Fergus Retires, Clare Has a Meltdown.

Clare was having a bad day. She spun her car around the corner of Quadra and McKenzie one more time. This was her second attempt at finding the entrance to the Lodge. She had driven past it a hundred times, why couldn’t she find it?

It was just her state of mind, Clare knew. She was stressed. This had been a harrowing few weeks. First, there was the excitement and buildup to Fergus’s retirement, the banquet, the phone calls, the well-wishers, the late-night conversations. Then there were the disastrous first two days as Fergus tried out a couple of his retirement ideas. Now the neighbors weren’t talking to her, the manager at Fairmart Center was giving her dirty looks, and Mrs. Pereira had quit her job cleaning their house.

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The Enduring Appeal of Reading

For me, reading is magical, and has been a part of my life since I was five years old, when I first started to make sense of the squiggles in the old comic strip, “Annie”

In a previous post, I quoted Alberto Manguel, whose words are so apt, that I will include them again:

“At one magical instant in your early childhood, the page of a book—that string of confused, alien ciphers—shivered into meaning, and at that moment, whole universes opened. You became, irrevocably, a reader.”

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Fergus and the Retirement Gremlins

Fergus had gremlins in his head. Retirement gremlins. It was like having mice in the attic, or a monkey on his back. They wouldn’t leave him alone. They were the last things he thought of when he fell asleep at night, and the first things he thought of when he woke up. They never let up, even in his dreams.

“Remember how you could hardly wait to retire,” they gloated, “Remember all of the wonderful ideas you had? Where are they now?”

“Years from now,” Fergus worried, “I’ll still be doing this.” He imagined himself, a stooped old man, trudging along, saying, “What will I do when I retire?” It was not too far-fetched, he already had the stoop, and the trudge.

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Fergus Blecher Retires, A New Man

Fergus Blecher woke up on the morning of June 28, feeling like a new man. Instead of hunching over his oatmeal and gulping it down, like he did only yesterday, he took his coffee to the deck, shook the rain off one of the chairs, and sat down. He stayed there for a few minutes, peering through the layer of mist over the Finlayson Valley, and waited for reality to sink in.

It didn’t. It didn’t feel real. He felt anxious—like he should be somewhere else. Fergus started thinking about where he should really be this morning. By now, he would be rounding the corner of Cook Street, taking McKenzie Avenue to the Pat Bay Highway, sailing through the construction area of the interchange. After all, it was Wednesday. His turn to take morning playground supervision. Next period, gym. In June, he usually did a relay set-up, had the kids go over what they did in the track meet. Before he knew it, Fergus was rummaging in the hall closet, looking for his whistle.

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Are Print Books Doomed? Gone Like the Dodo Bird, the 8 Track Tape?

Is reading in danger? Are print books doomed? As a reader all of my life, I would be devastated if that was so.

I remember the exact moment I learned to make sense of the printed word, and I remember witnessing that moment in my students, but I could never put it better than Alberto Manguel:

“At one magical instant in your early childhood, the page of a book—that string of confused, alien ciphers—shivered into meaning, and at that moment, whole universes opened. You became, irrevocably, a reader.”

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Three Sisters Read Anne of Green Gables

I am lying on the bed that I share with my sisters. June is on one side, and April is on the other. We are lying sideways in a row, on our stomachs, with our feet hanging over the side. We each have a book on the bed in front of us, turning the pages with a “whumph” as we read. I am reading ‘Anne of Green Gables’, and I’m just coming to an exciting part about the day Anne dyes her hair and it comes out green. I know it is coming, because June has already talked about it.

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A Grandmother Reflects on the ‘Miracle’ of 3D Printing

It would be easy for me, a grandmother with over 7 decades of living to my credit, to ignore 3D  printing and the Internet of Things (IoT), thinking I may be long gone by the time these revolutionary ideas really take hold.

But I’m not about to disregard one of the most compelling ideas to emerge in this era of change, considered by leading scientists to be the “Third Industrial Revolution”. After all, just by virtue of having access to the internet, and being able to type a few keywords into my browser, I can have a front row seat to what promises to be a thrilling journey.

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Our Emotions in Turmoil in a Tough Time

It’s been a tough year. Tough on the world, and tough on our emotions. Like me, you may have been waking up each morning, with an unsettled feeling that things are not quite right. The news is all around you—you know what has been going on and you can’t escape it. What can you do about it, you wonder—how can you help?

You might also be a bit resentful about it, thinking, “Haven’t I already contributed enough? Haven’t I done my share? Isn’t it time I could just sit back and enjoy my last years?”

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Why This Grandmother Worries About Automation and Employment

The impact of automation on employment is finally making it into the news. It’s not a trending topic yet, but at least it’s no longer the “elephant in the room”. Although books like The End of Work (Rifkin) appeared as early as 2002, and online blogs have been warning about advanced technology for at least 5 years,  automation and it’s effect on work has so far avoided the limelight.

In 2013, Erik Brynjolfsson, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, wrote about the rapid advances in computer technology—blaming recent sluggish employment growth on improved industrial automation, from the use of robotics on the factory floor to automated translation services.
“Even more ominous for workers,” he said, “the MIT academics foresee dismal prospects for many types of jobs as these powerful new technologies are increasingly adopted not only in manufacturing, clerical, and retail work but in professions such as law, financial services, education, and medicine.”

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Where in the World Would You Want to Grow Old?

I don’t know about you, but I would like to grow old in a place where I had control over my day, where my choices were honored, and where my needs were met, in the event that I couldn’t take care of myself. And, oh yes, I would also want to be valued and respected.

Now I’m not talking about my current situation—in which I’m growing older, as opposed to growing old. During the growing older part, my contemporaries and I are fully able to direct our lives and take care of our basic needs. But we are all aware that the situation may change when we are truly old.

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Are Things Really Bad, and Getting Worse?

If you listen to any news, if you are aware of world events at all, you are convinced that things are getting worse. Shocking images of the war in Syria, nuclear threats from North Korea, and the behavior of an unpredictable president in the White House leave you gasping and incredulous.

If you’re anything like me, you struggle daily to avoid it, mute it, drown it out, and distract yourself from it. It’s the cacophony of despair that threatens to drag us down. And I’m not alone—only 6% of Americans believe the world is getting better.

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A Perfect Day for Picking Apples

It was another perfect day on the farm. My husband Jim, and my children, Andy and Janie, were gone for the day, and I was planning to wallpaper one of the back bedrooms in our 100 year old house.

But just then, I remembered that Lorne, our carpenter, was coming by to finish some plastering downstairs. And Oh, yes, someone called about picking some apples, from the two overladen trees in our front orchard. Hopefully, they would bring their own containers—I didn’t want to be disturbed, no matter what.

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