553 Days

On May 15th of 2015 Laurie and I retired from Centurylink Communications. Two years have passed since we walked out the doors of 200 South 5th Street in Minneapolis. On November 6th of that same year we sold our house in South Saint Paul and on November 9th we closed on our new home in Deadwood. We have been living in the Black Hills now for 553 days.

Centurylink seems like a million years ago at this point.

We’re no longer the ‘new people on the block’ in Deadwood. We’ve made a lot of friends and both of us hold down part time jobs at the local establishment ‘Deadwood Dick’s’.


It’s been a pretty big change from working for a 40,000 employee Fortune 500 telecommunications company to a hotel-bar-restaurant-antique store employing about ten people!

Living in Deadwood itself is just as big a change; going from the Twin Cities, a bit over 3,000,000 people in the metropolitan area, to a town of 1270. Life here moves at an entirely different pace; it’s very much tied to the changing seasons, weather, tourism, and Black Hills National Forest.

Moving to Deadwood was, without a doubt, the second smartest decision Laurie and I ever made together.

It’s been almost two years since I last posted to this blog. Quite frankly I was a bit surprised to find out it was even still here! One of the things I promised myself when I retired from Centurylink was that I would find the time to indulge my passion for history. Life is far too short not to do what you love doing. Now I can find the time to do some of the research I’ve always wanted to do.

I’ll probably be posting some of that here. Hopefully, with a little discipline and patience, I’ll try to add something each week. So the blog is going to be active again. Keep track, you never know what I might find.


It has now been more than a month since Laurie and I retired from Centurylink. Things have generally gone as planned; we are still living in the People’s Republic of Minnesota but we fully expected this. Our plans are moving ahead.

The world has been evolving in this time. Quite a bit of these changes are things I’ve fully expected.

The Coming Greek Default

I really anticipate we will see more economic defaults as various nations confront long legacies of fiscal ineptitude. It will be interesting to see what the euro looks like by the end of this year. It will be even more interesting to see how the evolution of economics effects lifestyles everywhere.

Then you have the exponential evolution of technology; I can remember when people were worried about losing their jobs to foreign outsourcing. The fact is foreign outsourcing, in my opinion, isn’t even a fraction of the threat that automation is. I’ve already seen this personally in the telecommunications industry and I have to say more jobs have been replaced by a machine than a foreign contractor.

Automation evens hits the Outsourcers

Even China, perhaps the largest outsourcing country of them all, is going to face some economic dislocation from technology.

The World is Changing…

The world is changing, we are seeing a cycle of evolutions and revolutions. This is all happening on both micro levels of as small as how we eat to macro levels as great as wars and mass migrations. We are seeing shifts in economic stability that threaten what has been the order of things for decades and technology that is changing the fundamental foundations of what we are as people.

My opinion is we can’t stop it; we need to evolve with it.

The street finds its own uses for things“: William Gibson, ‘Burning Chrome, 1982

It’s my opinion, as an avid student of history, that in the future success will be defined by how we use evolving technologies within the economic circumstances encountered. This has been the way it has always been, from when the internal combustion engine replaced the horse and the telephone became the first real universal application.

So let me show you a bit of the future…

‘Second Life’ and other Virtual Worlds

Philip Rosedale explains Second Life

Laurie and I have been users of ‘Second Life’ long enough that we can validly be called residents of this virtual world. To a lot of people it never lived up the to hype it initially received when it first opened in 2003 but ‘Second Life’ never went away. The fact is this virtual world is probably the most successful of the 3D digital virtual worlds that still exists today.

With the advent of more powerful graphics cards for computers, wider broadband deployment, more cost effective computers and the emerging new 3D technology of such things as ‘Oculus Rift’ I do believe the use of virtual worlds will become more common. There might even come a day when people will look back at the 2D web, such things as Facebook, as out of date and obsolete.

Oculus Rift and Second Life

I have seen how virtual world technology can effect people’s lives both beneficially and negatively. In my time in ‘Second Life’ I have seen both constructive use and abuse by it’s users. Though I can say that it’s use for good far exceeds the bad. This is a social media that allows people from around the world to meet, to share and better experience their lives.

Laurie and I have made quite a few friends in ‘Second Life’; some of these have become friends that we have gone onto meet in the ‘Real World’. In the case of one person we have added her to our virtual family. Let me introduce Piper Hanriot:

Snapshot_010 (2)

Piper Hanriot

Piper belongs to a wonderful friend of ours in the United Kingdom. It would have probably only been possible through ‘Second Life’ for us to have met her. We both consider Piper and the lady behind Piper to very much be a member of our family, both Virtual and Real. I’m sure we will be talking about her more in the future.

I think that the day is already here when virtual platforms of one sort or another will be used to allow people the ability to communicate on a level never envisioned with more conventional means like telephones or common 2D web pages. In our experience we have seen people starting to use this technology to build business, create political movements, and start lasting relationships.

I’ll probably be talking more about ‘Second Life’ in the future. This is just one technological opportunity available in an evolving world. I’ll no doubt even talk a bit about our friends in ‘Second Life’ and some of their notable endeavors. No matter how bad things might get in the world there will be hope for the future as long as we have the imagination to believe in a better tomorrow.

Not all Revolutions begin with a Bang

Laurie and I are starting week four of our retirement. We are beginning some of the real work of getting ready for the day we relocate to Deadwood, South Dakota. One of the biggest and most daunting tasks will simply be the matter of going through all the accumulated detritus we have in our current house. My intent is to discard with everything we don’t actually want to take to Deadwood with us; sell it, donate it, give it away and even simply throw some of it away. We are going to have to pay a moving company to haul all of this some 800 miles, no need to pay to move anything we don’t actually want.

I was pondering the last post I put up here and not very pleased with how I was trying to express my thoughts. I really do think the world is going through a revolution of sorts. It is roughly comparable to what happened when the Industrial Revolution transformed most of the world. The revolution we currently face though is a combination of the Digital Revolution and what I suspect will someday be called the ‘Great Financial Collapse’. We have both the exponentially accelerating development of technology and the impending failure of many of our fiscal institutions.

Yes, let me say this to be clear. I believe the dollar is going to collapse. It might not happen for a decade but considering our present national debt I do believe the dollar will fail and there is damn little anybody can do about it. Though I see efforts by several different countries, in particular the Russians, to get away from the dollar, I think world financial markets are so dependent on the dollar as to be devastated in the event of such a crash.

So we all face the prospects of a revolution, and like any revolution, the vast majority of humanity will be caught like deer in the headlights of a truck. I don’t believe this is going to be a sudden transition; it will be a rapid evolution of change and systemic failures. I plan in future posts on this blog to focus on specific things that I see inevitably changing. Right now let me say that I think Deadwood will be the perfect town for us to reside in while we ride out this wave of change.

Time Respects No One

It hasn’t been three weeks now since Laurie and I retired. We are making the steps towards realizing our dream to relocate to Deadwood. This last week we picked up a secure storage locker so that we can start packing out our library. We have 32 bookcases filled with everything from history to science fiction and a wild collection of eclectic titles. Not all of this collection is going to Deadwood; some will go to charity and some we will sell. The thing is getting the storage space is making our planning seem more like a concrete reality.

In the meantime the world is not getting any friendlier toward people in retirement.

More older Americans are being buried by housing debt


Laurie and I have the relative security of a company pension plan but we also live in a state that taxes pensions. I find the taxation of pensions to be morally questionable at best and a form of legally protected theft at the worst. Just one more reason for us to relocate to South Dakota. They don’t tax pensions in South Dakota.

Meet the New Generation of Robots for Manufacturing


I see a fundamental set of changes taking place in the economics of the world. Technology is rapidly replacing blue-collar jobs. Now I am not a ‘luddite’ but I can see the negative impacts that will come from this. As each job vanishes to some sort of robotics or automation then another person is either looking for work or a way to fund their retirement.

I have a very difficult time with all of this since I believe in the use of technology. What bothers me is how very little the companies using the technology do to assist the displaced workers. Then again it also bothers me how most people do nothing to prepare themselves for the changing work place.

How Displaced Workers Are Recovering (or Not)


I don’t see enough jobs being created to replace the ones that have been lost and I also don’t see enough efforts by the displaced workers to gain the new skill sets to allow them to gain comparable employment. All of this puts additional strain on the retirement landscape; more and more people are struggling for their share of the remaining economic pie.

Desperate times breed desperate measures. Traditional solutions will usually fail against unpredicted challenges. I do have a plan for Laurie and myself and it will become more evident with time. Right now we just have to keep moving ahead with our plans to leave the State of Minnesota behind.

Trust me, you won’t want to live here someday…

Two weeks and counting…

It’s been two weeks now since Laurie and I retired from Centurylink Communications. I promised myself that I would take two weeks to just relax. That time is done. Now we need to turn ourselves to the tasks of selling our current home and finding a new home in Deadwood. I’ll admit the whole thing is a bit daunting at times but I seriously doubt most people think through a decision as much as ours to relocate to South Dakota. We have been planning and dreaming about this for easily a decade; now it’s time to make the dreams a reality.

One of my daily rituals is to check the news. I have these nifty little search protocols built into Google News, Yahoo News and the Drudge Report to pull information on anything relating to a variety of topics involving retirement planning. I hate to tell you this but the overall national situation around retirement isn’t improving for most people. Sure, you can find incremental rays of hope every so often but the general mess we dare to call our economy crushes those fairly quickly.

Lets face the facts folks; the dollar you put into savings today is not going to hold the same relative strength by the time you need it. The dollar is weakening. It really shouldn’t be any surprise to anybody; with the country carrying some 17 trillion dollars in debt. Who in their right mind is going to put their confidence in our currency? I also have yet to see any economist, politician, or business leader come up with one reasonable plan to reverse the situation.

Now there are rays of hope here and there. One lesson I’ve learned from a zealous study of history is that the people who flourish in a disaster are the ones who take advantage of the opportunities available to them. To use an old saying, “When all life offers you is lemons, make lemonade”. My philosophy is not to be a victim of circumstances but to adapt to those circumstances and use them to your favor.

Deadwood South Dakota is an interesting little town. If you drive for about four hours going north you run into the Bakken oil range. I’ve become a serious student and fan of this particular geological anomaly.


We live in a world where the cost of energy works in a direction ratio to the economic stability of the same area. Now you can talk about your nifty ‘green’ renewable energy schemes but until I see all those jet planes, railroad trains, semi trucks and cargo ships that provide the infrastructure of our economy operating on solar power or wind generators my bet is still on the internal combustion engine and petroleum.

I was reading an interesting news story yesterday that OPEC is now getting a bit nervous because ISIL is moving into a strategic position to threaten one of their critical pipelines:


( I love the ‘Telegraph’)

So what does this event in the Mideast have to do with Deadwood, South Dakota? What does a rampant failure of our current administration’s excuse for a foreign policy have to do with the price of a cup of coffee in the Black Hills of South Dakota?

Everything, absolutely everything.

Some of you might not be aware of this but OPEC and particularly the country of Saudi Arabia have declared a economic war on the shale oil industry. They have even gone so far as to name the state of North Dakota as a specific threat to them. So since Thanksgiving of last year they have been waging a war to undermine the barrel price of shale oil produced in United States domestic industry.

It’s not working for them. The fact is in a very literal sense they might be losing.


Now it looks like ISIL might even be threatening OPEC production like a razor held to their jugular vein. Meanwhile the Saudi’s are waging an expensive Real War with radical Islamic extremists to their south in Yemen. There is nothing like a war with guided missiles and smart bombs to drain your bank accounts even faster.

Really unfortunate timing for OPEC and the Saudi royal family. Possibly a potential opportunity for the shale oil industry and those drilling companies in North Dakota? You freaking bet it is! The Saudi’s once bragged that their production costs for a barrel of oil were among the lowest in the world. It’ll be interesting to see how this changes if ISIL manages to sever some pipelines, blow up some production facilities or slaughter some poor oil workers.

North Dakota is a very long way from all this chaos.

South Dakota, and Deadwood in particular, are just a relatively short drive from the Bakken oil range.

On one of our last trips to Deadwood, Laurie and I went out to dinner one Friday night at one of the buffets maintained by a local casino. While we sat there I saw a steady stream of men in oil company jackets walk in. Not just a few either. Easily fifty or sixty while we sat there. Most of these oil workers make a starting wage of 100,000 dollars a year. It didn’t take me long to figure out that seeing them in Deadwood was a fairly common event; there isn’t much for entertainment on the oil range.

Further research also showed me at least three oil industry related companies established in the northern Black Hills in the last year; one even has offices in Deadwood!

Deadwood has always been a town borne on the boons of a fluctuating economy; in 1876 it was the ‘Crash of 1873’ and the eventual gold rush, in 2015 it will probably be another economic crash and the availability of ‘Black Gold’ just a drive north.

And  I have a plan to take advantage of it….

Destination Deadwood

I was originally planning to do a blog update at least once a week. The fact is I’m already behind on that and one of the things I’m starting to understand since Laurie and I retired is that our priorities have changed a bit. Now that we don’t have to get up at 4:30 AM to get ready for work our schedules have become much more flexible. Along with this so have some of our plans, like this blog.

First off to our former coworkers at Centurylink Communications; Laurie and I are alive and well. We have yet to get our first pension payment but I had been warned about this and we had a specific set of savings in place for this. Right now we are just tying up various loose ends resulting from our departure from the company. The bottom line though is we are doing well and just getting adjusted to our new lives.

Our plan still remains to relocate to Deadwood South Dakota this year. My mantra has been that we will celebrate Christmas this year in Deadwood as residents. So I am busily working at the business of selling our current house and finding a new home in the ‘outlaw’ town.

Some people ask why we would want to move from the Twin Cities to a small town like Deadwood. The reasons are quite simple really; for a start, South Dakota doesn’t tax pensions. For that matter they don’t have a personal income tax. Our combined pensions are not nearly what we made while we were working so every dollar is going to count. I’m also getting a bit tired of how Minnesota attempts to solve every budget problem by simply raising taxes.

Another less tangible reason we want to move to Deadwood has to do with the town itself. Laurie and I have been visiting the town for several years now. In that time we have made more than a few friends there. We never go to the town now without feeling a bit more ourselves. It’s easy to get caught up in the town and the Black Hills. I’ll be honest, I don’t have words to explain some of our attraction to the town; I think that a person needs to really get to know Laurie and me to be able to understand it. Our eventual move there is going to be like going home for us.

Retirement: New Journey Beginning

Laurie and I officially retired from Centurylink last Friday, May 15th, 2015 at 5:00 PM Central Time. For me it really didn’t sink in until this morning; it was Monday morning and I was still in the habit of waking up at 4:00 AM to watch the alarm clock run it’s course. This wasn’t that sort of morning though, the clock was still there, but no alarm was set. This Monday morning, May 18th 2015, I wouldn’t have to go into the office. I wouldn’t have to walk into the office ever again. This morning I was really starting the second half of my life.

So here I am sitting at a Caribou coffee shop, during what would have been my workday last week. I’m sipping a Northern Lite Latte, listening to some Pink Floyd, and contemplating the future. I’ve been planning our retirement for several years now. It was a near obsession with me at times. Now it’s actually here and time for me to put all the carefully laid out plans in place. I am seeing this as a once in a lifetime chance to shape my life, our lives, the way we want them.

One of the odd facts that I ran into some time ago was that, technically speaking, Laurie and I shouldn’t be retiring. There was this interesting retirement calculator linked off of our former company’s Human Resources page. If you accepted the numbers that it provided you then we would both need to work until we were about 70 years old.

I simply refused to accept that.

Now Laurie and I might have fallen under what some people are terming the ‘Retirement Crisis’. You can find a lot of people offering one opinion or another on this:


This Forbes article captures the conventional wisdom about the whole problem. I’m not blind to the realities they suggest. The sad fact is I know a lot of people who have surrendered to this whole idea. They’ve essentially decided they’re going to work at whatever drudgery they have until they literally die at their desks. This is going to be a growing national problem with each passing year. I’m just amazed that some opportunistic politician hasn’t picked this up as a chance to take advantage of people’s fears.

I’ve never been one to accept the conventional wisdom of anything. My father was a somewhat eccentric man. He worked in an occupation that demanded he be able to see solutions where they sometimes barely understood the problem they were trying to solve. This often called for not accepting the facts as people commonly accepted them but be able to see facts for what they really were. The lesson he taught me is how to not allow convention to chain me down, and to solve problems with the application of a bit of logic and creative reasoning.

So here I am, sipping my latte, reviving a blog while I start this new journey. I don’t know how many people are ever going to read this but maybe it will help somebody figure out the mystery of their own journey into the second half of their lives. My retirement has begun and so has the next chapter in my life…