Springtime In Maryland, Too Colorful For Words

Frederick, 4-24-15

Someplace in Frederick, MD, 04-24-15.

Someplace in Gaithersburg, MD, 04-24-15.

Someplace in Gaithersburg, MD, 04-24-15.

Rave about your Fall foliage, but I’ll take the many colors of blossoming trees in Spring. No elaboration required.

John Hayden Photos.

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Can You Walk Ten Thousand Steps A Day, Every Day?

I’ve been hearing the latest health edict for quite a while.

“Sitting is the new smoking!”

The human body was made to move, not sit. Get up and walk. Just do it.

OK, I sprang for a book. “This Is Your Do-Over: The 7 Secrets to Losing Weight, Living Longer, and Getting a Second Chance at the Life You Want,” by Michael F. Roizen, M.D. It’s 358 pages hardback, including index and a forward by Dr. Oz. Yep, that Dr. Oz.

The book is just published in February 2015. Only $26 in the U.S., $32 in Canada. I heard about it on Maryland Public Television. Since when does Public TV do infomercials for books?

I’ll be the first to admit it, I could use a do-over. Lots of things I’d like to do over. How often does a complete stranger come along and offer you a second chance? Huh?

“By learning to incorporate seven simple principles into your life, you can erase virtually all of the damage that your body may have sustained.”

Thus says the good doctor, Michael Roizen. Who is he kidding? On the other hand, he happens to be the “chief wellness officer” at the Cleveland Clinic. It’s in Cleveland.

Dr. Roizen promises that if we follow his program, we’ll all live longer and better, “with a stronger body, a sharper mind, a more-fulfilling sex life, and so much energy . . .” Blah, Blah, Blah.

Is Dr. Roizen serious? Yes, apparently he is.  Serious as a heart attack. Serious as a heart attack AND a Marine drill sergeant.

“This Is Your Do-Over” covers a lot of territory, especially nutrition and exercise. The nutrition part seems a little complicated, to me.  I think it might involve giving up most of the things I like to eat. You know, cheese, meat, eggs, fat, sugar. Whoa, I believe I’ll come back to nutrition later. For now, I’ll go straight to exercise.

Dr. Roisen recommends that I simply do a little bit of regular physical activity. He talks some about other exercise, but he is most adamant about walking.

“Ten thousand steps is the magic number — and you can get there.”

Ten thousand steps every day, seven days a week! By the way, ten thousand steps equals about five miles, according to the good doctor.

So I go out to purchase a pedometer. I wanted a simple, old-fashioned, mechanical pedometer. But of course I couldn’t find anything so simple. I ended up buying a “Fitbit.” It’s small and high-tech, and it costs more than I planned to spend. That’s what credit cards are for.

I’ve been using the Fitbit for about a week. It tells me how many steps I take, how many miles I walk, how many calories I burn. It even knows what time it is.

So far, I’ve made ten thousand steps only one day. But at least I know it can be done. Dr. Roisen says it’s a perfectly reasonable number. You can achieve 10K if you walk steadily for at least a half-hour every day. And then park the car a far distance from the mall or the grocery store for the balance of the day. Simple. I believe the doctor.

Today, Thursday, I’ve only racked up 8,232 steps. I was going to report my miles and calories burned as well. But the clock just struck midnight, the Fitbit erased all of Thursday’s information, and I’m starting Friday with zero steps.

Look, I’ll have to get back to you on the walking project. Maybe I’ll check in next time I hit ten thousand miles — I mean steps — in a single 24-hour period. Right now it’s Friday, a whole new day, another chance at a do-over. I’ve got to get moving.

— John Hayden


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What Happens To Social Security Owed To Folks Who Die Young?

Retirement is good. I haven’t felt like going to work a single day this week. I’m thankful that I don’t have to. Been there, done that. Enough!

When I say, hear, or read the words “Social Security” or “Medicare,” my reaction is:

“Thanks to God and the Democratic Party.”

Some say Social Security benefits need to be reduced because people are living longer.


We’ve always had old folks — eighty years, ninety, one hundred, and even higher. Nothing new under the sun. But are more folks living to advanced ages than ever before? Probably, because the population is larger than ever. But just because nearly everyone knows someone very old, that doesn’t mean that everyone is living deep into old age.

“Are people living much longer in retirement? Or is the truth, now and always, that a few people with good genes and good luck make it to old age?” — From “Me And The Blog”

I personally have known more people in the Boomer generation who died at 60, 62, or 66, to pick a few numbers. Boomers are dying in their forties and fifties. All the folks who die young paid into Social Security every week since they began working. They’re never going to collect a penny. Those who die in their sixties draw benefits only briefly. Who gets the money?

Who gets the uncollected old-age benefits of the masses of people who die young? Seems to me that more Baby Boomers are dying in the fourth, fifth and sixth decades of life, than will make it to the eighth and ninth decades.

Seems to me that the many who die young balance out the few who grow old. I’ll leave it to an enterprising young auditor who understands actuarial data to figure it out.

— John Hayden

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AARP Online Retirement Livability Index

A new AARP Livability Index can tell you how your city or town (or the place you’re thinking about relocating) ranks as a place to live and grow older. The Livability Index, which can rate practically any neighborhood in the U.S., goes live this week, according to The Washington Post and a host of other mainstream media outlets. You can find it at aarp.org/livabilityindex. (Interestingly, many MSM sources fail to give the url for the new AARP tool.)

AARP describes the new resource as follows:

“The Livability Index is a signature initiative of the Public Policy Institute to measure the quality of life in American communities across multiple dimensions: housing, transportation, neighborhood characteristics, environment, health, opportunity, and civic and social engagement.

An interactive, easily navigated website, the Livability Index allows users to compare communities, adjust scores based on personal preferences and learn how to take action to make their own communities move livable.”

I entered my Maryland zip code into the system and found out in about half a second that my Gaithersburg neighborhood rates 59 on a scale of zero to 100. I also received specific ratings on the following livability measures:

  • Housing (affordability and access)
  • Transportation (safe and convenient options)
  • Environment (clean air and water)
  • Health (prevention, access and quality)
  • Engagement (civic and social involvement)
  • Opportunity (inclusion and possibilities)

Housing in my neighborhood rates a measly 36. Not a surprise to me. I already know that generally speaking, you can’t buy or rent a home in Montgomery County, MD, unless you’re affluent. You need two middle-class incomes or one high income to support a family here. (That’s why I’m researching communities in Florida. The cost of living in many parts of Florida is quite reasonable, compared to the Maryland suburbs. Needless to say, the AARP Livability Index will be a great help in my search.)

On the positive side, my neighborhood rates high in Health (79), and gets pretty good scores of 64 on both Neighborhood and Engagement. (I’m doubtful about the high rating for Engagement. If AARP considered voter turnout in the last election, we would rank much lower.)

Transportation rates 56. Even if you own a car, that’s an optimistic number. The Washington, D.C. area is notorious for rush hour traffic. If you depend on public transportation, I dunno. My part of Montgomery County is past the end of the line for the Metro subway. And Metro overall? I don’t have to ride the subway every day, and I’m glad I don’t. MARC commuter trains are good if both your home and workplace are near a rail station.

The transportation score could go up or way down in the future, depending on whether our leaders and voters are willing to fund plans for the Purple Line in the southern parts of Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties, and Bus Rapid Transit in northern Montgomery.

Take a look at the AARP Livability Index. How does your hometown rate? Are your civic leaders going to be bragging, or running for cover?

— John Hayden

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Let the record show that I’m officially and fully retired from paid work. My final night shift ended at 9 p.m., April 16, 2015.

I first retired in the fall of 2013, after the motel closed for the season. A year later, fall of 2014, I decided to take on a part-time job, four evenings a week. Six-months later, in the spring of 2015, I decided to give up the part-time gig and return to full retirement. I think this time, retirement from paid work will stick.

Retirement. What could possibly go wrong?

Friends and countrymen, retirement is like ice skating. It looks easy, but it is difficult. Like ice skating, retirement requires practice. Also like ice skating, retirement involves risk, even danger, especially if done recklessly.

I’ll have more to say about retirement, probably much more. But not tonight.

— John


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Russia Is on Fire

Editor (Retired):

Clarissa’s Blog is the place to go if you’re looking for insights on Russia and Ukraine.

Originally posted on Clarissa's Blog:

 In 2006, Putin abolished forest fire protection services and put all of the forest rangers in the street. I hope that we are all educated people here and can figure out how much of Russia’s enormous territory is covered by forests, right?

So, obviously, the absence of forest fire protection services was a disaster waiting to happen. Today, fires are ravaging the forests to the East of the Urals, destroying villages, killing people, and moving towards the border with China. 

In the photo, you can see one of such villages that burned to the ground yesterday. The enormously rich Russia, however, has no money to help the victims or stop the fires. All of the resources are going into fighting the war in Ukraine. 

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Extreme Arctic Cold, Year Two

Last year, the Big Chill hit us in January. This year it waited until February. And in New England, the snow is higher than a basketball player.

Dangerously freezing temperatures! You can blame it on the “arctic vortex.” We’ve got winter weather deja vu.

It’s past time for the thermal underwear and wool blankets. Bring the dogs and cats inside. Throw another log on the fire.

Electric heat pumps, which many people rely on in Maryland, don’t work so well in this kind of weather. On winter nights like this, what you need is a good supply of firewood, and an oil-fired furnace. Or natural gas. Anything but a heat pump!

Are we going for a record low tonight? Or is that tomorrow night? Wednesday night, Thursday night, Friday night. In the far north and Midwest, unreal temperatures, like 20 degrees below zero. Single-digit temperatures in the border states, like Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland.

Here in the Washington, D.C. area, pick a positive number between zero and 10. The wind chill makes it feel like 5 or 10 degrees below. Frigid temperatures deep into the Southeast, with freeze warnings almost to Miami.

Last year, I wrote:

This kind of cold is worse than normal, even in New England. Here in Maryland, it’s almost a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

Seriously. You could look it up.  Except it’s not once-in-a-lifetime. Is this going to be the new normal?

Hold on a little while longer. Wednesday was Ash Wednesday. It’s Lent, already! Whether you’re religious or not, the mathematics are the same. Less than 40 days until Easter. Spring is in sight.

— John Hayden



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