Wednesday, May 2, 2012

No, I don't want to think about it either...

My neighbor George fell down Sunday morning. He has figured out that if he presses his Lifeline thing to call the EMTs, that Lifeline company also calls one of his daughters and tells on him. He hates that. The EMTs also strongly suggest each time that he go to the hospital. He hates that as well.

So he calls me to come pick him up which is nearly impossible for one person. He is a big fellow. And his legs don't work well. Plus you're never sure if he has injured himself more severely than he is making out. But I went over and after considerable maneuvering, pushing and pulling, I got him  back into his recliner. He had also suffered an accident of a different type so I was anxious for him to get to the bathroom and clean himself up.

After that struggle, I suggested he call the EMTs since he was still dizzy and light headed any time he made an effort to stand. First he called a relative for a second opinion and the son-in-law on the phone said to go to the hospital. I put his dog out in the back yard and let the EMTs in the front door.

As he left in the ambulance, he asked me to take the dog and care for him while he was away. I reminded him I was leaving for Texas on Friday. I never have confessed to him just how allergic I am to dogs. Please remember that this is the same dog who has bitten me three times. By Sunday evening, my eyes were nearly shut tight. So I suggested to the lady who walks Riley that he sleep at George's house alone. She agreed and Riley seems fine.

I go feed him and take him home to my house around 5:30 each morning, George is a very early riser, and I then take Riley home and feed him again in the evening and let him sleep on George's bed.

George has called me each day to come and get him and each day, before I ever get to the hospital, they have told him he must stay another day. Yesterday they told him he had to go to a rehab place for awhile, two weeks or so. He's not happy but he agrees "these people" are trying to help him.

I talked with the oldest daughter last night in Texas and she agreed to try to find someone to look after the dog before I leave on Friday. She thanked me for helping and pointed out that George has refused her invitations to join her family in Texas. All of the 8 children and spouses work, have children of their own and 4 of them, George's own kids, live far, far away.

Like delivering Meals on Wheels, this episode causes me to think about what I want to have happen as I get older. Like George and my grandfather-in-law, Frank Crosby, I am tempted to say I want to stay in my lovely house until I die. And maybe that will happen. But I must remain flexible as well as cheerful whatever happens. Saying "with my boots on" only makes it tougher for everyone.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The capacity for worry.

My friend says he has decided climate change is fake and nothing to worry about. He has reached this conclusion, in part, because he simply has no more room for an additional worry. He’s worried about the country’s extraordinary debt, foreclosures in his neighborhood, his family’s health and economic welfare, random violence. In other words, he has filled his worry locker with things that might actually affect him today or tomorrow.
The time span for climate change, with the worst not to happen for about 100 years, is also beyond his vision. So as not to become overwhelmed by worry, he says, one must pick and chose what to worry about. Climate change, the future success of the polar bears and the viability of strange island communities in the Indian Ocean, is not one of them.
I wonder...

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Here are two more things, in a very long list, that I do not understand.

 The dog bites the kid from next door or the news reader on TV and the excuses, on behalf of the dog, begin to flow from the dog apologists. The kid was running or the anchor got too close. No one suggests that the owner had failed to train his or her dog properly. A dog should never bite a human unless it is being beaten with a stick or reacting to a command of the owner, like in a police capture. Period. Never. If the dog bites anyone it should be put down or the owner should be subject to a training regimen and testing of the dog upon completion. Then permanent restrictions on where the dog can be taken and under what leashing restrictions should be put in place. By the way, I have owned two dogs and many cats over the years so I do not simply hate animals.

A hunter mistakes a lady hanging her wash in her back yard, or walking her dog in the park, for a deer and shoots her. Again, the lack of training seems clear. But the excuses fly again. The poor hunter was so upset! Who might not have done the same thing! Bullshit. The hunting license should be revoked automatically and immediately along with the gun permit and criminal charges should be brought. This guy shot somebody and as a society we have a responsibility to react to that. It may have been simple carelessness but we do not allow this in any other area of social interaction. Why here?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Part 3, Pseudo-science.

 I’m sure civilization has been dealing with pseudo-science since alchemy. This latest round I believe may have started in the 70’s and 80’s with the hysteria about nuclear power. Perhaps even earlier with DDT. Remember The Silent Spring. Clearly people were using DDT incorrectly and over too much ground. But even today, when we know how much DDT would help African nations where children are dying of malaria, we can’t seem to get over it and produce some for limited usage.

As for nuclear power we need to build small plants of all the exact design like the French. And we need to send the spent fuel rods to the salt mine facility in Nevada. No solution to our energy problems is perfect.

Which brings me to the current hysteria about wind turbines on Cape Cod. Pseudo-science is everywhere in this debate. The vegetable oil lubricant in the turbines is hazardous. Every sensible study says no, not true. People within a mile of the turbine can’t sleep because of the noise and the “flicker” gives them seizures. Sound tests in the complainant’s homes indicate the sound can’t even be heard. And on and on.

A manufacturing business in an isolated area of the Cape wants to build a wind turbine to ease some of the burden of its electric costs. Those costs are higher on the Cape than anywhere else in Massachusetts for reasons no one can decipher. Businesses regularly leave the area looking for lower energy prices. This manufacturing company gets the necessary approvals since no one lives nearby. But a woman whose house sits a mile away, she is not even an abutter, sues stating that the tower will ruin her view. Here the housing investment hysteria and the pseudo-science hysteria meet. The business is told to forget about it unless they can prevail in court. The lady involved seeks out others and they launch a group committed to stopping all wind turbines in the area. They find a professor with no credentials or training in this subject who says all the pseudo-science claims are true. They stop wind turbines in Bourne and at the local community college. They shut one down, already built for millions of dollars in Falmouth, because one old neighbor claims it makes him crazy. It’s at the sewage treatment plant. This fellow lives near the sewage treatment plant and he’s worried about the value of his property.

The big wind turbine development on Nantucket Sound has been held up by one appeal or another for 15 years. When one claim of the opponents, they will kill birds for example, is shown to be untrue by proper studies they shift to another.

We have reached a point in this country where anything that changes the status quo is opposed for hysterical and unproven reasons. Whether the proposal is for soccer fields, a public library, a wind turbine or a new house, someone sues to stop it.

The country cannot succeed in addressing the many, mutual concerns of the future if we continue to allow a small minority to stop all progress. Other countries have moved years ahead of us in health care, energy independence, manufacturing, infrastructure development as we have consistently allowed projects to be stymied by lunatics.

Could we build the interstate highway system today? Will we ever move forward?

Monday, February 20, 2012

How hysteria killed America

Part 2, Financial Advisers

In the months leading up to my retirement in 2009 I studied six or seven books by so-called financial advisers regarding what I must have in the way of income and capital to comfortably retire.

The major assumptions seemed slightly askew but I concluded just because they didn’t apply to me that doesn’t mean they weren’t right for lots of other folks. The assumptions were that you would owe a big mortgage on your house as well as sizable loans on your several luxury automobiles. You would be used to traveling widely throughout the world and staying in luxurious accommodations. One book mentioned that spring trip to the vineyards of France that you take every year along with the Mediterranean cruises in the fall. Don’t want to give that up.

In addition, of course, you entertained lavishly and often throughout your life. How dreary would retirement be without the ability to spoil your friends and family members.

All of the books had an odd hysterical tone to them. You needed millions and millions of dollars to even consider retirement and even then you would have to live like a poor hermit. There was even the suggestion that if you planned to draw down your capital in retirement you would be cheating your heirs out of their rightful inheritance.

It all sounded a bit like Gloria Vanderbilt’s old suggestion that you could never be too rich or too skinny. Certainly, it sounded like you could never be rich enough to retire.

When I thought about it, however, I realized that these very same people writing these books make their fortunes based on exactly how large your fortune is and that reducing these piles of money only cut into their profit. From their own self interested perspective, you could never have enough.

By the way, all the authors were of the opinion that you were more likely than not to live practically forever. A happy thought, but somehow they managed to turn even that idea dark. So the chances of living so long you would run completely out of dough just as you needed it most hung over all the discussions. Best bet: keep working and keep investing and trading with me.

At the same time, many financial advisers decided to proclaim their lack of respect for Social Security. It is a bankrupt big government scam, a Ponzi Scheme. The SS trust fund is running out of money. No one can actually live on this amount anyway. Think of all the money you would have made if you had given the same amount to us to invest for you! Think of the commissions we would have made! We don't hear as much about this as we did before the collapse of the stock market. But the idea will not go away completely since there is money to be made.

By the way, Social Security is working perfectly and has plenty of money. It was never set up to operate from trust funds. It was to pay out to beneficiaries as funds came in from wage earners. The trust fund developed because so little was paid out in the early decades and so much was coming in. When an increase in the Social Security payroll tax is needed in the future,  it should be enacted. It will not be the end of the world for young workers. Social Security works and the older folks in our country have never been better off than they are at this moment.

But I still hear some people say, I’ll have to work until I die, according to my financial advisor.