Tomorrow is today when planning for retirement…

August 23, 2015

I can’t afford to retire.

When did I figure that out?

Well I always knew it really.

I never planned for retirement.

Always thought that was in the future — I’ll take care if that later.

Later came and went.

Quite by accident I did manage to save a few bucks back over the last several years but not nearly enough for a bona fide retirement.

But that is not stopping me — so far.

I’m into my second day of at least semi-retirement. And I can’t write that without feeling self-conscious or that I have to make the pun because I’m retiring from driving a semi truck.

Been doing that for most of the past two decades — had to take some time off for cancer treatment and associated hospital stays, but other than that it’s been nearly 24-7 on the big truck. Well I did have that one job where I was home each day but an interruption caused by my cancer ended that, so it was back out on the long road.

I took a month off and went to Spain last year — actually two weeks in Spain total, the rest prep for and then doing other things after that.

But at 66 and with an incurable form of cancer — albeit in essentially what is remission — that could come back at any time, I feel I need to live life a little before I can no longer live life.

But on this second day, realities of continuing family responsibility (I’m a widower but have two adult daughters), as well as the reality that I still have to pay fairly expensive apartment rent, and all those other pesky living expenses, I’m wondering if I should not save my place back at the old job if I can or work more than I had planned (if that is even an option for me). I was almost in a panic mood about all of this yesterday but no as much today. Too much personal information I know.

No particular message here. Maybe just that sometimes we don’t appreciate our work for what it is — survival!

I’m jealous of those who planned wisely for their retirement. But I could have done that. Like so many, I know, I always thought I could not afford to put back extra for retirement.

Okay, no more about that. I am in good health and am thankful for that. And did I mention? I’m going to Spain again.

This time I’m set to enroll in a Spanish language course there. I know some Spanish already — took three semesters of college level Spanish and have used it somewhat on my job — Spanish light you might call it. I can order a meal, do greetings, make light observations, so on.

Some people have sports; I have language — and politics of which I often write — as a kind of hobby or even avocation.

So I’m looking forward to how my form of retirement works out.

If you are younger than I and have not planned out your retirement income, take my advice: don’t make excuses. Also make sure you study up on Social Security. There are some pitfalls having to do with when to claim it, even possibly using a spouse or ex-spouse’s claim, and so on. While the folks at Social Security may help you it is up to you to understand it all and make it work for you. You have to read their booklets (available online of course) and then re-read them, and then maybe go to a secondary source for more explanation possibly. I made what may be a blunder, which I will not go into. But if you study all that before early retirement age and before full-retirement age, you will be in good shape. And it has to go without saying, you virtually cannot depend upon Social Security alone.

And don’t assume it is too late — I mean it might be, but give it a shot.

 

 

 

 

 


Extortion of school teachers in Mexico, banks sock it to customers, news media cowed…

October 1, 2011

Just a scattered shot at things I have read in the news:

I really do not fully understand the ongoing drug war down Mexico way and why the government down there cannot seem to get a handle on it and why life seems to go on in our international trade with that nation without much interruption (as far as I know) — nearly 10,000 people have died in Mexican drug violence this year alone, and there have been 500 beheadings, the latest tactic, often used  to promote fear in order to extort money. Public school teachers in Acapulco are refusing to work because they are being told to pay up or suffer beheadings.

I read recently that if the drug trade were cut off, the criminals down there would move heavier into extortion.

As bad as the Mafia or La Cosa Nostra was in the U.S., it is my understanding they did not really want to tear apart the fabric of society. They knew they depended on that society for their bread and butter.

There seems to be a much more virulent strain working their evil in Mexico.

And this chaos in Mexico gets sparse coverage in the U.S. press — why?

And does anyone go there as a tourist anymore?

————–

Bank of America, and some other banks, are going to start charging customers for using their debit cards. There is an easy way around that. Don’t use them. Sometimes you do need the convenience, so I guess you have to pay for that service. But if my bank starts charging me, I’m going to be a lot more circumspect about using it, or if it is just a flat charge, maybe I will just not use it (and not pay for it).

Apparently Bank of America is in such bad shape — well not really, its hot shots laugh at us taxpayers while they pay themselves bonuses with our bailout money — it is looking at anyway to recoup losses on its own bad business deals. Meanwhile, some banks, such as Citibank, are advertising that they will not charge fees for debit cards. In fact, Citibank said it did a survey and found out its customers would not appreciate being charged.

While I realize the card is a service provided by the bank, it was the banks who pushed the things in the first place and offered them for free. Actually if you are paying a bank anything for using your money, something has to be wrong.

Oh, and the irony of all of this is that the banks are doing this to make up for the effects of a bill by Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin that puts a limit on how much banks can charge retailers for bank card fees — the law of unintended consequences?

Sometimes the marketplace ought to decide what flies and what does not.

————-

The other day on a liberal radio talk show (there really are such things — just hard to find and often no more productive than the right wing diatribes) they were bemoaning the lack of coverage of the ongoing Wall Street protests in what the host apologized for quoting Sara Palin by using the term “lame stream media”. The irony was supposed to be that while the Palins of the world insist that the mainstream media has a liberal bias, it often seems by observers on the left that for the most part the mainstream media is a lap dog of the status quo. But anyway, the story I read today (well maybe yesterday now) about the protest is that the numbers of protesters are just not high enough — only in the hundreds. Furthermore they, by choice, have no leader, and at this time no specific demands — yeah that ought to really get somewhere. I have the idea, though, from something I heard, that a lot of young people wanting a career in finance are disillusioned because of a lack of jobs and are involved in the movement against Wall Street interests.

I’m thinking that at least in the recent past, a lot of so-called mainstream journalists could not help but have at least somewhat of a liberal mindset. You know, you go to college and if you study something other than higher math and how to read a balance sheet, your mind is opened and you see possibilities beyond the status quo, but that does not mean that in your reporting (as opposed to clearly-marked opinion pieces) you can’t be, as, with some irony, the wholly unobjective Fox News puts it: fair and balanced.

But the mainstream media has been forced by a lack of advertising and the need to chase the few ad dollars left for them, to kowtow to the moneyed set. That is what a New York Times staffer (former? Still works there? I don’t know) said on a radio interview. That of course was often (not always) the case on small newspapers and other news outlets over the years.

I once worked for the South Lake Tahoe Daily Tribune. At that time it ran casino ads on the front page. I was told to be completely objective in my news reporting but “to remember who buys the ads”.  Actually a sub editor told me that and I do not know if that was their official policy (sometimes strawbosses have their own ideas about how to please the higher ups).


A little road trouble doesn’t dampen my HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA spirit…

July 5, 2011

Written on the evening of the Fourth of July..

I had wanted to write a Fourth of July blog but my truck driving work got in the way. Funny how work gets in the way of things you want to do. It looks like I won’t even see any fire works — although it is still  light as I write this (but the way this blog service works, the posted date will be the 5th, I think), so I might still see some. If I were at home I would have a front-row seat for the local fireworks display. But I have been out on the road in the past and seen some pretty good shows as I was driving. Actually yesterday evening someone threw one of those twirly fireball things on the road as I drove through Madras, Oregon — hey there was my show.

To make matters worse, that is besides having to drive today and tonight, I just had a tire blow out here on the freeway about 45 minutes  ago, and here I sit — well just now the road service guy called me and said he is on his way — that’s good news.

But really this is the Fourth of July or it is while I am writing this and this small problem does not bother me. I’m just happy to live in America and have a job.

And if I could have put more effort into this post I would have said something like I think I know what makes America so great. While we are not perfect and we have constant internal dissention, we are still THE LAND OF OPPORTUNITY AND FREEDOM. People all over the world want to come to America and make a new start.

Even though it is true that the super rich keep gobbling up more and more of our resources and even though when it comes to economics and lifestyle we do have classes in our society, we do not have an ingrained class system based on birth and blood lines and so on. And people can move up, even if it seems at times that opportunity is not as large or likely as it used to be — and I do not know for sure that the opportunity is not just as great as it ever was.

We used to have the frontier, which offered people a chance to pull up stakes and start a new life — it was never a guarantee of success, but it worked for a lot of people.

But people still do move on, they just don’t simply go west anymore. They go wherever it seems there might be an opportunity to do better, north or east or south or west.

While I often disagree with the hardcore conservatives when they seem to be in such opposition to social programs and most any kind of regulation on business, I do think we need to keep that American can-do spirit alive and promote self-sufficiency and the retention of that pioneer spirit.

Well I’m not really saying what or all I want to say here due to time and other considerations, like figuring out how to make up for lost time on this run, but I do feel fortunate to be born in America.

So, HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA!


Lack of credibility an equal opportunity problem in Strauss-Kahn affair…

July 2, 2011

I have not written anything before this about the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case but I just have to note some irony here:

It seems that it is all about credibility and perhaps a little bit about the power of the wealthy.

There may or may not have been a rush to judgment about Strauss-Kahn as to whether he actually assaulted the hotel maid in New York City this past May or whether it was somewhat consensual or maybe whether anything happened at all.

Whatever, he was hauled away in cuffs and made to do the perp walk in front of the cameras. He lost his post as head of the International Monetary Fund, as well as hopes for becoming the next president of France, something polls indicated he just might be.

But you see, he has a history, as reported by many women, to include reporters who tried to interview him, of bad behavior towards women. So with that in mind, people were pre-disposed to think the worst, that and the fact that when anyone is arrested everyone just assumes he (or she) must be guilty, otherwise why would the authorities make the arrest? Some would prefer that arrests not be made public for the mere fact people sometimes are mistakenly or falsely accused. But in societies that have no freedom police often arrest people and whisk them way never to be heard from again. Making all arrests public knowledge is supposed to combat that. And if authorities know arrests are reported and that they must have some reason, unjust detainments are more unlikely (although not impossible).

Then there was the poor hotel maid, a poor woman from Africa. Just trying to make a living doing dirty work, it was reported. Now authorities think she consorted with or was in with the drug trade and there is evidence she asked how she could profit from her little affair with Strauss-Kahn. She still may have been attacked, but there goes her credibility.

Strauss-Kahn has been released from his bail but is not yet off the hook, although there is speculation from those in the know on such things that he may well beat the rap. No doubt his wealth and power is part of the reason he has apparently lucked out or has been vindicated. A man with lesser resources might have a harder time beating a sexual assault charge, whether it was justified or not, both because authorities have more respect for the well connected and the wealthy can hire attorneys and investigators on their behalf.

Some had speculated that Strauss-Kahn’s political enemies might have been behind this. It has been reported that he may retain power in the French Socialist Party, but his hopes to win the presidency of France, that seemed so likely, do not now.

The credibility thing worked in this case almost equally between poor and rich — almost.

understandably, people tend not to trust those whose own actions seem to not merit trust in them.

P.s.

On a TV news report, I heard a French woman say that even though Strauss-Kahn may be not guilty of sexual assault there will always be that question and that you don’t want someone obsessed with sex to be president  (JFK? Bill Clinton?).

P.s. P.s.

And what is it about these prominent French men having such un-French names. I mean while Dominique is certainly French — what about Strauss-Kahn? And the current French president — Sarkozy (a Hungarian name)?


Those truisms we carry around in our head may not be true…

May 14, 2011

These ideas we carry around in our heads about what is obviously true it seems are not always accurate.

I’m always trying to comment on politics and current events to, well to someone near and dear to me, who I get the idea could hardly care less (too many things going on right around this person to give a hang about all that), and just the other day I casually mentioned to this person, in relation to the Bin Laden whack job done by the U.S., that the U.S. also had a president of Chile killed many years ago because he was too cozy with the communists (back during the Cold War). That would be Salvador Allende.

But today while I was reading a story about Osama Bin Laden having kept a stash of porn — hardly acceptable for such a supposedly pious Muslim as he (sarcasm here) — I noted that it mentioned that it had not been determined whether the stash actually was viewed or belonged to Bin Laden himself. But the word had already spread like wildfire in the news stories, especially over the airwaves, that Bin Laden was an avid viewer of porn. And that has now gone down as accepted truth (not that all that makes a bit of difference in anything). That got me to thinking about the notion that Allende was offed by our own CIA (I‘m not sure how I saw the connection).

So I did my quick (and I admit probably not always reliable) internet research (that would primarily be Wikipedia) and could find nothing that said flat out that the CIA or the U.S. had a direct hand in Allende’s death. In fact, it has not been determined whether he was murdered in a coup or whether he committed suicide.

And that got me to thinking about all the false notions or unsubstantiated stories and urban legends (razor blades every Halloween in children’s candy) that become generally-accepted truths or truisms or memes that we all carry around in our heads.

And everything that George W. Bush did was correct because he knew things he could not tell us (I imagine he really did). And I know that last sentence seems to lack a transition from the rest of the post, but it just popped into my head.

Moms it is said always tell their children to wear clean underwear because they might get into an accident and they would not want others to see the results of their own poor hygiene, casting shame on the whole family.

Maybe they should remind their sons (or daughters too?) to either get rid of that stash of porn or at least keep it where no one could possibly find it or associate it with them lest something terrible were to happen and their name go down to disgrace in posterity.

———–

To be clear here, I am not worried about Bin Laden’s legacy and am pleased he was disposed of.


Tire tales from car driving and big truck driving…

May 11, 2010

Why is it that when I get a nail in my car tire it’s always in a place, near the sidewall, where they can’t fix it?

Well it seems that way, at any rate.

Bought two new tires today (yesterday at least by the time you read this). My right front tire — the one that couldn’t be fixed — had a nail in it, and the other front tire was starting to separate.

It seemed strange to me. Thought I just bought tires. But the man told me that actually two of my tires were bought in 2005. The other two I bought last July and September.

When he looked at those older tires he remarked: “we don’t sell those anymore”. Well too bad. They did seem to last me awhile.

But I’m not really complaining. I usually get tires at Les Schwab, and I like their service. And I got a hefty discount.

They don’t seem to come running like they used to, but they still seem to offer the best service around, or at least as good as anyone else.

(I’m not usually into promoting private business, but since getting good service for anything anywhere is so hard to do these days, I figure it would not hurt to recognize something positive where it exists.)

Yeah, they used to actually come running — literally — out to your car as soon as you drove up.

And as a big truck driver I have had particularly good service from them out on the road, both when I drive into one of their shops or when they come out for road service. I’ve always found their road guys to be quick and efficient. I’ve seen them replace an outside tire without even taking the wheel off plenty of times.

One time up on Highway 97 in Oregon I pulled into a Less Schwabb in the wee hours of the morning before opening time. I crawled into my sleeper and when I awoke the guy was already at work fixing my tire. Now that’s service. And I had not even called them or had any contact with them (he could spot a bad tire, though) .

And another time I was at a truck stop and had a bad tire, but the road guy told me that at that particular truck stop they did not let outside tire guys do their work there. That truck stop had a shop. But that shop was overpriced. So the road service guy had me pull out on to the on ramp to the freeway and he fixed it there — now that’s absurd, on the truck stop’s part, I think.

And I can tell you some of the major truck stops charge plenty just to fix a tire. But there is one truck stop in Oregon on I-5 that is reasonable. I recall having had to have a tire fixed there several years ago when the big boys were charging something like $30 or more and at this one I got a tire fixed for something like $6 (these figures are just approximate and according to my memory, but I can tell you the price spread is the same today).

At the trucking company where I work we used to have a tire guy who took his responsibility to the owner quite seriously and wanted to make sure the drivers did not waste tire dollars out on the road. He told me one time that the policy was that before I ever got a tire fixed or replaced that he be called, day or night, and he gave me his home number.

When the hapless tire guy out there called him in the middle of the night, he demanded: “who gave you my number?!”

He was always telling me to bring the bad tire back with me. So one time I’m hauling this old tire in my trailer but forgot it was there. I opened my back doors to back into a dock from a street up in Portland, Or. and still did not realize that tire was there. It went rolling down the street. Someone came up to me with it and asked me if it was my tire. Fortunately it did no damage to anyone.

Another time I neglected to bring back the old tire and he got mad. So the next time I was at the truck strop where I got it replaced I got the guy to give me an old discarded one and turned it in — same difference, I guess.

For a time we used to get calls at home with people asking about tires. They kept asking if we were a tire place, the name of which I don’t recall. But I finally looked that name up on the internet and sure enough it had our home phone number. The next time I got a call, I started to give the person a line as a joke, but my conscience got the better of me, and when the older sounding lady on the other end of the line asked what was she to do, I simply directed her to the nearest Les Schwab.

P.s.

And this has nothing to do with my favorite tire place, but for my part I have no use for recaps which are often put on big trucks, especially on trailers. Nearly all those big tire shreds you see on the highways the truckers call “alligators” are from recaps. For my part I think they should be outlawed. They are a safety problem. I saw one come of a big truck one time and then a car ran over it and then it went flying and busted the windshield of another car — fortunately that driver was able to safely pull over to the side of the road. But the trucker (not me, I swear) was probably oblivious to what had happened. At any rate he was long gone. And that is all I have to say about tires at this time, except that I am sure that with modern technology they could make tires that would never go flat or blow out, but then that would be the ruin of the tire business.


Watching local western color where things are black and white…

May 9, 2010

Here’s a Mother’s Day joke from God Bless America country:

The rodeo clown told the announcer that he was afraid of three ma’s, my ma, your ma, and ObaMA.

And that was after a singer had sung a song that said something about the Pledge of Allegiance being taken out of school, something that I was not aware of.

(Of course I do know there is an ongoing controversy about praying in school or school personnel led prayers, and about the use of the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance and the fact that since the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion, there is a line of thought that contends then we can hardly have the government, in the form of the schools or whatever, leading us in one type of religion.)

But anyway my wife and I attended a local rodeo, called a Mother’s Day Rodeo, on Saturday — they’re having another performance today (Mother’s Day).

And the theme was kind of Motherhood, apple pie, retaining our way of life and so on.

I have no problem with that. I’m all for it. I often wonder, though, why politics even has to be mentioned — the slight of President Obama, an example, along with the possibly exaggerated remark about the Pledge of Allegiance (and there was the now obligatory mention of the tea party by the announcer).

That having been said, I enjoy settling back into something that is at once a real part of my background and maybe an imaginary world at the same time, and maybe a kind of comfort zone, to some extent anyway.

In this world there are no grey areas to trouble you, things are black and white. You either are an American (a citizen of the USA) or not. You either believe in American values or not. You eat steak with no guilt feelings about cruelty to animals. You support the troops in their wars against the infidels without question — of course who would not support those who are on our side? — and therefore even though you mistrust the government, you support its policies that sent the troops where they are, because if the USA is doing it, it has to be right, otherwise why would we be doing it?

You value family. And who could argue with that?

(In reality, we all know that each family has its own trials and tribulations and it is not all harmony and good feelings, but there is an ideal we aspire to or long for.)

You value hard work and don’t expect something for nothing.

You appreciate your heritage, those pioneers who left everything behind — first coming over from the Old Country and then making the trip across the plains and mountains and deserts to settle in the West (oh, I live on the West Coast).

To be sure, not everyone who came out here was a cowboy or a cattle rancher, but for some reason the cowboy heritage seems to symbolize all that is good and right in the Western way of life.

The setting for this rodeo seemed authentic, amid the oak trees and right next to one of the major livestock markets on the West Coast, the Cottonwood, Ca. Auction Yard.

The arena itself is rather modest, simple if you will, and I think that adds to the down-home atmosphere.

And the whole time I watched the events from the grandstands, I kept looking at a saddled horse in the back parking lot tied to a horse trailer amid the oaks.

It was either a bad day or a lot of amateurs, for there were a lot of no scores in the various events, but it did not bother me. I always try to take in the local color at these types of things.

 Add 1:  Now that I think of it, the best entertainment was when the outgoing rodeo queen was handing over her official queen regalia to the new queen. The outgoing queen was wearing some wide blue chaps that were too long for her. She was walking bowlegged around the arena. Lucille Ball could not have done a better comedy act.

For my part, I thought the women’s barrel racing was the best event. While I know next to nothing about horseback riding, it seemed to me most of the contestants looked comfortable in the saddle and had a fluid motion with their horses.

And it sure takes team work with horse and rider. One horse was too skittish — something must have upset the creature — and would not take off, so the contestant was disqualified.

The day was perfect, in that the sky was clear, but the temperature mild. Today started with rain, so it may be soggy out there. But I’ve been to rodeos in the pouring rain, and sometimes that adds to the fun — if not the comfort — what with all the mud flying.

(Didn’t get this posted as soon as I thought, so I can now report the weather has apparently cooperted today after all, so no mud for the rodeo, unless some was left over from this morning.)

And as I watched the rodeo I thought of my own tenuous connection with it.

Okay, here goes:

When I was a little boy, the only thing I knew about cowboys was that they carried six shooters and went after bad guys. I was relying on TV. Then I went to a local rodeo of sorts — I think what they call jackpot roping and some steer riding — and asked my dad why they were not wearing guns. My dad explained to me that what you see in the movies and TV was not necessarily the same thing as in real life and not in modern life, anyway.

Though the years I found out that my dad had been kind of a cowboy wannabe as a youth growing up on a dairy farm. He raised his own horse and did quite a bit of horseback riding, but he left all that behind for other pursuits (although he never did quite get it out of his system).

I also have a mysterious grandfather (my father’s father), who I know only by an old photograph of him sitting atop a horse, wearing a broad-brimmed hat, gloves with gauntlets, and a mustache. The photo, I believe, was taken out in an area that is still cattle country today. My father was born on the ranch where the photo was taken. Apparently my grandfather was is some type of business with some investors but somehow lost the spread or something, and took off for parts unknown.

I read a letter he wrote to his family back in Nebraska, in which he told of good grasslands out in California.

I really do not know what his usual trade was. I’ve was told that he worked on ranches and was kind of a horse or mule trader.

My only direct connection with cattle ranching, other than dealing with some ranchers when I worked as an agricultural news writer, was when I was in high school and raised a few head of beef cattle.

I purchased a heifer calf from from an old man who was the last cattle rancher in these parts and maybe the West Coast to actually drive his herd in the old-fashioned manner, with men on horseback, between summer and winter pastures. In fact, the day I met him he had just returned from a drive to his home place. I was in a pickup truck with my ag teacher and we had gone to his house where his wife had said he was down the lane a bit. We went down there and this little old wiry man came walking up with a saddle over his shoulder. He threw the saddle in the back of the pickup and jumped back there with it and motioned for us to drive back up to the ranch house and beyond it where there was a corral with that calf in it.

His dad had been a butcher and then I guess went into the cattle business and this man carried it on. He knew his way of life was dying out — he did things the old way — just as he was dying out himself. But he seemed to enjoy every minute of what he had left.

Once when I had become a news photographer, I did a photo story about his cattle drive. And I used this line in one of my past blogs, but it summed up his attitude: He came through the dust on his horse and grinned (a metal tooth shining) and said, “it’s a great life if you don’t weaken”.

He also at one point advised me about my chances of getting into the cattle business:

“You either have to be rich or marry into it.”

Neither one of those apply to me.

But sometimes I venture back into that world, such as I did Saturday.