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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Keep calm and carry on


Several years ago my husband and I toured the war rooms in the cellars beneath the Admiralty building in London, England. This underground bunker is where Winston Churchill, his generals and advisors spent time during WW II planning strategy and saving themselves from being bombed into oblivion. The tour was a fascinating experience with everything left exactly the way it was on May 5, 1945. The clocks stopped at 5:00 p.m. and cigarette butts still sit in the ashtrays. Seeing all the seemingly ancient telephones in different colours for different lines was odd when compared with today’s technology.

Several other things struck us as amusing. In addition to fake rats scattered throughout (for authenticity) there was only one functioning toilet in the entire complex and it was reserved for Mr. and Mrs. Churchill. The rest of the pit dwellers used large metal lidded cans like garbage cans that were emptied daily. (Don’t know what you had to do wrong to earn that job.) There were many quaint signs on the corridor walls including daily weather reports about the world above. People who were often entombed below ground for days or even weeks on end were supposedly uplifted by reading little blackboards that said “Fair and mild” and the famous “Keep Calm and Carry On”.

The cabinet war rooms in London, England. WW II’s answer to “safe space”.

Prime Minster Theresa May has her hands full these days. While not as challenged as Sir Winston Churchill, she’s had her share of stress with the killer B’s—Brexit, Bombings, Burning Buildings. She may want to consider retreating to that cozy little haven under the Admiralty building to regroup, strategize and escape the flak. It’s an environment free from parliamentary heckling, unhappy voters and bad British weather. And as a bonus, it’s bomb-proof.

The entire world seems to be under siege these days, whether home-grown or from foreign bullies. We have economic, political, social and environmental issues that seem insurmountable. Then there’s the NAFTA, NATO and immigration fiascos. We’ll try to “Keep calm and carry on”. .  and hope it gets better. War and conflict, whether military or economic leaves senseless casualties and is entirely preventable. Experience has proven, however, that we have to stand up to the bullies in order for good to prevail. I only hope our political leaders have the intestinal fortitude of Winston Churchill but somehow I’m not confident they do. Let’s hope diplomacy and cooperation prevail before it’s too late for this fragile world in which we live.

Maybe it’s time to call in the professionals.

Turning off the news and tuning out the noise is one way of constructing my own personal safe space but the problems persist. I’m thinking it might be a better idea to jet off to London, England and seek shelter in Churchill’s bunker. The phones don’t work in the bunker and there’s probably no cell signal or WiFi either. I’d be insulated from all the bad news and I know for a fact there is at least one working toilet. I’d have to download hundreds of books on to my iPad to fill the days. But the lack of sunshine could turn me into a very grumpy girl and no one would like that, so perhaps I’d better just soldier on in my own home in relatively safe Canada. Compared to the problems experienced by the rest of the world, there’s definitely no place like home. And there’s no place I’d rather be.

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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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Take David Sedaris to the beach or cottage this weekend


The only problem with reading a book by David Sedaris is—it ends. I love his humour and whenever I start one of his books, I try to take my time, savouring each word, each sentence, each paragraph in an attempt to make the deliciousness last as long as possible. But inevitably I can’t put it down and before I know it, I’ve reached—The End. I try to deconstruct what makes his writing so brilliant while appearing so simple. He’s sweet but slightly raunchy, honest and endearingly self-deprecating. His latest book, Calypso is a collection of autobiographical essays examining his life from the perspective of late middle-age. All his books have weird titles with the meaning buried in some obscure reference within the book. I’ll let you find this one yourself. The cover is an hommage to a friend who interprets natural plywood as art. It takes all kinds.

Some of the issues he confronts in Calypso include his perceived physical shortcomings, his three-decade relationship with his partner, Hugh, the tragic suicide of one of his sisters, Tiffany, the interesting people he meets while touring to promote his books, and minutae of his daily life with Hugh. Thirty years after the death of his alcoholic mother at the age of 62 from cancer, he’s still strongly affected by the loss.

I particularly enjoyed his descriptions of shopping for eccentric clothing, like a hat shaped like a toilet brush (shades of the chapeau worn by Princess Beatrice at Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton?), that he and his sister Gretchen like to buy at a store called Kapital when they’re in Japan. He describes shopping expeditions with his sisters as like being ‘in a pie-eating contest, only with stuff. We often felt sick. Dazed. Bloated. Vulgar. Yet never quite ashamed.’. I know the feeling.

Read any book by David Sedaris and you won’t be disappointed.

Sedaris has a respectful and sometimes fraught relationship with his 92-year-old Trump-loving father. The senior Sedaris refuses to leave the five-bedroom family home despite being unable to maintain it or properly cook for himself. He has a propensity for hoarding and uses a flashlight to find his way around the house at night, thereby saving on electricity. Sound familiar? The challenges faced by the family dealing with a stubborn, aging parent are something most boomers can relate to and Sedaris delivers a humorous perspective on the issue.

Calypso is a joy to read from start to finish. It’s a wonderful escape on a warm summer day or a pick-me-up if you’re feeling down. I’d rate it 9 out of 10.

To order Calypso by David Sedaris from Amazon click here.


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Want to feel better about how you look?


You’re beautiful.

Who among us doesn’t look at magazines or at our own bodies in the privacy of bedroom mirrors or in retail store fitting rooms and wish we were thinner, taller or prettier. The media sets impossibly high standards for appearance and even though we know those pictures are extensively Photoshopped and otherwise altered, we can’t help feeling like we fall short. Well, we’re not short, fat or abnormal. Models are genetic freaks. We’re the normal ones. Here are some statistics that will make you feel a whole lot better about yourself:

  • Average height of Canadian women – 5 ft. 4 inches. Any woman over 5 ft. 10 inches tall is in the 97.6 height percentile. Now who’s the freak?
  • Average waist measurement for Canadian women – 35 inches. For American women it’s 37.5 inches. If you’ve ever seen the portions of nutritionally poor food they dish out in American restaurants you’ll understand why there’s a difference.
  • Average dress size – 14. For American women it’s 16-18. Are you listening retail corporate buyers?
  • Naturally blonde hair and blue eyes are genetically carried by only 17 percent of the population. Most Canadians and Americans carry the dominant brown-eyed gene with recessive blue-eyed genes declining each year.
  • Fully 90 percent of women have cellulite—including models and celebrities. It’s the product of female estrogen and cannot be eradicated. This becomes particularly evident once we are no longer teenagers.

Magazines and other forms of media have finally recognized that no one can relate to the genetic mutants featured in fashion and beauty ads. We’re now seeing mature models like Maye Musk and women with normal-sized bodies being featured in media. While it’s tempting to scream “too little, too late” we have to take whatever we can get in the battle to change perceptions of beauty. We’ve achieved a tiny slice of recognition and if we keep the pressure on advertisers and manufacturers we can turn the tide.

The challenge now is to listen to my own advice. Every time I’m tempted to be critical of some aspect of my appearance, I’ll remind myself of how blessed I really am. I’m alive. I’m healthy. I’m happy. That’s more than enough and more than many people can claim to have. You’re beautiful girlfriend and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.


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Who doesn’t love a good spy story?


There’s nothing more compelling than a great story about espionage especially when it is written by a real-life former intelligence officer who was part of the C.I.A. for more than thirty years. The movie industry thought so too and produced a movie based on the book “Red Sparrow” by Jason Matthews. Although I have not yet seen it, the movie is rarely as good as the book. Movies can never capture the nuances of the thought processes of the characters or the subtle and delicate intertwining of various plot lines that comprise a book of several hundred pages. Books are infinitely more fascinating even without special effects and big-name movie stars.

When beautiful young Dominika’s ballet career is permanently derailed by a broken foot inflicted by a jealous fellow dancer, her entire life’s plan is erased. At her father’s funeral she is approached by her Uncle Vanya, an unscrupulous General in the SVR (formerly KGB) who makes her an offer she can’t refuse. In return for becoming a special Red Sparrow agent, her mother will be able to stay in her large Moscow government apartment and their lives can proceed as comfortably as before her father’s death. Red Sparrow is the name given to Russian agents, predominantly female but including a few males, who are trained in a so-called ‘whore school’. They are schooled in the finer arts of seduction which produces agents given special assignments requiring them to elicit secrets through old-fashioned pillow talk.

Real life spies operate closer than we think.

Meanwhile, the security of Nate Nash, a young American agent stationed in Moscow is compromised and he’s forced to relocate to Helsinki. Although he’s a relatively junior agent, he is the primary liaison between the CIA and a highly placed Russian double-agent called MARBLE and the Americans want to maintain his relationship with MARBLE (who is incidentally one of the few sympathetic characters in the novel). The Russians are aware of a deep mole in their network and assign Dominika, code-named DIVA to coerce Nate into exposing the Russian traitor. Naturally, a love story develops between the two agents and the plot becomes extremely complicated.

As we work our way through the various plot lines, the reader is educated about the CIA and espionage jargon, dirty tricks and political struggles. We feel like part of the team and I started feeling rather clever when I started to put two and two together, until things didn’t add up to four. I often became impatient with the clumsiness and weakness of Nate and wanted to yell at him to smarten up. But the secondary characters were fascinating and kept me engaged. The story line is current and Vladimir Putin makes periodic fictional appearances.

In real life, the author lived and served as a foreign intelligence agent in countries around the world so he has intimate knowledge of the cities where the action unfolds. He embraces local cultures and includes descriptions of meals enjoyed by the various characters, followed by a recipe at the end of each chapter. This book is part one of a trilogy and I will no doubt be checking out the next two. As I was reading, I was blown away (but not really surprised) by the level of intrigue perpetrated by the CIA and SVR and the overwhelming degree of corruption that exists.

Red Sparrow is a hefty read but well worth it. The author’s technical knowledge is impressive and we’re constantly kept in suspense about where the story will go next. The dialogue is intelligent and at times humorous, and I’m left wondering if there really is such a thing as a Russian “whore school” for secret agents. If I ever meet Jason Matthews I’ll be sure to ask as he’s bound to know for sure. I may even check out the movie starring Jennifer Lawrence, but think I’ll wait ’til it comes on television as it’ll probably be a disappointment after reading the book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Red Sparrow and give it 8 out of 10.

Click here to order Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews from Amazon.


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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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A retailer who actually listens to customers. Glory hallelujah!


Monday morning’s Globe and Mail featured an article by Marina Strauss on the front page of Report on Business entitled Holt Renfrew resizes strategy to focus on core markets, brands  that immediately had me high-five’ing the air above my newspaper. Holt Renfrew (for my non-Canadian readers, it’s our answer to Neiman-Marcus) wanted to improve business so they finally did something I’ve been suggesting to The Hudson’s Bay Company in letters, emails and blog posts for years, which they’ve categorically ignored. Holt Renfrew (are you sitting down?) actually asked their customers what they could do better. Remember us? The often ignored customer is retail’s entire raison d’être but few retailers recognize that obvious fact.

Holt Renfrew: new and improved.

I won’t bore you again with all the links to previous blog postings I’ve written about The Hudson’s Bay Company’s missteps that could be totally alleviated if they just listened to me, the customer. Holt Renfrew President Mario Grauso is either a regular follower of boomerbroadcast.net (yeah! right!) or he’s as smart as I am!! He actually invited real, live customers of Holt Renfrew to a meeting and listened to their suggestions on how to improve business. And, to his horror and enlightenment, they told him. Here are just some of the things Holt’s customers wanted but weren’t getting:

  • more sizes that address a wider range of real-life bodies, including half sizes in shoes.
  • greater personal assistance in interpreting trends and styling.
  • better editing of merchandise so the shopping experience is not so overwhelming.
  • improved on-line shopping

To the curb.

Well. Blow me down. Aren’t these exactly the same things I’ve been ranting about for years? Grauso fired about half of Holt’s top executives and corporate staff, and eliminated many brands including Clinique and Michael Kors as well as their HR2 off-price locations that weren’t producing. Grauso is reinventing and repositioning Holt Renfrew to better serve (hold your breath) —yes, it’s true—their customers. Who knows better than we do what we want to lay out our heard-earned cash or credit card to buy? It would seem obvious to most consumers of retail goods but not to The Hudson’s Bay Company and countless other retailers.

The transition for Holt Renfrew will not happen overnight and probably will not be without some pain involved, but I think we’ll all be the ultimate beneficiaries—not to mention the owners of the privately-held business, the already-wealthy Weston family. Ironically, I’m not a prime Holt Renfrew customer (now that I’m retired) as their price points are somewhat beyond my budget, but I admire and heartily endorse their initiative. And I love to browse their store, holding up lovely items to admire myself in the mirror in futile attempts at my quest for a new and improved me.

P.S. OK. I lied about not including links to former postings. Forgive me, but here’s the most recent one, which should tell you all you need to know about my campaign to get retailers to listen to customer needs and wants. It’s all in a day’s work, or should be, for any retailer. (I probably don’t need to c.c. Mario Grauso as he obviously already follows boomerbroadcast.net.)

https://boomerbroadcast.net/2018/02/18/the-hudsons-bay-company-welcomes-new-ceo-and-this-shopper-couldnt-be-happier/

You’re beautiful mes très chères.