I have a small role (Charley) in the London Community Players' production of Death of a Salesman, so I claim no credit for this. And I make no claim to being unbiased, though I do my best.
This production is one of the best you could ever see. I'll stack it up against any professional production of Death of a Salesman. And last night's performance was the best yet.
The production takes place in Procunier Hall of The Palace Theatre, a too-small standard black-box-type performance venue, but Jason Rip (director), Steven Mitchell (tech and staging consultant), and Tia Morin (stage manager) have worked tirelessly and flexibly to bring off a tour de force in the venue.
The more we work on the play, the more I fail to see it as a critique of the American/Canadian dream or an attack on greed, success, or materialism. Rather, I see it as an exploration of the early onset of dementia in a man who never faced reality, about himself or much else.
To me, the hero of the play is Biff, who finally comes to grips with who he is and who his father was, after years and years of anguish about it all.... sort of a prolonged identity crisis.
Sure, Charley is a kind, sympathetic, generous guy and in some sense is a testament to the American/Canadian dream that success comes to those who work hard and who are honest and kind. Also his son, Bernard, who grows from being a nerdy (anemic, Willy calls him) kid to become a hot-shot lawyer arguing a case before the supreme court, is something of a hero. But they aren't the real heroes of the play.
Willy, of course, is a tragic hero. You want to grab him, shake him, tell him to stop lying to himself and everyone around him.
Linda (Willy's wife) is a tragic heroine. She lives with Willy's lies, trying to put bandaids on major wounds everywhere, going along with him and not forcing or even asking him to face reality very often. She keeps Willy from going to Alaska, and I'm not sure but what I wish Willy had gone there. Yet there's a good chance that if they had gone to Alaska, Willy still would have been a failure. After all, he was rejected and abandoned by his father and his older brother and likely would not have dealt with the challenges of Alaska any better than he dealt with the challenges of being a salesman in a changing market.
No matter whether you agree with my take on the play, you will be in awe of the performances. The audiences clearly are moved by the performances, and people have used phrases like "stunningly good" or "brilliant" or "mesmerizing" or "deep and moving" when talking about the show.
Rob Faust (Willy) and Deb Mitchell (Linda) are simply amazing, having captured the essence of their characters [not to mention having learned such taxing roles and the physical strain of actually performing them]. And the support from James Roberts (Biff) and Marshall Lemon (Happy), Willy and Linda's two sons, is terrific. Beyond those four main characters, the rest of us have supporting roles. And, to tell the truth, everyone in every role does a tremendous job.
See this play. It is one of the best productions you will ever see of Death of a Salesman.
Over the past six months we have been forced to face even more of the signs of aging. I have had to take a few days to try to come to grips with this reality.
It is difficult to accept that I can no longer pretend I am a fifty-year-old who imagines he can do the things a thirty-year-old can do.
I love my life, and I love the experiences and knowledge that come with age. I love all the adventures I still embrace. I even love the lessons I have learned as well as the lessons I have decided not to learn or have overtly decided to unlearn.
But I resent the constant reminders that physical (and mental) deteriorations persist --- e.g. deaths of friends and relatives, illnesses, lost stamina, etc.
When I was in my 50s, I often imagined I could still do things that I could do when I was in my 30s; in fact, I often did those things and more, in part to prove to myself that I still could do them and in part to deny the aging process.
It doesn't work that way anymore.
And I must work at adaptation.
My Facebook friend Raffi posted this picture recently:
His answer was "Travel more". Commenters there added things like "Do it" or "Don't marry". I'm struggling to come up with just two words. Here are some options I have considered:
But I like Raffi's "Travel more" too.
Last week MA sent me this piece which says 1 in 10 pensioners are millionaires. I think the number is much, much higher than that. Keep in mind that the article is referring to the UK, so being a millionaire there involves more than just $1m US or Cdn.
One in ten pensionable households can lay claim to a million pounds in assets, official figures indicate. ...
This rise is in part attributed to rising property values. Prices for houses owned by the typical retired couple have climbed by £10,000 since 2006, the data showed.
A significant increase in the value of pension pots has also left retirees better off, with private pension assets increasing from £60,000 to £82,300 over the period.
There is one huge category missing from these calculations: gubmnt pensions and other programmes for seniors. What is the present value of all the gubmnt pensions and other old-age assistance programmes such as social security, Canada Pension, Old-Age Assistance, medicaid, medicare, drug plans, etc.?
Here's an indication of what I mean: suppose someone retires at age 60 with an expected lifetime of 87 years; suppose further that the effective real interest rate is 2%. In this case, the present value of an annuity paying $48K/year is just over $1m. See this. [Present value tells how much you'd have to invest at that interest rate to generate that income stream], making this person de facto a millionaire at age 60.
In Canada, just the Canadian Pension Plan plus Old-Age Assistance alone probably pay about $15K/year.
Add in the present value of health coverage and drug subsidies. Given that health plans for seniors in the US regularly cost at least $5K/year, we're already up over $20K/year. Then throw in a bit of retirement savings, perhaps a small pension and maybe the value of a house, and before you know it, the person has wealth of over $1million.
Being a millionaire isn't nearly so uncommon as it used to be.
In an effort to clean out our storage area, I have been going through a box of letters, photos, and memorabilia from my mother and grandmother. I recently wrote to my sister, cc'ing my children and her children:
I thought I really, REALLY knew cars from the 1950s, but I scored only 85% on this quiz [via Jack]. Maybe my long-term memory is going, too?
More seriously, I wonder if I've posted a link to this quiz before (see below). Oh well, it's a fun quiz and worth seeing again...
Yup I posted it over a year ago. And you know what? I got 100% then. That'll teach me to (1) to get older and (2) to take such quizzes after enjoying too much Islay scotch.
You know those height charts that parents and grandparents keep of their children and grandchildren? Every time we visited my grandmother, we had to stand against a door frame and have our heights marked (and dated). The house is gone and to the best of my knowledge, there are no photographs of the height charts of me and my sister.
We did the same thing with our granddaughters but at least had the good sense to take photos of them before we moved.
Ms. Eclectic and I are going to start a new version of height charts. We are aging, and as we age, we are losing height [digression: which means, of course, that our BMIs are going up despite weight loss, dammit.]. I've had some compression fractures in my vertebrae. And one of our granddaughters says she is now taller than Ms. Eclectic despite not having grown any more herself. Along this same line, I can recall being surprised by how short my mother seemed in her later years, and it wasn't just because I had grown.
So here is our suggestion. When people reach the age of about 45 or 50, they should put up height charts designed for children. Then as they [we] shrink, we can keep track of the shrinkage on the height chart.
Addendum: We actually started something like this the other day. We marked our respective heights on a door jamb. And then we measured the heights of the marks. Indeed, we have both lost some height from our peak heights.
probably not much of a market for this product.
As I have moved from being middle aged into the "under 90" category, my sense of peace, tranquility, gratitude, and happiness have all increased tremendously. At the same time, I have recently become grumpier. This study suggests I am not alone [via MA]. Here is what happens.
And you know how all those old people [us "under-90s"] seem to walk funny? We do it for one or more of these three reasons:
Had anyone told me this even ten years ago, I'd have understood.... intellectually. But being here, experiencing it, makes it real.
Despite all this, and lest anyone be concerned, I'm still more grateful and happier than I ever imagined possible. Ain't life grand!
The Canadian federal gubmnt has consistently underestimated how much it will have to pay out to retirees in the future, and it has consistently overestimated how much income investments will generate. The result is that it has severely underestimated how much the pension liabilities will add the federal budget deficit in the future.
A recent publication from the C.D. Howe Institute suggests that the present value of these deficits is roughly $120 billion. Their conclusion:
An economically meaningful fair-value estimate
of the unfunded liability of federal government
employees’ pension plans puts it at $272 billion –
some $120 billion higher than reported. The same
approach to determining the annual cost of benefits
accruing in these plans shows it to be between
45 and 60 percent of pensionable pay – more than
twice as high as reported, and a far higher rate of
tax-deferred wealth accumulation than is available
to other Canadians. The federal government should
incorporate these numbers in the official measures
of its net debt and annual budget balance. This
would be a key first step toward reforms that would
alleviate a burden that few taxpayers know they
bear, and that would protect taxpayers from risks
few know they run.
Please note that this study refers only to the federal pension liabilities. I expect many municipal and provincial pension liabilities are in even worse shape. As a result, the net drain to future taxpayers will be even higher when these net liabilities are added to burden.
I have slight osteo-arthritis. Most of the time it isn't bad, and I don't often let it slow me down.
Nevertheless, here are three things I would like our family physician to prescribe for me:
I know that at some point in my life, I will likely "need" these things. But why not prescribe them now while I can enjoy them a bit?
(If only I could keep myself from smiling when I ask for them....)
In many ways I'm a traditionalist, and this becomes clear at Christmas time. We put up a smaller tree than we used to have, and so we have given away many of our Christmas decorations. But we have kept some, too, including some that have been in the family for several generations.
I realized as I was putting things away this year, that we wrap the ornaments in the same tissue that they were wrapped in nearly 50 years ago.
Notice the coloured Kleenex and the patterned Kleenex, both of which caused problems with sewage disposal systems and the environment and were subsequently banned. These must be long-forgotten relics by now!
And the box? Another blast from the past, nearly 50 years old. It's from Marshall Field & Company, acquired when I lived in Chicago in the mid-1960s:
I tell people I'm under 90 but also am pleased to be immature young-at-heart, too. I didn't like all the choices available in this quiz. I suspect it was compiled by some smart aleck who has no idea what it's like be over 50 (and still under 90). But the first time I took it, the results said I'm 35. Yeah, sure.
So I took it again, giving slightly different answers for those questions where I'd been ambivalent. 35 again.
Third try, 27 going on 45 with this comment:
The only thing you like better than going to bed very early is proclaiming to the world that you are going to bed very early. Because you are old.
Overall pretty stupid.
The swimming pool in our condo building has been out of commission for nearly a year. We have high hopes it will be fully operational within the next few months.
In preparation for its opening, I have been thinking about triathlons, for some sick/bizarre reason. Here's a good summary at this link.
I have absolutely no intention of doing a triathlon as described at that site. My goal, instead, is to stay slightly active and to avoid serious deconditioning. So here is my plan instead:
Once a week, not back-to-back, I will try to do each of these things:
No charts. No achievement records. It's just that I know that if I can even approach these levels of activity, I'll be able to maintain a level of fitness that is adequate for me.
And if I actually achieve any of this, it'll probably put me above average, judging from this.
Self-reported vigorous activity also conflicted with accelerometer data, which categorized activity levels according to number of steps recorded. Men and women reported 20 minutes and 12 minutes of vigorous activity, respectively, on the questionnaires, but the accelerometer times were 2.9 and 2.4 minutes, respectively.
This article in The Daily Mail [via MA] says that over 70% of adults in many parts of the developed world (especially North America) are overweight or obese.
While North America still has the highest percentage of overweight adults at 70%, regions such as Australasia and southern Latin America are now not far behind with 63%.
The article mentions rising incomes as one causal factor.
My own guess is that cheap carbohydrates and high-fructose corn syrup contribute to these numbers. Also reduced physical activity likely plays a role.
Four years ago, my BMI was over 28. I knew I wanted to do some serious (for me) hiking that coming summer, so I embarked on a diet and exercise plan that lowered my BMI to slightly under 25. [Note: I use this BMI calculator and acknowledge that my height has shrunk a tad in the past decade or so as I have aged.]
But I had trouble keeping it there. A year and a half ago, inspired in part by Scoop (a former student) and other information [see this and this], we went on a form of the Atkins diet, emphasizing more veggies and very few carbs. That plus continued attempts to stay slightly active have kept my BMI below 25 for the entire period since then, despite some ups and downs surrounding holidays, when I am simply unable to resist sweets and starches.
One good thing I have learned, though, is that when I do splurge and eat far too many carbs, going back on the low-carb diet gets me right back on track.
Okay. I'm not in great condition. And I'd love to lose another 10 lbs, which I'm sure I could do if I'd be more conscientious about the low-carb diet. But overall this plan is working well.
Several times in the past year, I have been asked to complete forms that ask for:
Each time I fill in my correct date of birth. But then when it comes to filling in my age, I write "<90". One person good-naturedly chided me about this answer, to which I replied in my best curmudgeonly voice something like, "You got my birthdate. Tell your computer to do the arithmetic." [grumble grumble harumph grumble]
Man, this is a topic close to my heart, at least in terms of concerns we have about the future.
Jack recently sent me this article [gated, unfortunately], which summarizes the literature to date. The short summary:
A summary from the article,
• There is some evidence that specific cognitive exercises can sharpen
memory and have an incremental benefit in preventing cognitive
decline. However, the transferability of these benefits to any cognitively
stimulating activity is unproven.
• There is some evidence that physical exercise may have a positive benefit, and given its countless other medical benefits, it should be encouragedwith all patients.
• Perhaps the most important application of this review can be the
rebuttal of claims of many natural health food products and other
pharmacologic agents that purport benefits to cognition. [emphasis added]
MA sent me this link last week. It is a fascinating collection of gifs showing people when they were young adults and then again when they were over 100 years old. Just as with this collection of photos, I noticed last weekend that with some of my former high school classmates, some were easily recognizable, but others (like me) have changed considerably.
From the article,
Here is my high school graduation photo followed by a recent headshot.
Unlike bones and muscle, our ears, nose and feet continue to grow as we get older.
The ears are made up of cartilage, a flexible connective tissue which, unlike bones, continues to grow until we die.
Cartilage also becomes thinner with age, causing the skin to stretch and sag, so the ears stretch down and the tip of the nose lengthens and droops.
Meanwhile, our feet become longer and wider with age, as the tendons and ligaments that link the many tiny bones lose elasticity.
After I posted my list of things that respectable "under 90s" should consider owning, Jack (a retired demographer/physician) sent me some additional suggestions that we should consider for living our lives more fully and for dealing with problems that arise as we age.
This is, unfortunately, also one of the most difficult to achieve because of the disinterest and even aversion, of most primary care physicians, to geriatric care. (Can’t fix ‘em, too many problems, too many forms to fill out, etc. etc.)
Ideally, we should all have a geriatrician looking after us. Rare birds, especially in Canada. Second best is an internal medicine specialist who does primary care – common in the USA but again rare in Canada.
Characteristics of a better physician would include interest in old people, internal medicine talent, availability for emergencies, and house calls. These folks do exist but will take a long time to search out (ratemds.com will help) and seduce into taking you on. Persistence pays in the latter situation, as they are always losing patients despite their good work, and need to take on more.
Folks living in small towns are screwed.
Assuming one is interested in being temporarily patched up when at the abyss, living in proximity to a good ambulance service and emergency department is a must.
This means residence in cities. Further, one has to be aware that calling the family doctor in a real emergency is of no avail. Most are not equipped or trained to deal with these, and if contacted will simply re-route you to the ER. Of course there is bad care in ER as well, as the recent case of the 90 year old woman in B.C. illustrates . But it’s your best chance.
Further re: characteristics of a primary care physician is the age issue: ideally you want one not as old as you as they will bow out before you do. But not so young that they have no real life experience either.
The gender issue gets less important as we age, as medical issues become more similar. But avoid women in childbearing years as they often bow out for extended time, and re-enter the workforce part time.There is much that is worthy of consideration in what Jack writes.
When Ms Eclectic and I moved to Clinton, a small town an hour north of London, Ontario, nearly 20 years ago, we made sure we selected a town with a hospital and a medical clinic. We always had very speedy service any time we went to the emergency entrance of the Clinton hospital; it was far quicker than we have received now that we are back in London. And we knew several of the physicians in town socially, which made our interactions a shade more pleasant than they might be for many people in larger cities. We never needed or wanted a house call, but we'd have been more likely to get one there than we could in the city.
In all these senses, we were not "screwed" at all. Yet it turns out that wasn't enough.
We also learned fairly quickly that the testing facilities and the specialist expertise available in London is far superior to that in Clinton (or in Stratford, Ontario, where the Clinton physicians sent people). Indeed that was, as Jack implied, one of several reasons we moved back to London.
And, fortunately, the wife of one of our friends in London is a highly rated family physician, and she was able to add us to her patient list.
Interestingly, after the original list was posted, our former family physician from Clinton, wrote, "Hobbies are good, too." He's right (or at least I hope he is, since I have so many!). One of my best friends, the late BenS appeared to have no hobbies, but he most certainly did: he loved meeting people, talking with them, pulling their leg if they hinted at being the least bit pretentious; and he spent hours on the internet, reading and forwarding items to the rest of us in "the quartet".
I was prompted to write this post after having read this one and not agreeing with everything on its list. I doubt if I would agree with it for people in their 30s, and I certainly have a different list for those of us who are "under 90".
My list below is written to parallel that one to some extent, which is why I included these items and not others. I'll be happy to make changes or additions.
1. A dark suit. People our age have many sombre events to attend, and a dark suit is often appropriate for them. It doesn't have to be black, necessarily. Just respectful and subdued. I don't have a black suit. This one will do for most situations.
And at our age, certainly not tailored!
2. Some nice dress shoes to go with that suit. Walking shoes, runners, etc. just don't cut it for those occasions.
My dress shoes are all quite old, but I try to get them repaired when possible.
3. However, comfortable hiking/running/walking shoes are a must.
4. Conservative investments. At least some of your investments should be conservative. When you are young, you can put only equities into your savings/retirement portfolio but as you approach senior status, the vagaries of the market can be devastating, so have some conservative investments, and maybe even a lot. My own retirement fund has only 30% equities in it.
5. Reasonable tools. I disposed of many of my tools when we moved into an apartment condo, but I still have an electric drill, a sabre saw, hammers, pliers, screwdrivers, and a socket set.
Update: Ms. Eclectic says she doesn't need all those tools. Maybe some pliers, a hammer, a screwdriver set, and a tape measure would be sufficient.
6. A convenient wallet. Credit cards, debit cards, loyalty cards, i.d. cards, medical cards, etc. We have enough cards to carry around that I use one of these. It seems as good as and much less expensive than the similar Bellroy, which is advertised all over the place.
And as we age, we come recognize that there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a velcro closure on the wallet.
7. Depends. Fortunately I don't need them yet, but they are infinitely superior to the alternative.
There is sometimes a lot of snickering from younger people about this topic, but consider this fact: in 2012, Japan sold more diapers for adults than for children.
8. A watch with big numbers. Once again, pretentions of elegance must give way to practicality. I prefer a digital watch with a bright night light (Indiglo) for night viewing plus the greenish daytime background for easier time-telling in the bright sunlight.
These are some of the watches I have. The pocket watches belonged to my grandfather and, as you can see, I never bothered to get one of them repaired. The Rolex is a replica (i.e. knock-off), but at least it is self-winding, not battery-powered. The digital Armitron has the right-sized face but sticks up a bit too high on my wrist. My preference is the Timex digital Expedition with a velcro strap.
Let me add that Ms. Eclectic also wears a digital watch with large numerals. I realize that many people just use their cellphones to keep track of the time nowadays, but it is much easier for most of us under 90s to use a watch.
9. A proper mattress. We are not going to sleep in our recliners ALL the time. Over the years, I have found that memory foam works best for me. But if it is too firm, I don't sleep so well. Initially we tried to get by with a memory foam topper, but now we use a king-sized Tempur-pedic.(but not quite this fancy!)
10. Flashlights. As we age and our eyes don't work so well, having a good flashlight is important. I have one on my smartphone, of course, but we also have several others, including a couple of the rechargeable kind that turn on when the power goes off -- invaluable.
11. Duct tape.
Right now we have black, grey, blue, red, pink, and brown. It comes in handy for so many different things.
12. Four-wheeler luggage (also called "spinners"). It is SO much easier to get around at airports or bus stations with four-wheelers than with two-wheelers.
13. A really good recliner. We know we are going to live in our recliner, so let's be comfortable while we're at it. In my case, the recliner is also my office.
Don't go for the bargain model because it will become lumpy and uncomfortable after only a year or two.
The one I have now is a La-z-Boy. I don't much like it, so I'm speaking from experience here. This one is noisy and not all that comfortable. I've had better ones. And as I age, I think maybe I should consider a power-lift recliner! ;-)
14. Nose and ear hair trimmer. Why are those the only two places where more hair grows as we age. Trimmers are inexpensive and they can help.
15. Electric openers. Especially jar openers and wine openers (corkscrews). Arthritis takes a toll, and these electric gadgets are immeasurably helpful. I have written about them before (see this), and I still think they are spectacularly useful and spectacularly fun. Also be sure to keep channel-lock pliers handy for opening champagne bottles.
16. A list of ICE [In-Case-of-Emergency phone numbers]. We have little lists on our fridge front, in our wallets, and on our smartphones.
17. A cellphone (and learn how to use it!). Make sure you have it with you at all times. Know how to call a few friends or members of your family; also know how to call emergency numbers! This is a lifeline in case you fall, are stranded, have car trouble, etc. It doesn't have to be a smartphone, but Ms Eclectic and I both love having smartphones.
I use a Samsung Note2 (on the right, above) most of the time, but I have a small pink pay-as-you-go cellphone with a different carrier (Telus) that I carry for emergency use whenever I expect I won't be on the Rogers System, e.g. when I'm in Saskatchewan.
18. A high-quality knife set. Dull knives are frustrating and likely to lead to injury, so get a good set and keep the knives sharp. We have several different knives from different sets, but they are all quite good, and I keep them sharp.
Notice two things of importance:
19. A passport. You pretty much need a passport to fly anywhere or cross any guarded border these days, and you cannot get one quickly in an emergency, so get one and keep it up to date, just as a precaution.
Update: I listed a passport because even if you do not think you will be traveling internationally, you might change your mind. Having a passport and not having to rush around to try to get one is a good form of insurance. Marjorie has added that if you think you might travel a lot to the US, then getting a Nexus card makes sense, too.
20. A sewing kit of some sort. It doesn't have to be fancy, but a few pins and needles (and a needle threader or some self-threading needles might be a good addition) along with a few spools of thread always come in handy. At the very least, save a couple of the basic kits provided in some hotel rooms.
We actually have more than just the hotel kits for sewing -- more spools of thread and some decent scissors, etc. We also have a fancy sewing machine, but it is so fancy it overwhelms me. I'm not even sure any sewing machine is vital for under-90s. The last time I used one was several years ago to sew buttonholes in the corners of our serviettes (aka napkins). [see this and this]
21. An umbrella. Ms Eclectic and I don't agree on this. She doesn't carry or use an umbrella, but I enjoy having one. Actually we have 3 or 4: one in the car, one in each of my different shoulder bags, and one in the closet. I prefer the double-layered ones that seem more wind resistent (like the maroon one in this photo), and the push-to-open; push-to-close button is really nice.
We also like having hoods on our spring/fall/winter jackets.
22. A good hat to protect you from the sun. I don't know why, but it seems older people are more sensitive to the sun; I have been for years because of my baldness. I wear a Tilley much of the time, but I also carry a hat that folds up pretty small (see photo); Ms Eclectic is still experimenting.
23. A good, solid, easy-to-use stepstool. Changing lightbulbs will surely become an uncommon experience as we shift to using more LED bulbs, but every once in awhile we need to reach something that is up higher than we can reach (especially as we shrink in height and lose our ability to stand up so straight). And a chair sometimes is too hard to get up on, or not high enough or stable enough. This one has been in the family for quite awhile and is very useful (even for putting red reflector noses on deer-warning signs). If I were buying one now, I might consider a three-stepper.
24. Stain removers. I used to be grossed out by people who spilled food on their shirts during meals. Nowadays, I consider it a victory if I don't. Tide sticks are a necessity, as are spray spot removers for the shirts. Maybe I should buy more stain-repellent shirts and pants to deal with this?
25. An automatic card shuffler. People in older cohorts like to play cards (apparently more than the younger generations, but I'm not so sure about this). Arthritis attacks the knuckles makes it hard to shuffle. We gave our automatic card shuffler away because we don't need one yet, but when we do: Automatic card-shufflers to the rescue!
26. Lint rollers for both pet hair AND dandruff! Be sure to check that dark suit in item #1 before leaving home.
27. A good optometrist and optician. I like transition lenses (that go dark in the sun) so I don't have to worry about sunglasses. But I detest progressive lenses (no-line bi- or tri-focals) because the field of vision is too narrow with them. Whatever your tastes, make sure you have a good optometrist and a good optician to work with.
That having been said, I would likely order my glasses from Zenni Optical if they would produce tri-focals. The prices there are amazingly low.
28. Lots of remotes. We have at least 14. It makes life so much easier.
From the livingroom and dining room:
And from the bedrooms:
29. A subscription to a good cable/music system. We don't bother with CDs and downloaded music anymore. We just find a music channel on tv that suits our mood and listen to that. In fact, I gave away all but a few of our CDs (shown below) last year.
30. Good walking sticks. Whenever you go walking, if you use a cane, you look and feel old and decrepit; but use a walking stick, and you look fit and cool.
My cane is on the left; I have used it off and on over the past few years. You can imagine that when it is in my luggage, it arouses suspicion at airports!
One of my walking sticks is on the right. I take it with me whenever there is a slight chance I might be able to do some hiking (joints permitting).
Marjorie has added a suggestion that a cane with a collapsible seat might be a good idea for some of us at times.
31. A Tassimo or a Keurig. A potful of coffee is too much, and while I don't mind reheated leftover coffee, even I don't like leftover coffee that's more than two days old, so making a full pot just isn't worthwhile. Also with a Tassimo or Keurig, you can choose something different everyday.
And as you can see, we make sure we have LOTS of choice each time we use the machine. The only time it is a bother is if you are trying to make coffee for a large group of people.
32. Good socks. There is no point having good shoes if you don't have good socks. I recently gave about 30 pairs of socks to Mission Services, but I still have maybe 50 pairs.
33. Good underwear. Dontcha hate when it rides up? And make sure it fits properly. I buy mine at J.C. Penney in the US. I'm going to stock up the next time I'm there because I'm not sure how long that store will be around.
[You didn't really think I would put a photo of my underwear here, did you?]
34. A really good set of non-stick skillets. We have three different sizes, and the non-stick coating is like magic. We love them.
We don't store them this way; we put plastic between them to protect the finish. These are Heritage Artisan pans that we bought at Canadian Tire. They are on sale maybe once every three or four months and are very inexpensive then. And they are miraculous.
35. Spring for some nice sheets and bedding. My only regret is that nobody these days seems to make high thread-count sheets with bold geometric designs.
36. Good booze. Sure, you can buy standard, acceptable stuff for lower prices (and we do), but keep some good stuff around, too, whether it is vodka, gin, rum, bourbon, or scotch. I always try to have some Lagavulin, Caol Ila, or other good scotch around.
37. Practical dishes. Ms Eclectic and I have probably gone throught 4 or 5 different types of sets of dishes, but it turns out that the ones we like best are some white dishes we bought for maybe $9 per box of 4 place settings from Canadian Tire. They're not perfectly formed, as you can see, but they are just fine for us. And we actually like the minor imperfections.
The ramekins are from Dollarama, and suit us very well.
We also have some unique ceramic dishes -- the brown ones in the photo. I've broken a few bowls, though, and the "artist" doesn't use that glaze anymore, and so we've moved away from using them much.
Speaking of broken dishes, Corelle is the saviour of those of us who bang things around or drop them inadvertently. We have a bunch of Corelle serving bowls.
38. A decent car. The next-to-last car we bought was in a bit of an emergency situation. It was a great car (our son is still using it and having no problems with it), but it didn't really satisfy me. So we shopped a bit longer for the one we drive now, and it quite suits me.
39. A decent e-reader (or tablet with e-reader apps). Give away your hard-copy books. They take up way too much space and weigh a tonne if you're trying to pack a bunch of them along when you travel. With e-readers you can load up a bunch of books; furthermore, with e-readers nobody can see the cover and judge your taste in reading material.
40. Finally, get a computer and learn how to use it. Do email with your family and friends, and consider joining Facebook so you can keep in touch with friends and family from all over. Some people may think I spend too much time on the computer, especially on Facebook and email, but the contacts I have made, have retained, and have renewed have greatly enriched my life.
and "About Town":
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Many (most!) state and local gubmnt pensions are seriously underfunded by any reasonable estimate. Well, they aren't underfunded if they can all earn about 25%/year forever, but let's be realistic: they are grossly underfunded and the taxpayers in those jurisdictions are going to be on the hook for the balance, out of general revenues. From here:
State and local public employees, for the most part, have DB retirement plans. Much discussion has occurred in recent years to estimate how underfunded they are: the estimates start at $1.3 trillion and go up from there. The difficulty is that calculating the amount depends on your estimate of future rate of return. Most plans themselves project they will earn 7 to 8 percent on their investments, and critics say that is too optimistic. [EE: 7 or 8% in perpetuity?? Those folks are super dangerously delusional]
The organization State Budget Solutions this month produced one such estimate, using a 3.2 percent rate of return (the 15-year Treasury bond yield rate). This calculates to public employee pension plans having only 39 percent of the assets they need to cover their promised payments—a $4.1 trillion gap. [emphasis in the original]
Here, via the Tax Foundation, is a map showing the percentage of underfunding in each state:
If I lived in one of those states with the low numbers, I would try to move. If I couldn't move, I would try to hide my assets somewhere that they'd be less vulnerable to increased taxation. And if I ran one of these states, I'd try to commit everything possible to fixed continued programmes for the future so the state could go to the Feds and say they had no choice but to beg for a bail-out.
It is hard to understand how people have let things get this far.
And it isn't just states in the US. Oil-rich Alberta has a bloated budget and an underfunded pension scheme, too.
Alberta’s pension has unfunded liabilities of $7.4 billion which, while affordable now, won’t be as the ranks of retirees grows and people collect benefits over longer lives. The number of active workers to retirees has already shrunk dramatically, so fewer people are paying more money to support retirees over a longer period. There’s a limit to how often pension plans can boost payments by active workers or ask taxpayers to foot a larger government contribution, and the market struggles of the past decade demonstrated how uncertain investment growth can be.
I really feel sorry for the younger generations. The older ones (with support from such insidious groups as AARP and CARP) have negotiated generous pension plans but have apparently been unwilling to pay the taxes required to fund the plans. And the younger generations will have to deal with the situation, including the possibility of having their parents live with them.
It is not just a bad joke that some years from now people will be writing about boomerang seniors instead of boomerang children.
Update: The C.D. Howe piece in the Globe and Mail has a better piece about the Alberta revisions.
Gabriel drew this to my attention. It is a scandalous confiscation in an attempt to relieve sovereign debt constraints.
Ok, so it's Poland, not England or the US or Canada. Nevertheless, it highlights a concern: why save for my retirement if those savings are likely to be taxed at high rates to support pensions for those who don't save? It's like the old fable about the Ant and the Grasshopper.
Poland Confiscates Half Of Private Pension Funds To "Cut" Sovereign Debt Load
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said private funds within the state-guaranteed system would have their bond holdings transferred to a state pension vehicle, but keep their equity holdings. The funds would effectively be left with only the equities portions of their assets, even this would be depleted, and there will be uncertainty about the number of new savers joining.
But why is Poland engaging in behavior that will ultimately be disastrous to future capital allocation in non-public pension funds (the type that can at least on paper generate some returns as opposed to "public" funds which are guaranteed to lose)? After all, this is a last ditch step which no rational person would engage in unless there were no other option. Simple: there were no other option, and the driver is the same reason the world everywhere else is broke too - too much debt.
By shifting some assets from the private funds into ZUS, the government can book those assets on the state balance sheet to offset public debt, giving it more scope to borrow and spend. Finance Minister Jacek Rostowski said the changes will reduce public debt by about eight percent of GDP. This in turn, he said, would allow the lowering of two thresholds that deter the government from allowing debt to raise over 50 percent, and then 55 percent, of GDP. Public debt last year stood at 52.7 percent of GDP, according to the government's own calculations.
- Government has too much debt to issue more debt
- Government nationalizes private pension funds making their debt holdings an "asset" and commingles with other public assets
- New confiscated assets net out sovereign debt liability, lowering the debt/GDP ratio
- Debt/GDP drops below threshold, government can issue more sovereign debt
We Are All Going to Pension Hell
That is the title of this piece by Megan McCardle. It says, quite simply, that many, many states and municipalities -- far too many -- have promised their employees pensions that they cannot possible raise the funds to pay.
If you define municipal debt simply as what states and localities have borrowed, the total nationwide comes to about $3 trillion. Nevertheless, these governments actually owe more than twice that much, according to estimates from groups like the States Project. The reason for the discrepancy is that states and localities carry another kind of debt -- promises of retirement benefits to public-sector workers -- and they have radically underfunded the systems that must pay for it. As Boston University Law School professor Jack Michael Beermann wrote recently in the Washington and Lee Law Review, the situation is a “double whammy” for future taxpayers, who not only will have to pay for “the consumption of prior generations” but also will receive “reduced government services” as increased spending on retirement debt crowds out other programs.
There is, in the end, a limit to how tightly past taxpayers, or their representatives, can bind the citizens of the future. It is a genuine tragedy that people who worked hard for the city of Detroit for 30 years should lose pension benefits. But that doesn’t mean that the city of Detroit should turn off the streetlights and get rid of schools and ambulance service in order to fund those lost pensions. And it’s hard to argue that the taxpayers of other places are morally obligated to step in.
But how much should cities have to cut, once the tax base is exhausted? Senior centers? Parades? Maintenance at city parks? We’d better start asking those questions, because pretty soon, we’re going to need to answer them.
It was okay to promise these pensions, but to leave them unfunded was totally irresponsible. And now everyone will be fighting to try to get some taxpayers in other jurisdictions to bail them out, either directly or indirectly. It will be a messy and costly round of rent-seeking.
My advice to individuals? Start saving more for your own retirement. Don't count on gubmnt defined-benefit pensions to be there the way people before you have collected from them.
And where possible, hide your assets. We know that savers will likely have some of their assets taken by law/tax/force to support the people who have received these unfunded pension promises. And knowing that, there's little incentive to save for yourself unless you can save in a way that hides the assets from the gubmnt.
In terms of actual self-assessed satisfaction, on average people tend to be most satisfied in their early 20s and in their late 60s (ht Ms Eclectic)
The researcher found that "current life satisfaction is U-shaped between ages 20 and 70."This U-shaped happiness:
- Occurs between 20-70 years of age.
- Peaks around 23 and 69 years of age.
- Hits a bottom around the mid-50s.
- Declines after 75 years of age.Hannes Schwandt found people do not tend to anticipate this U-shaped happiness throughout their lives.Instead, generally people expect young adulthood to be the happiest time of their lives and for that happiness to slowly decrease with age. After the late 50s, people have stable life expectations, which is contrary to how life satisfaction actually increases for the most part.
(Perhaps the graph of actual satisfaction should be called "M-shaped") This summary certainly seems to reflect how my life has gone. My expectations were probably inordinately high when I was a young adult. And I could not imagine that I'd be as contented/happy/satisfied as I am now.
Why do expectations of happiness for seniors seem to be so low for people in their 60s and early 70s? Is it loss of status? loss of work? loss of income? family squabbles? expectations of physical ailments? anticipation of boredom? a foreboding sense of emptiness?
I know that at times I used to view retirement as being put into a holding pen, waiting to die. But those moments never lasted very long. Instead, I am still having one heck of a good time and hoping it lasts awhile longer.
Addendum: David Henderson, a former student, is also content.
This sort of thing worries me. And with medical costs and queues growing astronomically as the baby boomers age, I'm sure it won't go away. Here's the link [ht MA] and here's the intro to the piece:
According to advance reports, the Government will announce today the end of the deeply controversial Liverpool Care Pathway.
The LCP was written as a treatment programme for doctors and nurses when looking after people who are dying.
Such a programme was deemed necessary because of the all-too-common instances of neglect or inappropriate treatment which dying people were being forced to suffer.
However, the scheme became mired in bitter controversy after relatives and patients claimed that the LCP was being used to accelerate death, or even to kill patients who were not dying at all by starving and dehydrating them until they did, in fact, die.
And from the conclusion,
This obscene brutalisation of attitudes cannot be addressed by tinkering with procedures, by yet more Whitehall directives, nor even by the firing of culpable staff (not that that last outcome ever seems to happen).
We are simply facing nothing less than a moral breakdown: a fundamental collapse of decency, compassion and simple kindness.
These have been replaced in too many cases by hatchet-faced self-interest, an arrogant and unchecked abuse of professional power and a brutal utilitarianism which has substituted a tendentious judgment of usefulness for innate respect for human life.
That this has occurred in the NHS, Britain’s supposed temple of caring, does not merely explode that particular claim for the humbug that it is. It is also a judgment upon a narcissistic society which, in sentimentalising the NHS in this way in order to admire its own compassion and altruism, has, in fact, developed a cruel and callous hole where its own heart should be.
We absolute must face the reality that because of scarcity, we will not all receive "the best medical care possible". There simply is not enough to go around. Jonathan Kay nails it:
Even the wealthiest societies, no matter what the funding model for their health systems, have finite resources available to treat the human body’s potentially infinite medical needs. Someone, somewhere has to make a decision about where those finite assets go.
Such decisions seem horrifying to most of us because life, in most contexts, is too precious to be captured with dollars and cents, or even with the ordinal rankings used to assign transplantable organs. And utilitarianism can, indeed, be taken to monstrous extremes on the fringes of bioethics. But where the day-to-day business of critical-care medicine is concerned, some measure of soulless cost-benefit analysis is an absolute necessity — because every dollar (or organ) used on one patient within a public or private insurance network usually is, in effect, taken from another.
If we don't understand this simple truth, we are doomed to misallocating health resources.
A summary of too many people's view of the Canadian health care system is:
Better that one rich person be denied care so that 50 poor people can stand in line hoping to get it.
... which of course completely ignores both supply effects and the beneficial rationing effects of the price system.
People who have seen me with dark hair tell me it takes years off my appearance. Here is one example:
So maybe there's hope? From Gabriel,
I expect none of this stuff will be commercially viable while I'm alive. Or if it is, I'll probably be too old to care. Oh well, the rest of you have so much neato stuff to look forward to.
"For generations, numerous remedies have been concocted to hide gray hair," said Dr. Gerald Weissmann, the editor-in-chief of The FASEB Journal, "but now, for the first time, an actual treatment that gets to the root of the problem has been developed. While this is exciting news, what's even more exciting is that this also works for vitiligo. This condition, while technically cosmetic, can have serious socio-emotional effects of people. Developing an effective treatment for this condition has the potential to radically improve many people's lives."