"To be too certain of anything is the beginning of bigotry." -- Novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah

Saturday, April 30, 2022

What Are You Saying?

     The other day my wife asked me to do something, follow up on some project I'd started but hadn't finished. I nodded. "Sure. In for a penny, in for a pound."

     Then I added, "I bet you haven't heard that expression in a while."

     She looked at me. "Sure I have. I used it myself just the other day. But then, as you know, sometimes I think I'm like a housewife from the 1950s."

     I didn't think there was much danger of that. But it did get me thinking. A few months ago I did a post called As My Mother Used to Say . . . which offered some age-old advice about life, love and the virtues of caution, prudence and hard work -- you know, the middle-class values we all grew up with.

     I've always said that if we'd only listened to our mothers, and just did what they told us, without question, without arguing, we'd all be better off in life.

     But that's not what happens, is it? Anyway, I thought I'd round up some other age-old bits of wisdom, advice, or just quirky expressions -- and see if you remember them, follow them, or perhaps can offer one or two of your own.

     For example, remember when someone told you that you were "knee high to a grasshopper" or remarked that someone was "busier than a one-armed paper hanger"?

     Today we use the word "meh." But back in the day we were more expressive and said, "Fair to middlin'."

     When one of us kids did something particularly stupid my dad would exclaim, "For cryin' out loud!" He also warned us, "Don't take any wooden nickels." And when he got philosophical he'd say, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink."

     My mother, more of a realist, warned us, "You can't squeeze blood from a stone," and a variation, "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear." But her favorite expression was: "The proof is in the pudding."

     A teacher in middle school told us: "What's good for the goose is good for the gander." She must have been a proto-feminist.

    When we were kids and whining about some horrible injustice, or begging for a treat or favor, we were told: "Go ask your father." Or sometimes, "Hold the phone," or, "Hold your horses."

     When parental patience wore out, my mother would heave a big sigh and groan, "You sound like a broken record." Or my dad would more likely laugh and say, "Not in a month of Sundays!" Sometimes we'd have to wait, "Until the cows come home."

      Following on the farm theme we were also told, usually by a teacher or coach: "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth." We knew that "the early bird gets the worm," and some things are "scarce as hen's teeth." Some people are "happy as a tick on a dog" while others won't get what they want "in a coon's age."

     I don't remember any specific occasion, but I do know there were instances when I was told: "Make like a tree and leave." Or more forcefully: "Don't let the door hit you on the way out." Or more poetically: "Don't let the door hit you where the Good Lord split you."

     Then from another point of view, there was my sister's favorite expression: "Let's beat this pop stand!"

     Is that all she wrote? Heavens to Betsy! No way! I'd be a monkey's uncle if there weren't at least six of one or half dozen of another sayings that we can still recall. So . . . a penny for your thoughts!

Friday, April 22, 2022

Safe for Retirement?

      Look, I'll say right up front that I don't like guns. The only gun I ever shot was a .22 in back of my uncle's house in the Connecticut woods when I was about 9 years old. So I'm all in favor of stricter gun regulations, which to my mind seem perfectly consistent with the 2nd amendment. I mean, we can't park a tank in our front yard or sport nuclear weapons in our garage, can we? So it's not much of a stretch to think we shouldn't be arming ourselves with military grade repeating rifles either.

     But my point here is not to argue for or against gun control. Maybe some people feel safer if they're carrying a firearm. I don't agree with them. But nobody's putting me on the Supreme Court to rule about the issue.

     The fact is, the federal government has very few gun laws. Some gun attachments, such as high capacity magazines, are banned, but for the most part gun laws are enacted by the states.

     We know that a lot of places have stricter gun laws, while other places have virtually no gun laws at all. So I'm just offering here, as a public service, a list of the states that allow "permitless carry." In other words, you can carry a weapon in public without a license. So now you can decide if you want to retire to a permitless gun state, or if you'd rather go to a place that limits people's ability to pack deadly weapons.

     Of course, there are always details in the laws. For example, in Arizona you can carry a concealed handgun without a permit. But you do need a permit to carry a gun "into a establishment that serves alcohol for consumption on the premises." Also, a few states such as Alabama and Indiana have passed new laws allowing "permitless carry" that won't go into effect until later this year.

     With that, here are the 25 states where you can carry a gun without a license (and at what age):

  1. Alabama -- 19                                                                                 
  2. Alaska -- 21
  3. Arizona -- 21
  4. Arkansas, -- 21, 18 for military
  5. Georgia  --21, 18 for military
  6. Indiana -- 18
  7. Idaho -- 18
  8. Iowa -- 21
  9. Kansas -- 21
  10. Kentucky -- 21
  11. Maine -- 21
  12. Mississippi -- 18
  13. Missouri -- 19
  14. Montana -- 18
  15. New Hampshire -- 19
  16. North Dakota -- 18
  17. Ohio -- 21
  18. Oklahoma -- 18
  19. South Dakota -- 21, 18 for military
  20. Tennessee - -21, 18 for military
  21. Texas -- 21
  22. Utah -- 21
  23. Vermont -- 18
  24. West Virginia -- 21, 18 for military
  25. Wyoming -- 21

     If you want more details, you can shoot on over to this list of Permitless Carry States, or target a report from the World Population Review.

     Now, if you're a little leery of living in the "Wild West" where guns are popular and prevalent, you might consider retiring to a state with stricter gun laws.

     California has the strictest gun laws, followed by Illinois, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island. These states typically require background checks and a waiting period, and sometimes training, before someone is allowed to buy a gun.

     Many states are more in the middle, with just a few limits on guns. A typical example might be North Carolina, which requires a permit to purchase and carry a handgun, but not a rifle or shotgun. Perhaps not coincidentally, North Carolina has a gun-death rate that's just about average for the country, at 13 per hundred thousand people per year.

     The U. S. state with the lowest death rate is Rhode Island, with just over 3 gun deaths per hundred thousand. RI is followed by fellow gun-law states like Massachusetts, Hawaii, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and California. I can't tell you what conclusion to draw from this. You'll just have to make your own decision.

     Maybe it depends on how good a shot you are, or how fast you are with a trigger. So if you're a quick-draw, you might feel comfortable living in Mississippi (23 deaths), Wyoming (21) or Missouri (21). But if you're slow on the uptake, like I am, or a little nervous about an 18-year-old packing heat, you'd better stay in the Northeast . . . or move to Hawaii.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

That's a Good Question

      I haven't offered a round-up of blogs in quite a while, so I hope everyone will look around and check these out. They are among the best that Baby Boomers have to offer. And right now, our Baby Boomers are asking a lot of questions.

     What are you doing for Easter? Rita R. Robison, personal finance journalist, points out that 80% of us celebrate Easter in one way or another, and we will spend an average of $180. Total spending for the holiday is estimated at 20.8 billion, which sounds like a lot but is actually down slightly from last year's $21.6 billion. (We celebrated Easter with family on Saturday, and we spent less than $180.) For a look at a full survey about the holiday, hop on over to Facts and Figures on Easter 2022

     Have you ever reached a certain age and then can't believe you're actually there? So asks Laurie Stone, who says that sometimes it seems like yesterday when we're young and dewy-eyed, and then in no time at all we're in the seventh-inning stretch. (This happens to me pretty much every day!) Still, sometimes knowledge comes later in life, and so Stone offers her little specks of wisdom that she wouldn't trade for anything in 6 Amazing Things We Learn in Our 60s.

     Do you love yourself enough? This week Rebecca Olkowski with BabyBoomster.com interviewed intuitive life coach Nicola Fernandes. The coach uses energy healing, shamanistic journeys and other techniques to help people connect with the love they have for themselves and to ultimately create a whole different person. If you're interested, dive into Nicola Fernandes: Life Coach and Shaman Interview on Self Love.

     Does your confidence ever need a lift? Sometimes, says Jennifer of Untold and Begin, we need something to help us get back on track, and so she offers 25 Affirmations to Motivate You. Try some out and see if they make you feel better (I especially like Numbers 8, 9, 19 and 22.)

     What makes a good story-teller? Diane Tolley from The Alberta/Montana Border recalls that her dad was a great story-teller, so great that he often got to the punchline before his listeners realized he'd been telling them a "big windy" the whole time. He also loved to rhyme and often quoted poetry on long drives both to keep himself awake and to entertain the six kids. In Gone: Another Daddy Story Tolley recounts one of his favorites. "I put it to rhyme in his name," she writes. "Thank you Daddy!" 

     If you're planning to travel, why not use a travel agent? A friend recently confronted Carol Cassara about why she doesn't plan her own travel, given the wealth of online resources. In Why Do You Use a Travel Agent? she explains how she doesn't want to spend hours poring over travel websites, and instead uses a professional whose job it is to find the best experience for the best price.

     Now that the weather is getting warmer, are you throwing open your windows and beckoning the outside world into your home? Meryl Baer of Beach Boomer Bulletin sure is (and this is something I heartily endorse -- turn off the a/c, open the windows, breathe in the fresh air and save the planet!) She reports that as The Sounds of Spring reach our ears -- some piercing but mostly pleasant -- they bring smiles to our faces and welcome in the spring season and the joyous holidays. Happy Passover! Happy Easter!

Sunday, April 10, 2022

New Faces, New Voices

      In my last post I had my curmudgeon on as I cast a jaundiced eye on the Oscars and the news media. Today I'm feeling a lot more positive and hopeful for the future.

     Why? I watched The Grammys, which in my opinion is a much more entertaining show focusing on young people making interesting and exciting music. Not all of it do I like. But a lot of it is good. And it offers a fresh new look at the world for these tired old eyes and ears of mine.

     To be honest, I don't follow the music world very closely . . . or essentially, not at all. So watching the Grammys is a way for me to discover new music that otherwise I would never hear of. (I typically listen to Classic Rock stations on Sirius XM in the car, or else an all-news station, occasionally classical music.)

     So while the Oscars give us lame and tasteless jokes, ponderous speeches and awards for obscure indie films, the Grammys feature live performances by top acts and new talent -- and much less in the way of personal pet peeves or political posturing.

     The show, hosted by the affable late-night talk show host Trevor Noah, opened up with a performance by Olivia Rodrigo. Ever hear of her? I hadn't. She's young; she's pretty. You might think her music is sappy, but I'm guessing your teenage grandchildren are likely big fans. She sang a adolescently angst number called Drivers License. It's clearly aimed at the younger audience, not people like me. But hey, I remember those days, and I liked it anyway.

     Some other popular performers who were new to me:

     Jon Bastiste performed his hit "Freedom."

     H.E.R. did a medley.

     BTS, a K-pop group, acted out a song called "Butter."

     There was a number by a group called Silk Sonic. One of the guys looked familiar. Bruno Mars? Yes. I remembered him from a previous Grammy show, plus a Superbowl halftime show. Now, apparently he's teamed up with a fellow named Anderson .Paak to form a kind of pop, R&B soul group. They're pretty good! By the way, you can find all these songs on youtube if you're interested.

     My favorite of the night was Billie Eilish. I'd heard of her. But I didn't know any of her songs. This is her new one called "Happier Than Ever." 

     Some of the acts were familiar names. My wife's favorite country singer Chris Stapleton sang his hit "Cold." Carrie Underwood performed her new song "Ghost Story." Lady Gaga, Nas, Justin Bieber, John Legend all made appearances.

     There was more, plenty more. But to tell the truth, the show went on past my bedtime, so I didn't see it all. But if you're interested, the Billboard Music Awards are coming up on Sunday, May 15, broadcast by NBC TV. You'll be able to watch a lot of the same acts -- and enjoy some of the vibrant creativity going on in our country today, the creativity we sometimes forget about as we moan and groan about the state of our country, the state of the world, and how things aren't as good as they used to be.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Am I Just an Old Fogey?

      Usually, the topic of this blog is retirement and living well as we age. But sometimes things just bug me and I have to say something -- usually about the declining morality and general lack of standards in our society today. I wonder if you agree.

     Item number 1 is the Chris Rock/Will Smith slap heard round the world at the Oscars. Rock made a tasteless joke about Smith's wife. Smith marched up to the stage and slapped the comedian, then sat down and swore at him.

     Smith clearly did something wrong. As he admitted, he is in the public eye and has to be able to take jokes in stride about him and his family.  In any case resorting to violence -- even the relatively mild violence of an open-hand slap -- is beyond the pale. He should least apologize, and maybe suffer other punishment. In fact he did apologize, first when he gave his best actor acceptance speech, and then again on social media to the public.

     But here's the other side of the coin. Rock started it. He's the one who provoked Smith with a tasteless, below-the-belt joke. I mean, how many people would have laughed at Rock's joke if it had referenced someone in a wheelchair, or someone with AIDS or cancer?

     So instead of being greeted at his next comedy show with a standing ovation -- as he was -- Rock too should have apologized for his snarky, tasteless joke. I'm actually a fan of Chris Rock. I think he's funny. But I also think he should suffer some punishment that signals to him and others: don't get too nasty, too cruel, too personal.

     These days, we see many instances of someone who does something wrong, leading to someone else overreacting. Then the person who overreacts becomes the villain. And the person who started it becomes the "victim." Maybe I'm old-fashioned. But this just doesn't seem right to me. An overreaction is bad; but so is a provocation.

     The other thing that happened last week:  President Biden's Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced she is quitting the White House to take a job on TV as an on-air opinion-maker at the liberal cable station MSNBC.

What do you want to hear?
     What she's doing is not unusual. Lots of politicians have turned into media stars. Dana Perino, George Bush's press secretary, holds forth on FOX News. So does Trump's press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has a talk show. So does former Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow. Are we supposed to take these people seriously when they are overtly and admittedly biased toward their own party?

     But the Democrats have the same problem. ABC's George Stephanopoulos worked for Bill Clinton; Chris Matthews, long-time MSNBC commentator, worked for Democratic Majority Leader Tip O'Neill; more recently Chris Cuomo, son of one Democratic governor and brother of another, was a top CNN host.

     Why should we think that the Democrats are any more objective than the Republicans? In fact, it turned out that Cuomo was moonlighting for his governor brother the whole time he was on TV.

     I'm not saying Jen Psaki is a bad person. I've seen her on TV. She seems intelligent, well-educated, able to hold her own. But as a TV journalist she has a clear conflict of interest. All these politicians do. Call me old-fashioned, but I think it's simply unethical for someone to make their living pushing a political agenda, and then turn around and pretend to present news and commentary in any fair, unbiased manner.

     If the media want to be taken seriously, they should fire all the ex-politicians and political operatives -- both Republicans and Democrats -- and use real journalists who can be accurate and reasonably objective, who will not be passing on propaganda from their old friends.

     In other words, call me an old fogey, but give me John Chancellor or Tom Brokaw, give me Huntley and Brinkley, give me Walter Cronkite or Edward R. Murrow.