Last Week’s Links

Was Smokey Bear wrong? How a beloved character may have helped fuel catastrophic fires

The recent fires [across the western U.S.] actually highlight an ongoing debate among ecologists about whether Smokey should shoulder some responsibility for the flames now regularly sweeping across natural lands. For much of the last century, Smokey was the pitchman for the federal government’s aggressive wildfire suppression policy. That tactic, some scientists believe, may have contributed along with climate change to making American forests vulnerable long-term to combustion. They call it “the Smokey Bear effect.”

This look at the history of modern American fire prevention explains what looks like a counter-intuitive concept.

An Extraordinary Documentary Portrait of a Playwright Facing Alzheimer’s Disease

There’s no danger of impersonality in “The Rest I Make Up,” Michelle Memran’s documentary portrait of the playwright María Irene Fornés (which [screened] August 23rd through the 29th, at moma). It’s very much a four-handed film, made (as the credits say) both by Memran and by Fornés, and it’s explicitly, inescapably about their collaboration. The resulting film is a profound, tragic, yet joyful vision of art. It’s more than the portrait of an artist (or even of two); it’s a revelation and exaltation of the artistic essence, of the very nature of an artist’s life as an unending act of creation in itself.

The New Yorker looks at a film documenting Alzheimer’s disease.

How to get a good night’s sleep

A science journalist spent months researching sleep. Here’s what he found.

Sean Illing interviews Henry Nicholls, author of Sleepyhead: The Neuroscience of a Good Night’s Rest. Nicholls says that establishing sleep stability—going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning—is the simplest way to begin addressing sleep problems such as insomnia.

The Backstory: the story behind ‘Passing the Peace Torch’

the protest group is still active, increasingly frustrated by a visible age gap between older veterans of the peace movement and younger, politically active citizens who seem to have moved on to other causes.

A local (Pacific Northwest) take on a national matter of concern to those of us who grew up marching and protesting and chanting, “There is some s**t we will not eat.”

Slow, steady tortoise beats speedy hare in real life, study shows

The lesson communicated by the tale of the tortoise and the hare, one of Aesop’s fables, holds true in the animal kingdom, according to new research.

The fable’s lesson is simple: consistency and perseverance beat out disinterested talent. In nature, faster animals tend to apply their speed inconsistently, just like Aesop’s hare.

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

What will your life story say about you?

Life is a story that we write and while writing we rediscover our unique selves as well as the opportunity to newly discover the uniqueness and diversity in others.

In this short article Anita P. Jackson, a clinical counselor and emerita professor at Kent State University, explains how we can examine our own life stories to better not only ourselves but society as well.

How the Elderly Lose Their Rights

Guardians can sell the assets and control the lives of senior citizens without their consent—and reap a profit from it.

Here, according to this article from the New Yorker, are the facts:

In the United States, a million and a half adults are under the care of guardians, either family members or professionals, who control some two hundred and seventy-three billion dollars in assets, according to an auditor for the guardianship fraud program in Palm Beach County. Little is known about the outcome of these arrangements, because states do not keep complete figures on guardianship cases—statutes vary widely—and, in most jurisdictions, the court records are sealed. A Government Accountability report from 2010 said, “We could not locate a single Web site, federal agency, state or local entity, or any other organization that compiles comprehensive information on this issue.” A study published this year by the American Bar Association found that “an unknown number of adults languish under guardianship” when they no longer need it, or never did. The authors wrote that “guardianship is generally “permanent, leaving no way out—‘until death do us part.’ ”

In the United States, guardianship is governed by state, not federal, law.

This long and frightening article focuses on cases around Las Vegas, NV, but some of the information is generally applicable.

Are Job Ads Targeting Young Workers Breaking The Law?

When an employer sets out to recruit young people for a certain job, is it discriminating against older job seekers in a way that breaks the law? That question is at the center of several pending lawsuits that could help improve job opportunities for older Americans.

11 Novels with Older Characters You’re Sure to Love

Taylor Noel offers a list of “11 novels with older protagonists that you’re sure to love.”

‘A different way of living’: why writers are celebrating middle-age

But we search in vain if we turn to these books for answers, partly because these writers are more interested in asking questions, and partly because they are too singular, and too defiant, to tell us what to do. Greer ends by announcing that though younger people anxiously inquire, and researchers tie themselves in knots with definitions, “the middle-aged woman is about her own business, which is none of theirs”. Women come racing up from behind, asking how to negotiate the next phase. But we’re not going to learn much because, Greer says, the middle-aged woman is “climbing her own mountain, in search of her own horizon, after years of being absorbed in the struggles of others”. The ground is full of bumps, the air is thin and her bones ache. Nonetheless, the ascent is worth it, however baffling it may seem to others. Greer exhorts her middle-aged readers not to explain or apologise. “The climacteric marks the end of apologising. The chrysalis of conditioning has once and for all to break and the female woman finally to emerge.”

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Prescription coupons, rebates may drive up prices in long run

Here’s some news that initially seems counterintuitive:

Manufacturer coupons and rebates may seem to save consumers money on brand-name prescription drugs – but they may not in the long run because of how the savings are applied to deductibles and contribute to rising premiums.

Drug company offers may lower the out-of-pocket cost at the pharmacy, but insurance companies have found ways to cancel out the savings.

Take charge of your own story

A newspaper obituary writer considers her own obituary.

So I sat down one afternoon and wrote my obituary. It’s not a long one, and it contains most of the usual information about my family, jobs and whatnot. But I also purposely left out information about the parts of my life that I have chosen to move past (such as my ex-husbands) that my family would probably leave in. Yes, those things happened, and helped shape my existence, but why dwell on the negative? I’d rather people knew about the things that brought me joy: what was meaningful and important to me. It’s probably very different from what my family would write about me if I died tomorrow, but I think it would be a truer version of my life story.

‘Back To The Future’ cast reunite 33 years after original release

What a heart-warming piece of nostalgia! Do you remember watching Back to the Future when it was released in summer 1985? It’s still one of my favorite films to revisit every now and then.

Sleep deprivation may play role in ’global loneliness epidemic’

A series of experiments revealed sleep-deprived people feel lonelier and less eager to engage with others. That, in turn, makes others less likely to want to socialize with the sleep-deprived, researchers said.

How to Get a Better Night’s Sleep

In light of the previous article, here are some suggestions for getting enough sleep. This is a page that links to lots of sleep-related articles in the New York Times.

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Off Your Mental Game? You Could Be Mildly Dehydrated

How severe does dehydration have to be to affect us?

A growing body of evidence finds that being just a little dehydrated is tied to a range of subtle effects — from mood changes to muddled thinking.

Moreover:

As we age, we’re not as good at recognizing thirst. And there’s evidence that older adults are prone to the same dips in mental sharpness as anyone else when mildly dehydrated.

So how much water do we need every day?

A panel of scholars convened several years ago by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concluded that women should consume, on average, about 91 ounces of total water per day. For men, the suggested level is even higher (125 ounces).

The phrase total water means that water from all sources counts: fruits, vegetables soup, smoothies, and, yes, even your morning cups of coffee or tea.

And remember that by the time you feel thirsty, you’re already beyond the point of mild dehydration. According to the article, an hour of hiking in the heat or a 30-minute run might be enough to cause mild dehydration.

Hands off my data! 15 default privacy settings you should change right now

If you’re concerned about all your personal data that’s being collected, here’s some advice on how to minimize exposure on Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple.

Existing drug may prevent Alzheimer’s

Emerging evidence suggests that a “potent” drug could prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease — but only if a person takes the medication long before symptoms of this condition make an appearance.

Any advance against Alzheimer’s disease is welcome news, even though this one seems to offer a mixed message. The professor who oversaw the study thinks that it may never be possible to cure the disease once patients become symptomatic. However, he hopes identification of patients at risk and treatment before onset might “prevent it from starting in the first place.”

‘Too Little Too Late’: Bankruptcy Booms Among Older Americans

The New York Times reports on findings of a recent study from the Consumer Bankruptcy Project.

Tyrian Purple: The disgusting origins of the colour purple

Even after reading this, purple is still my favorite color.

Purple is a paradox, a contradiction of a colour. Associated since antiquity with regality, luxuriance, and the loftiness of intellectual and spiritual ideals, purple was, for many millennia, chiefly distilled from a dehydrated mucous gland of molluscs that lies just behind the rectum: the bottom of the bottom-feeders. That insalubrious process, undertaken since at least the 16th Century BC (and perhaps first in Phoenicia, a name that means, literally, ‘purple land’), was notoriously malodorous and required an impervious sniffer and a strong stomach. Though purple may have symbolised a higher order, it reeked of a lower ordure.

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

When a DNA Test Shatters Your Identity

You’ve undoubtedly seen the ads for DNA tests that will allow you to connect with extended family members. While such tests can produce many exciting discoveries, they also have potential to turn up some very upsetting news. This article from The Atlantic discusses some of those bombshell results.

Most of the people presented here who’ve experienced such results are over the age of 50. Many people actively researching their family tree are those to whom retirement has provided the time necessary for genealogical research.

The generation whose 50-year-old secrets are now being unearthed could not have imagined a world of $99 mail-in DNA kits. But times are changing, and the culture with it. “This generation right now and maybe the next 15 years or so, there’s going to be a lot of shocking results coming out. I’d say in 20 years’ time it’s going to dissipate,” she predicted. By then, our expectations of privacy will have caught up with the new reality created by the rise of consumer DNA tests.

The article focuses on a support group on Facebook for people whose genetic tests deliver upsetting news.

One Seattleite’s way of celebrating his 100th birthday: jumping out of a plane

So, what are your birthday plans?

The Mystery of End-of-Life Rallies

Palliative care experts say it is not uncommon for people in hospice care to perk up briefly before they die, sometimes speaking clearly or asking for food.

This did not happen with my mother, who died almost two years ago at age 89, but, according to the article, such rallies, also known as terminal lucidity, sometimes occur. However, there is little scientific evidence about either the frequency of or the reasons for such rallies.

Write Your Own Obit

Far from seeming narcissistic, undertaking a self-obituary can be a form of summation and of caregiving for those who may be in need of direction after we are gone.

This is one of those topics that comes around periodically. Writing one’s own obituary is a variation of the psychological concept of life review, a process of life evaluation that many older adults go through, either consciously or unconsciously. Writing the obituary helps make the life review a conscious process that allows people to record the events, accomplishments, and values that they would most like to be remembered for.

For people in midlife, remembering that we all have to die may redirect ongoing goals; for seniors, such a workout may remind us to view current problems within the context of what really matters most to us.

This article contains links to obituaries others have written for themselves and suggestions for writing one’s own.

What Rereading Childhood Books Teaches Adults About Themselves

Emma Court examines the benefits of adult rereadings of childhood books.

In a 2012 study that looked at why people reread books, rewatch movies, and revisit the same places, the researchers interviewed 23 participants about which experiences they chose to repeat, why, and how they felt during it. They found that repeat experiences “allow consumers an active synthesis of time and serve as catalysts for existential reflection.” Childhood books offer an opportunity to sit down in the river of time, if just for a moment, and ponder the full scope of one’s life. For one woman in the study, who often rewatched the 1999 romantic drama Message in a Bottle, the movie helped her process an upsetting breakup.

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

I’ve come across lots of interesting stuff lately.

When a Stranger Decides to Destroy Your Life

I’m including this article on all my blogs this week because it’s important that everyone with any online presence, no matter how small, read it.

LIGHTHEARTED BOOKS TO READ WHEN LIFE IS HARD

Sometimes a book like this is exactly what we need. From Book Riot’s Heather Bottoms:

When I’m feeling worn down, reading is a much-needed escape and comfort, but I need a book that is less emotionally taxing. I don’t want to be blindsided by a heart-wrenching death, intense family trauma, or weighty subject matter. What I need is a palate cleanser, lighthearted books to help me decompress a bit and provide a happy diversion. Here are some of my favorites. These lighthearted books are charming, soothing, funny, warm-hearted, and just the break you need when life is hard.

How to Get Your Intuition Back (When It’s Hijacked by Life)

I have written before about how I learned to trust my intuition, so this article naturally drew my attention. Judi Ketteler writes:

Suddenly at midlife, the gut instinct I had long relied on to make important life decisions left me. Here’s how I learned to get it back.

Through a combination of research and personal experience, she concludes that intuition depends on context, and she needs to let it catch up with her changed circumstances as she enters a new phase of her life. I find this an encouraging conclusion.

‘This is just the beginning’: Using DNA and genealogy to crack years-old cold cases

This article caught my eye because very recently this process has produced arrests in two 30-year-old cold murder cases in my hometown of Tacoma, WA. The article provides a much fuller explanation of how DNA databases are used to solve old crimes.

Alzheimer’s may be tougher to spot in women, researchers say

Current tests to detect Alzheimer’s disease rely on measures of verbal memory – the ability to learn and remember verbal information such as stories or grocery lists – which women excel at, and allows them to compensate during the disease’s early stages.

The brain may clean out Alzheimer’s plaques during sleep

If sleep deprivation puts garbage removal on the fritz, the memory-robbing disease may develop

But while the new research is compelling, plenty of gaps remain. There’s not enough evidence yet to know the degree to which sleep might make a difference in the disease, and study results are not consistent.

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Here’s what I’ve been reading recently around the web.

High blood pressure threatens aging brain, study says

Here’s yet another reason to get your blood pressure under control: High blood pressure later in life may contribute to blood vessel blockages and tangles linked to Alzheimer’s disease, new research suggests.

They took a survey in their teens. 60 years later, these Puyallup students are being recruited for a new one

Here’s a local take on a national survey from the early 1960s.

More than 400,000 high school students from 1,353 schools across the country participated in Project Talent between 1960 and 1963. About 1,269 of the students were from Puyallup High.

And now, 130 of those students, some no longer living in the United States, were tracked down to take another survey.

This time, the focus is on health.

“There’s a big push to fund Alzheimer’s research,” Project Talent director Susan Lapham said. “Baby Boomers are edging into a time period where Alzheimer’s really becomes an issue.”

Talking about Death

What constitutes a good death? While end-of-life care has come a long way, the aims of the medical industry are often in conflict with the wishes of patients.

LaCroix, Sparkling Ice, Bai and beyond: Are fruit-flavored waters good for you?

I’ve never liked the taste of water, so this discussion of what’s in some of the more common substitutes for plain water interested me.

There are so many different ways to hydrate these days — it’s clear we’ve come a long way from watered-down water. If you love fruit flavors and want to try something new, these new beverages can make a great addition to your hydration rotation — just take a few extra seconds to read what’s in the fine print.

The Power of Positive People

While many of us focus primarily on diet and exercise to achieve better health, science suggests that our well-being also is influenced by the company we keep. Researchers have found that certain health behaviors appear to be contagious and that our social networks — in person and online — can influence obesity, anxiety and overall happiness. A recent report found that a person’s exercise routine was strongly influenced by his or her social network.

Why don’t we know more about migraines?

A look at one of the oldest recorded human ailments.

Given the prevalence of migraines among women, this apparent neglect could be a result of how physicians tend to underrate pain in female patients. It may also reflect the historic – and similarly gendered – associations between migraines and mental illness.

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown