Last Week’s Links

For the first time, scientists can see how the brain records our memories as we sleep

For some time now scientists have known that sleep helps solidify learning by providing our brains the opportunity to review the day’s events and transfer things into long-term memories. Finally, CNN reports, scientists have a start on understanding how this process works: “tiny microelectrodes planted inside the brains of two people show just how the brain’s neurons fire during sleep to ‘replay’ our short-term memories in order to move them into more permanent storage.”

Results of the study, carried out by BrainGate, an academic research consortium composed of Brown University, the Providence VA Medical Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, Stanford University, and Case Western Reserve University, were reported in the journal Cell Reports.

It’s important to note that the number of tests reported on is extremely small and that much more research is necessary.

The Economics of Coronavirus: A Reading List

I’ve been thinking a lot about what the world will look like once the COVID-19 pandemic is over, but my speculations are mostly social and political. I know absolutely nothing about economics beyond balancing my checkbook, which is why I took particular notice of this article from Five Books.

As we deal with the economic fallout of coronavirus, what lessons can economic theory and economic history teach us as we navigate the months ahead? Ricardo Reis, professor of economics at the London School of Economics—and consultant to both the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve—recommends four books and one article to help us think through the economic challenges posed by Covid-19.

The Coronavirus Is Rewriting Our Imaginations

Science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson writes:

In mid-March, in a prior age, I spent a week rafting down the Grand Canyon. When I left for the trip, the United States was still beginning to grapple with the reality of the coronavirus pandemic. Italy was suffering; the N.B.A. had just suspended its season; Tom Hanks had been reported ill. When I hiked back up, on March 19th, it was into a different world. I’ve spent my life writing science-fiction novels that try to convey some of the strangeness of the future. But I was still shocked by how much had changed, and how quickly.

“The virus is rewriting our imaginations,” he writes, because it has awakened our realization of the significance of our place in history. “We realize that what we do now, well or badly, will be remembered later on. This sense of enacting history matters.”

Judi Dench, 85, becomes British Vogue’s oldest cover star

“Oscar-winning actor Judi Dench has become the oldest person ever to feature on the cover of British Vogue at the age of 85.”

Be sure to click on the link to the article to see the glorious cover.

It’s the Perfect Time to Record Your Family’s History. Here’s How.

A good reason to help your older relatives learn to communicate online is to take advantage of the opportunity to share and record family-history stories. This article has some useful tips on how to record conversations, what prompts to assemble, how to prepare the people you plan to talk with, and how to develop open-ended questions that will stimulate conversation.

This advice applies to both digital and in-person conversations.

The pandemic has amplified ageism. ‘It’s open season for discrimination’ against older adults

Laura Newberry reports in the Los Angeles Times on “how little some people care about the well-being of older adults, who make up roughly 80% of those who die from COVID-19 complications.”

The information here is not limited to the Los Angeles area. Much of it pertains to those of us in the higher-risk demographic (people age 60 and over) no matter where we live.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Celebrating Earth Day

Today is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. First celebrated in 1970, “The date of Earth Day was specifically selected to mobilize college students”:

To head up the Earth Day project, Senator [Gaylord] Nelson enlisted Denis Hayes, then a graduate student at Harvard University. As national coordinator, Hayes recruited a staff of 85 energetic young environmental crusaders and grassroots organizers, along with thousands of field volunteers, in order to promote the fledgling holiday across the nation. The team knew that in order to gain the most traction, college students would need to play a central role, as they did in the Vietnam protests of the era. The date that Hayes selected for the first Earth Day was a calculated choice: April 22 on most college campuses falls right between Spring Break and final exams.

Read this and other memorable morsels in 10 Fascinating Facts About Earth Day.

If you’ve finally decided that it’s time to read a book about climate change, The New York Times has some suggestions in the following categories:

  • I don’t even know where to start.
  • I just want to understand how we got here.
  • I’m ready for the hard truth. Don’t sugar-coat it.
  • Who saw this coming?
  • I’m fascinated by how people behave when things get bad.
  • Did we learn anything from Hurricane Katrina?
  • I live on the coast. How scared should I be?
  • New York is the center of my universe.
  • What’s happening to the Great Lakes?
  • I know it’s all politics. So who’s to blame?
  • Someone must be profiting from climate change. Where’s the money?
  • I’d like a novel that taps into my current, IRL dread.
  • What are some future scenarios?
  • I’m a dystopian. Prepare me for the worst.
  • I need help arguing with my denialist uncle.
  • I’m just an old-fashioned tree-hugger.
  • What about the animals?
  • I only have time for one canonical read.
  • What will inspire the climate activist of the future?
  • What will our grandchildren think of us?
  • What I can do right now?

And here are some more reading suggestions: 9 Nonfiction Books About Nature and Climate Change.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

The Real History Behind The Sound of Music

My husband’s and my first date was a trip to the movie theater to see The Sound of Music, released in 1965. (Yes, we were high school sweethearts.) Here’s the story behind that movie, which, according to the article, “became one of America’s highest-grossing films of all time” and is “probably the main reason that generations of non-musicians can effortlessly spout off the notes of the tonal scale.” 

Anyone even half as nostalgic as I am about this movie will enjoy this article.

Locked down elderly in rural French village find some parallels with World War II

Jim Bittermann reports for CNN on how isolation and social distancing are affecting the normally social and affable French. 

“Out here in rural France, the 15-day confinement period is generally scoffed at. The lockdown could go on far longer than most everyone believes. Just like during World War II, there is no real idea about what the world will look like afterward.”

As Life Moves Online, an Older Generation Faces a Digital Divide

I’m assuming that anyone reading this blog (anyone?) does not fall into this group. However, you might be able to help some of your less tech-savvy friends and neighbors: “Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, urged people this month to help the elderly set up technology to talk to medical providers.”

There’s information here on some of the tools helping people stay connected during this time of isolation.

Book sales surge as self-isolating readers stock up on ‘bucket list’ novels

If you’re searching for some “silver lining” news to this pandemic cloud, this might qualify: According to the U.K.’s Guardian, “Book sales have leapt across the country as readers find they have extra time on their hands, with bookshops reporting a significant increase in sales of longer novels and classic fiction.”

Ageist “Triage” Is a Crime Against Humanity

The question of whether older people are expendable apparently became an internet meme after some politician or other commented that we needed to stop isolation and social distancing so that we can get people back to work to rev up the economy, even if doing so meant that some older people (the most at-risk demographic for this virus) might get sick and die. 

Here Margaret Morganroth Gullette takes a philosophical approach to the large ethical question of how older people might fare if medical triage becomes necessary.

My cohort of over-65 people are supposed to be enjoying the new Age of Longevity. But do some younger people still associate us older folks with dying — however unconsciously — so that our premature demise may come to seem — sadly — normal? These questions arise with more gravity because the pandemic Covid-19 may become an atrocity-producing situation for older persons. Will anxiety, which already runs high, come to be focused on the figure of an old person who is seen as expendable? This depends on how panicked different nation-states become, and how discourse about victims is structured by governments and the media.


© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Keeping Your Blood Sugar In Check Could Lower Your Alzheimer’s Risk

Here’s a report on recent research suggesting that controlling blood sugar levels “might help lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.”

Can Personality Affect Dementia Risk?

And here’s another report on research. The results of personality tests given to 82,232 teenagers in 1960 were compared with Medicare diagnoses of dementia from 2011 to 2013. Researchers “found that high extroversion, an energetic disposition, calmness and maturity were associated with a lower risk of dementia an average of 54 years later, though the association did not hold for students with low socioeconomic status.”

But the lead researcher emphasizes, “‘our findings are suggestive, and we don’t want to draw strong conclusions about causation.’”

Stop Me if You’ve Heard This One: A Robot and a Team of Irish Scientists Walk Into a Senior Living Home

Meet Stevie, a robot from the Robotics and Innovation Lab at Trinity College, Dublin, who lives with the residents of a retirement home for military officers and their spouses just outside of Washington, DC. The purpose of the collaboration is to see if AI (artificial intelligence) can help support human care workers in caring for people 65 and older, “the fastest-growing age demographic in the US.”

VICTIM OF AGEISM? TIME TO CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE

Here’s something to think about:

One can be outraged by the seemingly unfair treatment older workers receive. But are we each without ageist bias? The fact is we can be our own worst enemy when we adopt these assumptions as our truth. While we can’t change how others think, we can certainly tackle our own deeply held beliefs about aging that sabotage our financial future and well-being.

Happy Birthday to the Internet!

Born on October 29, 1969, the Internet is now 50 years old. Here are two articles about that milestone.

50 years ago today, the internet was born in Room 3420

The Internet came into existence in response to the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik 1 in October 1957. Chagrined that the USSR had beaten the U.S. in the space race, President Eisenhower formed the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) within the Department of Defense to promote study of science, technology, engineering, and math in U.S. universities and research labs. The need for separate terminals in each place of study led researchers to conceptualize ARPANET, a system that would allow each research lab to communicate with any or all others. 

Welcome to Year 50 of the Information Age

Adam Rogers, reporting for Wired, a publication that came into existence to cover the digital world, remembers (and links to) the article he wrote 25 years ago marking the Internet’s 25th birthday. 

And he laments that the Internet’s 50th birthday “marks not only the internet’s decrepitude but also my own.”

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

In the 1890s, Female Medical Students Embroidered a Yearbook on a Pillow Sham

The first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States was Elizabeth Blackwell, in 1849. I wrote my doctoral dissertation on her autobiography plus the life stories of four other pioneering 19th century women physicians. At that time the Victorian notion of separate spheres ruled society: The world of business and politics was the sphere of men, and the world of home and church was the sphere of women, who were not allowed to enter professions such as medicine. Keenly aware of their ground-breaking significance, most early women physicians chose to emphasize that their work was not a transgression into the world of men, but rather a logical extension of their traditional position as women, responsible for the care of their family’s health. 

I was therefore delighted to come across this article about women medical graduates of the time who turned women’s traditional task of needlework to the service of expressing their professional selves. Be sure to check out the photos in this article, which offers a short history on the entrance of women into the profession of medicine.

Why hasn’t evolution dealt with the inefficiency of ageing?

Jordan Pennells, a PhD student in bioengineering at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, addresses the question “how has ageing persisted within the Darwinian framework of evolution?” 

Here’s his concluding sentence:

In the drive towards the cure for ageing, evolutionary medicine has the potential to further our understanding of why human diseases arise, and elucidate the unanticipated costs of subverting this intrinsic biological process.

That phrase the cure for ageing caught my eye because it suggests that aging is not a necessary and unavoidable process of life, but rather a condition to be studied and overcome. But I can’t help but wonder what the result would be if we did, in fact, discover how to cure aging.

How Not to Grow Old in America

Tag line: “The assisted living industry is booming, by tapping into the fantasy that we can all be self-sufficient until we die.”

Geeta Anand, formerly a reporter for The New York Times, is a professor at the University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. In this article she uses her own experience caring for aging parents to look at the assisted living industry. Here’s her conclusion:

Assisted living has a role to play for the fittest among the elderly, as was its original intent. But if it is to be a long-term solution for seniors who need substantial care, then it needs serious reform, including requirements for higher staffing levels and substantial training.

What Statistics Can and Can’t Tell Us About Ourselves

“In the era of Big Data, we’ve come to believe that, with enough information, human behavior is predictable. But number crunching can lead us perilously wrong.”

We come across a lot of statistics in our daily lives, particularly in consideration of whether a particular medication will benefit us. In this article Hannah Fry, professor at University College London’s Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, explains how statistics work, particularly in the context of scientific study results.

Do you have a self-actualised personality? Maslow revisited

If you ever took an introductory psychology course, you undoubtedly learned about Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, usually pictured as a pyramid with several levels. At the bottom of the pyramid are basic needs, such as food, clothing, shelter. Only as each level of needs, starting at the bottom, is met can an individual move up to the next higher level. At the pinacle is the achievement of self-actualization, or the pursuit of creative goals and the achievement of one’s highest potential.

This article by Christian Jarrett reports on research by Scott Barry Kaufman, a psychologist at Barnard College, Columbia University, aimed at reformulating Maslow’s work and linking it to contemporary psychological theory. 

Jarrett concludes:

The new test is sure to reinvigorate Maslow’s ideas, but if this is to help heal our divided world, then the characteristics required for self-actualisation, rather than being a permanent feature of our personalities, must be something we can develop deliberately.

He writes further that Kaufman says he believes that his work can help people reach their highest potential: “‘ Capitalise on your highest characteristics but also don’t forget to intentionally be mindful about what might be blocking your self-actualisation … Identify your patterns and make a concerted effort to change. I do think it’s possible with conscientiousness and willpower.’”

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

What Were People Reading in the Summer of ’69?

cover: Valley of the Dolls

We’re seeing a lot of articles this summer about that pivotal summer of 50 years ago. This one informs us that, in 1969, The Love Machine by Jacqueline Susann was the #1 novel, The Godfather by Mario Puzo was #2, Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth was #3, and The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton was #4.

Do you remember reading those novels? I don’t think I’ve ever read The Love Machine, although I did read Valley of the Dolls. I do remember reading both The Godfather and Portnoy’s Complaint, both of which I enjoyed but wasn’t particularly affected by. But I vividly remember throwing the hardcover edition of The Andromeda Strain across the room as soon as I finished it because the cop-out ending so infuriated me.

It’s All Greek to You and Me, So What Is It to the Greeks?

In a wide-ranging number of languages, major and minor, from all different branches of the language family tree, there is some version of “It’s Greek to me.” These idioms all seek to describe one person’s failure to understand what the other is trying to say, but in a particular, dismissive way. It’s not just, “Sorry, I can’t understand you.” It’s saying, “The way you’re speaking right now is incomprehensible.” And it specifically compares that incomprehensibility to a particular language, a language agreed upon in that culture to be particularly impenetrable.

A wide-ranging exploration into the many different forms of the idiom “It’s all Greek to me.”

ZERNA SHARP, 91, DIES IN INDIANA; ORIGINATED ‘DICK AND JANE’ TEXTS

cover: Dick and Jane

Last Monday, August 12 (1889), marked the birthday of the woman who developed the Dick and Jane books that many of us learned with in our early school years. This article is a digitized version of The New York Times obituary that marked her 1981 death.

Miss Sharp did not write the books, but worked with an illustrator, Eleanor B. Campbell, and several others to produce the texts. In the books, only one new word was introduced on each page and no individual story introduced more than five new words. The illustrations showed the characters carrying out the action of the words.

Liz Weston column: Will you be a scam artist’s next target?

Since people age 50 and older control 83% of the wealth in the U.S., they are often the target of scammers. Business writer Liz Weston offers some specific suggestions on how to become less susceptible to scammers’ efforts.

Weston advises that, since overconfidence can make us part with our money unwisely, we should get a second opinion on financial decisions “from a trusted adviser or money-smart friend.” She also has some advice on steering clear of romance scams, which loneliness can increase our susceptibility to.

11 Groovy Books That Will Transport You Back to the ‘60s

Since we began with books from the 1960s, it seems right to end with the same topic. This article, as the title suggests, references both books originally from the 1960s—such as Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi, The Graduate by Charles Webb, and Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion—and books written later about that era—such as 11/22/63 by Stephen King, The Girls by Emma Cline, and The Road to Woodstock by Michael Lang.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

In preparing this post for publication, I realize that all these pieces revolve around remembrance.

On the Intoxicating Power of Forgetting Where You Came From

In this excerpt from the book A Primer for Forgetting: Getting Past the Past, author Lewis Hyde “explores the egoism of memory and self-making.” Hyde tells an anecdote about Larry Rosenberg, a teacher from the Insight Meditation Center in Cambridge, Massa­chusetts, visiting the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, a preserved building much like the one Rosenberg grew up in. What most caught my eye was this:

Rosenberg told this story in the context of a talk about a distinction he draws from Buddhist teaching between “real time” and “psychological time.” With real time, we do not dwell on (or dwell in) the past or the future but simply note them (saying, “I grew up in New York” or “When I retire I’m going to Florida,” and so on). With psychological time, on the other hand, past and future take over the present; we live in them, identifying with their pleasures and pains. As the Bud­dhists say, we “make self” out of them (as I might make self out of my pride in publishing a book or my shame over having flunked a chemistry exam).

This distinction between these two kinds of time describes the difference between mere facts, such as date of birth, and those experiences that we incorporate into our life story, the narrative of personal events we build up over time to help us make sense of the world and our unique place in it.

Where Are All the Books About Menopause?

Having undergone a hysterectomy at age 44, Sarah Manguso ponders how “For women, aging is framed as a series of losses—of fertility, of sexuality, of beauty. But it can be a liberation, too.”

The Clarks Originals You Didn’t Even Know You Needed (Until Now)

This is not an advertisement from me (although it is an endorsement from Esquire) but rather a reminiscence. 

Do you remember Clark Wallabees?

Clark Wallabee

First debuted in 1967, the Wallabee has more than a half-century of history behind it. Originally based on a German-designed moccasin, the style didn’t catch on in Clarks’ native Britain initially. But it enjoyed success in North America, and it was a runaway hit in Jamaica. See, Jamaican “rude boys” had already adopted the desert boot—which was launched in 1950—as part of their de facto uniform, and the associated criminal activity made the footwear a target for police. When Wallees came onto the scene, they were immediately brought into the fold.

The article goes on to explain that Wallabees became popular in the U.S. because of “the influx of Jamaican immigrants to New York in the ’80s.”

I bought my Wallabees in the early 1970s, on a trip to San Francisco. I had to learn not to tie them tightly, like sneakers, but more loosely to allow for the shoes’ lower fit on the foot. Once I learned that trick, I wore them all around San Francisco (although I did not wear accompanying flowers in my hair) and for a long time afterwards. 

I hadn’t thought about Wallabees for a long time. What a pleasant surprise to see them recommended as an acceptable fashion accessory for young adult males.

Apollo 11 at 50: Space program transfixed Americans, changed pop culture

UPI asserts that humans’ first walk on the moon by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on July 20, 1969, was the culmination of a craze that since 1961 “had influenced pop culture — entertainment, architecture, fashion, consumer goods and language.”

Words linked to space were everywhere, with American space explorers called astronauts and the Russian counterparts called cosmonauts. People found ways to use “liftoff,” “launch” and “rendezvous” for purposes other than space talk. And phrases “space cadet,” “it’s not rocket science” and “spaced out” became commonplace.

The article goes on to list how the space craze’s influence showed up in all kinds of ways: toys, candy, cars, television, movies, music, fashion, architecture, Disney World (Florida). In Houston, where the astronauts trained, the baseball team the Colt 45s was renamed the Astros. They soon had a new indoor home, the Astrodome, which opened in 1962.

The moon landing was “a demonstration of what the human species could achieve,” but in the next five to six years the “feel-good moments were gone,” replaced by “the 1-2 punch of Watergate and the end of the Vietnam War.”

How about you?

Do you remember Clark Wallabees, the moon landing, the Astrodome, or menopause?

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Pavarotti Captured the Sublime and Vulgar Sides of Opera

Even if you’re not interested in opera, you might find this article informative about Ron Howard’s new documentary film about Luciano Pavarotti.

Opera fans hold on to his 1960s and ’70s glory days, when his sunny voice was in its prime . . . and he challenged himself in corners of the bel canto repertory. The broader public is likelier to remember the cheesy charity concerts and duets with Bono, the guilty “Three Tenors” pleasure with a white handkerchief clutched in his hand and endless high C’s.

According to this article, Pavarotti “never learned to read music.”

Storytelling Helps Hospital Staff Learn About The Person, Not Just The Patient

VA hospitals are pioneering the use of storytelling to strengthen the relationships patients have with doctors and nurses. With more information about patients, there may be some health benefits.

The medical profession is catching on to the notion that you can’t really know people until you know their life stories.

Seattle man finds cache of historical photos by famed crime photographer Weegee in his kitchen cabinet

Check those attics, basements, garages, and kitchen cabinets, folks!

Stonewall: The Making of a Monument

Ever since the 1969 riots on the streets outside New York City’s Stonewall Inn, L.G.B.T.Q. communities have gathered there to express their joy, their anger, their pain and their power.

Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Donating Your Body to Science

Organ donation is one way of leaving your body to science. But this article discusses how to donate your entire body and how whole bodies (cadavers) are used to further scientific study.

Deadly Falls in Older Americans Are Rising. Here’s How to Prevent Them

The rate of deaths after falls is rising for people over 75, a new study shows. But falls are avoidable for most seniors. We have some tips.

The Man Who Told America the Truth About D-Day

Ernie Pyle’s dispatches offered comfort to readers back home. Then the Normandy landings — 75 years ago this week — changed his perspective on the war’s costs

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Blizzard forces Cecil B. DeMille film crew from the Nisqually Glacier on Mount Rainier on October 26, 1924. – HistoryLink.org

On October 26, 1924, a film crew headed by famed Hollywood director Cecil B. DeMille (1881-1959) is forced off Mount Rainier’s Nisqually Glacier when blizzard conditions overtake the company. DeMille is shooting on location for the film The Golden Bed (Paramount, 1925), with Mount Rainier standing in for the Swiss Alps.

Source: Blizzard forces Cecil B. DeMille film crew from the Nisqually Glacier on Mount Rainier on October 26, 1924. – HistoryLink.org

Three Things Thursday

Related Post:

three-things-thursday-participant

Here’s this week’s offering for Three Things Thursday, the purpose of which is to “share three things from the previous week that made you smile or laugh or appreciate the awesome of your life.”

On the day of our recent visit to the Impressionism exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum, we also stopped by the Native American of the Northwest and Pacific Coast Gallery. Since moving from St. Louis, MO, to Tacoma, WA, I have enjoyed learning about the Native cultural heritage of this area. Here are three items from that exhibit.

From the Native American of the Northwest and Pacific Coast Gallery, Seattle Art Museum

(Click on any image to see a larger version)

1. Cedar Bark Dress

Cedar Bark DressI had heard that the red cedar tree provided for many of the needs of Native Americans, including clothing. Since I wondered how a tree could provide clothing, I was glad to see this piece on exhibit.

Cedar Bark Dress, 1985

Red cedar bark, raffia

Alice Williams

Upper Skagit (1907–1996)

2. Thunderbird Mask and Regalia

Thunderbird Mask and Regalia

Thunderbird Mask and Regalia, 2006

wood, paint, feathers, rabbit fur, cloth

Calvin Hunt Tlasutiwalis

Canadian, Kwagu’l, born 1956

In the myth stories in our culture we believe that the animals and the birds can take off their cloaks and transform into human beings.

—Calvin Hunt

Spectacular, articulated dance masks are the specialty of Kwakwaka’wakw artists who craft the elaborate regalia worn in the dance-dramas depicting mythic events and deeds of ancestors, and supernatural beings. The songs accompanying the dance reinforce the dramatization of the stories, and are as important as the mask and costume. Together they transport the audience to a time when supernatural beings and humans interacted, as represented in this mask, in which the Thunderbird transforms into a human, Hunt’s first ancestor.

3. The First People

The First People

This dynamic piece is placed to catch the visitor’s eye from afar.

The First People, 2008

Red cedar, yellow cedar

Susan Point

Coast Salish, Musqueam band, born 1951

The homelands of the Musqueam of the Fraser River Delta are punctuated by meandering pathways as the Fraser reaches teh Strait of Georgia. The faces within the tendrils represent the hereditary bloodlines that connected families in the region, and the waterways that were lifelines yielding food resources, sustaining Delta people from time immemorial.

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Featured Image (at top of this post): Image of the Sun

Image of the Sun (Sinxolatia), ca. 1880

Red cedar, alder, and paint

Nuxalk