Retirement in California and Retire USA blog

What?  Not another shameless plug on my personal blog for our great Retire USA project?       Well, not shameless or even shameful because RETIRE USA is a great blog with over a dozen excellent writers and a post almost every day featuring topics of interest to retirees all over the nation.

Marty, one of the partners in the project, has been blogging about retirement in each state – Retirement in California is the latest series.    In those posts you’ll find a lot of links and information about retirement in general as well as Retirement in California.

Here are some excerpts from several of our latest retirement blog posts:

  • RETIRE IN CALIFORNIA – Part 5 of 5 PLACES TO RETIRE – CALIFORNIA RETIREMENT – Part 5 of 5: Costa Mesa, San Juan Capistrano, Mission Viejo, Palm Springs. COSTA MESA RETIREMENT Costa Mesa, with a population of 109,960 as of the 2010 census, is located 37 miles southeast of Los Angeles …
  • RETIRE IN CALIFORNIA – Part 4 of 5 PLACES TO RETIRE – CALIFORNIA RETIREMENT – Part 4 of 5: San Luis Obispo, Monterey, Lake Tahoe, El Centro, Newport Beach. SAN LUIS OBISPO RETIREMENT San Luis Obispo, with a population of 43,685 as of 2011, is located inland a bit from the California…
  • WHAT’S IN A PICTURE? TRAVEL AND PHOTOGRAPY – BILL FERRY- At first glance, this is a nondescript photo. Maybe it isn’t even apparent that it is a drydock. Walk closer and details begin to emerge that stand on their own. I’m guessing that you might see even more pieces that sta…
  • RETIRE IN CALIFORNIA – Part 3 of 5 PLACES TO RETIRE – CALIFORNIA RETIREMENT – Part 3 of 5: Sacramento, Stockton, Modesto, Fresno, Bakersfield, and Santa Maria. SACRAMENTO RETIREMENT Sacramento, with a population of 466,488 residents as of the 2010 census, is the oldest incorporated …
  • FOLLOWING THE THREAD TO ELDER   ACTIVE RETIREMENT LIVING – MADELINE HILL & FRIENDS–by Madeline- Recently some neighbors here at Mountain Meadows (MM) hosted a screening in our Clubhouse of Dot: An Ordinary Life, an Extraordinary Person, a fine short documentary film about…

Grameen Bank Takeover in Bangladesh: Bad Economics.

I wrote earlier about the great work of the Grameen Bank and the Grameen Foundation, groups I have supported for many years.  Founder M. Yunus invented the concept of “microloans”, a tactic that has been helping the poor for many years.   In 2006 Yunus received the Nobel Peace Prize for this pioneering work.

Unfortunately the Bangladesh Government is now in a power play to take over the bank, jeopardizing the welfare of the millions of women and their families who benefit from the bank.

I’d encourage anybody interested in the well being of poor folks to write the government of Bangladesh here:  , urging them to reconsider this bad takeover move.

Here’s the letter I wrote them in June , feel free to copy from it.    I think more important, however, is to write your Congressperson and your Senators to let them know this issue *matters to you*, and that the USA can stand against unwise bureaucratic power plays that will reduce the effectiveness of the Grameen Bank – perhaps even destroy it.

Here are contacts for your Congressperson:

Your Senator:

You don’t need to be Shakespeare here – just let them know you are concerned about the Grameen Bank Takeover and you’d like to know what they are doing about this.

At my son Ben’s commencement address the speaker did a great job of talking about the difference between “first world problems” and “developing world problems”.    Here, we fret over standing in line or the color of our clothes or the price of a fancy restaurant.    There, people worry mostly about feeding their kids, getting them schooling, or surviving   diseases that are virtually unknown in the USA.    Sure we have real problems too.    Health issues, abuse, education, and more.   But on average our challenges are far less than in most of the rest of the world and we can and should support efforts like Grameen that are building viable micro-economies based on free enterprise and entrepreneurial spirit.  These are super low cost, high ROI approaches to poverty and they deserve our support and our political klout.

… Hey, thanks!

Yosemite Hiking – Half Dome Hike Death Risk Calculation

Hurray !
My family and friends just survived a top ten dangerous hike in the most dangerous National Park in America!

Half Dome Cables, Yosemite

Well, technically, Linda isn’t home yet …. but the odds are in her favor.  : )Of course our odds of survival were always very good, but Yosemite has been a dangerous park, especially last year 2011 when  18 people (!)   died there :

Spooky description of a 2007 fall off the cables:
Book about Yosemite deaths.
Base jump off the place where we took pix:

Of course you have to compare the small number of deaths on that hike over many, many years (20 on dome, 60 on trail) with the huge number of people who *survived* their hikes, as I think we did (assuming no parallel universes where we didn’t survive), to get a reasonable risk calculation.   You also need to compare that risk to other risky things we do, such as *drive to Yosemite*.I wanted to try a shot at calculating which is more dangerous – the drive to Yosemite from Oregon, or the most intense part of the hike up Half Dome – the cables.

Obviously there are many confounding variables.  Nobody was drunk driving, our hiking experience is higher than average, for simplicity I’m not using the entire hike death stats  (60 deaths but many millions more hikers on the entire 8.5 mile trail – this would give a *safer* number for sure, but would reflect hikers and deaths who never made it to or beyond Vernal falls).   So lots of confounders, but here’s my shot at a risk number:

Let’s assume that the  20 dome deaths are since cables were installed by The Sierra Club in 1919  (hey, THANKS Sierra Club!):
Now we need to estimate the number of people who have made it up there as we did.   Ranger guy below the dome and internet tells us it is now about “350-400 per day”.   That would be current high season with permit restrictions so hard to know the past until I can find more records.  But we know that the low season (winter) is about 0 per day.   Probably far fewer people in 1919 than now, so let’s *wildly guestimate* that on average, since 1919,  100 people per day go up, and that almost all that traffic is during the high season of June, July, August, September when cables are elevated with the metal rods  (in the past and in winter they lay flat on the surface).  100×120 days = 12,000 people up per year.  90 years of cables x 12,000 =  1.08 million ascents of half dome over 90 years.    ROUND THIS WILD GUESTIMATE to one million people up  half dome over all of human history.
We now have 1,000,000 people who went up and 999,980 people who come safely back down.  20 of the million, sadly, died on half dome.   Thankfully, every single one of us remains in the 999,980 group of happy Half Dome hikers.
Your chance of dying on the final half dome portion of the hike is, very very approximately, if our assumptions are reasonably accurate, about 20 / 1,000,000 or one in  50,000.    We could also state this in this fashion if our assumptions are correct:
“For every 50,000 people who go up the final portion of the half dome hike … one will probably die”.
For extra drama we might note that we had 6 people on the hike so the (pre-hike) odds that one of us would die were 6/50,000 or 1 / 8333.
Now we need to compare this to our 900 mile car trip home.   Car travel is one of the more dangerous things we do on a regular basis.   VERY ROUGHLY in California there are 1.21 deaths per 100 million miles travelled
We did not travel 100 million miles so we need this calculation to figure out deaths per Yosemite trip:
The chances of dying during 900 miles of car travel in California:  900 x  [1.21 / 100,000,000] =   .00001 deaths per Yosemite trip.
So, on average of all drivers and cars and circumstances, the chances that somebody will die on a trip of 900 miles in California are about one in 100,000.      Put another way this means that, very approximately:
” For every 100,000 people who take a 900 mile trip to Yosemite by car, one will die ”  
So if all these assumptions are pretty reasonable, than we can state that the half dome portion of the hike with its one in 50,000 chance of death, is about twice as dangerous as the car ride with its 1 in 100,000 chance of death.  


Tomorrow we’re off to hike in Yosemite National Park, one of my favorite places in the world. We’ll camp in Little Yosemite Valley and hike up Half Dome via the cables that make it a lot safer than … without them! It’s a really fun adventure with amazing views from the top of Half Dome, especially lying right over the edge and looking straight down into Yosemite valley below.

Yosemite NP

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park