Last Week’s Links

The Girl in the Kent State Photo

If you’re old enough to remember the photo above, this article might interest you. I don’t think I ever knew that the girl in the center was only 14 at the time.

My college graduation (Boston University) was canceled because of the killings at Kent State. We were in the middle of final-exam week. Exams already taken would be included in final grades, but the rest of exams were called off. Those of us living in the residence halls were told to move out within the next couple of days.

COVID-19 Vaccines Could Unlock Treatments for 5 Other Deadly Diseases

Research often leads to serendipitous, seemingly unrelated discoveries. This article explains how the COVID-19 vaccines work and why scientists hope their development can yield new treatments for other diseases, including HIV, Parkinson’s disease, and cancer.

Some young women embraced their gray hair during the pandemic. They might not go back.

And here’s a story of a different kind of serendipitous discovery. Maura Judkis, age 34 at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, carefully watched “the silver stripe that expanded every week where I parted my hair.”

Then she discovered the Silver Sisters, an online group of women who were letting their dyed hair grow out and their natural silver (the term they prefer over gray) hair grow in. “The Silver Sisters don’t just accept the inevitable, they embrace it,” Judkis writes.

The process not only allowed her to save about $1,000 annually at the salon but also prompted some self-evaluation: “Confidence with gray hair and comfort with aging are not necessarily the same thing . . . The pandemic was an opportunity to reflect on what we’re really afraid of underneath the hair dye and anti-aging cream, which is mortality.”

Seattle launches second firefighter-social worker team to cover U District, Ballard

Discussion has been going on for a while now about how society can change its emergency response to mental health crises. Here’s how Seattle is changing its response to “non-emergency calls about substance abuse, mental health, medical problems and other issues that don’t require an ambulance ride.”

Looking Forward to Your 170th Birthday

Annie Murphy Paul reviews the book Ageless: The New Science of Getting Older Without Getting Old by Andrew Steele. Paul writes that Steele “relies heavily on examples from the animal kingdom, such as the Galápagos tortoise, which dwells for the many decades of its life in an enviable state known as ‘negligible senescence.’”

But, Paul argues, Ageless contains a major flaw: “Steele does not begin to grapple with the deeper implications of the project he champions so enthusiastically.” Because of this flaw, she calls the book “technically impressive but morally and emotionally shallow.”

Zoom bombings that target marginalized people spark demands for legal protections

With the COVID-19 pandemic, our retirement community has jumped aboard the Zoom bandwagon for social meetings, classes, and other enrichment activities. But my husband and I have declined to participate because we had heard so many stories about how insecure and subject to hacking Zoom is. This article gives some examples.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

On This Day, March 8: International Women’s Day marked on March 8 for 1st time – UPI.com

On March 8, 1914, International Women’s Day was observed on March 8 for the first time and would go on to be marked on this day annually.

Source: On This Day, March 8: International Women’s Day marked on March 8 for 1st time – UPI.com

Last Week’s Links

Can Classics Survive?

I did my B.A. and my M.A. in classics, although I never taught classics at any level and eventually turned to English and, later, psychology. After four years of Latin in high school, I decided to study what I most loved in college, and that was Latin. But I never wanted to teach at any level below college, which is why I changed fields.

I tell you this to explain why these two recent articles drew my attention.

He Wants to Save Classics from Whiteness. Can the Field Survive?

“Dan-el Padilla Peralta thinks classicists should knock ancient Greece and Rome off their pedestal — even if that means destroying their discipline.”

As much as I love Latin literature, I’m not surprised to learn that the study of classics, like the study of the humanities in general, has declined in favor of majors that offer better job opportunities after graduation. But I did not know this:

Long revered as the foundation of “Western civilization,” the field was trying to shed its self-imposed reputation as an elitist subject overwhelmingly taught and studied by white men. Recently the effort had gained a new sense of urgency: Classics had been embraced by the far right, whose members held up the ancient Greeks and Romans as the originators of so-called white culture. Marchers in Charlottesville, Va., carried flags bearing a symbol of the Roman state; online reactionaries adopted classical pseudonyms; the white-supremacist website Stormfront displayed an image of the Parthenon alongside the tagline “Every month is white history month.”

This article focuses on Dan-el Padilla Peralta, “a leading historian of Rome who teaches at Princeton and was born in the Dominican Republic,” who believes “that classics has been instrumental to the invention of ‘whiteness’ and its continued domination.”

If Classics Doesn’t Change, Let It Burn

“The field as is doesn’t deserve to persist. But scholars are hard at work improving it.

This article by Johanna Hanink, associate professor of classics at Brown University, emerged as a result of the New York Times profile above. She writes, “The field of classics should evolve to keep up with the world outside the library doors . . . Today, as the United States comes to grips with its own painful history and diminished status in a globalized world, our approach to antiquity should radically shift once again.” She feels “invigorated, and not threatened, at the prospect of change for my discipline.”

Can Historians Be Traumatized by History?

There’s been a lot written about how experiencing violence and atrocities first-hand can lead to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Here James Robins go one step further, to ask people if people, such as therapists or historians conducting research, can “be traumatized by something experienced only secondhand.”

Daily tai chi, exercise help older adults with insomnia, study finds

UPI reports on research recently published by JAMA Network Open about older adults with insomnia: “Adults in their 60s and 70s diagnosed with insomnia who practiced tai chi daily woke up, on average, two fewer times during the night than those who didn’t use the ancient Chinese approach, the data showed.”

Why we’re obsessed with music from our youth

Here’s some interesting research about the “reminiscence bump”: “people tend to disproportionately recall memories from when they were 10 to 30 years old.” The research findings suggest that “we aren’t primarily so interested in the music of our youth because we think it’s better than music from other eras, but because it is closely linked to our personal memories.”

The Library of Possible Futures

“Since the release of Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock 50 years ago, the allure of speculative nonfiction has remained the same: We all want to know what’s coming next.”

Samantha Culp looks at speculative nonfiction about the future, which she defines as “the constantly evolving genre we might call ‘pop futurism.’” She explains the telltale signs of a pop futurist book: “it sketches out possible tomorrows, highlights emergent trends to watch, and promises ways for even nonspecialists to apply these insights to their own life and work.” 

The seminal work of this genre, she writes, is Future Shock, Alvin Toffler’s book that recently marked its 50th anniversary. Here she looks at subsequent examples of this type of book and concludes that “we need an entirely new way of talking about the future if we are to shape it into something equitable and sustainable for all.”

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Alzheimer’s Prediction May Be Found in Writing Tests

Gina Kolata reports on a study by IBM researchers suggesting that writing patterns may help to predict Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders years before other symptoms appear.

‘Just Cruel’: Digital Race For COVID-19 Vaccines Leaves Many Seniors Behind

I keep seeing stories from several news sources about older adults eligible for receiving the COVID-19 vaccine who are having trouble making an appointment. 

This article does not contain a link to a central information page. But the CDC offers a page where you can find your state health department. Click here.

It’s not just the pandemic. The moon may be messing with your sleep, too, UW researchers find.

Recent research from the University of Washington suggests that “people tend to have a harder time sleeping in the days leading up to a full moon.”

50 Things Turning 50 In 2021

Among things turning 50 this year: Disney World, McDonald’s Quarter Pounder, Janis Joplin’s album Pearl, the pocket calculator, and Dirty Harry. Now doesn’t that just make your day?

Decades later, infamous Tuskegee syphilis study stirs wariness in Black community over COVID-19 vaccine

Some time back when I was in my late 40s I had a freelance project that led me to the Tuskegee syphilis study. Chalk this up as one of the things we didn’t learn about in history class. 

I sobbed out loud sitting at my computer reading about this research, which studied the effects of the disease in poor Black men. Here’s the worst part: even after drugs were discovered that cured syphilis, the treatment was withheld from study participants so researchers could document the natural progression of the disease.

Today, the repercussions of this ghastly history affect attitudes toward COVID-19 vaccination in the Black community. 

Please read this article.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

On This Day, Dec. 21: Pilgrims arrive at Plymouth, Mass. – UPI.com

On Dec. 21, 1620, the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth, Mass., following a 63-day voyage from England aboard the Mayflower.

Source: On This Day, Dec. 21: Pilgrims arrive at Plymouth, Mass. – UPI.com

Last Week’s Links

How to be alone

“Solitude is a skill. You can get better at it with practice.”

Sigal Samuel urges us to lean into being alone.

Many factors have conspired to make us bad at solitude. They’re mostly not our fault. As Jenny Odell lays out in her book How to Do Nothing, we live in a culture where sociability and constant connectivity are rewarded, and where choosing to be by yourself marks you out as a loser, crazy, possibly immoral.

This article goes deeper than I expected. Samuel offers several ingredients for making the most of solitude:

  1. “First, there’s the idea that to succeed at solitude, you have to accept that you’re being “thrown upon yourself” — to confront your reality rather than opting for distraction.
  2. “Another key ingredient to successful solitude, psychologists have found, is having a clear sense of purpose.”
  3. Some people who have adapted to living in isolation “emphasize the importance of routines — the little daily rituals that anchor us in time and give shape to a day.”
  4. “Many artists insist that isolation is necessary for creative work.”
  5. “Most world religions, even if they’re ambivalent about solitude as a long-term path, acknowledge that it’s useful for fostering spiritual insight.”

But Samuel also acknowledges that sudden isolation, such as that forced on us by the COVID-19 pandemic, can also have risks. There’s a link to a guide to developing “distress tolerance skills” developed by psychologists for the Centre for Clinical Interventions, supported by the Australian government’s department of health.

Loneliness Hasn’t Increased Despite Pandemic, Research Finds. What Helped?

NPR reports on several new studies that suggest the huge increase in loneliness social scientists expected to accompany the mandatory isolation necessary to prevent spread of the COVID-19 virus hasn’t materialized.

Some researchers wonder if the many ways communities have found to band together while socially distanced—such as porch chats, Zoom dinners, neighborhood dancing—have contributed to the lower-than-expected rate of loneliness. Still, they add, conditions are ripe for anxiety and depression, which we should be on the lookout for in both ourselves and others.

As the pandemic surges, old people alarm their adult kids by playing bridge and getting haircuts

My husband and I are both over 70, and we’ve been terrified by how hard this virus is hitting older adults. We have minimized our trips out as much as possible, always wear masks when outside the house, and stay six feet away from others when we do go to the grocery store. So I was surprised to see this news story about older people shocking their children by not following recommended health guidelines.

Various factors are contributing to this generational divide. Older people in the United States are statistically more likely than younger generations to listen to conservative media and to politicians who have played down the dangers of the virus, and some may have followed their lead. Others may be well aware of the risks but have weighed them against the mental and physical benefits of maintaining exercise and social routines.

Whatever the reasons, the dynamic can leave middle-aged people, many of whom may already be worried about their adult children going to protests or beach gatherings, feeling that they must also parent their parents.

You’re Doomscrolling Again. Here’s How to Snap Out of It.

This experience of sinking into emotional quicksand while bingeing on doom-and-gloom news is so common that there’s now internet lingo for it: “doomscrolling.” Exacerbating this behavior, shelter-in-place orders leave us with little to do other than to look at our screens; by some measures, our screen time has jumped at least 50 percent.

Read explanations of how to use these approaches to lift yourself out of the doom and gloom:

  1. Create a plan to control your time
  2. Practice meditation
  3. Connect with others

Viewing Literature as a Lab for Community Ethics

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront many bioethical questions, such as, when resources are limited, which lives should be saved and which sacrificed? Maren Tova Linett, author of Literary Bioethics, argues that fiction, with its ability to present imagined worlds, offers the chance to explore such concerns: “Fiction has the virtue of presenting vividly imagined worlds in which certain values hold sway, casting new light onto those values. And the more plausible we find these imagined worlds, the more thoroughly we can evaluate the justice of those values.”

Literary Bioethics considers novels such as The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O’Connor, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells, and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

The Lingering Legacy of America’s First Cookie-Cutter Suburb

I’ve been hearing a lot about systemic racism in the U.S., the fact that racism is built so basically into our culture that even the best-intentioned white folks don’t notice it. This article from Atlas Obscura startlingly illustrates that point.

“The idyllic ideal of modern suburbia in the United States was born in 1947 with the creation of Levittown, a large housing development in Long Island, New York.” Furthermore:

A clause in the standard lease for the first Levitt houses baldly stated that the homes could not “be used or occupied by any person other than members of the Caucasian race.” Government policies at the time, such as those of the Federal Housing Administration, supported such racist practices, blocking Black Americans and other people of color from the new suburbs and homeownership.

I’ll just leave that fact right there.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

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