Last Week’s Links

At 91, Clint Eastwood throws a punch and rides a horse in his new movie. And he’s not ready to quit

Eastwood’s first film behind the camera, “Play Misty for Me,” came out half a century ago, and he’s still at it. At age 91, with his new “Cry Macho” set for a Sept. 17 release in theaters and on HBO Max, Eastwood — whose acting credits date to 1955 — is perhaps the oldest American ever to both direct and star in a major motion picture.

Pandemic prompts more teachers to consider early retirement or new career

New research into how the pandemic has affected teachers found that “during the pandemic, teachers became less certain that they would work in the classroom until retirement. In March 2020, 74% of teachers said they expected to work as a teacher until retirement, but the figure fell to 69% in March 2021.”

The researchers discuss how such turnover in the profession can negatively affect students’ success and look at three areas in which teachers need support.

What Is Life?

“An astrobiologist finds the heart of his work in a new novel by Richard Powers.”

book cover: Bewilderment by Richard Powers

Caleb Scharf, director of astrobiology at Columbia University, writes that the “puzzle of ‘what life really is’ might be the ultimate goal of astrobiology—we don’t just want to know whether or not we’re alone in the universe, we want to understand what we really are.”

Here Scharf describes how “the profoundly interconnected goals of astrobiology form a central theme of Bewilderment, a new novel by Richard Powers.” He describes it as “an immersive and astonishing book, a novel where the state of our world, and others, is a central anxiety for its protagonists.”

Lost perspective? Try this linguistic trick to reset your view

Social psychologist Ariana Orvell, assistant professor of psychology at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, explains how distanced self-talk, the “process of reflecting on one’s self using parts of speech that are typically used to refer to other people,” can help us align “our thoughts, feelings and behaviour with our goals.”

The most common example of distanced self-talk occurs when we address ourself either by name or in the second person (“you”). This process produces psychological distancing that allows us to change perspective, to “move beyond our default, egocentric perspective, and consider our thoughts and feelings from the stance of a more objective observer.” Such a shift in perspective can help to promote reasoning, to increase willingness to search for compromise, and to recognize the limits of our own knowledge.

‘Imagine’ at 50: Why John Lennon’s ode to humanism still resonates

Sociology professor Phil Zuckerman writes:

As a scholar of secularism and a devout fan of the Beatles, I have always been fascinated by how “Imagine,” perhaps the first and only atheist anthem to be so enormously successful, has come to be so widely embraced in America. After all, the U.S. is a country that has – at least until recently – had a much more religious population than other Western industrialized democracies.

The Roe Baby

“Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff in Roe v. Wade, never had the abortion she was seeking. She gave her baby girl up for adoption, and now that baby is an adult. After decades of keeping her identity a secret, Jane Roe’s child has chosen to talk about her life.”

This deeply moving article by Joshua Prager is adapted from his recently published book The Family Roe: An American Story.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

9 websites that will bring you back to the old internet

“The internet has been around for long enough — and shifted so drastically in that time — that it’s really easy to get nostalgic for past versions of online life.”

Costa Ricans Live Longer Than Us. What’s the Secret?

“In the United States and elsewhere, public health and medical care are largely separate enterprises. Costa Rica shows the benefits of integrating the two—it spends less than we do on health care and gets better results.”

Raw Granny Power: 100-Year-Old Woman Is the World’s Oldest Female Powerlifter

A portrait of “Edith Murway-Traina, who is heaving around major poundage at the age of 100—making her a Guinness World Record holder for being the oldest known competitive female powerlifter in the world.”

In ‘Rumors,’ Lizzo and Cardi B pull from the ancient Greeks, putting a new twist on an old tradition

Grace B. McGowan, a PhD Candidate in American Studies at Boston University, celebrates the return of Black women to “the classical tradition, a style rooted in the aesthetics of ancient Greece and Rome.” McGowan writes that artists like Lizzo and Cardi B are “adding their own twist” to this tradition.

Being chased, losing your teeth or falling down? What science says about recurring dreams

I periodically dream about losing my teeth, forgetting to go to class for an entire semester, or being unprepared for an exam. Here a professor of psychiatry and a doctoral candidate in neuroscience from the University of Montreal discuss recurrent dream motifs and their possible meanings.

Baby Boomer Bloggers: Are you out there?

Jane Trombley, a Baby Boomer herself, laments, “I don’t see enough of my peers initiating the conversation. And that’s a drag. Millennials and everyone else need to hear much of what Boomers have to say.”

She ends with a challenge: “Over to you, Boomers.”

So, whadda ya say?

‘No one wanted to read’ his book on pandemic psychology – then Covid hit

In October 2019, a month or so before Covid-19 began to spread from the industrial Chinese city of Wuhan, Steven Taylor, an Australian psychologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, published what would turn out to be a remarkably prophetic book, The Psychology of Pandemics.

The Guardian reports on Taylor’s psychological approach to understanding pandemics in general and, specifically, the current state of world affairs surrounding COVID-19.

The Best Part of Being 60-Something

Lorraine Duffy Merkl basks in the freedom that being in her 60s offers: “We can finally let go of the please-like-me baggage and secrets that have been weighing us down, as well as the insecurities based on what others think of us, and realize what really matters is being ourselves and letting the chips fall.”

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

What We Think We Know About Metabolism May Be Wrong

Generally accepted wisdom about metabolism and weight gain used to tell us that people began to put on weight in middle age as their metabolism slowed down. But new research suggests that we need to rethink that hypothesis. 

“By combining efforts from a half dozen labs collected over 40 years, [investigators] had sufficient information to ask general questions about changes in metabolism over a lifetime.” As for metabolism in middle age and after: “From age 20 to 60, it holds steady,” and “after age 60, it declines by about 0.7 percent a year.”

For Seniors Especially, Covid Can Be Stealthy

“With infections increasing once more, and hospitalization rising among older adults, health experts offer a timely warning: a coronavirus infection can look different in older patients.”

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO LIVE FOREVER?

“Today, as humans continue to lust after any number of material and immaterial objects, scientists are researching radical life extension technology like never before. Amazing, right? Let’s see. Read on to learn about the great, the weird and the downright costly behind our quest for eternal existence.”

The usual caution pertains here: Be careful what you wish for.

“It’s Your Funeral!” So Throw Yourself the Best Going-Away Party Ever

book cover: It's Your Funeral! Plan the Celebration of a Lifetime--Before it's too Late

Gevera Bert Piedmont—who apparently hasn’t taken to heart the previous article—begins this book review with the statement “— sorry to break it to you — everyone is going to die.” The book under review is It’s Your Funeral! by Kathy Benjamin. The book’s subtitle is “Plan the celebration of a lifetime—before it’s too late.”

“If that sounds sad and depressing, I assure you, it is not,” Piedmont continues. “Benjamin makes it entertaining, educational and even funny at times.” She says the book contains a section where readers can “make notes on how they want to handle their own demise.”

4 Simple Phrases to Stop Anxious Thoughts

Everything I’ve been reading about the surging delta variant of COVID-19 suggests that we’re having to revise our earlier hope that we were emerging from the pandemic. If you’re experiencing anxious thoughts, licensed clinical social worker Hilary Jacobs Hendel has some advice for self-care.

Please do not hesitate to seek professional help if anxiety begins to overwhelm you.

Podcast: Traveling While Aging

Admission: I don’t listen to podcasts. If I’m going to spend time listening to something, it’s going to be an audiobook.

So I haven’t listened to this podcast. However, the subject may interest you. I’m pretty sure you can listen right from this webpage, without having to download anything.

Critical Race Theory

Critical race theory continues to be a hot news topic. Here’s a succinct explanation of what it is, how it developed, and how the term is currently being used “as a Procrustean epithet that can be made to fit any argument.”

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Take Control of Your Home Screen

I don’t know about you, but my phone’s home screens have gotten out of control. I know this is mostly my own fault, but it also seems that whenever the phone’s OS upgrades, things get changed and moved around. So when I come across an article like this, I read it carefully.

Former Seattle classmates — friends for nearly a century — reunite in a pandemic

You know I just love stories like this. Eight men, all now 88 or 89 years old, got together for their annual reunion recently. Well, almost-annual reunion, because COVID-19 forced them to miss last year’s get-together.

Beware Free Wi-Fi: Government Urges Workers to Avoid Public Networks

Back when we used to be able to travel, I was always surprised at people who, in a foreign country, said they found a restaurant with free wi-fi so they could check their bank account.

I grew up thinking being Asian detracted from my masculinity. Here’s how America tells me and other Asian American men they’re not attractive

Jade Yamazaki Stewart, an intern at the Seattle Times, writes, “old stereotypes about Asian men persist.” Here he explains how those stereotypes affected him throughout his life and examines how they continue to show up in popular culture.

70 years ago Walter Plywaski fought for atheists’ right to become citizens – here’s why his story is worth remembering

Kristina M. Lee, a Ph.D. candidate in rhetoric at Colorado State University whose area of interest is religious and political rhetoric, tells the story of Walter Plywaski: “Almost 70 years ago, Plywaski fought for the right of atheists to become U.S. citizens – and won.”

Love, courage and solidarity: 20 essential lessons young athletes taught us this summer

I must admit that this year’s Olympics (really last year’s Olympics, as they were referred to as Tokyo 2020) had a surreal feel to them. Everything swirling around the games seemed to have so much more importance than the sporting events themselves. “More than anything, though, this summer has thrown a spotlight on the inspiring and surprising strength and character of young people like never before.”

‘Vaccine passports’ are taking off. How to prove your Covid-19 vaccination status on your phone

Here’s some information that might prove useful as proof of vaccination against COVID-19 “is increasingly becoming a ticket of entry into restaurants, gyms and indoor performances.”

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

17 pop songs you didn’t know were directly inspired by classical music

“From Billy Joel’s inability to resist a good Beethoven melody to Lady Gaga’s sampling of rhapsodic violin solos, here are the greatest examples of classical samples in pop.”

Be sure to turn on your computer’s sound! And keep it on for the next piece as well.

5 Minutes That Will Make You Love Symphonies

“Alec Baldwin chooses Tchaikovsky. Darryl Pinckney picks Mahler. And more sweeping, powerful music.”

The New York Times here aims to help people “to love symphonies, the sweeping musical statements at the foundation of the orchestral repertory.”

The Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer’s, Explained

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 6 million Americans of all ages are living with Alzheimer’s; 1 in 3 seniors die having been diagnosed with some form of dementia or Alzheimer’s. But these conditions are not exactly the same. Here’s why.

Dementia is a broad term referring to “a decline in mental ability as a result of damaged brain cells.” Dementia can be caused by many conditions, one of which is Alzheimer’s disease. “It may not seem like an important distinction, but treatments for one type of dementia and Alzheimer’s can vary.”

Our dreams are changing as we emerge from the pandemic. Here’s how

Sandee LaMotte interviews psychologist Deirdre Barrett for CNN. Barrett has been collecting stories of “our dreams and nightmares since the virus shut down our lives. Many of our night visions revolved around the fear of death, as our subconscious ruminated on the very real threat of Covid-19. Other dreams cast the virus as an invasive predator, often an insect.”

Read Barrett’s analysis of how dreams provide insight into our pandemic lives and how dreams have changed since mid-December 2019, “when it was announced the vaccines were highly effective and were being given emergency use approval.”

The pandemic upended our lives. Here are some changes you think we should keep, to advance equity

Naomi Ishisaka, a columnist for the Seattle Times, asks, “If the pandemic is a portal, what will the new world on the other side look like?”

She asked readers what changes made over the last 16 months they would like to keep “to make a more equitable, just and sustainable world.” Here are some of the answers in the areas of education, availability of virtual activities, work, and cultural and social changes.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

A man with Alzheimer’s forgot he was married, and fell in love with his wife all over again

A bittersweet story about a man with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and his wife.

They Didn’t Expect to Retire Early. The Pandemic Changed Their Plans.

“After years in which Americans worked later in life, the latest economic disruption has driven many out of the work force prematurely.”

The New York Times looks at “the millions of Americans who have decided to retire since the pandemic began, part of a surge in early exits from the work force. The trend has broad implications for the labor market and is a sign of how the pandemic has transformed the economic landscape.”

Sufferers of chronic pain have long been told it’s all in their head. We now know that’s wrong

For those of us with this problem, here’s some good news.

Increasingly though, experts are waking up to the idea that chronic pain can occur without any obvious physical injury, or in a completely separate area of the body from the original site of tissue damage. There’s also mounting evidence that seemingly very different pain conditions – chronic headaches, low back pain and jaw pain, say – may share common underlying mechanisms, and that once a person develops one chronic pain condition, they’re predisposed to develop others.

The neuroscience behind why your brain may need time to adjust to ‘un-social distancing’

Kareem Clark, Postdoctoral Associate in Neuroscience at Virginia Tech, looks at a big question for many as we begin to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic:

if the idea of making small talk at a crowded happy hour sounds terrifying to you, you’re not alone. Nearly half of Americans reported feeling uneasy about returning to in-person interaction regardless of vaccination status.

He explains that our brains need to reset our sense of “social homeostasis – the right balance of social connections.”

The pandemic wrought a new America

CNN finds that we are “heading into a best of times, worst of times summer as the longed-for promise of deliverance from Covid-19 is tempered by spasms of violent crime, economic false starts and unexpected obstacles on the road to freedom.”

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Her Kind Of Blue: Joni Mitchell’s Masterpiece At 50

Ann Powers reports for NPR on Joni Mitchell’s album Blue, which came out in 1971, with an emphasis on its storytelling:

the creative process is as mundane as it is miraculous. It’s dribs and drabs and then a rush and then back to staring at the ceiling, wondering if the rush will come back. Blue is an album about working through something — a heartache, people say. But it’s just as much a document of the process of sharing that heartache, an inquiry into personal storytelling itself. Until Blue, Mitchell was getting there, but she hadn’t wholly figured out what she alone could say. That’s because what each person alone can say is, in its pure state, incommunicable. Stories are what get left behind as their tellers keep living and evolving. They’re always inconclusive.

The Secrets of ‘Cognitive Super-Agers’

From Jane E. Brody, for The New York Times:

Fewer than 1 percent of Americans reach the age of 100, and new data from the Netherlands indicate that those who achieve that milestone with their mental faculties still intact are likely to remain so for their remaining years, even if their brains are riddled with the plaques and tangles that are the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.

Brody reports on research about how people who are “physically able to reach 100 may also be able to remain mentally healthy.”

10% Of People Will Likely Experience Post-Pandemic Growth—Here’s What It Means

Neuroscientist and psychiatrist Daniel Amen explains that after experiencing trauma, some people develop PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) while others exhibit PTG (post-traumatic growth). Since COVID-19 has certainly been a time of trauma, he predicts that “the lucky ones who will experience post-pandemic growth.” 

He offers advice on changes you can make to nurture PTG.

Why Introverts May Find It Hard When Life Returns to Normal

Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., considers what post-pandemic life will be like for introverts, most of whom have become comfortable with enforced social isolation. She first looks at personality-based research (most of it conducted on a college campus before the pandemic hit) that found that people tend to choose geographic locations on the basis of their personalities: “Participants higher in extraversion were the ones that researchers encountered in central, less secluded spots on campus. Those high in introversion, by contrast, set themselves up in quieter spaces away from the campus hub.”

On the basis of this research, she encourages introverted people to search for quiet personal spaces where they can seek occasional respite once they begin moving back into society.

Poor sleep linked to dementia and early death, study finds

CNN reports on recent research that found older adults “who have significant difficulty falling asleep and who experience frequent night awakenings” are at increased risk of dementia or earlier-than-normal death. The article ends with some suggestions of how you can reduce your risk by taking steps to avoid sleep deprivation.

Death is Both an Event and a Process

The loss of people we know tends to get more frequent as we get older. Understanding grief, and how it works, can help us get through those hard times. Writer Brandy L. Schillace explains: “Death is not a thing, but things: a process of emotions, states of being, suddenly shifting relationships.” She encourages thinking of grief as “a path, a journey, a process.”

Our need to face death and its associated grieving is more pronounced now, in the time of COVID-19, than usual. This is the first in a series of articles Schillace plans “to try and better understand death not as the end of life, but as part of it — even in these changing and uncertain times.”

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

What is critical race theory, and why do Republicans want to ban it in schools?

I see the term critical race theory in the news a lot, but I didn’t know what it meant. I was therefore grateful to find this article from the Washington Post.

“Critical race theory is an academic framework centered on the idea that racism is systemic, and not just demonstrated by individual people with prejudices,” the article says. But it further points out that, although the term refers to an academic area of study, “its common usage has diverged from its exact meaning.”

Secrets to Better Sleep After Menopause

This article from the AARP’s Ethel newsletter focuses on sleep problems after menopause because: “According to The Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN), sleep disturbances range from 16 to 42 percent in premenopausal women and then climb to 35 to 60 percent when we’re postmenopausal.”

If this situation applies to you, read “some recommendations from the sleep experts.”

What Robots Can—and Can’t—Do for the Old and Lonely

“For elderly Americans, social isolation is especially perilous. Will machine companions fill the void?”

The New Yorker reports on a study that uses robotic pets as companions for isolated older adults. 

Yes, this is a real thing. According to the article, “In 2017, the Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, declared loneliness an ‘epidemic’ among Americans of all ages. . . . Older people are more susceptible to loneliness; forty-three per cent of Americans over sixty identify as lonely.” 

Before you scoff and try to laugh this off, read the article to find out how some study participants feel about their mechanical companions.

The Age of Reopening Anxiety

“What if we’re scared to go back to normal life?”

I’ve been seeing a lot of articles lately about people’s reactions to re-entering society now that vaccines have made possible the reductions in mask-wearing and social-distancing policies. This article reports:

For many, the transitional period has been a little bumpy. A report by the American Psychological Association, published in March, 2021, found that almost half of Americans surveyed felt “uneasy about adjusting to in-person interaction” after the pandemic.

Going beyond ‘back to normal’ – 5 research-based tips for emerging from pandemic life

Bethany Teachman, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, offers some suggestions from clinical psychological science for those who wish to “choose what to rebuild, what to leave behind and what new paths to try for the first time” as they ease their way into post-pandemic life.

Doctors tell how to make the most of your telehealth visits

A lot of articles deal with what concepts of the “new normal” will emerge as society reopens. Many analyses I’ve read indicate that remote medical consultations may well be one of the features of the pandemic that may stick around. 

Here Julie Appleby of Kaiser Health News offers advice on how to determine if or when telehealth visits meet your needs.

Genealogy Basics: 8 Tips for Tracing Your Family Tree Online

Interest in genealogy boomed during the pandemic. Here are some suggestions for using online resources to trace your family roots.

Can a Smartwatch Save Your Life?

“The advent of wearable devices that monitor our heart rhythms both excites and worries doctors.”

Randi Hutter Epstein, M.D., looks at both the potential benefits and the potential drawbacks of new, wearable health-monitoring devices such as smartwatches.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Talking on Zoom could help older people stave off dementia

CNN reports on recent research results:

Talking on video-conference services like Zoom during the coronavirus pandemic has helped older people stave off the effects of dementia, a new study has suggested.

Researchers found that regular communication helps maintain long-term memory, and elderly people who often use online tools showed less decline in memory than those who don’t.

These Farmers Want You to Drink Your Hops and Eat Them Too

“Trashed in the U.S., hop shoots are treasure in parts of Europe.”

Washington State produces lots of hops, the crop that lends much of the bitter taste to beer. In fact, according to this article, “75 percent of the U.S. hops supply is grown in Yakima Valley,” in eastern Washington.

This article presents some entrepreneurs who are exploring ways to use more of the hop plant than the part used in beer brewing.

Mary Beard Keeps History on the Move

“For Beard, change has always been a part of the classics. We need to expose the field’s flaws to learn how we’ve inherited them.”

Since I did my B.A. and M.A. in Latin, I’ve been following the recently publicized issue of universities dissolving their classics departments. Here Katy Waldman profiles British classicist Mary Beard for The New Yorker

Introducing her subject, Waldman writes about how to describe Beard: “‘Classicist’ doesn’t quite capture it. ‘Celebrity historian’ inches closer.” 

The movement to downplay the study of classics centers on the claim that the field embodies an “imperialist mind-set” and “sustains a mythology of whiteness.” But, Waldman writes, “As the field’s most famous practitioner, and a dedicated anti-racist and feminist, Beard takes a middle position: she believes neither that classics deserves a pedestal nor that it must be destroyed.”

Is America a Racist Nation? I Am Sikh and Tired

Vishavjit Singh writes:

My turban and beard have always made me a target of anxiety, stereotyping, or outright racism. Post-9/11, the hate has been taken to a whole new level. Sikhs have been killed, attacked, and verbally abused in a never-ending American saga.

Singh takes a look at some of our inherent biases: “This is not a Black and White problem only. It is an American ailment. It is a human disease.”

They’re Vaccinated and Keeping Their Masks On, Maybe Forever

“Face coverings have been a political flash point for more than a year. But now, the backlash is directed at people who don’t plan to take them off.”

My husband and I have been fully vaccinated since late February. Yet, despite the most recent CDC guidelines, when we went to the farmers’ market yesterday, I put my mask on. 

I’ve decided to continue to wear a mask when I’m in a crowd for quite a while. After being required to do so for more than a year, it’s something I’ve gotten used to doing. I figure that wearing a mask doesn’t hurt me or anyone else, but it does provide an extra bit of protection against any virus particles that might be floating around. My decision has nothing to do with politics. I’m just being as cautious as possible about my own health. 

This article in the New York Times looks at reasons why some people are continuing to mask up.

How About You?

Do you continue to mask up?

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Their romance was new when covid hit. Both in their 90s, they snuck around ‘like teenagers.’

When their retirement community enforced the COVID-19 regulations for isolation,  Bill Biega, age 98, and Iris Ivers, 91, had to make a quick decision: follow the regulations and stay separated, or cohabit and face the pandemic together. They decided that Iris would move in with Bill. More than a year later, they’re still together.

“Even in your 90s, it’s never too late to have a love life,” Bill says.

How Long Can We Live?

“As medical and social advances mitigate diseases of old age and prolong life, the number of exceptionally long-lived people is increasing sharply.” The United Nations estimates that there will be 25 million centenarians in the world by 2100. 

This article examines the various research approaches into aging and how to prolong lives. 

Affluent Americans rush to retire in new ‘life-is-short’ mindset

In an article from Bloomberg reprinted in the Seattle Times, Michael Sasso declares, “About 2.7 million Americans age 55 or older are contemplating retirement years earlier than they’d imagined because of the pandemic, government data show.” 

He goes on to report that “Early retirements, whether desired or forced, will deprive the labor market of some of its most productive workers and have an impact on the economic recovery that is still too early to evaluate.”

The ‘gray divorce’ trend: As the Gates split shows, more older couples are getting divorced. Here’s why

CNN uses the news that Bill and Melinda Gates are getting divorced after 27 years of marriage as the springboard for a discussion of the upward trend for toward divorce by older adults. 

Johnny Bench Misses His Hall of Fame Friends

I’ve been a baseball fan all my life and have been particularly struck by the number of former players who have died recently. This article focuses on Johnny Bench, the longtime catcher for the Cincinnati Reds. “Bench knew, played with or played against all of the 10 Hall of Famers who died in the past year.”

If you remember watching those men play, this article will tug at your heart strings, as it did mine.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown