Category: Modern Society

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I’m not sure when it was that I realized I was frugal; I’d always known my parents were, especially my father.  In fact, in my youth, I remember it being the bane of my teen-aged existence when I wanted to buy some exorbitantly priced piece of clothing  that was the latest fashion statement at the time.   A part-time job followed shortly after this time. Continue reading


Moving Abroad


London (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Helen Rowland said “Home is any four walls that enclose the right person.” which aptly describes the new homes that many of the participants in my new addiction, House Hunters International. I have never lived abroad and am envious of those who have; the experience of being totally immersed in another culture, often in a different language is completely enticing.  And of course the benefits of a widened world view are also important; tolerance for different ways of doing things as well as appreciation when you return to home base for the way “we do it here” are not to be sneered at. Continue reading

I donated blood last week and it got me thinking about how much the process of blood donation has changed over the years.  My first donation was in high school, in the ’70’s, when a clinic came to our school.   The process back then was pretty simple, as I recall: the biggest barrier for most students was that you had first to want to give blood; the notion of having a large needle inserted into the arm was off-putting for many of my classmates.   Once committed, you were asked if you’d eaten breakfast and then female students were given a test to check iron levels.  If all was well, you moved over to a cot where a nurse tied a rubber band a bit like a soft rubber hose around your arm and poked you with the needle.  Some ten to twenty minutes later, you were done, and got to move over to the table where they plied you with juice, cookies and doughnuts – almost making the donation worth it.   Continue reading

Driving stick

When I learned how to drive in the 1970’s, my parents owned two vehicles, a gold-coloured first generation Honda Civic, and a rust-coloured (who buys a car the colour of rust? ) Ford Fairmont which we nicknamed the squad car since it was the model of choice of police forces across the continent at that time.  Since the Ford was the “good” car, I wasn’t allowed to learn in it, so that left the Civic, which of course was a manual transmission.    I was duly signed up for lessons, because my father ever the frugal one, knew that this would ensure he would get a discount on my car insurance – the fact that it might make me a better driver was just an added bonus.   But before the lessons started, he decided to show me the basics – we went off to a parking lot and I learned to get into gear, hippity-hopping the small car each time until I finally got the hang of it.  I think I got to second gear in that adventure.  When we returned, my father, looking somewhat drawn, said I had taken three years off the life of the car.  Well, at least I had thought it was fun.  But Dad was privately high-fiving himself about his genius decision to enroll me to learn on someone else’s car.

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image credit: Woodhull Institute

As a teenager, I was given a copy of the book “The Women’s Room” by American feminist author Marilyn French, published in 1977.  It struck me deeply in a number of areas and for several years I went about as if I was a member of an oppressed group.  (It is funny how women today hasten to separate themselves from the title of feminist, no longer feeling the oppression so apparent to the North American middle-class female in the ’60’s and ’70’s.)  The book’s themes covered everything from how a woman was called (the original cover featured a sign for the “Ladies‘” washroom, with the word “WOMEN’S” painted over in dark marker.  I became a fervent user of “woman” instead of “girl” or “lady” for many years.) to the boredom and loneliness of the traditional female role to the more expected sexism and inequality.  After reading it, I was determined that I would not be trapped with the sole role of wife, but would instead ensure to have a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), in which I could achieve anything a man could. Continue reading

Kwaheri, Uncle

Karen, Kenya (photo by C. Toplis)

Karen, Kenya (photo by C. Toplis)

It was just about dusk as the plane landed at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport; although a smooth flight from Geneva, I was shattered on arrival, mechanically lining up for Immigration (was my hastily got visa at the Kenyan embassy in Ottawa in order?), waiting for the borrowed red case to appear on the belt and then the final push through customs and into the arrivals area.  I hadn’t seen my aunt (or more properly, my ex-aunt, since she and my late uncle had divorced) for over twenty years and wasn’t sure we’d recognize one another, but sure enough, as I rounded the corner there she was just as I remembered, only silver, a quick smile coming to her face.  But it was Katherine, former wife and universally known from childhood as Pop, who had contacted me with the news of my uncle’s death, and as I came to know, who would be the one at the centre of arranging the final bits and pieces of his life and passing. Continue reading

With the NHL lockout now over, I am reminded how much I haven’t missed Don Cherry.

The demise of the PC

The evolution of mobile computing

It was an interesting read, going through Kleiner Perkins partner Mary Meeker’s recent presentation on Internet trends.  The piece covered the expected stats about growth in internet, smartphone and tablet users by country and provided an interesting split on trends.   A fascinating fact was that mobile internet traffic has already exceeded land-based in India, and I loved her section on thinking like a 25-year-old.   As a user, I wasn’t ecstatic about the news that mobile ad revenue is way under-subscribed, but I guess that is inevitable with these trends.

Meek’s re-imagination, as she puts it, of knowledge, photography and navigation are spot-on.  The camera in my two-year old Android phone is more powerful than the digital one I bought a decade or so ago.  And when was the last time you asked someone to give you directions to somewhere?  In fact a whole industry has arisen not only to show you how to get somewhere, but also to track where you’ve been, whether it is employers who want, ostensibly, to optimize vehicle mileage, or individuals who want to know how far they went in their Sunday morning run. Continue reading

Under-size me!

Obesity Epidemic

News of the western world’s obesity epidemic appears everywhere, so unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade or so, you’re likely aware that we’re all putting on a lot of weight.  Coincident with this news are many theories as to why it is happening; I’ve listed below in no particular order, a few of the ones that make the most sense to me as key contributors to our amassing bulk.
size comparisons between US and UK

  1. Clothing size escalation – I’ve not seen a lot reported about this, but the reality is that clothing sizes in America are dramatically bigger than they used to be.  Take my particular case:  I graduated from high school some thirty-plus years ago at a 125 lbs, and wore a size 10 or Large for most clothing.  I’m fortunate enough to weigh within 3 lbs of that  weight currently, and now consistently wear a Small — size 6 or even a size 4 in some cases. From this it is obvious that clothing manufacturers have used vanity sizing to hide expanding waistlines from customers.  I would wager that to wear the same size today as the 70’s high school me, I’d need to put on more than 75 pounds.  Put another way, North Americans who haven’t changed clothing size in a while have been lulled into thinking their body size hasn’t changed, or not that much, any way.  Nowhere is this most apparent but in the US; this size chart shows the UK apparently hasn’t succumbed to this trend at all.   Continue reading