Last Week’s Links

5 Medical Appointments You Should Stop Putting Off

I know I have wanted to avoid medical facilities and offices while COVID-19 has been on the rise. But there are some aspects of routine care that shouldn’t be avoided. NPR (National Public Radio) has this advice: “There are some medical appointments you just shouldn’t put off any longer, even if you’re nervous about venturing into a clinic or emergency room.”

Running the Show: Where the writers behind your favorite TV shows explain how they made them

Most of us have been watching a LOT of television over the last year to fill in the empty spaces created by lockdown. 

“Here are the conversations with the creative minds behind some of the TV shows you can’t stop watching. The discussions cover a range of topics, including their journey, their craft, their frustrations and, well, their shows.”

Time, like memory, is fickle: days wrap back on themselves

Writer and art historian Grace Linden muses on the nature of time as the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our perception of it:

The COVID-19 pandemic has wrung meaning from time. Each day is so like the former. April disappeared entirely; Thanksgiving feels as close, or faraway, as last June. I no longer can keep track of the dates; time has become a pool of standing water.

Washington flu deaths dropped from 114 last season to 0. There are a few reasons why

“Washington’s flu deaths dropped from 114 to zero in a year’s time, thanks to coronavirus protocols and an abundance of caution, health officials say.”

According to the article, similar trends have been noted nationally and globally. Let us take our silver linings where we can find them.

The False Dilemma of Post-Vaccination Risk

woman receiving vaccination in left arm

“We’ll never know for sure how contagious people are after they’re vaccinated, but we do know how they should act.”

The rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations “is creating a legion of people who no longer need to fear getting sick, and are desperate to return to “normal” life. Yet the messaging on whether they might still carry and spread the disease—and thus whether it’s really safe for them to resume their unmasked, un-distanced lives—has been oblique.”

Here’s some advice from James Hamblin, a medical doctor who is a staff writer at The Atlantic and a lecturer at the Yale School of Public Health.

Libraries Offering Services to Seniors During COVID-19 Pandemic

Because most older adults face increasing social isolation as they age, the COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly hard on them. This article examines a few libraries that have developed outreach programs to help senior citizens deal with this problem.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Take a peek inside the world of longtime Seattle-area book clubs

I met most of my best friends at book group. Here Moira Macdonald, arts critic for the Seattle Times, features the stories of some local book groups that have been discussing books for more than 30 years.

The Pandemic Has Erased Entire Categories of Friendship

It’s easy to focus on the people we’ve most missed seeing during our extended period of lockdown: our families and closest friend. But here Amanda Mull thinks of all the more amorphous groups of people she’s been isolated from: fellow patrons of the local sports bar where she used to watch the big games, co-workers with whom she chatted in the communal kitchen, workers at the local coffee or sandwich shop.

Lately she has realized “I missed all of those people I only sort of know.”

Brain scans, surveys help scientists paint neural portrait of loneliness

Loneliness has always been a potential problem for people whose friends begin to die as they age, but the social isolation of the pandemic has increased its effects. This article reports on research results that researchers hope may increase their understanding of how loneliness affects the brain. “Understanding the ways loneliness influences brain structure and neural patterns could help researchers develop remedies for these problems.”

They met in high school. Fifty years later, the pandemic helped them realize they belonged together.

I always love finding stories like this one. My husband and I met in high school and will celebrate our 50th anniversary in June. Betty and Peter’s story, told here, is a bit different from ours but still heartwarming. And it’s good to hear of positive results brought about by COVID-19.

6 Groundbreaking Facts About Elizabeth Blackwell, America’s First Woman Physician

In 1849 Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to earn a medical degree in the United States. A few years later her younger sister, Emily, also became a physician. Together, the Blackwell sisters forged the path for women to become doctors.

Elizabeth Blackwell’s autobiography is one of the works I wrote about in my dissertation on life stories. Last month saw the publication of a new book about Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell: The Doctors Blackwell: How Two Pioneering Sisters Brought Medicine to Women—and Women to Medicine by Janice P. Nimura.

‘Tapestry’ at 50: How Carole King ‘bet on herself’ to record a singer-songwriter classic

album cover: Tapestry by Carole King

I haven’t had a turntable for about a thousand years, but I still have my original record of Carole King’s album Tapestry, which turns 50 this year. Here’s the story of its making and historical significance.

© 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

How to heal through life writing

“Learning to write about trauma helps you to process the painful experience, and gives you the life skills to overcome it”

When I went back to school for my Ph.D. in psychology, I studied life stories. One aspect of that topic is how writing about negative life experiences can help us overcome the pain, grief, or anger we associate with them. This article offers some advice on how to do that.

A Brief History of the TV Dinner

“Thanksgiving’s most unexpected legacy is heating up again”

If, like me, you grew up in the 1950s and early 1960s, you probably remember Swanson’s TV Dinners. Here’s a brief history of how and why they came into being.

COVID-19 patients are developing ‘brain fog.’ But what does that mean?

I have fibromyalgia. One symptom of this and other autoimmune conditions can be periods of “brain fog,” a fuzzy feeling of being not quite fully present in the world, of being not quite fully in touch with reality. Researchers are now finding that patients who have long-term COVID-19 symptoms sometimes experience this same feeling, a symptom often dismissed by doctors.

for millions of other people with chronic illnesses, some of which seemed to have began with infections, constant brain fog is already their reality. Now, they’re hoping that this global pandemic will draw attention to a condition that has so drastically affected their lives.

 Night Terrors

“The creator of ‘The Twilight Zone’ dramatized isolation and fear but still believed in the best of humanity.”

You remember The Twilight Zone and Rod Serling, right? “The show ran from 1959 to 1964, and by the time it went off the air the phrase ‘twilight zone’ had entered the language as a kind of shorthand for whatever feels eerie or strange.”

Andrew Delbanco discusses The Twilight Man: Rod Serling and the Birth of Television by Koren Shadmi.

Death rates have fallen by 18% for hospitalized COVID–19 patients as treatments improve

It’s hard to find good news amidst rising virus spikes and perilous pandemic predictions, but here’s a little bit. 

He was an American paratrooper. She withstood bombing in England. 75 years later they remember love born in wartime

And here we are back to life stories. I’m always on the lookout for good stories like this one, which appear most often in local publications. The best such stories, like this one, are full of scrapbook memories.

© 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

Daylight saving time ends this weekend: Don’t let ‘fall back’ worsen your 2020 depression | The Seattle Times

As we prepare to turn the clocks back an hour on Sunday morning, experts in winter depression say the loss of daylight — just as coronavirus infections start to spike again and election tension comes to a head — could make this an unusually difficult stretch.

Source: Daylight saving time ends this weekend: Don’t let ‘fall back’ worsen your 2020 depression | The Seattle Times

Election stress disorder is a real thing — and lots of us have it 

From Mayo Clinic News Network

 

Heading into a contentious national election with an ongoing pandemic and racial unrest, many people are experiencing tension and stress.

More than two-thirds, approximately 68%, of American adults say the 2020 U.S. presidential election is a significant source of stress in their lives, according to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association. In comparison, only 52% said the same before the 2016 election.

Source: Election stress disorder is a real thing — and lots of us have it | The Seattle Times

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