Friday, June 05, 2020

Militarization and the Police in Response to Protests After the Extrajudicial Killing of George Floyd

I found the obvious murder of George Floyd to be enraging. a fat person with high blood pressure over 60, I'm doing all I can to avoid COVID-19. So while I've participated in many protests over time, I have not been out yet to protest his murder or the overreaction of the Trump regime to it.

I have called Senator Toomey (pointless, I know as he doesn't listen to Democratic constituents). Today I sent the following letter to my senators and several others:

I am extremely troubled by the militarization of police to try to "quell" protesters. Yes, there have been some outside agitators causing trouble, but the vast majority of the protests have been peaceful.

There are unidentified military all over DC, some of whom are rumored to be border guards, which is ILLEGAL! (

Can the Senate act in some way to suppress this obvious abuse of power on the part of Trump? I have not been out protesting due to concern over COVID-19. When I do choose to go out and protest, I feel like I'm going to have to have a motorcycle helmet and something like armor in addition to a face mask because now I'm beginning to think the police could be a bigger danger than the virus.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Remember When 45 Said...

I did not write this, but I completely agree with it. We must keep track.

Remember when 45 said...

  • ...he was going to donate his salary? Well he just accepted his second paycheck
  • ...Mexico was going to pay for the wall? He has asked Congress to appropriate the $25 billion of taxpayer money to cover costs
  • ...he was going to divest from his businesses? Changed his mind
  • ...he was going to release his tax returns? Changed his mind
  • ...he wasn't going to go on vacation or play golf? 5 of the last 7 weekends he went on vacation and played golf, costing taxpayers $11.1 million
  • ...he was going to use American steel to build these dangerous pipelines? Russian steel arrived last week for the Keystone Pipeline XL
  • ...he said would defeat ISIS in 30 days? He still doesn't even have a plan
  • ...he said he was going to appropriate money to HBCUs? He lied to get a photo-op
  • ...he was going to drain the swamp of Washington insiders? His cabinet is filled with lobbyists, oil and Wall Street executives
  • ...he wasn't going to cut social security and Medicare? The Republican bill does just this
  • ...he said that nobody on his campaign has any communications with Russian govt? 7 of his people have now admitted they spoke and/or met with Russian officials, AFTER they lied and got caught
  • ...he said that the Obamacare replacement would cover more people at lower cost? The AHCA that the GOP and 45 are now pushing; they now admit will cover fewer people at a higher cost

Share so everyone can remember what a liar this so-called president (45) truly is. If you agree, please copy and paste this to your timeline or at least link to it.

Not a Happy Time in Real Life

I have no reason to complain. Jim and I are comfortably retired, while we can't travel, we are in a rural area with relatively little COVID-19 spread.


The behavior of some cops in some cities, the installed President Trump and much of the Congress is utterly appalling.

I have been disgusted by Trump since at least 1989, between his treatment of women and his call in a full page ad to execute some young black men who had attacked a white jogger. While the teens were convicted of some of the crimes (without physical evidence), they were later exonerated when someone else confessed to the attack. Trump has never apologized for calling to execute black men before their trial, and I knew he was a dangerous racist.

And over the last week, his inciteful behavior again shows us that he and his administration are all dangerous racists.

How low will Trump go?

Very low. Here is an excellent example of how Trump is misusing his office for the sake of a photo op:

A Force to Be Reckoned With

by Gini Gerbasi
Rector at St. John's Episcopal Church, Georgetown, Washington DC
Former Assistant Rector at St. John's Church, Lafayette Square

Friends, I am ok, but I am, frankly shaken. I was at St. John's, Lafayette Square most of the afternoon, with fellow clergy and laypeople - and clergy from some other denominations too. We were passing out water and snacks, and helping the patio area at St. John's, Lafayette square to be a place of respite and peace. All was well - with a few little tense moments - until about 6:15 or so. By then, I had connected with the Black Lives Matter medic team, which was headed by an EMT. Those people were AMAZING. They had been on the patio all day, and thankfully had not had to use much of the eyewash they had made. Around 6:15 or 6:30, the police started really pushing protestors off of H Street (the street between the church and Lafayette Park, and ultimately, the White House. They started using tear gas and folks were running at us for eyewashes or water or wet paper towels. At this point, Julia, one of our seminarians for next year (who is a trauma nurse) and I looked at each other in disbelief. I was coughing, her eyes were watering, and we were trying to help people as the police - in full riot gear - drove people toward us. Julia and her classmates left and I stayed with the BLM folks trying to help people. Suddenly, around 6:30, there was more tear gas, more concussion grenades, and I think I saw someone hit by a rubber bullet - he was grasping his stomach and there was a mark on his shirt. The police in their riot gear were literally walking onto the St. John's, Lafayette Square patio with these metal shields, pushing people off the patio and driving them back. People were running at us as the police advanced toward us from the other side of the patio. We had to try to pick up what we could. The BLM medic folks were obviously well practiced. They picked up boxes and ran. I was so stunned I only got a few water bottles and my spray bottle of eyewash. We were literally DRIVEN OFF of the St. John's, Lafayette Square patio with tear gas and concussion grenades and police in full riot gear. We were pushed back 20 feet, and then eventually - with SO MANY concussion grenades - back to K street. By the time I got back to my car, around 7, I was getting texts from people saying that Trump was outside of St. John's, Lafayette Square. I literally COULD NOT believe it. WE WERE DRIVEN OFF OF THE PATIO AT ST. JOHN'S - a place of peace and respite and medical care throughout the day - SO THAT MAN COULD HAVE A PHOTO OPPORTUNITY IN FRONT OF THE CHURCH!!! PEOPLE WERE HURT SO THAT HE COULD POSE IN FRONT OF THE CHURCH WITH A BIBLE! HE WOULD HAVE HAD TO STEP OVER THE MEDICAL SUPPLIES WE LEFT BEHIND BECAUSE WE WERE BEING TEAR GASSED!!!!

I am deeply shaken. I did not see any protestors throw anything until the tear gas and concussion grenades started, and then it was mostly water bottles. I am shaken, not so much by the taste of tear gas and the bit of a cough I still have, but by the fact that that show of force was for a PHOTO OPPORTUNITY. The patio of St. John's, Lafayette square had been HOLY GROUND today. A place of respite and laughter and water and granola bars and fruit snacks. But that man turned it into a BATTLE GROUND first, and a cheap political stunt second. I am DEEPLY OFFENDED on behalf of every protestor, every Christian, the people of St. John's, Lafayette square, every decent person there, and the BLM medics who stayed with just a single box of supplies and a backpack, even when I got too scared and had to leave. I am ok. But I am now a force to be reckoned with.

Thank-you, Rev. Gerbasi, for your decency and honesty. I wish we had that kind of behavior in our government and on more of our police forces where we need it desperately.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Happy Tales from Set: Oscar Isaac & Me

In 2011, I was an extra for Won't Back Down, a movie about a school in the inner city starring Viola Davis as a teacher and Maggie Gyllenhaal as a parent.

I was part of a big crowd scene. There was a really cute guy up with the teachers. I knew I recognized him but I couldn't figure out who it was and this bothered me.

After about an hour, someone yelled "Oscar!" and the cute guy left the school steps.

I realized it was Oscar Isaac. I turned to a friend and said "The last time I saw Oscar, he was naked!"

Well, naked on TV anyway. A few weeks earlier, I'd seen Robin Hood with a very attractive young actor co-starring as Prince John. The first scene in which Oscar Isaac appeared, he was quite naked.

But I had seen him at least one other time, as Orestes in the little seen-but otherwise excellent movie Agora. Agora starred a way too young Rachel Weiss as Hypatia, a scholar and librarian of the Library of Alexandria after her father's death. Oscar played a very tricky role very well, and I felt he was a potentially very interesting actor.

Like many science fiction fans, I'd read The Sparrow and Children of God, Maria Doria Russell's amazing books about an interstellar-traveling priest/linguist named Emilio Sandoz back in the '90s. There was some talk then that Antonio Banderas was attached to a possible production, and he would have been very good a Sandoz. That disappeared--perhaps the special effects needed to pull these movies off in the '90s wouldn't have been up to the tasks.

A few years later, though, Brad Pitt bought the rights to The Sparrow, and held them for a number of years.

Hmmm....Brad Pitt wouldn't be right for Sandoz...but Oscar Isaac sure would be. And by about 2010, CGI would have been good enough to pull off the necessary special effects.

I almost brought The Sparrow with me the next time I was called to set. I wondered if Oscar Isaac was familiar with the book and would want to be in a science fiction movie or two?

When you're an extra, you're not supposed to approach "the talent." I was usually pretty good about that beyond saying "Hi." Oscar was on set again, and this time there was more mingling between extras and "the talent" as a school festival was being shot. The assistant director sent Oscar over to one corner of the festival, and then sent me to the same corner.

So while we were waiting for the assistant director to call "Background!" (which is the call for the extras to start moving; this is said before the assistant director calls "Action!"), I told Oscar how much I'd enjoyed watching him in Agora (and did not mention Robin Hood).


"Have you ever read Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow? I hear Brad Pitt has the rights and you'd be a great Emilio Sandoz."

"Background!" the Assistant Director screamed and that was that. I saw Isaac from time to time, but we never had the chance to talk again.

Oh well.

At least we know now he has been in major science fiction movies, and he was very good in Ex Machina and the more recent Star Wars movies as Poe. He looks like he'll be an outstanding Duke Leto in Dune. And he's still not too old to play Emilio Sandoz.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Happy Tales from Set: The "Quiet" Jack Reacher Bus Scene

Steveo Parys, AD extraordinaire, said on Facebook 

"Asking all friends from the world of entertainment to join the challenge of posting a photo of themselves in their workplace."

I'm a movie extra, paid for something like 30 different productions since 2008, and this turned out to be my favorite day on set:

The day was in early November 2011.  The place was east of Pittsburgh, in an old car dealership in Holiday Park. The movie was Jack Reacher.  It was my favorite day on set for a bunch of reasons - one of the Production Assistants was Mia La Monica, an utterly awesome PA who was very kind to me when I'd tripped on a step a few days earlier and spilled my lunch (which included rice) all over the floor.  I was hanging out with  Joyce Lynne who was always fun to hang out with.  I'd stood line line for the bus, listening to Rosamund Pike (whose voice I'd long adored) and Tom Cruise act their way through a long scene about Jack Reacher's life.  

(yes, that's me in the light blue jeans jacket beside Rosamund's nose)

I got to watch director Christopher McQuarrie work a few days earlier on an action scene and found him very interesting to watch.  2011 had been a time to watch directors named Christopher directing action scenes as I was in the stadium scene for The Dark Knight Rises, directed by Christopher Nolan, which had been shot in August 2011.

So this day for Jack Reacher had been a long day.  They always hired many more extras than they needed for Jack Reacher scenes, probably to give them more flexibility if they needed it.  I'd been on set for three days, and while my car wound up being featured prominently the day before, I never was in front of the camera myself.  Though...I did get to briefly meet Caleb Deschanel who was the Cinemetographer.  Very cool. And I had watched the then unknown David Oyelowo do many takes to successfully shoot at Jack Reacher.  A few years later, David starred as Martin Luther King, Jr. in Ava Duverney's brilliant Selma.

Somehow, Joyce and I did wind up being in line for the bus, and stayed on the bus, which was very lucky because a bunch of extras were taken off to make room for the camera and the crew.

It was late, somewhere around midnight. Everyone was exhausted, and almost every extra did the same thing - dozed.

"Wait, you can't all sleep," Christopher McQuarrie called into the back of the bus.  "You need to do something.  Any ideas."


I'm not good with silence when someone asks for ideas.

"I could knit," I said.  I'd learned ages ago to always have a book and some knitting with me when I'm on set.

"Good," Christopher said.  "Move to the aisle seat."  Where Joyce had sat.

"Sorry, Joyce," I mumbered, and Joyce took the seat next to the window.

"We need more."

I said "Joyce could read my book."


I passed Joyce my book and pulled out my knitting.

"We need something else."

I knew the young people on my right had come together, so I said "She could sit on his lap and stick her feet into the aisle."

"No!" the young woman objected.

I forget what Christopher said, but she decided it would be OK if her naked feet stuck out in the aisle.

Five minutes later, the scene was shot and we were sent home.

The movie came out in 2012, and I think the DVD came out in 2013.  I love to listen to director's commentary, which, for this movie, was both the director, Christopher McQuarrie and the star, Tom Cruise.  When this scene came up, they both made a point of saying how hard the Pittsburgh extras worked on this movie!!  So what was another reason this scene was my favorite scene - not only was I in it, but I got to suggest three bits of business that the director used!

Another cool thing about this scene  - a friend from England emailed me after seeing the movie and said, "You have a doppleganger in Jack Reacher," so I got to reply "That was no doppleganger, that was me!"

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Yet More Reasons for the Senate to Convict and Expel Trump

In the fall of 2019, George Kent testified before the House Intelligence Committee, "You can’t promote principled anti-corruption action without pissing off corrupt people." This is the perfect description of the actions of Lev Parnas, RudyG & Robert Hyde (whom I think should now be called the SpyBoys) towards Ambassador Yovanovitch last spring. Actions at the behest of Trump.
Also at last fall's hearings, Ambassador Marie Yonvanovitch testified about her safety. She felt somewhat endangered. I assumed it was the Russians who were endangering her. It is beyond disgusting that it was likely Trump & his SpyBoys doing the endangering. Shouldn't this be another article of Impeachment?
I was a Nixon-supporting teen until I watched the Watergate hearings in 1973. The testimony made it clear Nixon was guilty, even though it took another year for him to resign. I could not support a criminal for president and stopped supporting Nixon in particular and his cronies.
I didn't think Bill Clinton was guilty of having an affair while in the White House and lying about it. When it was clear that Clinton was lying about it, I was angry about it, believed Monica, but didn't think a person should be impeached for lying about a personal matter, even under oath. I don't think Ike, JFK or George HW Bush ever publicly admitted to any of their well-documented affairs.
While I know the Senate has few Senators with any courage, it would be nice if some Republicans were capable of interpreting evidence and the Constitution and convicting Trump in the upcoming impeachment trial.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Open Letter to the Port Authority About Its Metrowest "Service"

Is it possible to start a conversation about how mass transit is becoming impossible to use in some areas?  I live in Metrowest.  It used to be easy to get a 28X to go to Downtown or Oakland.  Over the last 10 years or so, companies like IKEA and now Robinson Town Centre no longer permit people to park in their rarely-full lots.  For the first time I remember, the 28X was not full at rush hour yesterday, mostly due to the parking restrictions in Metrowest.

I wouldn't mind driving to Carnegie to get the G2, but the Park and Ride only has space for 215 cars.  It does come frequently, which is an advantage, but if you drive to Carnegie and there's no place to park, you're pretty much stuck driving to Downtown or Oakland and pay for parking as the other lots along the West Busway are tiny.  Shouldn't a mass transit plan aim to reduce the number of cars in already densely-trafficked areas like Downtown and Oakland?

There are options.  For a few years, the G2 used to go to the Mall at Robinson.  Particularly now that Sears has closed, the end of the Mall at Robinson lot has plenty of parking space.  If IKEA would open up the end of their lot by the now closed Toys R Us, that would open up several hundred spaces.  There's a rumor the small lot near the Applebees in Robinson can be used as a Park N Ride but it's not marked.

It's frustrating when you'd prefer to use mass transit to avoid adding to rush hour traffic and your only option is to risk having your car towed due to parking restrictions.  In the meantime, I won't be shopping at IKEA any time soon, and hope other Metrowest commuters will consider boycotting them with me.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

From AARP Bulletin 1/2019: 99 Ways to Add Healthy Years

(My honest answers), 1/2019 at age of 61


1-4. Establish baselines that count
Do you and your doctor monitor these important numbers?
1.    Blood pressure: High BP is more common than you think: A review of nearly 1,300 healthy people 55-65 put their future risk of hypertension at 90 percent.
(Have had high blood pressure since the '70s (including pre-eclampsia during labor in 1980) and have been on a BP drug since about 2009.)

2.    Waist-to-height ratio: Keep dangerous belly fat in check to extend your life. Researchers recommend a waist circumference less than half your height.
(Yeah, I do need to watch that better.)

3.    C-reactive protein: CRP is a marker of inflammation; a 2016 study found lower CRP levels in “successful” agers, and lower concentrations were associated with longer life. A CRP level below 2.0 mg/L is considered low risk. Ask your doctor if you’re a candidate for this test.
(Doesn't appear to be part of my blood test results - will ask)

4.  A1C: A study in the European Heart Journal predicts that a 55-year-old nonsmoking woman with high BP and cholesterol and an A1C of 6 (elevated) won’t make it to age 75. Let that A1C (a test of your blood sugar level) get higher than 8 and life expectancy drops below age 73.
(Doesn't appear to be part of my blood test results - will ask)

5. Update your insurance
A 2017 review found that insured adults had a 37 percent lower mortality risk, and near-elderly people with insurance showed slower health declines
(Still have good insurance)

6. Get to the dentist
Seeing a dentist two or more times a year may lower your risk of mortality from all causes by 30 to 50 percent, according to a Journal of Aging Research study.
(Still go to the dentist - no cavities in years)

7. While you’re at it, floss
According to that same study, nonflossers had a 30 percent higher death risk than daily flossers. Poor oral hygiene has been linked to elevated C-reactive protein inflammation levels.
(...but...I really hate to floss)

8-12. Schedule these 5 screenings

    Colonoscopy   (started having them at 41 due to irritable bowel.  have had some pre-cancerous polyps removed)
    Mammogram   (do this annually - mother died at 86 due to metastasized breast cancer)
    Hepatitis C  (passed this one)
    Skin cancer  (have had an occasional precancerous growth, removed)
    Prostate cancer  (not my issue, but shouldn't you be suggesting that post-menopausal women have occasional gynecological screenings?)

13-18. Check the mirror for these 6 things

    Eyes: Yellowing could signal liver problems, such as hepatitis.   (OK)
    Eyelids: Drooping can indicate Bell’s palsy or, worse, a stroke.  (Always had "heavy eyelids")
    Lips: Cracked or dry lips could mean a vitamin B deficiency.   (OK)
    Teeth: Acid reflux erosion can narrow or shorten teeth.  (OK)
    Tongue: A white tongue could be oral thrush (common in denture wearers). A black fuzzy tongue (yikes!) suggests an infection. Call the doctor.  (OK)
    Your whole face: Dry or discolored patches, or changing moles, could signal skin cancer.   (OK)

19 Get Some Sleep
A 2018 University of Pennsylvania study found that the effect of sleep deprivation on the body mimicked the aging process on a cellular level, where it can cause cognitive decline and impaired memory. Meanwhile, a Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience study found an association between regular slumber patterns in older adults and longevity. Prioritize your sleep routine and respect the z’s.
(One of my two worst problems.  Developed severe insomnia in 2002 and have rarely slept over 5 hours a night since.  Unable to work a full time job since 2008 as my concentration is toast by 1pm.  Tried many kinds of drugs, increased exercise substantially, don't drink coffee, drink alcohol occasionally...this has been extraordinarily frustrating.)

20. But not too much sleep
Another study found that those who slept more than 10 hours a night had a 30 percent higher risk of early death.
(Never have to worry about that)

21. Snap a selfie
And keep it on your phone. If you ever see something unusual in the mirror, take another picture — then show your doc.

22-27. Understand these 6 scientific terms for successful aging

    Telomeres: The capped ends of chromosome strands that shorten with age and cellular damage. Omega-3-rich seafood and folate-packed greens help keep telomeres long.
    Inflammaging: Chronic, low-grade inflammation associated with aging. Inflammation is linked to nearly every major health issue, from heart disease to type 2 diabetes to cancer. Lower inflammation with healthy fats like nuts and olive oil.
    Microbiota: Bacteria in your digestive tract that, when unhealthy, can promote inflammation and weight gain. Studies of centenarians (age 100-plus) have shown healthy gut microbiota to be a key marker of longevity. Good gut health is boosted by high levels of dietary fiber.
    Immunosenescence: Age-related weakening of the immune system that has been linked to chronic inflammation or inflammaging. Boost your immunity through vitamin-packed produce.
    Sarcopenia: Age-related muscle loss. A 2018 study in Aging and Disease notes that maintaining muscle as we age helps lower our disease risk and may also combat chronic inflammation. Your goal: Stay strong with resistance exercises and lean protein.
    Osteopenia: Loss of bone density that is not bad enough to be considered osteoporosis. Lower bone density = higher fracture risk. Resistance training and calcium help build thicker bones. 
(Understand all of the above and already have osteoporosis.  Uggh.)

28. Increase your ‘aging advantage’
Regular physical activity can slow the aging process and prevent disease. A 2017 study in Preventive Medicine compared telomere length in sedentary and active adults and found that exercisers experience a nine-year aging advantage.
(Have been walking more since 2012 and am now walking an average of 6 miles a day.)

29. If you exercise already, keep at it
People age 80-plus who continue to exercise have a lower death rate than those who quit, says a 2016 study in the Journal of Sport and Health Science.

30. Do something
Anything. A study of 334,000 Europeans found that the biggest beneficiaries of exercise — those who went from inactive to moderately inactive — had a 16 to 30 percent drop in death risk. See, even a little activity goes a long way.

31-33. Measure your physical vitality
    Get-up test: From a seated position on the floor, stand up. If you can do so without help from your hands, furniture, a wall or other people, you’re looking good. To improve: Do functional exercises like hiking hills.
(I need to push my hands against the floor to stand up, but can get up without grabbing onto furniture.)

    Grip strength: You can buy a hand dynamometer, a device that measures grip strength, for $30 or less. The test is weighted by age and sex, so you can see how you measure up to your peers. If your grip falls short, or if you just notice it getting harder to open jars, talk to your doctor about a strength-training program.
(Have arthritis in my hands so I've had trouble with jars for nearly a decade.)

    Flexibility: Sit on the edge of a chair with one leg extended. Reach for the toes of the extended leg with both hands. The goal is less than 4 inches’ space between fingers and toes. To improve: Take a yoga class.
(Failed that one.)

34. Join a team
An analysis of data collected from 1.2 million adults found that team sports offered the highest mental health benefits from exercise (though all types of activity are beneficial).
(Hate team sports.)

35. Do squats and lunges
They deliver lower-body strength, a top predictor of physical function in older adults.
(Good idea)

36. And practice balance
In one study, women 60 and older who underwent a 12-week program of balancing exercises improved their strength, balance and power.
(Do some balance training (changing clothes while standing away from the bed and not sitting down).)

37-41. Enjoy these 5 potential benefits of high intensity interval training
You can do HIIT even with a walking program; simply vary short bursts of fast walking with longer bouts of strolling at your regular pace. You’ll help:

    Lower inflammation.
    Improve blood pressure and heart performance.
    Slow aging and increase telomere length.
    Improve insulin response and metabolic health.
    Reduce the risk of many diseases, including some cancers.
(Will try to be more aware of this while walking.)

42. Have your own back
Strengthen your core and fortify your back as you age with plank-style exercises. A study of 4,400 people 70 and older found that staying free of chronic back pain can increase life expectancy by 13 percent.
(Did buy one of those big balls to help strengthen my back.)

43. Go slow and steady
Tai chi is well-known for its mind-body benefits, but a five-year study of about 61,000 Chinese men ages 40 to 74 found the ancient practice may also fuel longevity.
(Never liked Tai chi)

44. Feed your muscles
A study of women ages 65 to 70 found that a daily diet of more than 25 grams of fiber, with a third of calories coming from healthy fats (via fish, nuts and olive oil), helped enhance “dynamic explosive strength.”
(I am pretty good at this.  Been eating more beans and berries the last few years and have been getting more fiber and generally consume healthy fats.)

45 Build Unbreakable Bones
Weight-bearing exercises slow bone loss and can prevent fractures. So try some weight training, walking, hiking, jogging, stair climbing, tennis and dancing.
(Still pretty good on stairs, but cautious!)

46. Eat fiber, cheat death
A 2018 study found that, on average, for every 10 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories consumed daily, participants experienced an aging benefit of 5.4 years.
(Will keep that up.)

47. Eat fruits and vegetables …
An estimated 5.6 million premature deaths worldwide in 2013 could be attributed to people eating fewer than 800 grams of produce daily, or about 10 servings, according to a 2017 review of 95 studies.
(Still really hate vegetables, though I am eating more roasted veggies like cauliflower and less potato)

48.  … And nuts and seeds …
A 2017 study found that those eating just 5 percent of their daily calorie consumption from nuts and seeds reduced cellular aging by 1½ years.
(Had peanut butter toast most days for breakfast for about 40 years, and now eat nuts daily.)

49.  … Or maybe eat just a little bit healthier
A 2017 New England Journal of Medicine study of about 74,000 people found that those who made and stuck with even small dietary improvements over 12 years enjoyed a lower death risk, some as much as 17 percent lower.
(Gradually lost 50 pounds between 1996 and about 2011.  Lost another 15 pounds due to illness in 2012, but regained that over the next year.  Except for a brief vacation blip in 2014, have been within 4 pounds of my 2011 weight since.)

50. Back off on calories
In a 2018 study, those who maintained a 15 percent reduction in daily calories for two years lost 17 pounds and enjoyed a marked reduction in oxidative stress on the body, which suggests slower, healthier aging.
(Have been a little better on this.  This year, have been recording what I eat and following the Always Hungry diet.  Have been losing weight.)

51-55. Cut down on these 5 inflammation-causing foods

    Sugar  --  (generally better)
    Refined flour  -- (generally better)
    Fried foods  --  (generally better (when I fry food, I sautéed in olive oil))
    Omega-6 fatty acids (from foods fried in corn and vegetable oils) and saturated fats   -- (generally better)
    Artificial sweeteners  -- (so-so - 2 diet cokes a day)

56. Drink your milk
A study in Cell Reports found that vitamin D3 helps to suppress a “molecular pathology of aging.” Researchers suspect this may be the reason why D deficiency is linked to so many age-related diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
(Am drinking whole milk and recently started taking D3 supplements)

57. Order the guacamole
A review of 129 previously published avocado studies found that eating the fruit — and eating it often — could ward off metabolic syndrome and belly fat.
(Hate guacamole)

58. Boost your lentil health
One study of older Japanese, Australian, Greek and Swedish people found legumes to be the only food that lowered mortality risk — by 7-8 percent for every 20 grams consumed daily (cup of cooked beans is about 85 grams).
(Probably averaging ½ cup a day now and will work to increase that.)

59 Book a Mediterranean Eating Tour
You’ve heard it before, but that’s only because research has shown repeatedly, over decades now, that a Mediterranean- style diet rich in vegetables, fruit, fish and healthy oils is linked with heart, brain and telomere health—leading to longer life.
(When we went to Italy, no matter where we went the menus were full of bread, pasta and pizza and breakfast was always coffee and a croissant.  I almost never saw what we think of as "the Mediterranean diet" in Italy.  I suspect if we ever get to Greece, we might be more likely to see it there.)

60. Cut meat, add beans
Many of the centenarians studied by eat meat only about once a week. Those in the study who tended to live longest built their diet around, yes, beans.
(Am working on that)

61. Make time for tea
Increased tea consumption has been linked with lower inflammation levels, weight loss and reduced cancer risk in a number of studies. Green tea has been shown to be more beneficial than the black variety.
(Sometimes, mostly peppermint tea, ginger tea and green tea)

62. Throw a party
And cherish the opportunity to hang out with your tribe. A review published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that strong social relationships had positive physiological effects, such as lower inflammation, while isolation had an even harsher negative effect on participants’ blood pressure than diabetes.
(Frankly, I find hanging out with people I know online to be helpful - live in the country so often it's the only way)

63. Say some hard goodbyes
A study found that people who are in positive close relationships may have a lower risk of heart disease than those who are entangled in negative ones.
(Yep, or just avoid the folks who are particularly negative)

64. Be a caregiver for yourself, too
Older adults who provided care to loved ones and experienced regular bouts of “caregiver strain” had a 63 percent higher mortality risk than noncaregivers, according to a study in the journal JAMA. If you’re primarily responsible for the needs of a parent or spouse, be sure to give yourself care, too.

65. Apply all of this relationship info to social media
A 2017 Pew Research Center survey found that more than a third of Americans 65 and older now use social media, which means you’ve probably discovered just how toxic it can be. Consider reducing your exposure and using it only to keep up with family.
(Completely agree, though while I use social media a lot more than most, I #blockandmoveon when I find toxic people so I don't have to be exposed to them)

No. 66 Thank Your Spouse
Marriage has been linked to better health and longer life for a variety of reasons — not the least of which is, you lasted all these years without killing each other.
(Almost always!)

67. Make time for romance between the sheets
A 2017 study found that sexual intimacy in couples is associated with longer telomeres.
(Endorphins are always very good for you!!)

68. Use your smartphone’s full potential …
Your phone has the power to keep you connected and also to be a data center for your health. Patient-generated health data — info from your phone or wearable devices — can now be used to customize medical care. Ask your doctor what kind of data or apps might be useful.

69. … But not in the car
A study at Wayne State University found that older drivers are much worse than younger drivers when texting while driving. During a test, almost 40 percent of those 25 to 34 wandered out of their lanes while texting. Among people 45 to 59, the incidence was 100 percent.
(I'm guilty of this when in traffic jams and driving under 5 mph)

70. While we’re on the subject, beware that left turn at Albuquerque
Pay extra attention when you’re hanging a louie: More than half of all fatal two-vehicle crashes involving drivers 70 and older occurred at intersections, particularly when a left turn is involved, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
(Good warning)

71. Wash your hands
And avoid people with head colds. The virus is no joke for older folks.

72. Don’t skip the flu vaccine
A new five-year study found that annual flu shots were just as effective in older adults as in everyone else. So, no excuses.

73. See the bad guys coming
According to the 2018 report from the National Center for Victims of Crime, the crime rate against people 65 and older dropped between 1995 and 2015, but older adults are still at high risk for violent crime. (Women have more than double the risk of men.) Forty-four percent of violent-crime victims in 2015 knew their attacker.
(Absolutely -and always consider what you might have with you that could damage a potential attacker.  It might even just be the camera on your phone.  There are also apps you can get that will contact the police for you.)

74. Ask yourself: Do I react well to stress?
If not, it’s time to reevaluate your approach. Research shows big links among chronic stress, chronic inflammation and stress-related diseases.
(I'm erratic about this but generally stress out less now than when I was younger)

75. Find financial support
A 2017 global survey of 31,240 people found that more than 60 percent of financially struggling workers 50 or older would like to retire as soon as possible, but half expect to be working into their 70s. If that sounds like you, realize that you’re not going through this alone, and find an outlet for your stress. If chronic debt is your issue, consider looking into a financial support group like Debtors Anonymous. For those who need financial planning but can’t afford it, the Financial Planners Association offers free financial counseling in many of its chapters; check out
(We have been planning, have financial support, are careful with money so expect to be OK)

No. 76 Don't Drink and Climb
A 2018 study analyzed falls in older adults and found the biggest predictors were previous fractures, high body mass, falls in the past year and taking alpha- and beta-blockers. An analysis of stair falls found that intoxication increased head and neck injuries.
(Good idea!)

77-82. Beware of these 6 other symptoms of financial stress
The 2017 global survey also found that employees who are troubled by their finances are twice as likely to be in poor health as those without money worries. Here are six signs that your financial woes could be creating health problems:

    You have physical symptoms like back pain, digestive issues, migraines and anxiety.  (Generally not anxious)
    You exhibit more absenteeism and less engagement at work.  (Can't work regularly)
    Your existing health issues are getting worse.  (Somewhat true)
    You self-medicate with alcohol and drugs at a greater rate.  (No, but I may self-medicate with cheese...)
    You have greater difficulty in quitting smoking.  (No)
    Your relationships with loved ones are damaged.  (No)

83. Don’t cling to a dying profession
Moving on to something new is the new normal. In an AARP report, about two-thirds of workers 51 and older who changed jobs ended up moving to different occupations entirely. Which may sound stressful until you actually do it and find that you have an exciting new career underway.
(This is an excellent point.  Adaptability is paramount in coping with life.  About a year into my insomnia, I had a serious depression, mostly over the insomnia and the work-related issues it was causing.  Also had a new boss who was really awful.   I moved to a part-time job, cut down a little on my volunteer commitments and the depression went away.  While it took me another 13 years to admit it, I really retired around then, though I have worked from time to time since, mostly temp jobs like movie extra (which, while I don't work at it much, I absolutely love).)

84. Don’t ignore that little pain
A 2015 study found that more than half of those who experienced sudden cardiac arrest had ignored warning signs. Meanwhile, studies have shown that when cancer patients ignored symptoms, it was often because they were busy, or because they didn’t want to make a fuss or waste a doctor’s time.
(I have been to the ER with some sudden-onset things that seemed like heart attacks but turned out to be pleurisy, a muscle pull presenting bizarrely and gastric issues (one time it turned out to be an ulcer).  The doctors/ER folks always nice, but I've heard some are not, which makes people, particularly women not want to go to the ER or to their doctor)

85. Ride in the back
According to Boeing, the majority of airline fatalities from 2008 through 2017 happened during final approach and landing. And two analyses of the history of air disasters — one by Popular Mechanics in 2007 and another by Time in 2015 — concluded that the rear third of a plane has the highest survival rate.
(Good point)

86. Grab your life jacket
The U.S. Coast Guard estimates that more than 80 percent of people who died in boating accidents would have been saved if they had been wearing life jackets. If your boat capsizes? Stay with the boat — it’s the biggest object rescuers can spot — and if you can, climb on top of it.
(Good point)

87. Calm that doggie
If a fierce dog is coming toward you, the Humane Society has these suggestions:

    Remain motionless, hands at your sides, and avoid eye contact with the dog.
    If the dog loses interest in you, slowly back away until it has moved out of sight.
    If the dog attacks, feed it your jacket, purse, bicycle or anything else you can put between yourself and the animal.
    If you fall or are knocked to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your ears and remain motionless. Try not to scream or roll around.
(Good points though I've found yelling "NO!" at charging dogs often works too.)

88. Don’t get lost
If you become disoriented in the wild, the U.S. Forest Service suggests the STOP plan.

    Stop: Stay calm, stay put.
    Think: How did you get where you are?
    Observe: Are you still on a trail? What landmarks should you be able to see?
    Plan: If you’re unsure, or night is coming, stay put.
Aside from water, what’s one of the best things to bring on a hike? A whistle.
(And remember even if your phone has no bars, it can be used to signal with a simple flashlight app)

89. Think young
A study of nearly 6,500 subjects who were 52 or older found that those who felt younger than their years had a mortality rate of 14.3 percent, while those who felt older had a rate of 24.6 percent.
(This is very true.  My dad retired at 63 (as his employer insisted in those days) but, as he'd worked at a college, he was an informal advisor to many and was often on campus for another 24 years.  Was even playing cards with students until about 10 days before he died.)

90. Define what drives you
Research has shown that purposeful people live longer than their counterparts.
(Absolutely, see 89)

91. Raise your hand …
Folks over 50 who volunteered at least 200 hours in the past 12 months experienced mental health benefits but also were less likely to develop hypertension, a Carnegie Mellon University study reveals.
(Or even if you still have hypertension, you can volunteer anyway)

92. … But only if you really want to
Half-hearted volunteer work isn’t healthy. A Boston College study found that people age 50 and older who had “low or medium” engagement in their work reported even lower well-being than folks who had zero engagement.
(Good point)

93. Find your bridge
A new part-time or “bridge” job in retirement — either in or out of your field — has been associated with fewer major diseases and physical limitations, as well as better mental health.
(I know if we had financial problems, I could work part time in a store as so many older folks are these days)

94. Take a bath in the woods
The Japanese call it shinrin-yoku — “forest bathing,” or taking in the natural world through your senses. This kind of nature therapy can relieve stress and improve immune system function. You don’t need the woods, either; even the local park can help.
(This has always sound like fun.  Our master bath overlooks the woods, and have sometimes considered putting in a window near the shower...)

95.  Put your best skills to the test — often
People who achieve a state of “flow” with their talents — total immersion, time disappears, no critical voice interferes — have greater long-term happiness than those who don’t. Flow is also predictive of high performance: One study found that winning athletes experienced more flow than losing athletes.
(Still help out some with conventions, and while I can't work the kinds of hours I used to, I still enjoy it)

No. 96 Kick Around A Bucket List
One study showed that having a bucket list isn’t just for kicks—it can make end-of-life planning easier, as all parties, including family and physicians, will be on the same page about your life’s priorities.
(Good idea; my bucket list has always been more informal and I have accomplished many things I want to.)

97. Hang around kids
When older adults share experience and knowledge with the young, they gain emotional satisfaction and feelings of fulfillment, according to a Stanford Center for Longevity report.
(Good idea)

98. Dust off that library card
A study of 3,635 older adults found that book readers had a 23-month survival advantage and 20 percent lower mortality risk compared with nonreaders. Reading was protective regardless of gender, education or health.
(Excellent idea)

99. Pray for longer life
A 2016 study followed 74,534 women for 20 years; those who attended religious services more than once a week enjoyed a 33 percent lower mortality rate than those who skipped church.
(As an atheist, I will study about how to have a longer life, do what I enjoy, and hope my genes (Mom and Dad made it to their mid-80s) will help.)

Monday, January 14, 2019

It's True - Honest Atheists Cannot Hold State Office In Pennsylvania

You see a lot of graphic memes online.  Often, they are not true.  But...sometimes they are.

A graphic showed up on Facebook today, showing the seven states where atheists could not legally hold state office.  One of the states was Pennsylvania.  I thought it might have been a phony meme, bud I did a quick scan of the Pennsylvania Constitution and saw this (ignoring the obvious sexism that it still uses "man" and "men" instead of "person" and "people"):

  § 3.  Religious freedom.
        All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship
     Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences;
     no man can of right be compelled to attend, erect or support any
     place of worship, or to maintain any ministry against his
     consent; no human authority can, in any case whatever, control
     or interfere with the rights of conscience, and no preference
     shall ever be given by law to any religious establishments or
     modes of worship.
  § 4.  Religion.
        No person who acknowledges the being of a God and a future
     state of rewards and punishments shall, on account of his
     religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or
     place of trust or profit under this Commonwealth.

Anyone else note the collision of these two sections, which are at the very beginning of the Pensylvania Constitution? 

So, I did what any other voting/tax-paying Pennsylvanian would do - I wrote to the governor:

Dear Gov. Wolf,

I have just read that the Pennsylvania Constitution says I cannot hold state office.

We'll ignore the fact that the Constitution still uses "man" instead of "person" everywhere.

It says this:

  § 4.  Religion.
        No person who acknowledges the being of a God and a future
     state of rewards and punishments shall, on account of his
     religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or
     place of trust or profit under this Commonwealth.

I am an atheist.  Therefore, I do not believe in God, Heaven, the Devil or Hell..  So, according to the state Constitution, I cannot run for office, despite being a tax-paying, law-abiding citizen of the state for about half of my life.

Wouldn't the federal Constitution which says that there can be no religious tests to run for or hold public office supersede this?

I realize the state legislature is owned by Republicans, but can anything be done to amend this?

Laurie Mann
McDonald, PA

I encourage other Pennsylvanians who sees that this is in direct conflict with the "no religious tests" part of the federal Constitution to drop the governor a line.

I have been an atheist for most of my life.  I am polite when I am in a religious establishment and I do like to sing so I might look like I'm a believer but as I am a guest there I don't make an issue of my atheism.  But secular life is a wholly different issue.  It is obscene for a state to have its Constitution state that I would not be eligible for public office because I don't share in ancient beliefs.  

Sunday, December 02, 2018

My Tale of Two Messiahs

I performed The Messiah with the Calvary United Methodist Church Festival Choir on Saturday afternoon (, then attended the Pittsburgh Symphony/Mendelssohn Choir performance Saturday night (  That was many hours of The Messiah for one day, though we only sang the first half of it (plus the "Hallelujah Chorus," of course). 
We were good, but, realistically, the PSO/Mendelssohn performance was better. They were all professionals and had a much bigger orchestra and many more singers.   We were mostly amatures.

I think our tenor soloist (George Milosh) was better than their tenor soloist (Paul Appleby), and our soprano (Anna Singer) was more understandable than their soprano soloist (Rachele Gilmore, who had great tone quality but her diction was lost). I was a little concerned about the PSO hiring a countertenor to sing the alto solos, but Andrey Nemzer was very good, though had a little trouble with a few high notes. 
Much as I like Manfred Honeck as the conductor the PSO, many of the choral pieces, except for "Worthy Is the Lamb," were just too fast. Our conductor, Brian Burns, had a much better sense of how the music should be paced.
It was an enjoyable way to spend a Saturday.  I hadn't been singing with choirs very much the last few years, due to severe insomnia and some throat problems.  It was great to find the Calvary group. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Contact Congress NOW

On July 16, 2018, Donald Trump committed treason by denying Russian influence over the 2016 election and refusing to believe the findings of his own FBI and Department of Justice (and even British Intelligence) about Russian involvement in it. Those of us who believed in Trump-Russia-Collusion spent a lot of time venting on Twitter because it should be really clear to anyone that it happened. Impeach him! Convict him of treason! Maybe even execute him!

But, today, take a deep breath...and fight on but a little more calmly (and this is a reminder to myself as much as anyone else).

I will call my senators and my representatives today, and my message will be:

  1. We need Congressional hearings now on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
  2. We need Congressional hearings now on the Emoluments Clause and the way Donald Trump is enriching himself and his family by being president.
  3. Congress must prevent Mueller and Rosenstein from being fired or their investigation being defunded prematurely.

We are very used to the Republican "witch-hunty" hearings of recent times, where Hillary Clinton spent 11 hours answering many questions over and over again. But while she was accused of many things, the committee could never charge her with anything.

I know Congressional hearings can be meaningful and relevant. Because, when I was 16, I spent part of the summer of 1973 watching the Watergate Hearings on TV.

I felt like was part of the only Republican family in Massachusetts. I did support Nixon, I supported the war in Viet Nam and so on. I even believed he was innocent of knowing anything about Watergate and it was all on his underlings. But, remember, back then, many Republicans were pro-ERA and pro-choice, so you could be a Republican and support women's rights. The party was definitely turning racist, but, sadly, I just didn't notice that as much as I should have.

But watching the Watergate Hearings, it became clear to me that Nixon did know what was going on, and I believed Nixon was guilty-guilty-guilty as Gary Trudeau used to say in Doonesbury.

I told Mom I thought Nixon was guilty, she called me a Communist, I cried about that and didn't talk politics with her again until the '90s. In fairness to Mom, she didn't vote for Goldwater and she wasn't planning to vote for Trump (but died before the election).

The problem is, while millions of us know that Trump is guilty of multiple impeachable crimes, millions are in complete denial, aided and abetted by the lapdog Republican Congress and Faux News reinforcing their fantasy that the Trump Regime is somehow good for the country and the world when it is anything but.

If the Republicans refuse to hold hearings on the 2016 election or on the Emoluments Clause, the Democrats should rent a hotel ballroom and hold mock hearings on Trump. Invite the TV networks to film them. Bring forward witnesses. Show the American people what a functional, Congressional hearing can look like.

If you don't have your representatives phone numbers & E-mails on your phone (and you should!), here's how you can find them.

PS: While it was exciting for the DOJ to have arrested Russian agent and NRA photo-girl Maria Butina, she's a small fish in a big school. She was too young to be anything but a minor player. I hope the DOJ is focusing on her handler(s).