It’s been brought to my attention lately by my children, and by other young people in my life, that I say “Excuse me?” or “I’m so sorry, but I didn’t catch that,” and “What?” as much as I say, “Hi!” or “I’ll have a Chardonnay.”
I have noticed that I pump up the volume to ear-splitting levels when listening to music in my car or on my phone. And my television is turned up to number 25 or more. (Uh – like the movies! I explain to other people in the room who question the volume.)
And that little voice in one ear that was urging me to get my hearing tested (I believe the last time I had a hearing test was 1980-something), went right out the other.
But apparently poo-pooing a potential compromise in hearing is not unusual. Hearing loss is among the most untreated of the age-related disabilities. It seems that for us 50-somethings, as long we can hear the human voices around us, we tend to peg any auditory decline as not in our ears, but in the soft-talkers among us and the increasingly noisy world that we live in.
But, hear ye, my skeptics – I finally heard you. I tested the ears. And I’m normal. I guess I just like loud.
I found this cool hearing test offered by The National Hearing Test. May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, so the test is free (it costs only $8 regularly). It’s done over the phone (landline only) – call 866-223-7575 – and it takes about 20 minutes. You put one ear at a time to the phone, and punch in the numbers recited by a recorded voice amid static, which rapidly increases throughout the test. At completion, you are told whether or not your hearing in each ear is in the “normal range.”
And for those of you who may know someone like me, where broaching the subject of hearing fell on deaf ears, there’s a nifty little offering from The Center for Hearing and Communication (CHC) in New York and Florida. Check out Soundgram. You record a message to your loved one, and CHC will notify them that there is a message waiting for them, along with an offer for a free hearing screening at one of their locations. Your recorded message will be played for them at their free screening.
So listen up; take heed. Take the test. Send a Soundgram. And like me, either assure yourself that frequently saying, “What?,” means that you’re annoying (or as my son said when I shouted my test results, “Then maybe you have ADD?”), not hearing-impaired, or, if the test suggests your hearing is not in the normal range, go to an audiologist for further testing and treatment.
Studies show that ignoring hearing loss can lead to Dementia and Alzheimer’s – why rush those? There’s sophisticated technology out there for the taking – for free – to ease concerns, to diagnose hearing impairment and to treat accordingly.
… expect snafus!
The “fresh look” we promised upon return after our week-long hiatus may not be evident at first glance.
That’s because the change is behind the scenes. Julie is learning the technical and administrative end of the blog, and starting today (on the 18-month anniversary of The Write Side of 50), she’ll be running the back end now, while I extend my hiatus to pursue other ventures.
And like anything new, there’s a learning curve. (And lots of laughs.)
So if you get an e-mail from us that makes no sense – like yesterday’s inadvertent Happy Memorial Day, a week early – or if a blog is posted, and then it disappears (or if the whole blog disappears), laugh with us! And stay tuned.
You may notice a dangling participle, an errant ellipsis, or (no!) a misplaced em-dash. There may be a blank space where the headline should be. But no doubt, with each accidental click (Uh-Oh – I hit publish!) or slip of a finger, as with anything that is in transition, the blog that was built over the last year and a half may very well, through brilliant mistakes, deconstruct and manifest into something better.
And know that I’m still here for my friend, Jule – just a martini, a text, a phone call, or an accidental click away.
The Soil Safe Web site explains the “beauty” of what they contribute to the world. They specialize
in the recycling of soils contaminated with a variety of petroleum products and heavy metals. Since our founding, Soil Safe has processed over 18.5 million tons of contaminated soil from over 40,000 successful remediation and construction projects.
While I wish I had the time to investigate whether that 18.5 millions tons of contaminated soil has been as successfully remediated as Soil Safe claims, it seems their boasts are sufficient for New Jersey. The state intends to use their dumping trucks to lay some toxic waste in the vicinity of the Rahway River in North Jersey. This particular site is a little wildlife haven for diamondback terrapin, yellow-crowned night herons, and bald eagles, but it appears it shall be thrown under the wheels of the trucks because there are big bucks to be made. When weighing billions of dollars against the health and safety of the citizens of New Jersey, and their environs, money is talking way louder.
These are the facts according to The Times:
1. Soil Safe will dump enough petroleum-contaminated soils to create a 29-feet-high mound of garbage in North Jersey between Staten Island and the Arthur Kill. (I am pretty sure this area may already be an environmentally-polluted area, or is very proximate to another landfill dumping site. Could the unsaid perverse reasoning of it all be that it really doesn’t matter, given what’s already in the ground around there?)
2. Since the plan was first floated, back in 2010, to as recently as last year, various experts within the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection have verbalized the fact that dumping this much contaminated soil could have severe consequences on the environment. One grave concern would be a flood. In such circumstances, that mound filled with soil laced with oil could collapse into the water.
But what’s a little pollution in the riverbed? The agency, whose goal is to protect the environment, gave conditional approval for Soil Safe to proceed.
The Times made a connection with the workings of New Jersey politics. It looks like profits are to be made, either though direct distributions to the pocketbooks of certain well-connected people, or to the campaign coffers of others.
For example, Soil Safe is a client of Bob Smith, duly elected state senator of the 17th Legislative District, Chairman of the Senate Environment Committee, and a lawyer in the firm of Bob Smith & Associates. The Times stated that Senator Smith “represented Soil Safe at a hearing before an elected county board.” That means the chairman of the state Senate’s committee that oversees the environment got paid for representing a company that deals with materials that contaminate the environment. Not sure what happened to conflict of interest concerns.
At the moment, Soil Safe pays the three landowners of the future dumping site rent of $75K a month. It is unclear to me what they could possibly be renting. Are they paying “rent” for the right to be guaranteed the contract to dump? But this is a paltry sum because “if the deal goes through, (Soil Safe) promises the owners many millions of dollars in tipping fees.”
What are tipping fees? Another way of saying, “pay-off”? Or, “thank-you”?
There are other politicians that are benefiting from a connection with Soil Safe. The State Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney is logistically close, being that he serves out of Gloucester County, and Soil Safe runs operations out of the same county. Mr. Sweeney and the county both seem to have gotten a little richer from the generosity of Soil Safe.
It also appears that Governor Christie has a hand in the pie, if not exactly directly, through the throwing of political favors. But that’s a whole different story on a different day.
In Naples, it is said the Camorra controls the garbage, and makes the money. In New Jersey, we anoint our duly elected officials to be our Camorra.
I have long held that Baby Boomers are defined by the fact that they were all in school when President Kennedy was killed. And just a few months later, all Baby Boomers were witnesses to the British music invasion that began 50 years ago with the appearance of The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show.
It was Friday, February 7, 1964, when Pan Am flight 101 arrived from Heathrow Airport carrying The Beatles. The newly-renamed Kennedy Airport was the scene, as hundreds of screaming fans turned out to see the four long-haired musicians from Liverpool. The Beatles gave a press conference at which their long hair was a constant topic for questions.
“When’s the last time you had a haircut?” a reporter yelled.
“I had one yesterday,” George replied.
A little later that day, thousands flocked to the Plaza Hotel in New York, where The Beatles were staying. Meanwhile, WINS, WMCA and WABC went wall-to-wall Beatles as John, Paul, George and Ringo called in to the various New York disk jockeys. Chief among these was Murray the K, who managed to talk himself into the Beatles suite for a live broadcast. Thereafter, Murray liked to call himself the 5th Beatle.
The Beatles hysteria continued all weekend with its climax Sunday night on the Ed Sullivan Show. It’s hard to describe the Ed Sullivan Show to people who never saw it. I suppose it followed the vaudeville model of something for everyone. And so it was not unusual for Ed to introduce an opera singer, followed by a comedian, followed by a rock group followed, by a troupe of acrobats, jugglers or trained animals.
Anyway, on the evening of February 9, 1964, everyone knew that the Beatles were making their U.S. debut, and the audience was filled with screaming teens. The Sullivan show was the hottest ticket in town that night. I remember seeing that Walter Cronkite’s daughter was in the audience. Those of us without CBS connections had to make due watching on television.
Ed was a smart showman, who knew he had pulled off a coup in booking the Beatles. He was known as, “Old Stoneface,” because he rarely smiled on his show. But Ed was all smiles that night. When he said, “Here they are – the Beatles,” the screams from the audience surely pinned the needle on the studio sound meter, and Ed put his hands over his ears. The Beatles themselves were barely audible over the noise. This would be the norm for the next two years every time the group performed.
During the course of their performance, the CBS staff put up identifications (as if we needed them) of the four Beatles under close-ups of each one. That included a second line under John Lennon’s name that said, “Sorry girls, he’s married.”
I remember that the Beatles actually appeared on the Sullivan show three weeks in a row (the third performance was on tape). In between, they appeared at Carnegie Hall and in Washington D.C. – Beatlemania in the U.S. was under way.
That summer, their first film, “A Hard Day’s Night,” was released, and the same screams that always followed the Fab Four were heard in movie theaters throughout the country.
Beatlemania was one of the hallmarks of the youth of Baby Boomers. And now it’s 50 years in the past. Can you believe it?
“Don’t break bad, now,” the 30-something pharmacist at my local Walgreens said to me after handing me a 12-dose box of Claritin-D. He had determined, after a mini-background check, that I was not a meth cooker.
All this ado, according to said pharmacist, is a reaction to the popularity and the press surrounding the AMC television series, “Breaking Bad,” about a down-on-all-luck chemistry teacher who crosses the line to methamphetamine (meth) kingpin.
It’s because of the D-part in Claritin-D, which stands for psuedoephedrine, a component of methamphetamine, which, when broken down, cooked, and then snorted or smoked (or when downing a whole 12-dose box of Claritin-D at once), produces a brain-stimulating, euphoric rush that will probably help you forget that you have a runny nose.
So Claritin-D, and all decongestants with psuedoephedrine are no longer over-the-counter, and are illegal to buy if you are under 18, or if you are over 18, and do not have a valid drivers license.
This system required me to take a card from the shelf, hand it over to the pharmacist behind the counter, and wait for the rundown on my background before I was handed the goods.
Claritin has been a newsmaker before. It wasn’t that long ago – 2002 – that Claritin won approval to be sold over the counter without a prescription. The decided culprit then was not an ingredient (no psuedoephedrine then, just loratadine), but instead, a cocktail of questionable conduct – the lengthy and arcane F.D.A. approval-process, the effectiveness and the cost of the newly-available Claritin, and the purported greed of Schering-Plough- the pharmaceutical company that developed Claritin.
So I’m all for consumer safety; awareness. We all need to be watchdogs. But my encounter with this latest keep-the-goods-from-the-bad-guys, and keep-the-public-safe tactic seems a bit short-sighted, certainly not foolproof, and just plain silly. I can confirm the pharmacy’s findings that I am not a meth cooker. But how do they know, given that I wasn’t buying Claritin-D for myself, but picking it up for someone else (the pharmacist didn’t ask), that I’m not a mule? Or a huckleberry.
Almost as fast as this summer’s coming of the cicadas came and went, so did all news about it. But thanks to Victoria St. Martin’s article in The Star-Ledger a few days ago, I have an explanation for the mass of brown, dead leaves that hang from the trees in my yard – not unlike Christmas ornaments made out of paper bags. The cicadas did it!
I noticed this weeks ago. At first I thought it must be a weather-thing. The poor trees. We’ve been living in the extremes for a while now – alternating heat, cold. Drenching rain; whole-tree-toppling winds. And the trees must be suffering for it. But there’s something about the synchronicity of the brown deadness, and the resulting, natural, designedly-spaced, dark tips – like freckles. There is also a hint of a reddish hue to the leaves. And they’re not falling off the trees, despite a few doses of “tree-toppling winds.”
Turns out these leaves aren’t really dead – the cicadas just sucked the life out of them.
According to Ms. St. Martin:
The swarms of cicadas that infiltrated New Jersey have pretty much died off, but the eggs they laid in their short stay are now beginning to hatch — the precursor to their offspring setting an alarm clock for 2030 … Experts say that just before adult female cicadas die, they poke several holes in the end of tree branches and lay up to 600 eggs. The act cuts off the water and food supply to the tree, causing the leaves to turn brown.
The article continues to explain that these holes are made, “with tubes that are attached to their bodies … they can lay 25 eggs in each of the holes, which are as small as a pinprick, and the nymphs that emerge from them are as tiny as a grain of rice.”
Apparently, the nymphs then jumped out of the trees and bore down into the ground for the next 17 years – until 2030 – when they will return in, perhaps, even bigger numbers than this year.
So, in my backyard of six or seven said trees – each dead leaf, in each cluster of 30 or more dead leaves, means that those branches were drilled with dozens of pin-prick size holes. And each female cicada (remember there were billions of them this year – so I’d guess half were female), can lay up to 600 eggs. Quite remarkable.
I don’t know where I’ll living be in 2030, at the ripe old age of 75. But I hope all my trees are still here, and ready for the onslaught of those grounded nymphs, when they bore up, climb up, grow up, propagate, and eventually “leave.”
In 1973 the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Roe v. Wade. Forty years later, while speaking at a symposium at Columbia Law School, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg opined that she was not sure that the time had been right for the country’s federal judiciary to legalize abortion. I was surprised that a liberal of the current court would question the rightness or timing of that decision.
The social discussion of the 1960s and 1970s was imbued with an understanding of the horror wrought on women, who, for social or economic reasons, could not afford to raise a child. Perhaps she was 18, and had just gotten admitted to college. Would it be fair to her to abort her opportunities because there was not sufficient information available about birth control? Or what if she was 40, and already had four children, and her husband made barely enough money to feed and clothe a family of six? What could they do if they became a family of seven? The law punished women by forcing them into dirty rooms in back alleys where men with wire hangers or venomous liquids would help terminate the cells that were starting to gel. There was guilt and shame and illness, and it was society’s morals, not society’s interest in public health, that governed what was legal. I remember debating the reasons for and against abortion with my friends, teachers and family.
Then in 1973, the decision came out. I recently reread the opinion of the court in its entirety. I stand in awe of this brilliant tripartite balancing of a woman’s right to privacy against the right of the state to regulate the health and safety of its citizens.
The case came before the Supreme Court because an unmarried, pregnant woman had sued the state of Texas on the ground that the law, which made it a crime to terminate a pregnancy unless the mother would die, was unconstitutional.
Just for a minor peek at how the Court addressed the topic, I quote from the opening paragraphs of Justice Blackmun’s opinion:
“We forthwith acknowledge our awareness of the sensitive and emotional nature of the abortion controversy, of the vigorous opposing views, even among physicians, and of the deep and seemingly absolute convictions that the subject inspires. One’s philosophy, one’s experiences, one’s exposure to the raw edges of human existence, one’s religious training, one’s attitudes toward life and family and their values, and the moral standards one establishes and seeks to observe, are all likely to influence and to color one’s thinking and conclusions about abortion.”
With this awareness in mind, the Court commenced its discussion on the constitutionality of the Texas statute. It provided an historical overview of abortion from ancient Greece (where “it was resorted to without scruple”), to the common law (which held that abortion was not an indictable offense prior to the “quickening” or first movement of the fetus), to the punitive statutes of the modern era that banned abortion “unless done to save or preserve the life of the mother.”
Thus the Court, in determining that a woman had an unfettered right to make her decision concerning pregnancy during the first three months after conception, did not arrive at its decision in a vacuum. It looked to history, science, medicine, philosophy, religion, and precedential case law to confirm that the Constitution guaranteed a right to privacy. However, it also acknowledged that this right of privacy was not unbridled. After that first trimester, the State could intervene and regulate the procedure to preserve and protect the health of the mother. Further at the point of “viability,” the compelling interest of potential life meant the State “may go so far as to proscribe abortion during that period, except when it is necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.”
Why would anyone want to reverse this decision? It legitimized the right of women to have control over their body for a total of 90 days after the joining of a sperm, and an egg. Thereafter, the law of the land held that the state has a right to regulate, legislate and protect its persons. This decision, founded squarely on prior law, took into account the entire package: the person who carried the united egg and sperm, the emerging fetus, and state government.
As Justice Blackmun opined, this is, and will always be, a sensitive and emotional topic. The Court’s decision that balances an individual’s right to make the most private decision of her life against the state’s right to protect the health and welfare of its citizens embraced the Constitution, a law “made for people of fundamentally differing views…” Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45, 76 (1905).
The debate will continue. I hope future courts reaffirm and reaffirm and reaffirm the findings of the Supreme Court in 1973.
Almost 60? Really?, Annalena's Kitchen, Anthony Buccino, Art, Barbara Rachko, Blogs, BOOM! By Cindy Joseph, Booming, boomspeak, Concepts, Every Day is a Holiday, Food, Huff/Post 50, Lois DeSocio, Men, News, Opinions, Sparsely Sage and Timley, Stilettos in Snow, The Feisty Side of 50, The Five O'Clock Cocktail, The Write Side of 50, Travel
According to the most recent stats, there are 156 million blogs, and counting, on the Internet. A good chunk of the pile seems to be geared to us baby boomers. Apparently, we like to read, talk, and write about ourselves. Here are some age-appropriate (and a couple not), that are worth mentioning:
The big guys, Booming from The New York Times and Huffington Post’s Huff/Post50, will give you news, commentary, debate, celebrity bloggers – basically all the good, the bad and the ugly that comes with the “middle ages.”
There’s gutsy girls:
A read of The Feisty Side of 50, BOOM! By Cindy Joseph, and Almost 60? Really?, will help us women feel good being gray, and naked; make us want to climb the biggest mountain out there, and then maybe kick up our heels at the summit, and scream “Yay Menopause!;” and then come down to earth – in that order.
Award-winning writer, and our new contributor, Anthony Buccino, writes about history, travel, even N.J. Transit. And there’s David V. Mitchell’s, Sparsely Sage and Timley, a West Coast, post-boomer blogger, who had us with his title.
A cool spot for a little bit of everything, including some tech advice, is boomspeak.
There are others that we like because, even though the bloggers are over 50, they manage to write about something else. Annalena’s Kitchen has everything to do with the fun, the passion and the science behind food. Blogger Norman Hanson, is “just an over the hill gay guy who likes to cook.” And no doubt you’ve noticed that we tend to be madly appreciative of the visual image and the craft that comes with being a highly-skilled artist. Barbara Rachko’s barbararachkoscoloreddust delivers.
And Stilettos Stuck in Snow (full disclosure – we know her mother), and Everyday is a Holiday must be mentioned, because although these bloggers are nowhere near 50, they’ve managed to produce some visually appealing, artsy, fashion-focused blogs. It’s important for us boomers to remember it’s not all about us, and they offer us a fun way to check in and keep up the with the times.
BY LOIS DESOCIO
In a nod to Frank’s post today about his admiration for a curvy, not rail-thin, woman (and for those of us in that new-year struggle between whether to: start a diet today! Or: finish the leftover eggnog and cookies and triple-stuffed, cheese-covered pork roast first), a new study has been released by The Journal of the American Medical Association that suggests a little extra pork on the body is not such a bad thing, especially for those of us over 50.
According to an article in The New York Times by Pam Belluck, the report, discusses the relationship ” … between B.M.I and mortality,” and is “… the largest and most carefully done, analyzing nearly 100 studies.”
Two interesting tidbits from the article are: in 1912, the woman who was deemed in “perfect health,” by the medical standards of the day was 5’7,” and weighed 171 pounds. And some experts today have concluded that, even though “it is unproven and debated,” “… extra body fat when you’re older,” “could be protective in some cases.” The study also found that “people 65 and over had no greater mortality risk even at high obesity.”