286 posts categorized "Crabby Old Lady"

Crabby Old Lady on Honoring Cancer Survivors

Five year survival is the medical gold standard of a successful cancer cure and apparently there is a season of the year (December) to “honor” five-year cancer survivors as articles about several of these celebrations have recently dropped into Crabby Old Lady's email inbox.

Now, doing some light homework for this blog post, she has discovered that in June each year there is a National Cancer Survivors Day, “a celebration for those who have survived.”

Crabby would be ecstatic to be one of those people but her life hasn't turned out that way. Her two new cancers are incurable. And as you must have expected from the headline, here goes Crabby Old Lady again being a Grinch.

[Unpaid family and friend caregivers deserve respect too (not to mention some effective regulations about leave from work, etc.) but today is about professional caregivers.]

So. Honor the survivors? Give Crabby a break. It's fantastic when that five-year anniversary arrives and it should probably involve an over-the-top, joyous, hoot-and-hollerin' celebration with the survivor, along with his or her family and friends. But publicly “honoring” them?

When they should have been honored was during the months, maybe years of treatment. It's damned hard to be a cancer patient. Surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, things that go wrong like Crabby's internal bleeds that required two more surgeries, pain, fatigue like you've never experienced before, keeping track of all the medications and more.

Celebrations back then might have given patients encouragement when they most needed it as they wondered, too often, if they just should have skipped all the interim stuff and died sooner.

That's when the honoring of patients would mean something - for following all the instructions and doing it stoically. Well, for the most part. Sometimes you just need to have a good cry.

But the first people Crabby honors, above all the patients, are the professional cancer caregivers. All of them, from celebrated surgeons who get so much attention, through the RNs, CNAs, medical assistants, schedulers and coordinators and all the rest of them.

At the top levels, physicians, nurses and their assistants (the dozens Crabby Old Lady has spoken with about their careers during her 18 months of regular visits with them) CHOSE to make their careers with cancer patients.

Think of that: they made a conscious decision to spend their working life with people who, most of them, die in a relatively short period of time.

Patients and caregivers get to know one another over that time. They exchange personal information unrelated to cancer. They don't become friends exactly, but they do become friendly with warm feelings for one another: “Hey Sean,” Crabby might say to a medical assistant when she arrives, one who had been previously assigned to her. “How are you doing?” Or “Hi Nancy. Good to see you again.” High fives all around.

She gets the same in return from the caregivers as she walks by their desks. And by name. How many of us do they keep in mind?

Imagine what it is like for them when all too often and not unexpectedly, they get word that one of their patients has died. If you think it is hard for laymen like Crabby and you to grieve for loved ones, it doesn't happen but a fraction of the time it does for cancer caregivers.

And yet, they choose this work and they are universally wonderful people in all respects – different in their essence than other people.

As Crabby or Ronni has said before, every single one is smart, knowledgeable in their field, warm, comforting, friendly and as far as Crabby can tell, never has a bad day. They never, ever bring their personal problems to work – at least not with patients.

Yes, Crabby herself has worked hard following instructions to get through her treatment – sometimes awful stuff – questioning not infrequently if it isn't time to stop and let the disease take its course. But these men and women keep Crabby going as if it really matters to them – and it does, manifestly.

These are the people Crabby Old Lady honors first above herself and other patients. They are different in the best possible way from the rest of us. Maybe it's in their genes.

Crabby Old Lady and the Holiday Season

At the risk of being labeled a Grinch, Crabby Old Lady is tired of the holiday season already. She always is by now, the day after Thanksgiving. There are a whole lot of good reasons:

It starts in September. That's when Crabby saw her first Christmas TV commercial this year. Let Crabby repeat: IN SEPTEMBER. That turns over four damned months - ONE-THIRD of an entire year - to a holiday that in public has little to do with anything but asks that everyone spend lots of money.

Even before Halloween, half the shelves in Crabby's local “drug” store were filled with artificial trees, chimney stockings, ornaments and other Christmas tchochkes.

Some people refer to Happy Holidays thinking they are being inclusive but that's just window dressing. The American holiday is only about Christmas. Have you ever tried to find a box of Hannukah candles among the mounds of Christmas tinsel? Crabby has had to buy them online for years.

If you don't count the silly and stupid songs, there is a lot of gorgeous Christmas music in the world. But by November, having already heard it constantly repeated through every tinny store speaker too many times, it's not beautiful anymore – It's just annoying earworms.

And woe to any retailer who doesn't join the Christmas decoration parade. We're all brainwashed and it has nothing to do with a Christian holiday. It's all and only about excessive consumerism. Did you know that a couple of years ago five people were killed in the Black Friday rush and 105 injured?

However, just so you know Crabby Old Lady isn't entirely a curmudgeon, she has a fondness for the British tradition of Christmas adverts, lavishly produced by the country's large (and some smaller) retailers.

This year John Lewis and Co. sucked in Crabby with The Boy and the Piano, a story about:

”...the power of a gift. And how that gift inspired, changed and influenced the course of a little boy’s life. That little boy just happens to be Elton John.

"The film begins in present day and works backwards chronologically through Elton’s life right until the moment on Christmas morning when he received the special gift that changed his life.”

A large number of the British Christmas adverts have been published on the internet (“Already?” says Crabby). You can watch a bunch of them here.

Crabby Old Lady's Typing/Finger/Word Problem

In sending an email recently, Crabby Old Lady intended to write, "That works. Let's meet there at noon on Tuesday,” but when she scanned for typos before hitting "send", this is what she saw:

"Than works. Let's meat there at non on Tuesday."

Okay, that “non” is a simple typo, hitting the “o” key once instead of twice. But the other two, “than” and “meat”, are a different kind of error – mental rather than physical.

This is not a new phenomenon for Crabby Old Lady. It has been happening for several months, maybe even a year or more and it happens pretty much every time she types out something longer than six or eight words.

Crabby finally gave this issue some (semi-)serious thought when, a few days ago, she read a review of the last book from beloved American poet laureate, Donald Hall, who died in June at age 89.

As you might imagine, the new book, A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety (which is sitting on a table across the room from Crabby along with more than a dozen others she hasn't found time to read yet) is largely about the indignities of growing old.

The reviewer, Dwight Garner, quotes some short passages about certain age-related losses Hall reports on and although they don't plague Crabby yet at age 77, she can feel them or something similar nipping at her heels:

“You are old when the waiter doesn’t mention that you are holding the menu upside down...when you guess it’s Sunday because the mail doesn’t come. It might be Christmas...In your eighties you take two naps a day. Nearing ninety you don’t count the number of naps.”

But the excerpt that had Crabby Old Lady groaning aloud in recognition is this:

“Striving to pay the mortgage in the late 1970s and ’80s, some years I published four books,” he says. “Now it takes me a month to finish 700 words.”

Whatever may have slowed Hall's writing (Garner doesn't say), for Crabby, it is the typing/finger/word problem. Imagine if every other sentence in a story or email or letter you write contained one or two or three such errors.

That is what Crabby Old Lady is up against these days and it takes an inordinate amount of time to correct them.

With the hope of mitigating these errors, Crabby tried to analyze what is happening when she writes and discovered several types of word problems.

Sometimes the mistake is a rhyme as in substituting “to” for “who”, “case” for “face.” (All examples are real errors Crabby has made.)

Another common mistake is synonyms. Crabby perfectly well knows the difference among to, two and too but often types the wrong one.

Mixing up “than” and “that” happens almost every day. If you are a touch typist like Crabby, “N” and “T” are typed with different hands but they both do use the first finger. Is the brain signal going to the wrong hand?

Too often the mistake just comes out of nowhere. “Of” for “in”, “car” for “cabinet”, “screen” for “fork,” etc.

Who knows what that kind of mistake is about and the thing is, when Crabby is writing, she visualizes the words she is using. So if the word needed is “fork,” that image is in her mind while she types “screen.” How can that be?

Recently a crazy new one turned up, a weird spelling out of nowhere: “plase” for “place.

At last “plase” in Crabby's word error list, is the problem of omitting words - just plain skipping them so that the first half of this sentence might look like, “At last “plase” Crabby's word error list, is problem of omitting words – plain skipping them that...”

These are also the kinds of errors the eye might skip over when reading so Crabby doesn't always catch them all. Even reading stories twice, she can miss them – you may have noticed in some blog posts.

Spell check, of course, is mostly useless because it checks only for correct spelling, not usage and it certainly won't tag missing words.

So should Crabby Old Lady worry about these mistakes?

U.S. media makes sure with their daily servings of commercials and Alzheimer's reports that anyone over the age of 45 or 50 is terrified that every time they misplace their reading glasses, forget what time they are due at an appointment or lose their train of thought it is the beginning of dementia. Crabby refuses to take their bait.

She is not unaware that a large number of elders are diagnosed with dementia and she carries on a kind of relaxed monitoring system of her brain activity, enough so that she recently asked her physician about these mistakes.

Not to worry he says. And anyway, Crabby seems to be getting through daily life without any alarming cognitive issues. What she doesn't like, what she really resents every day is the extra time her typing/finger/word problems take up.

It doesn't happen when she writes with a pen in hand. How about you?

Crabby Old Lady: It All Goes Wrong From the Neck Up

Has anyone else noticed that most of the non-life-threatening stuff that can go wrong in old age happens above the neck?

Yes, Crabby Old Lady realizes that terrible cancers, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia afflict the brain which is, obviously, above the neck.

But today she's talking about relatively benign ailments that nevertheless require daily attention, often extended daily attention involving time that increases as the years pile up.

Most old people are stuck with at least one of these or other such ailments, usually more than fewer, and the head harbors an outsized number of them.

It starts around age 40 when suddenly you can't read street signs or you start complaining that publishers of books and magazines and websites are using smaller and smaller fonts, impossible to see clearly.

Eyeglasses or contact lenses can make the necessary corrections but give it a few more years and the world starts to turn fuzzy, maybe a bit yellow or colors fade toward grayness.

That's cataracts, folks, but the surgery to fix them is one of medicine's modern miracles. It's fast, easy and returns vision to that of a newborn babe, or close enough. And it is successful more than 98 percent of the time.

A down side is that if your eyes are corrected for distance, you will waste way too much time hunting for your reading glasses which are never where you need them.

Even so, all good. Right? Not always. After a year or two, Crabby's vision became fuzzy, usually first thing in the morning and again during the afternoons and evenings.

Not a big deal, said the optometrist. It's just some minor dryness. Here, use these eye drops.

So just when Crabby was relieved to give up the daily hunt for her elusive readers (she chose monovision when she had cataract surgery), she's got to spend way too much time locating the damned eye drops.

One-third of Americans age 65-75 have some degree of hearing loss. That goes up to nearly 50 percent in people older than 75.

Only a quarter of those with treatable hearing loss (80%) use hearing aids. (Probably due to cost, which easily reaches $4,000 and is not covered by Medicare.)

Crabby Old Lady hears just fine. Actually, too well. She no longer goes to movie theaters because no matter where she sits in the auditorium, the audio is pumped up so loud, it makes her ears hurt.

At home, it's a different problem: in certain TV shows, the dialogue mushes together so she can't make out individual words.

An audiologist told Crabby that particularly since her hearing is otherwise normal, hearing aids would not help. Thanks a lot.

But recently, Crabby discovered that the difficulty is a combination of two technical issues: (1) audio is commonly recorded poorly combined with (2) the indifferent sound quality built into most television sets.

So she now has acquired “sound bar” made especially to correct that deficiency and produce crystal clear dialogue. As is too rare in life, the product actually does what they say it does.

That solves Crabby's TV audio difficulty but doesn't help people who use hearing aids with Crabby's overall issue: the time involved with all this maintenance – in the case of hearing aids: sound checks, cleaning, battery testing, etc.

Or lack thereof. Many old people have lost all or some of their teeth and Crabby Old Lady is among them.

About three years ago, Crabby spent tens of thousands of dollars (stolen from her emergency fund) for an upper “overdenture” which involved first growing new bone over six months, then implants – another six months wait - and many fittings.

Like cataract surgery, Crabby considers it a modern medical miracle and is thankful that she could scrounge the money.

Unlike real teeth however, the overdenture takes more extensive maintenance, extra visits to the dentist for fixes, along with the several instruments and cleaning agents, including water flosser, for both denture and lower jaw twice a day to forestall losing the rest of her teeth.

Crabby hasn't timed it but she is pretty sure it takes longer to clean her mouth – and do it twice a day - than to wash her whole body in the shower.

Crabby's hair was already thinning a lot before last year's treatment for pancreatic cancer but here is a little secret people who've been through cancer know: you don't give a damn about bald spots when cancer is at issue.

So Crabby quit wearing her signature hats - she just didn't care anymore.

A couple of months ago, she went through five weekly iron infusions to treat the anemia that chemotherapy had caused. After two or three of them, hair started falling out when she was shampooing.

No one told Crabby liquid iron or the anemia itself (there are arguments in the literature supporting both explanations) can cause hair loss. Now it's even more thin, doesn't appear to be recovering and Crabby is back to hats.

And now she is considering a wig which will mean even more time out of her life for in addition to hair cuts, there will be wig cleaning and maintenance to keep up with.

Then there is the hair problem on the other end of her head – her chin and above her upper lip that require daily removal.

Crabby suffered through creams and sticky strips, razors and other stray hair remedies for many years until, a few months ago, she succumbed to a TV advertisement for a cute, little, battery-operated shaver.

Guess what? It works! It really works. (Apparently Crabby Old Lady is lately having a lucky streak with what are usually dubious consumer products.)

Oh, one more hair issue. In the past couple of weeks Crabby has noticed a surplus of nose hair. So there's another chore for Crabby to deal with each day and that cute little shaver can't do the job. Crabby will need another tool.

A rough, back-of-the-envelope calculation adds up to about an hour a day – give or take - of above-the-neck maintenance time. One. Whole. Hour. Per. Day. Of mind-numbing boredom.

The head, on average, is just 7.5 percent of the body by weight. But by Crabby's accounting, it takes up about 75 or 80 percent of the total time and effort to keep one's self in working order, much longer than when she was younger.

That doesn't seem right. But apparently it's an old person thing.

Crabby Old Lady and Audio-Only News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crabby Old Lady Has Three Things to Say Today

Starting with 1. MEDICAL
Crabby Old Lady is sorry to have been absent here for a few days. This blog is Crabby's job. It is what she does. She enjoys it still even after all these years. She learns a lot both from the work that goes into it and from readers too. She misses it when she is away or out of commission for awhile.

To bring you up to date, Crabby's cancer has disappeared or at least gone into hiding and last Thursday, doctors did an amazing maneuver to stop an internal bleed they and Crabby have been keeping eyes on for two or three months.

With two little holes, one in in Crabby's neck and the other in her groin, they used “interventional radiology” to thread their way to the bleed somewhere in her abdomen, insert a stent – not unlike the kind used for heart patients – that will force blood to go where it should be instead of where it has been going.

For Crabby, it was easy – she slept through the procedure – and woke with two small Bandaids covering those two tiny incisions.

There was no pain afterwards and she went home that evening, slept like a newborn babe and felt terrific on Friday, enough to attend her regular current affairs discussion group.

Crabby hopes the stent works; she's tired of anemia, blood transfusions and iron infusions that had become a regular part of treatment.

There are a few words in the English language that are terrifying: for Crabby, “pancreatic cancer” is at the top of the list.

Has Crabby mentioned that 35 years ago her father died of it? Until her diagnosis last year, Crabby had almost forgotten. Now she can't avoid it and the reason is that it appears to be the media's new go-to disease.

Pancreatic cancer is much less common than, for example, breast, lung and prostate cancer but it is much more deadly. Only ten percent of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are eligible for the only treatment – the Whipple procedure - and many of those patients die soon anyway.

Crabby is deeply grateful every single day that she could undergo the Whipple, that it was successful and that she has recently been pronounced cancer free. She would like to stop thinking those words now but there are reminders everywhere she turns.

There are the ubiquitous cancer treatment commercials on TV, in magazines, even giveaway newspapers and Crabby made the mistake of searching for some information about pancreatic cancer online.

Now, pretty young women with big smiles on their faces follow Crabby everywhere on the web promoting a link to a pancreatic cancer website. It's not unlike those marketing idiots who spend six months showing Crabby ads for the shirt she already bought.

Shirt. Kitchen sponges. Cancer. What's the difference?

It gets worse. This past season, Crabby has seen at least half a dozen television dramas that have made pancreatic cancer a plot point. “Fred won't be back. You know he has pancreatic cancer and won't live more than a couple of months.”

Geez. Thanks.

Over the weekend, Crabby read Barbara Ehrenreich's new book, Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer.

It's a strong polemic with, among other kinds of information, a lot about how cancer tumors in general work and how new types of treatments are being developed at the cellular level.

But even Ehrenreich, among all the different kinds of cancers she might mention, won't let go of making pancreatic cancer the centerpiece.

In the space of two pages she tells readers that Rockefeller Foundation director John H. Knowles died of it in 1979, at age 52; Apple CEO Steve Jobs died of it in 2011; Henry S. Lodge, co-author of Younger Next Year (a dubious assertion) died of it in 2017 at age 58.

Crabby wants nothing more than to leave this horror behind and the media just refuses. Maybe zombies have worn out their fright value and pancreatic cancer is writers' latest ploy to scare the bejesus out of us.

Crabby Old Lady has silenced the cable news channels in her home. No more. The anchors and hosts treat every Trump tweet as if it's a revelation when it is only repetition. Different topic sometimes, same complaint: “I'm so wonderful, why doesn't anyone like me? Throw them all in prison.”

He's an idiot, a con man, likely a criminal but no one with the power to do anything will deal with it. They've always got an excuse. There are 535 members of Congress and even the few good guys are weenies in the face of Trump. They all deserve to be thrown out.

There is only one effective group of activists trying to make the U.S. a better place and they are all 17 years old. Aside from her excellent medical team, Crabby Old Lady is in a very bad mood today.

Crabby Old Lady and Home Monitors for Elders

These days, you can install indoor and outdoor cameras on your home to catch a burglar. You can reset your heating, air conditioning and turn on the lights as you're driving home so the house is comfortable when you get there.

If you've got the right digital kitchen equipment, you can remotely turn on the grill, oven or slow cooker with an app for your iPhone or Android so dinner is ready when you arrive.

Of course, there are dozens if not hundreds of wearable trackers to count your steps, measure your heart rate, fat, BMI, muscle mass and even pregnancy.

Just about every day a bunch of new gadgets come on the market and those above are only a handful of the most obvious in the new-ish category of “smart home” living.

The closest Crabby Old Lady has gotten to it in both personal interest and use is the Alexa – she owns three and you probably would not be wasting your money if you bet that sometime soon she will throw at least one of them against a wall.

They regularly misunderstand words, behave as if they are deaf unless Crabby shouts, don't have an answer for commonplace questions and – a new one Crabby hasn't been able to fix yet – play random music when she hasn't asked. If that grill controller is as iffy as Alexa, Crabby hopes it comes with an automatic fire extinguisher.

Her skepticism notwithstanding...

The biggest demographic market for smart devices may be elders. There are the ubiquitous home alert necklaces that can and do save lives – just ask TGB reader Darlene Costner. And Crabby has come to believe that electronic pill monitors could be useful especially for those, like her, who need a chart to track when a dose is due.

For Crabby, however, it gets trickier when talk turns to sensors that monitor an elder's activity and send the information to distant caregivers or family members.

Marketed as a way to help elders live independently at home for as long as possible, hardly anyone has spent much effort yet to find out how the spied-upon old people feel about inanimate objects acting as nannies and tattling to their human controllers.

When you look into these gadgets, one of the first things notice is that elders themselves are left out of the conversation as though they are already too senile to evaluate the service themselves which, obviously, begs the question about why, in that case, anyone would leave them home alone - sensors or no sensors.

Here are a couple of examples of how marketing language is typically aimed toward the children or caregivers and not elders themselves:

'Looking after an elderly relative who lives alone can be a huge source of worry. But what if your smartphone could automatically alert you if your mother has stayed in bed all morning or suffered a fall?

“If a senior does not get up in the morning and turn on the coffee machine as usual, the system detects the lack of activity and the person's carer is warned by text message.”

Oh yeah? What if Crabby just wants to sleep in this morning? Are you really going to wake her for breaking YOUR rule about her morning routine so you can congratulate yourself about your caregiving chops?

There's more. A newly-developed sensor uses radio waves to map where people are in a room. Another company is working on a sensor that warns when a senior is at risk of falling by detecting sudden changes in their walking speed or gait.

Does that second one make any sense at all? Maybe she's just dancing a little jig because it's a beautiful day. And if she's about to fall, Crabby doubts anyone will get there in time to save her from it. Plus, does anyone think the police or EMTs have time to show up at someone's home on a maybe?

Are these helpful things or intrusions, do you think? Lifesavers or invasions of privacy? And why don't sellers target elders themselves about this stuff? Here is one point of view in a short, humorous film about an 70-year-old widow, Thomas, whose adult children have loaded his home with smart gadgets to organize his day.

The film, Uninvited Guests, was developed about three years ago by an organization called Superflux. It stars actor James Leahy:

(Thank Chuck Nyren, proprietor of the blog Advertising to Baby Boomers, for sending this video which prompted today's post. You can find his thoughts on wearable tech gadgets here and you can read more about the film and its genesis at the Superflux website.)

Do any of you, dear readers, live with such monitors and reminders? If not, would you consider it – for yourselves or, perhaps, for you own ageing parents? Here is what Superflux says about the issues raised in their film:

”The brightly coloured 'smart objects' in the film are...symbolic ‘ghosts of the future’, where with time, their physical presence fades into the fabric of our environment, and all that is left is their invisible halo constantly monitoring, logging, tracking and processing ambient feedback.

“Ultimately it is our intention that this, at times comedic story, plays on and gives form to some of the growing tensions between human and machine agency. And in doing so, provoke questions about how we want to live and grow old in an increasingly technologically mediated word.”

Crabby Old Lady sees value in some of these new electronic helpers and in particular, she is looking forward to virtual doctor visits via her computer one day.

But she is skeptical about the privacy issues and about the control of elders' daily lives and schedules by people – loved ones or otherwise - who believe they know better. Like it or not, however, it is only going to become more widespread and commonplace.

What do you think?

Crabby Old Lady and Protest/Donation Fatigue

But first – we have a winner in Monday's random drawing for a book of essays by Ursula K. Le Guin titled No Time to Spare. The random number generator spoke and Karin Bendel's name came up.

The book has been mailed off today. Congratulations Karin, and thank you Lynn Lawrence for providing the giveaway book.

* * *

Now for something entirely different – no old age, no cancer, not even a book today.

It probably won't surprise you that Crabby Old Lady has email subscriptions – several dozen of them - to newsletters, announcements and daily mailings from a lot of newspapers, magazines, political organizations, resistance groups and some members of Congress.

They have piled up over the years as Crabby has added new ones she finds along the way and, of course, never deletes any.

At the same time, she has become adept at knowing what she needs to know – so much so that she has learned from experience what information need not be read beyond a headline (if the headline writer is any good) and which newsletters are worth drilling down into for a fuller story.

Nevertheless, Crabby spent a good deal of time this week unsubscribing from some of these missives for one reason: they write scary headlines often in bright red and then supply a link only to a donation or paid subscription page. (A frequent alternative is a request to sign a petition which then begs for money.)

In many cases, this happens from the same organizations every day. Every. Single. Day. And Crabby is fed up. So one-by-one she is ditching them.

She's sorry to do that and god knows she has contributed through the years. But these pleadings never have new or useful information and always imply that they are going to close their doors within a day or two if they don't get Crabby's $5.

For many years now they have been doing this in Crabby's inbox every day. Every. Single. Day.

For all the handwringing that goes on about how trashy the internet is nowadays – whether that refers to the plethora of pornography and various scams among other detritus – Crabby never runs into it. She is interested in news, politics, health and age-related information plus a few minor silly addictions, and she knows where to find them all.

What pisses off Crabby are the political organizations that trade on their perceived righteousness but give no discernable return on their begging for money – certainly no information that Crabby doesn't get on any number of other websites.

So Crabby is gradually cleaning up her inbox and she can't be the only person who, having suffered enough, is giving up their support for just this stupid reason: they overdid it.

And another thing: It's official, says Crabby: there are no longer any news, news-ish and commentary websites known to mankind that do not blast audio – usually attached to video – as soon as the page settles.

Plus, there are so many moving distractions next to the text Crabby is trying to read that she knows it distracts from her full comprehension, not to mention all the many interruptions for commercials between paragraphs of stories made to look like part of the story so, supposedly, she will read them.

Not, as we used to say. She just moves on, deciding that the hassle to read with all the interruptions isn't worth whatever she thought might learn from the article..

Somewhere this week, Crabby saw a headline about a survey of internet users reporting that there is so much distracting “stuff” on pages of the internet that people feel less informed now than before they had the internet.

Crabby didn't read that one either, in this case because the headline said all anyone needs to know about this topic and there is no doubt it is true.

For these reasons and more, Crabby Old Lady is aggrieved at these and all the other awful online stuff she hasn't even mentioned. It has become so hard to use the internet that Crabby is doing a lot less of it these days. How about you?

Crabby Old Lady and the Things They Don't Tell You About Getting Old

Crabby Old Lady will be here in a moment but for a few sentences this is me, Ronni. After I wrote today's post, members of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted on Friday to kill Net Neutrality. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about what that then impending vote, if passed, would mean for you and me.

Answer: more expensive internet services for all of us and in the case of small blogs like this one or startup businesses counting their pennies, having your website "throttled" (slowed down) if you don't pay big fee. It's now law of the land.

This vote was taken, by the way, even though more than a million FAKE comments were found at the FCC website supporting repeal.

We'll talk about this more next week. Meanwhile, there are rumblings of at least one state attorney general and a number of public interest political organizations that oppose repeal will be suing to repeal the repeal. Some hope. Maybe.

* * *

There are all kinds of things they don't tell people about growing old. Throughout the midyears, most people sort of know it's mostly old people who are afflicted with cancer, heart disease and diabetes, for example. In fact, they are even called “diseases of age”.

But most convince themselves that such events are too far in the future to cause concern and anyway, it won't be me, says everyone.

Today, however, Crabby Old Lady is talking about the relatively benign afflictions that accompany old age – they won't kill you but they are massively annoying, and they never go away.

Let's start with hair: ear hair, nose hair, thin hair, no hair. Ear hair shows up mostly on men and Crabby had assumed that was true for nose hair too. Wrong. If she is not vigilant, it could grow long enough to braid.

More men appear to be bald than women but Crabby is catching up. The hair on the back of her head was becoming so thin that a couple of years ago she took to collecting hats and mostly does not leave home without wearing one. Lately, however, the loss is worsening.

Undoubtedly Crabby Old Lady should be grateful that chemotherapy hasn't made her bald (yet), but that place on the back of her head and now her front hairline are becoming thinner by the day – a lot more skin showing that hair.

This hair misery gets its own paragraph. It's amazing how fast these isolated – three or four at a time – hairs appear dotted across Crabby's chin and pulling them out with a tweezer causes big-time pain.

This wasn't a problem for most of her life and even though she finally found a specialized razor that works quite well, Crabby resents the need to keep up with those stray hairs.

When she was a kid, Crabby longed for smooth unblemished skin but I was stuck with freckles, little brown spots that she believed then were unattractive at best, ugly at worst.

Life goes on and sometimes you find a way to accommodate disappointments. In this case, when Crabby learned of age spots that commonly turn up on the backs of the hands of old people, she thought, “Oh, goodie. When I get old, age spots will hide the freckles."

The flaw in that thinking is obvious and anyway, no one would confuse age spots with freckles. Crabby doesn't like either one but she honestly doesn't care nowadays. It is one of the great benefits of old age - not caring about all sorts of things anymore.

For most of Crabby's adult life, she believed it was men who couldn't get through the night without two or three or more trips to the bathroom.

It's been about ten years since she was disabused of that error. Unless Crabby is the only one, it's women too.

This wasn't as important before cell phones started using fingerprint ID technology. Did you know that old people can lose their fingerprints? As reported here four or five years ago,

”...the elasticity of skin decreases with age, so a lot of senior citizens have prints that are difficult to capture,” reported Scientific American.

“The ridges get thicker; the height between the top of the ridge and the bottom of the furrow gets narrow, so there's less prominence. So if there's any pressure at all [on the scanner], the print just tends to smear.”

This also happens to people like bricklayers and tilers whose fingers have been worn flat.

It seems as soon as a new security technology comes along, there is a glitch its creator didn't take into consideration. Already with cell phone facial recognition, the wrong people's faces are being identified as correct.

Undoubtedly you can come up with more irritating afflictions that Crabby Old Lady has overlooked: eye floaters and tinnitus come to mind. And there there is this: when some new malady manifests itself, it can be hard to know if it requires a doctor visit or is just some new aggravation about which there's nothing to be done.

It's not as if the late actor Bette Davis didn't warn us: “Old age ain't for sissies,” she said.

Crabby Old Lady's State of the Union

Today's post isn't precisely about ageing but Crabby Old Lady needs to get some of this off her chest and suspects a lot of you may want to also.

Have there ever been so many different things going wrong – painfully, horribly, terrifyingly wrong all at once - in the U.S. than now? It's not even possible to list them all.

Biggest of all is the ongoing confrontation with North Korea. Crabby hasn't been this frightened of the potential reality of nuclear war since she hid under her desk at school in the 1950s. How does it not make it worse to taunt the Supreme Leader with juvenile name-calling?

The tax reform bill has made it clear as never before that the Republican Party philosophy is simple: more for me, less for you. And now they've doubled down on it by openly admitting that adding $1.4 TRILLION to the deficit is a deliberate decision made to be able to claim the necessity to make deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

That's big too. The Pay-Go law may require $25 billion in cuts to Medicare the moment Trump signs the bill into law which would cut back care and treatment for millions of people.

There has been some reporting on that but not enough that anyone not dependent on Medicare would notice. (According to a new Quinnipiac Poll, only 29 percent of Americans approve of the tax reform bill; 53 percent disapprove.)

Remember how, right after the November election, many reporters and pundits were admonishing the public to not normalize Trump's behavior?

Guess what? Everyone, including those pundits, not only accepts presidency by tweet storm now, we expect it on a daily basis and the pundits analyze his every Twitter utterance as though it is a policy announcement.

Which it has become. Who needs Congress or even Executive Orders? The president tweets and it instantly becomes policy. If, in Trump's ignorance, the tweet goes wrong, he can just have his lawyer take the fall for his mistake as happened this week.

There are a lot of people in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere – Republicans usually – for whom Trump's word is their marching order. Case in point, supporting an accused pedophile for the U.S. Senate in the upcoming Alabama election. No Republican will now disavow Roy Moore.

Can anyone count the number of lies from this administration? It's hard to keep up when it's every day, and when any given lie is no longer convenient he and his aides just make up another and refuse to acknowledge if it contradicts the first one.

And how do you feel about the cuts Trump made to national parks earlier this week? Trump reduced Bears Ears National Monument area by 85 percent and the Grand Staircase-Escalante by about 50 percent which, according to The New York Times is the “largest rollback of federal land protection in the nation’s history.”

This move opens about two million acres of wilderness to potential commercial development. Crabby had no idea until now that a president could just do that, all alone without Congress.

Then there the continuing story of alleged sexual misconduct among mostly famous men in glamour businesses. You know the list: Kevin Spacey, Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, Glenn Thrush, Garrison Keillor, Jon Conyers, Roy Moore among many others.

There is a fuller list here which, like all the other lists, does not include the predator-in-chief, Donald Trump.

Speaking of lies, earlier this week, he tried to say that was not his voice on the Access Hollywood tape. Billy Bush set the media straight on that.

Most women Crabby Old Lady knows have been sexually harassed at work, including Crabby herself. Pats on the butt, inappropriate jokes and suggestions. In some places Crabby worked, women made note for one another of which men to keep a distance from in order to avoid unwanted touches.

There was never any question of complaining. Everyone knew they would be the ones to be fired.

Some think, thanks to so many women coming forward, those days are gone. Many are claiming this is a watershed moment for women, that workplace sexual harassment will end now.

Don't count on it. Crabby hopes she is wrong but news stories fade, the public gets jaded (see “normalization” above) and the media is always chasing the next new thing.

And here's a question for you: how is it that the president's every single cabinet appointment is the worst possible choice. Worst, that is, if you are idiot enough to believe that the country's leaders are there to run a government by, of and FOR THE PEOPLE, and not to (further) enrich themselves.

Given how ignorant, uninformed and erratic the president is, Crabby Old Lady worries every day about what terrible predicament he will get the country into.

It's not like Crabby has any solutions. She just felt the need, on this otherwise single-topic blog, to acknowledge a problem (well, a large set of problems) that are more important than growing old.

It helps to vent now and then, and to give everyone here a chance to do that too.

Crabby Old Lady's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day(s)

(With apologies for the headline above to the wonderful Judith Viorst)

Crabby Old Lady should have known last week that something awful was brewing. Her desktop PC was becoming more unsteady and rickety by the day with programs not responding, warning messages, long delays loading pages, screen freezes and such. Then it would seem to recover overnight, work well enough for an hour or two the next day until it started acting up again.

Monday morning, the blue screen of death appeared and the computer has been dead since then. None of Crabby's jiggering around has helped.

Sometimes when disaster strikes, it's not immediately apparent. Okay, said Crabby to herself, until you can figure out how to fix this, there's always that cheapo, little laptop in the cupboard.

Yeah, right. It wasn't until Crabby got it set up that she remembered everything on it moves at about the speed of a 1990's dial-up connection, that the keys on the chintzy keyboard are all positioned slightly out of place so that a lifetime's practice at touch typing is useless and the online email she's forced to use for the duration is slower and clunkier than the machine itself.

Bottom line: whatever takes (took) a few seconds to do on a Crabby's desktop machine, takes five or more minutes on the laptop. Translation: hours more a day at this cheap keyboard.

And that's not the worst of it.

Did Crabby just say that sometimes it's not readily apparent when disaster strikes? No kidding. What she forgot during the two or three hours it took to get everything humming on the laptop (as much as it's ever going to hum), is that everything she needs – in her personal life, for the blog and everything else – EVERYTHING – is on that computer. Currently unavailable.

Here's what the disaster means for TGB:

Outlines for planned and/or nearly finished blog posts along with the ongoing list of ideas for blog posts and the research for potential blog posts are all on that machine

The ongoing collection of items for the Saturday Interesting Stuff is there

So is personal documentation of Crabby's newly busy medical life

Along with all email records,

All photographs,

And numerous bits of information and facts that are useful for blog posts

You wouldn't be far wrong to say that Crabby Old Lady's entire life is on that computer.

Although there are a couple of good leads, Crabby has not yet found a person to investigate and - Crabby hopes – repair the machine or at least save the hard drive. The one she is most interested in so far is not available until November 1 or 2 but she is still looking around. Meanwhile, Crabby could use a little help from you, dear readers.

This mostly relates to email. Readers send a lot of ideas for blog posts, items for Interesting Stuff and other missives with their thoughts. All are always welcome but Crabby wonders if you could be a bit more discerning until the computer issues are resolved. Such as:

  1. Please, especially if you read TGB via email, do not hit “Reply” to send a comment. Reply, just as with any email, goes only to me. To leave a comment on the blog post so others can read it, go the the website by clicking the title of the story in your email. It will open in your browser and you can then comment at the bottom of the story. I get about half a dozen emailed comments a day and it takes a long time to respond to each explaining how to comment.

  2. If you have ideas for Interesting Stuff, try to recall where you've seen it. Crabby gets a lot of duplicates, items that have already been featured on previous Saturdays.

  3. If you want to send a news item or other kind of story, consider first how widely reported it is. Crabby has at least 40 news alerts so anything on the front page of the major papers in the world lands in her inbox. Features related to ageing, retirement, elders, seniors, Medicare, Social Security and other topics of common interest to elders are often included in her alerts too but not always. So on this you'll have to guess and there's no penality for being wrong.

The reason for these requests is that the poky email system Crabby is stuck with for now is so hard to use and so slow that it takes forever to read through the inbox without automatic sorting or color-coding, even longer to get them organized and with the off-kilter keyboard, it is excruciating to try to write (including this post), hitting wrong keys every few words.

This also explains why, if you have emailed in the past couple of days, you may not have received an reply. It is difficult in so many ways to use this laptop and this email program that Crabby throws up her hands several times a day and walks away.

Crabby hopes you will understand she is trying to reduce the “terrible, horrible, no good and very bad day” aspect of her computer troubles until they are fixed. At worst that will be sometime next week. Meanwhile she's paddling as fast as she can.

Crabby Old Lady Writes About Her Cancer


You've read it here more than once – that Crabby Old Lady never wanted to become a professional patient, and in the time following her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in June, she has fought against it mightily.

Well, phooey. It has been a futile effort from the get-go that Crabby should have known better than to try. This isn't a broken bone that will heal in a few weeks or a new knee.

So today we have another chapter in Crabby Old Lady's attempts to adjust to her new situation in life. Some in the news business would call it a thumbsucker but Crabby, as always, is helpless against E.M. Forster's dictum, “how do I know what I think until I see what I say”.

Don't take any of this too seriously yet. Some (many? a lot?) of these thoughts, complaints and feelings are new to Crabby and therefore, by definition, half-baked. No doubt there will be revisions.

In the three months since those terrifying words, pancreatic cancer, were said out loud, Crabby is only gradually realizing how much her life will be permanently different. It is much more than she expected or wanted.

Crabby will spare you the lists and just say the nuts and bolts of living with this disease and the results of the surgery average out to a couple of hours a day, every day – hours for which she had other plans. Certainly she has seen more doctors more frequently than all such previous encounters combined.

Six months of weekly chemotherapy begin a week from today and for the past 10 days or so Crabby been buried in reading matter about all the awful things it might do to her, how she can help prevent some of them and which of those side effects are medical emergencies to be addressed immediately.

Elsewhere, Crabby's life is now controlled by lists of what she can and can't eat, keeping medications straight, phone numbers she might need and more.

This stuff is exactly what she never wanted in life. But here's the thing: for all these years of studying ageing, being as healthy as she was until now, Crabby never really “got” what most old people live with. According to Kaiser Health News,

”The majority of adults 65 and over have multiple chronic conditions that contribute to frailty and disability, according to a 2013-14 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [pdf].

“The percentage of chronic conditions among people 65 and over has increased over time, too. The percentage of people reporting hypertension, asthma, cancer and diabetes was higher in 2013-14 than in 1997-98, reports the CDC...

“About 57 percent of women and 55 percent of men age 65 and up reported hypertension. Another 54 percent of women and 43 percent of men reported arthritis.”

Obviously, Crabby Old Lady was lucky for the first 76 years of her life and she never fully appreciated how much time chronic diseases and conditions steal from elders' lives nor the personal effort required day in and day out to maintain as much health and well-being as possible.

Having spent a great deal of time thinking over all this, Crabby has come up with a few new words to live by:

Get over being a professional patient. It is what you are now. Live with it.

Accept the changes the disease is placing on daily life. They are your new normal.

Focus on what is possible now, not how life was before.

Crabby suspects that many of you, dear readers, have already been there, done this and Crabby Old Lady is just now catching up with you.

Crabby Old Lady and the Internet of Junk

You've heard of the Internet of Things? Well, forget that.

This once-wonderful means of electronic communication that has become essential to our financial, health, family, civic, educational and social lives has deteriorated into such a deep morass of crap, it can only be called the Internet of Junk.

Crabby Old Lady has sung praises of the internet since she got her first 2400 dialup modem sometime in the mid- or late-1980s.

When the World Wide Web came along a few years later with the first, primitive, graphical browsers and Crabby saw her first webpage, she was hooked.

In 1996, she left behind decades of work in television, signed on as managing editor of cbsnews.com, helping to build one of the first two U.S. news websites ever to exist.

Now, 20 years later, the internet of junk is fraught with scams, viruses, identity theft, malware, data and privacy breaches, spam, stolen bank accounts, spyware, phishing, trojan horses, worms, keylogging, ransomware – shall Crabby go on?

Maybe it should be called the Internet of Scary Junk. But although privacy and security breaches can screw up people's lives for years, that's not what has pushed Crabby Old Lady into rage territory.

What has done that is the day in, day out, page by page, minute by minute onslaught against her eyes, ears and, most crucially, her brain. She is fond of her brain, relies on its proper functioning in old age more than ever and has become convinced that the internet is harming it.

Let Crabby count the ways for you:

Dozens, nay hundreds, of websites Crabby visits interrupt their text with moving gifs – those six- or seven-second repetitive videos going round and round and round - some supposedly "enhancing" the text, others advertising. Often there are even more on the same page flickering in the right column, a constant distraction to eye and mind.

Crabby can barely control her fury when within one or two seconds of arriving on a page, before she's even figured out what to do first, a pop-up covers most of the screen asking her opinion of the website. Let's be clear: this happens before she has even had a chance to glance at the page. Irritating to Crabby but from a business point of view, it's stupid.

Sometimes Crabby tells them what she thinks – in the most colorful language as she can muster.

Equally maddening are pop-ups breaking Crabby's concentration asking her to sign up for a newsletter which is - wait for it - how she got to the site in the first place.

Crabby has come close to putting her fist through the computer screen over this one: she is comfortably settled into reading, maybe three paragraphs in and getting a good feel for the story when suddenly an advertising pop-up covers exactly the paragraph she's reading.

Wait. It gets worse. Every one of the websites that do this - many - are experts at obscuring the X that allows the pop-up to be closed.

By the time Crabby can find the X hidden in a new corner or blending into the background color so it is almost invisible, she has forgotten not only where she was in the story, but even what the damned thing is about.

There was a time, back when Crabby worked on the internet, that it was verboten to assault readers' eyes and ears with autostart video. Now, it's ubiquitous. Every day, additional sites add this aggravation to their growing list of interruptions to one's mental health.

And here is the sneakiest part: sometimes a video, usually unrelated to the story Crabby is reading, buried miles down at the bottom of a page among a blizzard of unrelated images, blasts to life a minute or two into her reading and fries her brain before she can find it.

This is not to say that one or two of these abominations happens now and then. It is dozens, dozens of times every day from the best-known, otherwise most professional websites in existence as well as the shoddy ones. (For many good reasons - see above - Crabby Old Lady doesn't go far afield from generally secure websites so we're not talking sleaze, porn or ripoff webpages.)

The irritation factor is beyond tolerable now. Further, although Crabby is obviously not a neuroscientist or psychiatrist, she doesn't believe she needs to be one to know that constant audio and visual distraction damages the ability to think and reason.

As the The Telegraph reported earlier this year:

"According to scientists, the age of smartphones has left humans with such a short attention span even a goldfish can hold a thought for longer.

"Researchers surveyed 2,000 participants in Canada and studied the brain activity of 112 others using electroencephalograms.

"The results showed the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000, or around the time the mobile revolution began, to eight seconds.

"Goldfish, meanwhile, are believed to have an attention span of nine seconds."

Did you get that? Goldfish for god's sake.

This is not the only study to show vastly reduced attention spans. It cannot be good for humankind and it is certainly not good for Crabby Old Lady's mind.

Email Bankruptcy

[EDITORIAL NOTE: It tells you something about Crabby's week, if not life, that you are getting missives (read: complaints) from her two days in a row. Aren't you lucky.

Every day, Crabby Old Lady struggles to keep up with email. It's been a losing battle for years. She slips behind several days then schedules a few hours to catch up and the most common result is that her tush turns to stone in the desk chair as the hours creep by and she still hasn't finished.

Of course, Crabby is not alone. Not infrequently she reads of busy people who have 20,000 or 30,000 unread emails in their inboxes. Hers stretch “only” to hundreds.

It helps – to a degree – that Crabby color-codes some types of incoming. Bills are fluorescent pink, for example, and the emails she receives of every comment posted to this blog and The Elder Storytelling Place are red. The latter means she doesn't need to constantly check online to keep up with comments through the day.

Personal friends are purple. Certain newsletters are blue. Elder Storytelling Place submissions are green. And Crabby has forgotten what orange is for. Everything else is black including junk by the daily dozens that bought her address from websites that undoubtedly assured her they never sell addresses.

If you don't count those sleazy retailers, Crabby's junk settings generally work quite well; it has been years since a fake Nigerian has asked her to wire money.

There are a plethora of apps, add-ons and, most of all, advice from self-styled experts who, with fake patience, purport to have the answer for cleaning out your inbox. The item that each one of them seems to think no ever thought of before is to read email in reverse order of receipt.

Come on. Anyone older than 25 has been doing that since email was born.

Crabby has been trying to get out of email bankruptcy for so long, there's nothing she doesn't know about it – what works (not much) and what doesn't (everything else).

Undoubtedly, Crabby's largest difficulty is that she feels obligated to answer almost all email from real people. She is talking about the (mostly) kind people with questions, suggestions or general thoughtfulness in regard this blog. (What would Saturday's Interesting Stuff be without all those ideas flowing in?)

But what has prompted today's blog post is that due to busy-ness, old-fashioned sloth and maybe creeping old age (she seems to be slower in general lately), Crabby is now about two weeks behind in blog-related email and that adds up to - as of this moment - 761 unread emails.

And so, as soon as Crabby is finished writing this post, she is going to take the most extreme solution there is for email bankruptcy: she will highlight her entire inbox and click “delete.”

There is nothing else she can do and remain sane. It will rid her of the guilt for not answering and give her a clean slate.

If any of you reading have sent an email in the past ten days or two weeks that you believe must have an answer, okay, send it again. But please, Crabby is begging now, think it over carefully. She desperately needs a break from email.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Maureen Browning: Fuzzy Math

By the Hair on Crabby Old Lady's Chinny Chin Chin

Before she even gets started, let Crabby Old Lady be clear: she is deeply grateful that so far – at age 73 – she has escaped the common conditions and diseases of old age. No arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. and no recurrence of the one little basal cell carcinoma from five or six years ago.

Crabby knows how lucky she is but that doesn't mean she's sanguine about the minor afflictions of age.

Floaters anyone? Not a day goes by that Crabby isn't trying to brush little black bugs off her food.

The only time of day Crabby can escape her tinnitus is in the shower when the sound of falling water neutralizes it. But silence? Crabby hasn't been without noise in her ears for six or eight years.

Toad spots (seborrheic keratoses) – harmless but ugly – come and go. The only grace is that when they appear on Crabby's face, they are usually skin color, not dark brown like the others.

All these are annoying enough but the worst is chin hair which in Crabby's case extends to her upper lip.

The reason for them is boring enough: old women have hardly any estrogen left so testosterone takes over and that means hair – just not where she wants it on her head.

Just as there is no cure for baldness, there is also no cure for excess facial hair on women and the available treatments are awful.

Electrolysis and laser treatments - if they work at all – are successful mostly on dark hair and hardly ever on light hair like Crabby's. Besides, it takes six to 12 treatments to show results, is hugely expensive and must be repeated about twice a year. Forever.

Waxing is best done professionally, is painful, expensive and must be repeated about once a month – and you know how fast time flies when you're old.

Over-the-counter creams and strips are no better. They're messy, hard to apply and too often damage skin. Trust Crabby, it is a horrible procedure.

Plucking or tweezing don't work for Crabby. They are painful and although the hair does come out, little red bumps erupt on her skin where each and every hair was pulled out. No thanks.

All that is so depressing that Crabby might consider becoming the bearded lady in a circus (do they still have those?). If only there was more hair on her chin and upper lip, but alas. So Crabby is left with shaving.

It is a myth that shaving makes new growth thicker. The real difference is that shaved hairs have blunt ends instead of the tapered, softer tips of hair that has not been is shaved.

Crabby uses a cute little electric razor made especially for old women's facial hair problems. Actually, she uses it when she remembers to which often doesn't happen until she can nearly braid the hair on her chin.

Okay, Crabby exaggerates – she's slightly more diligent than that. But she has come to understand why a lot of men hate shaving and she's not happy that this latest item on her list of irritating old age afflictions will, like all the others, last until she dies.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: This Old Man

Crabby Old Lady Laments the Future...

...at least as The New York Times reports it.

In the past, predictions have usually usually appeared as science fiction fantasies of life 50 or a 100 years hence and it's always fun – and funny - when such prophecies are dredged up and compared to what really happened.


Nowadays, the next future arrives even before the current one has come to fruition so that a peek just ten years forward can be awe-inspiring (or terrifying, depending on your point of view).

That's what The New York Times did on Saturday in a gigantic infographic of “what far-off technology will be commonplace in a decade” based on the predictions of seven people the paper says are “driving this transformation” of technological change.

Here's a little piece of that graphic.


Let Crabby Old Lady say at the outset that the infographic, with its simplistic images and soundbite text, is enough for her to worry about where The Times newspaper itself is heading. Why didn't they write a traditional news story, Crabby wonders, with words and paragraphs and, oh you know, old-fashioned news virtues like context and perspective?

Crabby was immediately reminded of Jan Adams' comment last week in a story on this blog about elders and technology:

”My concern about the direction of technology is that providers of consumer tech goodies seem to be leading us away from using devices with keyboards.

“Since I use a computer to write...I don't like a future in which a tablet or a smartphone becomes the expected appliance and what I consider a 'real computer' becomes a rarity. I sure don't see myself communicating in videos.”

For a long time now, Crabby too has been concerned about disappearing text and, therefore, actual thought.

In addition to those faddish, facile infographics that pop up all over the web in place of writing, increasing numbers of news websites are posting video without providing a written version of the report.

Is Crabby Old Lady the last person who understands that in an era when virtually everyone complains of too much information to plow through, it is three or four or ten times faster to read a narrative than to watch a video?

Or, of greater concern, that the medium of video does not allow for detail and nuance and that even at their best, video reports are only as good as the reporter, and there aren't many good ones these days, especially online.

Harumph, says Crabby.

Among The Times' infographic predictions are, unfortunately, these:

“The computer mouse will be replaced. Think touch, swipe, rich hand gestures."

“What technology will seem antiquated in a decade? Email, computer keyboards, cash, handheld phones.”

"...people will wear computers in the form of contact lenses, bracelets or clothing and walk up to any wall and instantly have full access to all of your cloud data and services.”

Just how, as Jan asks, is anyone going to write anything without keyboards?

Crabby might settle (reluctantly) for voice-to-text (if they'd ever improve it enough to work as well as keyboards). But no, we've got texting on teeny cellphone screens so that spelling and grammar and – again – actual thought beyond “how r u” is already disappearing.

To be fair to The Times, there are a few intriguing predictions that Crabby wants to see earlier rather than later. Before she dies would be good:

“Personalized medicine. Imagine a unique drug that’s printed for you and your condition based on your individual gene sequencing.”

"Getting a top-end college education without going to a physical campus."

"Cars driven by computers instead of humans.”

That last one, if the cars are generally affordable, could permanently remove elders' understandable fear of giving up their car keys.

On the other hand, for some reason The Times lists this one under the header, The Era of Progress:

“Ubiquitous video recording and surveillance.”

And do you think The New York Times in this infographic edited by David Leonhardt (yes, Crabby Old Lady intended to call him out) really meant to place this prediction, too, under The Era of Progress:

”Women are only 25-percent of the tech industry. As it grows in stature and wealth, women risk losing their influence in our society.”

But it strikes Crabby that 24/7 surveillance and decreased influence of women are beside the point if people stop knowing how to write because if you cannot write, you cannot think and god knows our world needs some smart thinking.

Crabby is perfectly aware that every generation of elders believes that younger ones are going to hell in a handbasket and she is more than eager to learn that her fears for the future have been a misuse of her time.

She just hopes she dies before they take away her keyboard.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: Butch, the Easter Chicken

Crabby Old Lady, Books and Blog Spam

When this blog started up a decade ago, nobody cared about or wanted to know anything about old people.

As Crabby Old Lady has often explained, back then pretty much everything about aging in the popular press, academia, television and movies was, when it was mentioned at all, devoted to disease, debility and decline.

The amount, if not the theme, changed in what felt like an instant when the media realized in 2006 that the oldest baby boomers were turning 60 that year and they had a new (to them), vast, untapped audience for information about getting old.

Well, “information” - if you define the word as useful – is a overstatement. In Crabby's experience, about 95 percent of everything written about elders and aging - especially the Niagara of new book titles that clutter Crabby's inbox - is drek.

What has happened, as far as Crabby can tell, is that anyone who is age 40 or so and older seems to believe that he or she is an expert on aging and therefore has a right to be paid for those observations.

To make that bad news worse, the few newbie writers who might have something interesting to add to the conversation about getting old are mostly hampered by poor writing skills. Crabby would be embarrassed to recommend most of their books to you.

Then there are the professional writers who, although they can write more engagingly, have little to add about what it's like to get old that we don't already know. Too often, their books are quickies meant to cash in on the aging boomer phenomenon.

And all that is not to mention the endless stream of books about how to stay young forever. (Regular readers know how Crabby Old Lady feels about that subgenre.)

All of the above is the reason you see only half a dozen books a year mentioned on this blog. Crabby does not “review” books. She sees no point in telling you, dear readers, why you should not spend money on a book and it saves her from finishing the truly awful ones.

But that is only prelude to what Crabby is here to say today. The real reason is that it's been a bad couple of weeks at Time Goes By for comment spam of a specific type. It eats up too much of Crabby's time. It makes her not want to read email in the morning. It makes her want to walk away from the computer and ignore her blog. It is a terrible thing to ruin someone's pleasure.

Many of you will recall that too often in past months, your legitimate comments have not posted. The cause was a difficulty with spam filters at the blog host, Typepad, and it took them nearly a year to repair the problem. It has now been a month of smooth sailing with only real spam caught in the filters. Hurray.

In its place, however, TGB is being plagued with a different sort of spam – book authors who leave what could otherwise be deemed a legitimate comment but then they append the name of their book, sometimes a sentence or two of promotional language and link to the purchase page.

Now in case you have not noticed, Time Goes By is an advertising-free zone. Deliberately so.

Many years ago, she tried advertising but it was more work than the low revenue justified. Unless a website gets half a million or more page views a day, nobody pays much for ads and although TGB traffic is, gratifyingly, several thousand page views a day and growing - quite successful for a personal blog - it is miles away from enough to make the work of carrying ads worth the administrative effort.

So Crabby absorbs the cost of running Time Goes By which amounts to a few hundred dollars a year – cheap enough for the pleasure she gets from the writing and the terrific community that has developed here.

Back to the book spammers. For no reason Crabby can discern, there has been an annoying upsurge in their number this month – the professionals and the amateurs. Crabby reads every comment left on Time Goes By and as soon she sees a spam comment, she kills it.

In the case of the book spammers (not one of whom has ever commented before), Crabby has taken to emailing them a terse but polite explanation of the reason their comment, or part of it, has been deleted.

About half the spammers write back to say, “oh my, I didn't realize that you would object. I am so sorry. I just wanted people to know about my wonderful book,” etc. etc.

Crabby's calling bullshit on that. Would the same people have the nerve to paste an advertising poster on the front of Crabby's home? On the windows of the local supermarket or Walmart?

That is what they are doing by trying to sneak a free ad for their book in the comments. In any other form it is called theft and it infuriates Crabby Old Lady.

What makes it sad is that if any of these writers had emailed to tell Crabby about the book and ask if she were interested, it's possible that it would become a TGB selection. Unlikely but possible and anyway, it is the right thing to do instead of trashing up Crabby's website.

Okay, Crabby's had her say and if you stuck around to the end, she is flabbergasted since it is not a stretch to label this post itself a kind of spam. Crabby's excuse is that there has been so much awful writer spam it cast out any other thoughts from her head.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Carl Hansen: Before Nail Guns Were Invented

Crabby Old Lady and the Medical Establishment

Throughout her life, Crabby Old Lady's relationship with the world of medicine has been sporadic and she is only half kidding when she says that's what has kept her remarkably healthy through her life because doctors always find something wrong.

It's similar to the world looking like a nail if you are a hammer; if you are a physician, every patient needs treatment.

Since she moved to Oregon in 2010, Crabby's closest connection to the professional health community has been an annual flu shot from a pharmacist. Oh, and her yearly eye exam.

Now and then she reminded herself that she was getting on in years and ought to find a primary care physician so to have a baseline of medical records for comparison if something goes wrong in the future.

Good idea but not as easy as you would think.

Only a few medical schools in the U.S. require short courses – about six weeks – in geriatrics for non-specialists so ideally, Crabby wanted a geriatrician, someone with a lot of education and practical knowledge about old people's health.

That idea did not work out well. When, in her online research, she located a few and called their offices, Crabby was told they were not taking new patients. More than once, she was given that information after being asked what kind of insurance she has – Medicare, of course.

(Crabby is not saying there is a connection between insurance and physician availability but it does leave her wondering what kind of insurance a geriatrician's office would expect most people who need a geriatrician to have.)

After a few such discouraging telephone conversations, Crabby would set aside her search for a future day and did not often return to it.

Moving on.

In January, eight years after the initial diagnosis of cataracts, Crabby's doctor said she was ready for surgery and before she could say howdydoo, she was being evaluated in an eye surgeon's office.

But wait. No surgery without a recent physical examination. Uh-oh. No primary care physician in Crabby's life.

Armed with a recommendation from the surgeon's office, Crabby got lucky that day and within an hour was undergoing a general examination, blood and heart tests, etc. with an internist in the building next door.

So in a period of about three hours, in addition to her established eye doctor, Crabby had acquired an eye surgeon and a primary care physician – a collection that, in 21st century business jargon (it IS business these days), could be referred to as her personal healthcare management team.

Oh, but she was not nearly finished yet.

Crabby Old Lady doesn't remember much about her bout of flu in January. She lost about 10 days of her life and when she awoke clear-headed again, her right foot didn't work properly.

Before she goes any further, let Crabby explain something that won't be a surprise to anyone who has read this far: Crabby's theory of healthcare is that if it is not a broken bone or an artery gushing blood, give whatever is wrong some time and it will probably take care of itself.

Although Crabby does not recommend this conduct for others, her personal experience is that most of the time it works. It did not with her foot.

Step. Flop. Step. Flop. Step. Flop. Crabby could not lower the sole of her foot to the ground in a normal way; it just dropped to the ground (flop) on its own after her heel touched down.

A virtual walk around the web revealed that it was probably something called peroneal neuropathy and after a visit to Crabby's new primary care physician, she was in the office of a neurologist who was sticking electrified needles into her foot and leg.

Yup. Peroneal neuropathy caused, in Crabby's case, probably by crossing her legs - “don't ever do that again in your whole life,” said the neurologist. It's a common condition, he continued, and in Crabby's case treatment will return the foot to normal or near normal function but it will take months of physical therapy.

So Crabby Old Lady, who began 2014 with only an eye doctor, now has a personal healthcare management team consisting of that eye doctor, an eye surgeon (temporary), a primary, a neurologist and a physical therapist. She can't wait to see what's next.

Although there is some comfort now in having a primary care physician – someone to call when something goes wrong in the future - perhaps you can see Crabby's point: get involved with the medical establishment and they multiply like bunnies.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Chlele Gummer: My Dandy Brandy

Crabby Old Lady and Dodgy Aging Claims

Like Crabby Old Lady, perhaps some other bloggers reading this received an email Monday from a marketer touting a seminar series by Deepak Chopra.

You need to know up front that Dr. Chopra is not on the list of people Crabby respects in the areas of health and aging so keep that in mind as you read on.

The seminar series is titled, Timeless You: The Biology of Youth & The Wisdom of Experience and the marketer says it is unlike anything Chopra has ever created before. Uh-huh.

In the email, Crabby is offered a chance to become a “contributor to Team Chopra” with free access to the $30, six-part seminar, attendance at an “exclusive” live webinar where she can directly ask Dr. Chopra questions, plus a $15 Amazon gift card.

All she must do is write an “honest review” of the series. Well, consider it done, without a $15 Amazon gift card, because sometimes you really can tell a book by its cover.

If the information Chopra is selling is so revolutionary, why is it necessary to pay lowly bloggers an embarrassingly cheap fee for their advertising?

Further, because this is being marketed to old people (grandparents.com is a partner in the venture), Crabby was immediately skeptical of that “biology of youth” stuff - a carefully worded implication that six seminars will make you young again. But as you will see below, that claim is explicit elsewhere.

You can tell from the six seminar titles that this is nothing more than warmed-over psychobabble you can find in abundance anywhere online for free.

The six webinars are:

Change Perceptions
A Youthful Mind
Healthy Relationship
The Mind-Body Connection
Mindful Eating
Joyful Exercise

But it was the blaring headline on the webinar page at grandparents.com and the seminar provider that most provoked Crabby:

“You have the power to reverse the aging process”

No you don't. Period. Full stop.

The longer version of that quotation at the seminar site is the epitome of new age-y blather Crabby thought had been left behind with the Sixties:

”You have the power to reverse the aging process and feel a decade younger! With Timeless You, you'll learn to maximize your energy, eliminate stress, keep your mind sharp, and find joy and fulfillment in every day.”

A lot of dubious products and services around the internet make that claim – that they can reverse the aging process. Listen to Crabby: nothing known to humankind reverses the aging process. Got that? Not a pill, not tinkering with DNA, not a “guru” or anything else.

If Crabby's word isn't enough for you, listen to Britain's National Health Service in a story from last December debunking widespread reports on both sides of the Atlantic that month that scientists had found the fountain of youth:

”The Mail Online tells us that, "the secret of looking up to 40 years younger" has been identified by scientists in the US.

“Sadly, this Christmas present fails to deliver. The research in question was only carried out in mice and didn't focus on reducing their wrinkles.

“What the scientists actually did was identify why the 'power houses' of cells – mitochondria – perform less well as cells age.”

Following a detailed explanation in layman's terms of what the scientists did learn, the NHS concludes:

”This research has shown that some of the changes in cells that occur with ageing can be reversed in mice in the short term. The longer term effects of the treatment used in this study on mice are not yet known.

“The treatment did not reverse the age-related weakening of the mice's muscles, so the researchers will need to show if it can have an effect on this or other wider consequences of ageing. Whether the findings apply to humans also remains to be seen.”

The only reason Crabby has bothered with this is that unlike herself, many people pay attention to what Deepak Chopra says and the promotional material for this seminar series makes a particularly egregious claim about what he's selling.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Shoes

Crabby Old Lady's New Brain Game

It is late Sunday afternoon, every brain cell has leaked out of Crabby Old Lady's head and she is incapable of useful thought to write a real blog post.

She just wants a few words on the screen so TGB readers have their usual path to the link to today's Elder Storytelling Place story at the bottom, and Crabby wouldn't argue if you think it's better worth your while to just scroll down now and click over to that website.

In retrospect, it probably wasn't a good idea to get a new cell phone and computer printer on the same day but Crabby didn't plan it that way; they arrived on their own.

Undoubtedly, you've been in this kind of tech hell yourself. For both pieces of equipment, she needed to find a bunch of necessary passwords including the one for her wireless network that is 7,482 digits long. None of the entry boxes allow Crabby to see what she's typing and it's hard not to screw up such a gargantuan password which, of course, she did. Many times.

And blah, blah, blah. Glitches at every step of the setup, each one of which takes at least an hour to figure out. A big part of the problem (as you have surely run into) is that illiterates write the setup instructions and user manuals.

And this time, not even translators from Japanese could be blamed (which sometimes provides moments of hilarity). But this was all native English that Crabby's sixth grade teacher would have flunked her for.

(Do you think this speaks the lower U.S. educational standards social scientists, politicians and test administrators keep telling us about?)

Remember the good old days before cell phones when there was just a telephone on a table in a room. No setup, no decisions, no possible way for anything to go wrong. It rang. You spoke. That's at least one excellent reason for old folks to lament the good old days.

But aside from that lengthy password, getting the cell phone in working order was almost easy-peasy. After transferring the apps Crabby wanted to keep and filling in way too many other but shorter passwords, it was just a matter of learning a few new proprietary methods of doing the same old things on a different brand of phone.

The real problem was the new printer – hardly the high-end type that makes your morning coffee and feeds the cat too. And the setup went fine until the moment to test it with a printed page.

It kept telling Crabby, “Open the output tray.” The output tray WAS open. Crabby opened and closed it many times. She re-installed the software. She plugged and unplugged the power cable crawling under the desk to do that two or three times. The message never changed and it refused to print

So on Sunday afternoon, already frazzled, Crabby spent one hour and 20-odd minutes on the phone to India during which time she crawled under the desk to plug and unplug the printer two more times. She pushed buttons again and again as instructed. She gave the representative reams of numbers, information and answered the same questions more than once.

Then she got switched to another person who put her through the same routine a second time. Damned good thing she got the phone working first.

In the end, Crabby was told the solution would take two weeks - she would need to return the BRAND NEW printer and they would send her a USED REFURBISHED printer. What kind of scam is this.

The customer service supervisor was immovable - refurbished replacement only. You can probably guess that no one at that end of telephone call needs any clarification about Crabby Old Lady's point of view.

Although Crabby is exhausted from it all, she has had a revelation: Who needs brain games? Just buy new tech equipment – two or more at once is advisable for this purpose - and every cell you've got up there will get a heavy workout.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Karen Zaun Kennedy: I am From