Aging and Perspective

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When I think back about high school years, sporting black hair and only weighing 147 lbs, my perspective on life was to see it as wondrous, hopeful, and exciting. My project time frames were short (as far as next week), and my ideas unpredictable.

After the air force, marriage, and university, my perspective started to change considerably, to embrace mortality as a definite thing, and to accept living on an old farm and driving 47 kms twice a day to work in the city, as the way things were meant to be. The loss of our two children within about 11 years of each other, was not.

Then, in my 50s and 60s, after many jobs and more degrees, and especially after also losing friends to cancer, and my parents to a stroke and pneumonia, life seemed precious. Time began to speed up. Health issues further aggravated this encroaching “carpe deum” philosophy, and I suddenly found myself enjoying conversation like never before. Slowing down in every way was looking better. After all, I had taught university long enough, directed several colleges and departments, written over 40 articles and book chapters, and successfully (with blips) raised two healthy daughters, plus re-marrying 13 years ago.

I still live in the country though, and consult, write and cut grass. And have regular ‘happy hours’ whereby I can take a cold beer or a sherry onto the deck, look out over the river, and converse for hours with our long-time close friends who live with us. Statistically, I have 12.7 years left in this current corpus delecti, and my bucket list might be too long. But I am not caring about being dilatory, or not quick-on-the-board-game-draw; rather, I contemplate my perspective on life in hedonistic and altruistic terms. I like happiness from doing what I like doing, and I enjoy helping others who are struggling. I find I read happy books now, not tragedies or sad biographies. I hug my wife every chance I get, and hug strangers if I feel they need it.

So life perspectives change with time and experience, and the aphorism is true…life is what you make it. Mistakes and all, but keeping upbeat is crucial. At 71, I still want to climb a tree.

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Preserving the Environment: One Recent Success Story

On June 17, 2015, Bruce Hyer MP for Superior North, Green Party of Canada, accomplished a long-sought goal: the creation of the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area along the north shore of Lake Superior.

This was achieved through a unanimous consent vote on Bill C-61, within the House of Commons, Government of Canada, Ottawa.

Hyer stated “Now I am working on getting a similar fast track through the Senate. If we can get it through the Senate, it will mean many positive benefits for communities through Thunder Bay east through Terrace Bay, including Red Rock, Nipigon, Dorian, Rossport, Schreiber,, as well as Pays Plat and Lake Helen First Nations. Those benefits include protection of the islands, marine ecosystems, fisheries, and threatened species, along with an injection of tens of millions of federal dollars, the creation of new jobs, and a new Administrative and Interpretive Centre in Nipigon. I urge citizens to email, write, and call Senators immediately.”

Such is the nature of social change in Canada. From an idea 30 years ago, only to be battered and pushed back along the way by bureaucratic red tape and ignorance, Bruce Hyer’s Bill C-61 has become a reality unanimously proposed by the Canadian Parliament. Throughout his political career Bruce has gone out of his way many times to meet with these affected communities, and restore and maintain hope.

As he has mentioned, there will be nothing but positive spin-off effects from this legislation. Most of these communities currently suffer from slow or no-growth economies, and tourism particularly, will change that reality. I can envisage research stations being set up, hiking trails being marked out, and vastly increased tourist traffic among the pristine islands and shores – all of which will benefit the respective towns and villages spread across 300 km of the Trans-Canada Highway.

I salute you Mr. Hyer for your perseverance and loyalty to the thousands of people along the north shore who have shared your dream. Canada is now a much better place.

My ’56 Chevy: A truly sexy machine!

On my 16th birthday, my Dad took me to the auto license bureau in Port Credit. I had no idea at first where we were going, but I smiled a lot wider when we rolled into the parking lot and he told me it’s time I learned to drive. After all, he had let me drive a few times that previous summer on the back roads of Peel County, and as a result my ego was awash with anticipation, but getting my license had never been discussed yet.

So on that day, while in grade 12, with a girlfriend and lots of buddies, I became a real man. I had arrived. I passed my test and I could drive.

Apart from some painful negotiation moments, borrowing one’s father’s car to go on a date can be loaded with risks, especially when your best buddie just purchased his ’54 Meteor and loved to try to sucker you into drag-racing on an empty street at midnight. Like, right out of American Graffiti. For some weird reason, girls seemed to be impressed with guys with fast (and often noisy) cars. Anyway, in 1961 I had purchased a blue and white ’56 Chevrolet BelAir, complete with a 283 cu in V-8, with money from digging water line trenches for my uncle. I paid $500 cash for it. It had 12,500 miles on the odometer and no rust. Lots of chrome, front, back and sides, and  cloth ‘bench’ seats. It was a standard transmission with the gear shift on the steering column.

I had three proud moments – suping it up with fancy carburetors with help from my friend Greg and cousin Tim, taking my girlfriend for her first ride in it, and taking it to high school for the first time. There was a ’49 Pontiac lurking about the town at night that always wanted to drag-race with me. It wasn’t until much later I encountered the same car! in Toronto at the stop-lights at the bottom of Spadina and Front Streets at 1:00 a.m. There and then, with the loud encouragement of my 3 buddies with me, I decided the moment of truth had come. We checked in all directions for cops, waited for the light to change green, and I floored it. Well for the first 1/2 mile we were neck-and-neck, but by the time we got to Yonge Street I was 300′ ahead and had to slow down for traffic. All four of us cheered and yelled out the window at him as he sped by. He didn’t look at us. So like all high testosterone males at that age, my ‘rush’ was calming down and I was regaining my senses, as we travelled the QEW 12 miles towards home. I would never had done that had my girlfriend been in the car, because if she ever told her older brother I was doing 125 mph on the Lakeshore in Toronto, he would have made mincemeat out of me for sure (he was much bigger and  four years older and very protective of his baby sister).

I drove my Chevy for five more years, until I joined the RCAF and had to sell it. But I hated to give it up. Unlike today’s cars, it had a definite simplicity to it that meant it could be fixed quickly. Spark plugs were easy to get at, and adjusting the butterfly valve in the carburetor took only minutes. Tires cost $17.00 each. A full “Continental Kit” for the rear end cost $225.00, but I couldn’t afford it at the time.

After the Air Force my next car was a baby-blue, 4-0n-the-floor Pontiac Bonneville convertible, but that’s a whole other story for another time. I only wish I had kept both of these beauties.

DRONES- NOT of the male Bumblebee variety! nor the idle person variety!

Look up. Look up. Way up!

No, it’s not Superman, Jack’s beanstalk, nor the Jolly Green Giant. It’s a flying drone, and it may be filming you. Or your property. Or car license plate number. Or it may be delivering your mail, or your groceries. Does any of this scare you?

You might think about how this revolution in mostly unregulated celestial browsing, could affect you, your family, your community and country. How might your privacy be compromised? What about drone noise and visual pollution if every one could operate one? What about pedophiles using them? Or thieves? Or political parties? Or the police? Or researchers? Or private investigators? and so on. You get the picture.

Sociologically, morally, legally, and environmentally – there are issues. Drones of the consumer type cost anywhere from about $250 to $3,000 and more. This means that I can readily go to my nearest hobby shop and within a few hours see what my neighbour is cooking on his Bar-B-Q, doing in his living-room, or wearing in his swimming pool. In the country, I could perform an aerial survey of how many cows my neighbour’s farm contains, and check out his feed-troughs and waste disposal system. In the city, off my balcony, I could film, and look into the windows of, hundreds of apartments and condos, including the penthouses. I could deliver illegal drugs very surreptitiously to anyone, just about anywhere, within up to five miles or more.

On the other hand, if I kept a drone in the trunk of my car, I could use it for rescue mission purposes such as delivering gasoline or food to stranded snow-storm or flood victims. I could film shots of a local baseball or soccer game my son or daughter is playing in. Perhaps the fun of drone ‘pylon racing’ might fascinate me. Or filming our foursome’s golf game. This list is endless.

There are some government regulations in place in Canada that govern the deployment of powered unmanned private and military aircraft. The problem is that sales are outpacing regulations in the consumerist-private sector. Controls fall short of all the possible criminal uses applicable to drones. Municipal, provincial and federal by-laws and legislative bills are definitely in a catch-up position. Meanwhile, fun-lovers and hobbyists will have a great time with these, while Rome burns from subterranean acts of the criminal kind.

Technology innovation always precedes cultural adaptation. Drones are an example. So whether it’s the electric or gas powered, three or seven bladed, camera or laser equipped models – drones are here to stay. So we better get used to it.

A Cornucopia: The New Job Description

Have you paid close attention to the length of job descriptions these days? Especially institutional, financial and government job descriptions?

Have you tried to read all the way through them and understand what they are really describing and expecting?

At one time, not to long ago, a job description (JD) clearly indicated what it wanted you to do on one page. You filled in the rest on the job because the employer trusted you to grasp and learn, based on initiative and trial and error.

Not today. I read another JD today for a managerial position in a large Canadian corporation, and the JD had 41 distinct company accountables listed, and 19 applicant requirements. One accountability phrase was something like “You will leverage the product characteristics, with third party interventions based on conventional expectations of tactful negotiations and client respect”. What the hell does that mean? And there were 40 more just like it!

Qualifications needed were (and remember this was for a job that paid $62,000 to start): undergraduate degree , but preferably a MBA or equivalent; 5-7 years directly related experience;  ability to direct a team of 7-12 people, and so forth.

So we have to ask ourselves, Why are job descriptions becoming so inclusive, intimidating, and unrealistic in terms of time in any typical day or even week, to do all these things? The answer lies with the assumptions that a) extremely detailed profiles of work activity will cause only the best candidates to step forward, b) the organization will therefore save on unnecessary training costs, and c) the company’s public image will be enhanced by pretense to superiority. The most predictable reaction after reading these impossible lists is to recoil, have another sip, and go for a re-read. Even then, once the task lists are understood in their fullness, a potential applicant most likely wonders “How can I do all this? Especially when realistically makes up 2,3 or 4 job descriptions?”

My Dad was hired as a Superintendent of a tube mill in a large manufacturing company, after he applied from a two paragraph job description. He lasted 38 years.