Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Will My Generation Become Elderly Couch Surfers In Retirement?

I had a brief conversation with a friend yesterday at the gym about the recent Sunday Oregonian headlines, which according to him, basically reported on the decline of Social Security and retirement for the generations after the baby boomers.  This all supports my belief that my generation will be the first generation of elderly couch surfers, shacking up with friends and family in order to keep a roof over their heads.

These articles are pretty commonplace today, documenting the nearly bi-partisan support in Congress and the Obama Administration for cutting back on Social Security benefits, which has been dubbed "The Grand Bargain".  (Odd how social benefits can be cut but military spending, or corporate welfare, is the sacred cow of the budget talks?)

The problem with The Grand Bargain threats is that for the great majority of Americans, SSI is going to be all that they have to retire on.  Pension plans (defined benefit plans) are a relic from my grandparent's and my parent's generation, save for the few who work in the public sector or in a trade union.  The majority of my generation is left with defined contribution plans (401K and Roth IRA), which are loaded with hidden fees that cut into the returns, as Martin Smith documented on PBS's Frontline earlier this year:

I firmly believe that my generation will not do well in retirement.  Even if my peers already have a 401K plan at work and have started an IRA, it won't be enough to withstand rising costs of living and increasing job turnover that's become more commonplace in today's economy.  When people are out of work, they often drain some of their retirement funds just to survive.  401K plans act more and more like a rainy day fund rather than a savings account for old age.

When my generation reaches retirement, with limited financial resources, I think many of us will be moving in with our children, helping raise the grandchildren.  Call it couch surfing or multi-generational housing.  It's going to be commonplace all across the country as people struggle financially into old age.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

But If There Were Such A Thing As "Militant Gays"...This Is What They'd Look Like

As a follow-up to my last post on the kerfuffle in Facebook land of people expressing their support or indignation for the Duck Dynasty dude who stated what we knew all along - that he is not a big fan of homosexuals or lifting the Jim Crow customs of the South, I had to at least post the image that flashes through my head every time I hear or read the term "Militant Gays."  

I picture a militant gay training camp outside Palm Springs, where gay men are transformed into freedom fighters for the cause, trained in advanced military tactics.  For what purpose, it beats the hell out of me!

Here's the graduating class of 1984.  This photo was taken at Tacquitz Canyon Park in Palm Springs, CA.  This highly trained special ops force was affectionately known as "The Bears", for obvious reasons:

Of course, after all their paramilitary training during the day, "The Bears" get cleaned up for Palm Springs's famous White Party in the evening:  

Sorry, but I cannot help this ridiculous image I get every time I hear something silly about the allegedly powerful "militant gays" (can we name just one or are is this just a straw-man argument?) oppressing long-suffering white American Christians (who seemed to be oppressed by every minority group these days.  Just Google it).

Have a nice day.  

The Duck Dynasty Kerfuffle

My first thought after looking on my Facebook News Feed yesterday and seeing all the running threads by my conservative Christian friends, who once again shared the right-wing echo chamber indignation about being oppressed by "ignorant, hypocritical, militant, aggressive, bullying gay people" was, "Good thing this guy didn't give us his two cents about the Jews or Muslims or Mexicans."  That would have opened up an entirely different can of worms.

The DD guy's comments about gays and Jim Crow customs in the South were not that much of a surprise at all to anyone who has ever discussed this stuff with a Southerner or a conservative Christian.  We're all a product of our upbringing, where we adopt the beliefs and customs of our family, friends, community, and the region where we were raised.  And according to The Bible, they say, homosexuality is an abomination and a sin and all kinds of other dastardly things.  So if we were raised hearing this repeatedly, eventually, we're going to believe it as the ironclad truth because God said so and his law takes precedent over the law of the land.  

Until one stops and questions if there could be a different set of beliefs than those by which we were raised, their belief system stays firmly entrenched.  They never stop and ask, "Could it be possible that maybe my world view is not accurate, or only a small portion of the big picture, or that somebody with different colored skin or a different sexual orientation sees the world from a different perspective, based upon their upbringing and their experiences of being repeatedly told that they're a sinner and going to hell for being attracted to some of the same sex or having different colored skin than me?"   

Challenging the belief system we were raised with takes time, energy, courage, intellectual curiosity, and serendipitous encounters with people who are completely different (skin color, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, religious beliefs, political leanings, etc).  

But, that's extremely hard.  It's hard because it has the potential to unravel one's established world with friendships and marriages could abruptly end.  I've had several friends come out as gay or other friends break away (shall we say "break free") from their church and experience long-time friendships end on the spot.  

It's much easier to get along to go along or just stick with what's working.  Breaking the pattern, for most people, is way too much work and too big a risk.  

I don't think people should be upset with the DD guy for his comments or the people who are taking to their FB pages to show their support for or against his comments.  He is who he is and we are who we are, all of us millions of experiences and images in our lifetime that have brought us to this point in our life that has shaped our worldview.  Until we break out the pattern, or use mental muscle to look at the opposite perspective, we will continue being who we are and thinking that other people are completely off-base. 

Hopefully next week, the DD guy chooses not to double-down and drop the hammer on the Jews, Mexicans, and Muslims, giving the FB world a much needed breather for the week of Christmas.   


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Ron Burgundy Media Blitz

Ron Burgundy has been doing an ambitious media blitz promoting Anchorman 2, stopping in on remote outposts in Bismark, North Dakota, where he read the news for a half hour.  He's even made an appearance at a hockey game in Winnepeg, Canada, promoting what looks to be this winter's biggest movie release.

The great thing about Ron Burgundy is that his character parodies the ridiculousness that is local television news.  Granted, Burgundy is a complete dope who's very impressed with his 1970s self.  But, his ridiculousness is what every local news station in every city across the country embodies.  Not the newscasters, but the substance of many of their stories.

It's pretty much petty crime, fires, car accidents, traffic jams, and "hard hitting" investigative news reports of health code violations at restaurants.  

I have a friend who works in small town news.  They said whenever they go out to a petty crime scene to film a news report, they spot the dumbest looking person and stick a microphone and camera in their face.  Of course, their face lights up with that, "Look ma, I'm on TV!" look.  (Smart people run away from the cameras of local news crews).  

Anchorman is a great exaggeration of American local news.  Not that there's anything wrong with local news or the journalists and reporters who work in the industry, who are incredibly talented.  It's just that there's not very many newsworthy stories happening in most cities and towns across the country, so their forced to make news out of things that aren't newsworthy, like cat fashion shows and kitchen fires at local restaurants or somebody getting their TV stolen and the police not powdering the crime scene looking for fingerprints.

Despite the ridiculousness, I'm looking forward to seeing Anchorman 2.  Hopefully, it's as good as the first one, which I've seen over 100 times.

Stay Classy!  

Monday, December 2, 2013

First Week Of Skiing For The 2013-2014 Ski Season At Mt. Hood Meadows

Mt. Hood Meadows has been kind enough to open up a few chairlifts for skiers and snowboarders these past two weekends despite the low snow levels.  And I've taken full advantage of the opportunity to ski for the first time in twelve years, first taking my nieces Sam & Lauren up for a lesson mostly on Buttercup and then this past Friday, I went up by myself and got several runs in off of Daisy and Cascade Express.

Two things I noticed in my first two times skiing.

  1. My skiing ability never left me after a decade without skiing.  I earned a varsity letter for skiing my freshman year in high school (then played JV2 basketball the following winter to work on my foot speed, which helped me in baseball - my first love!), where I learned so much about carving an edge in my turns, telling myself to turn early when heading into a gate, pushing off the outside leg when coming out out the gate, and using my poles as a timing mechanism to transfer my weight between skis.

    Halfway down my second run on the Texas trail, which is a wide-open groomed run where you can pick up some serious speed if you're not in control, I realized I was doing all of that racing stuff subconsciously, even telling myself to "turn early" before my turns.  Holy shit!  I still got it!  I was shocked that it was all still there, just like riding a bike.  How awesome!  I'm still really, really good at skiing!
  2. The views are absolutely beautiful and I'm pretty happy to be back in Oregon, taking in all this natural beauty!  The Pacific Northwest is an amazing place to be when you have the resources to get out and experience all that there is to do here.  This winter should be pretty fun with lots of skiing up at Mt. Hood Meadows along with a trip or two to Tahoe and a few weekends at Mt. Bachelor.  

Here's some of the photos I took from the top of Texas trail this past Friday:

Looking out at Mt. Jeffereson and Mt Washington near Black Butte

Skibowl's trails in the distance with Timberline's parking lot in the foreground

More Mt. Jefferson with some skiers in the foreground

Mt. Jefferson on a clear day - thanks Google Images