Saturday, October 12, 2019

Three Blind Mice, and Another One...

A wonder of the internet is that we can explore and discover all kinds of information. A piece of worthless trivia unearthed this week is that on October 12, 1609 – over 400 years ago – the nursery rhyme Three Blind Mice was published in London. In case it has been a very long time since you crooned with a toddler or two, here are the lyrics:

Three blind mice, three blind mice,
See how they run, see how they run,
They all ran after the farmer’s wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
Did you ever see such a thing in your life,
As three blind mice?

The verse seems cute and innocent. It is anything but. Adults and the toddlers they teach have no idea the rhyme has underlying meaning. And not a delightful one. 
Many nursery rhymes recited today were written in England during a time when speaking openly against the government, the King or Queen, or the Church, was dangerous and could result in dire consequences. To get around this obstacle dissenters wrote poems cloaked in innuendo.
Three Blind Mice, based on a true event, is one example. The three blind mice refers to three Protestant noblemen convicted of plotting against Queen Mary I, ruler of England and Ireland from 1553 until her death in 1558. Mary was Catholic and determined to reverse the Protestant Reformation. She killed many Protestants and earned the nickname Bloody Mary. The farmer’s wife alludes to Mary and her husband, King Philip of Spain. They owned a number of large estates. Mary did not have the three men dismembered and blinded, as inferred in the rhyme. However the three men were burned at the stake in 1555.
In our time free speech is a right (in some parts of the world). We can speak and write diatribes proclaiming opposition to whoever or whatever we want. Sometimes the target is apparent, and sometimes the target is revealed obliquely, or not at all. 
An example is the popular 1980 song by the British band Queen, Another One Bites the Dust. I don’t sing along whenever heard on the radio because of the song’s message; the message I learned. A Google search finds more than one meaning, but I still don’t feel comfortable warbling the lyrics.

A theme of the song is death, referenced in the phrase “another one bites the dust”. The song may represent a metaphorical death, like the end of a romantic relationship, or - the interpretation I learned - the song is all about mass murder. On a lighter note, another piece of trivia discovered in my research is that the song played backwards conveys (maybe) a pro-marijuana message.

Perhaps each person should figure out what the song is all about for themselves. As for future generations, young and old may continue crooning the song, its enduring popularity due to the captivating tune and lyrics.

Here is a YouTube of Another One Bites the Dust. Reach your own conclusion...

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Golden Years Bring Tears

 Age-wise, I am in a sweet spot dubbed ‘the golden years’. The term was first coined in a 1959 ad for Sun City, Arizona, considered the first active adult retirement community. The phrase is supposed to conjure images of retirement, leisure time, relaxation, enjoyment of life - a stretch of time before the ailments and illnesses of old age prevail. 

What I am learning as I march into my sunset years is that those ailments and illnesses don’t pop up one day, a message screaming, OK, gal, you’re now OLD. Rather those disorders creep up on you – maybe not you, but definitely on me. One day I feel fine, one day I AM fine, and the next day something is not quite right...

My latest issue is, according to my doctor, an allergy. To what I have no idea. I never had an allergy. Until now.

Suddenly I am fine and then my eyes tear and redden, my nose runs, I sneeze. Then the symptoms disappear. I tested to find out if the problem was my soap, makeup, shampoo...none of these variables made a difference. After months of this on-and-off scenario it was time for a professional opinion.

The diagnosis: I probably have an allergy to something (Eureka!). So I am trying an over-the-counter antihistamine, and if that doesn’t work will add a prescription med. 

What is going on? Why am I turning into a weak-bodied specimen?

Apparently I am not alone. There has been a world-wide increase in allergies among folks over 50 in the past few decades. In fact, so many older people succumb to allergies that WHO, the World Health Organization, has classified the trend an ‘epidemic’ of the 21st century.

Reasons for the rise in allergies over the past few years include:
·      Environmental transformations, such as climate change and pollution, contribute to increased susceptibility and lower body immunity.
·      Mold and pollen are common respiratory-related allergy agents. Climate variations, habitat destruction and alterations result in increased cases of allergies among adults.
·      The immune system and tissue structure changes as we age. A consequence can be heightened sensitivity to allergy-producing agents, such as foods and substances we breathe.
·      Everyday life may contribute to allergies in the form of stress. Stress releases hormones and other molecules that lead to allergy symptoms. Although not a direct cause of allergies, stress can make an allergy worse.

All this information is interesting but not helpful to my situation. On doctor’s orders I am to keep a diary of my allergy episodes, in the hopes that eventually a commonality will be found (another Eureka moment!).  Otherwise I will walk around forever wearing dark glasses as tears stream down my face and I bump into people and objects because my sight is impaired, while folks wonder – what is wrong with that woman?

To be continued, eventually, for better or worse...

Sunday, September 29, 2019

The Hamilton Hype is Well-Deserved

We prepared beforehand, listening to Hamilton on YouTube. No action, no pictures, but with the most important element necessary to appreciate the show - the lyrics. 

It is not easy to understand all the words on the album when first heard. It is probably an impossible task. Rewind, listen carefully, re-read the words on the screen a second or third time (or more) – and appreciate. And you can enjoy all this for free! Or, to be more precise, for the cost of your monthly internet fee. Occasionally the rendition is interrupted by a commercial break, but after a click on the Skip ad note in the corner of the screen the ad disappears and the music continues. We did not listen to the entire performance, all 2 hours and 22 minutes, at one time, but absorbed it over a period of days. 

This was preparation for attending a live performance, Hamilton the musical and Broadway play. Except we saw it in Philadelphia.

The hype, in my opinion, is well deserved. The characters, the lyrics, the hip-hop music, the story all weave together to create a masterpiece. Our tickets were $167 each, and as hub declared, we were in nosebleed territory, but we saw and heard everything. 

Do not despair if ticket prices are too steep for your pocketbook. I am sure there will be a movie eventually – probably currently in the works, or at the very least the film rights are being negotiated at this moment. Local playhouses will produce the show, with varied success. Meanwhile listen to the entire show on YouTube. Free. Or invest in the album.

Some people are familiar with Alexander Hamilton, craftsman of the country’s financial system, killed in a duel with Aaron Burr, at the time America's Vice President. A potpourri of historical figures appear in the show, many familiar and others less so: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Marquis de Lafayette, General Charles Lee, King George III (my favorite and the comic relief character.) And the show’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, did not forget the ladies. The Schuyler sisters, Eliza, Angelica, and Peggy, emerge onstage, and two of them play key roles in the show. 

There are observers upset by the fact that the country’s founders are portrayed by performers who do not look anything like the originals. In the play they are black, brown, Asian...One purist noted that, in the production we saw, the Thomas Jefferson character was short. In ‘real life’ he was a tall man. Does it make a difference? At what point is it OK to be historically inaccurate? And when is it important to stick to the facts? I don’t have the answers, but these are thought-provoking issues for debate.

The playwright’s idea was to make the story of the creation of the nation a narrative Americans today can relate to. Costumes are not 21st century, but do not adhere to 18th century protocol either - no powdered wigs, long waistcoats or knee breeches. The play focuses on relatable characters, language understandable to careful listeners, and  issues, ideas, and disputes relevant today.

Hamilton the musical rocks.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Downton Abbey: The Movie

The hype worked for me. Six seasons of episodes immersed in an upper crust, extravagant lifestyle, exhibits of Downton Abbey clothes, dinnerware, table settings and other items, Facebook posts, TV commercials – all whet my appetite for THE movie.

I bought tickets online the day before the movie opened. Seniors that we are, hub and I chose a late afternoon time slot. We arrived a few minutes early, splurged on a bag of popcorn and entered the theater (one of seven screens). Of course the movie did not start at 4:20; previews began at that time. We settled into oversized plush seats, anticipating an enjoyable two hours captivated by another world.

I didn’t mind the previews; they passed quickly as I munched away. Finally, after an
opening scene in which viewers don’t know what is going on until later in the movie, the pristine English countryside appears onscreen. As the camera moves out to reveal a grander view, our eyes settle on Downton Abbey, an English almost-castle. We become engrossed in the lifestyle of lords and ladies as well as a peak into the life of commoners. 

The year is 1927. Life is good, but even aristocrats have a challenging time making ends meet. Numerous servants to pay, clothes to buy (how many outfits are needed when you dress for dinner every night?), food to purchase, a castle to maintain...

And the king and queen invite themselves over for a night.

Folks not familiar with the show need a cheat sheet of the characters and a review of the events of season six if they hope to figure out what is going on. Wikipedia is a great resource for a list of the entire cast throughout the show’s six seasons. 

What struck me as interesting, and rather sad, is that many of the issues confronting the characters and the country remain problems today – England and Ireland, homosexuality, the role of women in society.

The usual cast members show up. Some look older (Lady Grantham and Mr. Carson), some better than ever (Tom Branson). Everyday dilemmas of the characters interweave with preparations for the king and queen’s visit. To add to character confusion new ones are introduced, and I bet a couple will appear in future movies/TV miniseries/comic books/videogames, when and wherever the saga continues.

There are light-hearted moments and banter, exquisite outfits, pageantry, a little intrigue. Downton Abbey fans will appreciate the film, others not so much. A couple of story lines seem to set the stage for a sequel. Or two or three. I can’t wait...

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Debating Law and Order

I sit on a bed in a motel in St Augustine, Florida, on a road trip with hub. The Democratic debate blares on TV and I listen, sort of. If I pay too close attention I get a headache. 

The objective of this trip (who wants to be in the sunshine state during a sizzling, hurricane-prone time? Not me. Or hub. We fly home the day after reaching our destination.)- to deliver our 2012 Mazda 3 to our grandson, 15-years-old and recent recipient of a learner’s permit. We purchased a new car (Honda CR-V). The trade-in price proposed was so low we shrugged it off and offered the car to any member of our extended family in need of wheels. Initially rejecting the idea, on reconsidering our Florida family decided a used Mazda beats no car at all.

The candidates on the screen drone on. And on. One of the many topics discussed is law and order. My mind wanders to the late great TV show of the same name. Friday, September 13th is the show’s anniversary. Law & Order debuted on that date in 1990 on NBC, and lasted twenty seasons, tied with Gunsmoke (1955-75) and a Law & Order franchise spin-off, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999-present), for the longest-running live-action scripted American primetime series.

The original show spawned a number of spin-offs in addition to Law & Order: Special Victims Unit...Criminal Intent, Trial by Jury, LA, True Crime, Hate Crimes, foreign adaptations – including a Law & Order UK, and TV movies and video games. The Chicago TV series are also part of the Law & Order franchise – Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D., Chicago Med, and Chicago Justice, which lasted only one season. There may be more, but it’s hard keeping up and I am currently not a fan of any of these shows...

The original Law & Order produced 1,149 episodes. I cannot imagine binge-watching the entire series. How many days...weeks...months would it take? In the past I watched the show on and off over the years. But I am sure if watched again I would not remember which character committed the crime (usually murder). Want to watch old episodes or the entire series? You can’t. For some reason known only to decision-making media magnates, the show is not currently available on any streaming service.

Honestly, I would prefer to sit back, relax and watch three episodes of Law & Order than develop a low-grade headache watching the Presidential candidates spar verbally for three hours. Unless I move to another state quickly (like Iowa or New Hampshire), my vote will have no impact on which candidate carries the Democratic Presidential mantle. My state’s primary is too late to make any impact on the choice of candidate. Whose brilliant idea was it for the debates to drag on for three hours? 

I cannot watch the entire debate. My motel bed beckons...

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Seafood at the Seashore

Locals consider September the best month in our shore town. The weather is mild and sunny (most days), the days long (although getting shorter by minutes each day), the water warm, restaurants uncrowded (except Saturday nights), and parking spots available. Special events bring folks out to enjoy the atmosphere and activities.

This weekend the Downbeach Seafood Festival served up delicious food, with vendors representing some of the most popular (and best) seafood places in the area. There was music, games for the kids, a beer tent, cooking demonstrations and dance performers.
I am not sure you can read the print on this poster, 
but the various items offered by the restaurant vendors are listed.
Fish tacos - my choice, with soft tacos, fresh fish and veggies - lobster rolls, 
an entire boiled dinner, clams, mussels, shrimp...
The chef at a local hotel (the Sheraton) demonstrated how to
cook a fish - the picture above shows a tilefish she prepared, 
caught in the waters off Brigantine, NJ.
An event at the shore must have a sand sculpture!
After the festival, a couple of hours at the beach. 
Beach time is precious now as each day brings autumn closer...
followed by winter cold...then spring rains...and finally summer. 
I can't wait!

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Boomers Forge Ahead into the Transitional Month of September

All at once, summer collapsed into fall.
-      Oscar Wilde

This Labor Day weekend the weather could not have been better. My beach town is overrun with folks taking in the last summer rays, waiting patiently in long lines for their preferred ice cream concoction, savoring favorite restaurant dishes. But shorter days and cool nights remind us that it is time to prepare for a new season’s activities and learn something new. 

This week the boomers have some ideas to help jump-start your autumn. 

Continuing with her 2019 theme of extreme self-care, Jennifer, of Unfold and Begin, focuses on our health with her September calendar.  It's Time to Tune-up in September, remind us how important it is to take care of our body and our mental and emotional well-being. If you haven't already, it's time to make those important Doctor appointments in September.

Tom at Sightings Over Sixty was surprised to read in a recent poll that almost half of the people surveyed believe that Medicare is free. In What Does Medicare Cost? he offers a primer to how much we pay to get coverage -- so new retirees don't get too much of a shock, and so the rest of us can review what we really do pay for our benefits.

You'd think technology would distance people from annoyances but in some cases, it has created brand new levels of intrusion. Over at Heart-Mind-Soul, Carol Cassara puts on her curmudgeon hat and lays out some of today's intrusive marketing efforts and other 21st century annoyances in "You Can...But Should You?”.

On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer and personal finance journalist, writes about what to do about your digital assets as you get older. Digital assets are something of value or significance created online or on a mobile phone, laptop, or tablet.

Sometimes we just want to 'get away from it all'  - including the 24/7 news - if only for a few hours. 

Living in a big city like Los Angeles can make you crazy but there are many wonderful places you can go to get away for a while. Rebecca Olkowski, with went to visit The Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens near Pasadena. She spent the day there in its serene environment. Here’s what she saw.

You know the feeling. If you see one more all red, all caps “Breaking News” flash, you’re gonna blow. There’s too much coming at us too often and it’s happening all the time. According to Laurie Stone at Musings, Rants, & Scribbles, here are 4 signs you’re on cable news overload and what to do about it

I am in the process of 'getting away from it all' by binge watching a British TV series. Read all about it here.

Check out this week's boomers and drop them a line. We love to hear from you.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Ten reasons I got hooked on the British detective series Midsomer Murders

Binge watching has become all the rage. Why wait week after week for another episode of a favorite show? Why wait anxiously through a seasonal hiatus and begin watching again when you have a 21st century alternative – binge watch the entire series, whether a 3-episode miniseries or a show with a 20-year longevity. 

Yup, that’s me. The show: the British detective series Midsomer Murders. First aired in England in 1997, 21st season currently in production. Each episode 1½ hours. 119 episodes after 20 seasons. 

A lot of TV viewing. 

Too much squandered time, I admit. But the show is addictive. 

The setting is a somewhat affluent fictional county of small villages, farms, and country
manors. The manors are not as large as the grandiose Downton Abbey, but impressive nonetheless. Smaller dwellings also appear, characterized by low ceilings and doorways and tended flower gardens, crammed with the stuff of British middle-class life. Run-down shacks in the woods house folks of dubious backgrounds.

A pub or two play a part in most episodes, venues with dark wood paneling and a bar counter where detectives search for strangers and chat with tavern owners and barmaids. Village folks occupy cozy alcoves and guzzle alcoholic beverages, consume hearty meals, and gossip. A village church and its vicar recur...also the police station...and scenic narrow country roads, settings for car crashes, hit and runs, and mad dashes to prevent another murder. There is rarely only one homicide per episode.

Ten reasons I got hooked on the British detective series Midsomer Murders:

1.   I like detective shows, everything from Perry Mason, Murder She Wrote, Columbo and Castle to Elementary.
2.   Great scenery. Villages look unscarred by 20th and 21st century development – no chain stores or supermarkets, little traffic, pristine landscapes. Family-owned businesses proliferate, although financial troubles surface, a common theme.
3.   The actors look like real people. Apparently British TV does not feel the need to make every actor/actress handsome/pretty. 
4.   Interesting story lines and no annoying commercial breaks.
5.   The culprit is not obvious, but can be deduced.
6.   I am learning a little British lingo, and closed captions (British accents can be difficult to understand) ensure none of the dialogue or background sounds - music, doors creaking, footsteps - are missed.
7.  Lead actors are appealing.
8.   Don’t need to watch in sequence; each episode can stand alone.
9.   Amusing dialogue and dark humor lighten the drama.
10.Characters mirror real life - everybody has secrets, some relevant to the case and others irrelevant.

Midsomer is an idyllic (except for the murders) semi-rural region. I wonder what will happen when the writers kill off everyone living, working, and visiting the various Midsomer villages. 

How many more years can Midsomer Murders endure?

Meanwhile I am on season 16... 

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Lost then Found

After two weeks in Scotland it was time to get back to ‘real life’. We - hub and I - arrived home Sunday night. Monday was jam-packed with meetings, food shopping, reviewing mail, paying bills, and recuperating from jet lag and the seven-hour, unfun flight across the pond. No time to unpack.

I needed the car to drive to meetings and haul groceries. I knew where my key was. On the way out of the country we drove to the airport and parked at an off-site lot. I threw placed my key in a pocket of my backpack. 

Or so I thought.

Fast forward two weeks. Back home, I go for my key. Let is nowhere to be found, but not wanting to be late for my meeting I did not undertake a thorough search. I grabbed hub’s key and rushed out the door.

I did not worry, initially. Maybe I placed my key in a different backpack pocket, or someplace else entirely. After two weeks my mind and memory could be playing tricks on me.

Day two home. Time to unpack.

I emptied my backpack, not a usual task. Items like tissues, coins and pens remain forever in the bag. But in an effort to locate my key, everything came out. 

No key found.

I semi-panicked. It was time to methodically search elsewhere.

Maybe the key was in the car...a dresser drawer...a sweater or jacket pocket (unlikely, since I hadn’t worn either for weeks in the summer heat)...fell under the furniture...nothing. An unsuccessful hunt.

I realized the key might be forever lost. Maybe I took something out of my backpack, the key fell out and I didn’t notice. 

Hub and I could not rely on one key long-term. But replacement turned out not to be a simple undertaking. Or cheap. Keys nowadays are computer-programmed. We could not make a copy at the hardware store.

Hub called the Honda dealer and set up an appointment. The dealer needed the car to program a key. No problem, they told him, a one-hour job. Price? A lot. But we had no choice.

Hub rises early for the 7:00 am appointment and is out the door 6:30...

An hour later he reappears. “Finished already?”

“No, the repair department didn’t have the part. I rescheduled. The part will be in tomorrow.”

You are probably thinking, why didn’t the shop tell him when he called they did not have the part? Why didn’t they check before scheduling the appointment? I guess that would require too much trouble on their part. Better let the customer waste their time.

That afternoon I resigned to complete my unpacking and repacking. A small pile of items removed from my backpack sat on my dresser, including two plastic rain jackets. I picked one up and noticed a small bulge in the square-folded piece of plastic. I thrust my hand in the folds, routed around and – voila – MY CAR KEY!

I ran into the family room waving my key and shouting, “I found my key! I found it!” Hub thought something terrible happened...

But I solved the mystery!

Hundreds of dollars saved.

Next time I will write down the safe and secure place I store my key. 

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Impressions of Scotland

Wildflowers brighten the Scottish landscape.
Two weeks immersed in the land, culture, cuisine, and literary legends of Scotland, and I returned home exhausted. It took a couple of days to adjust to the time change and recover – mostly from a seven-hour flight confined to an American Airlines middle seat. Years ago a younger, more flexible me would have bounced back the next day. Oh well...


I spent most of my time in the town of Dundee. Before boarding a bus in Edinburgh for the city, about 1½ hours north of the capital, local folks inquired Why Dundee? It is not a popular tourist destination. The city is attempting an economic rebound centered on education and tourism. A branch of the Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum opened in January, 2019, and new hotels have opened.

I spent nine days in the city attending a writer’s conference sponsored by Murphy Writing of Stockton University (New Jersey) in cooperation with the University of Dundee. I attended workshops, wrote a great deal, walked miles, ate too much, and toured city and countryside.
Conference attendees stayed in University of Dundee dorm rooms.
This is the view from my room, the river Tay in the background.
The Cuisine...

A fun part of travel is sampling local fare. Fish and chips is a Scottish staple, available for a reasonable price at almost every pub in the country. Lightly breaded and fried, the fish usually haddock, with thick steak fries, also not immersed in grease, are delicious. Calories undetermined...

Baked beans are another local favorite, part of a typical breakfast and often found with dinner entrees as well. Peas, sometimes whole and other times mushy, are also a common meal accompaniment. 

The quintessential Scottish food and the national dish, however, is haggis

pudding (a boiled or steamed dish) composed of the liver, 
heart, and lungs of a sheep(or other animal), minced and 
mixed with beef or mutton suet and oatmeal and seasoned with onion, 
cayenne pepper and other spices
The mixture is packed into a sheep’s stomach and boiled.

The Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote a poem, An Address to the Haggis, immortalizing the dish. Here is the first stanza (there are 8 stanzas) of the poem in the original Scottish English, followed by a modern translation:

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, 
Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy o' a grace
As lang's my arm.

Great chieftain of the sausage race!
Above them all you take your place,
Stomach, tripe, or intestines:
Well are you worthy of a grace
As long as my arm.

I don’t want to give the wrong idea about the country’s culinary diversity. A wide range of eateries exist in Edinburgh and Dundee. We sampled French, Greek, Mediterranean, Italian, American (burgers of course), and Indian restaurants, along with local favorites. Cafes are everywhere and the coffee is wonderful.

A rainbow bagel discovered, and sampled, at a cafe in Dundee.
Local culture

Some cities dot the landscape with animals – like this one spotted in Edinburgh –

Dundee has its penquins, a nod to the city’s shipbuilding and navigaton history -

Dundee also is proud of its eight-foot statue of Desperate Dan – the strongest man in the world - a British comic character born in Dundee in 1937. 

Desperate Dan, the strongest man in the world!

The city also sports other comic characters – one example here:
A comic character, in front of the sailing vessel Discovery. The ship is anchored in
Dundee harbor and is open for tours.

Guidbye and see ye efter!