Wednesday, July 30, 2014

That Old Rock 'n Roll Music

     I confess, I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the "oldies." For a long time I listened to radio stations that advertised they were playing, "The songs we grew up with." I kept my old albums and tapes and CDs.

     When I bought my last car, I signed up for Sirius XM Radio. Now I listen to the '50s channel, the '60s channel, and sometimes the '70s channel.

     Music from the 1960s is still my favorite, because that's when I was a teenager, and even though to this day I have mixed feelings about those years, the fact is, that's when popular music becomes internalized -- when you associate certain songs and bands with particular rites of passage.

     I remember my sister had a 45-rpm record player, and she would listen to Dion and Rick Nelson and Neil Sedaka all night long.

     I remember to this day, hanging out at a friend's house, and hearing those first strains of a Beach Boys tune.

     I hear "I've Got You, Babe" and I'm sitting on my girlfriend's front porch in the summertime.

     "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" -- I'm at school, just before Thanksgiving, looking forward to the long weekend.

     "Good Lovin'"  -- I'm at a party at a friend's house.

     "Sunshine of Your Love" -- at an outdoor concert.

     Rubber Soul -- Played over and over again on a three-day school trip. And later Abbey Road, played over and over again in a college dorm room.

    I've listened to so many of these songs so many times. But I've gotten tired of many of them. They've lost their emotional pull -- their lovin' feelin'.

     So sometimes I flip over to the '70s station. I was in college in the early 70's and still listened to a lot of music. But by the mid-'70s I'd graduated and was working and getting married, and I had better things to do than listen to the radio or sit around fiddling with my tape deck. Besides (wouldn't you agree?) by and large popular music from the 1970s was less compelling than the music of the 1960s.

     And '80s music? God only knows. I never listened to it. My children were born in the 1980s, and the song I sang along with for most of the 1980s was: "The eensy weensy spider crawled up the water spout . . ."

     Now I'm listening to the '50s channel more and more. I find that the songs are inventive, and they seem fresh to me. I was too young in the 1950s to hear most of those songs the first time around (except for Elvis, which my older sister liked; and The Kingston Trio which my older brother liked). And so, unlike the songs of the '60s, I am not yet sick and tired of them.

     Just so you know, I'm not a complete boob when it comes to music. Sometimes I listen to classical. I turn to the Bluegrass station every once in a while. I listen to contemporary Indie rock. And because I go dancing with B and we do cha cha, rumba, salsa and bachata, I also enjoy Latin music.

     But I admit, I spend most of my car time listening to the oldies. And here's the problem with that. You forget that time has gone by. The Beatles or the Rolling Stones or the Four Tops come on the radio; and in my mind (without even realizing it) it's 1966 and I'm in high school.

     "I've Got You, Babe" starts up and I'm driving around my hometown, going to see my girlfriend, and maybe over to the swimming pool. Then it hits me. Sonny died a long time ago. Cher is on Social Security.

     Two of the four Beatles are now dead. Two of the Four Tops. Two of the Beach Boys. Those gloriously youthful Mamas and Papas? Three out of four of them are long gone.

     We all know about The Day the Music Died, and we recall how Elvis tragically died in his bathroom. Do you know about the curse of 27? The rock stars who died when they were 27 years old:  Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones; Jimi Hendrix; Janis Joplin; Jim Morrison of The Doors; and more recently Kurt Cobain of Nirvana and Amy Winehouse.

     Jeez, 27? That's younger than my younger child!

     And when did Roy Orbison die? Wilson Picket? Marvin Gaye. Davy Jones of The Monkees. Harry Nilsson. Tiny Tim ... remember him? Laura Nyro; Dusty Springfield; Rick Danko and Levon Helm of The Band; and Andy, Robin and Maurice Gibbs. Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy Ramone.

     Suddenly, listening to the 1960s station takes on a sadder note, as you realize:  a lot of  time . . . has . . . gone. . . by.

     But wait. We know people die. As far as those of us who live on, maybe those old singers would be happy to know that we're still listening to their music, singing along, reliving our younger years. Here's one list of the Top Ten Songs of the Sixties, and another from Rolling Stone. And there are plenty of others.

     So let the beat go on . . . here's an oldie from Rick Danko and Levon Helm of The Band.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Boomer Bloggers on the Home Front

     Right now, Baby Boomer bloggers are focusing on some issues that hit close to home.

     On Modern Senior Amy takes a look at recent Innovations in Age Friendly Products. When it comes to mobility, accessibility, and home monitoring devices times have certainly changed. The design and operation of these products reflect a different attitude about aging and staying active. Take a look at her post and share what you think about these new products and the future of design for seniors.

Three-wheel "sport" scooter
     Laura Lee aka The Midlife Crisis Queen, who recently retired to a small town in Colorado, has been enjoying her new home town this week. First she explored the ruins of an old coal mine, then she went kayaking at the state park just outside of town. 

     On the Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, turns to your bedroom and bathroom. She writes that consumers need to be aware of hidden risks from harmful chemicals in beauty products. While manufacturers have been phasing out some chemicals there are still dangers that consumers need to know about. Robison's article lists some of those chemicals and provides links to find out more about the surprising ingredients in your cosmetics and other beauty products.

     I myself am reminded of a post I did last year focusing on a book, Staying Power: Age-Proof Your Home for Comfort, Safety and Style by Rachel Adelson. The science writer (and former IBMer) points out that over 90 percent of seniors live in conventional housing, as opposed to a senior-citizen facility. Some of the benefits of staying in your own home, or "aging in place" as it's sometimes called:  It costs less, keeps you in familiar surroundings, and offers greater independence.

Useful, practical advice
     She reminds people to research the services available in your community for aging in place. Often there is more than meets the eye, including support for transportation, nutrition, fitness and entertainment.

     Her book offers all kinds of advice for age-proofing our homes. Among her suggestions:  Improve lighting in the bathroom and the kitchen, and especially on the stairs. Affix traction tape along the front edge of your stairs, in contrasting colors, to help prevent falls. Get rid of scatter rugs throughout the house. Install grab bars in the bathroom, as well as a raised toilet seat to help people with bad knees or a bad back.

     I myself enthusiastically support her suggestions, especially the one about grab bars, since I remember taking a nasty spill in my shower. I slipped as I was getting out, grabbed for the soap dish, and pulled it right out of the wall. I tumbled headlong over the side of the bathtub, crashed onto the tile floor and was lucky not to crack my head. I nevertheless gave myself a deep purple and brown bruise that ran from my waist up to my armpit, and took over a month to heal.

     Want more proof? Take a look at Gigi Hawaii's new grab bar which she posted about at Lucky Us -- demonstrating that you don't have to be old to get a grab bar. You just have to be smart!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Share Your House, Share Your Life

     The magazine The Week did a story last week called "Retirement: A Roommate for Your Golden Years" and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it quoted me, from a piece I did a little while ago for the U. S. News Retirement site. My story was based partly on my own experience, as well as some research I did about how this is becoming a bit of a trend.

     I believe some people here are already living this lifestyle, so maybe a few of you know some things that I don't. (As for myself, I do not live alone; I live with B. We are not related, not married, but we are romantically involved). So anyway, here's my advice:

     First there was "Three's Company," then "The Golden Girls," and now "The Big Bang Theory." What do they have in common? They present different versions of how adults who are not related, and not romantically involved, decide to share housing.

     These TV shows are comedies. And perhaps living with another person does require a ready sense of humor (like, for example, in marriage!). But more and more Baby Boomers are leaving behind the idea of living alone, in favor of living with another person. After all, we did it in college, or in the military, or at camp. So why not now? According to one estimate, there are currently about 130,000 American households where the co-habiters are aged 50 or older, and where they have no family or romantic relationship.

     Obviously, you need to be careful when picking a roommate. A close friend may not always be the best choice. It's not so important to connect emotionally, or to be able to share your feelings. It's more important to be able to share responsibilities – to complement each other rather than find yourselves in constant conflict.

     So if you can find your match, what are the advantages of living together?

     It's less expensive. As the old saying goes, two can live cheaper than one -- and three or four can live cheaper than two. For example, a two bedroom, two bath condo or apartment will typically rent for 50 percent more than a one bedroom, one bath unit in the same complex -- which translates into a 25 percent savings in rent if two people share the two bedroom. But it doesn't always work so mechanistically. Sometimes a person with little income but a nice house meets a person with no house but a decent income. The solution is obvious: The person with the income moves in and pays rent; and they both end up better off.
     You don't have to do all the work yourself. Whether it's mowing the lawn and shoveling snow, or doing dishes and taking out the garbage, sharing the work, like sharing expenses, puts less of a burden on everyone. The key is to divide up responsibilities equitably, according to talents and interests. One roommate likes to cook; the other does the dishes. One handles the finances; the other makes home repairs. If your talents don't mesh naturally, then switching off from week to week, or month to month, is the fair way to handle routine chores. 

     You share responsibility. It's not just the work you share, but the worry, the anxiety . . . and the simple reminders. You don't mind paying the bills, but you hate talking to the landlord? Maybe you can work out a deal with your roommate, and then you don't have to worry about it. Do you want to paint a room, buy an appliance, or can't decide what to have for dinner? It's often helpful just to be able to bounce ideas off another person. 

     You have built-in companionship. So many people come home from work or golf or their book club to an empty house, with nothing to do and no one to do it with. A roommate is someone you can hang out with and do nothing; someone to go to the movies with; or someone to leave behind if you've got other plans. And isn't it comforting to know that someone else is in the house when you hear a strange noise in the night? 

     And someone to help out if you need it. Older people in particular have worries about living alone. What if you fall, or can't remember to take your pill, or simply need help opening a jar? Having a roommate is like having a human safety net – someone who can help out with the little things; and be there in case of real trouble, even if only to call 911. 

     You will likely have more friends. There is nothing that correlates more with living a long, happy life than having good social connections and a supportive circle of friends. Don't spend Christmas or Thanksgiving alone. Don't sit there by yourself watching TV on Saturday night. Spend the time with your roommate, your mutual friends and each other's family members. Share your lives, as well as your living quarters, and you will have a richer, more fulfilling life.

     If you're interested, you can find various organizations that will help you locate shared housing options at the National Shared Housing Resource Center.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Would You Do This at a Restaurant?

     I saw an article recently, and it made me wonder . . .

     A piece called Definitive Proof that People Lie About Food Allergies was posted on July 17 at the website The Bitchy Waiter. The waiter criticized a self-important restaurant guru for recommending that people claim they are allergic to a food, when they really just don't like it. But the server knows that diners are lying when they claim they're allergic to something -- gluten for example -- and then they order a piece of cake for dessert. "It’s annoying and it does a disservice to those who are actually allergic to something because it makes servers think that allergies aren’t really that big of a deal."
     Many people want to eat healthy when they eat out. And so some of them, it seems, just lie to the server about allergies in order to get what they want. Someone doesn't want butter on their food, for example, so they tell the server they're allergic to butter. In other words, they lie, and then the server wastes their time typing in all the modifications into the order which then "goes to the chef to alert the kitchen so they can make sure to not cross-contaminate any of the pans. The kitchen will go through all the trouble to make sure no butter gets near your precious digestive system." But, later on, when the server sees the diner putting butter on a roll, the server will know they made it up. They lied.

     Then, when someone comes in to the restaurant who has a true severe allergy, maybe the waiter won’t take it as seriously because they saw the other diner lying about their butter allergy. "Allergies are a big deal," the server went on to say. "But you know what isn’t a big deal? Not liking something. It only becomes a big deal when you don’t like something and then you tell your server you’re allergic to it when you’re not."

     Other ways to annoy the waiter and waste their time and hold up everyone else in the restaurant:  Insist on no iceberg lettuce in your salad; ask to see an ingredient list for the soup; mix and match various items from different entrees, ordering the cod, but asking the kitchen to prepare it the way they prepare the tuna and plate it with the vegetables from the chicken dish; or just ask the chef to create something special for you that's not on the menu.

     Some people may not like the bitchy waiter. The waiter's job is to serve the customer; so they should just shut up and do the job.

     But I'm with the bitchy waiter. Let them do the job, without harassing them. You want something that the restaurant doesn't have on its menu? Then go to a different restaurant. You want to eat healthy? Don't go to a restaurant at all. Eat at home. It's always healthier to eat at home.

     We used to go out to breakfast with a certain couple that were friends of ours. They would bring their own bottle of real Vermont maple syrup, making sure to tell everyone how horrible the restaurant syrup was -- just liquid sugar with food coloring. Yuck! How could anyone stomach that stuff?

     Okay, at least this couple didn't cause any extra trouble in the kitchen. But, I mean, come on. They were insulting people who worked there as well as other diners within earshot who were happily slurping up their pancakes with restaurant syrup. Why be an obnoxious food snob? It seems to me that people have plenty of opportunities to eat their own real Vermont maple syrup at home. Loosen up a little bit.

     But maybe I'm wrong. The only thing I ever ask at a restaurant is whether there's blue cheese in the salad. I can't stand the taste of blue cheese. But I never claim I have an allergy.

     I saw another item, from the New York Times over the weekend, called Hundreds in Detroit Protest Over Move to Shut Off Water. The piece reported that the city of Detroit, in an effort to save money, decided to turn off water to customers who were overdue on their bill (while also offering assistance for customers with "demonstrated financial need."). In March, when about half the city's customers had outstanding balances amounting to $118 million, the department interrupted service to 15,200 customers. More than half of those who were cut off paid their bills within 24 hours, and their service was restored.

    Maybe I'm stretching it, but doesn't it seem that the half of the people who paid their bills as soon as the water got turned off are kind of like diners who claim they have a food allergy when they don't? In each case, they are taking advantage of a situation, taking advantage of other people.

     The people who didn't pay their bills really could pay -- they just didn't. But the other half, those who still didn't pay their bills, probably have real financial difficulty. They are like the real allergy sufferers who get in real trouble because of the fake allergy sufferers. After all, they're now the ones without water.

     At least, that's the way I read it. But maybe you see it differently.


Friday, July 18, 2014

Beyond Red and Blue

     I did a post last month called Let's Keep 'Em Honest about how media pundits, who are often professional partisans, play havoc with the rules of logic in order to make their point of view seem more believable. They make a personal attack -- calling someone insane, or loony, or just plain stupid -- instead of addressing the substance of an issue. They exaggerate the other person's argument, or use an extreme example, in order to make their own argument sound more reasonable. And they constantly (and often deliberately) confuse correlation with causation -- saying one thing follows another when there is no logical connection.

     For example, I saw a report recently from a conservative pointing out (correctly) that gun violence has gone down over the last 20 years -- which "proves" (although it doesn't prove any such thing) that there is no need for any gun regulation.

     Meanwhile, accounts from liberals picture some tattooed and armed-to-the-hilt middle age man flashing his arsenal and daring some pinko commie to try to come and rip his guns from his red-blooded American hands (the extreme example), as if to prove that all gun owners are one small step this side of crazy.

     There is a website called Punditfact, a project of the Tampa Bay Tribune and the Poynter Institute, that checks the accuracy of claims made by pundits, columnists, political analysts, and other people in the media. After doing an overall analysis, the site determined that some 60 percent of comments made by FOX News hosts and personalities were mostly or outright false. They also calculated that 46 percent of the punditry made on MSNBC is also mostly or completely false.

     So if you're relying on these sources to support your own views, then you are making a big mistake.

     A new study by Pew Research has determined that people who are active supporters of both Republicans and Democrats have become more polarized. Why? Because Republicans listen to FOX News and other conservative commentators who distort many facts. And Democrats listen to MSNBC and read left-of-center publications, which also twist logic, and are selective with their facts, to try to support their own point of view.

     Partisans only talk to people they agree with; and because of that, their views are reinforced, leading them to agree with one another more and more. Pew Research determined that now, more than ever, you can predict what a politician will think about any issue, if you just know what he or she thinks about one issue, because more than ever politicians follow the accepted group think of their own kind.

     But Pew Research also determined that while the highly partisan groups, which dominate the major political parties, have become more extreme, the majority of the American public has not. The partisan groups of both left and right together make up 36 percent of the public. But the current political landscape includes a "large and diverse center," representing 54 percent of the American public. (The other 10 percent are classified by Pew as completely disengaged -- they don't pay any attention to political or social issues).

     Since the partisans are more vocal, more aggressive, more actively involved, they make up a bigger slice of the voters, and a majority of political volunteers and party donors. Nevertheless, on hot-button issues such as abortion, gun ownership and immigration, a clear majority of Americans does not fall into the "always" or "never" camp, but has a more comprehensive understanding of the issue and takes a more centrist position. This majority believes both President Obama and Republican leaders should compromise to address the country's problems.

     Pew Research has parsed the political spectrum into several more nuanced political types. If you're interested, you can go to the Political Typology Quiz to see where you fit in. Caution though: I took the quiz and came out a "Next Generation Left" -- and I don't have to tell you, I am not the Next Generation. Nor am I particularly left, though this category is classified as one of the middle-of-the-road types.

     Anyway, perhaps the solution to the polarizing of our political system, and the decoupling of politics from the concerns of regular people, should rest with us Baby Boomers and retired folks. According to a recent U. S. Census report, Americans over age 65 were the only people who voted in higher proportions in 2012 than in 2008. Some 72 percent of this age group actually voted in the 2012 election, a greater voter participation rate than any other group.