postal mail are excuses to extract personal information from you. Check them out carefully before agreeing to them.

Medicare website.
Medicare telephone: 1-800-Medicare

Medicare and You
By now, Medicare enrollees will have received your annual Medicare and You booklet. If you have not received it, or misplaced it, there is an electronic version [pdf]. Note that only the print version has a list in the back of plans available in your state.

Medicare Find a Plan

Here is a direct link to the Medicare Find a Plan main page.

My Medicare Matters
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) maintains a good educational website with lots of trustworthy information about Medicare and how it works.

The State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) is a national program that offers free, one-on-one counseling and assistance to people with Medicare, their families and caregivers. Find your state's SHIP here.

65 and Signing Up For the First Time
If you are new to Medicare, Kaiser Health News has a succinct one-pager to get you started with a lot of links to additional online information.

Don't Forget
Open enrollment ends on 7 December 2016.

ELDER MUSIC: Debut Albums

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

* * *

There's an old cliché that artists spend 25 years or so producing their first album but have to come up with a second one in six months. There's a bit of truth to that as there are a bunch of really good first albums and considerably fewer good second ones (The Band is the great exception to that).

These are mostly from the sixties because before that time (except for jazz albums and people like Frank Sinatra) albums were mostly vehicles for a few hit songs and a bunch of filler.

I’ve excluded the first solo albums by John Lennon, Paul Simon, Lou Reed and George Harrison as they, quite obviously, had come to prominence earlier in other guises. I also mention several others at the end who really deserve a place as well, so this isn't really the definitive selection.

I'll start with one of the finest first albums, THE DOORS – that's both the group's name and the album's.


There wasn't a dud track on the album but let's go with their most famous song, Light My Fire, the song that had them banned from The Ed Sullivan Show because they didn't censor the words as Ed requested at their first and only appearance.

♫ The Doors - Light My Fire

I first came across JESSE WINCHESTER's first effort because of a rave review in Rolling Stone.

Jesse Winchester

They also mentioned that there were a couple of members of The Band playing along. That was enough for me to go out and buy it pretty much immediately. I wasn't disappointed and I have every one of his albums and I've seen him perform a number of times.

As with The Doors, the album was named after himself. The song is Yankee Lady.

♫ Jesse Winchester - Yankee Lady

I mentioned above that I’m excluding solo artists who had previously become known in earlier bands. To be consistent I should exclude the next artist but, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”

Also, not surprisingly, Oscar Wilde said something similar some years later ("Wish I'd said that." "You will, Oscar, you will").

So here is JESSE COLIN YOUNG who came to our notice as the head honcho of The Youngbloods.

Jesse Colin Young

While we're on inconsistency, nitpickers might aver that “Song For Juli” was actually his fourth album. It depends how you count these things, and what you include – things get a bit murky.

I don't care, I'm using it anyway because it's a great album, and the first of his I encountered. This is the title song, Song For Juli.

♫ Jesse Colin Young - Song for Juli

When Columbia records signed THE BYRDS, they were told they had one chance only and that was to record a single and if it didn't do any good they were out the door.


The song they recorded, with the help of session musicians, was Mr Tambourine Man which went gangbusters. The record execs decided that they could record a whole album after all. That was named after that single of course.

Taken from album is I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better, written by Gene Clark who was their main songwriter in the early days of the group.

♫ The Byrds - I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better

I changed my mind several times about who should be included at this point. You can see some of those I considered at the end of the column. Finally I settled on ARLO GUTHRIE.


Most of you will be familiar with the song after which the album is named – Ronni features it every Thanksgiving. I won't use that song, but one of the others on the album (yes, there were others). The one I've chosen is I'm Going Home.

♫ Arlo Guthrie - I'm Going Home

Every song on MARIA MULDAUR's initial release would be worthy of inclusion. What a ripper this one is (that's Oz talk signifying approval).

Maria Muldaur

Maria had previously made an album with her husband Geoff but that doesn't count as far as I'm concerned. Besides, this one is a quantum leap in quality over that one.

Choosing a song is the hard part but I've settled on the beautiful I Never Did Sing You a Love Song.

♫ Maria Muldaur - I Never Did Sing You a Love Song

The FLYING BURRITO BROTHERS could be considered in the exceptions too as all four members were previously in The Byrds at one time or another, but I won't let that stop me.

Flying Burrito Brothers

It had two of the finest exponents of country rock in the group – Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman – and a couple of others who were, as mentioned, also in The Byrds. They carried on from where they left off on The Byrds' album "Sweetheart of the Rodeo".

The Burritos' album had the wonderful name, "The Gilded Palace of Sin". From that is Do You Know How It Feels (To Be Lonesome).

Flying Burrito Brothers - Do You Know How It Feels (To Be Lonesome)

ELVIS COSTELLO burst on to the scene with the name of one early rocker (Elvis, of course) and the look of another (Buddy Holly).

Elvis Costello

In spite of these blatant plagiarisms (if the word can be used in the context of name and appearance), he turned out to be a very interesting artist indeed. A song that Linda Ronstadt covered quite well is Alison.

♫ Elvis Costello - Alison

JAMES HUNTER is a major talent who hasn't really made an impact on the wider listening audience.

James Hunter

That's a shame and I hope to do my little bit to bring him to a slightly wider audience. His first album had the added boost of Van Morrison duetting on two of the songs.

I won't use those (as I've featured them elsewhere). Instead here is James with a little help from Doris Troy singing Hear Me Calling.

♫ James Hunter - Hear Me Calling

I first noticed RODNEY CROWELL's name as one of the musicians in Emmylou Harris's Hot Band.

Rodney Crowell

I next noticed him as the writer of several songs Emmy included on her albums. Naturally, when his first solo album was released I grabbed it. I wasn't disappointed.

Here is Rodney with a bit of help from Emmy and one of the songs she covered, Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight.

♫ Rodney Crowell - Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight

Honorable mentions to The Band “Music From Big Pink”, Kris Kristofferson “Kristofferson”, Tom Waits "Closing Time", Leonard Cohen “Songs of Leonard Cohen”, Norah Jones "Come Away With Me", Dire Straits and The Pretenders. All these deserved a place.

I would have liked to have included James Taylor "Sweet Baby James", Emmylou Harris "Pieces of the Sky" and Warren Zevon, but they were second albums – their first ones were pretty obscure (so much for my rave on Jesse Colin Young).

INTERESTING STUFF – 22 October 2016


Our own Peter Tibbles, who writes the Sunday Elder Music column here, reports on a recent conversation at the fish market when a young woman who served him mentioned that her name is Bianca.

PETER: Oh, like Bianca Jagger.

YOUNG WOMAN: (blank stare)

PETER: Mick Jagger's ex-wife.

YOUNG WOMAN: (blank stare)

PETER: Mick Jagger. The Rolling Stones.

YOUNG WOMAN: (blank stare)


YOUNG WOMAN: That'll be $10.90.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Ronni here. In last week's Interesting Stuff, nearly half the items were about Donald Trump. This week, four good items related to books turned up. Here they are all bunched together. (Better idea than Trump, hunh?


Long before there was Google or even the internet, back in the 1970s, I started using the New York Public Library's telephone question service – mostly for work but for myself too.

It was a lot easier than a subway trip to the library itself when I was in a hurry and unless I'm fooling myself, I do not recall ever stumping the human Google service.

Recently I discovered that even now, in the age of Google, the telephone service still exists at the NYPL. Take a look at this little video about it.


Maybe you know about the Little Free Library movement in many communities in the United States and beyond. Sometimes it's referred to as Take a Book, Leave a Book.

Usually, the mini-libraries are built in someone's front yard or a neighborhood park and are quite fanciful. Here are some examples:


Who could object, right? Well, recently, CityLab reported that in Kansas, some curmudgeons did that:

”The Leawood City Council said it had received a couple of complaints about [nine-year-old] Spencer Collins' Little Free Library. They dubbed it an 'illegal detached structure' and told the Collins' they would face a fine if they did not remove the Little Free Library from their yard by June 19.”

The CityLab reporter, Conor Friedersdorf, closely represents my opinion about this:

”...a subset of Americans are determined to regulate every last aspect of community life,” he wrote. “Due to selection bias, they are overrepresented among local politicians and bureaucrats. And so they have power, despite their small-mindedness, inflexibility, and lack of common sense so extreme that they've taken to cracking down on Little Free Libraries, of all things.”

Friedersdorf documented a couple of similar churls in other cities who wanted to take down Little Free Libraries. This is an old story now, dated February 2015, and I don't know the outcome. But Little Libraries are not going anywhere.

You can read the CityLab story here. The Little Free Libraries organization has a website here. And this link will take you to their map where you can see if there are any Little Free Libraries near you.


The rise of Amazon and other online booksellers have killed a lot of bookstores in the past 20 years. Borders is gone, Barnes & Noble has closed a lot of stores but it's the independents that have been most harmed.

Now, however, things may be turning around for them.

”...after years of losses, they are emerging from the decimation,” reports The New York Times, “with the number of independent bookstores rising 21 percent from 2010 to 2015.

“In a twist of fate, it is the internet — the very thing that was supposed to wipe them out — that is helping these small stores.

“Retail sales of new books, which include chains but not online retailers such as Amazon, increased last year for the first time since 2007, according to Census Bureau data — and are up another 6 percent this year. By contrast, Barnes & Noble’s sales fell 6.6 percent last quarter.

“'Bookstores are being reinvented by taking advantage of how the world has changed,' said Oren Teicher, chief executive of the American Booksellers Association, which represents independent sellers. 'The whole ability to put technology to work for you has changed everything.'”

“Some bookstores are investing in infrastructure, such as in-shop e-book printers and new back-end systems, while others are embracing social media as an inexpensive way to connect with new customers.”

Read more at The Times.


Not literally the last, although that might not have been obvious when Josh Spencer opened the store in downtown Los Angeles just over a decade ago. As the YouTube page explains.

”Against the closure of massive bookstore chains and the rise of eReaders, Josh has been able to create a local resurgence of the printed word.”

It's an uplifting personal story too. Take a look:


With the wall-to-wall coverage of this presidential campaign for the past 18 months, it's been easy to overlook the fact that President Barack Obama will be ending his two-terms in office in January.

But a week ago, The Late Show host Stephen Colbert did notice and helped the president prepare for upcoming job interviews. Enjoy.


Take a look at this: drivers stuck in traffic jams in Mexico City are being buzzed by drones carrying advertising signs:


In Spanish, some of the signs say, “Driving by yourself? This is why you can never see the volcanoes” — a reference to the smog that often hovers over the mega-city and obscures two nearby peaks, explains MIT Technology Review.

”It wasn’t exactly a plea for environmentalism, though—it was an ad for UberPOOL, part of Uber’s big push into markets across Latin America.”

I don't know about this; I think traffic accidents are the all-too-logical and dangerous conclusion to this experiment. More here.


As a TV producer, John Marshall has won nine Emmys. He is also an artist who says that as a kid, he dreamed of being a cartoonist.

He's done that now in a form he calls Sunset Selfies and they are a delight. Take a look yourself:

There is a slideshow of more sunset cutouts at his website.


All at once, all together and they are having so much fun.

* * *

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.

Measly Social Security COLA Increase for 2017

Anyone who reads this blog undoubtedly knows this already: on Tuesday, the Social Security Administration announced that the annual cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) for 2017 will be .3%.

That's right, three-tenths of one percent.

If you apply that to the average Social Security benefit of $1,238.00, it amounts to less than four dollars a month. That is on top of no – read: zero – increases for 2015 and 2016.

Are we supposed to be grateful this year, do you think?

I just received a 4.5% increase in my Medigap premium, a more than 10% increase in my Comcast internet bill and a 5.1% increase in my auto insurance premium (and we won't know about the annual increase in the Medicare Part B premium until November.)

No extra services, of course, in any for these increases – just an additional $35 or so a month. You might say that's not much except that increases for other fixed expenses haven't arrived yet and, most important, it happens this way every year.

Here is a chart from USA Today showing the Social Security COLA changes for the past 10 years:


Pathetic compared to actual costs. I can't be the only person who, each year, cuts back a little here, a little there and wonders how long until all of life's little pleasures are gone.

The president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM), Max Richtman, sometimes asks attendees at town hall meetings how much they believe the COLA represents the true cost of living:

”...laughter is always the response,” he wrote Tuesday in a news release following the COLA anouncement.

“We should move to a COLA formula that takes a more accurate measure of seniors’ expenses,” he continued, “which is a CPI for the elderly. The CPI-E has been in the experimental phase since 1982. It’s time to finish the job by fully funding the development of a more accurate COLA formula.”

The CPI-E is a much more realistic calculation of elders' expenses compared to working people but recommendations to change to it have been ignored in Washington for more than 30 years.

There are at least two bills to strengthen Social Security that have been sitting in the House and Senate for a year or more with no action from our do-nothing Congress. I cannot imagine that the bills will come to the floor before a new president is sworn in.

Which brings me to that tiny mention of Social Security and Medicare in the final moments of the Wednesday presidential debate. There was no real discussion to speak of. Here is Max Richtman's full statement after the debate:

“Rather than focusing on the candidate’s plans for improving Social Security and Medicare’s long-term solvency, strengthening benefits and tackling the retirement crisis looming for millions of workers and retirees, last night’s viewers were stuck with the same old crisis calls that ‘entitlements’ are bankrupting America.

“No doubt, Washington’s billion dollar anti-Social Security lobby was happy to have some life pumped back into their middle-class killing campaign to cut benefits; however, America’s voters deserved far more from this debate.

”Make no mistake about it, the choices between Clinton and Trump couldn’t be starker. Donald Trump’s Social Security shape-shifting leaves voters with no idea of how he plans to improve solvency and benefit adequacy. Doing nothing isn’t an option.

“Contrary to his insult last night, hearing Hillary Clinton tell the truth about how to strengthen Social Security's funding isn't ‘nasty,’ it's just reality. As long as America's wealthiest are allowed to avoid paying their share of payroll taxes, Social Security suffers. Period.

“While Clinton supports expanding benefits, Trump’s only policy promise last night was to repeal Obamacare. That cuts years from Medicare’s solvency and billions in preventive care, prescription drugs and cost-reducing benefits to seniors.

“Most Americans know that our nation faces a retirement crisis. Our economy depends on strong Social Security and Medicare programs and improving benefits is vital to keeping millions from poverty. Too bad voters weren’t allowed to hear any of that debated last night.”

Perhaps in a new administration some progress can be made in Congress on this kind of legislation. Stay tuned here after the January inauguration for ideas on how you and I can make a difference.

Meanwhile, don't spend your COLA all in one place.

Oh, wait. One more thing from our friends at the NCPSSM coming off Trump calling Hillary a "nasty woman" at the Wednesday debate:


The Day After the Final Presidential Debate of 2016

Like all previous debate moderators, Chris Wallace reminded the audience of thousands at last night's final debate in Las Vegas that they were spectators, not participants and he admonished them to withhold applause, laughter, boos and cheers. But he left one out of the forbidden list: gasp.

And that was the audience's spontaneous response when Republican nominee Donald Trump refused to say he will accept the outcome of the November 8 election.

“I will look at it at the time. What I have seen is so bad. First of all, the media is so dishonest and so corrupt, and the pile-on is so amazing.”

His refusal is so unprecedented, so shocking, so demeaning of precedent and our democracy itself that Mr. Wallace gave Trump a second chance to answer. Trump stood firm: "I'll keep you in suspense," he said.

Secretary Hillary Clinton called his answer "horrifying" and actually, it was much worse than it seems in print. Here is the piece of video that will undoubtedly live in infamy:

There is only one answer, a one-word answer, to that question and Trump blew it.

The analysts and particularly those who lean Republican will tell you that Trump performed better at this debate than the previous two but that doesn't matter in the face of his answer repudiating a bedrock foundation of America, the peaceful transition of power.

One other thing - minor in comparison. Chris Wallace saved his announced topic of "entitlements" to the very end when there were only a couple of minutes left in the debate and answers were sketchy. Secretary Clinton pledged to use tax increases on the wealthy to preserve Social Security and Medicare. Trump said his plan is to - well, it was hard to tell - perhaps "make America great again."

I won't quote all the morning news outlets for you - it's easy to find them online. But now, it's your turn to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comment space below. Because it is the internet, space is unlimited – have your say at whatever length. Just, please, paragraph it if it's long so that it is easier for old eyes to read.

Final Presidential Face-to-Face Tonight


Here we go again - one last debate tonight just 20 days before the 8 November election.

Before I get to the nuts and bolts of what you need to know for tonight and a nice surprise at the end of this post, here's a short video from John Oliver on his HBO program, Last Week Tonight last Saturday with his own kind of recap of Donald Trump's previous week:

You probably don't need me to find all the information about tonight's debate - it's everywhere. But in the interest of completeness, here are the details.

• TIME: The debate begins at 9PM eastern U.S. time and lasts for 90 minutes. There are no commercial interruptions.

• MODERATOR: The anchor of Fox New Sunday, Chris Wallace, is the moderator.

• LOCATION: The debate is, of course, live and being held at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas.

• FORMAT AND TOPICS: Like the first debate, this one will be divided into six segments of approximately 15 minutes each with topics chosen by Mr. Wallace. They are:

Entitlements and debt
The Supreme Court
The economy
Foreign policy
Each candidate's fitness for the office of president

You can pretty well bet it will not go well for us older folks when the moderator refers to Social Security and Medicare as “entitlements.” I cannot wait to see how misinformed Wallace is about those programs. Wouldn't it be terrific if Clinton began her response by saying, “These are 'earned benefits', Chris, not 'entitlements'. Every recipient paid into them all their working lives.”

Don't hold your breath.

The moderator will open each segment with a question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond. Candidates will then have an opportunity to respond to each other.

The moderator will use any remaining time in the segment for a deeper discussion of the topic.

• WHERE TO WATCH: These television channels will carry the debate:


Fox News

The debate will also be streamed online at least at these locations and there may be others:

Most networks' websites

Also: Undoubtedly at a bar or two near you. As with the previous two debates, Time Goes By will be open tomorrow, Thursday, for discussion of this final confrontation between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Now for the treat:

Even though the latest polls look good for Hillary Clinton, I don't entirely believe them and I've been concerned all along that Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein will pull just enough votes from Clinton that she might lose.

As it turns out, that is precisely what John Oliver talked about in his main essay Saturday on Last Week Tonight: third parties. You're gonna love this.

Cooking at Home as We Get Older

Last week, TGB reader, Elizabeth Archerd contacted me with a topic suggestion for Time Goes By:

”...can we talk about how to manage home cooking as we age?

“...My eating habits are great, according to every medical person I know, but whole natural foods do take a certain amount of cooking time. I've been looking for ways to simplify the process to save my damaged hands from pain, which I feel after every holiday meal and increasingly from daily kitchen work.

“I'm curious about how elders are managing food, not just those with my own preferences. What can we preserve, what will we have to expect to give up?”

“Duh,” said I, slapping my forehead while reading Elizabeth's email. More than a dozen years at this blog and it had never crossed my mind that cooking could become difficult as we get older either from waning stamina and strength or something more specific like arthritis.

This fact escaped me even though a few months ago, I bought a mechanical apple peeler to use when I make my monthly batch of apple sauce to freeze because my hand had recently begun cramping from holding the paring knife in one position for too long.

My first thoughts were practical in a general sense: most old people probably shouldn't be climbing onto chairs or ladders so it would be important to move all food, tableware and cooking equipment to shelves that are reachable without a kitchen ladder.

Sometimes food preparation, particularly for special occasions that Elizabeth mentions, can takes longer than feet or legs are willing to hold up. Here is an “angled perching stool” I found at Elder Store that takes the weight off your feet and also supports your back.

It turns out there are dozens and dozens of kitchen aids and gadgets for people who are old, disabled or recovering from surgery or accidents. A few of my favorites:

This one-handed vegetable brush, also available at Elder Store, makes perfect sense. Why didn't I think of that.

Here is what they call a rocking T knife - also known as a mezzaluna to most cooks - that makes it easy to cut fruit, vegetables, herbs or anything else with one hand. It is available at Active Forever and other online stores.

I really like this pan holder that you can find at many shops for elders. It makes stirring with one hand easy and accommodates different sized pots and pans. You can find this at several stores including RehabMart.

I love this. I don't have arthritic hands (yet) but tearing off plastic wrap from the roll is always a war between me and the box. At $9, this is expensive but maybe it's worth it. It's available at Elder Store.

There are a gazillion kinds of gadgets to help open cans and bottles but one caught my attention because it works with pill bottles too. You can find it at the Elder Store where it is called the easy open pill extractor.

Many of these items and others seem to me to be more expensive that they ought to be and I recommend checking for similar ones around the web at such places as Amazon, Google Shopping, Walmart, etc. in addition to the specialty stores I've linked above.

For those of you not in the United States, I came across Arthritis Solutions (don't take all these name too literally) in Australia and Living Made Easy in the United Kingdom. I'm sure there are more.

A couple of other ideas:

Most supermarkets carry already-chopped garlic and onions, fruits and vegetables, varieties of ready-to-use salad greens, etc. Personally, I am leery of packaged fresh produce; although it's been many years ago now, I recall an outbreak of E. coli caused from packaged spinach.

The meat and fish departments of supermarkets where I live are increasingly providing dishes that are dressed, flavored and ready to cook – stuffed peppers, for example, marinated steak, Asian chicken breasts, stuffed salmon, shish- and fish-kebobs, and so on.

To cut down on the amount of cooking, you can also supplement with meal services. My next door neighbor, during the years he cared for his invalid wife, used the local Meals on Wheels program not because he couldn't afford to cook but because it took too much time and effort away from caring for his wife.

Nowadays, there are growing numbers of gourmet home cooking food delivery services with all the fresh or frozen ingredients and instructions for making delicious meals without a lot of effort.

I have no idea if these services are useful or affordable; I haven't tried them. They appear to be expensive but that may not be so when compared to what you spend on food shopping now and whatever value you place on less time in the kitchen.

If, like me, you enjoy cooking but you have to cut back for physical or other reasons, you could combine sometimes cooking with delivery services or meeting friends for lunch or dinner. All of this, of course, depends on what is affordable.

And don't forget cooking ahead. When you have the energy, set aside a morning or afternoon to cook and freeze ready-to-eat meals. I do this most frequently with soup in the winter. I really like seeing the rows of two-cup containers of home-made pea soup, tomato soup, squash soup and others lined up in the freezer. All I do is keep one in the refrigerator defrosting for when I'm too lazy or busy to cook.

Which brings me to you, dear readers. This is the perfect story for crowd-sourcing.

What kitchen gadgets and supplies do you find most helpful nowadays?

What changes in preparation and techniques are you making as you grow older?

What have you given up doing in the kitchen and what have you maintained?

Have there been accidents or other incidents that compelled you to change how you work in the kitchen?

And so on. Give us you best advice on this subject – and thank you Elizabeth Archerd for a terrific idea.

ELDER MUSIC: His Slight Muse Do Please These Curious Days

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

* * *


William Shakespeare wrote songs into his plays. He also wrote poems and sonnets, some of the best ever. Naturally, over the years composers have put these to music. I'm going to feature some of these today.

There is a mixture of composers who actually worked with Will at the time, up to others who wrote the music just this year. This year is sort of important as it's 400 years since Will turned his toes up.

That most prolific of composers, Anon, starts the ball rolling today. To perform Mr or Ms A's composition we have ALFRED DELLER.

Alfred Deller

Alf was (and probably still is) the best known counter-tenor. This singing style replaced the previous castrato and is an improvement over that as the singer retains all the requisite parts of his anatomy.

Alf's contribution is O Mistress Mine, from Twelfth Night.

♫ Alfred Deller - Anon ~ O mistress mine (Twelfth Night)

Coming right up to date we have DAVID GILMOUR.

David Gilmour

Dave is best known for being a member of the group Pink Floyd which he joined as a replacement for founder Syd Barrett when Syd went off the rails in a big way.

Dave performs probably the most famous of Will's sonnets, number 18. That's the one that starts, "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate..." and so on.

♫ David Gilmour - Sonnet 18

Speaking of "best knowns", BRYN TERFEL is almost certainly the world's best known bass-baritone.

Bryn Terfel

Bryn has sung in every famous opera house on the planet and a lot of other places as well. His song is It Was a Lover and his Lass from As You Like It. This was set to music by Gerald Finzi, who was a British composer best known for his choral works.

♫ Bryn Terfel - It was a lover and his lass

FLORENCE WELCH is the songwriter and singer for the English band Florence and the Machine.

Florence Welch

She (and they) has (have) had several albums that topped the charts but I'm afraid that I missed those. I haven't missed her Shakespeare though, and she performs Sonnet 29 (When in Disgrace with Fortune and Men's Eyes).

♫ Florence Welch - When in Disgrace with Fortune and Men's Eyes (Sonnet 29)

PHILIPPE SLY is another bass-baritone.

Philippe Sly

Phil was born and bred in Canada which is where he received his training. These days he's a member of the San Francisco Opera. He performs Hey, ho, the Wind and the Rain, a song from Twelfth Night.

♫ Philippe Sly - Hey, ho, the wind and the rain

RUFUS WAINWRIGHT recently released a complete album devoted to Will.

Rufus Wainwright

Rufe certainly has musical pedigree – his father is Loudon the third, mother Kate McGarrigle (making his aunt Kate's sister Anna). His sister Martha is also a singer and writer of songs (ones that bare her soul to a considerable degree). His step-mother is Suzzy Roche, and I'd better stop there as I'm running out of space.

I've selected Sonnet 20 from his album, that's the one about a woman's face.

♫ Rufus Wainwright - A Woman's Face (Sonnet 20)

The musical HAIR had some Shakespeare in it.


This might or might not surprise you. In my collection, whenever I collected this, I just labeled it "Hair" so I have no idea which version it is or who is singing (because that was quite a while ago). It's a chorus, so there are several people anyway.

What they perform is What a Piece of Work Is Man, from Hamlet.

♫ Hair - What a Piece of Work Is Man

IAN BOSTRIDGE and ANTONIO PAPPANO recorded an album of Will's songs.

Ian Bostridge & Antonio Pappano

Ian did the singing and Tony tickled the ivories. The song I've selected was again written by Gerald Finzi, who is a bit of a one for putting tunes to Will's songs. In this case it's Who is Silvia? from Two Gentlemen of Verona.

♫ Ian Bostridge - Finzi ~ Who is Silvia

Australian national treasure and most famous singer/songwriter PAUL KELLY was another who released an album this year devoted to the works of Will.

Paul Kelly

From that I have taken Sonnet 138. This one starts "When my love swears she is made of truth..." It sounds rather like one of Paul's own songs. He must have studied the master's works closely.

♫ Paul Kelly - Sonnet 138

I originally had this last song pencilled in first to be performed by Alfred Deller. However, on hearing EMMA KIRKBY perform it I knew she had to be the one, and Alf got a different song.

Emma Kirkby

Emma is one of the finest performers of early music and I can testify to her greatness as I had the good fortune of seeing and hearing her here in Melbourne.

From The Tempest, Emma sings Where the Bee Sucks, There Lurk I.

♫ Emma Kirkby - Thomas Arne ~ Where the Bee Sucks, There Lurk I