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Tom Murphy, May 18, 2011

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We've been hearing a lot about abusive powerful men lately. Arnold Schwarzenegger, long accused of using his power to gain sexual favors from the women around him, admitted he fathered a child with a woman who worked for him. The IMF's Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a leading contender for the presidency of France, stands accused of a sexual attack on a powerless hotel maid. And a report commissioned by the Catholic Church says the sweeping social change of the 1960s turned some of its priests into pedophiles. Mr. Schwarzenegger has admitted his problems with women, but will he stop? Mr. Strauss-Kahn, who has acknowledged his past problems with women, will have his day in court. But will he stop?  And the church has yet to fully embrace the reality of its problem at all, as the latest report shows. Tens of millions of baby boomers - and their older siblings - went through the sexual revolution and very few turned into child molesters. Then again, very few of them chose to live in a same-sex setting under a vow of chastity. The men who choose to do so in the name of serving the church - or any other institution - are an unusual lot from the start. So are the women who choose the celibate life of a convent. I was schooled for 12 years by these men and women as a youth and, while I was never a victim of sexual abuse, I regularly saw actions and deeds that amounted to abuse. We were taught not to question, often under threat of physical punishment - which was common. But even as children, we knew it was wrong. Sexual abuse by priests didn't start in the '60s in America. There are well-documented cases in Europe going back centuries. Ireland is still reeling from the problems that existed in its church-run orphanages for more than a century. In the end, the cause isn't nearly as important as finding a way to end the abuse. Simply put, it is evil and it must stop. And nobody should be more aware of evil than those who would presume to preach to others about it. It's action, not excuses, that matter.

Tom Murphy, January 24, 2011

I toasted Jack LaLanne this morning as I drank a smoothie made of freshly squeezed orange, apple, kale, banana, celery, soy protein and carrot. Jack inspired me to drink it. His name is on the juicer that made it. And he dedicated his life to helping people like me - or you - learn the merits of good exercise and eating right. His death at 96 is a national loss. He was the Ben Franklin of American fitness, having founded the first modern health club back in the 1930s when most people thought he was some kind of kook. And he was a kook, a kook who challenged a lot of what everyone else took for granted and played a significant role in changing their minds. We need more kooks like that as 77 million boomers start moving into their sunset years at the rate of 10,000 a day. We could use a new leader who'll challenge the way we look at aging the same way that Jack challenged the sedentary lifestyle that has led to soaring rates of obesity and diabetes. It's hard to know how many people Jack saved from a similar fate, but I'm proud to be one of them.

Tom Murphy, December 23, 2010

It's the thought that counts, but they don't advertise thinking on TV so you don't usually hear much about it. However, we emphasize it here at RedwoodAge. It's the first word in our motto: "Think. Share. Act. Live." What we mean is that people should think critically, share what they think with others, act on what they learn and live a "whole life" that blends the physical, spiritual and intellectual. When I read Abu Teher's fine feature story about what Bangladeshi elders find lacking in the US, I was reminded of how our society often fails to consider the needs of others, particularly in terms of personal respect. It's something to think about, not just in the holiday season, but going into a new year where political debates and worries about money will again dominate the news. Bangladesh is one of the world's poorest countries, yet its citizens have something valuable that we lack, or that we don't value enough.

Tom Murphy, November 2, 2010

If 60's the new 40, then my mother is proving that 94 is the new 75. She cooks her own meals, does her own shopping and lives independently, albeit in a building full of "old people" -- her words, not mine.  Last week, I took her out to lunch as a Mexican joint. She put away an enchilada, a "silly relleno," rice, beans, salad, tortillas and her share of the chips and salsa. She would have had desert, but turned up her nose at the selection - flan or chocolate ice cream. She's starting to forget a few things she use to know, but then again, I started doing that when I was about 35. (Before that, I was absolutely positive that I knew everything.)  She's already older than her mom or her grandmother were when they passed on. But the strangest thing about my mom is that she's not really that unusual. Centenarians are the fastest growing age demographic,  and there will be a slew of them - a millions or more - by the time boomers get up there.  All of this WILL change the way we view growing old, where we live, how we pay for it, what we eat and so on. Imagine the promises politicians will have to make to the 70 million or so boomers who survive into their 70s and 80s, not to mention their parents. One thing is certain: they're going to have to put an end to elder abuse, because we're sure as hell not going to take that anymore. And it looks like that message is already getting out there. Led Zeppelin will probably still be a popular soundtrack for Caddy commercials, and rock'n'roll will never die, right?  We said we were going to change the world. We just didn't say when.

Tom Murphy, September 11, 2010

For most of the 6 billion people around us, religion and spirituality provide relief from the nagging question: "Why are we here?"  For Sarah Palin, religion is politics. The former Miss Wasilla and Alaska governor once again showed her disrespect for others by linking the burning of the Koran to the construction of a Mosque near Ground Zero.  What was she thinking?  The first act was threatened by a self-proclaimed "minister" who threatened what amounts to a hate crime against Muslims. The second is an effort for members of the world's largest religion to worship. Both acts are protected under the US Constitution, but that doesn't make them equal. They must have skipped over the founding of America in the Wasilla schools, so let me remind Ms. Palin that America was founded by people seeking freedom from religious persecution. For someone to threaten to burn the holiest book of another religion is about the most un-American act that can be conceived.  To build a mosque anywhere - especially in the shadow of an heinous act committed by blasphemers under the name of Allah - celebrates the very freedoms we hold most dear in America. Ms. Palin likes to speak up for family and country, but we respectfully suggest she pay a little more attention to her own family and pay more respect to the reason we're all here, in America.

Tom Murphy, March 27, 2010

RedwoodAge started building "The Village" in 2007 to help our readers share the resources they need to help change the way we think about aging in our communities and to live fuller lives as the years pass. It includes links to agencies related to caregiving and personal well-being.  So it is with delight that we now see a national movement to extend the "village" concept in the real world through programs like the one described in Pamela MacLean's fine story.  A lot of seniors are pioneering this thinking - thank you!  But it will be the 77 million boomers who meld in into our daily thinking.  The sheer power of boomers previously made household words out of once-abstract concepts like feminism, civil rights, consumerism, ecology, pacifism and health food. They set out to change the world, but they won't be done until they add another: annotism, which I hereby define as the practice of living fully as the years pass.

Tom Murphy, February 22, 2010

Boomers never really earned a reputation for being religious, although the quest for spiritual enlightenment has been a standard part of their lives for most of the past four decades. Should it be surprising that their kids think even less about organized religion? The percentage of young people interested in attending services has fallen to a new low. That's not to say the young have no moral compass; the millennial generation cares deeply about the environment, the quest for peace and the plight of the disadvantaged - they're good people. Like their parents, many of today's younger generation questions the effectiveness of social institutions and religious tradition in serving the needs of society. And it's hard to blame them. For all the talk of faith-based initiatives, there seem to be as many poor, hungry, disenfranchised and broken people today as there were a generation ago. It's enough to shake one's faith.

Tom Murphy, December 30, 2009

Ah, another "happy" new year! That almost wonderful time of year where we really believe this will be the year we'll get healthy. Instead of believing in Santa, we believe in Santé. And it isn't such a leap. As health and science writer Wendy Wolfson reminded us in September, there are four basic tricks to good health: eat right, exercise, maintain a normal weight and don't smoke. Those four things - three of which are related - can reduce your chances of major diseases like blocked arteries and diabetes by 80 percent. I would add sleep to that list, especially because sleeping more can help you eat less, and eating better can help you sleep more, and both can help you lost weight. Most people don't get enough rest in this nutty world thanks to kids, jobs, noise, their spouses, indigestion and stress. But if you get more sleep, the rest of life is much easier and you'll live longer, which more than makes up for all that time you slept. So my list of resolutions this year starts with something really easy. I'm gonna take a nap. Happy New Year!

Tom Murphy, December 13, 2009

There's nothing new about holiday stress. Families and friends who've grown apart suddenly get together with the expectation that their lives will magically be transformed into those commercials you see on TV. Unfortunately, life isn't often like that. Millions of families are struggling economically; hundreds of thousands have lost their homes and 1 in 7 Americans are unemployed or underemployed. Older people have special needs, sometimes serious illnesses, that limit what they can eat and do. College kids are trying to cope with skyrocketing tuitions and a bleak job market. Holiday visits are most valuable when they give us time to better understand those friends and family members - how they've changed, what their lives are like now, and how we can help them. Actively listening and adapting your plans may  be the most important gift you can give this year. Keep that in mind before you head over the river and through the woods.

Wendy Wolfson, November 18, 2009

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Thinking of cancer treatment as one stage in a continuum of care that includes survivorship as well is a necessary thought readjustment for doctors and nurses. It is natural to only think of solving the immediate crisis. To make this happen, however, healthcare has to fund not cancer treatment but post-care quality-of-life programs. We took our toddlers Mr. Button and Marjana into the back yard to see shooting stars. Mr. Button thought sitting outside in the dark pointless and sensibly said, "I want to eat." I got up at 5:30 with my husband the next morning and returned to the backyard. I hugged him for warmth and counted 4 shooting stars. Consider the short attention of the average toddler, the not much longer one of the average adult, and then this: the origin of this particular stream of cosmic crap was several hundred years ago, when the paths of two comets converged. Although our lives are fleeting, we are made up of atoms from supernovae. The Russian physicist George Gamow who explained how hydrogen and helium in the universe could be due to the Big Bang and author of the very fine series of  Mr. Tompkins books that explain physics to ordinary people, worked out the calculations on a train ride to Princeton.

Wendy Wolfson, November 4, 2009

It's so easy to get frustrated with the daily stresses. At latest reckoning, I'm about 10 years behind on just about everything. I did honor Halloween in my own way, though. I read my toddlers. Marjana and Mr. Button, their favorite scary bedtime stories, including "Night of the Gargoyles." Kids asleep, my husband and I drank a beer and watched "Evil Dead", Sam Raimi's early masterpiece of tasteless gory excess. The.children wanted to go trick or treating for Halloween and my husband wanted to go fishing. Mr. Button had a teddy bear costume and Marjana had a chic kitty-cat outfit, complete with tail. Regrettably I forgot the costumes in the trunk of the car. But luckily they were still small enough to go trick or treating on the Santa Cruz wharf as themselves and score handfuls of candy. There were many fake monsters milling around. Spiderman was playing the guitar for money, but people threw candy into his open case. There were grunting sea lions, a full moon shining on the water, and as the children discovered to their delight, stars in the ocean as their father hauled up a starfish on his fishing pole. They got to touch it before he dropped it back in.

Wendy Wolfson, October 17, 2009

The idea of the elderly and disabled having to demonstrate for basic services is a sad one. California's budget cuts are really hitting the weak and frail as well as eviscerating the public schools, which are now ranked 48th among the states ahead of Mississippi and Alabama. Programs like Senior Survival School that teach people how to organize and speak up are impressive. Greatness comes from investing in people - human capital. If we don't give people basic support, like healthcare and education, we will decline as a nation. You never know who will come up with the next really good idea. At breakfast,  Mr. Button, my todder started talking about the Hubble, the greatest telescope of all time. I confess to showing him NASA propaganda videos of astronauts fixing the telescope in space, and various pictures of nebulae and galaxies. I was trying to show him what he might see if he swung on the swing in the park high enough to go into outer space. "What is Hubble?" his twin sister Marjana asked. Their father said that after Einstein published his work on relativity, which assumed the universe as constant, a priest named LeMaitre did the mathematical calculations and realized that there wasn't enough mass to hold the universe stable. He asserted that the universe must be expanding. Einstein acknowledged the hole in his theory. Independently, astronomer Edwin Hubble observed red shifts in different galaxies, which gave evidence that the universe was indeed expanding. During the time it took for my husband to explain this, I got in a few good gulps of coffee. I knew it would be a short respite. Marjana seemed pleased with this explanation, but not Mr. Button. He threw his spoon on the floor and dumped his Cheerios on the table. I put him in the portacrib for time-out, where he could hopefully reflect on the need for table manners in an expanding universe. Speaking out starts early.

Jennifer Meacham, September 27, 2009

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I was just 10 miles away from the Dallas FBI sting where a man bought and tried to detonate a fake bomb sold to him by the FBI. It's a interesting place to be in. For one, I wonder why I didn't cover it while I was there. For another, I had enough things on my plate. We all face this same situation every day. Do we take advantage of an opportunity, or stick with status quo? Though this case had its rather shocking implications, I've nonetheless been able to pull from it a lesson that I think could help everyone who's trying to make the most of what they have: next time, consider not sticking with the status quo. That may be just what the world needs.

Tom Murphy, September 17, 2009

October 15, 1969, is burned into my memory as the Vietnam Moratorium Day. It was the only day I ever cut school, and I did it with the surprise blessing of my conservative parents, who recognized it was something I had a right to decide on my own as a 16-year-old who would soon be facing the draft. It was also the day when I came face to face with two of the most stunning women of the folk music world - Mary Travers and Judy Collins. Millions marched nationwide in Washington, San Francisco, Chicago and, in my case, New York. I was among the tens of thousands who gathered at the New York Public Library, but managed to sneak into the press section, flashing my American Airlines Youth Fare card and a 35 mm SLR as my credentials. There I stood among Broadway stars and musicians, including Judy Blue Eyes, who was beaming beside me as a small stir rose in the crowd almost a city block away. You could see the stir moving forward, ever so slowly, with people cheering and waving as it approached the stage. When it was about 100 yards away, you could see a figure - a tall, leggy woman with long blond hair, high-stepping her way over the seated protesters. It was, of course, Mary Travers symbolically approaching the issue of ending the war in the way she approached everything - through the people. When she finally reached the stage, she climbed up and sang antiwar anthems with the power that only comes from understanding the hearts and minds of the people. She sang of the ugly realities of war, blissfully unaware of how it contrasted with her own beauty. Along with the millions, she was a powerful force in ending the war, and she has raised her voice against oppression many times in the 39 years and 11 months since that day. We will miss her, but we know she lives on in the hearts and minds of those among us.

Tom Murphy, August 10, 2009

It's 100-degrees hot in Northern California right now, so I went to the coolest place I know in the San Francisco Bay area, the town of Fairfax, where "The Good Festival" was underway. Now Fairfax, home of the American Taliban, is the town that time forgot. If you want to know what life was like 40 years ago at the time of Woodstock and Abbey Road, you should visit Fairfax. It is to hippies what Old Sturbridge Village is to early American homesteads, except they don't charge a penny to get into Fairfax. Like the concert at Bethel, the festival was filled with mellow 20-somethings who seemed to have the impression that they invented tie-dyed clothes, reggae music, dancing, marijuana and the entire spirit of "collaboration."  They also seemed to believe they actually invented the word collaboration. One young zealot was explaining what collaboration is to me like he was trying to explain a subtle teaching of Buddhism to a fundamentalist Christian.  "The future of the planet lies in our ability to live and work together," he said in a tone that sounded like he wasn't sure if I understood English. "You work for individual gains," he added. "We work for society."   At that point, I noted that was the founder of RedwoodAge.com and Newswire21.org, which are both dedicated to creating a participatory journalism system in which all people could share information.  "Oh!," he said with a sublime smile. "So you get it! Good! That's beautiful!" Now perhaps he understands that "all people" needs to include people of all ages.

Tom Murphy, August 5, 2009

The death of Merce Cunningham was duly noted by the arts community and by some of those good news organizations that still have someone who writes about dancing. But few average Americans understand what he did for the human spirit. Simply put, he changed the way we dance. First, he was a superb dancer himself, leaping and spinning with the best in the world, and doing it all with a peculiarly American panache. Think of a classically trained Fred Astaire. But as a choreographer, he did even more; he divorced the discipline of dance from the music and the sets, so that nothing was more important than the dancing itself. And then he brought the different art forms back together, after each had become as good as they could be on their own. The net effect made it all much more vibrant - the music of his long-time companion, the late composer John Cage, and the sets by some of the 20th century's best artists - people like Robert Rauschenberg. It's not exaggeration to say his work altered the visions of every choreographer of his generation in Europe, Russia and North America, and it completely changed the way leading dancers of the boomer generation approached their art. Mark Morris, Twyla Tharp and others built their life's work to the ideas Cunningham pioneered. So the next time you step out on a dance floor, even it's just moving to the juke box at the corner bar, do a dance for Merce. Forget the music, forget the people around you, forget where you are and - just for a moment - think about the dance. It's the greatest tribute you can make to the passing of one of America's greatest dancers.

Pamela A. MacLean, June 30, 2009

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Poverty for older women is a real and growing problem.  Over the years we cared for my mother I met a number of her friends and heard their stories of financial strain. Most women of her generation did not work outside the home and relied on the finances of their husbands. Stories abounded of lifetime earnings spent and nothing saved, of wills that gave a house to the children and left nothing for mom to use in her old age.  Many lived in frumpy apartments with little or no money to spare after paying for rent, groceries and medicine. Today, women have careers but even two-income families struggle to save and still nearly 40 percent of women living alone depend on social security for nearly all their income.  omen need to educate themselves about pensions and retirement if they hope to enjoy a comfortable retirement. 

Julie Mitchell, June 12, 2009

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At the esteemed Mayo Clinic, researchers found that short, preoperative meetings before heart surgery helped reduce cost, errors, and miscommunications. I'm not surprised. And when surgeons and other doctors take the time to have that same kind of short, informative chat with patients before any procedure, large or small, it goes a long way in making the patient feel better.  I've been hearing a lot these days about personal medicine.  That's  where a specific plan, including prescriptions, therapy, or dietary changes, is custom-made to meet a patient's specific needs.  In medicine, one size definitely does not fit all. It's like those hospital gowns that wrap twice around some people and leave others' rear quarters exposed.  When I go to the doctor - thankfully a rare occurrence - I want to be heard.  Maybe my problem is commonplace, and the physician has a standard way to treat it, but maybe I'm not the common patient. I know when I got to the dentist that I need a lot less Novocain than she thinks I will.  After two appointments where simply replacing an old filling resulted in half of my lip drooping toward my chin and slobbering water on myself for more than four hours afterwards, I got fed up.  The first thing I told the new dentist was to go light on the drugs. She listened, she gave me a little bit of anesthetic, tested to see if I was numb, and then agreed: I'm a Novocain lightweight! All physicians should be willing to take a few extra minutes out of their admittedly over-packed days and nights to really listen to their patients.  We just might have a clue about ourselves and what ails us. And if we're wrong it's unlikely that we'll sue ourselves.

Julie Mitchell, June 1, 2009

"It sucks being grown up," said my 16-year-old, Matt, in the car on the way home from school. "You don't have as many friends. "I immediately jumped in and defended myself and his dad, pointing out my book group and exercise buddies, and Ted's old basketball/beer-drinking pals. But the more I thought about it, I could see what Matt meant. In high school and college you're surrounded by your friends, day and night in and out. You travel in a pack, and everywhere you go, it's a party. There is always someone ready to listen or just hang out. Adults, on the other hand, have to plan ahead. Matt sees us schedule dinners and lunches to see our friends; we have to join book clubs or boot camps or softball leagues to stay connected. Recently, my long-time group of adult ballet-dancer friends has begun to fragment, pirouetting off into different directions. What used to be weekly or monthly lunches has dwindled to one or two a year. And although I understand it, losing friends hurts. And it will never be like high school, no matter how social we are. Jobs and relationships and children change all that gleeful spontaneity. What I need to tell my son is: enjoy every minute of being with your friends for as long as you can.

Tom Murphy, May 20, 2009

The old joke of being a "Catholic School Surivor" reflects the mixed feelings many of us had about schools that did a good job of teaching us the three Rs, but a lousy job of teaching us about life. And nobody's laughing now in the aftermath of a long-awaited report that documents the depths of depravity that existed for decades in Catholic schools where discarded children were beaten, abused and raped by men who preached the word of God, but practiced the work of the devil himself. The report makes me think of the hardened nuns who schooled members of my family. Many were Irish immigrants who had entered Irish convent schools at a young age, and many had obvious psychological problems that included hostility towards boys, paranoia about sexual matters, hair-trigger tempers and a tendency towards corporal punishment - classic symptoms for victims of sexual violence. I saw a nun throw a boy against a blackboard so hard that it cracked. I saw a nun crack a half-inch oak pointer over a boy's head. I saw a nun demonstrate torture techniques against a boy who'd been bad. And if a boy got too near a girl, some nuns viewed it as perversion. I've often thought that I'm a writer now because of the language skills I learned in those strange, disturbing years. But today I wonder what my teachers might have been taught when they were young.

Julie Mitchell, May 5, 2009

Today I went to the memorial service for the father of my closest friend in the world. Wendy and I met my sophomore year of college, and we've been one another's best friends since, closer than sisters. Her dad died last week, quickly after a stroke and then a heart attack just shy of his 87th birthday. He had been robust and active up until he went into the hospital. Wendy's mom is strong and is doing well considering she just lost her life partner of more than 50 years. I lost my own mother almost ten years ago when she succumbed to emphysema acquired after years of smoking a pack a day. Her death was not unexpected; in many ways it was a relief since she had been so sick. But now I think about the fact that now Wendy and I each have one parent. I think that makes my 30-plus-year friendship with Wendy even sweeter. We still have each other to lean on, to share our joys, pains, and frustrations with; in some possibly predestined way, we are more each other's family than ever before.

Tom Murphy, April 22, 2009

Imagine this happening today: a US Senator holds a "teach-in" and declares "Earth Day."  That act almost seems radical now, although that's exactly what Sen. Gaylord Nelson did in 1970, just as the middle of the baby boom was getting out of high school, staging massive protests against the Vietnam War, and burning bras and draft cards like they were going out of style - which they were.  Here we are 39 years later.  Fuel mileage on clunky American cars has crept up from the mid-teens to just over 20 mpg. Global warming is turning the global ice caps into giant puddles. And thousands of species have vanished from the planet forever. Generation Y has taken up the cause of the environment, and - whether they know it or not - they have tens of millions of staunch supporters among their elders.  I for one believe we have an obligation to Mother Earth and all her children. So if anyone would like to stage something between a teach-in and a massive protest, count me in. And thank you, Sen. Nelson.

Jennifer Meacham, April 7, 2009

Underscoring The Recession Gets Annoying headline are real-life experiences of those of us "on the ground" in this recession. With staffing down at grocery and liquor stores nearby, the mirrored vegetable displays are dirty and smeared and the liquor store shelves are unpriced after state tax hikes here in Oregon of 50 cents per bottle. Meanwhile, bottle return areas are packed with recyclers who tell me they're doing it "for the cash." Like most people, I've felt the gloom of this recession. The buildings seemed dirtier, the streets more riddled with potholes, the prices on everything but the necessities too high to bear. So I escaped to the garden. With broccoli, lettuces, beans, herbs and more now nestled in for summer crops, I found the sun light at the end of this recession tunnel. Even as our conveniences die out and living gets a little harder, the crux of life lives on: sun, rain water, fragrant compost-fed earth, and healthy food raised by caring hands. Here's to life in this recession's slow lane....

Robin Evans, March 25, 2009

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There are few who haven't heard the dying gasps of the newspaper industry. But not many are adequately tuned in to the accompanying death rattle of the Fourth Estate, that vehicle of information about the workings of government and industry that our founders felt essential to democracy. So say Robert McChesney and John Nichols in The Nation Magazine in a meticulously plotted countrywide alert and argument for a federal stimulus package for journalism. Neither argues, however, that the corporate newspaper model can or should be preserved. What can and must survive, they say, is watchdog and investigative reporting on serious topics. But they concede they have no idea what the best new model will be. Blogger Clay Shirky returns to Gutenberg and the print revolution for some hints. His conclusion. "Nothing will work, but everything might." We won't see it until after it happens. In the meantime, he echoes Nichols and McChesney in saying we need to shift our attention from "save newspapers" to "save society." Rather than saving institutions, we need to save journalism, on which our stability as a democracy depends. Our present economic crisis is a sobering lesson in what happens when few are paying attention to the fine print.

Tom Murphy, March 16, 2009

A lot of my friends are mad at the World Wide Web, but I'm not. The concept of the web got started 20 years ago, but it wasn't until about 1994 that it exploded in popularity; that's when Mosaic debuted as the first browser. Computers already had a bad rep by then for dehumanizing society. But all hell broke loose after we started surfing the 'net: online porn, stolen identities, zombie computers, Internet pedophilia. Some of my closest colleagues blame the web for destroying newspapers, although they had been consolidating at a breakneck pace for the better part of a century. Yeesh. All that said, the web is more popular than ever, bringing news to hundreds of millions of people, sharing important information about health, making us all better consumers and helping to bridge the isolation for the homebound. Totalitarian governments hate the net, which is another reason to love it. But why do we have such a love-hate relationship with technology? I suspect it's because of something I heard from a Sun Microsystems scientist years ago: "Technology is easy. People are hard."

Cecily O'Connor, March 5, 2009

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I've got blonde hair. So I know a thing or two about stereotypes, and can sympathize with boomers who are now receiving their own labels. No one likes to be pigeonholed. It strips us of our individuality. But marketers are feverishly trying to play to boomers' economic and retirement fears, peppering their promotions with statements such as "you've worked hard" and "embrace the moment" because they see that some boomers are feeling vulnerable during uncertain times. Well, as a blonde who's not having much fun right now, I'm sure most boomers aren't that willing to embrace the moment either. Labels and stereotypes don't feel good.

Tom Murphy, February 20, 2009

The classic definition of insanity is the inability to differentiate between fantasy and reality. Point in case: the hit TV show 24 is fantasy. It portrays a no-holds-barred approach to stopping terrorists and while it is often far, far over the top, it provides a weekly opportunity for 20 million Americans to vent their frustrations in the age of terrorism and sparks spirited debates over personal freedoms. On the other hand, we find the all-too-real American rendition program undertaken by the Bush Administration, which allowed people to be detained without warrants, hooded, shackled and taken to some god-forsaken hell hole to be tortured at US taxpayer expense, then thrown into a prison without trial or hope. Now that Obama is in charge, it's time to take a closer look at these ugly covert operations and who was responsible for them. We know the difference between a fictional thriller and a real-life crime against humanity. It's time to end the insanity in America.

Cecily O'Connor, February 5, 2009

How can I look younger? That's a question most people ask as they age, and the concern isn't isolated to the boomer crowd. Ten years ago, my friends and I didn't chat about eye wrinkle creams. But now, words like retinal and antioxidants surface often as part of our wrinkle prevention discussions. I wonder what the conversation will be like in another 10 years when some sagging is bound to set in?  The hard part is that some hard-to-control external factors like divorce and antidepressants can also wreak havoc on our mugs, according to a study. But what about other factors that we can (reasonably) control like an upbeat outlook? I know that on a day when I have eaten well, drank lots of water and shared some laughs with my family and friends, I'm more likely to embrace the face I see in the mirror before I head for bed. Attitudes about aging can play a big part in whether we slather on eye cream, or learn to appreciate the way our body is changing. It would be great to see more research on the latter. Positive attitudes could be the new fountain of youth. 

Rebecca Rosen Lum, January 17, 2009

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To save a single life is to save the world. So says the Talmud. But when UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged an immediate ceasefire, Israel moved further into Gaza in pursuit of Hamas, shelling a UN relief agency and a hospital in the process. The heart-wrenching stories from Gaza recall grisly tales from the Vietnam War: infants huddled near their mothers' corpses, Israeli troops barring emergency vehicles from helping civilians. As the death toll passed 1,000, Hamas kept firing missiles into Israel and insisted that Israel pull out as a condition of a ceasefire. Can the two sides really share a path to peace? We're reminded of the great Jewish thinker, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, who said: "All the world is a narrow bridge. The main thing is not to be afraid." The world is too small for us not to treat one another as neighbors. And if life is a series of dangerous crossings, we cannot afford not to contemplate seriously before setting out. In the words of another spiritual leader, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., "wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows."

Rebecca Rosen Lum, December 25, 2008

Fluorescent lights, waxed linoleum floors, ear-splitting blasts from a PA system: The nursing home is likely no one�s desired destination, and the last place likely to kindle sexual desire. But new studies suggest nursing homes may be in for a big change, and we can thank the sex, drugs and rock�n'roll generation for that. An advance guard of researchers, including a group from Kansas State University, are nudging nursing home officials to start thinking about residents' desires for a lively sex life. It�s about time. The nation's  78 million post-World War II babies came of age during the free love era, and chances are slim they�ll check their good vibes at the door if and when they can no longer live independently. With age, expect boomers to give up what they must - a driver�s license, say, or a problematic flight of stairs. But they're as unlikely to embrace chastity as they are to forgo Internet access.

Tom Murphy, December 19, 2008

The real spirit of Christmas for 14 million Americans is alcohol, the most deadly of our recreational drugs. That's right. It's the most dangerous time of the year for friends and neighbors who don't know how to stop drinking. And for the rest of us, it's good to keep in mind that alcohol is linked to higher rates of heart problems, cancer of all kinds, ulcers, liver failure, diabetes, obesity, depression, birth defects, domestic violence, suicide and, of course, that great American holiday tradition, auto fatalities. Alcohol is the new tobacco, which is why some of your hipper friends are opting for softer drinks these days. That doesn't mean you shouldn't enjoy a little Christmas cheer at the office party or toast Ol' Saint Nick over this year's roast beast. But when you do, be a good enough host to offer a choice of beverages. Make it OK for friends to have a little warm cider or seltzer if they don't really want some wine. Meet a friend for coffee instead of a drink. Never egg-on a friend to try some rum-soaked eggnog. Don't insist they "make an exception" to try your holiday port. If you really value your friends and their health, give them the gift of choice this year. And if you haven't done anything nice for yourself this year, try putting a cork in it.

Tom Murphy, December 10, 2008

Even a dog has a sense of fairness, researchers tell us. So why is it so hard for politicians and business leaders to understand that you can't sell Senate seats or run your company into the ground with serious repercussions. We have one in 100 Americans locked up behind bars, and most of them are there for trying to hustle a few hundred bucks by selling drugs. Deplorable as that may be, it pales in comparison to the criminally insane behavior of auto company execs who insisted on maximizing profit by churning out gas guzzlers when they knew that Japanese automakers were making huge profits on fuel-efficient Hondas and Toyotas. It's refreshing to see the governor of Illinois locked up on charges of corruption. Maybe, instead of bailing out the auto execs, we should book a few extra rooms in the gray bar hotel and turn the auto factories over to workers with common sense.



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