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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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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Are you guilty of smuggling shoes into Canada?


Slowly step out of the car and show me your shoes.

The comments made this week by Donald Trump about scuffy contraband shoes being smuggled into Canada is just too delicious for this Canadian serial shoe wearer to ignore. In one of his latest unhinged rants Trump attempted to horrify patriotic Americans into vilifying Canada and mistakenly defend protectionism. By informing them that Canadians were so desperate for shoes and to avoid Canadian duties (or tariffs as he called them, which are not the same thing) he announced that we make covert trips to the United States to purchase and smuggle their prized and precious footwear back into Canada. Then, in order to deceive those pesky Canadian border security agents, we toss our old straw clogs at the border in Buffalo, scuff up our new made-in-America Reeboks and trip across the border undetected, fooling those filthy Canadian revenuers. What more proof do Americans need that Canada is a terrible place?

I have a confession. In fact, any Canadian who has ever visited the United States would probably admit to being guilty of the same thing. I have purchased shoes in the United States and brought them back to Canada. But I’m confused. I didn’t realize what I was doing was wrong, immoral or unpatriotic. And I certainly didn’t break any laws so there was no need to scuff up my shiny new shoes to fool border security because I’m legally allowed to bring back up to $900.00 in merchandise duty-free after an absence of a particular number of days from Canada. If I exceed the legal spending limits, then I’m prepared to pay duty to Revenue Canada for the chance to pick up something different from what I might find at home. And what sane woman in her right mind would ever scuff up her new shoes anyway?

“Her” shoe closet.

So how is this hurting anyone? I supported American business. I kept border security agents employed by checking my passport and sitting in their little booth to ask me a few simple questions to ensure I’m not packing heat. And the banks rejoiced at the service charges and exchange costs they levied when I converted my Canadian dollars to American. If I hurt anyone, it’s probably China, the mother lode of cheap shoes. And, of course, this whole exercise is moot if you’re a man; everyone knows that men only own two pairs of shoes, one brown and one black—unless they’re under 30 in which case they may also own a pair of runners. Cross-border shopping is a non-issue for men.

“His” shoe closet.

The ironic thing about this whole fiasco is that if Donald Trump actually cross-border shopped like real people, he’d realize that we have far better quality shoes in Canada than they have in the United States. Many of our shoes are Italian imports thanks to our large Italian immigrant population who have created businesses here. See, Donald—immigration is a good thing. The quality and styles of what we can get here are far superior to what most American stores offer and our prices are competitive. No one in the world manufactures better winter boots and coats than Canadians and thanks to our global business practices we have access to imported as well as locally-manufactured merchandise that is far better than south of the border. Just ask Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex who regularly sports Canadian-made brands.

Pssst! Mr. Trump. Wanna buy some protection?

Sorry Mr. Trump. You got some fake news there. You’ve somehow taken the issue of non-existent Canadian protectionism and twisted it into something you hope will justify American protectionism, but you’ve shot yourself in the foot. And unless you were wearing genuine Canadian-made steel-toed Kodiaks, Timberlands, Royer, Canada West, Caterpillar or other superior brands made in Canada, you could be missing a few lower digits. You’re certainly missing something, and that’s not fake news.

Here’s Greg Perry’s (The Toronto Star) take on the situation:

 


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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.


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Do you hear the call of the wild?


When I read Kristin Hannah’s earlier novel, The Nightingale (about a female resistance fighter in WW 2 France), it was obvious the lady can write, which is why I was anxious to tuck into her latest novel, The Great Alone. This story is set in Alaska in the 1970s and is steeped in graphic descriptions of the geography, the wildlife, the people and the unusual lifestyles they embrace. As I was reading the book I was amazed at the depth of research she must have undertaken, then discovered that she lived in Alaska which explains why she has such a deep appreciation and sensitivity for the area.

The main character, Leni Allbright is born to teenager parents (her mother Cora was only sixteen) during the sixties. When Leni’s father Ernt comes back from Vietnam with what would now be called PTSD, his demons surface in the form of anti-social behaviours and domestic violence against his wife. One day he receives a letter from the father of a deceased army buddy stating that his friend had left him a plot of land and a cabin in Alaska. Ernt sees this as the perfect opportunity to escape life and live “off the grid” so he packs his wife and young daughter into an old VW van and they head off for remote Alaska.

Upon the family’s arrival in a small, isolated community in late spring, they are befriended by locals including Large Marge, a former lawyer who has also left the bustle of urban life in Seattle and runs a tiny general store in town. The few people who live nearby pitch in and help the Allbright family set up their homestead on a muddy patch of land with a dilapidated two-room cabin. Life without electricity, running water and plumbing is challenging and in order to survive their first winter they must start growing vegetables, raise chickens and goats and learn basic wilderness survival strategies.

When teenage Leni starts school there are only about half a dozen students of assorted ages in the tiny one-room school. She makes an immediate psychological connection with Matthew Walker who is the same age. His father is one of the town’s founding families and because of their long history and hard work in the area they are somewhat better off and more established than most of the community’s inhabitants.

Leni’s father Ernt soon displays the psychotic behaviours he exhibited back in “the world” and he becomes unpopular with the other members of the community. He’s pegged a trouble-maker and the abuse he inflicts on his wife soon becomes apparent. His only friend is the equally irascible father of his former army buddy. Leni and her mother Cora function in a constant state of fear and tension in an effort to not ignite Ernt’s hair-trigger temper.

I definitely plan to read more books by lawyer-turned-author Kristin Hannah.

A close friendship develops between Leni and Matthew but they must keep it secret from Ernt for fear of serious reprisal. During their early years in Alaska, Leni and her mother Cora adapt and learn to love Alaska as much as the local people and feel they have found the place where they want to spend the rest of their lives. The challenge is how to survive not only the geographical and climate conditions but also the volatile Ernt. Beyond this I won’t tell you any more of the plot as I don’t want to spoil it but I can assure you the narrative is beautifully and sensitively written. Hannah has a deep understanding of life in Alaska and articulates rare insight into the psychology and practicalities of domestic abuse. While the story is distressing at times, it is also fascinating, sensitive and educational.

I found myself wondering how I would cope in such an environment. The story is set in the 1970s long before the advent of the internet and wifi and life in Alaska is not easy. While I like to think I could rise to the challenges I’m afraid I’m now a confirmed city girl. The story is compelling and beautifully written. I highly recommend The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. I’d rate it 9 out of 10.

To order The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah from Amazon, click here.

To order The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah from Amazon, click here.

 

 


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Who cares if it’s swimsuit season . . . again?


Seriously??

Many years ago I read about a magazine editor who quit her job at a high-profile international women’s magazine because she just couldn’t face overseeing another annual swimsuit edition. I know how she must have felt because I can’t face another swimsuit season either. All the current magazines are full of tips on how to match a bathing suit to our individual figure types, how to look our best and feel confident. Pages and pages in the fashion mags have been dedicated to the latest swimsuit styles. The tropical patterns and colours are yummy and some of those scraps of fabric cost hundreds of dollars. The Photoshopped models look gorgeous. The reality is grim.

I’ll admit some styles are infinitely more flattering than others, but let’s face it, we’re never ever going to resemble anything close to those pubescent nymphets modelling the various styles featured in the magazine spreads. In fact, most boomers are even reluctant to go out in public in shorts much less a bathing suit. Those with cottages or winter homes in Florida can’t avoid donning a swimsuit occasionally but they’re usually hidden under diaphanous lightweight cover ups when we’re not actually under water.

I’ll have what she’s wearing!

It is virtually impossible for swimsuit designs to overcome what makes so many boomer broads self-conscious about beach wear. No amount of underpinning, tummy panels, supportive straps or bum tuckers will compensate for what nature has bestowed upon us after many decades of living our lives. By the time we’ve tried on dozens of unflattering designs in cramped fitting rooms with unflattering fluorescent lighting, cried a river, paid our dues at Weight Watchers, spray tanned our cellulite and waxed our lady parts to an unsightly, red rash, we’re fed up with the entire exercise. Sure, they tell us to feel good about ourselves regardless of our body shape—easy to say when you’re in your twenties or thirties. I sympathize with that fed-up magazine editor. This summer you’ll find me sitting in the shade and privacy of my back-yard gazebo, wearing elastic-waist shorts and a tee shirt, reading the latest New York Times’ best seller on my iPad mini. The beach is no longer my thing and even if it were, give me a birkini any day.

You’re beautiful mes très chères.