So Nobody Should Retire?

I recently read an article in The Walrus that postulated that nobody should retire -largely because they either can’t afford to or the future is too uncertain.

I found this a bit strange, to be honest. Maria and I retired early and at the time I felt we were OK to do so financially. We were fortunate enough to have pensions; we had been careful and had additional savings set aside. After some years away from the workplace, I still believe we can be OK – even if our health care costs increase a lot. And I have no interest in getting back on the bike, thank you. There are many reasons for this:

I don’t miss the job. When I retired, I had pretty well lost interest in my career. I enjoyed some of the technical aspects, but I was tired and burned out – depressed even – with the politics, performance management, and endless meetings that were part of my life back then. I left after my final day and never went back. Never wanted to.

I took a couple of years to taper off. When we moved to Almonte I volunteered as a tech officer/production worker with a small local coffee roasting business. I probably made a difference, but after a couple of years I wanted more time to travel, work on computers, learn about Linux. So at that point I just shut things down.

I never really identified as a person with my career. Sure, I was a chemist and food scientist – I still remember a lot of my training and practical experience. But that was never who I am – I didn’t disappear as a person when I didn’t go into the lab any longer.

My former job has disappeared. Unilever had two factories in the Toronto area where I worked. They closed one and sold the other one along with the spreads business. As well, Unilever phased out local product development in Canada. So even had I wanted to continue working, there wouldn’t be any job for me to do. Any termination settlement for me would have been in the form of a retirement agreement.

I have no desire to be a WalMart greeter, Tim Horton’s barista, or McDonald’s burger flipper. I did plenty of McJobs in my early years; right now all they would do for me is keep me on my feet for hours, and raise my marginal income tax level.

I am not minimizing the problems of many who want to retire and are faced with low income or economic uncertainty. Nor am I ungrateful for our good fortune in having decent jobs and benefits in our working years. However, I think the author of The Walrus article is a bit ingenuous to expect all seniors to work an additional 20 years after the traditional retirement date – because it’s good for them. In many cases it isn’t.

Peace at the Last

We lost our dearest old ginger friend today. Mr.Oates had not been well for a month. He had his good days and not so good days. The vet thought he had a neurological issue – maybe a brain tumor.

The last 24 hours he just went downhill – crawled off to the closet in our bedroom to be alone. He was unresponsive and falling over when he tried to walk.

So we cuddled him up in a big towel – no point in using the cat cage – and took a final journey to the vet. He was gentle to the end – slept away while we held him close.

Right now I’d say we are halfway between depression and acceptance on the Kuebler-Ross scale. Think of us today. We are grateful we could give him a good life and a warm bed to sleep in.

The pic above is how we always want to remember him. May he have had peace at the last.

My Old Pal

Mr. Oates will be nine years old tomorrow. Of all the cats we’ve been owned by, he is by far the most affectionate. He sleeps with us every night, has done that since the first night he arrived in our home.

Oates was a shelter cat, surrendered by his previous owners after a marriage breakdown. We took him from desolation to consolation, changing his life forever.

He’s had some health issues lately and may be suffering from a neurological issue. He has good days and bad days. So do we but we are taking it day by day.

Usually I reserve birthday wishes for those who can read them, but I think my old pal deserves one this year. So Happy Birthday Oatsey.

End of the Line

In my 60-odd years of taking photographs I have made a few changes in my equipment, for what I considered to be good reasons:

  1. From 127 film slides to 35 mm slides with a rangefinder camera – to have more control over image quality, and get more images per roll of film.
  2. From 35mm rangefinder to manual focus SLR slides – to improve focusing and see the proposed image better.
  3. From 35 mm slide film to 35 mm print film – to make albums of vacation trips.
  4. From manual focus film SLR to Autofocus film SLR – because my eyesight was failing and I couldn’t focus properly.
  5. From AF film SLR to various and sundry digital rangefinder cameras – because I didn’t want the hassle of film any longer, and I was storing everything on the computer anyway.
  6. To both digital rangefinder and SLR cameras – because finally the problem of dust on a DSLR sensor got fixed – mostly.

That is where I am today. I have a tiny superzoom unit I can take on holiday, and a Nikon DSLR system for serious image making.

Here is an example with the small superzoom.

And this one was taken with the digital SLR and a wide angle zoom.

Now I’ve had my latest digicams since 2016 or so, and a lot has happened in photography since then. Smartphones are now used for 95% of all photographs taken these days, and sales of “real cameras” have declined by about the same percentage. The latest thing in the camera biz is “mirrorless.” Mirrorless cameras have largely replaced the DSLR, and the superzoom type camera market is hanging on by a thread.

Several times in the past I have replaced my equipment because the old stuff was obsolete or just didn’t work for me anymore (See above.) Should I be doing that in this day and age? I don’t think so because:

  • We aren’t traveling as much these days, and when we do it is shorter trips in the car. So I can take along my very best camera equipment – Nikon D5500 system. This solves the only problem I have with travel cameras – sometimes I have trouble in very low light if I have my tiny Lumix superzoom.
  • Most upgrades in digital camera technology in the past 5 years has been in video capability. Since I am really a still photo photographer that doesn’t apply to me. The older cameras still take wonderful still photographs.
  • I have a full set of Nikon DX lenses and a bunch of older Nikon film lenses from the early 1990s that still work – although I have to manually focus them. Replacing all those lenses with a mirrorless camera system would be very expensive.

The above was taken with one of the old school Nikon manual focus lenses. Since my cataract surgery I can accurately focus again – and the camera gives me an indication when I’ve got it right.

  • I can still take film photos with the old lenses and my 2002 F80 SLR but honestly I probably won’t. However if any of the grandkids gets into vintage photography classes in high school. I can donate a pretty good film system to them.
  • With my Pixel 7 smartphone I now have another capable camera I can experiment with. Initial impressions are pretty good, if you can live with limited telephoto capability.

Here is a November morning as captured by the Pixel 7.

  • Mostly I changed or upgraded my equipment because of frustration when I could not get the type of image I wanted. This has not been the case for several years now. Nor do I think that I have exhausted all the possibilities with either of my current “real” cameras. And I am just getting started with computational photography via my smartphone.

Although I may have reached the end of the line when it comes to buying new cameras, I certainly have NOT reached that point as a photographer. And one’s photographic skills are far more important than the type of equipment you have.

My Uncle Howard made wonderful images with a cruddy old 35mm Kodak back in the 1960s. I should always remember that.

End of October

On Friday – as the end of October approaches – so does the 3rd of this month’s 3 generations of birthdays. Of course Maria’s has been celebrated the longest.

It’s now been 53 years since we met, and the first party I went to with her was a late October birthday party for the friends celebrating birthdays in 1970.

Been a while I guess.

I don’t think Maria’s birthday party will be a week long affair like Susannah’s, but hopefully the grandkids will be out on the weekend to help her celebrate. As we get older it’s increasingly important to remember these anniversaries and especially be thankful for the person who’s having them.

So Happy Birthday dear Maria and thanks for being part of my life every day. All my love.

We Were There

For younger folks maybe it’s the “Bat Flip” or Kawhi’s 4-bounce bucket. But for Sarah and me it’s Oct 23, 1993 – 30 years ago. The greatest moment in Toronto sports history. We were there.

How important is a walk off World Series home run? When we went to Cooperstown in 2000, we saw Joe’s bat there – right beside Bill Mazeroski’s from 1960. I remember that home run too – heard it on the radio, in my Grade 10 classroom.

I’ll never forget that roller coaster of a game in ’93. Jays up 5-1 after a Paul Molitor home run. The bullpen choking. Trailing 6-5 going into the 9th. Mitch Williams jogging in from the bullpen.

I didn’t feel too bad though. Mitch had been shaky all series long. We had two Hall of Famers coming up. After a walk to Ricky Henderson and another Molitor line drive, I was pretty confident the Jays would tie it up.

When Joe got down two strikes I was a bit worried. Then came my favorite pitch of all time – poorly located fastball – down and in but over the plate.

Joe smoked it. Sarah screamed “Stay fair! Stay fair!” I thought it would hit the left field fence and we’d get two runs. Suddenly I saw Pete Incaviglia give up and start to turn toward the infield. “Touch ’em all Joe!”

It was over. Suddenly and violently and oh so sweetly over. I have never before or since been in a ballpark where 50,000 fans were jerked from worry to screaming insanity. I’ll never forget it. 30 years ago today. God bless you Mitch, wherever you are.

Nine Years

It’s now nine years that I have been publishing this blog on its own server with a customized domain and Web address. Of course, I have been writing a blog since 2002, and before that had a personal website since 1997.

The Web has changed a lot since then of course. Most photos today are taken with smartphones. There is a lot more video-centric content published. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok are far more important than a simple family-based blog. But I continue; I persevere.

A lot has happened in 9 years. My hearing and sight deteriorated but I have got that fixed to some extent. We went on a few more cruises. The grandkids have grown up incredibly. We still take shopping holidays down in Syracuse NY.

This was Sarah’s gang back in 2014.

And here they are now.

I plan to keep on with this old school way of doing things. I can take better photos now with my smartphone, but I still prefer an actual camera. I’ll never be a fan of videos.

Anyway, if you have read this blog over the years I hope you have enjoyed it. You will at the very least kept in touch with our family.

Apple of My Eye

Susannah turns 10 years of age on this coming Monday.

She’s a lot like her mother in many ways. Although she’s still in elementary school she’s busy thinking about where she’ll go to university and what sort of career she’d like. Right now it’s a tossup between architecture and engineering. We’ll see.

She could combine STEM with art as she’s good in both math and drawing.

I am a person who loves it when a kid grows up and becomes a young lady or man, so I really appreciate Susannah at this age. My next project will be a childish one though. I want to teach her how to play Euchre – her older siblings are getting pretty good at it but we can have a four handed game if she learns. Good fun.

She is already a demon UNO player and like the other kids loves to “get” Grandpa. She’s also great at Trivia – again like her mother.

She’s busy planning a craft marketing project with proceeds going to charity. Some sort of jewelry and hair schrunchies items which likely will require a hot glue gun. I hope that works out OK. It’s not something I’d want to get involved in – I’ll stick to math and science.

She and her sister had a great time as flower girls at their Cousin Rachel’s wedding in September. A lovely pair.

Happy birthday my dear Susannah and I hope I’m around to see you make all those plans and dreams come true.

Guardian Angel

For to His angels He’s given the command

To guard you in all of your ways.

Upon their hands they will bear you up

Lest you dash your foot against a stone.

This Monday – October 2 – is Sarah’s birthday. It is also the Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels.

It is entirely appropriate that the two dates coincide. She continues to be the guardian angel for her family as they grow and mature.

She also continues to learn and grow in her religious faith. As a young person, she specialized in science. Later on she was a human resources officer. Now she has completed an M.A. in Pastoral Studies with a focus on teaching young children the elements of Christianity via hands on experience.

As she grew and matured I always told her that how successful she was with her studies and her work wasn’t the key thing. It was all that anyone could ask that she became the best person she could be with the help of divine grace. She has more than exceeded those expectaions already. Her mother and I are very proud of her.

Happy birthday dear Sarah and many more I hope.

Classic Texts

It was September 1966. I was beginning my Chemistry major at Queen’s and I needed a textbook for my Organic Chemistry 280 course.

I was given a choice of three possible reference texts:

A classic volume which first came out in World War 2 – Fieser and Fieser.

A well respected and popular text of general utility – Morrison and Boyd.

A recently published work which featured the burgeoning topics of instrumental analysis and physical organic chemistry – Roberts and Caserio.

The safe choice would have been Morrison and Boyd. But I was a physical chemistry nerd so I took the road less traveled and selected R&C. To this day I have never regretted that decision.

Roberts and Caserio was a go-to book in my library for close to 40 years – as a food scientist, flavor laboratory manager, quality control analyst. When I retired I left it behind to serve future food technologists at Unilever. I suspect it has now vanished into the mists of time.

Imagine my surprise when I recently discovered that the Roberts and Caserio 2nd edition – 1977 – is now online at Libretexts. I suppose the copyright has been assigned there. Jack Roberts passed away in 2016 and Marjorie Caserio also passed away in 2021, so no new edition would be forthcoming.

For those who wish to have real bound textbooks, it’s possible to get copies of both Roberts and Caserio AND Morrison and Boyd from used booksellers like Alibris for as little as $5 plus shipping. So if you’re nostalgic for these classic texts feel free to check it out.

There is a significant difference between the older textbooks and more recent ones. Back in the 60s, organic chemistry had a long history of pot-boiling techniques that went back to the late 1800s. Textbooks concentrated on classical molecular structure, nomenclature, functional groups, wet chemistry and learning a lot of famous “name” reactions. Today we have much more emphasis on instrumentation for structure determination, kinetics and mechanism of reactions, biochemistry and biomedical applications. The old textbooks have their charms though – if only to look good on a bookshelf.

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