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.

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.

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.

Getting There

On September 12, our son-in-law celebrates another birthday. It isn’t one where you trot out the caviar, champagne and cruises to Tahiti but that one is definitely in sight.

That said, Dave continues to be the kind, helpful, mature, reliable and industrious person he has always been. He’s into the teenage years as a parent, and he is helping Sarah in many ways to bring up kids who were the envy of many participants at the recent wedding we attended.

He is also carving out a very successful career in management with Canada Post. He recently was promoted and has a lot more responsibility, but I am sure he will cope with it in a seamless manner.

He’s still young enough to be in the garden – and other tool – accumulation phase so thankfully he’s easy to buy gifts for.

All the best to you Dave, and I hope you have a great birthday celebration tomorrow with Sarah and the kids.

Girl for the Ages

On Thursday my older granddaughter Veronica turns (count ’em) 13 years of age.

She has always been a sweet girl, and remains so – plus I have always enjoyed being around during the teenage years. So I am happily waiting for that coming down. I wonder if her mother is as keen as I am.

Veronica is now going into the eighth grade and she remains the rock of her family – looking out for both older brother and younger sister. She is that kind of kid. She is helpful at home, with her grandparents, her neighbors, in the church and in the community. Recently she spent some time helping stencil maple leaves onto a mural being painted at the community center. Actually earned a bit of money which made her happy.

She has a phone now and can send SMS messages so she always keeps tabs on her Nonna.

Veronica is still the “Cat Whisperer.” Our ginger tabby Mr. Oates continues to adore her and she is beloved by her own gray tabby cats, Terry and Timmy.

We recently traveled to the US where she discovered Friendly’s ice cream and also got a new plastic mini baseball helmet (Syracuse Mets) to go with her other ones. Those helmets also contained ice cream at one point. See a pattern here?

Veronica is a big fan of playing cards, and recently learned how to play Euchre. She played as Grandpa’s partner and we took down her confident brother and his father. We are looking forward to future confrontations.

She’s developing into a beautiful young woman and I love her to bits. I am very proud of her and I will be happy to celebrate this upcoming birthday with her and her family. Happy birthday my dear.

A Cruise Ship Gallery

We have done a lot of cruising over the past 17 years. I thought it might be fun to post some of my favorite cruise ship photos in some interesting places. Hope you enjoy it.

Celebrity Constellation beside MV Funchal in Tallinn 2006.

Celebrity Zenith Hamilton Bermuda 2006.

Celebrity Millennium Santorini 2007.

Celebrity Constellation Forth Bridge Scotland 2008.

Celebrity Mercury Sitka Alaska 2008.

Celebrity Century Madeira 2009.

Celebrity Millennium Monterey CA 2009.

Celebrity Equinox Villefranche 2010.

Celebrity Equinox Grand Cayman 2011.

Celebrity Infinity Ponta Delgada 2013.

Celebrity Solstice Honolulu 2015.

Celebrity Silhouette Labadee 2016.

Celebrity Silhouette Toulon FR 2016.

Celebrity Eclipse Curacao 2018.

Jewel of the Seas Alicante 2019.

Adventure of the Seas Portland ME 2022.

Writing a Blog in 2023

I have had some sort of personal Web presence for at least 25 years, and around the time we visited Paris in 2001 I decided that a traditional website with my own HTML coding was NOT the way to go. A blog of some sort seemed preferable because I simply had to write it and not be all that concerned about website design.

My personal circumstances were much different back then. I was still working, still living in Georgetown, hadn’t traveled as much as we did later on. I did’t have the time in 2001 to devote to writing a blog every week or more often.

I got into it a bit more around 2008 and since 2014 I’ve been a regular poster. But I digress.

The Web was much different when I first started a blog. In those early days, blogging was strictly text – even photos had to be scanned from film or prints (no digital pics back then.) Bandwidth was punishingly low. Audio was rudimentary. Video didn’t exist yet. Mobile phones made phone calls. The Information Highway was more like an oxcart track.

Well, that was then. How about starting a blog today? Let’s unpack that a bit.

The first thing to consider in 2023 is whether you want to write a blog at all. A blog is still pretty much static – text and digital media. Maybe you’d prefer to make video logs and post on YouTube. Maybe you are into having a podcast. Or maybe even you’d like to stream your content. It’s all possible today. And we haven’t even mentioned social media capability. Every possibility is so much richer.

There’s another consideration – unless you are a celebrity, a major influencer, or a genuine expert in a hot category of interest – there’s no way to use a blog to make money. If you really get into personal blogging in a bigger way, it’ll cost you – though honestly not much more than a Netflix subscription – to put your thoughts out there.

If you are still interested in doing this – need I mention you’ll be investing a bit of time with no chance of reward – I’ll run through some of the ways you can get started.

Starting a Blog for Free

This would be my recommendation if you are just starting out. The price is right, you don’t need any particular technical expertise, and you can be on your way in a matter of minutes.

When I began I chose Blogger to be my host provider. Blogger is part of Google so it is a good way to go if you already use the Google suite of applications.

My choice today would probably be the commercial WordPress site. I use the open source WordPress software on my own site, and I find it to be excellent.

A third possibility is Wix. I haven’t used Wix but it has some interesting drag and drop features. Wix looks a bit more business oriented though.

Of course, we all know there is no free lunch – not even in blogging. If you go with the zero cost option, you won’t have your own domain name, you likely will have ads placed on your blog by your provider, and your content doesn’t belong to you any longer. Maybe those things are not important to you right now – but they might be later on.

Use the “Pay” Option on the “Free” Site Host

You could use WordPress’s and Wix’s paid option to get a few neat features like your “own” virtual domain or fancier themes but I’ve got a better idea than that if you want to move up the blogging food chain. The name of the game here I believe is Squarespace.

Squarespace – Just Do It

Squarespace seems to be the ideal way to build a blog if you don’t mind paying a monthly subscription. and you need the provider to take care of everything for you. I have to say that if I were starting out now. I’d just choose Squarespace, choose a suitable format and that would be that.

Squarespace does seem to be commercially focused but there are options to write a simple blog. You can start out slowly and change things easily enough if you need to get more sophisticated. It looks like a good way to go – if you’re sure you want to do this.

The Whole Enchilada

This is not what you want to do if you are just getting into the blog-o-sphere, but it’s where I ended up after about 5 years of serious blogging. I needed a place to write my blog AND host the supporting digital photos online. So I invested in my own domain name and web hosting service. The provider gives me support and WordPress blogging software, and I choose the theme for a custom look and feel.

There’s a simple enough sequence of tasks to host your own blog:

  • Choose a web service provider and a plan of services.
  • Get your domain name and have it registered. The provider helps with this.
  • Install WordPress, the blogging software.
  • Choose, install and activate the theme.
  • Start blogging.

Complications start after that. You have to make sure to secure your website, check that it works OK, protect your blog from spam. The provider makes changes from time to time and you have to fix things if that happens.

Fortunately I have become increasingly geeky over the years. I learned about Linux and networks so I was not flummoxed by the technical aspects of a Web server. The Web service provider does give excellent support and can fix things if you have problems.

The major advantages to hosting your own blog are:

  • You have your own domain name and Web address.
  • Nobody will be putting ads on your site without your say-so.
  • Your content and graphics remain under your control and ownership.

So there you have it. I am more or less committed to self-hosting now. Squarespace wasn’t around when I went this way, and I won’t go back to a do-it-for-you provider.

I now have close to 9 years and 600 posts on my current setup. It’s still a simple personal blog but it’s mine.

I Still Want One

Since I got into digital photography I have usually had two types of cameras on the go:

  • A large DSLR or bridge camera that takes great photos.
  • A smaller travel camera that is pretty good but also lightweight and hassle-free to carry.

Now I usually update my travel camera every 5-6 years. My current Panasonic Lumix ZS50 is 7 years old and normally I’d be shopping for a new one.

But here’s the thing. I really cannot do so. Why is this?

First of all, the COVID-induced parts shortage has made a drastic cut in the number of travel cameras for sale. Those that are available seem to be rather overpriced for what you are getting. My particular favorites don’t seem to be out there at all.

Second, there really have not been any new models I’d be interested in that have been introduced in the past three years. In fact every major camera company has announced that they will no longer develop and introduce new affordable compact cameras.

The reason for every camera maker exiting the point and shoot market is of course the smartphone and its camera. The best smartphone cameras now are as good as my travel machine and offer some outstanding features such as computational photography and easy Internet storage and publishing. Mind you a really good smartphone costs as much as the finest travel camera and maybe 3X what I paid for my ZS50.

The cheap point and shoot camera is now history and even the more advanced travel cameras appear to be on the way out. Sales of compact digital cameras have gone down 97% in ten years. So a lot of folks out there are using their smartphones.

I get it. It’s a lot easier to pack just one camera and if your smartphone does the job why not use it? You are taking it along anyway, and the best camera is the one you have with you.

Well, call me a dinosaur but I still want to take along a small, lightweight, “real” camera. My reasons?

  • An actual camera has a better lens than my Samsung A50 smartphone.
  • Telephoto capability is much better with a real camera.
  • I can take and store a great many more photos than I can with a smartphone.
  • It’s easy to copy the photos over to a laptop for a backup.
  • The camera has a viewfinder which makes it easier to use in bright light.
  • A camera is more stable and easier to hold still when taking a photo.
  • You may look a bit geeky but there’s no doubt you are a serious photographer – even with a lightweight long zoom like the Lumix ZS50.

In our recent trip to Syracuse I took along the ZS50 and I was able to get shots like this one with no problems at all.

Red panda at the Zoo.

At the Triple A ball game.

Both of these would have been more difficult with a smartphone.

So this dinosaur will be packing a camera for a while yet.


We celebrated our 34th wedding anniversary in Tallinn on our first cruise. On Saturday, we will be celebrating our 51st anniversary here in Almonte.

In the past 17 years we did lots of cruising – Caribbean, West and East Coast, Europe, TransAtlantic, TransPacific – and filled out lots of bucket lists. Now we are content to let things be.

For the most part we are blessed with decent health and sensible minds. We are growing old together, although I continue to lead in that regard. Our families endure; our grandchildren grow up and make us proud.

Dear Maria, I am so grateful for your “yes” to share my life so many years ago. I know we love each other as much as we did back then, even if our understanding of love certainly has grown and matured.

Sarah is away as part of her M.A. studies but Dave and the grandkids will be out tomorrow to help us celebrate. Maybe it’s not in Tallinn, but we are looking forward to a nice day tomorrow.

Never Say Never

We’ve done a lot of cruising since 2006 – Baltics, Mediterranean, British Isles, Bermuda, Bahamas, Caribbean, East and West Coast US, TransAtlantic, TransPacific. And maybe – just maybe – our cruising time is coming to an end.

There are quite a few reasons for this conclusion:

  • Been there done that. Aside from cruising in Asia, we have visited most places we are interested in seeing. The chances of an Asian voyage are low right now, as many of the cruise companies have shut down travel in that area.
  • The direction in shipbuilding is not to our liking. The smaller, older ships in Royal Caribbean at least seem to be disappearing and megaships are the future. We don’t relish the thought of taking the town of Almonte along with us for a seven day voyage to the Caribbean hotspots.
  • Our favorite line – Celebrity – is stratifying its passenger list. Those in suites and special classes like Blu get more perks – but you have to pay for them.
  • Having loyalty points isn’t as big a deal anymore. On our recent RCI cruise they paid scant attention to the Diamond lounge – the coffee machine broke 3 days into the cruise and they never bothered to fix it. At one time the loyalty lounge was a great way to meet other cruisers but now nobody bothers with it, as you can get your “happy hour” drinks anywhere on the ship.
  • Traditional dining with a set table and servers is going the way of the dodo. Now the cruise line forces you into “anytime dining” as a default – even if you request traditional dining. You have to stand in line for an hour to get this changed. If you stick with anytime dining you’ll be waiting in a huge queue to get a table every night.
  • Because of the hassles with the dining room, more and more passengers are just eating in the buffet. As a result the buffet gets more and more crowded. Even breakfast and lunch are a gong show on the larger ships.
  • You will likely get sick. We avoided COVID 19 for 3 years but we got sick with it after our cruise. And this was with masking and social distancing as much as we could. With the current practice of burying their heads in the sand, the cruise lines are probably getting more sickness on board then they did when cruising resumed a year ago. But who knows?
  • Who wants to travel by air right now? We drove to our last cruise, but there’s only so many places you can sail to from Cape Liberty or Baltimore.

I know this all sounds like a whiny first world set of problems, but it has weighed on our decision to just cool it on cruising for the foreseeable future. We have had a great time in the past and we acknowledge the value in a cruise holiday, but it just does not seem like an appropriate time to be sailing right now.. Time will tell.

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