Category Archives: Life

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,900 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Florida Next Winter

Note: This post was first published Jan. 8, 2015 on one of my experimental blogs. Now it’s December 2015. The year has come and gone, and a new winter will begin Dec. 21. And I’m not in Florida yet. My excuse is that major life decisions take time. I’m working  on it. 

Baby, it’s cold outside!

Tuesday, we had snow and 26 degrees. Wednesday, it was 17 degrees in late afternoon, and down to 12 degrees by the time I got home from work, around 9:30 p.m. I live in the Mid-Atlantic states. The climate here is supposed to be relatively moderate.

Except when it’s not. Tonight, it’s cold as a witch’s tit.

The heater in my 216-square-foot apartment runs constantly all night. It can’t raise the temperature inside high enough to cut off.

Is it any wonder that every year about this time, my thoughts turn to Florida? I’ve only been there once. I flew into the Tampa airport to help rescue my brother (he was very ill) and drive him back to Maryland. I have very little direct experience of Florida, but I know a lot about it second-hand. (Update: Took a two-week road trip to Florida in June 2015 to research housing options. So I’ve made a little progress.) Continue reading

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Filed under Frugal living, Housing, Life, Social Security

Change Your World

Here’s a timely post! A clear and concise reminder: We need not respond in anger. We can be one-person armies for kindness, tolerance, respect, and peace. We can be the solution, not the problem, in all our interactions, whether driving on the road or standing in the checkout line.

Susie Lindau's Wild Ride

black sunset

We live in violent times. When we turn on the news and are inundated with horrific events, it feels like a punch in the gut. We feel ordinary, helpless, and without hope. Some become angry while others spiral downward in various levels of depression.

One person can’t change the world, right? So we vent. We rant. We play the blame game. There may be truth in those words, but I doubt many with an opposing viewpoint will say, “Oh. Wow. You’re right.” I gotta believe sending out all that negativity, cursing, hatred, and frustration makes us feel worse. Without being aware of it, this powerlessness can spill over into other aspects of our lives.

Instead, I have a proposition for you. 

Each day you are presented with choices. With a little self-control and patience, you can shift the way you react in your own world.

I challenge you to take…

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Best Kept Secret in Gaithersburg, Karaoke at Hershey’s

It’s been happening for fewer than ten weeks. I’ve only attended twice. No, I have not had enough beer to sing. Not yet.  Continue reading

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Retirement, Depression, And Blogging

Hello friends. I’ve been in a funk. Haven’t published a blog post since April 30. Probably my longest hiatus since I started blogging in 2007, or since I began this blog in 2009. I’ve continued to read bloggers I follow (but irregularly) and to post comments (rarely).

I’ve been trying to adjust to retirement. Not as easy as I thought. Also, I’ve been all over the place in the past year regarding the purpose and audience of this blog. I began my first blog in 2007 with a focus on Maryland. That blog became more local when I moved to Ocean City.

I started this blog in 2009 to write about “life after sixty,” but I soon wandered into politics and economics. After retiring in 2013, I returned to my hometown, Montgomery County, and focused on local stuff for a while. I started several experimental blogs, but none of them clicked. The experimental blogs have been abandoned. Over the years, I’ve written a lot about politics, and I tend to get the most hits in the runup to elections. After the 2014 election, I was a blogger wandering in the desert.

Unable to find my bearings in retirement, I tried part-time work. Lifestyle and financial issues came to the fore. I made a conscious effort to cut back on blogging. Even though I wasn’t a very productive blogger, it seemed to consume a disproportionate amount of my time. Instead of blogging, I researched affordable places to live. Took a two-week fact-finding trip to Florida. At this point, I’m confused and undecided.

The truth is, my lifelong struggle with depression has worsened since retirement.

The cover story in this month’s Atlantic magazine, “A World Without Work,” helps explain my retirement funk. The story, by Derek Thompson, is not about retirement. It warns about the continuing loss of jobs due to computerization and robotization.

“For centuries, experts have predicted that machines would make workers obsolete. That moment may finally be arriving. Could that be a good thing?”

I’ve found that retirement has a lot in common with unemployment. Thompson points out that although leisure time offers wide opportunities, many unemployed men tend to spend most of their hours sleeping or watching TV.

I can go days without turning on the television, but I spend way too much time sleeping. Some days, I can hardly pull myself out of bed. That’s a sure sign of depression.

Any thoughts, fellow bloggers and/or retirees?

— John Hayden

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Filed under Aging, Blogging, Life

Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts in While We’re Young

Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts

Here’s a movie, “While We’re Young”,  that contrasts two stages of adult life — middle-aged forties vs. twenty somethings —  and touches on enough marriage and family angst to satisfy ten films.

Writer-Director Noah Baumbach packs four fictional documentary filmmakers — all of them quirky — into one narrative, creating excess competitive tension.

Ben Stiller (Josh) is a middle-aged documentary filmmaker who’s stuck on a project. His wife Naomi Watts (Cornelia) is also a documentary filmmaker who works with her father.  Not surprisingly, the father, Charles Grodin (Leslie), who appears to be the dean of documentary filmmakers, has a strained relationship with his son-in-law Josh. How many times am I going to have to write “documentary filmmaker” in this one movie review?

The story might be better without the intrusion of the older filmmaker. Charles Grodin’s take on the character is great, but really, the old guy is a peripheral character. Most of the tension, comic and dramatic, is between the two couples, one young and the other middle-aged..

Adam Driver (Jamie) is the fourth and youngest documentary filmmaker. He’s married to Amanda Sayfried (Darby). I’m relieved to report that Darby makes ice cream, not films. I was impressed by Driver’s deft portrayal of the young and somewhat ruthless filmmaker. Stiller, with his piercing eyes, puts heartfelt intensity into the  conflict between Josh and Jamie.

Actors Ben Stiller and Adam Driver

The two couples embark on an improbable intergenerational friendship, filled with glowing mutual admiration and envy in the beginning. The awkwardness of the friendship is good for humorous scenes at first.  Alas, the friendship begins to sour about halfway through, and the comedy morphs into serious drama.

I won’t give away any more of the complicated plot, except to say that it leads to a serious dispute over documentary ethics between Josh and Jamie. A secondary theme about parenthood is not fully developed, but it’s a worthwhile counterpoint to the main theme, professional striving.

While We’re Young might disappoint if you’re looking for a barrel of laughs from beginning to end. The comedic part of the film is good, but the drama at the end is excellent. I’d see it again.

— 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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Retired

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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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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Low-Cost Options For College

As a public service, for information purposes only, here’s a nifty graphic on the subject of college costs. No fee has been paid for publishing the graphic, and no endorsement of the information or source is implied. No endorsement of any institution named below is intended.

The concept of a bachelor’s degree in three years is seductive, but can it be done without sacrificing the quality of education and the meaning of a degree? Medical education is a separate subject, and I think we could shorten the length of training (and the cost) required for a medical degree. — John

Making College Affordable
Source: Affordable-Online-Colleges.net

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