Previous month:
July 2023
Next month:
September 2023

August 2023

Fear of Falling

Let’s face it.  One of the biggest concerns about our aging bodies is how hard it is to keep them upright.  The statistics about falling are frightening, and I am reminded once again of the emergency room doctor who told me I probably wouldn’t be alive in a year after a fall I had more than 15 years ago. Obviously, he didn’t know me well.

However, I have slowed my pace when walking, and I try to always look a few yards out in front of me to be sure there aren’t unexpected bumps in the road (so-to-speak).  Also, of late, I walk more slowly. 

There is a walking stick awaiting me in the hall closet.  I am reluctant to use it.  Here I should interject something about “pride goeth before a fall,” but I don’t want to jinx myself.

Or you.

Health (Con't)

Fourteen years ago, I learned that I had “Stage Zero” chronic lymphocytic leukemia, commonly called CLL.  It stayed at Stage Zero for years—no treatment required.  Until now.

 A routine blood test showed that my white blood cell count had grown dangerously high, and my oncologist ordered tests to confirm that it was time to begin treatment. The tests confirmed her concern, and on Wednesday, I started my pill regimen. 

This cancer is treatable.  That’s the good news.  Other good news is that treatment no longer requires chemotherapy thanks to wonderful medical advances.  The bad news is that the treatment can have some unpleasant side effects (or not). 

So now it’s a waiting game.  Do I tolerate the treatment?  Are the side effects bearable?

I will take each day as it comes, grateful for all the good I have in my life and hopeful for more of it.

And now this blog will return to its regular programing…

What AI (artificial intelligence) Can Do

It’s only nine months since ChatGPT was launched, and it has changed our world.  This is only the beginning of the enormous changes this technology will bring. For a while, I was saving articles about artificial intelligence’s potential impact so that I could think about how those of us who weren’t born with cell phones in our hands and TikTok in our heads could adapt to this new reality.  But I couldn’t keep up with the deluge of information.

One important concern about this new technology is how easy it would be for students to do assignments with the help of artificial intelligence.  I went to my favorite source of student views—my about-to-be-a-high- school-junior-grandson Grady for his view on this subject. 

Here’s what I learned:  There are no perfect solutions (as yet) for detecting this kind of AI-sourced plagiarism.  But there is some help.  There are websites that can detect whether writing is original.  However, they have mistakenly identified original writing as copied so they are not perfect.  They will get better.

It seems that schools are scrambling to come up with a policy.  Some teachers seem more concerned than others. It can’t be easy to develop a straightforward policy for a huge school system. 

One possible solution would be to have writing assignments completed in the classroom.  (I suggested to a college sophomore I know that perhaps bluebooks would make a comeback. She did not know what a bluebook is!)  Or have the assignments be about an experience that only the student could know.

Grady reminds me that there has always been cheating. 

ChatGPT just makes it easier.


Unless we are extraordinarily lucky, we spend more time in the healthcare world as we grow older.  And I don’t think it’s just me who finds that negotiating with the medical world has become a lot more complicated.

Let me say up front that I am astounded by and grateful for the many medical breakthroughs that have occurred in my lifetime. I and my loved ones have benefitted from them.

But now it takes a near-miracle to see your primary care doctor rather than a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner.  There are many reasons for this.  For one thing, there aren’t enough general practitioners, partially because specialties offer a much higher income.  Another reason is a high physician burnout rate .  Two of my doctors have quit practicing medicine, one because of stress leading to mental illness; the other by being exhausted by the managed healthcare system patient load with its burdensome paperwork.

I have been dealing with some specialists about a few health issues and wrote to my primary care doctor asking him to weigh in on my plan. Weeks later, I got an offer for an appointment, and we met last week.  He was open to my feedback about my dissatisfaction with the system, and he explained a few things that are changing.  Most importantly, he is relying more on his nurse practitioners and physician assistants. This allows him to carry an even larger patient load because someone else deals with the everyday runny noses.

There is a cartoon in a recent New Yorker magazine that is so true.  In it, a receptionist in a medical department is handing a clipboard containing a questionnaire to a patient checking in. Three other seated waiting patients are also filling out forms. The receptionist says to the patient, “Please fill out these medical forms, which are identical to the ones you filled out earlier online, and have the exact same questions your doctor will ask you later in the exam room.”

I did not find it funny.

LOL (laughing out loud)

How often do you laugh?  I bet not enough.  Neither do I (laugh enough that is).  I rarely laugh from deep in my belly. I realized that the other day when I was practically doubled over laughing over an AI- (artificial intelligence) generated review of a piece of writing of my journalist son that his brother requested.  It was stupidly hilarious.  No real person could have written such nonsense.  But funny?  You bet.

It is a fact that laughter is good for our health. Natalie Datillo, a psychology instructor at Harvard Medical School tells us that laughter helps in the following ways: It makes us feel good, it brings people closer together, and even can help people suffering from depression. Further, Datillo reports that laughter lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol while raising the “feel good” neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin.

Sounds like a good prescription to me.  And if you need some help filling it…

Try Seinfeld reruns.

Fire Alarm

The apartment building where I live has a shrieking fire alarm.  I would do anything to avoid hearing it.  When my frying bacon smokes too much and sets off my in-unit smoke detectors, I open all the windows and stand under the beeping detector(s) waving a newspaper back and forth.  This is not fun, especially in the winter or if guests are waiting to eat whatever I am frying.

The one thing I do not do is open the door to the corridor because my smoke will set off the piercing building-wide alarm referred to above.

Early in the evening a few nights ago, the dreaded alarm went off, and the occupants made their way down the stairs and gathered behind the back of the building to await the all-clear sign that would follow the fire department’s visit.  More than one person asked the assembled group, “Who burned the toast?”.  It turns out that there was no burned toast and no fire, just suspicion of one.

That was good.  But there was an even better upside.

Neighbors chatting.

Anyone Can Be a Star

When I got an email inviting me to be interviewed for a YouTube channel, the first thing I did was Google the person who wrote to­­ me. He seemed to be a real person, so I answered his email, and now I am about to be a “star”.

Larry Barsh, the host, is an 87-year-old retired dentist with a new career.  He started his YouTube channel “Specifically for Seniors” in 2022. He interviews guests ranging from household names to me.  His website is very professional as is his demeanor.  In the kingdom of YouTube, his audience of followers is small, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Not sure when my episode will air. 

Am sure I was not his most polished guest.


Remember scrap books?  Maybe they were a “girl thing,” but for this girl and her friends, they were a big deal. Pressed corsages from proms, special birthday cards, photos, theater programs and more documented our teen-aged lives in our scrapbooks. 

Phones and computers, the “scrapbooks” of the present are very efficient and convenient ways to recall the stories in our lives.  But there was something special about paging through actual books of memories.

Lately, I have been trying to de-access memory “stuff” in order to make life a little easier for my children at the inevitable time when I am no longer here. I remember how hard it was almost thirty years ago to bid farewell to our son Jeremy’s collection of Sunday TV schedule magazines. Our attic had cartons of TV Guides from newspapers around the world.  We couldn’t give them away then, but they probably would be collectors’ items now.

The other day I came across a bunch of letters that were sent to me by colleagues when I left the job I had loved for more than thirty years.  I read them with tears in my eyes and tossed them in the recycling bag.

I mentioned this to Jeremy who suggested that I take photos of the letters.  This is a child who probably doesn’t have a piece of paperwork in his house.  Everything is on his computer, safely backed up.

So, I fished the letters out of the recycling bag and photographed them. 

They will always be as close as my phone.

The Sycamore Allée


The stately sycamore trees along the Charles River on Memorial Drive in Cambridge were planted more than 120 years ago.  In 1964, a plan to widen Memorial Drive and remove the trees in order to ease traffic flow gave rise to the Citizens’ Emergency Committee to Save Memorial Drive and the campaign to Save the Sycamores. It worked.

On Sundays (from April - November), a portion of Memorial Drive is closed to traffic, and it is filled with rollerbladers, bikers, walkers of all ages, and often me. Last week, it seemed to me that the sycamores were shedding excessive bark.  Of course, it makes the tree trunks even more beautiful, but I was a bit concerned, especially after I got bonked on the head (but not hurt) by a very large falling piece of bark.

I asked a stranger walking in the other direction if he had noticed that the path was strewn with more bark than usual.  He said yes and suggested that this summer’s excessive heat was probably responsible.

A Google query revealed that “shedding’ or peeling of bark is a normal occurrence during the summer.  “It is part of the natural aging process. This includes commonly planted trees such as the American sycamore.”

One less thing to worry about.