Mandatory Retirement?

Donna came home after playing bridge and said the ladies were discussing the comment of a young college student that “all people must retire at 65 to give young people jobs.”   Pretty dramatic statement.  Easy for a twenty-something to say. . . . .  

Now if I had been given the “boot” from my firm upon turning 65 (last February), who would lose?  Me — sure.  But the firm too.  I have a knowledge base which has value.    The firm would be deprived of some work.  And the firm would lose one who is reasonably effective and efficient at his job – and one who provides mentoring for other – younger – attorneys.

I’ve read that commercial airline pilots must retire at age 60 (in Europe retirement age is 65).  Now if I’m flying along at 35,000 feet and there is a sudden major emergency, would I rather have Captain Chesley Sullenberger (who was on the verge of retirement when he landed in the Hudson) or a 28 year old “newbie” sitting in the left seat?  Most of us would choose “Sully” in a heartbeat.  Or perhaps a 64 year old Lufthansa pilot.     

Dealing with this question of mandatory retirement is complicated.  What about need?  What about the 68 year old Nordstrom’s saleswoman who desperately needs her job?   What about the small shop owner who is 74?   The small town doctor who just turned 80?  Much too will depend on the benefit of retirement.  For teachers, military and public workers, there is an incentive issue since they can get pensions after a number of years.  And perhaps get another job.  And retire again. 

From my perspective, there is no all or nothing conceptualization on this issue.  Much depends on the circumstances.  I’d love to be around to ask that college student his opinion on the subject when he turns 65.  If he is let go from his job, he’ll probably sue for age discrimination. . . . .    


Sidewalks.   We walk on them – they serve their purpose.   Providing a durable and predictable path from Point A to Point B. 

When I walk to and from the train station, I keep an eye on where I’m walking — looking for cracks or holes in the sidewalk.  Or those slightly elevated slabs.   That habit has helped me avoid trips and twisted ankles and to find money, jewelry, wallets and such as I reported in my post of August 2, 2012.  While I walk, I also take note of those permanent stamped impressions identifying the contractor — and the year the sidewalk was laid down.

One stony sidewalk near my home bears the weathered yet clear date “1912.”  Wow!   A century.  As I walk from the train station to my office in downtown Chicago, I pass two such markings which go back decades.  One is 1935 — six years before the U.S. entered World War II.  Another is 1947 — the year I was born.  I think of my trips downtown — with my parents.  Years ago.  I’m sure I walked here.   Then.  My parents and grandparents and even great-grandparents probably walked on these same sidewalks.  And here I am today — sharing the same space.  Walking with purpose.  On the sidewalk.       

Being a Grandfather. . . .

. . . . is wonderful.  Here is Eve and me. 

Eve has just finished playing Beethoven’s amazingly complex “Sonata Hammerklavier Opus 106.”  She missed perhaps four notes in the third movement’s adagio sostenuto (those darn F sharps).  This photo shows how she is delighted with her performance. . . .and the proud conductor’s approval. . . .

The Chicago Teachers Union – Part II

I heard from a close friend about my last post. He wrote that unions have served – and continue to serve – an important purpose in America.   He observes, however, that the ethic of unions has changed:   “I believe unions served a critical purpose.  Unfortunately, that purpose has begun to replicate the very greed and heartlessness that inaugurated them.  Look at the auto industry.” 

We are talking about a teachers union.  Teachers teach.  They serve as role models for our students.  And yet look at the image that is being projected by them as they strike:  they are degrading and demeaning to anyone who disagrees; they disrupt traffic;  they close streets; they use angry slogans; they have a 20 foot inflatable rat outside of school headquarters; look at and listen to their spokespersons.  And witness the demands.  Mercy!   Maybe it is that teachers unions have devolved and descended into that disappointing abyss of entertainers and professional athletes who simply “don’t care” that they are role models to young people.  It’s become obvious that education is not their primary interest.   But is it too much to ask for teachers to behave?    

What we need is respectful and ethical people on both sides.  Employers paying fair wages and workers making reasonable demands — and knowing what “fair” means.  

The Chicago Teachers Union

They are outside my window at work.  Across the street from my building.  It’s hard to talk on the phone because of the banging on drums, the yelling, car horns, the loudspeakers, the chanting and the noise.  It’s difficult to get from point A to point B because the demonstrators in their red shirts have locked arms and forced streets to be closed.  Public transportation is disrupted.   There is a sense of entitlement that it’s okay to interrupt everyone else’s day.  And they are oblivious to the 350,000 Chicago school children and their parents who suffer.           

Chicago teachers are the highest paid in the nation (see ) and they work among the shortest hours in the world.  Elementary school teachers have 5-3/4 hour days and work 170 days a year (both stats are less than the national average).  While at the mountaintop of compensation and the basement of hours worked, they want more.  And less.  Chicago teachers are on strike.  They are demanding a 16% increase in pay (how many private sector workers get this?) and push back on the need for more school hours and teacher accountability.    The unions want to control the schools.  Hiring.  Firing. Expectations.   Oppose charter schools.  Oppose magnet schools.  No performance standards (as is found in every other occupation).  More money.  Less work.   Protection of the worst teachers.   And it’s all for “the children.”  Right. 

We spend the most money on public school education and we get dismal results.  Our children are losing.  Every day, they are falling behind the rest of the world.  We desperately need to educate our children.   We need great teachers.  Yet the Chicago Teacher’s Union is blocking the door.   Maybe an “Arab spring” on dealing with teachers unions is what it will take.

The Albatross

I have spoken about my near miss of a hole-in-one.  And I’ve mentioned my not-so-secret passion for par 3’s (“Five Feet from Glory”).  I’d love to have a hole-in-one.  But what I’d really like is to score the rarest of golf shots — the “Albatross.”  The double eagle. 

A double eagle is 3 under par on any given hole.  It is a hole-in-one on a par 4 and a “2” on a par 5.  They are a rarity — even on the PGA Tour.  The first double eagle on record was scored by Tom Morris, Jr. (1870 British Open – Prestwick).  The longest albatross was scorred by Andy Bean on a 663 yard par 5 (no. 18; Kapalua) in 1991.   The longest double eagle/ace was by Robert Mitera on a 447 yard par 4 (1965). 

Double eagles are not child’s play.  Yet the youngest golfer to score one was a 10 year old girl.  Line Toft Hansen scored one in 2010 in a Danish juniors’ competition (419 yard; par 5).  In tournament play, 602 doubles have been scored since the first in 1870.  The last one I watched on t.v. — Louis Oosthuizen on April 8th this year on number 5  at the Masters.  The only Tour player to have scored two in Major tournaments was Jeff Maggert (’94 Masters and ’01 British Open). 

Only one golfer is known to have scored a hole-in-one and a double eagle in one round.  Coach John Wooden of UCLA did it in 1939 (Erskine Park G.C. South Bend). 

I’ve read that the odds of a double eagle are one million to one (judging by the score of my last round, I should’ve had one. . . .).  A hole-in-one is a mere 40,000 to 1. 

I’d love that hole-in-one.  But I’d love a double eagle even more.  Maybe if I play from the ladies’ tees. . . .    

Global Warming — Commentary

      I remain a wee bit skeptical about global warming.    

     From what I have read, there has been no noticeable change in land-base thermometric readings except in large cities where temperatures have risen slightly.  Neither of the other measured medium (high air/atmosphere) show temperature change.  With the popular hypothesis that there has been an ongoing natural warming and cooling of the earth, I question the angry trumpets about man’s dominant role in global warming.   I tend to view much of the clamor as political.  After all, there is big money (and political currency) in the “business” of sounding the claxons on global warming.    

     Hypothesis in science (though not in politics) requires testing and investigation.  So far, “advocates” of global warming observe that some glaciers have thawed and conclude that there is global warming (did you know that the Antarctic ice shelf is growing?).  Bad weather is blamed on “global warming.”   We have descended into science by consensus or worse — speculation.  The tragedy is that anyone — even scientists — who want to test, disagree, question or discuss is demonized, criticized and slandered.  

     I continue to believe that this issue should be examined and discussed by people smarter than me.  Dispassionately.  Productively.  Conclusions should be reached by experts – not politicians or journalistsAnd certainly not by those with agendas.   We ought try to calculate what percentage of global warming (if it is determined to exist) is attributable to man and what percentage is attributable to natural causation.  However, we should continue to be ever-vigilant about conserving energy, water, soil, natural resources and our environment.  We should recycle.  And we should declare global war on pollution.     

Sam’s Shoe Shop

An old man was sitting in his easy chair when he heard the mail fall through the mail slot. He got up, stretched and shuffled off to pick up the mail. There was an envelope with a return address from his old Army unit. My old unit, he thought. He tore open the envelope and read that there was to be a reunion. “Wear your uniform!” the letter said.

My uniform. Where is my unif. . . .the attic! He slowly padded up to the attic and there was his footlocker. He opened it and pulled out the pants. They fit. He then shrugged on the tunic. It fit too! But his shoes were not there. Where could they b. . . . He felt in his pocket and there was a card. “Sam’s Shoe Shop – New York City.”  The old man remembered that he had dropped off his shoes for repair 50 years before.  

There was a telephone number on the card so he picked up the phone and dialed.  A voice answered -“Sam’s Shoe Shop.   Sam here.” 

Sam!  Sam!  I was in your shop 50 years ago and dropped off my shoes.”  The old man read off the claim check number.   “By any chance do you still have them?”   

Sam said “All right.  Just a minute.”  The old man waited for several minutes then Sam got back on.  “Okay.  I got ’em.   They’ll be ready next Thursday.”