Sunday, February 22, 2015

It's Still Going But I'm Not

Well, when yet another day dawned without any prediction that  the thermometer would ever rise above freezing, I gave up.  Possibly the Karft macaroni had something to do with it.  At any rate, an obliging young man freed the yellow car.
-- I don't dare take the little electric out in this --it's cozy in the garage.

And now for  your viewing pleasure I append a view of the frig yesterday morning -- and another taken Friday afternoon, following a triumphant foray to Wegmans.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Snowbound Adventure (Continued)

Yes, it is still going on and on.  The longterm forecasts offer only new storms with more of the same.  Eight below zero promised for tomorrow morning.  It's still cozy and delightfully leisurely in here.  I’m not saying we’re running low on food –
but last night I broke into the Kraft Macaroni I stock for  grandsons.  Note the last of the carefully-rationed orange juice.  

And behold --  the Fates took notice!  Just now, as we speak, an emergency supply of orange juice is delivered  by a venturesome niece. 
       This is turning into a fine adventure.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Gentleman's Agreement -- p. s.

Forgot to mention -- three things  I noticed, watching that 1947 movie:
* Women were pushing baby carriages on the sidewalk -- what ever happened to baby carriages?  or as they may have called them there in New York City, baby buggies? When's the last time you saw one?
* The exquisitely dressed Fashion Editor on the magazine was wearing huge shoulder pads.  What ever happened to them?  When's the last time you heard the words "shoulder pads"?
* And the one that moved me to write to you:  elderly mother has heart attack at home.  Doctor comes to the house  -- and that's not even the part I wanted to share with you.  Doctor steps out of her bedroom to son waiting in the hall.  Doctor says "I think with rest and..."  pause  "...quiet, that she'll pull through." 
What I wanted to tell you was what Doctor did in that pause before sharing the good news.
He lit a cigarette.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

More of the Same

What can I tell you?  I look at the five-day forecast IN THE NEWSPAPER every morning and still no sign it'll ever get above freezing.  Which means I'll never leave the house.  So there's nothing happening here.  It's redundant to show you what's going on, as most of you are probably experiencing the same thing.  But just in case, for those in California -- here's the bird bath.  And here's the tree outside my bedroom window. 
So yes, it's lots of lying in bed watching movies on TV.  The other night TCM, which is screening old Oscar winners, showed Gentlemen's Agreement.  I found I remembered exactly three things about that movie:  first, it must have been in 1947, because I was taking Creative Writing in my senior year (didn't learn a thing; fiction, it turned out, is not my metier.)  But I remember that our instructor, a grad student, took the whole class downtown to see that movie.  I knew nothing in those days, hadn't read the book, hadn't heard of the movie, hardly knew what a grad student was, had no idea why he thought we should see the film.  That's the first thing. 
Second, I remembered the plot -- Gregory Peck, WASP journalist, tells everyone he's Jewish, to gather material for a series he's writing on anti-Semitism.

And third, I remembered John Garfield, the
one-of-my-best-friends-is-a-Jew just back from The War, still crisp and beautifully pressed in his Captain's uniform. 
The other night I  realized why he was my only memory from the movie.  Short, dark, wiry, intense -- he reminded me of my father.  Who -- off-t0pic I know but it's nice to post his picture -- died only a couple of years after that.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

It Keeps On Coming

I don't understand why the falling snow doesn't show up in the picture I just took -- trust me, gang, it's snowing.  It's always snowing.  One weather prediction for tomorrow expects a high of 2 -- not one of those wind-chill thingies and not a low. A high.
Things are still cozy, orange juice is holding out, and it's relaxing not having left  the house for who knows how many days now. 
 So okay, we all know goldfinch come back up north late, maybe in June, so they can use the opening milkweed pods to build nests.  But this morning I find this misguided dingy goldfinch, and as soon as I get the camera out, darned if its relatives don't join it.  They vanished just after I took their picture, and here's why: 

Clearly, the sensible thing was to go back to bed, where surfing cable revealed a choice of  movies, including Little Women, Titanic, and The Full Monty.  Of course I'd seen all of them.  Norm and I even saw the Full Monty on stage in London, years ago.  At the live play, you are wondering, how did they treat the strippers' last scene?  Did those guys really dance their way down to the full monty?  Well -- I believe they did, but it's hard to say, because just as the music reached the "tah-dah!" the stage burst into floodlights -- right in  our eyes. 
The Monty (which was, of course, the movie I chose) had commercials, but that was okay because then I could surf back to glimpses of the others.  I came in on Titanic just in time for the sketch of the nude heroine (definitely a theme to this morning) and then I hit "Little Women" just as Beth died, and this time I did not cry. 
      I used to enjoy asking friends if they remembered how old Beth was when she died.  Average answer is "around 14."  But think about it -- Jo had already left home to seek her fortune.  Amy was in Europe, soon to marry.  People (women) are surprised to realize that Beth was in her 20s when she died. (So was the author's sister Elizabeth Alcott.)  
Second question: what did she die of?  The response was usually "I don't know, maybe tuberculosis?"  But not so.  There's not a cough in the whole book.  Far as I can figure, Beth may have had a weak heart -- remember that earlier scarlet fever?  Or maybe she just Went In to a Decline.  That happened a lot in those days.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Still Snowbound

I'm touched by the emails and comments inquiring how Snowbound is coming -- truth is it's cozy and relaxing. Here's an update on the yellow car -- I thought I'd take the picture through the icicles, but it appears the storm door is frozen shut, so this is through the glass.*
*not to worry.  The garage door opens fine and the driveway is plowed and I'm wearing one of those "help, come get me" buttons you push when you fall and the keys to the house are in a lockbox on the front door post, which is, come to think of it, behind this frozen storm door...
     Yes, friends, as this is a blog about Being Old, yes -- I do stay in bed till noon watching  movies on tv.  To answer the inquiry about titles -- mostly they're showing old favorites (or since the query comes from Canada, it's mostly old favourites.)   I hesitate to name names for fear the more academic amoung you may sneer -- the movies I like aren't all that cerebral.  This morning it was
 Doc Hollywood --


any of you ever see it?  Recent MD graduate driving to California to interview with a fancy plastic surgeon gets stuck in a small Southern town that needs a doctor.  I forget his name (cute short guy, Back to the Future, Parkinsons?)  but I've always liked the movie, good dialog and he makes the most of it.
Same with another I've always enjoyed -- Starman was on yesterday.  Do you know it?  Channel surfing brought me to it right at the line I've always remembered -- the outer space Starman, protesting that he knows how to drive, says "I watch you very carefully.  Red means stop, green means go, yellow means go very fast."

Saturday, February 7, 2015


It’s so great being snowbound, haven't left the house for more than a week.  That orange juice day I stocked up on bread, milk and Cherry Garcia. Phone still working so I cancelled a doctor appointment (nothing pressing -- dermatologist -- “patients never die and they never phone you in the middle of the night”), didn't attend that movie in the Holocaust series, dropped out of the Museum course on art appreciation (too hard keeping up as the class walks anyhow), cancelled the seniors lunch, nothing to do but stay in bed watching movies and feeling guilty about not doing the income tax. Didn't transfer the winter car into the garage in time, so there's another excuse for holing up.  And we've another big snowstorm predicted.
My only regret was that nothing was happening, so I had nothing to tell you. But adventures come to those who wait.  Today's newspaper shows this in the next town over and I thought you'd enjoy seeing it --
So anyhow -- I don’t shovel the front walk, instead I put up a winter mailbox by the garage. Don't use the front door.  But I happened to open it today, and here's what I saw:
Do you supose that means there's something I should do about something? about the gutters? the soffit? the roof?
I'm not going to.

Monday, January 26, 2015

OJ Report

Interesting, but nothing spectacular to report. I arrived the requested 15 minutes early, looked back down  when I left the elevator – include the picture here just to orient you.

Made my way to the Champagne Room, which was full of scientific-looking white-coated characters setting the place up.

  Directed to the sign-in table, then found myself waiting with  other – we discovered comparing notes – veteran buyers of  fresh orange juice.  My group included 22 citizen scientists, one of whom did not show up.  I believe there were five groups at other times, so more than 100 subjects tested.  The room had a distinct elderly feeling  – who else is free for such adventures in the afternoon? and a well-spoken prosperous aura floating around – who else can afford to buy fresh orange juice?  We even had a mink coat in there, an old-fashioned touch – but it was, after all,  8 degrees out and snowing.

Over the course of two hours we evaluated three different juices, with ritual crackers and spring water to clear the palate between tastings.  Obediently we considered color and answered questions, then in unison we inhaled and recorded our judgment of fragrance before drinking.  And then “please put booklet one aside and turn over booklet two but don’t open it yet” it became apparent what this was all about.  

Eventually they did reveal which had been the just-squeezed orange juice as we knew it -- #321.  Turned out every person in the group had preferred it.  The other ojs were also fresh, but each had been treated for longer shelf life with something called HPP and/or flash-freezing.  Everyone found them “chemical” and  “metallic”, and people complained of an unpleasant aftertaste.  I didn't finish the third one.

Then we spent another hour answering questions in those booklets.  How much would you be prepared to spend for a half-gallon of #321?  #682?  Why? Would you expect to find it in the dairy cases or with the produce?  Why? If it had a longer shelf life would you buy several bottles at once?  Why?  If studies said the treated juice was just as nutritious, would you believe them?  Why?  How much pulp do you prefer – none, some, a lot?  Why? 
We ended up with open discussion, recorded of course.   It  became apparent that even if the flavor could remain the same, nobody in that room wanted fresh orange juice that lasted longer, or would be prepared to buy it at any price.  Evidently – as with a soap bubble or fireworks – evanescence is part of the appeal.

And then I took my $75 gift card downstairs and bought $81 worth of food, including a $10 half-gallon of untreated fresh-squeezed orange juice.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Suspense is Building

Only 24 hours to wait, folks!  So far in my career as Citizen Scientist I've sat in a dark booth with my hair full of gunky electric stuff, looking at what seemed like hours' worth of dumb pictures -- and boy did I need a shampoo when that one was over!
Couldn't find a picture that included the penny.
I've memorized the words Apple, Table and Penny, so I could recite them back when asked ten minutes later -- and I still can today.  When this bit comes up in another study, I have to  suggest the interviewer pick three other words -- last time, I remember, it included a  quarter.  Do you suppose there's always a coin involved?
I've identified the pictures on flash cards.
I've been injected with who knows what (and it turned out to be with nothing; I was in the control group.)
I've fasted so They could take blood (after which I was given a coupon for breakfast and sent down to the Cafeteria; that was nice)
and lots more, but nothing in my career has prepared me for tomorrow's session with the supermarket chain's Survey Service Company and the scheduled session on Orange Juice.  So far they've sent two emails, three phone calls  and two snail-mailings about it.

I'm so excited !!!  What's Gonna Happen???   Don't touch that dial !!!

  P. S.  I re-open this bulletin to share with you -- just looked at their latest mailing, the one with the map and instructions.  Bring reading glasses (that last in bold face), photo identification, re-check name and address for spelling and/or numerical errors immediately "as this will match all documents used for this study."  (See -- it's not just a taste test; it's a Study.)  But what I wanted to tell you is the names of the conference rooms where a hostess will be waiting when I emerge from the elevator -- the Burgundy and Champagne rooms.          
              Hey, what do you suppose are the chances I'll be judging Mimosas?!  

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Weird Citizen Science

Can’t wait to tell you about the upcoming study that will certainly be the high point of my career as a Citizen Scientist.  I hadn’t ever heard that term until recently -- maybe it’s new?  Saw it first in connection with Cornell’s backyard bird count, felt proud.
But first, a brief summary of my scientific career so far:
Norm’s mother died (much too young) from complications with shingles.  So years ago we volunteered for a study seeking a shingles vaccine.  At the initial interview, I was asked if I’d ever had chicken pox. “Never did,” I replied.  “Oh, yes you did.  Everyone does, only sometimes it’s so mild they don’t even realize it.”  Found myself wondering why they bothered to ask the question.  But anyhow, study ended, vaccine developed and approved.  Turns out Norm had received it, I’d been in the control group so I got a free shot.
     That felt so useful I started volunteering for all sorts of studies.  It’s always delightful to talk about oneself, play games, answer questions.  I'm in one looking for a marker for Alzheimers (study ended up in the New Yorker, still going on).   From that one I sneaked enough information so that every time I blunder I can reassure myself -- I don’t have the big A;  I’m just getting old.
      Another “cognition” (yet another new word) study involved  grad students coming to the house to put computer games on my machine – I seem to remember busting balloons with numbers on them for “exactly 25 minutes each day.”  Never could find out if that increased my score on the before-and-after cognition tests at the University.
     Weirdest study involves interviewers coming to the house (that’s a plus already) and, as Boswell writes so happily in his journal “we then talked about ME.”   “In the past three weeks how often have you…” and then, subtly hidden among  the questions, things like several versions of “thought about suicide?”   The study turned out to involve the assignment of an Artificial Friend who visits, invites out to lunch, telephones.  Later the interviews evaluate the effects of treating loneliness.  Thank God I’m evidently in the control group.  I'd have quit before being assigned as Friend or Friendee.  As it stands,  I just get to talk about ME.
     (Off-topic:  just googled looking for "friend images" and found hundreds of illustrations -- puppies, children, teenagers --NOT A SINGLE ONE SHOWING ANYONE OLDER THAN 21.)
     But anyhow, the oddest study of all is coming up.  Several weeks ago I received a phone call:  Would I like to participate in a study at Wegmans’ supermarket evaluating orange juice?  Two weeks later, a phone interview to see if I qualified, and evidently I passed.  Just received a letter confirming my session on January 31 (you can be sure I’ll tell you all about it.)  Map included, showing directions to the meeting rooms above the store I always shop at anyhow.  In the meantime, two confirming emails.  This “Adelman Research Group” seems a lot more organized than those grad students.
     I’ll be given a $75 Wegmans gift card for my trouble.  Do you think this ends my amateur status as a Citizen Scientist?  

Friday, January 16, 2015

One In Twenty

How come? -- lately there's something I need to share with you about almost every day, while other times a week can go by -- at an rate, here's an article from this morning's USAToday.  You're supposed to read it and object to the fact that all the nominees are white, but for someone my age -- well, I'd got only that far at the seniors lunch today when the woman next to me interrupted:
"I know what you're going to say.  You didn't recognize one of those faces, right?"
And she went on to say "Whenever I pick up People magazine" -- and there she hastened to add the usual apology "at the doctor's waiting room" -- "I don't know one of the celebrities they're talking about." 
So we had a good table discussion about the old black-and-white movies on TCM, agreed that we don't just recognize Clark Gable, but also know lesser actors -- that was Franchot Tone, wasn't it?  and Lew Ayres?   
Reading the newspaper's fine print this morning, I discovered that the witch in the lower right corner is Meryl Streep -- but she's such a chameleon that doesn't count.  And full disclosure:  I did recognize one of the 20 actors shown here -- Julianne Moore, who is in Still Alice.  That was one good book; I'll need the captions, so I hope the movie comes available on a Netflix CD pretty soon.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Backyard Mystery

It's painfully bright sunshine out there -- why do these pictures come out so gloomy blue?  But anyhow, here's the question:
What made this weird stuff in the snow?  It doesn't seem to track off anywhere, so I'd guess it wasn't the deer.
I'll include a closeup -- best I can get with this vintage camera and through the window -- to assist in your speculations.
(and no, I don't think it's plops of snow fallen from the trees --  most of these are out in the open.) 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Big Brother is Alive and Well

     You probably know about tinnitus (can be pronounced either way).  I’ve had it for years – sometimes buzzing, hissing or sirens in the ears, sometimes along the lines of people talking softly in another room.  It’s great how the brain ignores it most of the time.  Maybe you already have it – if so, get your hearing checked because it is sometimes an early warning.
     But in the last couple of weeks, something entirely new.   Driving, I found myself wondering if the radio was on very low.  Finally nailed it down – when I turn my head, which evidently happens a lot in driving,  I hear a musical note.  Shake my head back and forth and it’s two notes, chimes, a third apart.  Shake more quickly and it gets louder.
     So of course I immediately diagnosed brain tumor!!  An exchange of emails with my physician, though, convinced me it’s just another form of tinnitus.  And -- this is relevant -- I noted that in my journal, a folder in Microsoft Word.
     Okay, so today when I got on the computer, I immediately found myself facing an ad for a tinnitus remedy.  You tell me – how did They find out about this?  I wouldn’t like to think that fancy medical site is open to any interested ad agency.  Nor is the idea of my journal being snooped a particularly happy thought. 

And as I was writing this, I was interrupted by a phone call from the supermarket.  Would I be willing to join a panel to evaluate fresh orange juice?  Well, at least that one’s no mystery – because I dutifully offer that Shoppers Club card every time I check out, they know that fresh orange juice is one of my biggest extravagances.  

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Maytime Revisited

    I woke before dawn,  clicked on the bedroom tv, and the movie, just starting, was Maytime.  Immediately I was back more than three-quarters of a century, a child in the dark in a little movie theatre in a little village.    
     Would the story of Jeanette Macdonald and Nelson Eddy, their one perfect day in May with those apple blossoms filling the screen, still strike me as wildly romantic?  Would I still cry at the end?  Would those voices still seem marvelous?
     Well, I did notice a few things that had escaped me when I was 12.  He does sing through his nose a bit, and I can't really judge her because I can  no longer hear high notes at all.   I don't know all that much about opera, but I question whether a world-famous prima donna would really star in everything from Delibes to Wagner.  I no longer think "You must give up your career for love" is a valid piece of advice -- that was so 1930s.
     And when Eddy is shot by jealous husband John Barrymore (over-acting with Shakesperean grimaces) I just know we're now going to get that standard Hollywood scene. 
     Yes, here it comes: she rushes to cradle the dying man's head in her arms and yes, she never thinks to stanch the flow of blood or call for a doctor.  Instead on cue she leans into the camera to catch his dying words.  Clearly, with perfect delivery, in that thrilling baritone he says "You'll never be alone.  I'll always be with you."  After which his eyes suddenly close and his head drops abruptly on her arm. 
     I meant to reach for my notepad and jot down the exact words so I could report them to you accurately.  But I couldn't.  I was crying.
     Real tears.