Revolution #9

Doesn’t seem that long ago that Obama was being inaugurated for his first term, the world was in economic turmoil, and we were off to Montfort hospital to see our new grandson. Sarah and Dave named him after his great grandfathers and so Edward Vincent McLean became “Teddy.” He still is going with it, although “Ted” is creeping in as another nickname.

As he gets to his 9th birthday, Teddy is thriving under his mother’s home school program. He loves math and reading – dinosaurs are his specialty along with Star Wars Lego. He’s getting taller and taller but he’s still rapier thin – even though he can polish off 7 pieces of pizza in one sitting.

Teddy has a devastating wit – he loves puns and bad riddles. He has a jokebook collection that would put Henny Youngman to shame. His laugh is still the most infectious of all the grandkids. And who the heck is Captain Underpants?

He’s a kind and sensitive kid with deep emotional motivation. He is also an eternal optimist – one way he differs from cynical Grandpa. In other ways he’s almost an uncanny mirror image of myself ca. 1955. He wears his heart on his sleeve, whether he’s missing his dear old feline pal Gunther or sad to see Nonna and Grandpa leave for home.

Just mention his upcoming holiday cruise with his family and grandparents and he cheers right up. He’s thinking of the Celebrity kids club you see – not to mention those sausages at the breakfast buffet and pizza the rest of the time. Oh maybe toss in a bit of pasta as well. He’ll never go hungry.

We’ll be down tomorrow to help him celebrate and I’m sure he’ll find some time in between his Laser Tag birthday party and opening up his presents to give us a big hug. That’s the Teddy way. Number 9…Number 9…


Optical Optimum

Well my cataract surgery has now reached a happy ending (at least for now.) Everything healed up nicely, I have a stable eyeglass prescription and today I am back with glasses after a couple of months getting by without them. The replacement lenses very slightly undercorrected my distance prescription so that had to be fixed. Also I have some astigmatism which has been corrected. I need additional power to be able to read small print, so even if I had gone with the most expensive implant (Toric to correct astigmatism) I would still have needed reading glasses. So the slight upcharge I paid to get the aspheric and high contrast  monofocal Tecnis lenses turned out to be my best solution.

I don’t mind glasses, since I have worn progressive lenses for years and I am already used to the prescription after a couple of hours with it. The improvement in my vision – while certainly not as dramatic as noted after the cataracts were gone – is quite remarkable. Now I can read road signs clearly and I don’t have to get close to the TV in order to read the finer print. With the reading prescription I can read the smallest print on the eye chart. It’s been years since I’ve seen this well – distance, intermediate, up close.

The frames above – Stepper titanium – were relatively inexpensive but light and strong. My color is more navy than gun metal grey but you get the idea. I have Transitions photochromic lenses so I have built-in sunglasses if needed.

I don’t think I’ve undergone anything medical that has increased the quality of my life as much as getting my vision back. If you are in need of cataract removal don’t be afraid to put yourself in the hands of a good surgeon and optometrist. Your odds are excellent to have a better outlook.



The Tanks

For most of our married life we had to replace our luggage every few years – either because of wear and tear on the fabric, or broken handles / ripped zippers thanks to baggage handling technology.Even a set of hard sided luggage succumbed to the inevitable bumps and bruises of travel.

All that changed around 2004 when we purchased the tanks – a four piece set of nested luggage made by Roots. Here you see the 27 inch Pullman case with a 25 inch bag inside and inside that a 21 inch carry-on. These bags have been industrial strength. No gorilla-like baggage guy or grind it out carousel has made a dent in their tough nylon and heavy rubber piping. They are great value for money unless you want to use them for serious travel. There is also a tiny tote which Maria wants to keep for overnight car trips and that is fine.

It’s that very heavy indestructibility that has led to their undoing. We long ago ceased using the largest case because even before you actually pack it, it has the needle quivering on the scale at Air Canada. It’s a classic heavyweight bag and nobody in the airport wants to see it, let alone handle it. The 25 incher is barely usable. On our last trip we took the 21 incher as a carry-on and wherever we went the folks at the airline desk wanted us to check it anyway.

There is an additional problem with the wheels on the cases which are purely one directional (don’t spin or handle in a lineup very easily.) Not the best for checking in or wheeling through an airport.

We have a couple of lighter weight 25 inchers we used recently but at Christmas Dave and Sarah solved our problem with a new matched set of lightweight strong Swiss Army luggage. This will give us a larger bag for a change and with the carry-on we should be able to pack for a 2 week cruise and stay well within weight and number guidelines as far as our luggage is concerned.

And the tanks – too heavy for travel but too good to throw away, they are going to a friend of Sarah’s for basement storage of old clothes. They’ll be bullet proof and should last until the 22nd Century if past performance is any clue to future results.

Figuring It All Out?

As another Winter Solstice approaches so does my 13th anniversary of retirement. I calculate that in the 21st century I have spent only 25% of my time gainfully employed (23.5% if you add in the year 2000 – which technically is in the 20th century.) But who’s counting?

And just as it is with any other stage of life – childhood, education, career(s), marriage, parenthood – retirement doesn’t begin with knowing everything about it. Even if you are experienced in the other facets of life, you have to learn a new way of living. There is a lot of angst about retirement in the Boomer generation today because most don’t know what retirement means in any practical sense.

I am in the leading edge of the Boomer generation maybe even a pre-Boomer technically. So I’ve had a bit of time to learn some things. Retirement still changes as the days, months, years pass. But after 13 years I have figured a few things out. All of it? Not bloody likely, mate. Here’s what I feel confident about:

I grow old. I grow old… I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

I am now well past the status of “early retiree” – a time when I was lucky to get the seniors’ discount at Ponderosa or Sizzler. My “normal retirement” date occurred in 2011. I must begin collapsing my RRSP as of 2017 (and pay the taxes.) Even those busy seniors who serve coffee or flip burgers while wearing Timmy’s or Mickey Dee uniforms are arguably younger than I am. The breathless articles in the Financial Post about post retirement age careers generally mark the age of 70 as a time to consider hanging up your skates. I am there now, baby. In spades.

Go-Go. Go Slow. No Go.

Those are apparently the three stages of retirement living. And it’s true the first decade or so had a lot of travel involved. A number of bucket list destinations came off – Russian palaces, Greek islands, the Parthenon, Titanic Quarter, Istanbul, Australia, New Zealand, Polynesia, Hawaii. Most of these were cruise trips. We have done a number of Transatlantic crossings and one Transpacific one.

Now we may be getting into the Go Slow stage. No trips this year and we have only one planned in 2018 – a Caribbean jaunt with our grandchildren. Some days it just doesn’t seem worth the hassle to pack and travel by air.  That said, I suspect the No Go stage will be a bit in the future assuming our health holds up.

It’s Not All About the Money

As mentioned previously, there seems to be a lot of pre-retirement angst in the media these days. Most of it revolves around finances – or lack thereof. There does not seem to be much press given to planning a rich retirement in non-monetary ways – yet our experience shows this to be very important.

We have lots of knowledge now in keeping our minds active. Maria volunteers at a thrift store a couple of days a week. I worked as a volunteer part-time production guy and technical officer at a small coffee roastery in town for a couple of years after retiring. Then I learned about Linux, computer repair and networking and I now serve as the neighborhood go to guy on IT. I suppose I could make some money at it but I don’t want to compete with the locals who do it for a living and probably need the money more than I do. A bottle of wine here and there is reward enough for keeping my mind in gear.

It’s Somewhat About the Money

Expenses go on in retirement – you still have to maintain your home, and as you get older you start paying for chores you did yourself when younger – yard maintenance, snow clearing.

In our case we don’t have dental insurance any longer. There are expenses for nice hearing aids and if you want more than the basics for say cataract surgery you will pay for it. We are fortunate enough that these expenses are not beyond our means. In the long run we should be OK if we need to move into a nice seniors’ home. It’s something we have planned for and we can do it when we need to.

My Work Life and Experience Becomes More Distant (and Irrelevant)

Unilever sold another brand category and factory recently – one that occupied about ten years of my working life. All the other factories and offices I worked in over 35 years have been closed – one plant completely demolished and replaced by a warehouse. Products I developed or improved have been divested or discontinued. Even the activity of food science itself is largely confined today to small entrepreneurial firms, government or academia. The multinationals have repatriated everything to the US or Europe – even India and China. It’s a different world – and frankly I’m glad I don’t have to fit into it any more.

And on that depressing note I’ll close, go have a Scotch and celebrate my 13th anniversary of “early retirement” tomorrow.



Reflections in a Plastic Eye

Well it’s done. Final score: acrylic implants 2, cataracts 0.

The second surgery seemed to go better and faster than the first – although the first was pretty slick itself. Recovery is better when you have one blurry and one really good eye – as opposed to one blurry and one really bad eye. I was seeing really well by the second day. Some further notes:

  • I’ll still need glasses for reading and some correction of long distance vision – but that is OK. My choice of monofocal Tecnis lenses was predicated on getting the best contrast and night vision possible. The fancier toric and multifocal lenses might eliminate glasses for most tasks, but are much more expensive and might give reduced contrast, even some halos and glare around car lights at night.
    Even then I’d still likely need reading glasses. So why not go for the best result even if at the end some specs will be needed? That was my thinking at least.
  • It’ll take a month or so until my lenses settle in enough to get a stable prescription so until then I’ll get by without glasses. I can see pretty well without them now – much better than with my old prescription which had to correct for the cataracts as much as they could.
  • I’m still into the eye drops and will be till the end of the month. A small inconvenience considering my visual upgrades.
  • The major improvement aside from clear vision is the vibrancy of colors. I already shared on Facebook how much better Mr. Oates the cat looks. When I was in Costco earlier this week I was checking out the new 4K TVs and they looked fabulous. Then I came home and my 2009 era Samsung HDTV also looks fabulous. Go figure.
  • Most of the problems with blurry vision at first I believe are attributable to the fact that your eye is dilated for a couple of days after the operation. Sort of like a camera – you can’t focus well over the depth of field unless you stop down.
  • Another reason to avoid the fancy-schmancy lens implants is that you have to go into Ottawa to get them done. The simpler surgeries are carried out in the small town ambiance of Smiths Falls. it’s an easier drive, the staff there are fantastic and it’s a lot easier to schedule surgery there. I got both eyes done in six weeks after first meeting with the surgeon. Right now they are booking for March in Ottawa.
  • I was checked out by the surgeon the day after the surgery and now return to the capable hands of my Almonte optometrist for the final checkup and assessment for eyeglasses. The weather was great for travel to Smiths Falls and Ottawa but you never know. It’s good to be home.

Options in Cataract Surgery

This post doesn’t have an appealing title and will be a curious mixture of economics and technical data, so I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t read it. However anyone who might be contemplating cataract surgery in future might find my experience helpful so here goes.

First of all, getting a cataract removed and a lens implanted is a lot like buying a car. You can go for basic transportation or you can start piling on the options. Every buyer is different and what I find of value another purchaser may not.

The very basic operation is covered by OHIP (my local government Medicare.) The options you pay for out of pocket. The majority of folks just go with the basics and that does the job. Lets get into details on the options.

To begin with I have a slightly more complicated lens situation (slight astigmatism – focal length is different in a different axis.) This is reflected in my normal eyeglass prescription. More about this later.

There are two parts to cataract surgery – pre-op eye measurements and the operation and implant.

Pre-Op Measurement

This is necessary because the eye surgeon needs to match the appropriate implant lens to your eye. The size of your eye and the curvature of your cornea is important. OHIP pays for an ultrasound measurement. There is a more accurate laser measurement that costs about $200 extra. The surgeon recommended this and so I went ahead and paid for it. This was the first option and in my mind a no-brainer if you can afford it.

The Implant

I had three choices of lens implant:

  1. Standard (generic) – this is paid in full by OHIP and in most cases works fine. You are going to need to wear eyeglasses for final correction in my case and the standard lens is a spherical one – some aberration can reduce contrast in night driving situations. I felt I could afford a bit better.
  2. Tecnis Monofocal Aspherical (about $250 extra for the set.) This gives improved contrast, is most similar to the “natural” lens it replaces and is better for night driving. You are still going to need eyeglasses to get pinpoint focus – due to my astigmatism.
  3. Tecnis Toric (about $1400 extra for the set.) This is the latest and greatest in implant optics and would in theory correct for both distance vision and astigmatism. Folks who go this way can get out of eyeglasses for most activities.

Now $1400 may seem like a lot but hey, I paid quite a bit more than that for hearing aids a year or so ago. Would it be worth it to eliminate glasses?

As it turns out I would (at my advanced age) still have to wear glasses for reading fine print. So the Toric lenses would not be guaranteed to get me out of them entirely.

Not needing glasses for anything but reading is a hassle as far as I am concerned. You either need a granny chain with the spectacles, or you go with zero prescription in the top and reading prescription in the bottom of a set of progressive lenses and wear them all the time. Besides that, after 30 years I sort of like wearing glasses.

And the clincher for me is that the best visual acuity does not come with the Toric lenses anyway. The aspherical Tecnis with an eyeglasses prescription will correct my vision right back to 20/20. I can live with that.

For some people who aren’t as worried about night driving the Toric lens might be the way to go. But I felt that I would get the best value and the best distance vision with the Tecnis Monofocal. So that was my choice.

And I think it’s worked out for me. I can already see much more clearly with my “bionic” eye and in fact have eliminated a pair of glasses I needed to see the computer screen. I won’t have a final eyeglass prescription until I get the second eye fixed but based on my first evaluation at the optometrist things are looking pretty good.

Your financial and life situation may be different from mine, but I feel I did well with the moderate upgrade in lenses and continuing on with eyeglasses where needed. Now you know the rest of the story.




Well I am now halfway there in the cataract surgery game. I had my left eye operated on last Tuesday and my right eye is scheduled to get fixed on December 5.

Compared to some surgery which shall remain nameless (prostate biopsy) the eye stuff is pretty benign. The worst part by far is wearing the eye shield afterwards – the tape the hospital gives you is like crazy glue. The eye drops aren’t too bad aside from some really nasty ones you get just prior to the surgery itself.

I went to the Smiths Falls hospital for my eye and I am glad I did. The drive is far more convenient than going into the city and the staff there are very kind and efficient.

After I paid for my Technis lens upgrade (better contrast at night) I went up to the surgical floor. They have special chairs where they work on you and then you are just wheeled down to the operating room in the chair. The back reclines, they put you under the microscope and start a process called phacoemulsification on your cataract. This involves a tiny ultrasonic probe that they use to break up your old lens and suck it out. Sounds gross but aside from bright lights you don’t experience anything. Then they unroll a new bionic lens in its place and you are done. Total time 15-20 minutes.

After surgery everything was blurry but after one day I could already see a lot better. I note how much whiter and more colorful the world looks in my left eye now. I can hardly wait to get my right eye fixed.

Blame It on the Bossy Nonna

8 year old wisdom: “You’re so bossy Nonna, you boss me around all the time.” This was Teddy recently when his Nonna made him quit playing Hot Wheels on the PC and come to lunch.

And Nonna admits that she has always been “a little bossy.” Her own mother agrees – and she knows best.

Today as Maria celebrates her birthday all of us bossees must agree that she does it out of love and concern for us. It’s her Meyers-Briggs ISFJ personality. Plus her teacher experience. Plus her concern we are all healthy and safe and happy.

I mean it’s not as if she doesn’t walk the talk. She’s always ready to help out – her peers, her siblings, her mother, Sarah and Dave, her grandkids, in the community and of course me. Sometimes she gets frustrated that it seems to be “expected” or taken for granted. But then she’s on to the next service opportunity. Go figure.

So my dear Happy Birthday. We all love you and appreciate you. Even a certain ginger tabby four footed bundle of love that cares for you more than anyone else. But he won’t be bossed around either.

Social Media and Me

I just finished paying for my online hosting service and domain registration so I guess this blog will continue for another year, God willing. That got me thinking about social media in general and how my online activity and presence may have changed in the past 20 years. My conclusion – it has and it hasn’t.

A lot of what I do online hasn’t changed from the way I did things 20 years ago. I still belong to a number of text based technical and specialty forums where I type posts just as before. I don’t have a smartphone so I don’t take photos with it and immediately post online. (I use a real camera although it’s digital now.) As a result I don’t have an Instagram account. I have discovered YouTube but I don’t make videos so mostly I just learn how to fix stuff or listen to YouTube music. I do a little bit with Reddit.

My main social media outlets are Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Twitter I find limiting and rather juvenile so I just link my blog through it. LinkedIn keeps me in touch with former work colleagues and Facebook is great for old and new friends, relatives etc.

I used to program a website with HTML as my personal “brand presence” on the Web, but that sort of activity has largely been supplanted by WordPress software or any of the many blogging sites out there. My blog is hosted on my own domain by a web server company and it’s all basically point and click. It sounds a lot more complicated than it is. I have a WordPress theme and all the spam filtering and other tools I need for a website are close at hand. If I didn’t want to do that I could just register at a blog site and type away. I try not to do “fake news” and I don’t advertise or charge anything. I hope some of my online friends and family enjoy what I have to say.

So that’s my Social Media presence. Not very flashy, but I hope to continue for a while.

Another Sweet Girl

I have been really blessed with each of my grandchildren. There’s Teddy – smart at math, science and literature. He’s like his grandpa in that he can really get into some subjects while others leave him cold. There’s Veronica – sweet and kind and affectionate but looks after her siblings like a tiger. And finally Susannah – who’s always been the baby but now as she approaches birthday #4 is becoming another sweet girl.

I would say in a lot of ways ways Susannah is most like her mother of the 3 kids. She was an early talker and is the most precocious one. She wants to be in there doing everything the older kids do. She has her mother’s indomitable determination but also can exhibit a wicked temper like grandpa did as a youngster. She takes herself pretty seriously and you can’t tease her too much. She’s very quick to see if you are telling her something that doesn’t make sense. Her babyhood days are definitely behind her as she becomes a little girl in her own right.

Like the two older kids she is getting into martial arts. This family will wipe the floor with any offenders for sure.

Sarah has taken all the kids into the optometrist as they grow and it looks like Susannah will be the first one to get eyeglasses for some early childhood nearsightedness. The parents are hopeful she’ll grow out of it but for now the other kids are very jealous. I hope she feels special.

Susannah’s having a “Mary Poppins party” today and we’ll be down to see her on her calendar birthday October 16. Happy birthday my other sweet girl.


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