Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sandwich Generation update

A reader of this blog has sent the Arrow an exemplary illustration of the issues raised in yesterday's post. She writes–

A few days ago, my 101 year-old mother fell in her apartment at her assisted living facility.  She fractured her dominant arm just above her elbow.  Her doctors decided that it was too risky to fix the fracture under general anesthesia (covered by Medicare). They sent her home with a cast which is less effective, but less dangerous.

She is now quite comfortable. But she requires constant companion care, because she cannot use her walker nor perform routine daily tasks. Minimum non-nursing care costs around $5000 a week– $15,000 until she sees the orthopedic surgeon again. This cost is not covered by Medicare nor included in “assisted” living.  

The calculation of risks to the patient was humane and reasonable; the savings to the health care system, impressive.  However, the burden of costs suddenly shifted from the institution to the family. My husband and I must shoulder those bills, in addition to the $55,000 we already pay annually for her assisted living. We have been retired for thirteen years, after educating our two children and assembling a tidy nest-egg for our golden years. It now appears that our calculations were completely inadequate.  

Monday, November 24, 2014

Triple Decker Sandwich Generation

Recent experience suggests a further refinement of the valuable demographic researches published by the Pew Charitable Trust (‘discoverers’ of the sandwich generation.) For the first time, the 21st Century finds significant numbers of Americans in Parthian’s cohort squeezed in a multi-layered parfait (or trifecta), as the debilities of age compel them to consider enrollment in a retirement facility while they continue to support an even more elderly parent who is already in a nursing home– just as their later-marrying children face daunting economic challenges to fund an adequate education for their descendants. 

A confluence of budgetary pressures challenge the otherwise enviable position of the highest decile of affluence, the inhabitants of our widespread ‘superzip’ communities. On one hand, inflation of private tuition costs, along with the shrinking worth of public schooling, pushes parents and grandparents to place youngsters in costly private schools long before they reach prep school age, much less college age. On the other end (or hand), the fast-growing ranks of centenarians include many who have outlived their prudently-planned retirement resources. 

Filial and grand-filial duty towards the most elderly family members competes for resources needed for tuition, and for funding the existing or impending retirement of the generation that is at its income peak– even in the short span when two working parents (and grandparents) may be earning quite decent incomes. As Thomas Piketty showed, very few families can satisfy these calls of domestic economic duty from wages (broadly defined) alone. The privileged few require a very high reserve of capital to live as well as previous bourgeois elites managed to do. We are a well-endowed nation. But in the echelons below the fabled 001% who ride the crest of a more-than-linear capital accretion wave, the Yankee maxim, never live off capital is no longer cogent. Inherited capital must be invaded to sustain ‘family values’: honor, love, and gratitude. 

The dynamic of shrinking legacies and growing income inequality, so deftly demonstrated by Piketty, goes far to account for the uncharitable greed of today’s wealthy Republicans, and their refusal to tax themselves to fund even the least controversial categories of public investment, like infrastructure and schools. Better to eat the seed-corn in the public silo, than to impair the vanishing upward prospects of one's own!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Goya at the MFA

On a recent descent to the crypt of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts (to view a Goya exhibit), a friend stopped at the first landing to use the restroom. A visitor with a magic marker had left the following lines in one of the stalls, after seeing the Goya display:

Vampires, chiggers, ticks & leeches
Instill an itch that no scratch reaches,
Succubi the sharpest quill can’t quell.
        Traced in steel, Goya’s nightmare Hell!


Friday, October 24, 2014

Another Clerihew

The Cliometrician, Piketty!
His trends fill your screen
Then regress to the mean:
For a Sherpa, he makes a slick Yeti!

The lines above were inscribed in a heavily discounted copy given to the Arrow by a friend, who said he obtained it from Amazon. He said the world needed to deal with the tectonic plates of history (as it were), and this book was the closest description and the best methodology he had so far found.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Scurrilous Clerihews

Precluded from participation in the engagement, Parthian was privileged recently to witness a skirmish among alumni at a class reunion for Yale School.  Points of honor, endorsements, deference bestowed or received, and similar issues were given a thorough airing. So the Arrow looked for graffiti in the Men's Room stalls of Harvard’s Ames Hall (and similar nearby venues) where he found these clerihews. Others came from a commonplace book left by a humanities student on the Red Line T. Parthian disdains them all, but offers them in evidence for the deplorable decay of decency.

George Bush I and Clarence Thomas,
Ignoramus and ignoramus!
Yale must answer for either fool:
What a place to go to school!

Samuel Alito
Delights in his judicial veto.
For him no law is fine
If it might hurt a bottom line.

John Roberts, U.S.C.J.
Embodies the concept, harm's way.
His typical opinion
Shows the spleen of a corporate minion.

For Justice Anthony Kennedy
Let's sing a premature threnody.
It's time he retired
Before he gets fired.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Shame on Blue Crass

Parthian has reaped a bountiful return lately from the coin of privacy he invested inadvertently when he downloaded “free” apps or donated to political (or worthy) causes. His inbox overfloweth; his telephone ringeth– most often at mealtimes. These everyday annoyances can be managed with a fast finger on the delete key, or by unplugging the phone. But why should the consuming public be obliged to cope with cybergarbage at all? We need an effective “do not spam” list to supplement other very low bars to intrusive marketing. Unsubscribing simply promotes the naive user to a higher level of harassment, since any response indicates that the “unsubscriber” opened the junk that provoked a sucker’s effort to escape. 

Come the revolution, oligopolies will be regulated or dismembered in the public interest, and then we will have a button that enables a user to decline further solicitations, push-messages, and spam, and impose an immediate cost, debited to a bond posted to ensure respect for the privacy rights of the public. Pending the revolution, our providers will persist with their robo-calls. How can the ordinary user of existing technology fight back? Where would a striker picket? How else can we impose costs upon those who waste our time and clog our systems with dross and impertinence? 

The latest expression of our rulers’ contempt for the dignity of their serfs is exemplified by a call the Arrow receives from his health care insurer, daily. The caller is a robot, endowed with infinite persistence and zero empathy. The script is short (before the Arrow hangs up): “Hello, this is ___, your insurer, calling about an important matter. Is this the Arrow? Say YES or NO.” 

Feeling no obligation to respond at all to interrogation machines, the Arrow replies, “If you want to transact business at this number, have a human call.” The response is “Is this the Arrow? Say YES or NO.” The Arrow responds with “F__ You, Robot!”. 

If he doesn’t hang up at this point, the robot demands to leave a message for the Arrow to call back. “Will you take the message? YES or NO?” NO!! “Okay, we will try again at a later time, until we reach theArrow.” Thus, a stalemate is reached between a vexed humanoid and an invective-proof automaton. No mechanized appeal to the Arrow’s curiosity will ever elicit a reply that the robot can appreciate. No business will be done. The Arrow risks “losing” whatever opportunity, warning, notice, or advice that his insurer wishes to communicate in an unsolicited, entirely one-way ‘transaction’. The offending caller loses nothing. 

Corporate harassers operate in a very unfree marketplace. They stand to gain if the ‘missed’ call counts as legal notice enough to trigger a forfeiture, or constitutes compliance with the nominal privacy requirements of HIPAA. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

James Joyce Manuscript Discovery

Dear Schmitz,

For our next session, memorize (and be prepared to recite) the following terms. I will use Georgio’s metronome to measure the accuracy of your accent and delivery. This exercise will provide you with rudimentary understanding of English vowel quantities (poets say ‘numbers’), and I hope that it will improve your atrocious accent.

Learn the idioms below in pairs. I will mix and rearrange their sequence when you recite them aloud from memory. As a mnemonic aid I include abbreviated definitions:

Professional mourner service tear hire
Time to repair punctures tire hour

Label on armored wrappings tear here
Advance man for group guides tour hare

Escalation unit for ziggurats tier higher
Rental Rapunzel tower whore

User of weeding implement tare hoer
Repairman of spilt paving oil tar hayer

Woodsman shredded by a bear tore hewer
…… [torn, illegible]

I will provide drinks if your accent does not defeat you.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Morsel of Verbal Macaroni

On a recent visit to Cambridge, a bit of wind-blown litter crossed the Arrow's path. He stooped to retrieve it for deposit in a nearby bin, when these lines caught his eye. He begs the indulgence of Italian music lovers for sending such a lame lampoon into the cloudy skies of cyberspace:

              A popular crooner had the luck
              To make a pet of Donald Duck.
              Near the end, when pipes will crack 
              And fissures cross the crazed shellac–
                     They craved the sound of Frank’s anatra!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Su Vida es Sueño

Anticipating his possible extradition to the USA, El Chapo has been busy working on his English language skills. He can afford the best tutors, so his progress has been rapid. He says he has reached that crowning point for students of a foreign language, when he has begun to dream in English. When he writes, he writes much more comfortably in his native Spanish.

Through a secret agent in the Parthian cavalry who currently works as a turnkey in Mexico’s securest prison, these lines were copied from El Chapo’s notebooks, while he slept blissfully in his cell, high on the finest opioids the black market can supply. Beside his cot, two books had fallen as he dozed off: Jabberwocky, and Finnegans Wake. 

El Chapo’s Dream
(translated from the Spanish by Elsie Gee)

Inland, I knew, hid Culiacán–
A shaky treasure home for me: 

There Ralph, my nacred shiv began 
Lewd taverns pleasureless to ban, 
Brown as a thumb-prest flea.

No lice knive piles of futile, drowned
Stiff palls that blowers stir, who found
Guerdons' blight from sinful thrills, 

Whore-bosomed, zany with incestuous glee--
Old dears wore corsets, nescient as goldfish gills, 

Embold'ning bunny-shots of ‘scenery'...