Wednesday, January 11, 2023


At times over the past few years I’ve indulged in a lot of self-pity. All my old friends are sick or dying, I can’t travel, etc., etc. Last year was especially bad, as my arthritis became extremely painful, and a fall led to a fractured pelvis and related problems. I spent six weeks in a dreadful rehab facility for bed rest and physical therapy, often too miserable even to read. I complained a lot, and actually looked forward to dying. I’m eighty-five now; it can’t be too much longer.

Then, slowly, I got better. The bed rest and physical therapy were successful, and at last I returned to my comfortable book-lined apartment. Meals here are always adequate and sometimes very good. I can walk with a walker, visit with friends, read, and watch good television programs and movies.

Yes, I still have bad days, as any aging person does. I know all too well that at any time, an accident or other event can instantly plunge me into darkness again.  But most of the time I can feel grateful for the life I have now, for that moment of happiness. Sometimes I unexpectedly catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror, and I’m smiling. How lucky I am!

Monday, July 18, 2022


I care passionately about many issues. I’m appalled by recent SCOTUS decisions threatening women’s right to choose whether to have abortions, for instance. The Supreme Court is also showing cowardice about gun control. Ever since the sixties, I have been concerned about pollution and resource conservation, and about social justice for all races and for LGBTQ people. The list goes on and on.

More than any of these, though, I care about climate change. Nothing else is likely to destroy the planet we live on. While scientists who have devoted lifetimes to studying climate and the factors affecting it are ignored by much of the public, less educated politicians who owe their power and money to the fossil fuel industry are believed and voted into office.

We may already have reached the tipping point where the planet cannot be saved, no matter what we do. Wildfires and drought are decimating the West, and extreme heat is now killing hundreds of people in Europe. Torrential rains and floods have ruined parts of the United States in recent years. But, the only alternative to hope is complete despair. So I will continue to hope that somehow we can overcome this latest challenge to the planet’s future. And I will vote only for politicians who promise to combat climate change.


Copyright © July 18, 2022 by Carol Leth Stone (a.k.a. RovinCrone)


Friday, April 8, 2022


 Many long trips in a motorhome taught me the pleasure of dressing and behaving to suit myself, but those days are over. Now I live in an independent living apartment surrounded with rather conservative senior citizens.

Shortly after moving in, I decided to go down to the dining room for an early Sunday breakfast. Surely no one but a few dedicated birders would be there, wearing Eddie Bauer jackets or similar outfits. I pulled on some ragged jeans and a tee shirt and ventured downstairs.

To my horror, the room was filled with elderly men and women dressed for a high church service, or perhaps for an expensive cruise. Some ladies wore their diamonds and pearls and had their hair carefully arranged and sprayed. I slunk to an inconspicuous table and escaped as soon as I could. I have never found out why that morning was such a dressy occasion, and fortunately those at subsequent breakfasts have been more casual (though never as sloppy as I was that time).

Since then, I’ve dressed up only a few times, and have never been completely out of sync with other residents. Fortunately, the residence where I live seems to accept whatever people feel comfortable wearing. Many people here dress casually, and some are overdressed. I try for the middle ground. My blouses, shirts, and pants can be gussied up a little with my anniversary pearls or other jewelry, and a decent jacket makes even a tee shirt look businesslike if that seems wise. (I’ve nearly given up on skirts; compression socks fit better under pants.) Most of the time I simply wear a good tee shirt or sweater and black pants, perhaps adding a scarf or necklace. ( LandsEnd and L.L. Bean are good sources.) That seems good enough. Some nearby independent living places are much dressier, and I’m glad I don’t live in one of them

I also try to tell myself that I don’t care how I look, or what others may think of me. That isn’t entirely true, though. At my age I am certainly less concerned about anyone’s opinion of me than I was years ago when working in publishers’ offices, but I’ve studied enough psychology to know that making a good impression helps me get along with others and affects their reactions to me. I even feel happier if I look in the mirror and see a neat, well-groomed woman in acceptable clothing. So, yes, I must dress up a little more than I’m naturally inclined to do.

Sunday, November 14, 2021


For any reader, aging presents an extremely painful problem. My mother, a reading specialist and reading devotee with an extensive personal library, lived to the age of 101; after about 95 years, she found it hard to continue reading her beloved books. The print was too small, there was too little contrast with the paper, and so on. By the time she died, she could read almost nothing.

Fortunately, some helpful options are available. Listening to audiobooks is helpful for many people, whether they have poor vision or not. Indeed, audiobooks can be very pleasing when the reader is skilled. For instance, I especially enjoy hearing books written by the late mystery writer Dick Francis if they are read by Simon Prebble, whose voice is exactly right for Francis’s books. The main drawback to audiobooks is that you can’t go back to an earlier point (unless by a method I haven’t discovered) to look up something. They are invaluable for anyone who has lost their vision completely, and have been around since 1948 as a service of Recording for the Blind (now renamed Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic/Learning Ally).

Large-print books have long been available, too. In the past I found them limited to religious novels and other books someone decided were appealing to the elderly, but recently I have seen many that are suited to a wider audience. If a book you want to read is available in a large-print edition, it’s another good choice.

For a long time I resisted the Kindle electronic reader, being a snob about reading. Yes, the Kindle is inferior to a large library of “real books.” As my vision has declined, though, I find it harder and harder to read those. With a Kindle edition, I can adjust the font, the type size, the background color and brightness for maximum readability. Recently I read Melville’s Billy Budd on the Kindle after finding the library’s standard book impossible. For traveling, the Kindle can hold hundreds of books in a tiny space. The savvy reader can add notes, bookmarks, and so on, too. I’ve had some problems with using those, but I love the built-in dictionary.

The Kindle has its downsides:  It’s hard to flip through the “pages,” though searching for a character’s or place’s name sometimes makes it possible. It’s hard also to form a sentimental attachment to an electronic book; I can’t imagine giving one to a child. Compared with free books from a public library, Kindle books can get expensive. (Many books can be downloaded free from, though, and Amazon often offers free or inexpensive books.)

All in all, I’m lucky to have some alternatives to “real” books. I may miss the real thing, but at least I can still read a book’s contents.

Copyright © Decembert 20, 2021 by Carol Leth Stone (a.k.a. RovinCrone)


Friday, August 20, 2021


Sirens sounded from Missouri Flat Road today, and I wondered if they were related to the CalFire helicopters carrying water to the Caldor fire a few miles away. A few people have already been injured in the fire, and panicked residents are beginning to drive out of this area in case they need to evacuate their homes and businesses. The sirens may be on ambulances, police cars, or fire engines.

Being close to a wildfire is certainly a terrifying experience, but it is entirely new to me. Why, then, does it somehow seem so familiar? Then I realized—the sirens brought back the same dread I felt almost thirty years ago, when an earthquake struck the Bay area.

Harold and I lived in Alameda then, only a few miles from the freeway that joined the Bay Bridge to San Francisco. I had picked him up from work, and as we were driving home, the car seemed to fall into a ditch, then recover. Harold swore and said something unkind about my driving. Then we saw that all the traffic lights were out. Sirens were sounding in the distance. By the time we got home we realized there must have been an earthquake.

Evening came on, our electricity was off, and we sat in the dark listening to the sirens and wondering how bad the quake had been. Battery-operated radio reports gave only a little information at first, but it sounded as if large parts of San Francisco and East Bay cities might have been leveled. After a few hours, the power came on and we were able to get a few television reports showing newscasters standing precariously on the edges of the broken Bay Bridge and below the collapsed freeway. The sirens continued in the distance. The next day we learned sad news of some Alamedans’ deaths below the freeway.

It was only a few days before recovery began. Bad as the quake had been, it was at least not a repetition of the 1906 disaster. Rebuilding the bridge and freeway completely took years, partly because citizens and planners typically disagreed on how they should look, but it did happen. By about 2000 it was finished. There was even a silver lining from my viewpoint: To provide immediate access to The City from the East Bay, the SeaBees came in to build a temporary ferry terminal not far from our Alameda home. The ferry rapidly became my favorite method of getting to San Francisco, as I could savor the view of the Bay while drinking coffee and writing. Later the ferry was replaced with more elaborate boats, and a permanent terminal was built. Another one in Oakland helped provide the triangle of today’s Alameda-Oakland-San Francisco Ferry, beloved by commuters and the occasional savvy tourist.

Though the destruction of these human-made structures was costly in lives and money, the end result for the infrastructure was acceptable. Few drivers on the freeway and bridge today think about the 1989 collapse, but I can still hear the sirens. Worse, I am reminded of another natural disaster, the destruction of our natural environment occurring not far away from my home in the Sierras now. Thousands of acres of trees and associated communities of plants and animals will come back from the fire eventually, too late for me to see it happen. There is plenty of blame to go around. Human-caused climate change has added to natural cycles of drought and abundant water; logging companies used clear-cutting for many years; then we environmentalists urged too many controls over logging.  Among us we destroyed what took thousands of years to create.

Copyright © August 20, 2021 by Carol Leth Stone (a.k.a. RovinCrone)

Wednesday, July 28, 2021


The roof of the California Academy of Sciences (CAS) in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is a garden that looks odd but merges naturally with the park surrounding it. Having a wide variety of plants, the roof attracts pollinators and provides insulation for the building beneath it.

When we drove along a large highway in Canada several years ago we were surprised by passing beneath a huge overpass with plants growing on it. It turned out to be a corridor for wildlife, which had been constructed so that moose, deer, and other animals could cross the highway safely. Like the CAS roof, the overpass was a human-made structure that contributed to the natural biome rather than interfering with it.

The Dutch biologist Menno Schilthuizen has pointed out that evolution is occurring quickly all around us. For instance, some spiders have evolved to be attracted to the lights where insects gather, and starlings have even changed their wing shape in a way that allows them to flee from some urban dangers. As every high school biology student knows, peppered moths rapidly evolved in the nineteenth century, becoming dark to match the sooty backgrounds in their industrialized English environments. Parakeets in Paris are of two distinct genetic types that could mix but do not; like many other animals, they have evolved to remain in slightly different habitats.

Many of Schilthuizen’s examples sound more like variations in species than true evolution, but his point that changes are occurring swiftly within organisms in urban and natural environments cannot be denied. Surprisingly, he is hopeful that we can work with many of the changes rather than resisting them.

Ever since the sixties, I have agonized over human alterations to our natural environment. Even our wonderful national parks and wilderness areas have suffered from pollution, urban sprawl, mining, and other obscenities. In traveling in a motorhome throughout North America I have watched the crumbling of many ecosystems. Conservation of current natural resources has seemed like environmentalists’ only worthwhile goal. Perhaps Schilthuizen has the right idea. If some organisms evolve in a way that benefits them and their surroundings, we can encourage them. If some become extinct, their replacements may be worth preserving. Those of us who mourn the loss of familiar plants and animals can try to imagine future ecosystems and design appealing cities for them. We cannot stop evolution, but we can search for new ways to live with it.


Copyright © July 25, 2021 by Carol Leth Stone (a.k.a. RovinCrone)

Monday, April 12, 2021


The media finally have the message: People care about the environment. It’s nearly impossible to turn on a television channel—especially   PBS—without seeing David Attenborough, Jane Goodall, Greta Thunberg, or Bill Gates, of all people, urging us to take care of wildlife, conserve natural resources, and reduce our carbon footprint. As a fervent environmentalist for many decades, of course I am delighted to see that viewers care about these issues and that research on possible fixes is proceeding.

Why, then, am I hesitant to applaud this progress? It’s because I see scarcely any mention of population as part of our environmental  problems. In the 1960s the world population was about 3 billion; today, about 8 billion.  So much damage results from that growth: The huge population easily transmits diseases such as covid-19. Supplies of water are scarce in some areas, while the changing climate causes torrential rains in other areas. We convert large areas of forest or wetlands to space for growing coffee or other desirable foods. There is simply too little useable space for everyone.

In the 1960s population biologists such as Paul Ehrlich and Garrett Hardin began pointing out the necessity of limiting population size. Many of us responded by limiting the size of our families and joining Planned Parenthood. All over the world, people realized the danger of overpopulation. China even instituted a draconian  “one child” program that led to forced abortions and other undesirable results and was eventually discontinued. The world population size that had grown 2% annually in the 1960s now grows at about 1%. That decrease is very encouraging, but 1% of 8 billion is still 80 million, about ten times the size of New York City. Can the planet sustain adding ten New Yorks a year? I think not.

Today, however, the ubiquitous TV programs about nature and climate change seem almost oblivious of how much population size affects the environment. Is it because corporate sponsors discourage it? I don’t know the answer but am suspicious.

Some United States economists actually warn that the country needs more babies. Presumably this is to increase consumption of goods to stimulate the economy, and to provide a larger pool of workers. That’s the dilemma: Stimulating the economy depends partly on population growth, while helping the environment depends on shrinking it. While a larger population may actually be desirable in some ways for some countries, would it not make more sense to encourage more immigration from crowded countries than to boost the number of births? Immigrants are desperately trying to enter some countries to escape terrible conditions in other places. Most are willing to work, to buy goods, to help the economy.

Currently, anyone who encourages limiting population size is likely to be accused of racism or “anti-natalism.” In recent years far-right politicians have taken advantage of religious opposition to abortion to attack Planned Parenthood. The women who began that group around 1900 as a way of helping poor immigrant women control their lives are said to have favored genocide of Blacks. Margaret Sanger, the main founder, was one of eleven children in an Irish family. She personally experienced the sad results of women not being able to control their reproduction. She is criticized greatly now as being a eugenicist, but her goal of helping women voluntarily escape the burden of having too many children is still laudable.

Planned Parenthood and similar groups are attacked by people who oppose abortion. However, the best way to avoid abortion is to provide contraception. Many women in rural or poor areas of the country have no access to free contraception. As a result they are faced with the terrible choice of having an abortion or giving birth to an unwanted baby and adding to the population size. If women have access to education and contraceptives, they become free to better control their lives, to find jobs, to have children in the number and when they choose to. Individuals and society both benefit. Bill and Melinda Gates have seen how important population control is for Africa, and have invested in programs to help women, but who will sound the alarm for America?

Calls for social justice also complicate the overpopulation issue. One proposal for lessening the wealth gap between rich and poor suggests giving each baby born in the US $20,000. Invested over the years, that could help pay for college, a starter home, and other advantages that wealthier people have. Unfortunately, it might also encourage having more children.

Important as population control is, there will always be opposition to it for a variety of reasons. However, the need is overwhelming. Sooner or later, world population size will fall. If it is not decreased by voluntary means, nature will control it for us by delivering pandemics, storms, wildfires, lack of enough food and water for everyone, and so on. We need  to act soon.


 Copyright © April 12, 2021 by Carol Leth Stone (a.k.a. RovinCrone)

Sunday, March 14, 2021


The English physician Edward Jenner is famous for his 1798 discovery that smallpox could be prevented by vaccinating someone with pus taken from a cowpox victim. The antibodies to cowpox fortunately protected against smallpox as well. Just as today, there were anti-vaccers in Jenner’s time. In 1802 a cartoonist showed how some actually feared that the inoculation could turn a person into a cow.

Doubtless there were other misunderstandings about the smallpox vaccine, but Jenner’s results were stunning, and today no one questions its effectiveness or safety.

Some of the objections to the covid-19 vaccines are understandable. They were developed more quickly than medicines usually are. They have not yet been tested in every possible group of people. Side effects might appear later on. However, at this time the vaccines are performing extremely well, protecting up to 95% of those receiving them and having only a few rare adverse reactions. Considering how deadly covid-19 often is, it seems stupid to pass up the vaccine. Indeed, millions of people are doing everything possible to compete for vaccinations while the supply is limited.

The anti-vaccers pay little attention to that success story. Some of their objections are based on false information, such as the idea that a vaccine can cause autism. (That rumor was begun more than twenty years ago by the former physician Andrew Wakefield, who published a paper in the influential journal Lancet. He was subsequently discredited and can no longer practice mediciene.) Other objections come from conspiracy theorists, who want to use any method to oppose their political rivals. Still others cite “herd immunity,” thinking that if a large proportion of citizens have recovered from the virus, they do not need a vaccine; these anti-vaccers ignore the fact that acquiring immunity in that way may be fatal. Misinformation about vaccines still abounds in spite of credible public health studies supporting vaccination for many diseases.

At the age of eighty-three, and having some underlying health issues, I’m not taking any chances. After a year of self-imposed partial isolation, I had both doses of the Moderna vaccine weeks ago with some minimal side effects. Now I feel  able to begin venturing out of my apartment. On the other hand, I’m continuing to wear a mask, to stay six feet away from most people, and to wash my hands often. Too many people out there are still unvaccinated and pose a threat to everyone around them.

Copyright © March 14, 2021 by Carol Leth Stone (a.k.a. RovinCrone)

Wednesday, February 24, 2021


Last month I had my second Moderna vaccination. How lucky I am to benefit from this potential life saver! Even though I’m over 80 years old and have underlying health conditions, because of the fierce competition for vaccination I’m one of the small proportion of that group to have actually received it. If I were not living in a retirement community that includes a skilled nursing facility, I might have to wait months for even the first shot. (Correction: Recently the rules for prioritizing elderly people for vaccination have relaxed, and now I think anyone in an independent living facility is eligible. Hurrah!)

Being vaccinated is only the latest advantage of life here. Yes, it’s expensive, and I had to sell my house to have enough money to move in. (Whether the money will last until I die is another question. I am cautiously optimistic.) However, having a safe, reasonably comfortable old age is the best use I can think of for my money. Not having any children waiting anxiously to inherit my home or money, I can be selfish about this.

I can understand people who want to continue living in their own homes as long as possible, but that way of life may be overrated. Those who live alone may have very little social life. Transportation is a frequent problem. Planning and cooking meals may no longer be enjoyable. Medical problems such as arthritis can make even simple housework very difficult. For me, all these drawbacks outweighed the positive aspects.

Deciding what items to take to an independent living facility can be difficult. Many people have children who are willing to store some items, and that can help greatly. Being childless, I had to make final decisions when I sold my house and had a series of moving sales. From what I’ve seen, the most common mistake is taking too much. A writer friend of mine insisted on taking boxes of books, unpublished manuscripts, and other writers’ paraphernalia, and could scarcely move in her small apartment. The living space may look large in a floor plan, but it’s limited. Just as if you’re packing for travel, you need to concentrate on the items you really will use. For me, that meant taking electronics such as a laptop computer and printer; my old desk (which has a lot of drawer space) and other basic items of furniture; a few books and a Kindle; the basic wardrobe that had served me well during years of RV travel; financial files; simple kitchen equipment; some pictures and photo albums. It was a little like packing for dormitory life when I went to college. Now as then, the most important places where I spend time are common areas—activity rooms, a gym, the dining room, the library, and so on--rather than my own apartment. This game room is across the hallway from my apartment.

This may sound very Spartan, and it is. However, the dirty little secret of this life is that people leave continually, deciding to move in with their children or dying. The contents of their apartments are often sold to residents at very low prices. If you find that you actually need or want some item you didn’t bring, you can probably replace it. I had an old, small TV when I moved in, but soon bought a large, nearly new one to replace it for $40. A friend bought a lovely designer purse for a few dollars.

Selling my large collection of books was traumatic but necessary, and it forced me to pack only the books I would actually open again or couldn’t bear to give away. If I want to reread a book that I no longer own, the local library will deliver it, or I can order a digital or printed copy. As my vision deteriorates with age, I find it much easier to read books on my Kindle reader than as traditional printed books. In addition, the Kindle’s built-in dictionary and links to other sources are very helpful. Altogether, I have been pleasantly surprised to find I’m no longer clinging to hardbound books. When I do succumb and buy one, I may pass it on to another resident after finishing it.

Most facilities provide transportation to medical appointments and other places. I sometimes miss having my own car, but can always rent one if necessary. (During the pandemic, I feel a little uncomfortable about using ride services.) A friend sometimes gives me a ride. Not having expenses associated with owning a car help greatly with paying my monthly rent.

Altogether, this is a good life. Even five years ago, I might have felt too restricted. Today, I am grateful not to have to worry about home ownership. Aging itself presents problems enough, and I can concentrate on them rather than on trimming shrubs or paying high home-insurance premiums.

Copyright © February 24, 2021 by Carol Leth Stone (a.k.a. RovinCrone)

Wednesday, January 13, 2021


After seeing a PBS documentary recently, I went to the bookcase and took out my personal copy of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter, which was given to me in 1945. At the time I was interested in reading other things, such as Wonder Woman comic books, and so I never got around to reading the remaining Little House on the Prairie books. Now I have read this one, and can fully appreciate Wilder’s writing. She showed readers her own remembrances of nineteenth century life for a poor family far from city life. Though The Long Winter is considered a young-adult book, Wilder never talked down to readers, and even adults can read it with pleasure.

By 1945, some critics had already begun pointing out the prejudiced attitudes in Wilder’s books, and some of the early editions were revised accordingly. In The Long Winter, Ma (Wilder’s own mother) “didn’t like to see women working in the fields. Only foreigners did that. Ma and her girls were Americans above doing men’s work.” When Pa went into town and was warned about the storms to come, the warning came from “only an Indian.” He came home and described the warning, and “Ma looked as if she were smelling the smell of an Indian . . . Ma despised Indians.” Somewhat to his credit, Pa answered “there’s some good Indians.” in another of Ingalls’s books, someone says the awful “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.” Yes, remarks like these make us cringe today. It’s understandable that Native Americans and other groups have protested the books’ use in schools and libraries, even when they are used as examples of prejudice. However, it’s good to consider the context. Early in American history, both Indians and white settlers engaged in terrible acts. If the Ingalls family only heard stories of settlers being tortured, they might well have been frightened enough to believe the worst.

In my own childhood, we hadn’t advanced very far. In the forties and fifties, I heard patronizing or prejudiced attitudes toward Blacks. Living near a resort area, I saw many Jews who came out from Chicago. As in all tourist groups, a few of them were obnoxious. I often heard the words “kike,” “sheenie,” and so on. It would be many years before I fortunately met enough people of other races and religions to lose my prejudices, and to marry a Jew. If I had written a book about my own childhood, I might have included remarks as bad as those in The Long Winter and other Little House books, simply to show accurately how my own community behaved.

I have been lucky in this respect. Spending many years in various schools and working for or with a variety of people, I have overcome those attitudes. There are still many who have not had my privileges. Though yahoos and hypocrites stir my anger, I can understand them also. Yes, we need to be sensitive to concerns of minority groups, and to speak and write carefully. On the other hand, we should avoid a revisionist approach to history. I hope the Ingalls books stay on bookshelves along with enlightened comments about them.

Copyright © January 12, 2021 by Carol Leth Stone (a.k.a. RovinCrone)