Retired before their time, a ride on a plow, and the scourge of value pricing (5×8 – 2/3/14)

The Monday Morning Rouser:

1) THE PEOPLE BEING LEFT BEHIND
I’d guess there isn’t anybody in their 50s or 60s who doesn’t fully understand the fear of the older American workers, knowing that if today is the day your employer decides to jettison you (perhaps in favor of a younger, cheaper worker), your chances of getting another job aren’t very good.

The Star Tribune’s profile of Michael Duffy, 62, is heartbreaking. He’s 62 now, and lost his job as a salesman. He’s been unable to find anything else, so he’s working at Starbucks. He remembers when he lost his job in his 40s, he didn’t have it so tough because he was old enough to have experience, but young enough to feel like an up-and-comer.

He cares for his 27-year-old son who has spina bifida.

Because he works at Starbucks, he’s counted as being employed. Statistics are funny like that; they make the economy look a lot better than it really is.

The median duration of unemployment for 55- to 64-year-olds was 25.9 weeks in December, compared with 15.9 weeks for 20- to 24-year-olds, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But it’s worse than that.

This is the new reality for the younger crowd too, who long ago gave up on the idea that they’d be able to retire. But what many of them don’t understand is they may well not have the choice to continue working past 65, or, in many cases, past 60.

Related: The problem with retirement savings: making enough money to save (The Guardian).

Archive: Life after the “mancession” (NewsCut)

2) IN PRAISE OF THE PLOW DRIVER
Reddit user “pernear” provides a glimpse most of us don’t see of the people who do a pretty fine job of clearing the roads in Minnesota. Her father is a snowplower operator for MnDOT in Plymouth. When it snowed a few days ago, she went for a ride with dad.

Photo by pertnear, via Reddit

This, she says, is a pretty common — and stupid — occurrence: People try to sneak in between the “gang plowing” when the plows plow a staggered three-abreast to do the entire highway in one shot. Some people are too important for waiting, of course.

Photo by pertnear, via Reddit

She says her dad gets “the finger” a lot from Minnesota drivers.

Here’s her full album of pictures. It’s pretty great.
(h/t: Paul Metzger)

3) THE SCOURGE OF VALUE TIER PRICING
More sports teams are adopted “tier pricing,” which is something that’s never been a good thing for sports fans. The better the team your squad is playing is, the more you pay. The more people who want to see the same game, the more you pay. Hey, thanks for building them a stadium, too.

The price of a ticket, however, never comes down no matter what sort of garbage match-up you’re watching.

The New England Patriots have just announced they’re adopting the system — the Twins did a few years ago — and Leigh Montville of the Boston Globe says why just stop at the names and dates of the teams involved?

Credit cards will be handed to the nearest ushers before the first pitch, the same way they are handed to bartenders to start off a night of hard drinking. The ushers will keep a running tally of the many charges and discounts that occur during the course of the game, then present the final bill at the end. Tipping optional.

The weather, for instance, will be charged at the beginning. Temperatures in the 70s, into the low 80s, no threat of rain, add $10 to every ticket across the board. Temperatures in the 30s or below or 95 degrees or above, subtract $10 from every ticket. Rain? Subtract $2 every time the tarp covers the field. Snow? Subtract $5 if it continues for all nine innings, $10 if you cannot see the scoreboard.

The starting lineups. Five dollars per ticket if the leaders in home runs, batting average, and OPS are in the lineup for either side. Ten dollars if the No. 1 pitcher in either team’s rotation is on the mound. Twenty dollars if they both are. Ten dollars, no, make it $20, if someone in the lineup is on some publicized record-setting streak. Five dollars for every player who is leading the league in any statistic except errors or hitting into double plays or home runs surrendered.

4) THE WOMEN OF WILLISTON
NPR has concluded its week-long series into the effects of oil in North Dakota, and it’s led to an ongoing question: Why would you live in Williston if you absolutely didn’t have to?

Even cleaning women are getting propositioned so much, that the owner of one cleaning company sends two women to every job. And now, North Dakota officials are concerned the state will become the new home for sex trafficking.

Related crime: Target data breach could affect real estate transactions (Los Angeles Times).

Related Oil Patch: Faces of the Boom: A schoolhouse becomes a home (Fargo Forum).

5) LAST MAIL CALL
John Latimer has been delivering the mail in Grand Rapids, Minn., for three decades. You can see a lot of nature on a rural carrier route, which is why he’s also been host of “The Phenology Show” on KAXE-FM in Grand Rapids for most of that time. One of his jobs is ending, the Duluth News Tribune says.

Bonus I: The art of the obituary. Today, we praise Leonard Smith of Florida, whose family believed in telling it like he was:

Leonard Smith was a very private man. If you wanted to know his cause of death, he would have told you that it was none of your business. If you asked Penny, his beloved wife, she would tell you that he had cancer, but not to tell anyone. Although his prognosis was dire, he battled on, lived his life and survived several years beyond the experts’ expectations. He did not want his obituary to suggest that he lost a long battle with cancer. By his reckoning, cancer could not win, and could only hope for a draw. And so it was. Leonard Smith hated losing.

(h/t: Matt Black)

Bonus II: Mathematician Chris McKinlay wasn’t having any luck finding love, so he used an algorithm to crack the dating website OkCupid. After a mountain of data mining and more than 80 first dates, he finally met his fiancée.

Bonus III: The Super Bowl flyover from the air.

TODAY’S QUESTION
Should Minnesota limit the use of drones by police?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Minnesota’s party activists gather for precinct caucuses this week, gearing up for the next election season. But as Lawrence Jacobs opined recently in the Star Tribune, the party’s biggest battle in 2014 may be internal. Who will emerge victorious – the party’s more moderate establishment, or its activist right wing?

Second hour: The Winter Games in Sochi open later this week, but many questions persist about Sochi’s infrastructure and security. We’ll discuss the $50-billion dollar gamble Russia is taking, and whether the potential rewards measure up to the risks.

Third hour: What works for women at work?

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm) – Former U.N. ambassador and Gov. Bill Richardson, speaking about his book, “How to Sweet Talk a Shark: Strategies and Stories from a Master Negotiator.”

The Takeaway (1-2 p.m.) – TBA

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Gray wolves have been on the endangered species list for decades. Now that
they’re making a comeback, the federal government is ready to take gray wolves off the list throughout the lower 48 states. And that’s triggered an emotional debate. NPR examines the future of the gray wolf and its troubled relationship with human beings.

  • 1) I’ve already come to the realization that I’ll probably be working until I die. I’m 50 right now, have a ton of experience, and was let go from my former employer back in December of 2010. It literally took me ALL of me “extended UI benefits” time to find my current position (I DID get a couple contract jobs in between).

    I’ve been pretty lucky as my field of employment can lend itself to working as a contract employee or even a freelancer.

    2) “She says her dad gets “the finger” a lot from Minnesota drivers.”

    Huh, I’m not sure why this would happen. Overall I think the plow drivers do a pretty good job at clearing the roads. They are out there at all hours in very dangerous weather conditions to keep us safe on the roads.

    Personally, I give the plows a very wide berth and usually wave at the drivers when I catch their eye.

  • Al

    4) Your answer to the question, “Why would you live in Williston if you absolutely didn’t have to?” For my family: Because, even though the rest of your family is elsewhere, it’s home. It’s where they’ve staked their claim, and where they’ve built a community of friends for themselves and their kids. They believe the infrastructure will catch up with the population, and things will even out.

  • joetron2030

    #2: Thanks for that one, Bob. I agree it’s a shame plow drivers get disrespected the way they do when they’re out doing their jobs.

    I always wave to our city’s plow drivers if I see them while they’re out working.