Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Going Up the Country

According to the Economic Research Service (part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture), some parts of rural America will be getting a steady influx of baby boomers in the coming decades.

Appears we are taking the timely (if you can call the 40th anniversary of Woodstock timely) advice of Canned Heat and we are going up the country.

The report, titled “Baby Boom Migration and Its Impact on Rural America” indicates that as you might expect, baby boomers are going to seek out the rural areas with the greatest number of amenities. This trend is going to favor “counties with specific attributes—employment opportunities, scenic amenities, reasonable real estate prices, proximity to large cities, among others.” The net migration to the 500 rural counties with the most scenic amenities will increase from 520,000 in the 1990s to 720,000 in the 2010s.

This so called “rural rebound” has already begun, as many boomers have pulled up stakes in cities and suburbs in favor of a quieter, more laid-back atmosphere that can be found in some counties.

Studies show that after people reach their mid-fifties, they tend to migrate toward lower density locations. Some empty-nest couples move closer to urban centers for the cultural amenities while others seek out the recreational opportunities, lower cost of living and a slower pace of life in the countryside.

It wasn’t that long ago (try the early 70s) that an earlier rural renaissance was happening, and lots of boomers joined communes, read Mother Earth like it was the bible, and began growing their own food. My guess is that this time around they are going to want the quiet life of the country but with a lot more of the creature comforts they had in the city or suburbs.

Exactly what impact all this rural migration will have on some smaller communities is hard to predict, but I think it’s safe to say there will be a greater variety of coffee drinks at the general store, not to mention Wi-Fi.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Deathwatch? Got Better Things to Do

For the longest time, my only interest in obituaries was how in the hell those people always die in alphabetical order. The companion joke is attributed to George Burns. He said "When I get up in the morning the first thing I do is read the obituaries. If my name's not in there, I shave."

After age 50 or 60, obituaries are no longer the butt of jokes, but rather a perverse obsession with how many people who are dying are younger than yourself. Who thinks about their mortality when they think they are invincible?

Michael Winerip, author of the New York Times Generation B column recently wrote how nervous the obits were making him as he noted a rash of deaths in the age 50 cohort (some even younger!). With a history of heart disease in his family, he decides it’s time to become more proactive.

For the rest of us, every little ailment is the one that could bring us down. Sure, men and women are living longer, but a casual review of the obits reveals that a substantial number are not making it to the 70 or 80 mark. If age 50 is the halfway point, you can take the position (as we do here at BoomSpeak) that your whole life’s in front of you (or a good half anyway). Get out there and do things, eat better, exercise, live well and live longer. Conversely, you can adopt the attitude that it’s all down hill from hegravestonesre. If the big C doesn’t get you it will be H1N1 or an infected hangnail. So you might as well push back on the recliner and wait for the end to come. Grab your laptop and visit According to their homepage,

ObitKit allows you to personalize the obituary process while creating a written legacy to leave family and friends. It is a creative and upbeat way to leave a guide for loved ones so they can carry out your final wishes. ObitKit is a workbook that can be filled out alone or with a spouse, partner or even a book club. It’s a fun way to see how far you’ve come – with a hint of where you’re going and how you want to get there.

So there’s one less thing to worry about. Am I getting an ObitKit? Don’t think so. I’ve got better things to do than waiting for death.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

It’s Weisure Time?

When you can’t tell where work ends and play begins, or you can’t stop reading your work-related email at midnight, you’ve entered texterthe “weisuretime” zone.

Coined by a sociology professor at New York University, the term refers to the way we have all squeezed fun onto an endless treadmill of working. Instead of enjoying life and making time for work, we work all the time and try to find moments of leisure.

There was a time when we debated whether we should live to work or work to live. That seems like it was another century. Wait – it was another century ago. The debate is over and the live to work crowd has won. Nine to five is just a memory in a world that’s gone 24/7. There was a time when only workers who collaborated with fellow workers in another time zone we’re up at 4 am or still working at 2 am.

Workers feel guilty if they don’t take their office Blackberry with them on vacation. They check their email constantly to make sure they have not been sidestepped or sidelined. Taking time off from work is now literally a guilty pleasure.

Multi-tasking has evolved to dizzying heights where one has to answer email, read an instant message and follow someone’s tweets while speaking laser hair removalon the phone – and for the really savvy – texting too. So many forms of communication, so little time. Does anyone have time for real work or is everyone caught in the maze that passes for a communication system?

Can anyone really increase their productivity and still follow what Ashton Kutcher is up to? Can you tweet so much that you become incapable of writing anything that exceeds 140 characters? Does any or all of this social networking bring anyone closer together?

In another ten years, workers won’t be able to tell the difference between work and play, so your only option will be to pick one or the other. So after forty years of work or more, we’re just about right back where started – choosing between living to work or working at playing.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Vanessa’s New Baby

If you spend as much time on the Internet as we do, you eventually run across the meme phenomenon. It rhymes with cream and refers to all things viral. If you have seen the YouTube video of dancing baby...or Susan Boyle singing on Britain’s Got Talent, you’re as much a part of the meme scene as anyone.

If you want to immerse yourself in these things, there’s a whole timeline of memes on

What I’ve realized lately, however, is that there is a genre of memes that can be viral on a very localized level. Have you ever gotten an email intended for someone else, and they have copied about 40 people on it? Then when each of the 40 people responds and is rude enough to hit the REPLY ALL button, it becomes the gift that keeps on giving. It goes viral and becomes a meme, but only locally, within your own email inbox.

My latest experience with a local meme was the receipt of an email from a manager at a real estate office in Malta of all places. The subject line read “Vanessa’s New Baby.” The original message, sent to 40 friends and colleagues:

Hi Guys,

During one of our student representatives discussion we decided that it might be a great idea if we buy a bunch of flowers and a card for Vanessa’s upcoming baby. Thus we will be collecting €1 from each student, remember that this is optional and feel free not to participate.

Should you have any other queries and issues you want to discuss (no recession problems please ), please do not hesitate to contact me.

I knew immediately that it was misdirected because I don’t know anyone who lives or works on Malta, I don’t know a pregnant Vanessa, and I don’t have €1 note. But I was fascinated by the message. What did the author mean by “new” baby? Was Vanessa always pregnant? Did she have some "previously owned" babies? Notice the use of the smiley face regarding issues with the recession. Well, that makes sense – they are in the real estate business and that's about all the smiles they get. Bad timing for Vanessa, eh?

It really became amusing when the responses went viral in my inbox. “Count me in,” says Ryan. “I’m in,” writes Samuel. “Same here,” from Clinton. Then I hear from Milos, Keith, Kyle, Earl, Jeffrey and Vladimir. They are all in. I noticed there were no women responding and began to think that’s how Vanessa may have gotten pregnant in the first place.

After about twenty of these replies to the original message, I realized that this meme has helped me coin a new euphemism for email that goes to unintended recipients – as in, "I got a Vanessas Baby today from some guy in Nigeria."

All of this goes to prove that time on the Internet isn’t wasted.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.