What it is like being a sixty-five-year-old college student

It is one thing to say you want to take some classes. It is a whole other thing to actually do it.

I am taking college classes to get a better foundation of knowledge about communications. I hope it will help my blogging. Minnesota Statute 135A.52 sets up something called the Senior Citizen Education Program. The University of Minnesota’s explanation of the program can be found here.

How I got to be a student is a long story but the short version is: applied, accepted, attended orientation, declared my major, transcript analyzed to see what former classes counted, set up official account, prove I am over age 62, registered, paid, figure out how to get my textbook and that all took several months to complete.

What was supposed to be my first class was canceled because of a snowstorm. So our first day of class was during the second week of the semester.

At 5:50 A.M. on what became my actual first day of class, we got a robo-call from the University of Minnesota letting me know due to a public safety situation, parking could be an issue on campus. Turned on the news and there was a gunman holding hostages in a hotel room about two blocks from where my class met. So that happened. I took the bus from the St Paul campus.

I just completed my fourth class of the semester.

The professor is half my age. The 25 other students in the class are “college age.” During introductions, I learned most of them are freshman. I think technically I am an upperclassman but it has been over 40 years since I was last a student on this campus.

FYI – college-level classes require one to actually do homework and lots of reading. I can now confirm the other students are very smart. I think I am doing okay but the reality is, college is not easy. Success is not a given.

Taking a class takes time. It would be easier to watch some TV or play a video game than writing a speech, doing an outline, reading the text. During orientation, they said on average there are about 3-5 hours of studying per week per credit. Homework takes time. It is a 3 credit course and so far I have spent 8-10 hours of studying for each week of class.

It would be easier staying home. It has been very cold, very windy, snowing, and freezing drizzle on my class days. My class is in the basement of Ford Hall on the Minneapolis campus. There is a bathroom next door and you can hear it every time someone flushes. The room is not spacious. There is room to walk between the desks but people hold onto their papers or computer when you walk by them.

Before class begins the students, myself included, find a seat and get set up for taking notes. Virtually nobody talks to each other. We are not a bunch of friends sharing stories from the past week. If you say hi to someone they say hi back but pretty much it is all business. I make an effort to say hi to at least two people.

The students are well groomed and dress casually but neatly. Some have backpacks but most don’t. My guess is the ones with a backpack do not live on campus and the others do. Several have a notebook computer. Some just have a folder and notepad for notes.

Class starts at 6:00. I park in the parking lot on the west end of the MN State Fairgrounds. I take a connector bus to the Minneapolis campus. I have waited 15 minutes for a bus once, otherwise, it has always come within a couple minutes. The other people on the bus are mostly college-aged students but there are a smattering of “older” folks. The class is scheduled for 9:00 but we get out a little early so I am usually home by 9:00. I enjoy the bus ride. People watching is fun.

During the class, the professor talks us through slide presentations on various topics. Questions are asked by the professor and discussions are had. If you do not volunteer to respond, you will be called upon. Over the couple hour period of the class, he makes sure pretty much everyone speaks. We are also graded on participation.

Short videos are shown and discussions are had about the video. We sometimes break into small groups to discuss a topic and then report back to the whole class on our conclusions. The whole time notes are taken. I am not a good note taker. That is my biggest challenge.

It is a speech class. Everyone is very respectful when others speak. English is a second language for several of the students. Some of the students are very shy. Sometimes they struggle to pick the right word to express themselves. At the end of each speech is polite applause. As speeches go, the presentations are not always the best but the content of the speeches is remarkable. They do not let just anyone into a University, I guess.

The professor has said some provocative things to make this point or that. Nobody giggles or reacts like a teenager at the provocative thing. They react to the point being made. Smart kids.

What has surprised me the most? The personal realization that I am a college student who is there to learn just like every other student. The weirdest thing is nobody treats me any different than anyone else, even though I am over three times older than they are.

I am enjoying the experience.

What we perceive often depends on how close we look.

Time for a better healthcare system

Imagine if every single person in the United States had access to quality health care services without the risk of financial hardship. Now imagine this hypothetical healthcare system costing a third less than the current system and resulted in better outcomes. Imagine the difference it would make to both businesses and their employees. Imagine the difference it would make for people if they had access to good healthcare at a very reasonable cost no matter what else was happening in their life.

Universal healthcare is a reality for hundreds of millions of people around the world. The United States is the only industrialized country without universal healthcare. The United States pays the highest percentage of our GNP on healthcare. In the United States, life expectancy at birth is ranked as 43rd best. Our infant mortality rate is rated 170th.

We spend about $9,892 per person per year on healthcare coverage. The countries with the best outcomes spend two-thirds to a half of what the United States spends. There is no credible ranking of healthcare systems which rank the United States system very high. Compared to other nations, the United States healthcare system is ranked,  37th84th, 11th of 11 countries and you get the idea.

The bottom-line is the current U.S. healthcare system cost the most and delivers mediocre results. Medical expenses are the leading cause of bankruptcy. Over twenty-eight million of us do not have health care coverage.  The list of reasons we need to fix the U.S. healthcare system goes on and on and on and on. It is time for a better healthcare system.

The people of the United States need a universal healthcare system. Our political system is not functioning at the level needed to get us there. Likely major corporations will form consortiums which will “create” a version of Universal healthcare which we (the population of the USA) may then join.

The World Health Organization defines universal health care as “…all people having access to the health services they need (prevention, promotion, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care) without the risk of financial hardship when paying for them.”

The major components of a universal healthcare system are:

  • Governance – The policies, strategy, and plans
  • Financing – Who pays for what
  • Workforce – The people who provide the healthcare service directly or indirectly
  • Information systems – The key component and primary focus of this post
  • Access to affordable essential medicines, vaccines, diagnostics and health technologies of assured quality


Governance of healthcare in the United States is a combination of federal and state regulation which came to be from a wide variety of forces. It is a mish-mash mess. What we need is a standardized set of rules focused on quality healthcare outcomes. Our rules should not be primarily about politics and or profit margins. Assuring good, cost-effective healthcare outcomes for all Americans is the goal.

The strange thing about needed governance is there are already established best practices. The information is available. We already have processes in place to monitor and update the best practices. Sure, there are debates about the processes but the discussion will be about tweaks not starting from scratch.

Healthcare does not exist for the primary financial benefit of the stockholders of healthcare providers. Healthcare does not exist to enforce religious beliefs of the few over the many. Healthcare is about providing quality healthcare to everyone.

Financing Healthcare

Healthcare is currently paid for by a variety of methods. Taxes, employer benefits, private insurance, direct payments, health savings accounts, grants, and the like.  I am sure I have missed several of them. The goal is coverage “… without the risk of financial hardship when paying for them”. A new universal healthcare system will likely be paid for by some combination of the same sources.

The real debate will more likely be about whether the system will be single payer healthcare or multi-payer. Single payer is a single public system, think Medicaid or Medicare. Or multi-payer which is a combination of both public and private payers.  Since our political environment is as dysfunctional as it is, likely a multi-payer system will be needed.  Think a combination of Medicaid, Medicare, employee benefit plans, and private individuals all paying for coverage from a universal healthcare plan.


Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are about 19 million healthcare workers in the US. That is a good base of experienced, knowledgeable healthcare workers. We also have about one-half million health and medical finance related employees.

As we transition into a universal healthcare system the number employees in various healthcare related categories will likely shift. Predicting how much it will shift and who will shift is a fool’s errand. There are just too many variables. The key to remember is that we have an educated population and we have the potential to educate even more of our population. We have the infrastructure and processes in place to educate and help people transition to a new work environment.

Information systems

One of the unique things about the USA is internet usage is pervasive. The universal healthcare solution for the United States can assume that people are connected because we have the infrastructure in place and in fact, the vast majority of Americans are connected.

We also have secure cloud services and the ability to use “big data” analytics. There are existing apps for many healthcare-related activities and the expertise exists to create more apps as needed.

I am not going to pretend I know the secret sauce for an instant universal healthcare system. However, from my perspective, the key is the ability for a patient’s complete electronic medical records to be available to whomever the patient designates.

That will allow the user to easily seek other opinions. It will also break the virtual monopoly healthcare providers enjoy because once they get someone in their system, it is convoluted/hard for them to move to another provider.  It would facilitate the ability to shop for a qualified but less expensive provider.  It will also allow the analytics to suggest a more appropriate provider.  Maybe the analytics will be able to warn the patient that the prescribed service is not deemed appropriate to the malady. Maybe the provider would be less likely to suggest an inappropriate service since they know the system will raise a red flag.

The right information system designed with the best outcome for the patient is probably the key for the U.S. to move toward a universal healthcare system.

Access to affordable essential medicines, vaccines, diagnostics and health technologies of assured quality

In recent years retail, transportation, accommodation, and other industries have shown the power of systems to fundamentally change those industries. There is little doubt that systems will fundamentally change access to healthcare. Disruptive technology will likely revolutionize healthcare delivery.


Our political environment makes it unlikely universal healthcare will be achieved by the political process.  More likely businesses and other groups will form alliances which will result in the creation of a universal healthcare option.

The reality is, we need a system designed to work best for the people of the United States. It needs to cost less than we spend now and the outcomes need to be better.  We want that system to result in all people having access to health services including prevention, promotion, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care without the risk of financial hardship when paying for them.

How the deplorable bastards got honest, hardworking Americans to vote for our incompetent president

Deplorable = Deserving strong condemnation; completely unacceptable.

Bastard = an offensive or disagreeable person —used as a generalized term of abuse

The deplorable bastards’ real goal was to promote their own financial and geopolitical interests.  How they did it is what makes them deplorable bastards.

They acquired individual Facebook profiles and a bunch of other information such as age, sex, education, income, voting record, address, congressional district, occupation and the list goes on and on for many tens of millions of Americans. They also acquired information on what Facebook articles we had previously “liked” and when we “liked” them.   From that information, they knew things about what we tended to fear and what we tended to support.

Based on that knowledge and using sophisticated systems, they posted a combination of misleading and absolutely fake articles on our Facebook walls, in our twitter feeds and in our e-mail inboxes. They then tracked how we reacted to what they posted.  Based on that information the posts were refined and re-posted.  This cycle of posting, observing the response, modifying message and posting another reinforcing message, was repeated over and over and over and over again. For month’s on-end, millions and millions of us were each shown thousands of targeted posts


Both the campaign and the Russian government were involved.  There is a legal brouhaha as to whether the campaign colluded with the Russians. Time will tell if there will be legal consequences. Legal consequences aside, that the bastards successfully did the above, is not disputed.

The goal was to diminish faith in our leaders, destabilize democracy and maybe convince, enough of us, to vote for an objectively incompetent candidate.  To quote the candidate, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, okay, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay?”

The deplorable bastards placed a continual stream of misleading/fake posts on our Facebook walls.  Each article customized to our individual profiles designed to reinforce the following types of feelings:

  • Fear and mistrust of the establishment.
  • Fear and mistrust of people who do not look like you.
  • Fear and mistrust of people who are not from where you are from
  • Re-enforce the idea that the way to reduce our fears, is to “drain the swamp” and “seal our borders”.

They essentially trained us to hate and mistrust each other.

The mechanics of how the above worked are sophisticated but similar to what is done in many legal and morally defensible advertising campaigns of our modern world. Targeting advertising to individual’s preferences is not illegal or immoral, it is effective.  Ads and other such posts promoting products and services are continually posted on our social media based on our preferences and profiles.  They judge our reactions and update the posts on our walls to increase their sales, etc. For example, when I got within 6 months of turning age 65 I started seeing many ads for and articles about Medicare Advantage Plans.

What made these deplorable bastards different is the immoral use of grossly misleading and fake articles with the intention of getting us to support a deplorable agenda against our personal and social best interest.

So, how does one convince honest, hardworking people to believe things that are not true and contrary to their personal self-interest?  If you are waiting for a dramatic reveal of intrigue and hidden secrets you will be disappointed.

Here is the truth.  We learn about ourselves based on the feedback the world gives us about ourselves.  If a child has a feeling they are loved, then shown information saying they are loved, it is likely they feel more loved. If a person has a mild fear, then are shown things that reinforce their fear, the fear gets more profound.

If the feedback we receive from the world is honest and sincere, our feelings about ourselves will generally align with reality.  People who are more loved in reality will likely feel more loved. People who really do have more to fear will be more likely to feel more fearful.

The deplorable fraud was in the volume of misleading and fake feedback provided to millions of us in a form we were receptive to.  That misleading and fake feedback reinforced the fears and suspicions for those of us who had mild fears and suspicions already.  The huge volume of negative (fake) information overwhelmed the glimpses of reality that act normally to temper our fears and suspicions.

We see inner-city violence on the news and develop a mild fear of the violence in the inner city.  But when we do business in the city or attend concerts in the city without incident, the fear of violence is thus not reinforced and the fear does not grow.  However, if you see story after story, day after day, about how the inner-city is a war zone it reinforces your fear. The real world evidence you have that the inner-city is not a war zone gets overwhelmed by the news and stories on your Facebook feed. You will very likely come to believe the inner-city is a war zone.

The deplorable bastards created a bunch of misleading and fake negative behavior feedback loops.  Feedback loops are powerful and those not based in reality are dangerous.  They used sophisticated systems to repeatedly spread misleading and knowingly untrue information to reinforce their agenda of fear and suspicion of millions of people.  These deplorable people are bastards.

Here are some stories about the deplorable bastards. 









Six short topics sort of about resources needed to meet basic needs for long-term survival

Topic 1

Too many of Americans (over 40 million) do not consistently have enough money to have the basic needs met for their long-term survival.  Millions more have just enough, with little or no capacity for missing a paycheck or two.  On a related note, the top 10% of the wealthiest hold 76% of the wealth.  The rest of us in the top 50% hold another 23% of the wealth.  That leaves the bottom 50% share about 1% of the wealth.

Long-term survival requires enough: food, water, shelter, clothing, sanitation, education, healthcare, safety/security and the like.  We need enough of these things consistently for the duration of our lives.  Having more than enough food does not enable us to survive longer.  Having less than enough is heartbreaking.  By definition, and in reality, people with poverty level or worse incomes often do not have basic need security.  People close, but over, the poverty level is only marginally better.

Cutting taxes for the rich at the expense of the poor should not be our highest priority.  Having the rich pay their fair share to help support healthcare and various programs for the poorest of the poor seems like a reasonable thing.

U.S. Census Bureau just published a report titled Income and Poverty in the United States: 2016.  It is a technical report with about 15 tables and 8 graphs.  The median household income in 2016 was $59,039.  The rich are getting richer.  There are over 40 million people living in poverty.  There are a whole lot of additional people not that far from being in poverty.

Topic 2

Does being rich make you happy?  Turns out that happiness is not related to wealth.  The key to happiness is good relationships.  If you have not seen the Ted talk called “What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness | Robert Waldinger”.  Take the time to see it.  Amazing.   Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Social connections are really good for us.  Loneliness is toxic.  It is not the number of friends you have, it is the quality of relationships.  Good relationships don’t just protect our bodies but also our brains.

To have a relationship with someone, you have to share common experiences with them.  Whether that relationship is a good relationship is for the parties in the relationship to decide.  Just saying, to have a friend, be a friend.  It is hard to overstate the importance of having friends.  Humans are innately social.  We need to belong.  We need social exchanges.  We define ourselves in relation to others, our emotions and behaviors are shaped by our relationships.

Topic 3

There is a clump of trees on the far end of the giant parking lot behind the building in which I work.  Over the years, periodically, a plume of black smoke comes from the woods.  We hope the person got out because a cardboard, stick and tarp shelter burns to the ground very quickly.  Those in the bottom income levels, have little resources and are without food and shelter security.  Being homeless is a dangerous place to be.

Topic 4

Retired = unemployed.  Per the Oxford dictionary retirement = “The action or fact of leaving one’s job and ceasing to work”.  Retired means you quit your job or were let go and implies you do not intend to seek new employment.  Being retired does not change the need for having enough income to maintain basic needs security.

Life expectancy has risen to 78.8 years.  If you reach age 65, your average life expectancy increases to 84.3.   If you are 65 on average you will live another 19 years.   Think back to all that has happened in the past 19 years of your life.  Remember when there was a real concern that all of the world’s computer systems would crash at midnight on 12-31-1999.  Use that as a benchmark.  The world has changed.  Back then you could not be on the phone and the internet at the same time.

Too many of us forget that life will go on when we are retired.  Things will be different not only because we will have retired but because things always change over time.

Topic 5

Social Security benefits are designed to replace about 40% of the pre-retirement income.  Nine out of ten individuals over the age 65 receive social security benefits.   46% of the workforce in private industry has no private pension coverage.   39% of workers report that they and/or their spouse have not personally saved any money for retirement.

The point I want to make about social security is not really about Social Security.  If someone is living on only or mostly Social Security, they are living on about 40 – 50% of their pre-retirement income.  In most cases, they are living at or close to the poverty level.  Chances are good they qualify for and receive some government assistance.  Often times some sort of subsidized housing.  Which is a good thing to have if you need it?

It just feels to me that sometimes people should consider not retiring just because they can and instead consider waiting to retire until they can better afford to retire.  Conversely, I think more employers should consider being more schedule flexible with their older employees.  Maybe more of them would work longer if they could start an hour later and take time off more easily.

Topic 6

It was 1979.  Inflation was over 11%.  The U.S. was heading into recession.  A 27-old Industrial Relations Director, me, was working to help White Farm Equipment Corporation survive Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  There was not enough corporate cash flow to cover the unfunded cost of pensions for the thousands of retirees.  The White Farm Equipment and Minneapolis-Moline (predecessor corporation) pension plans were going to be terminated and turned over to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC).

The bottom line, retires would get most, but not all, of their monthly pension amount.  It was not my fault.  The Board of Directors authorized the termination and some very high paid lawyers out of Chicago handled the legal work.  My name was on the notice to the retirees, I had to appear in Court and I was the one grilled at the United Auto Workers Union vs White Farm Equipment Corporation arbitration hearings.  Judge Miles Lord issued a restraining order with my name on it as an “officer of the Corporation”.  The restraining order was over-turned at trial.  There were protestors and TV news crews in front of my office.  In the end, the pension plans were terminated.

Several high-paid experts spent many hours explaining to me how pension plans worked so that I could be a credible representative of the corporation in the various legal proceedings.  I did my job, which was not fun.  About a year later I was laid off also.

With time, came some perspective.

This post was some of that perspective.





Listening to the same music for over 50 years is not necessarily something to be proud of

My iPhone is connected via Bluetooth to my hearing aids. The phone’s “accessibility” features manage the connection.   For example, when I get a call or if Siri is giving me directions, I hear it through my hearing aids and other active apps get muted.  I talk to the phone in front of me rather than holding it to my ear.  It takes a bit to get used to but is very helpful.

My hearing aids are tuned to the amount of my hearing loss associated with specific frequency ranges.  The volume of each frequency range is adjusted so I hear the frequencies at the correct volume relative to the other frequency ranges.  It is not perfect but it is far better than just making everything 30% louder.

When I use my phone to listen to music, my hearing aids effectively become professionally tuned custom stereo ear buds.  From my perspective, the sound is incredible.  I have had poor hearing since the 5th grade so this is a way cool thing for me.

Several weeks ago I subscribed to the on Amazon Music Unlimited with its “Tens of millions of songs”.  It might have millions of songs but for the first couple weeks I listened to the popular music from my teen-aged years.  The depth and breadth of the Amazon Music collection of oldies is impressive.  The sound quality I heard made me smile, a lot.

The first draft of this post was about how connected technology made it possible for me to hear my music better.  I choose “Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel as my example only because it came up next on the playlist I was listening to.  I then wrote the following sentence: “I have listened to the same version of this same song for over the past 50 years on radio, albums, 8-track tape, cassette tape, CD, windows media player, iTunes, YouTube, Pandora and now Amazon Music Unlimited.”

I could not put my finger on it but something in that sentence gave me a bad feeling. I tried reworking the sentence a dozen different ways.  Each re-write did not work.  It took some time but finally I came to the realization that I literally have spent over 50 years of my life and lots of money on albums, tapes and CDs so I could listen to the same versions of the same songs over and over again for those 50 years.  I did not know if I should laugh or cry.  At home, in the car, at work, while shopping, etc. for 50 plus years I have pretty much listened to the same set of songs.

Most people think the music they listened to between ages 12 to 22 is the best.  There are all sorts of theories why, but for whatever reason, we all pretty much love the music of our own teenaged years.  Sure the songs of my youth sounded better to me now because of my current hearing aids, but the scary thing to me is that there have been 50 years of songs which I have not been paying attention to.  Have I been living in the past?  I literally had to stop writing for a couple days to think about the answer.

When I started this post, I thought music streaming services were cool because they had all of the music from my teen-aged years.  Now I think streaming music is cooler because I am able to try out all sorts of other music for the same monthly subscription fee.  It is about time that I listen to music other than the golden oldies of my teen years.   You have to leave your comfort zone if you want to live a full life.

I started by listening to the Amazon playlist called “The 50 most Played Songs of 2017 – So far”.  Ed Sheeran has several songs on the list.  There is Hip hop, country, pop, and other genres represented.  The lyrics for some songs are explicit

but I am an adult and can handle hearing a swear words in a song.  Kendrick Lamar’s, “Humble” was surprisingly good.  The chorus includes the refrain “Bitch, sit down, be humble” which shocked me at first, then made me smile and then made me think.  Which, as I thought about it, is probably why it is one of the 50 most played songs in 2017, so far.

It was time to re-write this post.  It is now about how connected technology makes things practical that were not practical without the technology.   Connected technology allows me to hear songs better but also makes it easy for me to explore a whole range of different songs from different genres.  .

I like lots of music but have a limited budget.  Amazon Music Unlimited has over 10 million songs and costs me $7.99 per month.  There are other streaming music services, Amazon is just the one I am using now.  They all have numerous ways to access and discover a wide variety of music.  What makes streaming music so cool is that you can discover and listen to all sorts of music.  The artists get paid when you stream but it does not cost you more to stream more.  Sure you can listen to the oldies but you can listen to millions of other songs.  Not only are there the songs but there are lots of ways to access the songs.  Try a playlist.  Try an artist.  Try an album. Try a song.  Try a genre.  Try a station.  Try the song of the day.

I tried some hip-hop.  More interesting than I first thought.  Give me time I will figure out what type of hip-hop I like and dislike.

I tried some opera, the 3 Tenors were good not great to my ears.  Will listen to some more opera but suspect it will not end up as my favorite type of music.

Tried old country.  George Strait is very good.  Thinking some outlaw country will be next for me.

Polka? When I worked as a pizza cook at Cicero’s at Har Mar and riding in a boat with my father-in-law, I heard lots of polka.  I just listened to “Too Fat Polka”.  It was terrible and included the words: “I don’t want her, you can have her, she’s too fat for me” but I listened to it all the way through.  Probably will not revisit polka for a while.

Show tunes?  The Hamilton cast recording is great.  I like show tunes.

Classical, which kind?  Guitar is great to have in the background while I write.  I will investigate more classical music.

I looked up music from the following:  My nephew was in the Selby TigersDan Cavanagh is a neighborhood kid who became a jazz artist, professor and omposerBuddy Rich was a great drummer.  If you like a punk cover of popular songs, try the group: Me First and the Gimme Gimmes.  A friend suggested I try Celtic Thunder.

I am on a mission to discover interesting music.  I am not in a rush but I have a sense of urgency for some reason.  I still like the oldies but there is lots of very good music that is not oldies.


We live in a connected world with access to incredible things.   I ask my phone for directions to a half remembered restaurant and my phone not only figures out what restaurant I want, but gives me their hours and directions to get there.

I have no excuse not to try that interesting sounding place which that person at the party told us about.  I don’t need to know how to get there, my phone knows.  I have no excuse not to listen to some of the music mentioned by that kid or a friend or whoever.

The past is a nice place to visit once in a while but not a place to live.  Life is about creating new memories by living in the present with an eye to the future.  Connected technology makes it much easier to create those new memories.

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes – Over the Rainbow

When a 9th grade teacher figured out I was functionally illiterate and what he did about it

This story is essentially true.  It happened 50 years ago and I think only my best friend in high school, Harry, knew the story because he lived it with me day by day.  Many years passed before I realized how profoundly it changed my life.  However, by then enough time had passed that I wondered if I had just made up this mental narrative.   When I saw Harry a couple years ago, he validated my recollection.  The basic story is true, but it was 50 years ago and some of the details may be miss-remembered.

I generally did poorly in school.  From elementary all the way through high school, I got poor grades.  I lost (last place) every spelling contest in elementary school.  To my knowledge, nobody thought something was mentally wrong with me.  It was not only academics.  I could skate well but was poor at most sports.  They always picked me last for the neighborhood ball games.  I had friends but not lots of them.  I did poorly a lot and was encouraged to try harder, a lot.  In my head and by my grades, I was a below average student.  I could do some math problems in my head.  I was reasonably good at geometry but I flunked out of Algebra twice in middle school.  I wrote poorly.  My sentence structure, word choices and spelling were terrible.  I assumed most kids were just smarter than I was.  I knew a couple kids dumber than I was so I did not worry about it too much.  I knew I was not stupid but I also knew I was not very smart.

My next-door neighbor’s grandmother, “Grandma Hughes”, was a very smart woman.  She used to call me “the professor” and talk to me as if I was an adult.  On the other side of our house was a geology professor at the University of Minnesota, who would teach me about geology but I never saw him do the same for other kids.  I did not realize, at the time, that not every kid could understand and talk concepts to adults.  The point being there was evidence I was less dumb than I thought I was, but I did not understand what that evidence meant at the time.  I knew I was a poor student because there was an overwhelming amount of evidence that I was.

So there I was, 14 years old in 9th grade English.  Mr. Hanson (I think) was the teacher.  The class was reading Romeo and Juliet aloud.  Each student read a small section.  When it was my turn, I had a tough time reading.  It went on for only about a minute and the teacher had the next kid start to read.  I do not remember if I was embarrassed at not being able to read the words.  I do not recall anyone laughing or snickering.  What I do remember is at the end of the class, Mr. Hanson asked me to stick around because he wanted to talk to me.

He told me that I was functionally illiterate.  I could read, but very poorly.  He did not give me a long explanation of what that meant.  He just said I was functionally illiterate.  I assumed he was going to give me the same advice every teacher gave me, “try harder”.  Instead, he asked me what kind of things I liked to read.  I told him occasionally I would look at car magazines.  He then wrote a note to my parents that I was to buy several car magazines for a school assignment. Then he gave me a form assigning me to study hall.   He told me I was to read those car magazines every night for an hour and every day in study hall.  The next day instead of his English class, I went to study hall.  The study hall monitor, a teacher, did not believe I was supposed to read car magazines so he called the English teacher to double check.  Once a week, at my convenience, I was to stop by Mr. Hanson’s room and tell him something about what I read.

I really did not know what was going on.  By that point in my academic career, several teachers had kicked me out of class.  This felt different.  Secretly, I felt I was the luckiest kid ever because I did not have to endure English class.  I never gave the note to my parents; I just walked to Har Mar Mall on my way home from school and “acquired” the magazines: Hot Rod Magazine and Motor Trends from one of the stores.  A couple days later, I” acquired” a Road and Track magazine.

I was a teenager.  Every night I would go up to my room before bed and listen to the radio.  The only difference was now I would read a car magazine while lying on the bed listening to the radio.  I would look at the pictures and do my best to read.  Every day instead of going to English class, I would report to study hall.  No big deal, there were several other kids in study hall for lots of reasons.  Nobody, including me, thought too much about me being there.  He told me to be there and I was.

After a couple days, I had “read” the Hot Rod magazine a couple of times.  I still remember that the main article was about how to rebuild a small-block Chevy engine.  Each time I went through the magazine, I understood a little more than the time before.  After a couple weeks, I had gone through each of the magazines several times.  At the next check-in meeting, Mr. Hanson suggested I go to the Roseville library (Hamline and County Rd B) and checkout more magazines.  I walked to the library after school, got a library card and checked out several back issues of car magazines.  Every week I went back to the library, return the ones I had and got more.  Occasionally I would check out some Popular Science magazines.

Every day in school and every night at home for over six or seven months, I would read car magazines with permission.  I never had to take a test in English that year.  Nobody ever asked me to read aloud.  I never had to write a paper about what I was reading.  All I had to do was check in and tell Mr. Hanson what I was reading.  As I recall, we did not have conversations about cars or reading.  I would show him the magazines and he would nod.  Then he would say keep it up, see you next week.

At the end of the year, Mr. Hanson announced he was leaving for a new job in Washington DC working for an organization helping increase literacy.  For those 6 – 7 months, I never felt punished nor did I think I was special in any way.  Other kids interacted with Mr. Hanson more than I did.  I only saw him once a week for a couple minutes.  The rest of his students saw him an hour a day, five days a week for the whole school year.  That year I did not learn any of the stuff the other kids learned in English class.  I read car magazines.

From the point of view of everyone but Mr. Hanson, Harry and myself, I just had study hall one hour a day.  Nobody missed me in English class near as I could tell.  My parents never noticed I did not go to English.  Mom would ask how school was and I would tell her but never mentioned English class, there was no English class to mention.  In study hall lots of kids did things like read magazines instead of doing homework.  Everyone thought I was just being the under achiever I was.  However, there I was for most of the school year, reading car magazines, every day.  I think he gave me a C for a grade each of the three quarters.

At the end of the year, I do not recall that there was any special goodbye between Mr. Hanson and myself.  The year just ended and I went on with my life.   It was years later when it finally dawned on me how life changing what Mr. Hanson had done for me really was.  I was 14 years old and could hardly read.  Then six -seven months later, I was almost 15 years old and could read.  Turns out you learn to read by reading.  If the topic you are reading about is of some interest, you are more likely to stick with it.  The words in car magazines are just as good as words in textbooks or great literature.  It does not matter what you read when you are learning to read.  It is just important that you do a lot of reading.   I thought I was dumb but the reality is, I was just a very poor reader.

The first real book I ever read was The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton, which had just been published (April 1967, I looked it up).  I do not remember but I suspect Mr. Hanson recommended it to me.   For a kid like me, it was a life-changing book.  I do not remember for sure, however, my recollection was, for the next year (my sophomore year), I read mostly only my assigned reading.  By the time I was a junior, I started to read also for my own pleasure (not assigned by a teacher).  I think I read a couple books from the library.  We got Life magazine at home and I started to read those also.

Between my junior and senior year I worked at the mini-golf course at Como Park.  I probably read several dozen books that summer.  The library and I became friends.  I still love libraries however; I now prefer to read from an iPad.  I was aware that I had a lot of catching up to do, so I did what I could, but I was not obsessed with catching up.  I was a confused teenager.  Expectations on me were low and I met those expectations.  I suppose I have read thousands of books since then.

I read very little until age 15.  Teachers assumed we all had read assigned reading from previous years.  If I had heard stories discussed, sometimes I had the gist of the stories but mostly I did not.  In college when some professor would reference children’s stories to illustrate a point, I often would not have a clue about the reference until years later when I read that book with one of the kids.

I still tend to read a book more than once.   I make up all sorts of excuses but the real reason is that is the way I taught myself to read and it just feels right.  I did not all of a sudden become a good student.  I did better because I could read the questions and maybe had at least glanced at the text.   My high school senior year French teacher took pity on me and gave me a red D- rather than the F, I deserved.  If she had not done that, I would not have graduated high school with my class.  I had done all right on my SATs.  Went to college and finally passed algebra (I could read the questions).  All of this is more complicated than that but I will save that for other posts.

In hindsight, there were many consequences for not having read much until age 15.  Children’s books and juvenile fiction are one of the ways we learn about the nuance of life.  I felt different from other kids for lots of years.  Maybe if I had read children’s books and juvenile fiction I would have realized I was far more normal than I thought I was.


The basic factors of how fast a car can go is about the weight to horsepower ratio and proper gearing.  A powerful engine in a light car is the trick.  The Cobra is an excellent example.  Handling on a car is about keeping the center of gravity as low and centered as possible.  Also keeping the tire tread level on the ground is important.  The Corvette did that very well.

Racing is really about the fastest car around the track that meets the requirements of that class of cars.  Racing is not about the fastest car possible.  Racecars are not good cars for the streets.  They have very stiff suspension.  They have stiff seats.  They do not have heaters or air conditioners.  They are very loud.  They do not run well at low speeds.

Streetcars made to look like racecars sells lots of streetcars but they are not racecars.  Car manufacturers support racing to give the illusion that the car you buy is like those racecars.  A cool paint job with a Chevy or Ford logo does not make a car go faster or perform better in any way.

What makes a great car is the things you do and the places you go with your car, not how cool the car looks.  When I read many car magazines in a short period, it did not make me desperately want the coolest car.  It made me want to do cool things.

That moment when we realize we are many things that have nothing to do with being a republican or democrat.

Personal identity is your concept of yourself. It evolves over the course of your life. This may include aspects of your life that you have no control over, such as where you grew up or the color of your skin, as well as choices you make in life, such as how you spend your time and what you believe.

Social identity is a person’s sense of who they are, based on their group membership(s). Tajfel (1979) proposed that the groups (e.g. social class, family, football team etc.) which people belonged to were an important source of pride and self-esteem.

A sense of belonging is a human need, just like the need for food and shelter. Feeling that you belong is most important in seeing value in life and in coping with intensely painful emotions. Some find belonging in a church, some with friends, some with family, and some on Twitter or other social media. Some see themselves as connected only to one or two people. Others believe and feel a connection to all people the world over, to humanity. Some struggle to find a sense of belonging and their loneliness is physically painful for them.

This post is not about politics or even political parties.  It is about the importance and wonderfulness of feeling we belong.  It is about how our political party affiliation is not particularly important to our personal / social identities and to our sense of belonging.  It is about when it dawned on me that what political party one belongs to actually tells us very little about that person and what they stand for.

It was a happy hour with some friends of Linda.  A couple very pleasant hours spent with ten nice people.  One of them explained that recently she felt more connected with her past having gotten one of those Ancestry.com DNA tests.  Which led to a discussion of various social, ancestral, professional, interest, sports loving, etc. groups by which we define ourselves.   No mention was made of political affiliation.  We talked about what types of things made us feel connected and gave us a sense of belonging.  It was polite conversation with intelligent people.  It was fun.

The next day I was reflecting back on the previous night’s conversation when it hit me like a ton of bricks.  Yes, many things define who we are such as age, gender, education, experiences, roles, disposition, ethnic background, social connections, beliefs, etc.  However, political party affiliation has become a different thing.  Somehow, in the past 15 – 20 years, belonging to a political party presumes that a member of the party (group) is somehow inherently different from the people of the other party.  It is time to call bullshit.  Political party affiliation does not tell us much about a person.  Party affiliation does not define us well.

Each of us are associated with many groups and circumstances.  We are old, young or in-between.  We are educated to some level or another.  Our ancestors come from this place or that.  We have our personal religious views.  We are relatively rich or poor.  We live here or there.  We have health issues.  We may or may not have kids.  If we do have kids, they are at different stages of their lives.  We are urban, rural or suburban.  We use connected technology to varying degrees.  We have hobbies, jobs and relationships.  We are not just either a republican or a democrat.  We are not mainly just any one thing.  We are many things.

All humans are the same species: Homo sapiens.  While no two humans are genetically identical, in terms of DNA sequence, each human is about 99.5% similar to any other human.  We have individual differences, none the less we are biologically more similar to each other than most of us thinks.  That said, each of our individual life situations are different from the life situation of others.  We each have a wide variety of life circumstances, the combination of which are unique to each individual person.  The key here is not that any single circumstance of our life is unique to you.  Being age 65 is not unique to me.  There are after all, many people are age 65.  Many people also live in St Paul MN.  Many people have a degree from a University.  Many people have kids and grandkids.  The list of experiences and groups each of us is associated with is long.  Many people share individual aspects of our circumstance.  However, the unique combination of each of our individual circumstances makes each of us unique.  It also rather defines our identity.

Being a republican or democrat might be a small part of who we are but we are many other things also.  Take away the label of democrat or republican and the reality is that it would barely change the definition of whom that person is.  I am still a 65-year-old man living in St Paul.  I am still married.  Virtually no aspect of my life changes whether I am a republican, democrat or neither.

That said, once you become an adult and choose a political party; very few people actually ever change or denounce their political party.  It happens, but does not happen very often.  The weird thing is that people will stick with their political party even when they disagree with much of what the party stands for.  For most people, party affiliation helps give them a sense of civic belonging that is far more important to them than the nuance of public policy.  It binds you to something bigger than yourself.

That is why it was such a shock when I realized that party affiliation was not a big part of what defines me, even in a political sense.  I have opinions, some of them informed, that define me much better than which party I align with.  Healthcare should be available to everyone; we should focus on reducing the cost of providing healthcare for everyone.   Rural America needs broadband badly.  We need to replace the billions of trees cut down to build this nation.  Education is more important than ever but we need to come up with a more cost effective approach to attain an education.  I like Amazon but I worry it is getting too entrenched in the core of our lives.  We live in a connected global world, pretending we do not is not good policy.  The list goes on.  None of these positions is very controversial outside of the context of party politics.  All of them are controversial inside the context of party politics.


Humans are tribal.  Not anyone of us humans can survive alone.  We need others and others need us.  There is a good reason a sense of belonging is such a powerful feeling.  Feeling rejected or a sense of not belonging is devastating.  It might be good politics to define the world as us versus them but the reality is we all are the same species and genetically unbelievably similar to each other.  Our species literally cannot survive if we do not work together.  Our genetic differences result in trivial things like height, skin tone, eye color, and the like.   What makes us unique is the circumstances of our lives.  The circumstances of our lives make us interesting.

It would serve us well not to define others and ourselves primarily by party affiliation.  Governance requires compromise and cooperation.  Moderation should be our mantra.  The political parties should help us work through the nuanced details of governance.  Political parties should not define us; we should define the political parties.   We are all trying to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”  The goal is not winning an election so we can force our will on others.  The goal should be to work together for the common good.

We are all in this together.  We need to work together.  If our political parties are dividing us, they are not providing the function we need them to provide.  We need to work together to survive.

Finally, our species originated in east Africa.  Ancestry.com DNA will always thus have some east Africa indicators.  Over tens of thousands of years, our species slowly migrated over a couple different paths.  Virtually everyone’s DNA will indicate their ancestors came from the regions they passed through along the migration path.  However, know that once humans obtained the ability to travel relatively rapidly (past couple hundred years) the slight ancestral regional differences in our DNA is often combined DNA from a different migration path. A generation is about 25 years.  With each passing generation, we are ancestrally from everywhere and less and less from a particular somewhere.

What DNA actually looks like from; The Atlantic.

The President of the United States of America is not fit for office

The principles of democracy (technically USA = democratic republic) include:

  • Social equality – the notion that all citizens should have equal access to political participation
  • Majority rule – rather than total consensus.
  • Minority rights – defends minority rights, whether to religion, expression, assembly or fair legal process
  • Freedom – unfettered, except by legislation to safeguard the ultimate aim of mutual respect. Basic freedoms of religion, speech and travel, among others
  • Integrity – is about honesty and compassion and the absence of corruption
  • Justice – protects all people from being treated unfairly by the law
  • Equality – every man, woman, and child is given the same basic opportunities to find happiness and success

Upholding these principles is the basic job of the President of the United States of America.  Certainly, there is a political process where various social groups and political institutions interact to create public policy.  There is disagreement how to implement our principles of democracy but the principles themselves are not up for debate.  They are the bedrock of what democracy is.

A President of the United States of America acting contrary to the principles of democracy is not fit for office.  Nobody is perfect.  We should forgive some minor transgressions.  The measure as to whether or not a President is fit for office is not about minor transgressions.  It is exactly about whether the President consistently and repeatedly acts in accordance with social equity, majority rule, minority rights, freedom, integrity, justice and equality.  In private and publicly.  In actions and deeds.  In principle and as a practical matter.

My opinion is that the current President is not fit for office because he acts contrary to the principles of democracy.  I am not sure he deliberately acts contrary to the principles of democracy.  He might not even know the principles of democracy.  Like you, I am entitled to my opinion.  Go down the list of the principles of democracy and ask yourself if you think the President of the United States generally upholds those principles.  If he does not, he is not fit for office.

Whether one is a Democrat or Republican is not particularly relevant here.  Both parties fully support the principles of democracy.  It is not even relevant for the many who believe that neither party represents their point of view, but even they still believe in the principles of democracy: social equity, majority rule, minority rights, freedom, integrity, justice and equality.  Certainly, some do not believe in the principles of democracy.  They have that right in our great land.  If they work within the framework of our constitution and political process, maybe they can change the principles we want to live within.   One of the great things about this country is it can evolve.

I call the question: Does the current President of the United States of America act in a way that upholds the principles of democracy?  I feel it is obvious that he does not.  I think most people agree with me. In private, in public, in actions taken, in deeds done, in principle and as a practical matter each of the principles individually and collectively he ignores these principles.  Not just technically but flagrantly.  All of the time.  He is not worried about justice for all, only for himself.  He is not worried about the integrity of his office, only about self-promotion. He is not worried about majority rule only about using quirks in the systems to get things passed.  Freedom and equality are not his concerns.

Maybe his supporters do so because he does not conform to the principles of democracy.  Maybe unprincipled incompetence serves them better than principled competence.  If democracy is good, then intentionally hurting democracy is bad.  If democracy is the goal, then the President of the United States of America is not headed in that direction.

Each of us is responsible to make up our own mind.  Each of us have a right to a different point of view.  Nevertheless, the fitness of the President to uphold the principles of democracy is in question.  It is one of those times in our national history when it is important to pay attention and make your opinion heard.  Make your opinion known respectfully and within legally accepted methods but it is time to get your voice heard by your representative.

To find and contact your federal representatives go to Democracy.IO

I recommend you also contact your local and state level representatives.  Not because they get a vote about the presidency but more to just let them know you care about democracy.

I have no idea how this story will end.  I hope democracy wins.  It feels to me that most people of both parties are ready for some changes in representatives.  My hope is that we the people come to appreciate that change can be back to a more moderate perspective.  Extreme points of view get the attention of cable news and sells books but they are not the way to bring the nation together to solve our common issues.  Making your voice heard is the way to bring us together.




The employment picture in the US is good

My first career type job was as an Unemployment Insurance (UI) Claims Clerk in the Minneapolis Unemployment Office in 1975. The unemployment rate (9%) was over twice what it is now. Back then, claimants reported in person to get their checks. Having talked to thousands of unemployed people, all of us clerks ended up with a better than average understanding of jobs and the flow of the labor market. That was 40 years ago. Times change.

Minneapolis office of MN Employment Services circa 1970s. Now it is the City of Lakes building.

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. – Confucius.

Sorry Confucius, in the past 10 to 20 years, almost every job has changed. New technology changes things. As the jobs change, the skill set needed to do the jobs change also. Not only did the jobs change but also the mix of jobs is much different than it was. Detailing how things have changed is a fool’s errand. Therefore, this post ignores what has changed and instead focuses on the way it is now.   This post is about today’s employment picture.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the U.S. Census Bureau (Census) publish all sorts of data on employment. They are the source of all data below unless stated otherwise.

Albert Einstein famously said; “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” You are the judge as to if understanding translates into simple explanation.

The employment policy folks categorize the 325 million U.S. population into four groups:

  1. Under age 16, institutionalized or military = 70.5 million (By definition this group is ignored in labor statistics)
  2. Employed = 153 million (people who have a job)
  3. Unemployed = 7 million (able, available and actively seeking work)
  4. Not in labor force = 94.3 million (everyone not in one of the above categories) – Think: retired, students, home caregivers, ill, discouraged workers, etc.)

The labor force is employed plus unemployed = 160.1 million

The unemployment rate is the unemployed divided by labor force (7 / 160.1) = 4.4%

Source Bureau of Labor Statistics – Unemployment rate for workers age 16 or older 1975 to present. Note during this 42-year period, only January 1999 – April 2001 had an unemployment rate (3.8% – 4.3%) lower than it is now (4.4%.)

About 7 million were unemployed on the day of the snapshot (always the 12th of the month), however, during the duration of the month prior to the snapshot; about 16.2 million people changed their status between “employed”, “unemployed” and “not in labor force”. Officially, called labor force status flow. Unofficially labor churn.  The rate of status changes has been stable for a couple years. The pattern has been:

  • 26% will find a job before the 12th of the following month.
  • 26% will leave the labor force: retire, go to school, care for relative or kids, etc.
  • 48% will remain unemployed for the entire month. The median duration of unemployment is currently 10.2 weeks.

According to the BLS, during March 2017 there were 5.3 million new hires and 5.1 million separations (quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separation). When hires exceed separations, employment is increasing. Overall, in the 12 months ending in March 2017 hires have exceeded separations by 6.9 million. However, note that within the overall increase, some occupations increased and others decreased their total employment.

There are three types of unemployment:

  • Cyclical unemployment – insufficient demand for labor – More people unemployed than jobs available.
  • Structural unemployment – mismatch between “the skills or location of unemployed workers” and “the skills required by, or location of, available jobs.” Structural unemployment can sometimes act like a zero sum game: when the unskilled person does not get the job, another person with skills, does. The net change in number employed or unemployed is zero.
  • Frictional unemployment – the time it takes to find a job even when there is sufficient demand for labor. Just between jobs

There is a floor to the unemployment rate (approximately 2.5 – 3.5%) below which it is very tough to go because of frictional unemployment. The hiring process takes time, (apply, interviewed, hired and start new job) thus, there will usually be an average of a couple of weeks of unemployment even when there are far more jobs than applicants for those jobs.

Those affected by structural unemployment tend to be unemployed for a longer duration. Cyclical unemployment is most often a recession or depression.

 Employment distribution by occupation

Note that methodology and assumptions are different for the numbers above compared to the methodology and assumptions used for employment distribution. The numbers below exclude proprietors, unincorporated self-employed, unpaid volunteer or family employees, farm employees, domestic employees, and employees of federal security agencies (NSA, CIA, etc.). In addition, there is a difference in the sampling methodology used. However, the pattern is clear.

The number of employed get divided into two categories: Goods producing and Service providing. Detailed totals by sub-categories of occupations are at Current Employment Statistics – CES (National).  Here are some high level numbers.

  • Goods-producing (19,589,000) 14% of total
    • Mining and logging                                                   683,000
    • Construction of buildings                                        1,478,000
    • Heavy and civil engineering construction                    887,800
    • Specialty trade contractors                                     4,214,200
    • Durable goods manufacturing                                 7,708,000
    • Nondurable goods                                                  4,618,000
  • Service-providing (125,364,000) 86% of total
    • Wholesale trade                                                      5,878,800
    • Retail trade                                                            15,618,500
    • Transportation and warehousing                                4,986,500
    • Utilities                                                                      553,300
    • Information                                                             2,734,000
    • Financial activities                                                    8,356,000
    • Professional and business services                           20,339,000
    • Education and health services                                  23,113,000
    • Leisure and hospitality                                            15,397,000
    • Other services                                                          5,696,000
    • Federal government                                                  2,797,000
    • Postal service                                                              615,600
    • State government                                                    5,249,000
    • Local government                                                   14,646,000

Obviously, with 86% of jobs being in the service providing category we are in a service economy.   Note the 14% goods producing category is 8.6% manufacturing and only 5.4% is construction and mining. Blue-collar work has become a relatively small portion of the total number of jobs.


96.4% of people who want a job have one. Over half of the remaining 4.4% of the labor force will either be employed or not in the labor force within a month.

The 153 million employed people are in a wide variety of jobs. The jobs base is wide and diversified. This broad base of jobs means opportunities in other sectors can offset another sectors decline. Each month 16.2 million (10%) of the labor force has a change their labor force status. Employees flow between employment sectors. As retail stores closes, most of the effected employees find new jobs, often before the actual store closure. When the fortune 500 company announces a workforce reduction, attrition handles most of the reduction. Workers are going to where needed and leaving where they are not.

There are more new hires than there are employees separated from employment. The employee in training that took my order at the coffee shop the other day had re-entered the labor force after a year of retirement. She said she missed interacting with people and could use the extra money.

Baby boomers are leaving the labor force and low fertility rates are not fully replacing them. Even with immigration, the labor force will be growing very slowly until 2024. Technology and changes in demand will continue to reshape the jobs picture. As jobs changed, the workers adapted. As the job-mix changed, the workers adapted.

Confucius was wise but the jobs are different and likely to continue to change. It is what it is. Most people have already embraced it. If you have not yet done so, my advice for all is to get your technology skill sets up to date. If you have the opportunity to learn new technology, do it. The biggest shock when I did the research for this post was that most employment sectors had already adjusted to new technology. Blue-collar does not mean done without technology. Agriculture does not mean done without technology. Oil drilling does not mean done without technology.

We heard great stories at the head of the unemployment line. The best ones were from a smiling face, telling us they start a new job next week and that it feels like a good fit.

Fear of murder in Minnesota

Linda (spouse) went to an event downtown Minneapolis with her knitting group.  They had a great time.  I was whining to a co-worker how I did the laundry while Linda was off having fun.  To my surprise, my co-worker questioned the wisdom of letting Linda go downtown at night because of the danger of being murdered.  I chuckled at the thought of dictating where and when Linda went with her knitting club.  (A strong-willed fun-loving group of women)  I also thought my co-worker was joking about being murdered, but she was not.  It occurred to me that she did not know just how unlikely it is to be murdered.  Whether you go downtown or anywhere else.  Fear of murder in Minnesota is the topic of this post.

Google stock image (or is it me doing the laundry?)

According to 2015 Uniform Crime Report published by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension there were 144 murders in Minnesota in 2015.  Of that number, five offenses were negligent and nine were unfounded or justifiable, yielding 130 criminal homicide victims.  Two-thirds (82) of the murders were committed by an acquaintance or relative.  Of the remaining third, some were where the offender and victim did not know each other but it was not random.  Think of gang on gang murders or somebody targeting a particular person.

Bottom line is of the 144 murders in the entire state for the entire year, only a small number (50 or less) were a random victim in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The population of Minnesota was 5,489,952 in 2015 according to the US Census Bureau.  All but 144 (5,489,808) were not murdered.  All but about 50 (5,489,902) were not murdered by some random, unknown person.  Add to that there are 365 days in a year.  In the entire state, on average there is about one murder committed per week against a person unknown by the offender.  The odds of being that one person out of 5.4 million people who is literally in the wrong place at the wrong time is so small that you are many times more likely to have a heart attack worrying about it.

Over forty-one thousand Minnesotans die annually.  Most die from a medical issue: mostly heart conditions (about 10,600) or cancer (about 10,000).  Too many of them committed suicide (about 760).  Another 572 died from an overdose, 216 of which were from opioid pain relievers.

The top 10 leading causes of death in the United States.

  1. Heart disease. (23.4%)
  2. Cancer (malignant neoplasms) (22.5%)
  3. Chronic lower respiratory disease. (5.6%)
  4. Accidents (unintentional injuries) (5.2%)
  5. Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases) (5.1%)
  6. Alzheimer’s disease. (3.6%)
  7. Diabetes. (2.9)
  8. Influenza and pneumonia. (2.1)
  9. Kidney disease (nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis) (1.8%)
  10. Suicide (intentional self-harm) (1.6%)

You are over 14,000 times more likely to die from a heart condition or cancer than being murdered.  Almost four times more people die from an overdose than die from murder.  The 144 murders are less than the rounding error in the about 41,000 that died.

The scary headline about a horrific murder, while sad, does not make your death by murder statistically more likely.  You are extremely unlikely to be murdered.   It could happen but most other forms of death are far more likely.  Murdered by someone you do not know is even less likely.

Not saying you should go out of your way to aggravate dangerous people.  Do what is takes to protect yourself.  However, I am saying you should not let fear of being murdered prevent you from participating in the life you want to lead.  Your driving habits are far more relevant to your safety than being murdered is.

What personally bothers me is all of the special interest groups that promote the danger of murder to further their interests.  Certainly many of these special interest groups are not nefarious.  However, there they are trying to scare people to get votes, sell papers, justify budgets, sell hardware, get people to take their training, scare their kids, promote remote resorts, etc.  My blog is Scale and Perception exactly because of issues like this.  Where the perception of reality does not align with the actual measure (scale) of that reality.

Murder happens and it is terrible.  The idea of murdered just because you were in the wrong place at the wrong time is scary.  Yes, it could happen, but do not live in fear of it happening.  Go for that walk, attend that concert, take that vacation, go to the theatre downtown, go to the weird restaurant, do what it takes to live your life.  Want to extend your life, get a checkup, exercise, drive carefully, talk to a therapist, take your meds, do not text and drive, etc.

Do not let the politician, news, friend or neighbor scare you about imagined dangers.  Just saying.