Last Week’s Links

Infectious Theory Of Alzheimer’s Disease Draws Fresh Interest

This article reports on the “germ theory” of Alzheimer’s disease. Germs in this case “means microbes like bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. In other words,” is Alzheimer’s an infectious disease. This theory “has been fermenting in the literature for decades,” but research in this area has received almost no funding.

If the germ theory gets traction, even in some Alzheimer’s patients, it could trigger a seismic shift in how doctors understand and treat the disease.

14 of the Very Best Books Published in the 1970s, From Le Guin to Haley

Having come of age in the glorious 1960s, I took particular interest in this list of books published in the following decade that, in a literary way, reflect the profound ways in which the ’60s influenced later society. The books from this list that I remember most vividly are Rabbit Redux by John Updike, Kindred by Olivia E. Butler, The Stories of John Cheever, All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi.

What about you? Do you remember any of these books?

Scientists Gave MDMA to Octopuses—and What Happened Was Profound

Ever since we began visiting the Pacific Northwest in the U.S. in the mid 1990s, I’ve been fascinated by the Giant Pacific octopus native to this area. Octopuses (yes, that’s the correct plural) are extremely intelligent, although their decentralized nervous system differs greatly from our own. Octopuses are also asocial, in contrast to humans’ need for social contact.

This article reports on a study by scientists interested in whether octopuses would react the same way humans do to “the drug MDMA, versions of which are known as molly or ecstasy.” The drug commonly makes people “feel very happy, extraverted, and particularly interested in physical touch.” The scientists were interested to discover that, despite our different nervous structures and social behavior tendencies, octopuses’ reactions to the drug resembled humans’ reactions.

It’s clear that psychoactive drugs like MDMA, LSD, and magic mushrooms are going through a scientific renaissance—they’re being studied as potential treatments for depression and PTSD—and as their stigma decreases, scientists are more open to studying them, and more research funding becomes available. This could be important for our understanding of animal and human brains.

Paper Trails: Living and Dying With Fragmented Medical Records

This is a long article, but it’s a must-read for anyone who moves from one place to another or from one medical facility to another. Dr. Ilana Yurkiewicz explains how lack of compatible electronic medical records can disrupt medical treatment and how such disruption can lead to life-and-death situations.

How to Optimize Caffeine (and Improve Your Productivity)

caffeine is powerful stuff, and because it has a direct effect on your energy level, you should drink it with intention rather than on autopilot.

This article is aimed at office workers (hence the emphasis on productivity), but it’s good advice for anyone who is bothered by occasional insomnia.

 

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

5 Novels That Feature Older Adult Characters

On December 14, 1990, The United Nations General Assembly by resolution designated October 1 each year as International Day of Older Persons. According to the U.N. page for this international celebration:

Almost 700 million people are now over the age of 60. By 2050, 2 billion people, over 20 per cent of the world’s population, will be 60 or older. The increase in the number of older people will be the greatest and the most rapid in the developing world, with Asia as the region with the largest number of older persons, and Africa facing the largest proportionate growth. With this in mind, enhanced attention to the particular needs and challenges faced by many older people is clearly required. Just as important, however, is the essential contribution the majority of older men and women can continue to make to the functioning of society if adequate guarantees are in place. Human rights lie at the core of all efforts in this regard.

The theme for this year’s event is “Celebrating Older Human Rights Champions.” This theme aims at addressing four main issues, one of which is perfect for literary treatment:

Raise the visibility of older people as participating members of society committed to improving the enjoyment of human rights in many areas of life

Literature reflects life. Here are five novels I recommend that feature older adults living their lives with dignity and purpose.


Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos

Margaret Hughes, age 75, has just learned that she has a brain tumor. Margaret lives alone in a huge mansion in the most upscale section of Seattle, where her only companions are the rooms and rooms full of valuable figurines left to her by her father. When Margaret’s mother, dead some 60 years, begins visiting her, Margaret decides to take in a boarder. Wanda, in her 30s, answers Margaret’s ad. She recently sold all her belongings and left New York City for Seattle in pursuit of the lover who abandoned her. Warily, Margaret and Wanda begin to befriend each other. The mansion’s list of residents increases over the course of the novel as new people arrive to fulfill various needs—both their own and each others’.


Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

This short, poignant novel features an older widow and widower who come together for companionship and emotional support. Their lives are complicated by small-town busybodies, social proprieties, and the demands of family relationships.


A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Ove (pronounced UH-ve) is probably the biggest curmudgeon you’ll ever meet, either in literature or in life. His wife died several years ago, and his retirement has left him feeling lonely and purposeless. He’s set in his ways, with strict daily routines, and he demands that everyone must follow the neighborhood rules to the letter. Translated from the Swedish, this novel demonstrates how even a crotchety old geezer can change and learn to appreciate life, with a little help from some new friends. The novel also carries a gentle message: don’t judge a man until you understand his life.


The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Young journalist Monique Grant is stagnating as a reporter for an internet sleaze site when she receives a sudden and mysterious summons from Evelyn Hugo, the aging actress who is finally ready to tell her story and insists Grant is the one who must write it. Hugo’s story covers her journey to Los Angeles in the 1950s, her rise to fame, and her decision to leave show business after a 30-year career. That journey includes ruthless ambition, seven husbands, a deep but forbidden love—and no regrets. She’d do it all exactly the same way again, Hugo tells Grant, before finally revealing why she has chosen Grant to write this story.


The Pigman by Paul Zindel

This YA novel from the 1960s focuses on two high school students who form a taunting, derisive friendship with a neighbor, the widowed retiree Antonio Pignati. Although the story revolves around the teenagers, the loneliness and desperate desire for companionship of Mr. Pignati, whom the kids call The Pigman, is painfully accurate.


© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

IS THE CURE FOR ALZHEIMER’S HIDING INSIDE US? SHE THINKS SO

Here’s a profile of Annelise Barron:

Alzheimer’s is the root cause of 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, and the complexity of the disease has troubled neurology researchers for decades. But Barron, an associate professor of bioengineering at Stanford, has uncovered a way for our own immune system to fight off a major cause of Alzheimer’s. If her research leads to a treatment, it would be the first new therapeutics development in more than a decade.

BOOKS WITH STRONG FEMALE CHARACTERS OVER 50

Being of a certain age myself, I enjoy books that feature older women characters. And if you’re into reading challenges that ask you to read a book featuring “a strong female character over 50,” here are eight books to help you fill in that category.

READ HARDER: A BOOK WITH A FEMALE PROTAGONIST OVER THE AGE OF 60

And if 50 is too young for you, here’s a list of six books featuring female protagonists over age 60. I heartily second the recommendation of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid and would also add Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney.

Cover: Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

SOLVING THE HIDDEN DISEASE THAT’S AS BAD AS 15 CIGARETTES A DAY

That disease would be loneliness:

Experts agree that we’re facing a loneliness epidemic, one that has profound consequences for our physical health, our longevity and our overall well-being. But where others emphasize the scale and seriousness of this looming crisis, Murthy offers an encouraging message: Yes, loneliness is a pervasive problem worldwide, but there is a simple and actionable solution.

Why Older People Have Always Trashed Young People

Why can’t they be like we were, perfect in every way?
Oh, what’s the matter with kids today?

Why does every generation express worry that its kids aren’t as good? Because of fear, this article argues:

We talk of children in terms of continuation. They carry on our traditions. They take our names. We delight in how they look like us, act like us, think like us. We want our kids to adopt our politics, our causes, our sense of meaning. In our children, we seek immortality.

But then they grow up, and we discover they’re not us. They are their own people. They’ll find their own politics, their own causes, their own sense of meaning. They’re more interested in the future than the past. They’ll know their parents’ names, of course, and probably their grandparents’ names, but perhaps not their great-grandparents’ names, and certainly not their great-great-grandparents’ names. Which means one day they’ll have children, and those children will have children, and our names will begin to be forgotten too. We will slip into nothingness, remembered by nobody, having left no recognizable impact.

 

© 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

Three Things Thursday

Thanks to Natalie for hosting Three Things Thursday, “three things big or small, that have made you happy this week.”

Three Things Thursday

(Click on any photo to see a larger version.)

One

We spent 40+ years in the midwest, where dramatic thunder and lightning storms are a way of life. When we moved to the Pacific Northwest four years ago, I was surprised to learn that thunder storms are so rare here that they draw discussion.

That’s why, at a recent dinner party at a neighbor’s house, everyone went into the kitchen to see this view:

Double Rainbow at Franke Tobey Jones

The double rainbow was an added benefit that well complemented the magnificent sky.

Thanks to my husband for sharing his photo.

Two

Every summer our retirement community holds a dinner party in the resident gardens at which awards are presented for the best hats. Here are this year’s first- and second-place winners in the women’s category:

Second- (left) and first-place women's hats

That’s Sharon on the left, in her second-place hat featuring a gardening theme. I like to think she’s planting those seeds to feed the birds on Pat’s (right) impressive first-place aviary.

Well done, ladies!

Three

Last week I mentioned that I was reading this book:

And what a dramatic roller coaster of an experience that reading was!

I don’t give out many five-star ratings, but this book certainly earned one. The first few pages aren’t exactly a suck-you-right-in opening, but as soon as the meat of the story began, I couldn’t put this book down.

I don’t read a lot of science fiction, but this novel does exactly what good science fiction should do: It uses science (in this case, a problem from quantum mechanics) to explore the deepest questions of human existence. And don’t be scared off by the phrase quantum physics. The novel gives an excellent visual explanation of the situation at its heart on page 113.

This would be a good book to read on a long airplane flight, but, like me, you can read it right in your own living room. But do read it. I’d love to hear if it mesmerized you as much as it did me.

I hope everyone has a good week!

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Three Things Thursday: I Read!

Thanks to Natalie for hosting Three Things Thursday, “three things big or small, that have made you happy this week.”

Three Things Thursday

I didn’t plan things this way, but when I looked at the photos on my phone I found that the last three I took involve reading. So here we go!

One

An online book group that I participate in recently shared photos of their TBR (to be read) shelves. Here’s my photo, although I have other books scattered across multiple other shelves:

tbr shelves

Two

My newest purple T-shirt arrived recently:

i read shirt

Three

I don’t get sick very often, so when I do I tend to wallow in my misery. Yesterday I started getting a nasty cold, so I decided to be totally self-indulgent and allow myself to curl up under a light blanket with a good book. After a couple of people commented on my TBR shelf photo (above), I chose this one to curl up with:

dark matter

I hope everyone has a good week. I look forward to reading your Three Things Thursday posts.

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Three Things Thursday

Thanks to Nerd in the Brain for the weekly challenge Three Things Thursday:

three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy

Three Things Thursday

Here are three things that warmed my heart recently.

(1) A new-to-Seattle reading list: the fiction essentials

We moved to Tacoma, about 25 miles south of Seattle, just a little under four years ago. I always love finding out new things about where we now live, and I also love reading, especially fiction. So I was pleased to come across this list of books that will introduce me to the region. There are enough suggestions here to keep me happily reading throughout 2017.

(2) Creative Colloquy: A Literary Site

I’m determined that 2017 will be my year to work on my personal writing. This site was a real find:

Creative Colloquy was founded in February of 2014 with the intention of fostering relationships built upon the mutual admiration of the written word and providing a platform to highlight literary talent in the South Sound.

We do this in a number of ways including the online literary site focused on short fiction, novel excerpts and essays but also including poetry and other prose penned by writers who reside in the Pacific Northwest.

South Sound refers to the area around Puget Sound south of Seattle. This organization holds monthly events in Tacoma. I had been looking for a local writers group. Perhaps this will be it.

(3) Inside Bright Lights, the Final Curtain for Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher

Who wasn’t touched by the recent deaths, just one day apart, of Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds? HBO had completed a documentary on the famous duo scheduled to premier later in the year, but the network moved the date up to January 7.

In this article, “Documentarians Alexis Bloom and Fisher Stevens talk their moving documentary, which gains a bittersweet new meaning in the wake of Reynolds’s and Fisher’s unexpected deaths.”

I hope all of you will have a fantastic week.

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown