Last Week’s Links

Mary Catherine Bateson Dies at 81; Anthropologist on Lives of Women

When I wrote my dissertation on the life stories of five 19th century women physicians in the U.S., one of the reference books I used was Mary Catherine Bateson’s Composing a Life, “an examination of the stop-and-start nature of women’s lives and their adaptive responses — ‘life as an improvisatory art,’ as she wrote.”

Mary Catherine Bateson was the daughter of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson. “They treated their daughter’s arrival almost as more field work, documenting her birth on film — not a typical practice in 1939 — and continuing to record her early childhood with the intention of using the footage not just as home movies but also as educational material.”

I frequently wish that I had studied more languages. Mary Catherine Bateson earned a Ph.D. in linguistics and Middle Eastern languages, for which she learned Hebrew, classical Arabic, Armenian, Turkish, Tagalog, Farsi and Georgian.

4 Ways to Do More With Your Smartphone Camera

I remember how stupid I felt the first time I realized that I didn’t have to write down the license plate number of a rental car because I could simply snap a photo of it. 

Here New York Times tech guru J.D. Biersdorfer explains a few more great things you can do with your phone and an additional app or two.

Electric Cars Are Better for the Planet – and Often Your Budget, Too

Some day, when we can travel again, my husband and I hope to go on some scenic road trips. We considered getting an electric car but decided that the recharging options currently out there aren’t adequate for where we intend to go. Nonetheless, electric cars are the future of family transportation, according to newly published data that suggest “electric cars may actually save drivers money in the long-run.”

Let us appreciate the grace and uncommon decency of Henry Aaron

In the last few months we’ve lost several baseball legends. Here ESPN senior writer and biographer Howard Bryant remembers Henry Aaron.

Larry King, legendary talk show host, dies at 87

And here’s CNN’s remembrance of another legend who died recently, interviewer Larry King.

At the Inauguration, Amanda Gorman Wove History and the Future Into a Stirring Melody

To end on a positive note, here’s a feature focusing on the other end of the age spectrum, Amanda Gorman, who enthralled everyone who watched her recitation of the poem she wrote for the U.S. Presidential Inauguration.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Parkinson’s Disease Needs an Operation Warp Speed

“It’s the world’s fastest growing neurological disorder. In the past decade, the number of Americans with Parkinson’s disease increased by 35 percent.”

Michael S. Okun is Executive Director of the Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases at University of Florida Health, and the Medical Director of the Parkinson’s Foundation. Here he argues that science must accelerate research into treatment for Parkinson’s disease. “In the past decade alone, the number of Americans with Parkinson’s disease increased by 35 percent and the growth was 20 percent faster than what was observed in Alzheimer’s disease.”

Is It Really Too Late to Learn New Skills?

“You missed your chance to be a prodigy, but there’s still growth left for grownups.”

“If learning like a child sounds a little airy-fairy, whatever the neuroscience research says, try recalling what it felt like to learn how to do something new when you didn’t really care what your performance of it said about your place in the world,” writes Margaret Talbot. 

How Murder, She Wrote Captured Our Hearts

My father-in-law grew up in coastal Rockland, Maine, and he faithfully watched Murder, She Wrote every week. Murder, She Wrote “was an hour-long mystery show that aired on CBS from 1984-1996. It starred Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher, a widow living in Cabot Cove, Maine, who became a bestselling author after her husband died. She wrote popular mystery novels, and she was also handy at solving murders,” writes Liberty Hardy. Here she explains the program’s three features that enthralled audiences: it made us feel smart, we loved the guest stars, and it was silly.

The key to creativity? Be a better listener, says ‘The Artist’s Way’ author Julia Cameron

Last week’s links included the article You’re Not Listening. Here’s Why.

In the article linked here, Seattle Times reporter Nicole Brodeur interviews creativity guru Julia Cameron, best known for her book The Artist’s Way, about her latest book, The Listening Path. Brodeur writes that the book is about “personal transformation through better listening to not just others, but the silence around you.”

Our Favorite Golden Girl Turns 99! See 48 Rare Photos of Betty White Through the Years

Because you can never get too much Betty White.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

I’m signing off as TV critic, but here are six shows I’d happily watch again

Hank Stuever wrote this piece when stepping down as TV critic for the Washington Post. I like it for its description of how television changed during his tenure as critic:

TV, which once seemed a manageable part of the cultural diet, became all-consuming. Netflix released its first big streaming hit, “House of Cards,” in 2013, and the steady supply of TV programs that I once jokingly thought of as an open fire hydrant instead began to resemble a tsunami. The customs of TV were upended: where to watch it, how to watch it, how much of it to binge-watch at a time. Also, new manners: how to talk about it, how not to spoil it for others.

Stuever ends with his list of “shows I reviewed that I would totally watch again.” I thoroughly disagree with the first on his list, “’Twin Peaks: The Return’ (Showtime, 2017).” My husband and I loved the original show but thought that this reboot was a thorough waste of time. However, three of the others he lists were total winners with us: The Americans, Lost, and Mad Men.

Turning the Page on the Year

“If ever there were a new year that called for a new notebook, this would be it.”

Dr. Perri Klass admits that she loves notebooks even if she’s not as diligent in writing in them as she’d like to be. I used to write in a journal just about every day, but for about two years, when we were traveling extensively in early retirement (and hopefully we’ll be able to do that again some time), I let myself fall out of the habit. (Yes, it’s much easier to let a habit lapse than to build a habit in the first place.)

But I’ve been building up the old habit over the last couple of months and intend to do much better this year.

You’re Not Listening. Here’s Why.

“There’s an unconscious tendency to tune out people you feel close to because you think you already know what they are going to say.”

Kate Murphy, author of You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters, says that while researching her book, she “earned something incredibly ironic about interpersonal communication: The closer we feel toward someone, the less likely we are to listen carefully to them. It’s called the closeness-communication bias and, over time, it can strain, and even end, relationships.”

There’s some good stuff here, including a possible explanation for “why people in close relationships sometimes withhold information or keep secrets from one another.”

No, it’s not weird to talk to yourself. Mental health experts point to pandemic, unrest as possible reasons

“Experts say [self-talk is] common and that, with the added stressors of a pandemic alongside protests over police brutality and race relations in America, self-talk can be a way to feel control in a world that offers individuals very little.”

Why Do Dwarves Sound Scottish and Elves Sound Like Royalty?

My husband and I had just finished three evenings of watching the extended versions of Peter Jackson’s movie trilogy of Lord of the Rings when the photo of Gimli the Dwarf popped up in my email. I had thought about the language of dwarves and elves during the films (the extended versions are LONG movies) and was therefore interested in reading how these fantasy dialects had originated. 

We have J.R.R. Tolkien to thank for the way these characters of fantasy speak. Tolkien, who has a philologist, “would create languages first, then write cultures and histories to speak them, often taking inspiration from the sound of an existing language.” 

Undecided On Getting A Covid-19 Vaccine? Beware Of These Two Cognitive Biases

Dr. Joshua Liao explains how availability bias and confirmation bias may influence our decisions about getting a coronavirus vaccine.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Feeling Socially Awkward? Even Extroverts Are a Little Rusty

“Months of limited mingling have made even extremely outgoing people uncomfortable socializing, ‘like awkward eighth graders attending a school dance for the first time.’”

Secular ‘values voters’ are becoming an electoral force in the US – just look closely at 2020’s results

This article takes a look at “one of the largest growing demographics among the U.S. electorate, one that has increased from around 5% of Americans to over 23% in the last 50 years: ‘Nones’ – that is, the nonreligious.”

Where Does Our Consciousness Overlap With an Octopus’s?

Aimee Nezhukumatathil reviews Peter Godfrey-Smith’s book METAZOA: Animal Life and the Birth of the Mind

perhaps the most enthralling part of this book is the author’s experiences diving at famous sites now affectionately called Octopolis and Octlantis, just off the coast of eastern Australia where several octopuses live, hunt, fight and make more octopuses.

It’s an experience that demands we consider the very real possibility that an octopus, an animal already regarded as one of the most complex in the animal kingdom, is a being with multiple selves.

Talking out loud to yourself is a technology for thinking

If, like me, you occasionally realize that you’re talking out loud to yourself, this article will comfort you with its explanation. “Speech is not merely a conduit for the transmission of ideas, a replaceable medium for direct communication, but a generative activity that enhances thinking.”

Lesley Ann Warren Reflects On 35 Years Of ‘Clue’ And A Life-Long Journey In Hollywood

Although this article focuses on Lesley Ann Warren’s more recent career, I remember her best for her role in the old TV show Mission: Impossible.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Granny’s on Instagram! In the COVID-19 era, older adults see time differently and are doing better than younger people

Marcia G. Ory, founding director of the Texas A&M Center of Population Health and Aging, has been studying the effects of COVID-19 on the older adult population. Her overall finding: “older adults – despite their awareness of increased risk – are generally not reporting more feelings of anxiety, anger or stress than younger age groups.”

Nikki Giovanni, Finding the Song in the Darkest Days

Now in her late 70s, poet Nikki Giovanni has never stopped writing over “her 52-year career.”

“Her staying power over half a century comes from a stream of acclaimed work, her proclivity for a punishing schedule of tours and readings, and a fearlessness born of not caring what foolish people think.”

2020 wasn’t all bad: Here are 8 small but great things that happened in Seattle

I urge you to look for an article similar to this one in your own local newspaper.

From the Seattle Times: “But at the end of a very overwhelming year, we asked our writers to look back and identify some good things we discovered or experienced within ourselves and our communities in 2020. Here’s what they came up with.”

When Your Dad Falls Apart

Kevin Grant tells the story of his father’s diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s  disease at the age of 58.

Outwitting the Grim Reaper

Kevin Berger reports on an interview with Daniel Levitin, age 62. An emeritus professor of psychology and neuroscience at McGill University, Levitin’s book Successful Aging offers insight into how aging affects our bodies.

Asked why we age, Levitin replies, “We age because there’s been no evolutionary pressure to keep our bodies alive for a long time. I don’t know why that is and I don’t think anybody does.”

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

This Is Not a Moon Landing. It’s a Murder Hornet Operation.

Click on this link to see the photo, even if you don’t read the article. 

“After an operation that looked like a cross between a lunar landing and a low-budget sci-fi flick, entomologists on Saturday suctioned away the first “murder hornet” nest found in the United States.”

The first nest of the invasive Asian giant hornets was found and destroyed in northern Washington state. It’s an interesting article, with a lot of photos.

How to Improve Your Reading Comprehension As an Adult

Reading comprehension, defined as the “ability to process and retain information from texts,” is something we usually think of as happening to children in their early years of school. But here Christine Ro reports on some recent research into enhancing reading comprehension for adults and offers some suggestions for doing so.

Unsurprisingly, some of her suggestions involve slowing down while reading and actively engaging with the text, for example, by annotating, all examples of slow reading.

As holidays near, the coronavirus is spreading rapidly, putting families in a quandary about celebrations and travel

Amidst all the discussion of pandemic fatigue, many families are wondering if they’ll be able to celebrate together this fall and winter. This article indicates that Barbara Alexander, a physician and the president-elect of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, will not attend the annual Christmas gathering of about 35 people at her parents’ farm this year.

An epidemiologist explains the new CDC guidance on 15 minutes of exposure and what it means for you

“the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] is acknowledging that even brief contact can lead to transmission. Specifically, the new guidance suggests that those spending a total of 15 minutes of contact with an infectious person over the course of a 24-hour period should be considered in close contact.”

Here’s some more information if you’re still making up your mind about attending family events this holiday season.

‘Passion and expertise’: UW’s Dr. Vin Gupta shares coronavirus insights with the nation

In normal times, Dr. Vin Gupta would be spending more time with his family and less time on national TV.

But since the world is battling a pandemic — and a flood of conflicting information — pick any weekday and you’ll likely see Gupta, a critical care pulmonologist and an affiliate assistant professor at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, on at least one news show on either NBC or MSNBC as a medical contributor.

Many of the first cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. appeared in Washington state. Here’s a profile of a physician from the University of Washington who has emerged as one of the experts seen most often on news coverage of the virus.

“A Sow Killer”: Nursing Home Residents Wither in Isolation Forced by the Virus

One of the worst things about growing old is the social isolation caused by the loss of friends and family members. This year the viral pandemic, with its enforced isolation to suppress the contagion, has been especially hard on older people, particularly those in nursing homes, where strict regulations prohibiting visiting have been necessary to control the spread of the disease.

The article explores how some facilities are addressing the seemingly contradictory requirements for both physical distancing and personal human contact.

Q&A: Did Justin Turner put Dodgers at risk by celebrating their World Series championship?

I always watch the World Series, even when, like this year, none of my favorite teams is one of the last two left standing. But I turned the TV off after the announcement of the Series MVP (Corey Seager of the L.A. Dodgers) and didn’t learn until the next day that Dodgers’ player Justin Turner, who had been pulled late in the final game because of a positive COVID-19 test result, had come out onto the field to celebrate the victory with his teammates.

While I can certainly understand his desire to celebrate, I was incensed and disappointed by his action. In many of the photos he’s not even wearing a mask.

What do you think? 

Should Turner have been allowed to leave the room where he was isolated and mingle with his teammates on the field? 

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

A Massive Earthquake Is Coming to Cascadia—And It Can’t Be Stopped

By almost any measure Cascadia—a term born of the 1970s environmental movement to describe the Pacific Northwest’s geography and cultural identity—is a strange and beautiful place.

But just offshore from the postcard-worthy landscapes is a seismic threat as catastrophic as any on earth.

Yes, there’s a lot of talk around here about “the big one.” This article focuses on four people who are working to understand the CSZ (Cascadia Subduction Zone) and inform the population about what to expect.

50 States, 50 Scares

What’s the scariest novel set in your state? 

For us here in Washington, it’s The Good House by Tananarive Due, a haunted-house tale about “racism, greed, separation and communication breakdowns,” according to this article.

Sick of COVID-19? Here’s why you might have pandemic fatigue

When COVID-19 first hit the U.S., most people were eager to follow the recommended safety guidelines. Fear sparked the hoarding of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. But now that fear has abated, and we’re hearing a lot about pandemic fatigue.

Public health researcher Jay Maddock, professor of public health at Texas A & M University, explains the psychological reasons for pandemic fatigue and offers some tips on protecting both mental and physical health. 

You’re not nuts. This really is a crazy time. Here are a dozen ways to cope

And here’s some more help, from CNN’s Sandee LaMotte, on coping with the current pandemic, which shows no signs of going away any time soon.

Quarantine book club: Reading for mental health in a plague year

Jeannine Hall Gailey, who previously served as the second poet laureate of Redmond, Washington, describes how reading has been a lifeline in helping her cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

So, can reading really address the state of anger, despair, and confusion so many of us are in? I can only say that books (along with gardening, cats, chocolate, and phone calls with friends) definitely helped me hold on to not only sanity and hope, but also serve as a reminder of why we continue to act to address injustice instead of just saying “that’s the way it’s always been.” Reading also provided a useful context to talk with family and friends who were also experiencing anxiety about politics, race, class, and fear of illness and death. Discussing books — even on social media — seems safer and more enjoyable than merely doomscrolling or rehashing whatever the day’s traumatic news cycle had revealed.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Inside the Fall of the CDC

One of the most painful experiences, for me, of the COVID-19 pandemic, has been watching the formerly revered CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) cut its own throat. I fear it won’t recover in the remainder of my lifetime. 

Going Out With a Bang: Janis Joplin’s Hard-Partying Wake

I still remember where I was when I heard that Janis Joplin was dead. But I don’t remember hearing about this:

When Janis Joplin died of a heroin overdose on October 4, 1970, she left behind a will that included an offbeat, albeit totally in-character, stipulation: $2500 of her estate should be dedicated to funding a hard-partying wake in her memory.

Today something like this would be big news, all over the internet, but times were simpler back in 1970. So we’ll have to content ourselves with reading about it here.

‘I Was Unprepared’: Louise Glück on Poetry, Aging and a Surprise Nobel Prize

I always enjoy reading about accomplishments of older adults. In this interview Louis Glück says, “Aging is more complicated. It isn’t simply the fact that you’re drawn closer to your death, it’s that faculties that you counted on — physical grace and strength and mental agility — these things are being compromised or threatened. It’s been very interesting to think about and write about.”

How I met my mother: dementia brought back her true self

All of my life I had a troubled relationship with my mother. When I took my aging mother on a long trip to visit, for probably the last time, her aging sister who had dementia, my aunt talked about some long-ago family events that involved me as a child. I learned just enough to wonder if my mother, if she developed dementia, would fill in some of the blanks—secrets never talked about—of our lives.

My mother did develop dementia, but hers was marked my aphasia, the inability to put words together to express complete thoughts. If you asked her if she was cold or hungry, she could answer either yes or not, but she couldn’t say more than two or three words. As her physical condition worsened, we went to visit her in the memory-care facility where she spent her final months. When she saw me, her eyes lit up, she smiled, and said, “I want to tell you . . .”

Those five words were all she could manage. I’ll never know exactly what she wanted to tell me. I know what I want her to have wanted to tell me, but I’ll never know what was on her mind. That’s why this article caught my eye. Ina Kjøgx Pedersen of Copenhagen, Denmark, was able to talk with her mother as her dementia deepened. She was fortunate: “At last I got to know my mother as something other than just my mum, and saw the contours of the strong-willed, vibrant and incisive person she might have let out if she hadn’t experienced so much personal tragedy so early in life.”

Perhaps if my mother had been able to talk through her dementia, I would have learned a similar story

Dementia deaths rise during the summer of COVID, leading to concern

Deaths from dementia during the summer of 2020 are nearly 20% higher than the number of dementia-related deaths during that time in previous years, and experts don’t yet know why. An estimated 61,000 people have died from dementia, which is 11,000 more than usual within that period.

Geriatrician Laurie Archbald-Pannone, Associate Professor Medicine, Geriatrics,  at the University of Virginia, examines some of the possible reasons for this increase and offers some tips for caregivers.

A Disturbing Twinkie That Has, So Far, Defied Science

When I was a kid, my favorite treat was a Hostess Twinkie. If you remember this cloyingly sweet treat, you might be interested in this story.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Study: Older adults may be excluded from many COVID-19 trials

More than half of all clinical trials evaluating vaccines and potential treatments for COVID-19 are “at high risk for excluding older adults,” according to an analysis published [recently] by JAMA Internal Medicine.

And here’s why we should care about this:

“My biggest concern is that without clinical trial testing, older adults will ultimately be denied treatments and vaccines — as a result, equitable distribution to this population will not be possible, and this will be an egregious oversight,” said [study co-author Dr. Sharon] Inouye, director of the Aging Brain Center at the Marcus Institute for Aging Research in Boston.

After 71 years, their marriage — and that wedding gift of a toaster — endure

Here’s one of those heartwarming stories often featured in the weekend magazine section of local newspapers. It’s too good not to share.

The older I get, the more I appreciate stories like this. How about you?

older man and woman

Older people like President Trump are at more risk from COVID-19 because of how the immune system ages

It didn’t take long into the COVID-19 pandemic for the date to start to accrue indicating that older adults are at higher risk than younger people from this particular disease. Here’s a good explanation of why that’s true and how we can take appropriate action to protect ourselves.

Carter Williams, Who Unshackled Nursing Home Residents, Dies at 97

“By closely describing the inner lives of older people, Ms. Williams altered legal regulations and clinical standards applied to nursing homes.”

Although I didn’t know anything about Carter Williams before coming across her obituary, I now know that we all owe her an enormous debt of gratitude.

Ms. Williams, a social worker, amassed hundreds of accounts . . . for the National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform as it lobbied for legislative change in the 1980s. And they proved influential as the group helped shape the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act, which required skilled nursing facilities to maintain the “physical, mental and psychosocial well-being of each resident.”

Celebrate her achievements, which benefit us all, by reading her life story.

Who is handling the pandemic best emotionally? Boomers and other retirees.

As the social lockdown has gone on since March, I’ve felt for the younger people I know who were having to shuffle times and locations for their own work-from-home requirements along with their children’s remote-learning activities. I realized quite early on that, with little day care available, their lives had become a pressure-filled chaos that I’m not sure I could have handled.

Even though I’m in the older demographic most at risk from COVID-19, I’ve been grateful all along for being retired. Sure, the pandemic means that we can’t eat at a restaurant or hold our weekly social get-togethers, but other than that, my life hasn’t changed much from what it was like before March. Or at least the logistics haven’t significantly changed, even with the increased anxiety and existential dread of the whole situation. 

In fact, I’ve even been feeling a little guilty about how relatively easy my pandemic-constrained life has been. I was therefore relieved that I’m not the only one feeling this way. According to Daryl Austin in the Washington Post:

The emotional toll of the coronavirus pandemic is steep for most everyone, but it turns out that one group is handling it better than the rest: retirees.

That might seem counterintuitive, since the virus is more dangerous for older people, but studies looking at mental health in the pandemic show that retirees who live at home are free from two of the stressors that are squeezing their younger counterparts — job security and parenting children as they navigate at-home learning and isolation.

 How about you?

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

How Solitude Can Help You Regulate Your Mood

Whether we think we needed it or not, the arrival of COVID-19 has given us plenty of time to contemplate the meaning of solitude. Writing for NPR (National Public Radion in the U.S.), Colin Dwyer looks at the findings of recent research on the topic of solitude. 

Dwyer offers four findings from this research:

  1. Solitude is in the mind of the beholder.
  2. We may crave time alone the way we crave time with others.
  3. Don’t expect an epiphany.
  4. Solitude can be a communal exercise.

You Don’t Have to Be Young to Be a Badass Detective

Author Jane Badrock has noticed a fictional marketing niche that she aims to fill: older adult detectives, particular female ones.

“Think of the opportunities! Imagine, even the real-life unsolved crimes that may have happened because nobody suspected the little old lady.”

Brain scientists haven’t been able to find major differences between women’s and men’s brains, despite over a century of searching

brain

I couldn’t resist including this article. The search to explain gender differences by tying them to differences in the anatomy and/or function of various parts of the brain began at the dawn of the discipline of psychology. Here Ari Berkowitz, Presidential Professor of Biology and Director of the Cellular & Behavioral Neurobiology Graduate Program at the University of Oklahoma, concludes:

So it’s not realistic to assume any human brain sex differences are innate. They may also result from learning. People live in a fundamentally gendered culture, in which parenting, education, expectations and opportunities differ based on sex, from birth through adulthood, which inevitably changes the brain.

In other words, gender differences are not biological—that is, inborn—traits but rather social constructs, normative behaviors defined and passed down by societies to tell people how they should live, think, and feel.

The 40 Must-Read Books for Baby Boomers

Lorraine Berry makes “An earnest attempt at an essential library.”

She writes, “I aimed to include those novels rooted in a writer’s emotional honesty in telling true stories about the human condition. Light on classics, the list is weighted toward books published in the past 119 years.”

She adds that we should hurry up and look at the list—before she tweaks it yet again.

How about you? What books would you add or delete from Berry’s list? Remember, you must limit the list to 40 books.

Lifelike robotic pets are helping isolated seniors avoid loneliness

This CNN article looks at test programs that have provided robotic pets to older adults to help ease the loneliness exacerbated by the isolating restrictions of COVID-19. These programs have been conducted in Alabama, Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania.

So far the results look promising, but, at least in Alabama, evaluation of the program will continue over the next year.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown