Arizona celebrated its 100th birthday on Valentine’s Day.  One of the festivities this past weekend was the Fort Lowell Day Celebration to which I took my grandkids.  We just missed the Cavalry Drills, but did chat with the soldiers in period uniforms (one demonstrated his rifle – with blanks) and petted the horses.

My granddaughter loved the girls’ and women’s long dresses and bonnets.  The kids got a kick out of washing clothes on a washboard, but the real hit, after looking at the old Post Hospital with its melting adobe walls, was making adobe bricks.  (When my kids were in pre-school at Tucson Community School, the five-year-old group made enough adobe bricks to rebuild the tiny house on their playground that melted each year.)

Surprisingly, since the grandkids are 3 and 6, they were interested in the Fort Lowell Museum with its photographs of the fort and its display cases of the old costumes.  We then visited the San Pedro Chapel, but just missed the Mexican paper flower making, having stopped for a snack of carne asada tamales.

Beyond 100

Tucson had a good rain Tuesday.  (Another opportunity to wear a turtleneck!  For a while it seemed like a very short winter.)  When the clouds lifted they revealed snow-capped mountains, but the snow melted in the sunlight.

You know I’ve been discussing education in Arizona.  I got very excited when President Obama announced that ten states would be exempted from the No Child Left Behind requirements.  If Arizona was exempted, ninth graders who didn’t know fractions and long division wouldn’t be pushed into Algebra and the 40% of tenth graders who had flunked Algebra in my local high school wouldn’t have to take Geometry until then picked up their deficiencies.

But no, our governor didn’t ask for an exemption.  And our legislature, in its wisdom, has proposed a bill that deals with something more important than students learning math:

State Sen. Lori Klein has introduced a bill that would punish public school teachers if they use words that violate the obscenity and profanity guidelines set forth by the Federal Communications Commission.

Klein told the Senate committee Wednesday that she wished the issue could be left to school boards, but she didn’t feel they were protecting “young, impressionable kids” from offensive language.

(Klein, a Republican from Anthem, made national headlines last fall when she pointed her gun at a reporter while demonstrating the weapon’s laser sight during an interview.)


Notice that the article was printed in the Chicago Tribune.  Arizona gets such great press.  (By the way, the states exempted are: CO, FL, GA, IN, KY, MA, MN, NJ, OK, TN.)

Living Beyond 100

Last week’s presentation at the University of Arizona in the Living Beyond 100 series was The Aging of the Brain by Carol A. Barnes (Regents’ Professor of Psychology and Neurology; Director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute).  Unfortunately, at least a quarter of the lecture was above me.  I understand neurons (brain cells) and synapses (the spaces between the neurons where the electrical or chemical connections take place) but when we got beyond the hippocampus (the part of the brain that is involved in memory forming, organizing, and storing), she lost me.  And that’s not because of my age – I don’t have a lot of science training, but I try to understand so I can talk intelligently with my children.

When my children were young I subscribed to Scientific American with the idea that its science would then seep into their brains.  I tried to read the articles myself, but really only understood the math puzzles.  (I am a math teacher.)  I guess the subliminal input worked, as my daughter is a nurse and my son does genetic research.

Back to the lecture.  Neurons are postmitotic, which means that they don’t divide, like other cells, so the telomeres on the ends of the chromosomes (see my blog entry
https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2012/01/30/hairball/) can’t deteriorate.  That part of our brain is ok.

Note: In 1935 when the age for Social Security was set at 62, the average life expectancy was 62!  Obviously, the feds didn’t expect to have to support many Seniors.  Today the average US life expectancy is 78.  (Monaco has the highest life expectancy in the world – 90.)

Your brain.  The synapses die as you age, starting even when you’re in your 20’s!  But the synapses that remain become stronger.  The frontal cortex goes first, the working memory.  Ever go into the kitchen and when you got there forgot why?

Then there’s the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon, when you forget a person’s name or a key word in a sentence, so you have to replace it with a synonym as you’re speaking.  (Names I’ve always had a problem with, but missing a word has just started happening to me.)

The hippocampus governs spatial memory, so when some of those synapses are lost, so are you.  When my uncle (who lived to be 98!) was   in his 90’s he started getting lost going to the doctor, so my mother had to drive him.  (Arizona gave him a new driver’s license at 93!)  You may see more reports on the hippocampus, because when scientists study rat brains, they test spatial memory, as they can’t ask the rats if they remembered the book they read yesterday.

Regarding long-lived people:  I used to read a lot of scifi and was intrigued by a character of Robert Heinlein’s who lived through many books.  As I recall, this character was part of a secret society who genetically engineered people to live longer by selectively breeding couples whose parents had lived to a ripe old age.  Lazarus goes on to organ replacements, etc. and lives to be 1000. (Organ replacements, etc, was the subject of this week’s lecture.  I’ll tell you about it later.)

Here are real long-lived people:

Jeanne Calment of France lived to be 122. She was the longest-living member of our species on record. Other claims have been made but are false. In fact, 99% of the people claiming to be 115 or older are false. We have 1,600 centenarians in our studies and 115 supercentenarians (110-plus).


Here is one of the claimants:

Cubana Juana Bautista de la Candelaria Rodríguez claimed that she turned 127, which would make her 12 years older than the official record holder, the 115-year Besse Cooper of Georgia.

Bautista’s identification papers claim that she was born on Feb. 2, 1885 in the town of Ceiba Hueca, where she still lives. However, her claims are not recognized internationally and the Los Angeles-based Gerontology Research Group, which verifies longevity information for Guinness World Records, doubts her age.


Besse credits her longevity to “minding her own business and not eating junk food.”   The word supercentenarian was coined in the 1970’s.  When will a word be invented for someone who is 120?

How to exist that long?  According to the lecturer, first, emulate Lazarus Long and pick long-lived parents, then exercise, take anti-inflammatory drugs (this just being proven), and work on spatial memory training.  Good luck.

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