Category Archives: Journal

Fanny Karst: Beginning With the End

Couldn’t pass up this post!

Life in the Boomer Lane

karstLife in the Boomer Lane found Fanny Karst by accident, when she was on one of her favorite sites, Advanced Style. Karst had designed a tee shirt (‘OLD IS THE NEW BLACK’) that LBL had to have, and so she ordered it. It wasn’t until recently that she wanted to know more about Karst, herself.  What she found was pretty amazing. First, Karst is 30-years-old. Second, she designs for women over age 50. Most important, her designs are in-your-face statements of powerful women in control of their lives, meant to be worn by women who society deems as the exact opposite.

What inspires one so young to design for older women?  And how can one so young have the ability to reach beyond the stereotypes of aging to a place that empowers?  Karst is more than a designer.  She is a visionary and an inspiration.

If one looks at…

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And, Autumn. And, Saturday Mornings. WORD.

A perfect thought for the night that we have to give up Daylight Saving Time for a few months.

Live & Learn

fall-autumn

[…]
Rumi said,
There is no proof of the soul.
But isn’t the return of spring
and how it springs up in our hearts
a pretty good hint?
[…]

~ Mary Oliver, Whistling Swans. Felicity: Poems


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The Last Wedding Of Summer, And A Full Moon Over Annapolis

A kiss is still a kiss. And yes, people keep getting married, despite rumors to the contrary. Someone is getting married nearly every hour of every day, someplace, somehow.

The fundamental things apply. We enjoyed a wonderful wedding weekend in Annapolis with the large and growing extended family. Continued growth is certain, the eldest uncle predicts with confidence, especially if weddings continue at this pace. (The uncle is usually right, except when he’s wrong.)  Family genes will continue to populate the Earth, nearly forever.

The ceremony was brightened by late afternoon sunshine on the open balcony of the Marriott Waterfront. The assembled witnesses faced east, so Annapolis Harbor was the backdrop for bride and groom and clergy.

If sailing is your thing, or even your unfulfilled wish, you could not want a view more splendid than the sparkling Annapolis harbor. The hotel is so absolutely waterfront that I could have thrown an ice-cube over the yacht, docked below, with room to spare.

After the vows were said, and the other formalities; after the lawfully wedded bride and groom were duly introduced, the couple kissed and beamed. The bride waved her bouquet overhead. They walked, fast, up the aisle, only to endure the time-honored ritual of wedding photography.

For better or worse. In sickness and in health . . .

One and all enjoyed delicious food, imbibed delightful spirits, and generally made merry. Crab cakes are de rigueur in Maryland. The crab cakes we dined on Saturday evening were the best! The fillet mignon you could cut with a butter knife, and the asparagus was cooked to perfection.

The father of the bride, announcing that he was nervous and not in control of his emotions, nonetheless delivered a perfect, heartfelt and humorous few words.

Most importantly, perhaps, we danced all night to the music of a first-rate band. A live band, not a DJ! Hardly ever see a live band, living or dead, these days. Where did all the bands go? The answer my friends, is blowing in the wind.

Well, to be clear, most of us danced most of the night. Many with beer bottle in hand. Some of the  nieces and nephews, flush with the exuberance of youth, hardly paused to get a fresh bottle of beer. (To be fair, in my day, we danced with lit cigarettes in hand.)

Champaign and wine, and an open bar. And coffee. And cake. And dancing. And, too, a full moon.

Exuberance is contagious. So I danced a bit myself. However, my number of fast dances is strictly limited, like the number of pitches in a pitcher’s arm. And the band didn’t play many slow dances. Some relatives and friends of my baby-boomer generation remained calm and took full advantage of the live music, fast and slow. (Did I mention that I am the oldest of said generation in the entire extended family?)

The band was peerless, but still, nary a waltz all night. What is modern music coming to? (I must throw in something critical, else the copy desk will convict me of hyperbole, with exuberance as the evidence. Oh wait, that was when newspapers still had copy desks. Ancient history, nearly.)

After the sun went down, as the evening lengthened and the dancing continued, the last full moon of summer rose high above the Annapolis harbor.

Yes, Virginia, The world will always welcome lovers, as time goes by.

The takeaway: Exuberance is contagious, but the effect wears off quickly. More quickly, say, than a hangover.

Inside information: The legally wedded couple is honeymooning in Jamaica.

A personal afterthought: I am older than all but a very few of those in attendance. How did I get so old, all of a sudden? (Answer: One day at a time.) I believe I must have been the oldest of those still standing to participate in the after-dinner revelry. I’m obviously older than the parents of either the bride or the groom. Anyone can see that. No wonder I feel a letdown after every party lately.

Time goes by.

Recommendation:  Eat, drink, be merry, and dance!  Accept all wedding invitations that come your way, and stay for breakfast the morning after.

Editor (Retired)

August 28, 2015

I’ll be out of town this weekend for a family wedding. Looks like grand end-of-summer weather. See you Monday.

Retirement Warning: Cable TV News Is Hazardous To Your Mental Health

The financial news on CNBC today is frightening for retirees and those nearing retirement, as it has been for the past week. If you switch over to CNN, the news is depressing. That’s really all you need to know. Don’t watch Cable TV news unless you feel strong. Cable TV news can only bring you down.

The financial news and the stock markets can be particularly toxic for senior citizens and people on fixed incomes. People nearing retirement often have significant investments in the equities markets, which can be volatile. Few people, if any, know when it’s time to get in or get out. People with too much invested in stock markets can lose a lot of their retirement nest egg in a few days.

People who are already retired are all too aware of the fact that retirement incomes are often fixed. That is, you’re not going to get raises year after year, except cost-of-living increases in Social Security, and COLA increases don’t even necessarily keep up with inflation.

On other cable news channels, talking heads often repeat the most violent story of the day, all day long, with constant replays of the same appalling film clip. Or in the absence of violence, they’ll chew over the insignificant political development of the day, or the most inane comment by a presidential candidate. The frequency of mass shootings, or any kind of shootings, is particularly saddening.

If you want today’s basic bad news, without the gory details, you can read the following indented paragraphs. If not, skip to the closing paragraphs that aren’t indented.

Bad news today, Wednesday: In the middle of the trading day, world stock markets continue to be chaotic. China, India, and Russia have another losing day. The Shanghai Index ended down 1.3 percent for the day. Generally speaking, stocks in Asia and Europe were down Wednesday. Developing economies seem to face a great deal of uncertainty. That’s practically today’s ONLY story on CNBC.

Meanwhile, the killing of a news reporter and photographer dominates the news on the other cable TV channels. That shocking tragedy took place live, on the air, early Wednesday morning. The two journalists were working for a Roanoke, VA, television station, filming a  story on location. The alleged killer is a former employee of the same TV station. The shooter was cornered by police several hours later on a Virginia highway and took his own life. New details of the story were reported all day. It was practically today’s ONLY story on CNN.

The financial losses in China, especially, are shaking markets all over the world, including the developed Western Countries, where economies are said to be relatively strong and continuing to grow out of the 2008 recession. Billions in value have been lost in the past week, especially in China. But even in the West, the economic picture is uneven. Greece and Puerto Rico are in deep debt.

In the past two days, markets in the U.S. and Europe have been trying to rally. But the rally failed in New York in the last hour yesterday. U.S. stocks had a good morning today, faltered in early afternoon, staged a rally in mid-afternoon.  Market experts are saying: DON’T PANIC. Sounds like good advice to moi.

Now it’s 2 p.m. Wednesday, which is like the witching hour. (Something about margin calls.) U.S. markets are now up for the day. People holding their breath from now to the closing bell. The takeaway, don’t watch the hour-to-hour stock fluctuations. Do as I say, not as I do 🙂 If you must, you can see the latest numbers from CNBC here.

On CNBC, analysts are naming stocks they say are down so far that they’ve become bargains. I’m not paying any attention to that. But then, I don’t have any money in the stock market, and I don’t have any to invest. Meanwhile, some experts are speculating that the market might be turning into a bear market. This stuff can drive you crazzzy!

I usually avoid giving advice, especially specific advice. I’m not qualified to give advice on most subjects. And even if one is qualified, unless someone asks for advice, I avoid volunteering it. Unsolicited advice is usually unwelcome.

The exception is advice from your health care professionals They need to give you advice, even if you don’t want to hear it. It’s for your own good; sometimes it can even be a matter of life or death. Listen to advice from your health care professional. Of course, when there are decisions to be made about treatment, the patient has the right to make the decision. Usually, the patient is wise to consult with health care professionals and family and friends. If you like, get a second opinion from another doctor.

Another exception is weather news. Often, knowing the weather news can help you stay safe.

Regarding news, I’m a retired newsman, so I claim a degree of expertise. Having been close to breaking news all my life, I hope I’ve built up some resistance to bad news. I also know when to shrug off news as irrelevant or silly or simply incorrect. I understand the effect that too much bad news can have on people. Older people have a tendency to watch too much television news, and are more susceptible to depression from the news, at least sometimes, than younger folks.

Second Week For A New Blog

Today is Day 12 for “Retirement Made Simple.” Today set a new personal best for the blog, logging 18 visitors and 35 views. Previously, I’d gone over 10 views twice, but not yet hit 20. Today we soared past 20 views AND 30 views to 35, with an hour left.

Also today, the blog got its first referral from a search engine! Throw a party! Seven search engine hits, in fact. Five from Bing and two from Yahoo. What’s up with Google? Google still missing after 12 days?

I believe it’s much harder for a new blog to attract attention through a search engine than it was a few years back. I hope the search engines are aware of my posts by now, but most hits for a new blog will be buried under thousands of other hits. Who’s going to see it? I’ve been getting one or two visits, now and then via the WordPress Reader.

Since no readers have come from search engines before today, how were a few people discovering the blog? Most of them were other bloggers whose posts I’d commented on, and some were readers clicking over from a comment. Interacting with other bloggers is time-intensive, but it’s also fun, informative, and so important.

I’m also using the WordPress publicize feature to send notice of new posts to my Facebook page and Twitter feed. I have about 125 friends on Facebook, and every post draws two or three visits via Facebook. Haven’t received a visit via Twitter yet on this blog. On my other blogs, I’ve regularly received a few hits from Facebook, but rarely any from Twitter.

Discipline and focus in posting

My blog is about Retirement, Simplicity, and Aging Gracefully on a fixed income. My target audience is retired folks and workers who are nearing retirement or thinking about it. But surprisingly, many of my readers so far have been younger adults. No age discrimination here.

You’re probably wondering, what was the post that sparked the surge from 5 visitors and 12 views on Thursday and 4 visitors and 7 views on Friday, to 18 visitors and 35 views on Saturday? It’s a breaking news story: “Social Security Cost-Of-Living Increase For 2016 In Danger.” The source is rock solid, AARP. The story also mentioned an expected increase in the Medicare premium for 2016, as well as the bad news about the Social Security COLA.

The story is spot on for my target audience. Retired folks care dearly about Social Security and Medicare. Most of us depend on Social Security for the bulk of our retirement income, and on Medicare to cover the high cost of health care. This is the way it’s supposed to work folks. You focus as tightly as possible on one or a few related subjects that interest your target audience. If you provide the right information, they will come.

Hey, just had one more visit and one view at 11:25 p.m. New total 19 visitors and 36 views.

One thing more. I notice that nearly every day, the number of views is about double the number of visitors. This is gratifying. It means that visitors aren’t just making a quick hit and then surfing on to the next big thing. They’re lingering for at least a minute or two and exploring other posts on the blog.

Here’s the take-away:  Inside blogging information is as dull as grass growing on a cloudy day to most of my target audience. The spot-on Social Security story was the right kind of post. This blog statistics stuff is the wrong kind of post. (But since many of my readers early on are other bloggers, I can probably get away with it.) You and I want to build readership for our blogs, and also credibility according to the algorithms of the soulless search engines.

You won’t see many more posts that stray from the core topics that interest my target audience.

How else, indeed

Concise and profound!

Live & Learn

red-butterfly-butterflies-painting-art-Hermann-Teuber

It is necessary to write,
if the days are not to slip emptily by.
How else, indeed,
to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment?
For the moment passes, it is forgotten;
the mood is gone; life itself is gone.

~ Vita Sackville-West, Selected Writings


Sources: Poem Source:Schonwiener. Painting by Hermann Teuber, Red Butterflies, (1959) (via Journal of a Nobody)

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First Week For a New Blog

Blogging wisdom says it takes time — sometimes a lot of time — for a new blog to attract many readers, let alone a throng dedicated followers. That is true, of course, but there’s also a more positive way to look at it. Early growth can be exponential!

“Retirement Made Simple” is one week old. Here’s the record so far:

  • Day One:  1 view
  • Day Two:  0 views
  • Day Three:  1 view
  • Day Four:  2 views
  • Day Five:  5 views
  • Day Six:  6 views
  • Day Seven: 5 views and counting

Total, 20 views to date. I call going from one view to two on Day Four a 100 percent increase. And then from two views to five on Day Five! I call that exponential growth. Am I getting into hyperbole yet?

Of course, any reasonable blogger understands that exponential growth is bound to level off, but five views to six on Day Six is still 20 percent growth. Continuous exponential growth is only for chip manufacturers and demand for Apple products. We’ll have to see where the blog goes from Day Seven.

Even more significant, perhaps than views, is that blog posts have received 16 Likes and the blog already has 8 Followers. That, to me, is amazing! Thank you readers!

I am assiduously checking out the blogs of every person taking the time to like or follow Retirement Made Simple. I’ve followed many of them.

As for comments, only one so far from a reader. But I replied to the comment, so that makes two comments. See how it works? I hope to do something I’ve not done with my previous blogs. That is, take the time to  respond to each and every comment, even if I only have time to say “Thank you.”

Too early to have a significant sample, but so far I’m getting readers from every age demographic. Eventually, I expect to develop a niche among retirees. But everyone is invited to read and comment. Some of the concerns of retirees and those of us who are trying to age gracefully are shared by people of all ages. And perhaps younger readers may be able to benefit from the hard-earned experience of more senior blogs and comments.

Discipline and focus in posting

The blog post that’s attracted the most attention this week is “Colorful Cuba.” The natural tag for that one is “Travel.” I wasn’t intending to blog much about travel. But Travel is obviously a favorite pastime of many retired folks. Travel is an example of a subject in which people from all age demographics share an interest. I’m going to be writing more posts about travel than I originally thought. It makes sense to provide information that draws readers. Travel is a legitimate interest of seniors, and those who come to the blog for a travel post may stay to read about other subjects.

The important thing for me as a blogger is to keep the focus on retirement, simplicity, and aging gracefully. Defining your audience and your niche is the most important step to a successful blog. That’s what I’ve read many times, I’ve found it a challenge to focus on one or a few narrow subjects in previous blogs, but I hope to improve in “Retirement Made Simple.”

The blog title (and the subtitle) clearly state those subjects, for me and for readers. I’ll report about the progress of the blog only occasionally. Please let me know if you see me going astray.

Two other factors in a blog’s success are the blog theme, and the appropriate use of links, especially the blogroll. But this post is long enough, so I’ll talk about WordPress themes and blogroll links in a separate post sometime soon.

In summary, I’m pumped! Thanks to all. If any of you would like to share your own blogging experience, please feel free to comment below.

Billions of Blue Blistering Barnacles. Or a lesson in the economics and wisdom of mid-career retirement

You could simplify your life by retiring mid-career. Wish I had thought of that. But read this post before you do it.

The Pootle List

In a first in recent months, I took stock of my finances today, or rather I totted up how much I am (not) making in terms of money.

Blue.

The color has overtaken the world and seeped into the very ribonucleic acid of my cells. I am now colored indigo AND am poor.

A lot has been written and said about money.

  1. The scent of it is what a good detective follows to solve the crime
  2. It makes the world go round

I, for one, believe that the quantum of money one can possess follows the marginal utility curve. If you, unlike me, have not been inches away from flunking every one of the various economic courses that you have been forced to endure, you shall have no trouble understanding that statement. For folks like me, who may not get economics but are champions at chocolate, imagine this:

You eat…

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Saturday, August 16, By The Numbers

The numbers for Saturday are, 95 degrees Fahrenheit in the part of Maryland where I was out walking. People keep telling me not to move to Florida because it gets too hot there in the summer. Go figure. It gets hot here in summer.

Because of the 95 degrees In spite of the 95 degrees, I hit 10,284 steps on the Fitbit. Only the second time I’ve reached the 10,000 steps goal. Attention fellow baby boomers: Sitting is the new smoking. You need to get up and move. If you sit there, it’s hazardous to your health. It might be hazardous if you go outside and walk in 95-degree temperatures, but what do I know?

I had a good reason to be out walking. I was pursuing one of my goals, which is to find a place to live that I can afford on Social Security. I sometimes rant about the high cost of housing in certain well-known cities and suburbs. Other people rant about taxes; I rant about the cost of living.

Also by the numbers, I found a one-bedroom apartment which rents for $650 per month. Plus utilities, of course. And another apartment for $625. I’m not kidding. I am not going to tell you the location of these low-priced apartments. It’s my secret. Plus, I don’t want to start a stampede.

I realize everyone’s wondering, how far is 10,284 steps? I can answer that question to the decimal point. It’s 4.76 miles, according to the Fitbit. I probably burned 2,314 calories, also according to the Fitbit. But some of my steps included walking into a pizza restaurant for supper. I probably consumed more calories than I burned.

Some people may wonder, how much is 95 degrees in Celsius? The answer is, I don’t know. Who do you think I am, the answer man?

My Saturday was not all work and no play. I also watched a little bit of the Little League World Series on TV at McDonald’s. I went into McDonald’s to get out of the 95 degree heat.

And that’s all I’m going to say about Saturday. Not a bad day’s work, for a Saturday in summer. But then, I’m retired.