Friday, 19 December 2014

The Pleasures of Comfort Food

PROGRAMMING REMINDER: Repeating an announcement I made a couple of days ago:

Back in 2008, I made a presentation about web design for elders at the Gnomedex Conference in Seattle. I met a lot of young, interesting and engaged tech workers there and one of the them was Dave Delaney.

Dave is an expert on digital marketing, social media strategy and business networking, and he hosts a regular podcast, New Business Networking. Yesterday, we recorded an interview about age, blogging and networking online and off.

Dave is smart, knowledgeable and loads of fun to talk with. You can listen to the podcast here at Dave's website. I'm sure you will enjoy it.

A couple of days ago, the Well blog at The New York Times reported on a new study that suggests comfort foods don't work – they don't lift your mood or, at least, not for long.

I'll quote The Times reporter, Jan Hoffman, who is far more readable than the research abstract is:

”True, your mood will probably improve shortly after you eat your favorite high-carb hug, but no more so than if you’d eaten a granola bar — a pleasant enough choice, but hardly a fixture in that calorically elevated 'comfort food' category.”

I can't resist interrupting Hoffman for a moment to note that granola bars, like granola itself, are hardly a low-calorie, low-carb food even if it's not in the writer's comfort category. Continuing from The Times:

“In a study published in the journal Health Psychology, researchers at the University of Minnesota found that even when you don’t soothe yourself with food, your mood will probably bounce back on its own.”

Once again, I am dumbfounded at what research money is spent on. There is not a reader here who couldn't tell us the same thing. After all, there are all kinds of occasions in our lives when we haven't had the time, opportunity or even the inclination to indulge a craving and we feel better later anyway.

(According to the story, the research was funded by NASA that is interested in finding more attractive foods for astronauts who lose weight when traveling in space. Here's a free clue for NASA: invent a way to feed them real food instead of the goop they squeeze out of plastic bags.)

Further, the study started out with the assumption that comfort food involves lots of carbohydrates and calories. Really?

Macaroni and cheese is yummy, so is ice cream. But when I'm craving something I know makes me feel good, it can just as easily be Dungeness crab where I live now, was often lobster when I lived in Maine and when rainbow trout or certain salmon are available, I could gorge on them every day.

But maybe I'm not average about food. Just in case that's so, let's stipulate that in general, comfort food means high calorie. But it can't be just any version of a favorite, can it? Doesn't even a common dish like macaroni and cheese need to be a specific recipe or product each individual craves?

I've never eaten commercially made mac and cheese I could finish – it is universally awful, glu-ey stuff. Instead, it must be – wait for it – my recipe that involves four kinds of cheese and produces instant heart attack – or Kraft. (My taste in many things – food and otherwise – frequently falls into both ends of the value or price spectrum.)

In truth, I'm not really interested in the research study that I think is ill-conceived and doesn't prove anything useful. It was the phrase “comfort food” that caught my attention and made me think it would be a good topic in a week where there have been a lot of posts here that were heavy going.

And, it is the time of year when two food-related issues emerge:

  1. We tend to eat and overeat all kinds of things that aren't good for us
  2. Families often cause a lot of tension. Tension calls for relief. And that can mean the craving for comfort food

Maybe yours is already on the menu. In my case, I really, really like leftover turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce, especially the next day either piled on a plate or shoved between two pieces of bread. And I certainly don't need to be in a bad mood to want it.

It seems to me that peanut butter is a near-perfect food. Nice in a sandwich but why bother. I just spoon it straight from the jar into my mouth. I'm not even a grownup about it - I can do half a jar at a sitting (or standing) which is why it's not allowed in my home.

What about you and comfort food?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Fritzy Dean: Pajama Day

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Thursday, 18 December 2014

Sometimes Elders Trouble Me

Every election year, I am puzzled, and troubled too, that “my tribe” - elders – reliably votes in large numbers against its own best interests, electing Republican politicians who, almost to a person, want to cut Social Security and Medicare.

Enough elders vote the GOP party ticket that it can't be just the obscenely rich oligarchy. Many old people of moderate and modest means apparently are willing to lose their Social Security and Medicare benefits even though they bought it for themselves by paying into the system all their working lives.

Certainly there are times when sacrifice for the greater good is important but we would have heard about it if that were what's going on with these voters. Are they ignorant or do they really identify with the wealthy as some people tell me or are they just stupid?

It is a painful mystery and now there is another issue where elders grieve me.

Last week, from 11-14 December, The Pew Research Center polled 1001 Americans about the Torture Report right after it was released by Congress. Specifically, respondents were asked if they believe CIA “interrogation methods” (ahem – that would be “torture” according to a number of international agreements the U.S. is signatory to) were justified.

Astonishingly (to me), the country overall is divided right down the middle: 51 percent answered yes. Here's the chart (DK means don't know):


Of course, the numbers are different when the survey is broken down into demographic units. I wasn't surprised to read that men more than women believe torture is justified; that whites more than blacks or Hispanics do so; Republicans more than Democrats; those with less education than those with more.

But then there is this: People aged 50 to 64 and those 65 and older believe torture to be justified by 59 percent and 62 percent respectively. Now that surprised me. And it distresses me.

Here is the chart:


I am left speechless and have no way to understand.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Arlene Corwin: The Synapse Murders

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Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Pension Theft

IMPORTANT PROGRAMMING NOTE: Back in 2008, I made a presentation about web design for elders at the Gnomedex Conference in Seattle. I met a lot of young, interesting and engaged tech workers there and one of the them was Dave Delaney.

Dave is an expert on digital marketing, social media strategy and business networking, and he hosts a regular podcast, New Business Networking. Yesterday, we recorded an interview about age, blogging and networking online and off.

Dave is smart, knowledgeable and loads of fun to talk with. You can listen to the podcast here at Dave's website. I'm sure you will enjoy it.

Pensions are disappearing from American business. Each year, fewer companies offer them but if that's the case when you take a job, at least you can make other plans for your old age.

But there is something awful happening to people already retired: benefits are being cut and even lost.

That happens in different ways – some legal, some questionable. Pension plans can be underfunded and so run out of enough money to pay all of what's owed to retirees. Bankruptcy can end pensions altogether. The Enron scandal is a famous example - employees have never seen a penny.

Think about that: you planned reasonably well and with a combination of personal savings, Social Security and a pension plan you paid into during your working years, you get by. That combined income might be modest, maybe it doesn't allow luxuries, but you can afford your home, your car and other necessities.

Until one day, you get an announcement that your pension is being cut by – oh, maybe 50 percent. Or perhaps it won't be paid at all anymore.

Now what? Will you lose your home? Will you still be able to afford co-pays for prescription drugs you and your partner need? You scramble to figure out your new financial reality.

This is no small or occasional screwup. It is so common that a couple of years ago, Ellen E. Schultz wrote a highly acclaimed and frightening book about it titled, Retirement Heist, subtitled How Companies Plunder and Profit from the Nest Eggs of American Workers.

Consider what is happening today to state employee pensions in Kansas.

You will recall that the state's governor, Sam Brownbeck, slashed taxes for businesses and high income earners so that now, two years later, tax revenues have plummeted by a quarter of a billion (with a B) dollars leaving gigantic bills that need to be paid and not enough money to do so. Brownback's solution:

”Slash the state’s required pension contribution by $40 million to balance the state budget. But Kansas already has one of the worst-funded pension systems in the nation. The state was also recently sanctioned by the Securities and Exchange Commission for not accurately disclosing the shortfalls,” reports International Business Times.

“Brownback, an icon of tea party economics who was re-elected in 2014, defended his proposal to divert money from the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS), telling the Wichita Eagle: 'It’s kind of, uh, well where are you going to go for the funds?'”

Oh, of course. Why didn't I think of that: those old people don't need the pensions they paid into. Who cares if they can't afford to eat.

Just when you think nothing else can go wrong, it does. Remember all that noise last weekend about Congress staying in session overtime to pass the $1.1 trillion spending bill so the government wouldn't shut down this week? The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) explains what else is in that bill that is now law.

"[It] reversed 40 years of federal law protecting retirees’ pensions. The change will allow benefit cuts for up to 10 million workers, many of them part of a shrinking middle-class workforce in businesses such as construction and trucking. There wasn’t a single Congressional hearing on the plan before it was slipped into the spending bill...”

Bad enough, right? Now read the interpretation of that change from the Wall Street Journal. The emphasis is mine:

”Lawmakers and experts, while divided over the merits of the change, largely agreed that it could well be the first of many.

"The measure 'would set a terrible precedent,' said Karen Friedman, executive vice president of the Pension Rights Center, a group that advocates for wider pension coverage and opposes benefit cuts. The bill could encourage similar cutbacks in troubled state and local pension plans, and possibly even Social Security and Medicare, she said.”

It sometimes happens that way with legislation; a limited exception (as bad as it is) is used to grease the skids for expansion to areas where it was not intended.

I'm sure you'll feel much better about about that possibility when you read this, from the same Wall Street Journal story:

“'Facing up to the insolvency is healthy,' said Alex Pollock, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. While it is difficult to consider cutting retiree benefits, it is often better than taking the money from other people, such as taxpayers, he said.”

It is a foregone conclusion that the next Congress, which convenes in January and is entirely controlled by the Republicans, will try to cut Social Security and Medicare one way or another. We cannot trust President Barack Obama not to go along. I hope you will be with me, ready to fight back as hard as we can.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Henry Lowenstern: Memories of a German Childhood

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:41 AM | Comments (23) | Permalink | Email this post

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Hanukkah 5775

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Usually, on big holidays, I post a photo or video, something short as a celebration and let us otherwise have a day off from the blog. This year, a contributor to The Elder Storytelling Place sent a Hanukkah story for that blog but it seems a good fit here today. Happy Hanukkah, everyone.]


By Trudi Kappel

More than half a century ago, my mother received a birthday present of a Hanukkah menorah from her father. It is sterling silver, of a modern design and, unusual, burns oil not candles. When my Mother died, 23 years ago, I inherited it.


I identify as an ethnic but not a religious Jew. The times I have visited a synagogue can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Yet, each December I polish my menorah, re-wick it and light it. The first night two lights, the following night three until on the last night all nine glow. It is very beautiful and the tradition continues.

I wonder who will light this menorah when I am gone.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Trudi Kappel: 500 Words

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Monday, 15 December 2014

And the Winner of How To Be Old Is...

Last week, I told you about a new book I like a lot, How To Be Old, a modern-language update of Marcus Tullius Cicero's 2000-year-old masterpiece, De Senectute, by Richard Gerberding and Lance Rossi.

A random number drawing was held for an extra copy I have and the winner is – ta-dum - the reader who signs her comments "annie" but her real name is Harriet. I'll let her explain:

"My first name is Harriet. But my middle name is Ann. To family and dear friends, I am annie. After forty years in Colorado, I'm back home in So. Cal and loving it. No snow or ice!

"P.P.S. I meant to add that I've just begun working again at age 68. I do want to know all I can about being an old woman!"

In that case, since at TGB she is among friends, she must be annie when she's here, right? Congratulations, annie. The book is on its way as you read this.

Three Additional Winners
But wait, there's more. When the Quid Pro Books publisher saw how many of you responded for the drawing, he offered to supply three more books. Because the drawing was already in progress, we decided to give the books to commenters who said they would share their copy if they won.

(Just to be clear, I completely understand those who said they would keep the book for themselves to read and re-read. Me too, and there's nothing wrong with either point of view.)

Those share-the-wealth-style winners are Bruce Cooper, Sue C. Jones and Joan Callaway, and their books will soon be on their way via the U.S. Postal Service.

Congratulations to all three of you.

But Wait – Five More
Now, as if that were not enough good cheer, an email arrived from a veteran TimeGoesBy reader who wants to remain anonymous. She offered to donate five copies of How To Be Old to the giveaway. Can I get some applause please for this big-hearted benefactor.

So, another five random number drawings were conducted to select five more winners from those who made their interest known in the comments on Thursday's post. Here now – drum roll – are those five winners: Cathy Feiler, Dee Hayes, Judy in Charlotte, Marcia and Mary Warren.

So thanks to the largesse of the publisher and of our anonymous donor, instead of just one, there are nine winners of this excellent new book.

One More Thing
'Tis the season, as they say, for newspapers and magazines of both the print and online variety to list their 10 or 50 or 100 best books of the year 2014. I keep a list of Best Books on Aging you can always access from the link in the upper right sidebar on every page of this blog.

But I am much less lavish in my praise than all those more well-known publications and this year I have added just two books to the TimeGoesBy list:

  1. The one we are discussing here today, How To Be Old
  2. Atul Gawande's equally excellent Being Mortal subtitled, Medicine and What Matters in the End, which I wrote about here earlier this year

Again, congratulations the winners today and my great appreciation to Quid Pro Books publisher and the TGB anonymous donor.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: After the Fall

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Sunday, 14 December 2014

ELDER MUSIC: 1966 Again

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

What happened in 1966?

  • Lee Ann Womack was born
  • Bob Dylan was injured in a motor cycle accident.  He vanished for over a year.
  • The Hovercraft made its maiden voyage across the English Channel. It wasn't full of eels
  • The Doors' first album was released
  • How to Steal a Million was released
  • St Kilda were premiers

Dooby dooby doo, I'm starting with FRANK SINATRA and Strangers in the Night.

Frank Sinatra

This was a bit of a comeback for Frank, it was his first number one for more than a decade. He hated the song.

♫ Frank Sinatra - Strangers in the Night

ROBERT PARKER was a really good saxophone player, so good in fact, that Professor Longhair employed him in his band for six or seven years.

Robert Parker

He later also played for Fats Domino, Irma Thomas and others. As a singer, he's perhaps known only for one song, Barefootin'. A pretty good song though.

♫ Robert Parker - Barefootin'

THE HOLLIES, like many English groups from that time, attached themselves to the coattails of The Beatles and made a pretty good living.

The Hollies

Bus Stop was written by Graham Gouldman when he was only 16. He was later a member of 10CC.

The Hollies' manager knew the Gouldman family and took the group along to meet Graham. When he played the song they were gobsmacked and asked if he had any more.

He had No Milk Today as well but Herman's Hermits got that one.

♫ The Hollies - Bus Stop

THE WALKER BROTHERS were not brothers and none of them was named Walker.

The Walker Brothers

I suppose you could say something similar about the Righteous Brothers but it's pretty obvious that that isn't an actual name.

Anyway, the Walkers were Gary Leeds, Scott Engel and John Maus (who performs that terrific lead vocal). Rather surprisingly for the time, they had more success in Britain than their native America, particularly with The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore.

♫ The Walker Brothers - The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore

I just have to say BOB LIND and pretty much all of you will know what song I have lined up.

Bob Lind

Elusive Butterfly was the B-side of a record that had Cheryl's Going Home on the front. That song was covered really well by the Blues Project.

However, as happened now and then, a DJ flipped over the record and people loved it. It became a big seller all over the place. It turned out to be the only one Bob had.

♫ Bob Lind - Elusive Butterfly

Here's another troubadour from the time, CRISPIAN ST. PETERS.

Crispian St Peters

That's such a splendid name you know it has to be a fake, and it is. Old Crisp was born Robin Smith. Before going solo he was a member of half a dozen or so bands.

Record execs plucked him out of one of these and got him to record TThe Pied Piper. He didn't ever match the success of that one.

♫ Crispian St. Peters - The Pied Piper

Yet another number one song for THE SUPREMES.

The Supremes

Berry Gordy wouldn't allow anything else. This one is You Keep Me Hangin' On, covered rather memorably later by Vanilla Fudge.

♫ The Supremes - You Keep Me Hangin On

DONOVAN Leitch started out as a Bob Dylan wannabe.


Fortunately, he soon stopped that sort of thing and came up with his own, occasionally fey, songs. There were some gems in amongst the dross of his output. I'd say that this is one of those.

Jimmy Page played guitar on this track. Jimmy later was the axe-man for Led Zeppelin. This is Sunshine Superman.

♫ Donovan - Sunshine Superman

Here's the LOVIN' SPOONFUL's second single.

Lovin' Spoonful

The song Did You Ever Have to Make up Your Mind was the soundtrack for my final year at university, in more ways than one.

♫ Lovin' Spoonful - Did You Ever Have to Make up Your Mind

By the time he was 15, the powers that be at Motown records (Berry Gordy especially) had pretty much decided that STEVIE WONDER was already over the hill.

Stevie Wonder

Stevie recorded Uptight (Everything's Alright) and proved them wrong. He went on to record some really fine albums (and a couple of clunkers) in the seventies.

♫ Stevie Wonder - Uptight (Everything's Alright)

You can find more music from 1966 here. 1967 will appear in three weeks' time.

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Saturday, 13 December 2014

INTERESTING STUFF – 13 December 2014


The much awaited trailer for the newest Star Wars movie was released and a week ago. Saturday Night Live responded by reimagining the video with elder versions of the original characters – Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo and even Chewbacca.

It seems to me to be the worst kind of stereotypes of old people. Or is it funny? See what you think.

If you're a Star Wars fan (in which case, you've undoubtedly seen this but what the hell) here is the real movie trailer on which the spoof is built.


I didn't know there is such a thing as a National Gingerbread House competiton, but the 22nd annual contest was held in November in Asheville, North Carolina.

This competition is as far as you can get from traditional gingerbread houses. This chessboard took first place.


This cute little house took first in the teen division:


The 150 entries were evaluated on overall appearance, originality/creativity, difficulty, precision and consistency of theme. Me? I prefer the old-fashioned kind of gingerbread houses. You can read more here.


Yes, it is a Russian television commercial for Pantene but who cares. You'll be rooting for the little girl and you might even get a bit weepy at the end.


From TGB reader Cop Car, this is integrative biologist Joao Pedro de Magalhaes explaining how aging happens while speculating on how human life span might be extended.


Did you ever wonder what happens if you blow soap bubbles in below freezing weather? Me neither. But Peter Tibbles, who writes the Sunday Elder Music column here, found someone who did. Look at this:


Here's another.


Gorgeous. I'm glad someone was curious enough to do this. You can see more photos of frozen bubbles here.


I'm 73 years old and I still cannot fold a fitted sheet. But never fear – you can learn almost anything on the internet.

I knew that. I've even tried it. I still can't do it. My solution is to just ball us the sheet and put it on the linen closet shelf. Who cares if it's wrinkly.


As noted a couple of weeks ago, New Yorker magazine cartoon editor Bob Mankoff is now doing a weekly video about all things cartoon-y.

In this one, he shared the best cartoon captions of the year. Keep your finger on pause button because some go by too fast to see the caption.


No photos of this, no video, just a nice idea to help out some aging animals in India. In the state of Kerala, Travancore Devaswom Board (administers temples in the state) is setting up old age homes for elephants:

“Temple elephants, suffering from various age-related ailments, will be shifted to the geriatric care centre and given special care and treatment under trained mahouts and veterinarians.”

Nice. You can read more here:


I know that many of us who hang out at this blog enjoyed last year's film, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

It was stuffed with a great roster of aging actors - Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Ronald Pickup, Penelope Wilton along with the young, eternally optimistic, hotel manager played by Dev Patel.

Now there is a new edition, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel with the regulars from last time plus David Straithairn and Richard Gere. Here's a trailer:

The film opens in the United States on 6 March 2015. I'll remind you of it in three months.

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” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I probably 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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