Human nature will prevail (this time)

I’ve always said that there are too many humans on earth and that no matter what we humans do or what we build, nature always wins. I see more and more wildlife out my window than I have in the past. There are more squirrels and birds than ever visiting my back yard. I attribute this to the lack of people.

Most of us are familiar with the Colosseum in Rome, Italy. This was built from stone and concrete but has disintegrated to the ruins we now know.  There are several places where we can find the ruins of ancient civilizations like Stonehenge, Pompeii, Easter Island and the Acropolis.

The fleeting impact of the human species was demonstrated to me again very recently. I had a wheelchair ramp installed in my back yard. Even though we live in the city, we saw one of the indigenous wild life in my neighborhood, a rabbit, checking out the ramp one afternoon. When I was coming home from a doctor’s visit the next day, the same rabbit shot out from underneath the ramp. The rabbit gave me a look that said “What the hack are you doing on the roof of my new home?” Apparently this was where they lived now.

People have been trying to control nature since the beginning of time. Occasionally it is by building a dam to create a lake for hydroelectric generation or for a reservoir. We may construct seawalls or break waters to keep waves from washing away beaches and homes and the buildings we live in. The reason for these efforts is to allow people to live wherever they want.

Rabbits aren’t the only “wild animals” that have invaded our yard. We have had three skunks, 2 raccoons and 2 opossums visit us over the years. We even saw four deer walking down the middle of our street early one morning and then we have the squirrels. There seems to be a squirrel invasion this year. However our yard isn’t the only place that nature has invaded. We’ve had a couple of mice and bats in our house in the past.

We presently have 2 spiders, named Bob and Bobbette, which live in our bedroom. They are very respectful and maintain social distancing. They live on our ceiling, sleep all day and wander about at night. One of the high points of my morning is finding out where they are hiding every day. (Man, am I bored by this self-imposed quarantine).

We now see wild animals invading cities worldwide.  There are deer wandering the urban streets of Japan, wild turkeys In Oakland, Calif., a herd of deer was spotted resting in a housing development in Harold Hill, Romford, England. Wild boar have also been seen in parts of Paris and puma were seen walking around the streets of Santiago, Chile.

Human beings have always tried to control nature and one of the ways we have done this includes the conquering of disease. Smallpox came to North America in the 1600s and we survived that. A century ago, the Spanish flu caused a staggering 20-50 million deaths worldwide and we survived that. In 1793 there was a Yellow Fever outbreak and we survived that. The first major polio epidemic in the United States started in 1916 and reached its peak in 1952 and we survived that.

It’s this lesson that we should learn from the current corona virus pandemic. We should try to utilize as much scientific knowledge and expertise as we can to defeat this. That’s what public health measures are all about, and such efforts are as old as human society itself. Disease control has improved dramatically with the progress of modern medicine. We can learn from the efforts of other countries to flatten the curve and act on that knowledge as quickly and efficiently as possible, but the virus will still be here. Our older population will still be in danger and all of us will be at elevated risk. Our schools and shops have to be kept closed and our public spaces kept deserted until this is eradicated. The economic outcome and its ultimate toll in lives and the economy due to this pandemic remains unknown but I think the stock market is going to tank, wiping out trillions of dollars in wealth and some businesses will close permanently. Once this is over, it is going to be a different world than we once knew.

Again, I am no one special. I am not an expert but I am going to do my part. I am going to stay home. I am only buying the toilet paper I need, I am only buying the food I need. I have complete faith humanity will survive. There is hope for human survival after all. Human nature will prevail. I hope that when we reach the “new normal” the world will be a kinder, gentler place.

Norb is a resident of Lockport. If you want to visit him, you will have to talk with him through a closed window much like a prison visit.

“All the lonely people, where do they all come from?” The Beatles, 1966

Like many people my age, I have medical and mobility issues. This causes me to spend time alone. However I am among the fortunate few who lives with a partner. Donna, my wife, loves cooking for us and she is an excellent cook but it seems every time she does we have enough food for 3-4 meals so I try to take her out as much as possible. While we were out to breakfast one morning, I saw that of all the occupied tables, half of them had just one person eating at them. This made me sad.

Old age can bring about changes that contribute to a more isolated life. One of my biggest problems is my social circle shrinks more and more the older I get. My friends and family members move away or pass on and I left the workforce. I no longer have the daily interaction with coworkers. I know we all promise to stay in touch with those that retire before us, but who among us really does? I know I have lost touch with all of my work “friends”.

Whatever the cause of loneliness it can lead to depression and a serious decline in physical health and wellbeing.

Even for those people who still live near to me, it may be difficult to see them due to limited mobility, particularly for seniors who cannot drive. Changes in one’s physical health due to age like hearing loss or impaired vision makes it seem like it is not worth the effort anymore. Embarrassment might also be a cause of isolation.

Seniors might suffer from incontinence, are on oxygen therapy or need to use a mobility aid like a cane or a walker to get around. These logistical challenges makes it difficult or uncomfortable to leave home, but people must overcome feeling embarrassed about these noticeable signs of aging.

Many elderly people feel like they have been “pushed to the side” and forgotten about. This is particularly true for families that have spread out across the country and have a hard time scheduling visits and even phone calls. It’s important to remember loneliness can affect anyone, of any age. Even when a senior is being assisted by a family member, there is frequently little attention given to having a deep and engaging conversation between the senior and the rest of thier family.

Yes, I have experienced loneliness and it is depressing. I am a social person but I seldom see anyone other than my wife. Everyone seems to be too busy to worry about us. Few people come to visit us or help us out.  My poor wife had to shovel the snow herself all this year. I have conversations with the bible thumpers that ring my bell. After a bit they look at each other and slowly start to back up.

However, I have seen a trend recently with small restaurants and a few fast food places offering communal tables. The most noticeable one I visited recently was a small store front eatery called Tina’s Place in Sanborn, New York. They had individual tables along either side and a long table up the middle seating at least a dozen people.

As we ate, I noticed there was a constant turn over at this table with seats filling up as soon as they were empty. It seemed that everyone knew everyone else at the table and many seniors along with people of all ages were seated at this table. The conversation from this table was lively and spirited and by the few snippets that I heard it covered a multitude of subjects. What an excellent way to maintain friendships and make a few new ones.

There are ways for people to combat loneliness. I grab every chance I can to begin a conversation with a stranger like the cashier at the store or the person sitting next to me in the doctor’s waiting room. My wife says I can hold a conversation with a mugger. Try asking people about themselves. People love talking about themselves.

If you’re feeling alone, it’s very tempting to think nobody wants to visit you. But often friends, and family don’t want to bother you. So make that call or send that text and invite them over. However, chatting with a friend or relative over the phone can be almost as good as being with them. My wife used to call her aged mother every day. It only took a few minutes and made her feel valued.

Older people are particularly susceptible to loneliness and social isolation and it can have serious effects on their health. Older people say that they sometimes go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbor or family member.

While several cultures value their elders, America is one of the countries in the world where their senior citizens are frequently ignored and forgotten. We put them in group homes and let strangers look after them. We must change this. Mom and Dad selflessly took care of you, it’s time to return that favor.

Paper or Plastic?

The recent decision by New York State to prohibit single-use plastic bags from retail stores makes it an ideal time to reexamine one of my favorite environmental quandaries. Plastic grocery bags were developed as a substitute for paper bags in the late 1970s. It was promoted as a way to save trees and prevent the cutting down of our forests.

The opinion that paper is superior to plastic for the environment is not really based on science or fact. It is based on misunderstandings about the way that plastic bags are made, how a landfill works and the assumption that non-biodegradable products are bad for the planet. 

But what about cotton bags? According to Qz.com, they must be reused thousands of times before they equal the environmental performance of plastic bags. The Denmark researchers note that organic cotton is even worse than conventional cotton in relation to environmental impact. According to the article, organic cotton bags must be reused more times than conventional cotton bags based on the assumption that organic cotton has a 30% lower yield rate per acre than conventional cotton, and therefore was presumed to require up to 30% more resources like water, to grow the same amount. Everything we do, every bag, whether plastic, paper or cotton, has some kind of an impact on the environment.

But plastic bags are reusable. Some of the ways I reuse plastic grocery bags are as trash can liners, item storage and storing paint brushes for use the following day so they don’t dry out. With this ban, I will be forced to buy plastic bags for these purposes. So the ban on plastic bags will not reduce my use of plastic bags and will in fact create more waste and cost me money.

The discussion over the environmental impact of paper versus plastic has led to a number of life cycle assessment studies in Europe and North America. These evaluations show that regular plastic bags are much safer for the ecosystem than paper bags are.

In 2011, an Irish government research paper said that “it takes more than four times as much energy to manufacture a paper bag as it does to manufacture a plastic bag.” According to research, the manufacturing process also produces a greater amount of toxic chemicals when compared to making single-use plastic bags.

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment collected data that tracked the province’s plastic bag reduction program. It shows a 59.1% rate in the reduction in the use of plastic shopping bags. The United Kingdom’s Environmental Agency did a study of paper supermarket bags and found that they contribute three times as much to global warming than plastic shopping bags do.

A published Life Cycle Assessment, from EcoBilan, a division of Price Coopers Waterhouse, shows that in their manufacture, paper bags consumes over xxx times more energy than the manufacture of plastic bags. They also said that paper bag manufacture consumes over four times more water than the manufacture of plastic bags. Many studies agree that paper bags carry a substantial environmental impact in their manufacture that is not seen with plastic bags.

It is not easy to reuse paper bags because they have a tendency to tear and they get soggy when they get wet. Paper grocery bags are heavier than plastic bags. The typical plastic shopping bag weighs 0.28 ounces whereas a standard, 20 pound, Kraft paper, grocery bag weighs over 1¾ ounces. The largest and most significant result of changing from plastic to paper grocery bags will be the additional amount of volume and weight that paper bags will add to the solid waste stream. This additional amount will include a significant increase in the volume of greenhouse gas emissions that are generated to transport it to the landfills.

Plastic bags also play an unseen role in the conservation of the planet. In Canada, plastic bags are made from the ethane that is usually burned off during the natural gas refining process. Burning off this gas as opposed to using it to manufacture plastic bags also adds to the greenhouse gas in our atmosphere.

It takes only one truck to carry two million plastic bags but seven trucks to ship the same number of paper bags. The contrasts connected to plastic and paper strongly indicates why banning plastic bags won’t help. We are merely swapping one problem for another.

 Case in point, in 2006, Taiwan rescinded a ban on plastic bags in their fast food sector. The ban led to an increase in the use of paper bags with a substantial increase in waste management costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Nothing is without a downside.

To be honest, a plastic bag doesn’t create very many problems just sitting in a landfill. The problem comes about when people don’t throw away their bags appropriately and the bags end up flying around in the wild, obstructing waterways and becoming a threat to wildlife. Rather than banning plastic bags, maybe we just should take personal responsibility and dispose of them properly. It is a shame that the government has to pass laws to get us to do what we should.

Never let the facts get in the way of a good opinion

We all have opinions about things and if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have very much to write about. We typically have an assortment of personal feelings. They can be formed with a complete lack of logic or reason that facts can never penetrate.

The process of repeatedly passing information from person to person can result in the unintentional formation of our beliefs. Our minds are hard-wired to categorize information and create mental shortcuts. This helps us to organize knowledge using a minimum of mental effort. It also provides us with a needed sense of structure to cope with an otherwise messed up world.

There are the famously opinionated “Monday morning quarterbacks” who will analyze every game and every play. They will tell you what the local sports team did wrong and how they would have played it. We have the Trump supporters and those that think he should be impeached. We also have the people that are religious and that know they are in the one faith that will get you to Jannah, Nirvana, Canaan, Elysium or whatever you call Heaven. Never argue with these people because it is a waste of time.

From time to time we might ask other people about their stance on an issue even if we don’t agree with them. Forming new beliefs to add to the ones you already have might interest you. Of course this doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind. Changing your outlook is a sign of personal growth, having an open mind and the willingness to see other sides of an issue.

The sound of two opposing thoughts clashing can be very exciting. This can cause the development of intense debates in a frantic attempt to support your own existing philosophies. In my humble opinion, it seems very unlikely that there will ever be a shortage of opinions because most people have at least one well founded viewpoint based on personal experience plus four or five others about things they know absolutely nothing about. This is evident whenever you hear a person watching the Bills on television, offering a bar stool assessment on who should coach the team and how.  

I question all the opinions I now hear. Whenever I hear a new one, I handle it with skepticism, I check to see where it came from and listen it to see if it is ticking before I open it. Once it appears there is no problem, I fact check it and if it fails, I file the view point in the circular filing cabinet.

Working out which ideas are worthy of consideration and which are outright lies is now a full-time job as “fake news” is now used to undermine many assumptions. If the theory promoted seems to be from someone who has some expertise in the subject I will listen.

Convictions can be dangerous and having an incorrect belief might ruin your reputation. Voicing your opinion at the wrong time can also make you appear foolish. The old adage attributed to Abraham Lincoln goes, “It’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt,” and that seems to still hold true today.

However, when you hide your convictions to yourself, this can actually be more harmful than expressing them. As a matter of fact, opposing ideas are what fuel forward motion. Stating your opinion might make you appear more confident. Confidence never has been a bad thing to have.

A common reason that people may hold back on their thoughts is the thinking that their conviction doesn’t matter or that they won’t be listened to. For example, if a person is troubled by a new company policy, they could hold their tongue because they think that they will be labeled a troublemaker. Nevertheless, you may have a valid point. If you speak up, you might make a difference.

Even if your point of view isn’t taken seriously, what you mentioned can still encourage an important debate.  The argument you make may not have been thought of up until then. If you offer a possible solution it may still be decided that your idea isn’t worth investigating. But your opinion might encourage some new perspectives about the subject. Discussion frequently precedes results and the more thoughts that are promoted in a discussion the better and quicker you might see results.

If you’re wrong, you’re wrong. Perhaps your outlook is invalid, or that you think that there’s something “off” about it. If you want to find out just state it. The other people around you will let you know. If you are wrong admit it and don’t beat a dead horse. None of us is perfect.

You might express what everyone else is thinking but just too afraid to say. Occasionally people are afraid to state their views because they don’t think they are valid. If you voice your position, you might just present an idea that everyone can agree on.

But that’s just my opinion.

An old friend

An old buddy stopped by my house the other day. He came over because I got in touch with him due to a series of challenges I had personally taken on. This task was to contact an old friend. Just connecting with him was an undertaking because he had dropped his land line which was the only phone number I had for him. I checked his Facebook page to no avail but finally found his brother’s number. I talked to his sister-in-law who gave me his new cell number. Now we were cooking.

I have known him for over four decades. Donna and I used to go to his home on weekends to go swimming in his pool. He and I had built a deck off the back of his house. This had a platform that overhung the side of the pool for diving. We used to have cookouts for dinner and the two of us would go out to a farmer’s field and pick corn for roasting. I hadn’t seen this buddy in quite a few years so we spent about two hours catching up with each other.

We talked about the weather and the recent wind storm. If you are from Western New York, you always talk about the weather. I showed him our new bedroom addition on the back of our house and he loved it. He appreciated the fact that it looked as if it has been there forever. He liked the floors, the en-suite bathroom with a walk in shower and elevated toilet. He loved the walk in closet, the pocket door, the number of outlets I had the electrician put in (22 of them in the bedroom alone) and even the magnetic doorstop. I put in a lot of thought when I was designing this space.

His son has now grown and has given him a grandson and his son lives just around the corner from my son, small world. My buddy is a very proud grandfather. His grandson is as cute as can be and looks just like his father. We told him about the exploits of our own grandchildren, discussed our children and many other things.

We talked about banks and online banking (he is for it, I’m not). According to the FDIC, the national average interest rate on savings accounts currently stands at 0.09% so I don’t see any compelling reason to keep money in a bank.

He is a Vietnam Era veteran just like I am but we didn’t discuss politics. Politics and religion are the two subjects I refuse to discuss.

We chatted about what we were doing now. About how I blog and write articles for newspapers and even get a few of them published internationally. I told him about the article I had written, a sarcastic piece on the song “Baby it’s cold outside” and the radio stations that refused to play this classic winter song. It caused such a turmoil that I no longer write for the online paper where it was first published. However, it was distributed elsewhere without a problem. This song has gotten a politically correct remake this year by John Legend and Kelly Clarkson.

My buddy now drives a school bus and boy, did he have a few stories to tell! My wife asked him about passing a stopped school bus and did she ever hit a hot button! He told us about the people that blast past his bus as he is discharging kids and indicated his experience was not uncommon. We must have chatted about this subject for at least a half an hour.

According to the New York State DMV website, a majority of school bus related injuries and deaths happen when children are crossing the street after being dropped off by the bus, not by collisions involving school buses. There is nothing you are doing, there is no place you are going, that is worth injuring a child.

He wasn’t aware that a mutual friend of ours had passed so we informed him about it. It’s sad how we lose track of our friends and loved ones over the years. I also updated him on another person, Ed, which we both knew. We go out to dinner with Ed monthly.

Our twin grandsons were spending the day at my house due to the schools being closed and were playing upstairs but you wouldn’t know it. I called them down to the living room and they introduced themselves and shook my buddy’s hand. After they went back up to play, my buddy remarked what polite, well behaved young men they were.

Our visit was very, very enjoyable and when he left it was like we hadn’t lost any time at all. Unfortunately, he had to leave and go do his afternoon bus run. I hope he comes over again soon and often. Next time I encourage him to bring his son, his son’s wife and of course, his grandson.

Mariner’s Landing: Olcott

As appearing in The Niagara Falls Gazette 11/25/19

Another weekend another restaurant. This time my wife, my buddy and I decided to hit up the Mariner’s Landing restaurant in Olcott. It had been about a year and a half since I had been there so it was about time for a return trip. They have been open for over 18 years at their present location. It is unusual for a restaurant to be open this long so they must be doing something right. We entered the restaurant and saw the décor hadn’t changed much since the last time we were there.

They had paneled walls, a couple fireplaces and ample windows that would let in sunlight during the daytime. They also had a nautical based motif with several model ships, lighthouses and sailor figurines on the high shelves that went all around the dining room. There were a few fish tanks with several small fish swimming around to add to the calming atmosphere.

The hostess told us to sit anywhere and we selected a table near the door. The table was set with real tablecloths but they ruined it by having paper place mats. I haven’t seen a tablecloth in a restaurant for several years and it was a nice touch. The server brought our menus and took our drink order. My wife had her usual water with lemon, Ed had a glass of wine and I chose a Coke with light ice (2.50) and she headed off to get them.

When she returned with our drinks, she took our order. My wife selected the fried oyster appetizer (8.95) for her dinner and Manhattan clam chowder (3.95). Ed selected the salmon special with a bourbon/maple glaze and sautéed vegetables. I selected the New England clam chowder (3.95) and the Fried Seafood Platter (23.95). This contained shrimp, scallops, a stuffed clam and a 10 OZ piece of Icelandic cod. I had an option of several sides and selected a baked potato with sour cream.

Shortly after we ordered, the server showed up with a basket of warm bread and some butter. The butter was soft which I highly appreciate

My wife’s Manhattan clam chowder had a robust tomato taste and her fried oysters were scrumptious. She also asked for a cup of cocktail sauce on the side. The oysters were moist and tender and the coating did not fall off of them. I could have eaten them all night.

My clam chowder was very creamy and rich with diced potatoes and chunks of clams throughout. Everything on my Sea Food Platter was delicious. Everything was cooked properly and I even had to bring some home for lunch the next day.
Ed’s salmon had a maple glaze that blew my mind. The pairing of the tender and flakey salmon with the maple glaze was phenomenal. I would have never thought that it would work so well. Ed pronounced it perfect. Dinner was delish.

Our server was the Lisa and was quite pleasant, quickly answering any questions I had about the menu. She stopped by frequently to see if everything was OK with our meal.

The food was great, the ambiance perfect and we had a good time. Prices were reasonable and portions were ample. We would have liked to have tried desserts, but we were too full from the meal. We are looking forward to returning and trying other menu items, but I will probably always order the clam chowder.

However there was one downside. I had occasion to use the men’s room and this is definitely not ADA compliant. The first door had a knob on it and when I turned it, it felt funny. As I opened the door I found out why. There was no latch mechanism or even an inside doorknob, just holes where they should have been. This door opened into a small vestibule with another door. When I tried to close that door, it kept hitting on the first door’s automatic closer arm, bad planning. When I opened the stall, the only way you could enter was to step over the bowl. Talk about the bathroom from hell. If you plan on dining there just, don’t plan on using the bathroom.

Mariner’s Landing;
1540 Franklin St in Olcott, New York.
Phone number is (716) 778-5535

Their hours are:
Wednesday and Thursday 4 – 9 PM
Friday and Saturday 4 – 10PM
Saturday 12 – 8PM.

I give them an 8 out of 10 spoons because of the bathroom.
I am looking forward to our next dining adventure.

Good help is hard to find

I ran a handyman type business part time for 35 years until health problems caused me to quit. I put an ad in the paper for just one week and was as busy until the day I closed it out. It surprised me that I would be so busy but in retrospect I now know why.

My customers would pass my name around to their friends and family because I treated then like I wanted to be treated. Apparently this concept has gone the way of black and white television and rotary dial telephones. I have now reached the age where I am the one that needs some help.

I sided my house several years ago but a wind storm caused one piece to come loose. I called several people and the first person that showed up nailed it back up with the nail heads showing, but the next windstorm we had the nails pulled thru the siding, leaving holes. So he went on the “S” list and tried again.

One man showed up in the back seat of a car driven by a relative. He looked over the job and asked if I had a ladder to get up there. What? You don’t have a ladder?  He then said would have to go on the internet to see how to do the repairs I needed.  Another entry to “the list”. Finally I had a man from Lancaster do the job and he did it the right way. It hasn’t blown off since. 

One day, the automatic garage door opener stopped working. Investigation revealed that the underground wiring I had installed over thirty years ago had shorted out. Because I had a concrete patio installed right over the in ground conduit, I decided to call an electrical contractor to install a new underground feed. They dug up my yard, burrowed under the sidewalk and put the new wiring into the back of my garage instead of the side where I had originally installed it.

Shortly after that, after it had snowed, my wife came into the house and asked if there should be sparking where the old wiring entered the garage wall. I looked out the window and saw that the siding was melted and had black marks on it. I quickly ran to the basement and shut off the circuit breaker before my garage and two inside vehicles burned up. If it wasn’t for the fact that there was snow piled up against the wall, I probably would have lost the building and my cars.

Seeing as they were a licensed electrical contractor, I never inspected the job they had done. I figured they would do it right and to code.  Wrong! My investigation of this problem revealed the old wiring had never been disconnected and they didn’t install the National Electrical Code required disconnect. So I called them and read them the riot act including quoting the specific code they violated when they wired my garage.

I told them they had two choices. The first one was fixing the problems including replacing the burned and melted siding or I would report them. They were out the next day to repair the wiring.

I needed my gutters cleaned. I called several people that were recommended on Facebook but only one showed up. I would have called them Curley, Larry and Moe but I think Moe was still in prison. They did do what I asked. They cleaned the gutters but left the downspouts as plugged tight as a duck’s arse. I didn’t find this out until the next time it rained and they all overflowed. My list is getting longer.

I wanted my exterior doors replaced. They had been here since 1919 and they wouldn’t close in the summer and leaked so bad in the winter that the breeze would blow out a candle. One person showed up, a large company that advertises on the television. They gave me a price but because my doors were oversize doors, they would only install a standard door leaving a 4” gap at the top for me to deal with. I am running out of paper. Finally I found a person to do what I wanted. Replace 2 doors, two storm doors and all for the low, low price of $6000.

I wanted a digital thermostat installed in my master bedroom suite. So again I went to Facebook for suggestions. A man contacted me and we agreed he would come over the next day. When he arrived, he had our new thermostat and his tools in a plastic “Tee shirt” bag.

I left the room and sat in the living room when I heard a zap, saw sparks and all the lights went out in the bedroom. So I got up to see if he was laying on the floor. Four and a half hours later, after several zaps, damns and f bombs and after he reinstalled the old thermostat that was not working now, I told him to go home. He took some of the pieces with him and left a pile of spare parts. My list gets even longer.

It was cold that night and it’s going to be a cold for a few more nights. We still have no heat.

Brain Health

I do Sudoku puzzles, crossword puzzles and write 7 days a week 52 weeks a year. I feel that keeping my brain healthy is as important as keeping my body healthy. I recently found some support for this opinion.

The Daily Mail reports that doing Crosswords and Sudoku could keep your brain up to ten years younger. They stated that doing a puzzle every day might have a “dramatic effect” on your memory and help to ward off dementia as you get older.

The Mail reports that joint studies were done by the University of Exeter and King’s College, London. This involved participants that were between 50 and 93 years old. The participants took an online survey, reporting how often they did these types of puzzles, as well as tests to measure the changes in their brain function.

This research concluded that doing a puzzle every day could lower your brain age by up to a decade. According to a study, published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, people over 50 can improve their brain function by completing word games. 19,100 people took part in this research, and they were tested on their attention, memory, and reasoning and were asked how frequently they did puzzles. Findings showed that those who did these puzzles performed better in tests, and had a lower ‘brain age’ than those who didn’t. The difference in brain function was ten years for those who worked on the puzzles regularly and an eight-year difference for short-term memory.

I find that writing stimulates long forgotten memories. I call this opening the “file cabinets of my mind”. As soon as I open a drawer, hundreds of memories come pouring out. Memories of people I knew and things I did. Memories from my childhood right thru last week.

Sometimes they come so fast, this hunt and peck typist has trouble writing them all down. Frequently when the memories stop, I find I have written 1500 words or more. Now comes the job of paring it down to an acceptable size. I try to cut it to 800 to 900 words and save much of what I remove for another day. I frequently tell my wife that I have a 25 year old mind in a 70 year old body.

Dr. Anne Corbett, senior author of the Daily Mail studies, said: “Most of the people involved in the research did crosswords or Sudoku every day, which exercises the memory and improves problem-solving abilities and focus.” The theory behind these results is that the brain is just like anything else in the body. Continuing to use your mind and not vegging out will improve it’s capacity and adaptability.

The brain has a lot of connections that we need to use regularly doing activities like puzzles. It’s the old “use it or lose it” theory. We don’t really comprehend though if people like doing puzzles because they possess a higher level of brain function or if their mental function improves due to the fact they are solving puzzles.

Some people say that what is good for your heart is also good for your brain. This means you can lessen your risk of dementia by having a balanced, healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, keeping alcohol use to a minimum, and quitting smoking. I quit smoking after 45 years and I never felt better. I think that maintaining social connections with your friends and family might also reduce cognitive decline.

The brain controls many things like memory, making decisions and much more. These cognitive abilities can affect how we are able to perform everyday tasks and if we can live independently. Changes in thinking as people age are normal. Older adults could have problems with multi-tasking, difficulty finding words and recalling names and decreased ability to pay attention. However, as a person gets older, certain parts of the brain shrink, particularly those areas that are important to learning and other complex mental activities. This doesn’t mean you cannot learn new things. You can teach an old dog new tricks!

I changed careers at 60, taking a job that I had absolutely no experience in or training for. I love a good challenge and just figuring out how to do this job made me feel younger. To do this job, I had to write PowerPoint training modules, something I had never done before. Not only was I able to write them for my job but other supervisors asked me to write modules for them. The last time I attended college, I went to UB when I was 62. Since then, I have received several certificates and diplomas from online courses including from NCCC and the University of Central Florida.

There is increased scientific evidence that the mind does not remain static but is able to take on new challenges as people age. It is not exactly clear why certain people think just as well when they get older and others don’t but exercising your brain is very important.

You can reach Norb at Nrug@juno.com. If he doesn’t answer you right away, he is probably trying to find his glasses.

November

In early November there are two things that occur that I think should be eliminated. One is a throwback from days gone by. It is the switch from daylight saving time to standard time.

The first Saturday in November ends daylight saving time. Unless you live in Hawaii or Arizona, where DST is not followed, you need to turn your clocks back an hour in November, getting back the hour that you lost last March.

The truth is that switching back and forth is a total waste of time, messes with your internal clock and accomplishes absolutely nothing. According to popular myth, it saves energy. Not so, according to what I have read. Energy costs tend to go down in the summer because we use less lighting and we are not heating our homes. Daylight saving time has no purpose in our industrial, always on, technology-driven society.

There is certainly no good reason to do this today. If people want to take advantage of an extra hour of daylight, maybe they should just get up an hour earlier.

We reset our clocks during the summer to move an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening. Here’s an idea, move the whole world clock forward one hour and leave it alone.

The time to eliminate this dinosaur, this throwback to when we were an agrarian culture, is now.

But the only way we can change this is if Congress takes action. Unfortunately you will get old waiting for this to happen. Congress can’t seem to agree on many things. How can we expect them to handle an issue like eliminating daylight saving time, even though there is almost a universal support for its repeal?

The primary thing that drives me crazy (although some people will say it is just a short putt) is Christmas music in November. Every year it seems we start a little earlier, putting up the lights, the trees and blowup Santas. Before you call me a Grinch, I like Christmas music just as much as the next guy. Give me a good Burl Ives “Holly Jolly Christmas,” a Nat King Cole “chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” or José Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad,” but Lord help me I don’t need it on
November 1st. I gave my radio a quick scan the other day and found four stations broadcasting “All Christmas, all the time.”

I like the Christmas season; it is one of my favorite holidays. I love the eggnog, the much maligned fruit cake, the Salvation Army red kettles and bell ringers and the decorations. I enjoy the kindness that seems to pervade society at this time and the gathering of friends and family, but for the love of God, can we wait until the Thanksgiving turkey is out of the oven and the dishes are washed before we start celebrating Christmas?

I think that the stores must have paid to have some big, expensive study done that said by playing Christmas music in November, it encourages consumers to spend more money. The study probably said it increases impulse buying and therefore the stores’ bottom line, but sorry, it doesn’t work on me.

It has just the opposite effect on me. In fact, it persuades me to get in and get out as quickly as possible without any looking around. This makes me just want to get what I wanted and leave. It causes me to shop online so I don’t even have to enter a store. I now do more online shopping than in-store shopping. Give me free shipping and we are golden.

Food for thought

During the fall, food banks all across America remind people that hunger never goes away. Around the holidays they will see an increase in donations because people feel more charitable then but hunger is a twelve month a year problem.

I was fortunate enough to have a food bank in Lockport at my disposal when I couldn’t work due to a medical condition. It wasn’t like shopping at Wegmans as they had limited products including some day old baked goods available.

Even though there were some things we didn’t like, I took everything they offered me. My wife would then find creative ways of cooking these and we ate all of them. It is amazing just what you will eat when you are hungry.

I relied on food banks for sustenance 50 years ago when I was in the service. Our neighbors showed us how to apply for a monthly allocation of surplus food that the state would give to low income people. Then, every month we would have a food exchange in the common area of the housing complex where we lived to swap whatever food we didn’t want for food that we did.

I also remember during the Blizzard of ’77 that I took a part temporary job at a local supermarket due to the fact I could not get to my job in Buffalo. I used to dig thru the “Garbage Room” finding perfectly fine food that was not saleable. A tomato with a spot, a dented can or a broken carrot.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture states that between 30-40 percent of the food in the United States is wasted. Large amounts of produce that is grown in the United States is left in the field due to economic reasons. It is also fed to livestock or transported from the fields to a landfill.

I have done “Gleaning” where you go thru a farmer’s field after the harvest. A man I worked with grew a field of “Butter Sugar” corn one year. At the end of the season, after the price dropped, he gave me the field. Told me to take what I wanted for free. My father in law and I went and picked the corn and brought it to my house where my wife and mother in law blanched it, cut it off the cob and packaged the kernels in zip lock plastic bags for freezing. We had 100 bags of corn and it lasted us a full year and a half.

In my humble opinion, the appeal of perfect produce probably started in the 1940s as people adapted to refrigeration. Suddenly, you could get a pineapple in Wisconsin in February. Clarence Birdseye helped hasten the preservation of foods with his quick freezing methods and the days of going to the grocery store every day were dying out. Suddenly stores were ending up with unsaleable products that had to be thrown away.

Americans waste a large quantity of food. According to a report by The Guardian.com approximately half of all produce in the United States is tossed out, around 60 million tons worth $160 billion every rear. The Environmental Protection Agency has discovered that thrown away food is also the largest component in American landfills.

Wasting food represents many problems for our country. With all of the households in the United States that struggle to put food on the table. That much waste could be used to feed hungry Americans.  Reducing our food waste by 15 percent would help feed 25 million Americans every year. Food waste is also a primary source of waste going into landfills and is also the one of the largest causes of methane in the United States.

When I worked for Nabisco, forty years ago, they used to donate damaged packages of cookies and crackers until some of the donations ended up being “returned” to stores for a refund. Allegedly they also had to defend themselves against a few lawsuits related to the donated food. They stopped donating food to charity for these reasons and just destroyed the product with imperfect packaging.  Some people ruin it for everybody.

The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act was passed in 1996.  This act protects businesses from lawsuits when they make a contribution of food to a charity. This protects them from litigation except for cases involving extreme negligence.

I worked with a person who knew a salesman/driver for a dairy. He would bring in “expired” yogurt for me. It was perfectly fine, it was just past the “Best if used by” date and unsaleable. It was delicious.

There are many reasons why so much food is thrown out in the U.S. Part of the reason is that food is less expensive and more abundant in the United States than almost anywhere else in the world. But the big reason Americans waste food appears to be the national obsession with the aesthetic condition of their food. Food that goes past their “Best if used by” date gets thrown out or grocery stores throw out unattractive produce or dented cans that shoppers will not buy. Other reasons include damage in transit and stores ordering more than they can sell.

We have to stop throwing out perfectly good food.