Thursday, November 8, 2012

Read the Code

QR-1435-7484-9917B could faintly remember a time when humans actually spoke to one another. It was a long time ago, but QR-1435-7484-9917B remembered when humans shared thoughts and emotions. Little things, such as the weather and if it looked like rain. QR-1435-7484-9917B would ask about someone’s family, how were they getting along. When QR-1435-7484-9917B was happy, the emotion was shared with others, and when QR-1435-7484-9917B was sad, that was shared as well.

This was a time well before the QR Code made life so much easier. Now, humans no longer had to struggle to find the words that would convey their emotions. The QR code embedded in their foreheads was designed to relieve us of this burden, and it did so with great efficiency. Now, when you passed another human on the street, you could instantly learn their entire life story, their hopes, their dreams, whether it was a good day or a bad day, everything that could possibly be important to knowing who they were. What a relief this was to a race that was so weary of human interaction. In the early days, we tried using 140 character capsulations, but that too was insufficient as a means of understanding and relating to our fellow beings. The fact that it was based on one-way interaction soon became obvious, and reinforced just what a revolutionary advance the QR Code was in the way humans communicate.

With boring pleasantries out of the way, humans could get to the nitty-gritty of what we wanted or needed. Let’s say you need constant validation. The QR Code insures that every human you meet will know this about you in nano-seconds. Or perhaps you have an inflated sense of self. This is immediately obvious to everyone you encounter, relieving them of the boredom of learning this about you over an extended period of time. Almost overnight, there was a quantum leap improvement in mutual understanding. Yes, there were still disagreements, sometimes even warlike behavior, but at least we all knew instantaneously where we stood.

So what explains this interest in the so called “good old days of human interaction?” Nostalgia, plain and simple. In every era of human progress, there is always a futile yearning for “the way things were,” a desire to get back to our human essence for wanting to know another human’s thoughts by talking directly to them. Everyone feels this way at one time or another.

For QR-1435-7484-9917B – not so much.

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.

Show Me the Money

Why can’t baby boomers put away more money for their retirement? We know we’re going to need more than social security to live on, so what’s the problem? Besides losing a pantload of money when the market tanked, a slow recovery, and maybe losing your job, I mean what’s your excuse?

The conventional wisdom (sidebar: when did wisdom get conventional?) has it that boomers have selfishly squandered their money on or fancy cars, but that may be just one more myth among the many when it comes to baby boomers.

The National Center for Policy Analysis recently reported on how spending habits have changed over the decades. So guess in what areas boomers are spending more than prior generations. Let’s start with education: costs have increased 80% for 45 to 54 year-olds and 22% for 55 to 64 year-olds. Then there’s the continuing costs of supporting adult children. Remember when you got out of high school or college and then got a job? It has not worked out that way for a lot of the boomer offspring. About half of all boomers are still providing some financial support to their kids. Next up: housing costs have risen 25% from 20 years ago. And don’t forget healthcare costs: medical care and premiums have skyrocketed in 2 decades.

If all these factors are not enough to convince you that boomers have not been playing the profligates, consider how stagnant our earnings have been. Real median income in 1990 for 55 to 64 year-olds was $52,340. It peaked in 2007 at $60,345 and had fallen to $56,575 by 2010. I don’t want to know what it is in 2012, because it cannot have gotten any better.

So let’s review: everything is costing more but you’re making less. So how do we try to close that gap? We spend less on clothing, less on dining out, and less on transportation (there’s some very old cars out there). The experts advise us to focus on the spending categories that we can control but that seems difficult when it appears the cost of living is out of our control.

But let’s end on an upbeat note. Eventually your kids are going to have jobs and homes, and when they do, you can stake a claim on one of the bedrooms and live off their largesse for a while. No kids? It’s not too late to adopt.

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.