BOOMERBROADcast

Enjoy, laugh, disagree or simply empathize with those who lived life in THE sixties and are now rockin' life in THEIR sixties, and beyond.


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In the search for my perfect computer match, it’s a man’s world.


One size does not fit all. What fits him does not fit me.

Like most people I probably spend far too much time in front of my laptop checking Facebook, reading emails, e-shopping, blogging and otherwise managing my life. And most of the time, my neck, shoulders and back hurt. Did you know that all office furniture is designed for the average male, 5 ft. 11″ tall? Just another example of a male-dominated take on how the world goes round. Despite all the high-tech considerations that go into designing computer desks I have not yet been able to achieve ergonomic nirvana. Let’s back up a little and I’ll explain how this situation came about.

My old typing teacher knew what she was talking about.

When I learned to type in high school in the early sixties, we used manual typewriters. Part of our training required we sit with our forearms parallel to the floor with our feet side by side and flat on the floor. As a result of that being drilled into my head more than fifty years ago, I still cannot veer from my training. Whenever I sit and type with my legs crossed at the ankles or (worse) the knees, the circuits linking my fingers and eyes to my brain become hopelessly scrambled. Unless my feet are flat on the floor and parallel, to this day I cannot type without making errors. When I assume the proper posture, the words fly by error-free. Therefore, like famous speed-typist Mavis Beacon who set records in the fifties for her error-free typing speed (176 wpm on a manual typewriter), I must have ideal conditions to perform at my optimum level. For this, I need optimum ergonomics, which I do not currently have.

There was a reason the typewriter surface was lower but modern office technology seems to have bypassed that consideration.

In the olden days, office desks had slide-out typewriter shelves that were positioned exactly 27 inches from the floor, a full five inches lower than the surface of the desk at 30-32 inches, which as stated above was designed for a 5 ft. 11 inch man. At 27 inches a ‘typist’ (i.e. female) could keep both feet flat on the floor, forearms parallel to the floor and type with minimal discomfort to shoulders, neck and arms.

In a step backwards for feminism, the advent of computers, both desktop and laptop, the typewriter shelf was eliminated from desks and everyone regardless of size or gender is now forced to work on a surface 30-32 inches from the floor. Are you following all this? I’m a right-brainer with zero aptitude in math and even I get it—standard desk surfaces are up to five inches too high for the average female to type comfortably. No amount of adjusting chair heights corrects this anomaly.

Ouch!

  • Raise chair five inches. Feet no longer sit flat on floor and are left to dangle around base prongs. Thighs are crushed against bottom of desk surface or drawer.
  • Leave chair at height that allows feet to sit on floor. We are forced to raise arms and shoulders to reach keyboard. Result: strain and pain.

Is there a solution?

One solution is adjusting the work surface to 27 inches which can be done with some adjustable tables or custom furniture. That accommodates the requirement for feet flat on the floor and forearms parallel to floor which is great for typing/keyboarding. But if you’re working on a laptop, the screen is now too low and has to be tilted to a 45 degree angle to read it square on. More head and neck pain. I’ve never understood how people can actually work on their laptops on their laps. I need a solid surface that doesn’t wobble around while I’m typing. And a sturdy chair that supports my back. Perhaps that’s just because I’m old and conditioned by a sixties typing drill instructor.

Achieving ergonomic heaven

Here’s what this 5 ft. 3 inch old boomer needs to be ergonomically comfortable when working on my computer, starting from the ground up:

  • Chair seat 18 inches from floor
  • Keyboard on surface 27 inches from floor
  • Screen centered 41 inches from floor and 16 inches directly in front of my eyes

In order to achieve my ideal configuration, I need a new work surface, keyboard and telescoping monitor. At least I have the right chair.

If I could achieve this combination I would be a much happier and more comfortable blogger. The only way I can see accomplishing this is with custom millwork. If I had a work surface built at 27  inches, I would need the computer screen/monitor mounted on the wall on a sliding or folding bracket that could be pulled out to the correct distance when I’m working or pushed back when I’m not.

In the meantime, I’m condemned to reach my arms up to a height of 30+ inches to use my keyboard. My shoulders are hunched and my back hurts. Thanks to the geniuses who design office furniture, I don’t see a solution on the market that gives the average woman (fifty percent of the population) the ergonomically correct configuration for using a laptop. Just another example of gender discrimination that men don’t even have to think about. It’s still a man’s world. If you’ve managed to stay awake while reading this, let me know if I’m the only one with this problem or are you uncomfortable too?


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Does anyone else in Toronto wonder where Lake Ontario went?


Chicago citizens can enjoy views and access to Lake Michigan.

A recent visit to Chicago dramatically reminded me of what is missing in Toronto—our Lake Ontario shoreline. When the great Chicago fire leveled their downtown in 1871 the city displayed great foresight and generosity when they decreed it illegal for private builders to monopolize the Lake Michigan shoreline. Consequently, Chicago now enjoys an incredible twenty-seven-mile long park that ensures the lake is forever accessible to its citizens.

While I don’t advocate setting fire to downtown Toronto to get rid of unsightly buildings and planning blunders, I do think our city planners need to rethink what’s happening to our waterfront. We’re literally losing sight of it. Ugly high-rise condos are obliterating our view of Lake Ontario and the problem is only going to get worse. It’s difficult to stop a moving train but short of land-filling a new shoreline even further into the lake, what are our options?

Toronto. No green. No vistas of public spaces.

I used to love glimpsing the sparkling lake from Lakeshore Boulevard as I passed along the south side of the Canadian National Exhibition grounds. Even the grotesqueness of Ontario Place obliterating our view of Lake Ontario was alleviated by the whimsical faux farm silos which always made me smile. They’re gone now to be replaced by another poorly planned urban eyesore.

In the sixties, boomers used to catch the ferry to the Toronto Islands at the foot of Yonge Street. Back then, the waterfront in the harbour was still visible as we lined up at sunny outside turnstiles and paid our 25 cent fare to hop aboard the Sam McBride. The Toronto skyline was defined by the Royal York Hotel and the old 32-storey old Bank of Commerce Building on King Street West. I could see Lake Ontario from my room on the south side of Willard Hall on Gerrard Street.

Where’s Lake Ontario? Hidden from view.

Driving east or west on the Gardiner Expressway through downtown Toronto these days is like negotiating a slow train through a concrete jungle. We go nowhere, see nothing but faceless buildings and otherwise have no clue we’re a stone’s throw from one of Ontario’s beautiful Great Lakes. The view may be spectacular from offshore, but from land side, sadly, there’s nothing to see. I know progress is inevitable and we can’t undo the damage that has already been done to our waterfront views. It’s a shame our city managers have allowed this to happen. I just wish they’d had as much foresight and courage as Chicago did in 1871.


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Hearts, not heads prevail


Emotion trumps logic. That statement explains so much. Like why the Americans elected Donald Trump as their President. Or why the Canadian government is building temporary housing for asylum seekers crossing into Canada illegally at remote border points instead of turning them back to follow proper channels. Why should Canadians be spending tax money to house and support illegal immigrants when legitimate immigrants who follow proper legal channels often have to wait years? It makes no sense. Or why British Columbia is blocking the pipeline. As many Britons are now realizing, Brexit was obviously an issue influenced more by feelings of nationalism than practicality. So many unexplainable outcomes are the result of human beings letting their hearts overrule their heads. It’s why so many women fall in love with bad choices in men. I did. Once. When I was very young and stupid. Learned my lesson.

We know we shouldn’t put that designer purse on our credit card because we can’t live without it. But the smell of fine leather and the dreams of being transported into a rarefied stratosphere of pleasure overrules common sense. We can’t afford to get the oil changed in the car but we can rationalize dropping the equivalent of a month’s rent on a luxury consumer item. Those designer sunglasses cost more than groceries for a month but we slap down the old credit card despite the obvious stupidity of the purchase. Instant gratification beats logic.

Tattoos are cool and everyone is getting one. Do you still want to live with a faded, wrinkled, distorted picture of a rose after it’s endured thirty years of wear and tear on your forearm? What seemed like a good idea at the time may not be as appealing down the road. A bad choice in hair colour grows out. Tattoos do not.

Men also aren’t immune to the pull of instant gratification in consumer purchases. It’s mind-blowing how they can rationalize purchasing a shiny new truck or SUV without having the cash in the bank. In fact, I’ve observed that men’s toys generally come with a much higher price tag than women’s. Vehicles, boats and electronics aren’t cheap. The experts are right when they advise it’s not always in our best interest to try and outbid someone with deeper pockets just because we can’t imagine not owning that house. No one’s immune. Men, women, governments, voters, corporations, even really smart people fall prey to the pull of the heart, often with disastrous results.

One of the greatest benefits of aging is the wisdom that usually accompanies it. Baby boomers have made more than our share of mistakes and bad decisions over the years and we’ve learned a lot. Hopefully most of my mistakes are behind me. But, I’m still acknowledging the infallibility of the adage that heart generally trumps head, and the truth is when I look at the world around me, some things never change. It’s mind-boggling—the eternal conflict.


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Girls just gotta have shoes


The objects of my affection.

It was love at first sight. As soon as my eyes landed on that incredible pair of Jimmy Choo python pumps in the May issue of Vogue I found myself longing not only for the shoes but for my twenty-year-old feet to put in them. Even though it’s been years, or more like decades since I’ve been able to strut my stuff in killer heels, the old longing and feeling of empowerment bestowed on us by stilettos never leaves us. I could so easily picture my former self wearing those python beauties around the office in my power suit or slipping them on with skinny jeans (the jeans, not me) for a stylish stroll through the mall on a Saturday. Just looking at those babies made my heart beat faster; my imagination conjured up fantasies I haven’t had in years. There was a giant smile on my face just thinking about the possibilities those beauties could bestow on my life. Boomer women totally understand how Cinderella was completely transformed as soon as she put on those magic glass slippers. It’s no fairy tale.

If only we could buy new feet.

In the late sixties and early seventies I lived and worked in downtown Toronto. Too broke and too cheap to invest in subway tokens, I hoofed it everywhere—in heels, usually on the run. From Bloor Street to Front Street I made my way around the downtown core to and from work, to meet friends, to shop and out at night, always on foot. And those young, size seven feet were always shod in the latest fashion. I’ve twisted ankles falling off my platforms, caught spike heels in sidewalk grates and suffered burns and blisters on the balls of my feet from the heat of summer sidewalks burning through thin leather soles. Not once did I think my feet would outlive their best-before date.

Baby boomer women now have a different set of criteria when shopping for shoes. Toe cleavage and strappy high heels have given way to arch supports and low heels with rubber soles, and not the kind the Beatles sang about in 1965. Back in the day, our shoe purchases were treated like decadent works of art, affirmation of our sexiness and stylishness. I’d actually set newly purchased shoes on the diningroom table to admire them when I brought them home. Or I’d place them on my night table so they’d be the first things I’d see when I woke up in the morning. Talk about getting a high. Gorgeous shoes were like little magic carpets that carried us into a fantasy land where we were invincible. And, unlike dress or pant sizes, shoe size was immaterial. In fabulous shoes, our feet looked great no matter what size they were.

After clomping around in rubber sandals I recently squeezed my feet into a pair of stylish suede boots that don’t see much action these days. My back hurt from bending down to put the socks and then the boots on and my feet felt like they were going to explode by the time I got home from shopping. Mes pieds are just not used to such harsh discipline and they object strenuously to any form of confinement. I soooo miss the feet I had when I was twenty years old.

I wonder if those python Jimmy Choos come with industrial strength arch supports and cushy rubber soles? If I win the lottery, perhaps I’ll buy them and prop them up on my mantle, just to admire them like the works of art they are. I could reflect back on the days when I used to listen to the original Rubber Soul in my Mary Quant mini skirts and platforms—back when I could still wear fantasmic shoes. As the Everly Brothers sang so eloquently and in perfect harmony, “All I have to do is dream. Dream. dream, dream”, the siren song of Jimmy Choo and those fabulous shoes.

You’re beautiful mes très chères.


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Do you use plastic drinking straws?


Thin paper straws were once the only option available and we usually managed to chew the top off the straw before we were finished our drink.

I’m probably not the only person who never realized what a serious crime against the environment it is to use plastic drinking straws. As someone who sipped far too many after-school cherry Cokes through thin paper straws at Long’s Restaurant in the 50s and 60s, I was just happy to finally have a straw that wouldn’t disintegrate before I slurped up the last drops of my chocolate milkshake. We’ve now come to realize that those convenient plastic straws are killing wildlife and polluting the environment. What’s a person to do? The answer is simple; invest in some inexpensive, reusable stainless steel drinking straws. Stainless steel straws may not be practical for commercial use in restaurants or bars. I did receive a strong, heavy-duty paper straw for my Coke at a restaurant recently and it held up well. Paper is a renewable resource and recyclable so paper straws also make sense.

Drinking straws are a part of my daily routine which means I’m guilty of tossing a lot of plastic into the garbage. I sip water through a drinking straw throughout the day. When driving, I always have an insulated container of water in the cup holder of my console. I prefer to drink through a straw so I’m not obscuring my vision by tipping a cup up in front of my face while driving. Even when I’m sipping my Timmie’s steeped tea in the car I use a straw for the same reason. I do realize eating and drinking are not recommended while operating a vehicle but water, tea or Diet Coke are my preferred fuel while on the road, particularly on long trips.

The new me now uses a stainless steel drinking straw. This is the bent version.

Today I test-drove my first stainless steel drinking straw in my insulated cup of water and it worked great. Metal is, however, a conductor and the straw will be colder or hotter in your mouth than a plastic one, depending on the beverage you’re drinking. In fact, drinking Timmie’s tea through a stainless steel straw is probably safer than risking the possible carcinogenic effects of drinking a hot beverage through plastic.

I purchased a set of eight straws 10.5 inches long to accommodate a variety of beverage container sizes; four of the straws were bent for easier use. They’re slightly narrower than most plastic straws but I didn’t want to get the really fat smoothie style. The package even contained two long, skinny brushes for cleaning. I ordered them on-line when I couldn’t find them in the store and they arrived the next day with my Amazon Prime service. I’m trying to do my bit to mitigate damage to the environment.

Click here for a link to Amazon if you would like to order 8 stainless steel drinking straws with cleaning brushes for only $14.99:

 

 


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Sharing a simple story


Inside the Dieppe theatre which has been preserved as a memorial museum to Canadians soldiers.

In October 2014 my husband and I toured former battle sites of World War I and II in northwestern France and Belgium. It was a trip that touched us beyond description. A dear family friend, long since deceased, had been a veteran of The Battle of the Somme as a teenager in World War I and my own family includes many veterans of World War II including my uncle, Jack Glenn, who was a prisoner of war in Japan for nearly four years after being captured in Hong Kong on Christmas Day in 1941. Two thousand young Canadians were offered as cannon fodder that day in a futile display of defending the territory against 10,000 Japanese.

The following year, in August 1942, another six thousand brave, young Canadians were dispatched on another ill-fated mission to Dieppe in France. More than nine hundred were killed, and two thousand taken prisoner. When we were in Dieppe in 2014, we walked the route those Canadian soldiers followed after they landed on shore. Some reached a theatre across the road from the beach. That theatre, long ago abandoned, has been lovingly preserved as a memorial and museum to those young Canadians. A special guide and historian came in at 8:00 a.m. the day we were there to give us a detailed account of the day. The museum is full of memorabilia, uniforms and equipment from that terrible day.

Edwin Bennett of the Calgary Tank Regiment meets the angel in 1982 who intervened on his behalf in 1942. From a picture posted in the museum.

One of the stories our presenter related is about a wounded Canadian soldier named Edwin Bennett. He had been blinded in one eye and was about to be dismissed as being beyond help by a German doctor. But a young French nurse by the name of Sister Agnès-Marie Valois, who later became known as ‘the white angel’ insisted he be treated. Bennett remembered the voice of the young nun who had intervened.

In 1982, for the fortieth anniversary of the Dieppe raid, some of those same soldiers returned to France for a commemoration ceremony. Sister Agnès-Marie was in attendance that day and her voice was once again recognized by Mr. Bennett, forty years later. It was an emotional reunion of the former nurse and the old soldier.  I read in today’s Globe and Mail that Sister Agnès-Marie Valois passed away at the age of 103. R.I.P.

This symbol created for the fiftieth anniversary of the Dieppe raid left an indelible impression on me.

When we visited the battle sites and particularly at Juno Beach and Dieppe, we were struck by the proliferation of Canadian flags and memorials that are still highly visible and on display even today. Take a few minutes to think of the young men you know, perhaps your grandchildren who are 19, 20 or 23 years old. That’s the age of thousands of young Canadians who went to Europe during both wars to protect the values and freedom we now take for granted.

Merci beaucoup à eux tous.

 


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Timmie come home. We miss you and we need you.


Bring back the old Timmies we knew and loved.

We knew it would happen didn’t we? It was a predictable outcome when American/Brazilian-owned Restaurant Brands International (who also owns Burger King) bought Canadian icon Tim Hortons in 2015. When the Canadian-themed commercials disappeared from our televisions, so did the level of service and quality of the products. It’s now strictly a numbers game for the big business that owns Timmies.

I may be going out on a limb here but I’m pretty sure Canadians wouldn’t mind paying a few pennies more for their daily double-double and maple glazed donut to have them freshly made in-house and promptly served by happy people who receive benefits. We don’t ask much. After all, we’re Canadian. But the natives are restless and unless Tim Hortons takes drastic steps to improve service and quality of their products without penalizing their employees’ benefit plans, we could be screwed—by foreign owners. Oh, that it should come to this.

What can we do?

We hate to say “We told you so” but . . . customers are unhappy; franchisees are unhappy; employees are unhappy. Stock prices are going cold. Under American leadership, Timmies has lost its basic Canadian flavour, its essence. Being a good corporate citizen is about more than the bottom line and we are sure that bottom line would bounce back up if they treated their customers, employees and franchisees with more respect. Taking care of each other is the Canadian way.

Should we pass the toque and buy back what should still be ours? We could have bake sales (ironic!), get the Leafs to play a charity fund-raiser game (after all, do they really deserve to get paid for what they do?), get little kids in red mittens with donation boxes around their necks to stand in their skates outside Beer Stores, ask Justin and the missus to put on their Indian costumes and pray?

There has to be a way we can bring Tim Hortons home again. It’s our heritage, our right and should still be our Timmies. The CEOs in charge in 2015 should have never sold out and now all Canadians are paying the price. Get out the old handbook—the one that spells honour and flavour with a “U” and films its commercials in places like Grande Prairie and Chicoutimi—before the Yanks messed with our special formula, our secret recipe. We’re dyin’ here. We need to buy back our Timmies.

Here’s what I posted in 2015 when Restaurant Brands International took over:

Is Timmies still a Canadian cultural icon?

For better or worse?

For better or worse? No longer Canadian.

Canadian Baby Boomers remember the real Tim Horton—the handsome young hockey player who helped the Toronto Maple Leafs win four Stanley Cups back in the sixties. Tim Horton was killed in a tragic car crash in 1974 shortly after one of his entrepreneurial endeavours had just started up. Tim Hortons was originally just a system of franchised donut/coffee shops in Ontario and grew to become a national icon, representing everything Canadian. In fact, I think they should change their corporate colours to red and white.

Is there a Canadian alive who hasn’t at least once walked down the street with the iconic brown cup in hand? Over the years, customers have supplied the material for Timmie’s feel-good commercials showing young kids and parents getting into the car on freezing winter mornings to drive to the hockey rink; our soldiers enjoying Tim’s in faraway desert postings, and seniors meeting over a newspaper for an early morning assessment of the world situation at their local Tim Hortons.

The upside. Mmmmm.

The upside. Mmmmm!

When American-owned Restaurant Brands International (owner of Burger King) purchased Tim Hortons, Canadians were collectively horrified, nervous and skeptical that our national identity would continue being treated with the respect it had earned over several decades. I think enough time has elapsed now that we can make a fair evaluation. I haven’t really seen any major change in the quality or choice of food and beverages being offered. They offer menu items that are fast and affordable, with seasonal promotional treats. I am concerned, however, that they might diversify too much into fast food menu choices which are bound to affect the culture.

What I have noticed, however, is that the always-slow lineups are growing longer and slower. Where there would generally be eight or ten people ahead of me, there are now eighteen or twenty. I recently waited so long in a line at Tim Hortons on Mavis Road in Mississauga that my roots need retouching. If there’s a lineup of cars extending down the street waiting for the drive-thru, I often opt to park the car and line up inside only to find that the drive-thru is still moving faster. I do miss those feel-good Canucky commercials though. Please tell me they’re not using an American ad agency now too. Where are the scenes of red maple leaf mittens hugging a hot chocolate, the maple donuts, all the pedestrians cradling a cup of Tim Hortons as they make their way through daily life?

The downside of Tim Hortons - the #@$%^&$ lineups.

The downside of Tim Hortons,

the #@$%^&$ lineups.

While I am politely (like any good, true Canadian) waiting in the Timmies lineup for the seasons to change or my Canada Savings Bonds to mature, it gives me time to look around and appreciate the common denominator that brings every ethnicity together under that ubiquitous brown and cream-coloured logo every day. It’s a reminder to be thankful I’m living in the best country in the world where we don’t have to clutch our precious children and flee down railroad tracks, over mountains or cross seas in leaky boats to simply be safe while drinking our morning coffee or steeped tea. We are fortunate that we’re not living in refugee camps because our lives were at risk in the place we once called home.

Every single one of us now living in Canada is the product of an immigrant. The next time I’m tempted to become impatient with the lineups at Tim Hortons, I’ll stop and think about those millions of people lining up to flee terrorism in their own homelands who would give anything to be in my place. The fact that many Tim Hortons are owned, staffed and frequented by immigrants is a testament to our tradition of welcoming newcomers to our country. We can only hope that the world leaders will soon get their act together and come up with a solution that will allow these families to rebuild their lives in safe, new countries such as Canada, or better still, to live safely in their home country.

Maybe we should export Tim Hortons to the Middle East, invite opposing sides to sit down and talk over a steeped tea or dark roast with some Timbits, and perhaps they would see that we’re not so different after all. We can all get along. Under that iconic logo we’re polite to each other; no one’s packing a gun; we’re not ducking mortar shells, and we’re sharing warmth and friendliness in a place we all love. You can’t get more Canadian than that—unless we bring the Stanley cup back to Toronto. We can only hope.