How To Make Winters Seem Short

Reminiscing: After permanently settling in Minnesota and starting a family we did the usual outdoor winter activities like skating. tobogganing and shoveling the driveway. That was fine but looked for something that might offer more variety. The North Stars , a local cross country ski club put out a notice for anyone interested to come to out and try cross country skiing one weekend. We rented some skies and and took them up on the offer. I came  away from that demo of the sport convinced we had found what I had been looking for. It was 1970 and for Christmas we equipped the family with skis. The whole family became involved but I become obsessed with the sport and still am. Following are some pictures of skiing activities over the years. We skied locally and all over the state of Minnesota and Wisconsin and took trips to ski in California, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Alaska, and Switzerland. I’m now a care taker for my long time skiing partner and have little time for anything else but never regret the experiences we had together skiing.

 

 

 

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Youngest son Matt on skies when five.

 

 

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Daughter Ann skied with her high school team and in a

US Junior Cross Country League team  

 

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Skiing with first son Todd and his wife Kim at Devils Thumb near Fraser Colorado.

 

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Joan on a trail near Big Mountain Montana

 

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Skiing near Anchorage Alaska. The temperature was well below zero.

 

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I skied one or two of the big area races most years

 

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1993; Skated the 23K Kortelopet version of the Birkebeiner. Skied my last race in my early 80’s

 

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Joan collects her ribbon for finishing the 13K version of the Vasaloppet race

 

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Skiing on Nine Mile ice. The last time Joan skied

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jobs For Those Displaced by Automation

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Some people have suggested that government jobs similar to those created during the Great Depression to build and repair infrastructure would absorb workers replaced by automation. I grew up during the Great Depression. Many of my uncles and aunts depended on the dollar a day paid by the WPA (Works Progress Administration) to survive. The primary purpose of the WPA was not to build infrastructure but to put some money into the pockets of desperate people. It was a solution to a temporary problem. Automation is not a temporary problem. Automation will replace human labor of a repetitive nature around to globe permanently. An interesting solution to the problem is to provide what is equivalent to a living wage to every adult citizen. You can earn more but in any case would never have less than the equivalent of a living wage.

Proceed With Caution

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Smoot-Hawley, 1929

I’m seriously scared. Particularly with regards to the economy. The Smoot- Hawley Bill, called the The Tariff Act of 1930 raised tariffs on many imports in order to protect US workers. The tariffs were the highest in the country’s history with one small exception. This started a trade war and US trade was halved and is believed to have  been a major contributor to causing the Great Depression. It seems that Trump is using the same playbook.

I was born in the late twenties so didn’t know anything but an economic depression until my teen years. Nothing moved for ten years. The economy was locked up, thousands of banks closed, savings were wiped out, many survived only because of make work government programs. Trump, be careful what you do to this country and the rest of the world.

My Wife Does Not Know Me

 

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My wife Joan and I will mark our sixtieth wedding anniversary in August of 2017. Five years ago Joan had been diagnosed as having dementia of the Alzheimer’s type. Actually I had noticed memory related changes as early as twelve years ago. One of the first things I can remember with regards to this had been her asking what she should wear for an outer garment when going outdoors, something she had never questioned before. Eventually it became evident that Joan’s memory lose had become a serious problem. For example, when she went in for an annual checkup her blood pressure was off the chart. She could no longer manage her medication schedule. Soon after that Joan was diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s. As expected, the disease continues to progress and seems to be accelerating recently.

It is my hope that I can, with outside assistance, keep Joan in our home as long as needed. That hope will depend on my own health, which at 89 years is still good. I am trying to get help for four hours each day and finding it difficult to get dependable help on a regular basis. Somedays I have help, some days I don’t. As a result I am for all intents and purposes fully responsible for Joan’s care, which now includes help with most of her personal needs. I have moved a single bed into Joan’s bedroom so I am there if needed at night. Whenever I go somewhere, with minor exceptions, Joan goes with me. Joan has few diversions so going someplace almost every afternoon is something she enjoys. We seldom eat out but we go to a coffee shop most days, go to the YMCA a couple of days a week, go grocery shopping often so we are doing things together every day.

Recently I have become aware that, despite all of our interaction and being married nearly sixty years, Joan does not know who I am or what our relationship is. I have explained to her that I am her husband and she is my wife many times. She will not remember my explanation even a few moments after I tell her this. Yesterday I showed Joan our wedding album. She didn’t know any of the people in the album pictures, including herself.

I have known a number of people who have had Alzheimer’s but didn’t appreciate how devastating it is until becoming closely associated with it as I am now. Alzheimer’s cannot be cured and will always result in death. For the benefit of future generations, let us hope we find a cure for this disease soon.

 

Tax Cuts and the Future of Manufacturing in the United States

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Manufacturing Cars in the 21st Century

Ah the magic of tax cuts. The cure for all economic concerns. Borrow money from the Chinese to cover the cost of government. Eliminate all taxes and we will have reached nirvana.
Trump has said tax cuts and eliminating bad trade agreements will bring manufacturing back to the US.
I disagree. In the future automation will be a more important factor in where manufacturing will be done than taxes. Automation will minimize the importance of cheap labor to do repetitive and manual task in the manufacturing process. The future for people in automated factories will be developing, applying and maintaining the automation doing the work of producing products. Automated factories will not bring the manufacturing jobs of the type that supported the middle classes in the 40’s,50’s, 60’s. There will be jobs in these factories, good high paying jobs for the technically trained people needed to design install, monitor and maintain the automated equipment. There will be other people needed to manage, administer, move raw material in and product out, and service people like janitors but very few people doing unskilled manual labor or repetitive tasks associated with manufacturing.

Automation is happening and will continue to happen as manufacturing becomes more and more automated. The same thing has happened and is happening in US agriculture. I spent my youth in a Midwest farming community. I was born in the twenties and 25 percent of the population farmed. Now less than 2 percent of the population earns its livelihood by farming and produce more than ever before. US farmers compete successfully with the rest of the world because of its use of technology. One adverse aspect of this is that the farming communities have been and are being hollowed out. Where one family farmed 160 acres in the 20’s, now one farmer can farm a thousand or more acres. Instead of a farmer milking a dozen cows, he can now milk a thousand. They have automated milking for God’s sake. 

In the automated world the importance of cheap labor to do manual and repetitive jobs in manufacturing will be minimized and factors more important than manual labor will determine where factories will be built. Government’s role will be a factor and taxes are part of it but not an overriding concern. One thing the government shouldn’t do is be a barrier to trade if it wants the country to expand its manufacturing capacity. Trade by its name is a two way thing. Trade occurs when two countries each have something the other one wants. High tariffs, such as Trump suggests to keep companies from moving out of the United States would stifle trade and hurt US manufactures, agriculture other trading functions,. Not something a country that striving to be a manufacturing power house would like to see.

Things the US government should do to encourage manufacturing includes insuring that there is a skilled and educated work force available to build and run an automated factory and adequate public infrastructure to supports the factory’s needs. There are other things the government can do, such as funding research for automation, provide financial incentives to help small manufactures to automate, to encourage and increase manufacturing in the United States. There will be countries competing to be centers for automated manufacturing and the United States better get on board if it wants to be part of it. However the government shouldn’t be telling manufacturers how to run their companies. If a company decides it will build a factory outside of the United States that is a decision that the company should be able to make without government interference. The government can and should to strive to set up conditions that will entice, but not force, companies to build factories in the United States. Reducing corporate taxes will not in itself do it.

Blog Master’s Current Status

In a previous post I had talked about how ones life changes due to choice at times due to circumstances at others. As I will (God willing) be turning ninety next year, I have seen many changes in my life. Since the age of seventy-three and until recently I had aspired to be an author. I had self-published three novels and numerous short stories, none of which attracted a lot of readers. Although not a successful author I planned to continue devoting my attention to writing. Circumstances thought otherwise and I have become the caregiver for my wife Joan of nearly sixty years who has dementia of the Alzheimer’s type. The affects of Alzheimer’s have been causing changes in Joan’s mental and physical abilities at an accelerated rate as the disease progresses. As a result my caregiving has increased to where it dominates my days and I have little time for other activities.  So I don’t have the time nor the ability claim to be an author.

So what to do with this blog which I intended to be used to support my writing career? Actually the blog hasn’t been used or noticeably useful in supporting my writing career so that much has not changed. The content has been random in nature so I will be using the blog in a similar way going forward. Sometimes it is a journal, sometimes a way to express an opinion, sometimes autobiographical, a book review or two.

The Last Runaway Review

The Last Runaway

Author: Tracy Chevalier

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The author follows  Honor, a young Quaker women living in the early nineteenth century, as she leaves her English home to travel to America with her older sister to start a new life. Honor had decided to travel to America with her sister after the man she had been engaged to married another woman. The sister, Grace, was traveling to Ohio where she would marry a man she knew had who had emigrated to America earlier. After crossing the Atlantic and on the way to Ohio, Grace contacted Yellow Fever and died. As a result Honor found she was alone in a strange country. This set up the story which revolved around the Quaker family Grace intended to join in Ohio, other people she met there, and around the runaway slaves making their way through Ohio on the Underground Railroad.

The story explores human reactions generated by issues regarding runaway slaves and tensions within the Quaker community with regards to helping the runaways. The Quaker’s opposed slavery but there were dangers and consequences and not all Quaker’s were willing to accept the risks involved.

Adding to the stories strength is a accurate depiction of the environment and everyday life of the period. The books acknowledgements attested to the thoroughness of the research done in conjunction with the writing. The book’s account of milking by hand was one item that impressed me. I have some knowledge of the process of hand milking and the author, who had never had a close relation with a cow, provided an excellent description of the method and the satisfaction that can occur from the experience.

This is a story that deals with the nation’s struggle with the concept and practice of slavery, and also with the experience of life in America as it expanded to the western horizon. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in historical fiction.

 

Alfred Wellnitz Published Book and Short Story Information at:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=alfred+Wellnitz&x=19&y=12

The Great Trump Wall

 

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The American or Trump Great Wall will never be built even if Trump wins the November 8, 2016 election. Even the United States is not stupid enough to believe building a physical wall, a tall wall that could not be climbed over or tunneled under, on our southern border would prevent people from entering the country illegally. Such an effort would be equivalent to building dozens of Hoover Dam’s and costing trillions of dollars. If you really want to build a more secure southern border you only need to improve and add to the technological infrastructure that already exists. Donald might prefer a masonry structure with his name emblazoned on it but it isn’t a solution to the problem it is intended to solve. It might serve as an attraction for tourist in 4016 AD when they tour remnants the Great Trump Wall, built by the greatest nation on earth when conned by the greatest huckster of all time.

 

Alfred Wellnitz Published Book and Short Story Information at:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=alfred+Wellnitz&x=19&y=12

 

Long Term Care Insurance

 

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In previous blogs I have described that my current priority is providing long term care for my wife Joan who in the middle to late stages of Alzheimer’s. One result is that I have not been actively writing for the past couple of years. I took up writing sixteen years ago at the age of seventy three and self-published three novels and a number of short stories. My intent had been to determine if I had the ability to write things that people would be interested in reading. I spent enough time and energy to determine that I didn’t so closing that chapter of my life is not difficult. Now it is being determined if I have the ability to provide the care Joan needs now and in the future. The jury is still considering the matter.

When my wife and I were in our 60’s we became concerned about the possibility of the need for long term care. It was something we hoped we would never need but decided to buy a long term care insurance policy to take care of the need if it should occur. Buying the insurance made us feel responsible and we believed would take care of our long term care needs if needed. The premiums were substantial but we felt worth the protection provided. We didn’t give the matter a great deal of further thought until Joan was diagnosed as having dementia of the Alzheimer’s type when she was eighty two. At that point we began to understand how long term care insurance works.

One thing we learned was that although there is an inflation escalation feature in the policy, it was based on the national inflation numbers, not the inflation numbers that have been experienced in the medical field during the duration of our long term care insurance policy. The national rate has been at less than two percent and the medical inflation rates have been running in the double digits. As a result cost of full time nursing home cost could run two to three times the daily limits of our insurance payout. This could be hundreds of dollars a day. So unless a person has the means to cover the difference between the insurance payments and the long term care costs, the government would take over and assume costs not covered by the insurance. If there is a surviving spouse remaining assets will be assumed by the government except those needed to meet a spouses minimal needs.

I am able to care for my wife at the present time. However, since the long term care insurance will pay for home care within the limits provided in the policy I did apply for two hours of daily assistance; As a result I learned more about how long term care insurance works, at least with the company that we have our policy with. There is a lot of bureaucracy and control. They don’t make it easy to apply for or be approved for the policy benefits.

Naively I had thought I would like to have help for about three hours three days a week. I knew about the sixty day rendition requirement, but hadn’t noted that it had to be continuous for sixty days; every day, seven days a week for sixty days. OK, I proceeded as required. The care giving service had to be approved by the insurance company and then there has to be an approved care plan. While all this is going on you don’t know if the long term plan would be approved and won’t know until the rendition period is completed and it took the insurance company over a month to approve the long term care request after the rendition period.  Meanwhile I continued to pay the seventy dollar a day care service cost, a cost finely covered retroactively after the long term care was approval.

We continued the care service for about five months and then discontinued it. There were several reasons for discontinuing the service. One was that my wife did not want or believed she needed the services of a care giver. That is true as long as I am able to provide the care she needs. The care giver was more for my benefit than my wife’s benefit. Another reason is that that my wife would sometimes become angry and physically confront the care giver. It made it nearly impossible for the care giver to provide personal care for my wife. That the care giver stayed with us for as long as we kept the care services was pretty amazing. The experience became frustrating to everyone involved. To continue it would have been more difficult than doing without the service.

We only had one care giver during the time we had the care service. That person was dependable and capable. Other people we know have experienced a variety of caregivers with a variety of capabilities and level of dependability.  The agency we used paid the caregivers $15 an hour when working two hours, $13 an hour if working more than two hours. The caregivers provide their own transportation and have no benefits. Obviously you can’t expect highly qualified professional help for those kinds of wages. The cost to the user of this service is $35 an hour for a two hour period, reduced to $30 dollars an hour if the service if for more than two hours. So the cost of for the long term care is expensive while the pay to the providers of the service is poor.  There is a lot of overhead built into the system.

Knowing what I know today, I would not have bought a long term care insurance policy twenty- one years ago. The initial premium cost of $212 a month has nearly doubled over that period. I don’t know what the average premium has been but assume it is $300 per month. If I had invested the premiums at 6% I would have accumulated approximately $150, 000 which I would now have available to spend as I wish for long term care. I wouldn’t be tied to the insurance rules and regulations for the service and wouldn’t have to pay the overhead for the service. I could contract directly for the type of service I needed when I needed it. Now if I need twenty four hour long term care the insurance I have would only pay a small portion of it and if my other assets were limited they could soon be depleted and I would eventually become dependent on the government to cover the cost of my long term care. I would end up in the same situation as one with no insurance and no assets. On the other hand, if I did have enough assets to cover the cost of long term care, I wouldn’t need the insurance. So I recommend investing the money that would be used for long term insurance premiums and hope that you become wealthy enough that you can pay for long term care if needed. If not, in the current conditions, even with a comprehensive long term care insurance policy, you could become dependent on the government. The purpose of insurance is to protect against financial circumstances that could be ruinous. Currently, long term care insurance doesn’t provide that kind of protection.  It can provide the government assistance in paying part of the cost of care of for individuals who are covered by long term care insurance. That is not why I would want to invest in insurance.

 

Alfred Wellnitz Published Book and Short Story Information at:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=alfred+Wellnitz&x=19&y=12