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

Cheating, Inc.: How Writing Papers for American College Students Has Become a Lucrative Profession Overseas

In my earlier years I did freelance writing and editing. Scrambling for freelance gigs was a frustrating, humbling, and often thankless task. But one type of writing gig was always on the job boards: writing papers and admission essays for students. The evergreen presence of these jobs meant that, periodically, the question would arise about whether writers could or should accept them. There were always passionate answers on both sides: (1) morality be damned, I’m trying to earn a living, and (2) I may be starving, but my conscience is clear.

Just to be clear, I never took any of these jobs. But one thing I learned from this article surprised me: Many of the people taking paper-writing jobs live abroad, not in the U.S. And many of these college-educated writers make a better living at this job than they’d earn in the profession they had trained for in their country.

People Who Read Before Bed Not Only Sleep Better, But Eat More Healthily and Make More Money

This article is concerned mainly with people who read in bed at night. I have sleep disturbance problems, and people like me are always told not to eat, read, watch TV, knit, or do anything else in bed at night. The idea is to train your brain that when you go to bed, you’re ready to fall asleep. I feel deprived of the great luxury of reading in bed, but, for me, reading in my recliner before getting under the covers will have to suffice. 

But it is good to know that people who read before bed are healthy and wealthy as well as wise.

Is Dying at Home Overrated?

“A palliative care physician struggles with the complex realities of dying at home, and the unintended consequences of making it a societal priority.” 

Unless a family has the significant resources necessary to hire aides or nurses, informal caregivers become responsible for nearly everything — from feeding to bathing to toileting. These tasks often get harder as the dying person weakens. In my experience, most family members want to care for their loved ones at home, but many are unaware of caregiving’s physical and emotional toll.

Dr. Richard Leiter compassionately looks at the multiple aspects of end-of-life care and, on the basis of his own experience, concludes “we need to focus not only on where, but also on how they die.”

Nursing Homes Are a Breeding Ground for a Fatal Fungus

This article examines the potential problems involving “Candida auris, a highly contagious, drug-resistant fungus that has infected nearly 800 people since it arrived in the United States four years ago.” 

Daydreams Shape Your Sense of Self

Psychologist Eve Blouin-Hudon addresses the question “Why is daydreaming so prevalent?” She observes that we often daydream about ourselves, about how we may feel and react in certain situations. Such daydreams contribute to building our life story: “These self-related stories allow people to make sense of who they are and to build their narrative identity—their sense of continuity through time. People need to connect who they believe they are to ongoing experiences.”

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to get a good night’s sleep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Prescription coupons, rebates may drive up prices in long run

Here’s some news that initially seems counterintuitive:

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

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

Take charge of your own story

A newspaper obituary writer considers her own obituary.

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

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

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

Sleep deprivation may play role in ’global loneliness epidemic’

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

How to Get a Better Night’s Sleep

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

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown