Sunday, September 11, 2016

Three lesser-known recent films

Match - 2015

A drama about a Julliard ballet dance instructor played by Patrick Stewart and a husband and wife team who want to interview him. Under the auspices of writing a dissertation about the dance world of the sixties, the pair gains access to Tobi, and after meeting him in a dinner, are invited to his apartment in New York. Lisa's husband, Mike, is a cop with an ulterior motive and after several minutes of questions and answers, the plot unfolds and we realize Mike wants to know if Tobi is his biological father. Stewart's character denies he fathered a child but admits Mike's mother and Tobi were lovers.

The discourse gets heated and emotions fanned into semi-frenzy. When Mike leaves in anger, Tobi and Lisa develop a deeper personal understanding although some of the discussion is crude and unsettling. Lisa is motivated to resolve her husband's quest for finding out who he is and realizes she has her own personal problems to sort out. When he comes back to the apartment, Mike speaks privately with Tobi and the couple leaves but not before Tobi invites them back for brunch the following day.

I was surprised at my own reaction to the emotional roller coaster and sincerity conveyed in the dialogue between the three characters.

In the Heart of the Sea - 2015

Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick and this is a story about how he came to write it. Centered on a Nantucket whaling ship in 1820,  Ron Howard, who directed the film, paints a picture of the Essex and the crew in search of whales to convert to oil they bring back for the ship's owners. The crew is lead by a seasoned first officer, who in the beginning, thinks he will be the captain of the ship, only to find the owners have handpicked an inexperienced captain with a pedigree.

After several months at sea, with little to show for their effort and after too much friction between the captain and first officer, the Essex sails to the Pacific in search of sperm whales. That is where they encounter the great white whale, who shepherds a giant pack of whales. Intruding on the whale's domain, the giant whale retaliates, and after thrashing several of the whaler's rowboats attacks the Essex and sinks her. The remainder of the story is devoted to the efforts of the survivors to stay alive in the middle of an ocean with little possibility of rescue. After weeks of floating adrift and with little water or rations, they finally wash ashore on a remote island.

When they finally get back to Nantucket, they face a board of inquirers who insist they testify they ran aground instead of telling the truth to protect the reputation of their industry.

The Weight of Water - 2002

Not a new film, the weight of water is really two films in one. In the present, a photographer, her husband, her brother-in-law, and his girlfriend sail to the Isles of Sholes off the New Hampshire coast to investigate the murder of two immigrant women in 1873. Kathryn Bigelow directed the film starring Sean Penn, Elizabeth Hurley, and Catherine McCormick. In the present, the newspaper photographer, Jean Janes visits the scene of the crime with her husband, an award-winning poet played by Sean Penn. The brother-in-law's girlfriend, Elizabeth Hurley, flirts with Penn's character in front of her boyfriend and Jean played by Catherine McCormick. This contentious struggle counterbalances the story from the past. A young Norwegian woman, Maren Hontvedtm, played by Sarah Polley, wife of an older man, is chore-ridden and living a burdensome life on an island in Nova Scotia. Her husband adds to her burdens by inviting Louis Wagner, a lecherous crippled man to live with them. When her sister, brother, and sister-in-law come to visit Maren, the stage is set for the murders of the sister and sister-in-law.  

Maren is the star witness when Louis Wagner goes on trial. Found guilty, he hangs for the murders. At the same time of the execution, Maren confesses Wagner did not commit the murders. At times, the transitions between past and present do not work well and weakens the plot since there is little to hold the two stores together.

Bigelow also directed Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Movies worthy of note

I've seen a couple of movies recently I thought were good enough to write about. The first is The Martian with Matt Damon, the second is Whiplash with Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons, and not to be outdone, a third film worthy of seeing is The Woman in Gold with Helen Mirren.

The Martian

I can't think of a movie I've seen with Matt Damon I didn't like and he lives up to my admiration in the Martian. Caught in an epic dust storm that looks like four tornados converging, Matt's character is hit by a boulder and thought dead by the crew of a mission to mars. The crew hastily makes their escape off the planet leaving Mark Watley, Damon's character, behind.

When he awakes, he finds himself alone on a planet with only enough food for the crew to last 30 days. Watley has to work out a way to survive the 4 years it will take to rescue him. An interesting predicament to say the least. Even though it was a science fiction movie, I could relate to the feelings of desperation and loneliness.

My favorite director, Ridley Scott, presents the story in a captivating way, switching between Watley, the ground control personnel, and the members of the crew on their long journey back to earth. A subtle sense of humor by Damon, a positive attitude, and the ability to engineer his way out of disaster, makes the Martian a viewer's choice.


Whiplash is about a prestigious music school and the students in the class of one ruthless music director. This is not a film for children as the "F" word is used frequently, almost continuously. The main character is jazz drum student Andrew Neiman played by Miles Teller whose ambition drives him to become the best drummer since Buddy Rich. The band conductor Terence Fletcher is the protagonist he must go through to achieve his goal and Fletcher is not a helpful, cooperating fellow. J.K. Simmons. in addition to many film and TV roles he has been in, you may recognize from the Farmers insurance commercials.

Whiplash,  at the 87th Academy Awards, won Best Film EditingBest Sound Mixing, and Best Supporting Actor for Simmons, and was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture. The movie is well acted and is hard hitting, bringing out the worst in people.

The Woman in Gold

The Woman in Gold is a true story about a Jewish woman who escaped Nazi-occupied Austria during the Second World War. A famous painting was among the assets stolen from her family by the Nazis and she goes about getting possession of it again. It takes quite a long time, years in fact, but with the help of a young lawyer, she eventually wins what almost everyone said could not be won.

Helen Mirren is another actress I find talented enough to keep me entertained even in what might seem like a very boring story. Director Simon Curtis keeps the audiences' attention by mixing scenes from Austria during the war and the present day. He intertwines the relationships of Maria Altmann and her family during the war as well as Maria and her lawyer in the present. She endures many disappointments and setbacks but with the final push from her lawyer and after going all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States finally wins her family's possessions back in arbitration in Vienna.

Monday, July 11, 2016

How to Lose 100 lbs

"I have enjoyed many pleasures as the result of my experiences as a rancher. I've also learned a thing or two. Every season we would round up the cattle from the range and drive them to the corral. Along the way, we'd come to a gate, the trick was to get them through the gate and not stampede them. I found, after much trial and error, that applying steady gentle pressure from the rear worked best. Eventually, one would decide to pass through the gate, the rest would soon follow. Press them too hard, and they'd panic, scattering in all directions. Slack off entirely, and they'd just head back to their old grazing spots. This insight was useful throughout my management career."
David Packard "The HP Way How Bill Hewlett and I Built Our Company" 

  • Sticks and Stones
I was four years old the first time someone called me "fatso." I've been referred to as "husky, chubby, overweight, heavy, big guy," or just plain fat. While names can't physically hurt you, those names can affect your feelings and self-esteem.

  • Obesity

I have been battling obesity for a long time. I weighed 75 lbs in the 4th grade and got to 225 lbs by 19. I enlisted in the US Army after graduating from high school and lost 30 lbs in basic training. I rarely ate breakfast, had little for lunch and ate a modest dinner while I was growing up. I didn't eat breakfast in basic training either but the real difference was the physical activity required. 195 lbs was probably my ideal weight for my 6' 2" frame and is how much I weighed when I was done with basic.

  • In the Old Days

In the early 60s, when I went to high school, physical education every day was still mandatory in California. So was showering afterward. I was still in the 225 lb range when I graduated from college and began my business career. After getting married, I was eating regularly, still no breakfast (except coffee), and getting little exercise. I was settling into a sedentary lifestyle and began the upward trend until I reached 240 lbs at 35 years old.

Want to Lose Weight and keep it off? Click on the link to receive an easy weight loss plan that worked for me. How to lose weight

  • Diabetes

Due to the absence of physical activity, I became diabetic and not long after being diagnosed began taking insulin three times a day. That resulted in gaining 40 lbs in a period of six months. I continued to gain weight until I reached a whopping 345 lbs by the time I was 55 years old.

  • Finley Aquatic Center

I was a mess. Not only was I not interested in exercise, I couldn't walk for 5 minutes without experiencing a good deal of pain since my knees, joints, hips and spine were not designed to carry around 150 extra pounds. Thankfully, I began to attend water aerobics through the city-sponsored classes in Santa Rosa. I could move around and even jog in place in the water because my joints were not hindered by the extra weight.
I attended sporadically. Usually 2 or even 3 times a week during warm weather, skipping days when it rained or was too cold since the pool is outdoors. I continued attending sporadically from 2006 to 20012 and lost almost a pound a month. Getting down to 285 lbs was an accomplishment, I suppose, but it taking six years was not.

  • Get Moving

In 2013, a nurse at the Veterans Administration suggested I look into the MOVE program. I did and really wasn't interested enough to do something about starting it. However, after completing a 16-week class at the VA, the instructor asked what class we would like to sign up for next? Most of the other members of the group chose the PTSD class but since I didn't think I needed that I signed up for the MOVE class.

  • Get a Move On

Frankly, I still wasn't motivated to exercise and eat less but I thought it would be worth finding out more about it. MOVE stands for Motivating Veterans Everywhere. So I began attending weekly meetings with about 10 other overweight veterans and started learning what it takes to get rid of the extra pounds.

In August 2014, I met our class leader on the first day whose name is Heather Haluska. Heather is a registered dietician and well equipped to teach us old dogs new tricks. We began by learning about SMART goals and she encouraged us to complete a form committing to losing a specific percentage of our weight. Since the form suggested 10%, I signed up for losing 28.5 lbs in six months.

  • Support Groups

Heather was full of information about nutrition, exercise and lifestyle changes we would have to make in order to achieve success and I was reminded of the David Packard excerpt from above. She did not push too hard or run anybody off by intimidating them, she gently urged us to take the next step and kept the encouragement and urging going.
For most of us the next step was logging what we were eating and tracking the calories we consumed. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that consuming fewer calories and exercising more is the way to lose weight. There were many who were (probably still are) reluctant to do the logging. Not only the calories but the exercise as well. Not just the calories after a time, the carbohydrates and nutrients as well, making the logging task time consuming.
I have to say. it is nice to have a social group who encourage each other and who pass along tips about different meals and what is working for them.

  • SMART Goals

By February 2015, I lost 13 lbs, only half what my goal had been. It took another 5 months before I lost my goal of 10%. By then I lost 32 lbs, and it came time to write down another goal. I chose 10% again which would be 25 lbs more.

By this time, I lost nearly 100 lbs since my height of obesity, 345 lbs. Because of comments of other MOVE members who were using similar tools on their smartphones, I learned to use a program called "Lose It" which is similar to "My Fitness Pal" that helps track and log what I eat and how much I exercise every day.

Currently, my plan is to get down to 225 lbs, a little more than I weighed when I got out of basic training. I take two 20 minute walks every day, frequently exercise in the pool, get exercise credit when washing the car or going grocery shopping.

I envision myself ramping up to jogging and possibly bicycling in the future. I do eat breakfast now, get plenty of sleep and drink a lot of water. I make sure I fit vegetables into my meals whenever I can and add fruit sparingly because I am watching my sugar and sodium intake.

I enthusiastically endorse the Veterans Administration's MOVE program and have to say I owe my weight loss success to my dietician Heather Haluska.

Want to Lose Weight and keep it off? Click the link to receive an easy weight loss plan that worked for me.  Get Fit and Eat Healthy

Twelve reasons you do not want diabetes

The Difference between Type I and Type II Diabetes

There are two kinds of Diabetes. Type I usually happens at a childhood age and is by definition when the pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone necessary to process sugar in our cells. Type II is also called Adult Onset diabetes because it commonly occurs as we get older. It is probably intuitive to you that as we age, we continue to consume the same amount of food that we did when we were younger but are not as physically active as we were, in the good old days.

This article is for people who have or are susceptible to having type II diabetes. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention,69.0% of American adults age 20 years and over are overweight and half of them, 35.1% are obese.

The rule for whether or not you have diabetes is: your fasting blood glucose level is greater than 120 and your hemoglobin A1C is greater than 6. There are a couple of other tell-tale signs. You know if you are overweight if your favorite clothes no longer fit; or you can't squeeze into those skin tight jeans you wore in high school anymore. If you want to know if you have or are at risk for having diabetes, you can find diabetes test kits at your local pharmacy.

Glucose monitor kit

The First Reason

  • For beginners, you may opt to use test strips that can tell if you are spilling sugar in your urine. (The word diabetes was first recorded in 1425, and in 1675, the Greek Mellitus, “like honey,” was added, to reflect the sweet smell and taste of the patient's urine). Once you have a doctor's confirmation that you have it, you will join the club of diabetics who must poke their fingers to get a glucose sample for testing. And that's the first reason you don't want to have diabetes. Many people who have been diagnosed with diabetes refuse to test their glucose on a daily basis and risk losing control of it.

Metformin - Oral medication for diabetes

The Second Reason

  • Controlling diabetes should be of the utmost importance to you, but if you're like I was, it probably isn't. If you're paying attention, you will know you are consuming too many calories and are not physically active enough to burn even fewer calories. You can assume that this imbalance is going to result in damage to your health and your life. In order to remain on this planet as long as you can, you must consume less food, eat a healthy diet and exercise daily. If you don't, your chances of getting diabetes are greater. Some lucky people are not susceptible to gaining weight regardless of how much they eat, bless their souls. If you are one of them, be thankful. Most of us are not.

Once you have been diagnosed with diabetes, your doctor will prescribe an oral medication you will be taking daily. If your lab work reveals your blood sugar readings are below 200 before starting the medication you may have avoided the hassle of injecting insulin into your stomach on a daily basis. This would be the second reason you do not want to have diabetes. After many years, I don't mind the injections but would rather I did not have to take them.

Insulin and syringes

The Third Reason

  • When you are prescribed insulin, it's because you are insulin resistant and/or your pancreas is not producing enough insulin to allow your cells to get rid of the sugar. Your fasting glucose readings should be between 70 and 120 on your glucose monitor. If they are above 150 an hour after you have consumed a meal, you are beginning down the long road of complications. After several years of cruising over 150 to 180, the effects of the sugar in your blood cells will deteriorate your blood vessels, major organs, and your nervous system. This would be the third reason you do not want to have diabetes.

Medications - The Fourth Reason

  • Metformin is the oral medication commonly prescribed for type II diabetes. It has a few unpleasant side-effects including vomiting and diarrhea. It took me a considerable amount of time to adjust to Metformin. Some people develop lactic acidosis while taking metformin and this can be fatal. If your doctor prescribes insulin, you will most likely take both the oral medication as well as insulin injections. Having to budget for medications is something we have to do when we are diagnosed with this chronic illness. This would be the fourth reason you don't want to have it.

Vision Loss - Diabetic Retinopathy

  • As a result of not getting on top of my illness as soon as I realized, I had it was vision deterioration. Actually, I was prescribed glasses for seeing at a distance better before I knew what had caused the problem. My vision had been perfect until I reached the age of 38. When I asked the doctor why I needed glasses now he said, "It's probably because you work in front of a computer all day long." That wasn't the reason. The reason was I was pre- if not already full-blown diabetic.

I didn't know I was diabetic until about a year and a half later when I experienced flu-like symptoms that didn't go away after a week. My doctor tested my urine and proclaimed "You're spilling sugar." And so began my long trip down a bad road. It seemed every time I went to see the eye doctor my vision changed and I needed new glasses. I kidded myself thinking it was just from getting older. After too many visits to the ophthalmologist, I was informed I needed laser surgery to stop the leaking blood vessels in the wall on the back of my eyes. This was the first stage of Diabetic Retinopathy.

I had 10 laser surgery treatments over a two year period and it seemed to help, although my night vision was by this time impaired. Those treatments were, for the most part, painless. About a year later I experienced bleeding into my vitreous and could see a spider web in my right eye (the good one). The doctor told me I needed to have the blood siphoned out of the vitreous so I could see unobstructed.

The vitreous is a clear fluid that fills the eye and in order to clear it out, the doctor had to operate on my right eye. Using a small needle he punctured the eye and vacuumed out the blood while I was under anesthesia. This time, recovery was slow and it was very painful. While performing the operation the doctor also did a considerable amount of laser treatment to the retina resulting in loss of peripheral vision on the right side. This would be the fifth reason you do not want to have diabetes.

I have subsequently seen the ophthalmologist many times and had several Florizine angiograms where a dye is injected into your vein and the doctor or nurse takes photos of the back of your eye as the dye flows into the arteries. I have an edema in my left eye and have had Avastin (a cancer drug) injected into my eye while fully awake. Doesn't that sound like fun?

Weight Gain - The Sixth Reason

  • One of the side effects of insulin is weight gain. When I started insulin I weighed 240 lbs and I was overweight and a member of weight watchers. I shot up to 280 quickly because I was consuming the same amount of food, not exercising enough and injecting insulin three times a day. So, to be blunt, you are fat already and the medicine is going to make you fatter. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this would be the sixth reason you do not want to have diabetes.

Skin Problems

  • One of the problems that diabetics share is skin problems and sores that won't heal. The first oral medication I took for diabetes also caused me to get sunburned when I stayed outside for more than 20 minutes. Keeping up with three growing children meant being in the sun for hours at a time and the results were not surprising. The bumps and bruises we all get were bothersome for me because they did not heal, for years.

Nerve Damage - Neuropathy

  • One of the insidious effects of diabetes is the damage it does to one's nervous system. The first thing you notice is the loss of feeling in your fingers, toes, feet and other parts of your body. At first, this is tolerable but over time the loss of feeling gets worse and finally you experience shooting pains in your feet, toes, legs, fingers, hands, arms, shoulders etc. Not just a little pain either. Lots of pain that does not subside quickly. Tylenol helps but won't cure it. Like all the other effects, you can't roll back the clock on the effects of diabetes. Your vision will not improve, your nerve damage can't be undone, your kidneys are not as good as they were; the list goes on and on.

Fruit and vegetables

The Seventh Reason - Revoked Driving Privileges

  • One of the rudest awakenings happens when the department of motor vehicles requires you to have your doctor complete a health diagnosis on you for their records. If your A1C is above the normal range, the DMV will revoke your driver's license and you will have to wait until the doctor says your diabetes is "under control" before you can get your driving privileges back. That means you will have to take a written and driver's test again to prove you are qualified to drive. This would be the seventh reason you do not want to have diabetes.

  The Eighth Reason - Organ Damage

  • Along the journey, you will notice the deterioration of several major organs in your body. The kidneys, the heart, the liver, the lungs, and almost everything else is damaged from diabetes. Your medications will be increased to combat the deterioration. Your kidneys play an important part in processing what you consume, so does the liver, especially if you consume alcohol. Alcohol will not be as fun as it once was when you have diabetes because the sugar in the alcohol will make you sick. Just headaches at first then worse. This could be the eighth reason you don't want to have diabetes but it depends on how important drinking is to you.


  • One of the worst illnesses that comes with chronic disease is depression. Depression is a gigantic bummer. Depression will ruin what life you have left until it takes your life. I won't say you are going to get major depression like I did but doesn't having a disease like diabetes sound depressing? This would be the eighth reason you don't want diabetes.

The Ninth Reason - Diminished Life Expectancy

  • You might guess that if you have all these other maladies, your life is shortened by a significant factor. People who are overweight or obese are prone to heart disease and stroke.

Erectile Dysfunction

  • If you are a man, you are wrecking your ability to attain an erection by contracting diabetes. There are things you can do to help a little but your sex life will be little to none.

Loss of Digits and Limbs

  • Given enough time and neglect, the effects of neuropathy will result in losing fingers, toes, and legs. This is reason nine you don't want to have diabetes.

The Tenth Reason - Dialysis

  • When your kidneys give out, you will have to visit the hospital three times a week and get hooked up to a dialysis machine to do what the kidneys normally do. If you think poking your fingers or taking injections is bad wait till you have to do this to continue living. You may, on the other hand, have a kidney transplant if you can afford one and then you will have restored your kidney function. This is reason ten why you do not want to have diabetes.

The Eleventh Reason - Doctor Bills

  • All these medical procedures and medications you will be taking are not free. Unless you are very well to do, this is going to be a financial setback and reason eleven why you don't want diabetes.

The Twelfth Reason - Disease and Death

  • Every illness you get from the common cold to flu, to cuts and scrapes will take longer to heal and recover from. You will continue to have more problems with your health and more procedures you really don't want to have until you succumb to the final hours of your life. Reason twelve why you do not want to have diabetes.


Wanting not to end on such a final note, I want to remind you to get your weight back to a normal range for a person your gender, age, and height. Stop living to eat and start eating to live. If you enjoy eating and food, this will require a lifestyle change. The really hard choices in life are the lifestyle changes.

  • Find out more about what you eat. Learn how to read the labels. Reduce the calories you take in. Increase the fiber and protein in your daily meals. To make it simple, eat more fruit and vegetables every day. Eat more vegetables than you think you need because you are wrong in what you think.
  • Cut out sugar altogether. It is in everything you consume so avoid the things you know are full of it. Food makers sneak it in even in the healthy foods you eat. The same with salt or sodium. Eat more fish and white meat and cut back on red meat because you will be reducing the amount of fat you consume. Reduce the carbohydrates you eat because your body converts carbohydrates to sugar.
  •  Eat fewer snacks if you can and smarter snacks if you can't. Chips and anything made with white flour are killing you because your body converts it to sugar. Switch to 100% whole wheat where ever you can. Pasta, noodles, bread, crackers, cookies, tortillas and any other carbohydrates you consume regularly. Drink more water and less alcohol. Get at least 8 hours of sleep every night.
  •  Increasing the amount of fiber in your meals allows you to digest your food slower and get the benefit of the nutrients you need to be healthy. Fiber does not stay in your body but is flushed out and won't make you gain weight. Snacking on vegetables will satisfy the craving you may have for carbohydrates.
  • Eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, don't skip meals. Take at least a 15-minute walk twice a day or get your physical activity another way. Finally, drink at least 12 cups of water daily. You will become constipated if you don't and won't flush the food you can't digest out of your system.

Good luck staying out of the diabetics club!

Six reasons to start planning for retirement now

1. Your vision of the future
When you think of your retirement what do you see? Do you think you will retire early or will you be among the majority of the population who retire between the ages of 62 and 67?

Retirement planning should commence when we begin our work lives but rarely does. Depending on who you work for, some employers get you started by encouraging you to contribute to some form of financial retirement plan by matching a percentage of your contribution. Consider yourself lucky if you work for that kind of employer.

2. Your definition of retirement
The dictionary says "the act of ending your working or professional career." I always thought it was when I could stop having to work, you may think that too.

Unfortunately, many of us will not have enough retirement money to survive, much less enjoy our retirement. We will have to find part-time work just to make ends meet. This should be a motivating factor in devoting time to your retirement plan and diligently working toward building a substantial sum to help you get through the later years of your life.

3. Lifestyle you plan to have
Do you plan on traveling and seeing the wonders of the world? Will you continue to own a home, a car, a motor home, a motorcycle, or yacht? Will you become the expert fisherman you always wanted to be, or maybe the accomplished artist, or author? Will you visit your relatives and children, or play bridge, or bowl with your friends?

4. Funds to pay for your retirement
Have you saved or are you saving for your retirement? Do you know what a 401K,  Individual Retirement Account, or Roth IRA is? It's never too late to start saving, but too often we don't consider what our needs are going to be and do not have the wherewithal to afford the things we want to do in retirement. It is not uncommon to postpone our retirement savings until after our education loans are paid off. That may be a good reason, affordability, but not a good choice. The earlier you begin saving for retirement, the better off you will be.

Social Security
You may be expecting to afford your lifestyle on your social security alone. That is unrealistic, or your vision and lifestyle are quite modest. You might be able to accomplish this feat if you moved to a third world country or somewhere the living expenses are very low.

You should expect your Social Security Benefits to be between $1,000.00 or $2,000.00 per month after reaching retirement age which is between 65 and 67 depending on who is deciding. This translates to the poverty line in the United States, $12,000 for an individual or $24,000 for a couple with two children.

5. Health limitations to consider
As we grow older, our health problems often appear. Unplanned expenses like surgeries, doctor visits, and medications are things we don't think of when planning for the future. Health insurance is another expense we don't realize we will have to cover when we stop working. These days it is more common to have to contribute to health care costs even if we are still employed. Health insurance plays a critical role when we reach retirement age. Health care expenses are not projected to decline, ever.

6. life expectancy - how long we will live
This may be the reason most people put off planning for retirement. Facing the question of the age of our demise is not something anyone is comfortable doing, but even less so at 25 or 30 years of age.

Here are a couple of reasons to get over the shudder of your life expectancy. When you compute how much money you will have (not need) in retirement you can use this rule of thumb. You will have to begin withdrawals from your tax-deferred retirement savings, if you have any,  at the age 70½. The government says so and even fines you if you fail to do so.

These Required Minimum Distributions are calculated based on how much is in your retirement account and how long you think you will live to collect it. It is modestly reasonable to expect to live into your mid-80s, so the difference between your age at retirement and say 86 means that on a $41,000.00 account you will roughly take between $2,000.00 and $3,000.00 per year. On $100,000.00 it would be between $5,000.00 and $9,000.00 per year and you would add that to your social security income and pay the taxes due.*

Contingency plans
Assuming you did the right thing and started planning for retirement as soon as you were employed, made sacrifices, and saved in an Individual Retirement Account, you will still find that things will come up you did not plan for. To ease the burden of those unexpected things you will be wise to have contingency plans for several things that can and do go wrong. What if your spouse gets in an accident or becomes ill and can't work? What if one of your children suffers from an illness that requires costly medical expenses? What if you or your spouse loses their employment and you are faced with foreclosure and lose the equity in your house? Often times people do not plan for retirement thinking the equity in their home is their retirement. That may work for some but is just as risky as putting your retirement savings into the stock market, both have associated risks as well as returns.

*Note the examples given here are rough estimates and should not be taken as accurate examples. Please contact your financial advisor for details on you specific plans and needs. Another option for retirees is an annuity which protects the holder against losing value like stocks and bonds.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Bought a Dell XPS 8700 Desktop Computer

Beware! Buying a new computer is not the happy, streamlined experience it once was. I've been coaxing my old Dell XPS 420 along for 7 years, or more and finally broke down and got a new system. I shopped my heart out. Compared everything every which way. Watched YouTube videos researched reviews and took my sweet time, instead of just jumping in as soon as the urge struck me.

My old XPS 420 computer ran on the Microsoft Vista operating system it shipped with, which would indicate how long ago I bought the system from Dell. Too many hardware items no longer function, or worse, function intermittently, to indicate here.

Suffice it to say, it was time to retire the old boy.

The new system is a 4th generation Intel Core i7 CPU, running at 3.6 Ghz with 12 Gigs of memory and a 1 Terabyte hard drive. It came with a corded keyboard and mouse, and a Nvidia GTX-745 graphics card with 4 Gigs of RAM! It has 6 USB ports, an HDMI port in addition to it's normal video output, as well as built-in audio, WIFI, integrated LAN and Bluetooth capability. Here's the kicker, it came with Windows 8.1.

Problems With Dell

I ordered it on August 25th and it was supposed to arrive on September 3rd, but by the 3rd, it still hadn't shipped. It arrived on the 8th. This was probably the second indicator that I was in for a bumpy ride with Dell. The first bump was, I found a price online at Best Buy for less than the published price on the Dell website and I chatted with Dell support to ask if they matched the competitor's price. They claimed they did, but it took an hour of back and forth before they complied with a matched price. They rode me pretty hard trying to up-sell all sorts of warranties and protection add-ons but finally relented, so I placed the order. I discovered later, I could have purchased it for less if I had asked about dent and scratch availability.

Problems With Windows 10

So OK, I power the computer up and start transferring and installing to my heart's content. This went swimmingly for two days. Then I chose to take advantage of the free upgrade to Windows 10 opportunity and waited a good hour before that was completed. This was a major mistake.

For whatever reason, Windows 10 set all my files and folders to "Read-Only" and I couldn't save word documents or backup my financial files. I spent another two days adding Administrator privileges to my account and resetting the files and folders to Read/Write, three separate times, but the changes would not stick. Every time I restarted the computer, the files and folders were Read-Only. Thank you, Microsoft and Windows 10!

Having had enough of that, I decided to rollback to Windows 8.1, the OS the machine arrived with, only to find out this was not possible because the "hidden" Administrator account  (I unhid), could not be changed or removed. At this point, I tried twice to let Dell know I wanted to return the computer. They ignored both requests, one by chatting and one by email.

Over the weekend, when I knew they were not available to assist, (they don't assist much anyway), I managed to download their Recovery software to roll back to Windows 8.1. That worked, but I lost everything I had loaded and installed to that point. I didn't care because I thought I was returning it anyway. Well, a new monkey wrench into the works. My old system gave up the ghost and died. I couldn't connect my Bluetooth keyboard and mouse so I had no way of doing anything. I had second thoughts about returning the new system about that time.

After a good night's rest, I realized I could connect an older USB mouse to the old system and recover some of the files. The new corded USB keyboard and mouse would not work on the old system, of course, because it needed drivers for them. The old system is so old, Dell doesn't provide new drivers just like Microsoft doesn't want to support Vista or any other old operating system.

There's More

Now Windows 8.1 won't let me change the Account or Screen Lock photos. They worked fine the first time around, but now it's rocket science to get them changed. In my search for a solution, I found this is a common problem and complaint. Microsoft still hasn't figured out how to produce a flawless operating system all these years later. I was around for Windows 2 and MSDOS so I've seen many different attempts at the operating system game from Microsoft over the past 35 years.

So unless you are a computer guru, you might want to get your system installed and your important data transferred by someone who has more experience than I do. This was not a very pleasant experience.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Loyalty is a Two Way Street

I have noticed negative mutated motives of individuals and institutions as I have matured through the years. Once riveted by the simplicity of the "Golden Rule" whereby we treat others the way we would like to be treated, I have noticed it has melted away and practically vanished from our world of fast-paced work lives and incessant greed for more.

I now understand why our elders used to say "an idol mind is the devil's workshop." Left to our own devices, our "human nature" leads us down the path to no good. Trying to "keep up" is fruitless and so we're tempted to revert to schemes and methods that are unscrupulous.

The grandest relationships are those in which each entity supports, encourages and nurtures the other. They put their own interests second and if both parties use this model, both are very satisfied with the results. Treating each other the way we wish to be treated.

Loyalty works the same way

When we honor and respect the other party and are treated with the same dignity and respect, we both win. Loyalty requires we behave in a manner that complies with the rules upon which our relationship is based. We don't steal from our employer and they reimburse us on time and in full measure. Our employer expects us to perform our jobs to the best of our ability with due diligence and we appreciate the benefits that come along with our employment.

We remain loyal to our partners, our teammates, our colleagues and our friends and expect them to return the favor in kind. At least that's how it's supposed to work. When we find out we have been betrayed by our friends or partners, we are surprised and upset and want to understand what the reasons are for their betrayal. We experience a loss of faith in those individuals or institutions that have returned our loyalty with a betrayal of trust. Usually, we develop a callousness to the spirit of friendship, teamwork, marriage or whatever the case is in a particular broken relationship. The truth is that relationship is broken. Sometimes they can be repaired but too often they cannot.

The relationship of employee and employer has undergone a change in recent history and to its detriment has plagued our society with a dysfunctional work environment. Today it is quite common for employers to expect loyalty from its employees without returning the favor completely. The greed that has seeped in on the part of the employer requires the same diligence on the part of the employee but with few guarantees in return. You might say economics created this devaluation and that is a component of the greed factor. In general, however, it is the lack of respect for the other party that is the root cause of the breakdown in loyalty.

The result is very unfortunate in that now the employer sees no reason to nurture the relationship the way they once did and the employee has an excuse not to. So where once there was a win, win situation we now have a lose, lose. Neither party is loyal to the other and it is evident in the turnover rate and profit margins.

Who musters their best effort for an employer who lays people off if the economy takes a dip? How loyal would you be to a company who fired anyone whose employee evaluation was below a certain value? How many employers are increasing their employee's benefits? Too few to really matter. The trend is in the opposite direction.

Is it possible to trust someone or something you do not believe is loyal to you? No, loyalty is a two-way street. If you expect loyalty, your best bet is to deliver it in kind. Treat your relationships with others the way you want to be treated and remember this when you have expectations about the other person.

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