Author Archives: admin


POSTED: December 1, 2023

I really like public buildings that are on a human scale. It doesn’t matter if they are schools or municipal buildings or hospitals. The key element for me is that they are of a size that is big enough to get the job done but small enough that they are very much the vessels for the activity, and not that the structures are so large that the structure itself is the primary focus. I posted recently about my experience with a young woman named Ofra (posted November 1st). Most of my experience with her was at a small hospital here in Valletta, Malta and it consisted of waiting in a fairly small area to find out the outcome of her medical problem and to help her back to her temporary accommodations.

I was there for many hours overnight and the whole adventure was unplanned so I had not taken a book or even reading glasses, my phone or any other distractions so the space I was in became quite familiar after a few hours. The window was close by and I could look out but it was nighttime and not much to see. I was reminded of my buddy Jim’s story about his uncle Gordon in a setting like this. Now Jim’s uncle was a character, and I think became even more of a character in Jim’s recollections of him but one story that came to mind here was that Jim’s Nana (grandmother) was in a small village hospital on the Quebec side of the Ottawa river valley, in Canada. The region, while part of Quebec, a largely French speaking province, was inhabited primarily by people with an English speaking heritage, largely from Ireland, and many of them farmed or went into Ottawa for employment.

So his Nana was in the hospital for one thing or another, and Uncle Gordon thought it would be a grand gesture to fly by in his little airplane and waive at her. For most of us, this initial plan would quickly be discarded as the small community hospital was still a busy place with lots of activities of people coming and going. Beyond this, airplanes are noisy things. In those days (the 1960’s) the small size of this little one-seater plane sounded more like a loud lawnmower than any smooth running aircraft and it might occur to most that some people in the hospital would want some calm and quiet.  But Uncle Gordon did not have the same decision making process as the rest of us and saw the flight and waving as a good plan. He was also not deterred by the fact that there were lots of electrical wires running from the poles around the building to the top of the five-storey structure – he would just fly under them. Yeah. Really. What a plan.

Well he did pull it off but in so doing lost his flying license in Canada. He did keep his flying license elsewhere however, and continued to fly around the United States and the Caribbean. YIKES.

As I sat there in the waiting area, the small commissary was close. Too close.  It had a very limited range of products during busy hours and only vending machines in the less busy hours when I was there.  It made for tough decisions for me with my efforts  to manage my hypertension – death by sugar overload? Carb overload? Fat overload? Some of the products in those venting machines liberally satisfied all three and with a lot of sodium in there for good measure as well.

I couldn’t leave to go elsewhere for a coffee or some fruit as I did not know when they would release her and at that hour there would probably not be anything very close by.  It was my first time pretending to a be a dad and I really did not want to screw it up. To keep my mind off my hungry stomach I tried to focus on some other things and one was right there within sight. It was a small cabinet with a rather ancient sign LOST & FOUND.  Now these lost and found cabinets, tables, or bookshelves in small facilities are quite the stimulus for anyone with an imagination. In some cases, the objects on display there look like they truly have been lost and would have some value, at least sentimental value,  to someone. In other cases they look like items that are not worth retracing steps for – a paperback book, beat up baseball cap, or satchel that probably was just abandoned. But other things truly looked like they were just waiting for their owners to come back through the door to reunite with.

This notion of LOST and FOUND really got me thinking at the time. I had nothing but time on my hands sitting in that waiting area, and was desperate to not think about the vending machines.

In general LOST is a negative. You might lose your way, or lose in a game. None of us like losing things, but there are some very noteworthy exceptions. Sometimes the loss of ones virginity is a negative, sometimes a positive. Most often the loss of body weight is a good thing, but sometimes if its due to a medical problem a bad thing. A friends mother was losing her memory from dementia and that was really bad, but one day went swimming as she had lost (forgotten) her fear of water. Damn, this lost business is complex.

I was petty sure that FOUND was a positive however as I began to muse about it at about 4 am. We all love finding stuff. A bit of cash in a jacket we do not often wear or finding the right partner. But what happens when we find the partner in bed with someone else, find a lump where it shouldn’t be, or find we have been scammed out of our life savings. I guess found is not universally a good thing either.

I had a few chats with others who were waiting, walked around a bit, read parts of a paper that had been left, and eventually broke down and ate a bar that had the promising name of  “only protein”. It tasted pretty good. So did the second one. The wrapper I sheepishly read after eating two of these killers:  yes, there was protein but also 12 grams of fat and 9 grams of sugar. And I had consumed two! Well, no use beating myself up over it.

As I was looking at the ingredient list on the little package when the doctor came out to tell me the news on Ofra, and my time at the hospital would soon come to an end.

I have since done a lot of walking, am back on my good diet and have generally redeemed myself for those two killer protein (and everything else) bars.

The notions of Lost and Found however, like my memories of that experience with Ofra have lingered with me.  Most stuff of life has a crazy combination of simple and complex and I seem to spend a lot of my time these days trying to sort out the two.




POSTED: November 1, 2023

A couple of years ago I was on my way home from a walk in a park when I encountered a young woman who was clearly in distress. It was in the early part of the pandemic and we were all wearing masks but hers was lying on the grass. She appeared to be choking and as I tried to determine what exactly was happening, she started to bloat up as if being filled with air. I sat her down at a bench but her throat was closing up badly and she was looking like the Michelin Man. Before I knew it a young fellow was beside us with a device out and slammed it into her thigh and she had almost instant improvement. “Epi pen” he said as he left almost as fast as he arrived, and then turned and said the weirdest thing “get her to the hospital …. and you are her dad”. The first part of his short instruction list was obvious but the second one I found bewildering.

Shortly thereafter the ambulance people arrived and after asking me what had happened and who she was, again the statement “You are her dad and you need to come with us.”

Once at the hospital she was admitted and then it all became clear when I was doing the registration. When a patient is admitted the administrators need a person to attach to the file administratively. This is partially because with so many visitors in Malta who are not part of the EU the procedures for approval for treating them are extensive if not EU citizens so once identified as my “daughter” and I produce my identification they don’t seem to ask beyond that for the purpose of treating her and then later the admin stuff can get worked out. It is the relationship of the admin side not being done as quickly as the actual emergency work that needs to occur as something of a lifesaving workaround.

So for that brief time I was her dad. I have never been a dad and I had a glimpse into that overwhelming sense of responsibility – even with this just being a little administrative fiction.

The wait was long. We started in the afternoon and as the hours dragged on it was clear we would not be out of there until the next day. They had said that it was anaphylactic shock from a wasp sting and once home she would have to follow up to see about this extreme reaction. They periodically told me she was doing fine but in a small facility that was already running past capacity I could not visit her. Finally, at about 6:40 in the morning they said we could go and I got a taxi.

Her name was Ofra and she was staying with some friends on holiday in a place not too far from our Marina. The truth of it is Valletta is not a big community so everything is fairly close. Her phone was dead and I had not brought mine out for what I had thought would be a short walk that previous afternoon so her friends were relieved but startled when we arrived at their rental flat. We had a tea with them and I learned a bit more about her. She was from Tel Aviv and a student and was here with some friends just for a few days of holiday. We exchanged some contact info and I went home to bed.

Since that time captain Ciara has my little pack equipped with not only an epi pen for dealing with people who go into anaphylactic shock for an allergic reaction but also with a Naloxone kit for people who have overdosed on opioids. She had always kept an epi pen handy on the boat for extreme allergic reactions but also keeps one in her personal bag and now one in mine. So periodically these expensive little needles get to the end of their useful date and Ciara gets an orange or grapefruit and has me practice on jabbing into them. I have saved several pieces of fruit over the last couple of years!

Ofra was a bit of a political junkie like me and we would periodically email back and forth about the world’s problems. I enjoyed hearing her perspective as it reflected the ideas of my optimistic but naïve younger self.

So why am I going on about this now? Well sometimes she would copy her cousin in the email loop as he was quite political as well. Two weeks ago I received an email from him that Ofra had been hurt at a pro-Palestinian rally in Tel Aviv, trying to convince the current government coalition under Netanyahu to not over react to the terrible atrocities committed by Hamas. As a reservist she was on alert with an expectation of being called up and with others was conflicted by her duty and her conscience. Her cousin said that even her family had mixed reactions to both his and her participation in the rally, some proud, some disgusted.

At that rally she was hit by a rock, thrown by one of her countrymen at the protestors. After some medical complications from a delay in accessing medical help, from a high quality medical facility that was very close to where she was injured, she died. An Israeli reservist, trying to keep her government in check, killed at the hands of another Israeli.

The older I get, the more complicated and confused the world seems to be.

Rest in peace Ofra.



POSTED: October 1, 2023

There has been a lot in the news about A.I. lately, driven partially by the writer’s strike in Hollywood. Now that A.I. is artificial intelligence and really is a concern on many fronts, but the A.I. I am referring to here is one that relates to the inflation in our stress and has more of my attention: Anxiety Inflation.

We all have anxiety, it’s a good thing to have in the right dosage, much like fear, a sense of adventure, ambition etc. But there are times in our lives or circumstances that really ramp it up and dealing with it becomes more difficult without counselling, meds or a real change of thinking.

I have found that as I age, I have less control of many things in my life. The simple example is that as we age our bodies start to wear out and let us down. That takes on many forms but because most of those aspects are incremental. Sometimes we don’t see it at all and at other points can clearly see the increase in the rate of deterioration in our sight, hearing, memory, or joints. That deterioration is an underlying fear that creeps into my thinking more often these days.

Now in better times we can put this into perspective and effectively digest that  level of anxiety, but today there are so many concerns that start to pile on. Our geopolitical world is a mess. Chinas aggression, Russia’s aggression, and increasingly countries looking inward. The migration of mass population groups creates its own conflicts, particularly in some countries not prepared to accept the waves of immigrants. We have largely made it through the pandemic I think but the financial fallout of price inflation, housing issues, and both individuals and governments unable to keep up with costs, are starting to really hit home in many places. Increasingly there is evidence that society is breaking down, with less tolerance for others, a lack of mutual respect and a general growth in self interest. And with it all this going on the foretelling of the climate crisis is no longer foretelling – its all happening right now – the floods, wildfires and hurricanes.

I am a political geek and love to keep up with what is happening in the world. I also care about the environment and am disturbed by all the evidence of our damage to the planet. But watching the news sometimes is just overwhelming. The anxiety inflation is just running at a rapid rate and I need at times to just go for a nice walk, try to stay in the present. Of course, it is that staying in the present that’s the key. Anything that makes us slow down, not project ahead to the worlds end, or to stress over past mistakes or missed opportunities, is the way to go. A good coffee with a fresh croissant and some homemade jam will often do the trick for me, but some days even those nice things have only a short-term effect and its tough to rise above it. I find I am drinking too much alcohol and letting the state of the world get to me.

But for now, I am off to take this big boat out for a sail. My reality is that these days En Plein Air usually sits in her slip for months at a time, but with water and wind conditions right, Captain Ciara at the helm, and a couple of friends to crew, maybe on this beautiful first of October day, with a steady wind and in this little bit of sea just south of Malta we can turn off the world…. if just for an afternoon.



P.S. The afternoon turned out to be an amazing outing and as the wind died down and the sun started to retreat a sky to remember showed up…



POSTED: September 1, 2023

There are few things more delicious than a surprise. Now when I say surprise, I mean a positive one, not the “…well your test results are back and its not looking good…” kind. A positive surprise is something we did not expect or even anticipate. So while coming down the stairs on Christmas morning to a few presents under the tree may have some surprise elements, that’s not really what I am meaning.

The best surprise is one that is truly out of the blue and has a positive element to it. Sometimes they are tangible gifts but as often I get as much satisfaction from the intangible ones. Someone complements you on a new shirt or glasses, or a person you do not know well invites you to a dinner party.

As I age, I also think I get more satisfaction from creating or giving a surprise as from getting one. And that is what is really on my mind today.  I recently created a fun little prank for a friend. This fellow I have immense respect for. He is intelligent, articulate, witty and generally a nice person to be around. While all these are admirable traits, what really strikes me is his ability to put the past tense and the future tense in perspective. It may come with his age as he has several more years on me so I see him somewhat akin to an older brother.  He seems to have mastered the art of understanding and learning from the joys and scars from his past, and keeps a healthy balance of his hopes and fears for the future, all the while really savouring the present. This is no small skill, especially as you get older. Believe me….. I know.

He had helped me with my manuscript and while I was certainly appreciative of his efforts and took him and his partner to dinner, when reviewing the writing project with him at his home I thought it would be fun to plant a little surprise in their house for when they returned from the cottage. They were planning to  head off there for a few weeks the day after I saw them.

Well the weeks passed, and then a few more and it is now over two months later and quite clear that they have made it home and I fear the cleverly placed, and very non-descript looking package may have been too cleverly placed and too boring in packaging and been thrown out. Now just to be clear this was not some expensive gift, but a fun little acknowledgement of my appreciation of his efforts.

I am now faced with the conundrum of deciding to ask if they found it, ruining a potentially wonderful surprise to come and in so doing also embarrassing him, or do I just wait and see what happens in the future?

And it has just occurred to me that dealing with a person of his intelligence he may have found it and is just playing possum so perhaps the surprise is on me!

Damb, I enjoy a good surprise.



POSTED: August 1, 2023

My physical world is quite small. Yes, I live on the planet and have traveled but on a day to day basis I don’t take up a lot of space. En Plein Air is a bit over 18 meters (59 feet) long and has a beam of 4.41 meters (about 14.5 feet) so while some people live on hectares of land my boat and her slip is pretty modest.

It means that much of my life is not wrapped up in owning stuff. Eventually everyone gives up the possessions they have collected over a life as they downsize or move to smaller accommodation to cope with their age but along the way most do amass serious collections of things.

I get it. Some objects are just nice to look at – art for example. It can take us away to a different place without ever leaving home. Some of it also has some great utility, like cool vintage furniture that you can appreciate for its design, materials and craftsmanship but also just use as a coffee table or lounging chair.

But there is a special category of things that people value as identifiers. Some are literal identifiers of course – the bracelet with a person’s name or the ring with their initials or birthstone. Some are more group identifiers like religious symbols or peace symbols, letting the general public know that they are part of a subgroup and proud enough of it to have it as their pre- eminent message. The first thing you must know about me is that I am …..


I get this for those things that are fundamental to a person’s sense of self but it is interesting to me how many will attach themselves to a more half-baked cause or idea – the Make America Great Again hats or bracelets for various causes. Some of these of course are a negative expression of identification – I am part of this and if you aren’t with me than you must be against me.

Usually when I talk to people about some object they value it is because it is a memento of some great memory or experience. Their dads watch or a piece of their moms jewelry, or something they bought on a trip long ago. The object is a manifestation of good memories. I like that aspect.

But some objects are not so overt but still are tools to help a person define who they are. The motorcycle jacket or the bike they ride, the watch they wear or the type of knives they use in the kitchen. It is as if by owning such an object we have acquired the same attributes it possesses – its uniqueness, attractiveness, or cache.

As a guy and a baby boomer I have always had a relationship with cars. As a kid and then a teenager the ranking of them, the details of their features, elements, engineering or physical design occupied a lot of my time. I was chatting recently with Larry, an old friend who had owned a couple of Isuzu Troopers over the years, much like my buddy Jim. They were utility vehicles that were overtly proud of that heritage, much like old Land Rovers and the owners saw themselves in much the same light – a bit rough and tumble, but capable.

Over the last while I have come to notice that as the world has become more complex and so many elements are interrelated, younger people have a much less shallow relationship with objects than some of us. They might love the lines of an old Jaguar XKE but be appropriately outraged environmentally by the notion of two seats combined with twelve gas guzzling cylinders. That objectivity is something that has taken me a lot of time to find.

I don’t have a lot of objects partially because of the space. But beyond that I would like to think that any really important ideas can’t be expressed neatly on a bumper sticker or a tattoo, as most good thoughts are more nuanced and contextual. But that notion of objects as manifestation of memories is an important one. I do value a little card with a recipe from my grandmother and a few other similar objects that can transport me to where I was when I received them.



POSTED: July 1, 2023

Some time ago I started into this challenge of getting my blood pressure numbers in line. In my January 1 post My Doctor Does Not Know Jack, I introduced the issue of getting those numbers down. Part of the equation is getting some exercise, part is consistent sleep, a good dollop of cutting back on the alcohol and getting into a good head space. But a substantial portion is simply changing a diet from one that has an abundance of fat, sugar, carbohydrates and salt to one that eliminates or significantly reduces these components.

What complicates things is that each individual responds differently to the various elements. One person might have sugar as their real culprit, while another may be more affected by the carbs. So its important to experiment and find out which one is your real problem and then build a diet to respond to that. But with that said, if you are managing hypertension, cutting back on all of them is good plan.

Now this is easy to do on the short term, but if you like food, it is a bit of a challenge on a longer term basis. You just can’t replace a nice crème sauce with sawdust and expect to get the same effect.

What are the tricks? Well one that is not really a trick at all but something every gardener knows: fresh = flavour.  It is pretty hard to beat anything that is just off the vine or out of the ground. I have heard my buddy Jim go on at some length about being a young boy and going to his great uncle Charlies big garden behind Aunt Josie and Uncle Charlies house in a little village close to Jims parents cottage. Uncle Charlie would go take him down one of the many rows and pull up some fresh carrots and then wash them in the rain barrel and eat one, still wet from the rain barrel with Jim right there in the garden. Fresh. Really Fresh.

So either growing your own vegetables, or buying at a fresh market is a good start. A sliced tomato that is super fresh doesn’t need a lot of dressing up.

But what of sauces?  I really like using sauces as a way to take some rather pedestrian proteins like chicken in a more tasty direction. A good starting point is to move away from the ones of my heritage – the really heavy crème based French ones, and move to more of the vegetable based (often Italian) ones.

Tomatoes, green beans, broccoli all are full of nutrients, and onions and garlic and mushrooms can add texture and flavour without adding anything else.

The “sauce” I have been working with most recently is diced tomatoes. I know that in the winter I may have to move to canned diced tomatoes and even that will be fine if needed but getting a variety of nice fresh tomatoes, especially the ones that have peaked and may not be as attractive visually just sliced up can be a very powerful sauce. I have also taken to using mushrooms as a substitute for potatoes. Because I cook for several people, most of which are not having to watch their blood pressure numbers I will prepare some nice Yukon gold potatoes for them and have some cremini mushrooms for myself.

What follows is a simple one pot dish that I enjoy, has great specs for anyone watching those blood pressure numbers or wants to lose some weight, and is nice enough to be served to guests.


Skinless, boneless chicken breasts – one small piece per person cut in half to make two roughly square portions. I am moving away from the whole carnivore consumption so while not becoming a vegetarian the size of the meat portion I have really cut back on, and a dish like this one allows that to happen rather organically. Not a bad way to go with the price of meat these days anyway.

One medium tomato per person, diced – More is better but a minimum of one medium or a couple of smaller ones. If small roma’s are at a good price go with  two or three for each person or two thirds of a big beefsteak tomato but the key thing here is that you want to end up with about a cup of diced tomato or more per person. At the end of the day these are going to be cooked so if there are some on sale that are really ripe, but don’t look quite like the super models of the basket those will be great.

Small Potatoes and Cremini mushrooms – why are these together ? Well four or five small potatos each for those who are not looking at the specs and a similar number of mushrooms for the ones who are is a nice route to go.

Green Beans – A handful of fresh green beans, or French beans  per person makes a good bed for the dish, both in terms of a component of the meal as well as the visual.

Other Vegetables – this is a matter of taste. You can put in broccoli or some carrots cut up finely and onions, garlic or zucchini or bell peppers etc. This is all a matter of personal taste but you don’t need to add any if you don’t want to as those flavourful tomatoes will carry the day.

Herbs – if you are adding a bunch of veggies to this sauce then I would not add herbs but I have found just going with the diced tomatoes and some nice cilantro or parsley makes a very nice sauce without creating too many conflicting tastes.

Spices- Some people are spice crazy and at times I will add them, particularly in the winter or in a context where I don’t have the fresh components to really carry the meal but if you have made this with the fresh tomatoes and it is going over some fresh green beans, I would leave the spices in their drawer or rack for this one.


As usual you clean, cut and otherwise prep all components first. While I call this a one pot dish and if camping you could do it that way I prefer to have a second pot of water with a steamer as well as using a larger pot, jumbo cooker or large covered sauce pan.

The starting point is the little potatoes go into the pan with the water and bring to a rolling boil. We are starting the boiling process with them as they take a bit longer.

The washed and cut chicken gets a light dusting of canola or vegetable oil and then jumps into  jumbo cooker, or sauce pan brown each side. If you have a grill it is a great way to go. The key thing here is whether in a pan or on the grill, this is all about the visual. No one wants to eat something that looks like a big white erasure, so we are giving it a bit of character before we actually cook it.

If you are working with onions I would then put the meat aside for a moment and just put in your cut onions to soften up a bit before proceeding, otherwise just leave the chicken in the pot or pan and add your tomatoes.

If you are adding any other vegetable this is where they would go in.

The pot is covered and then goes into the oven at 375 f and set a timer for 30 minutes.

Whenever those boiling potatoes have lost their really hard texture (but have not become soft to a fork) we are going to get them out of the water and add them to the pot in the oven.

When the timer is getting down to about seven or eight minutes put the green beans in the steamer insert and a few minutes later add the mushrooms on top.

When the timer goes put a thermometer in the thickest portion of the chicken pieces and if it is at 160 or higher you can turn off the oven and check the green beans that should now be soft to a fork.

Plate up the green beans with two pieces of chicken on top of each and a dollop of the tomato sauce. Place the potatoes around the outside of the plate for those able to have them and the mushrooms around the plate for others. The chicken will be moist, the beans will not need to be seasoned as the diced tomatoes will also have helped with that.

This meal I also find lends itself very well to doubling up and reheating a day to two later but you will want to do the mushrooms and green beans on the day you are eating.



P.S. In my little vegetable pot garden I have stopped committing the space to tomatoes and just buy those fresh but have had great success with lettuce this year. I cant bear to cut up some of those amazing leaves for a salad though so just clean them and put them down whole for a salad. I have also found that n contrast to the specs for using any kind of vinaigrette or oil based salad dressing the numbers are pretty good to just use a drizzle of balsamic glaze. If you are eating with others who can have it, a piece of focaccia or other nice bread can really round out the dish.


Posted: June 1, 2023

I like the BBC. They do objective journalism the way it was intended. While they get public funding they are not beholden to that funding source as Elon Musk has asserted, but they are held to account to represent the public they serve. In so doing I found the range of coverage of the Coronation a few weeks ago quite dramatic.

I had expected there would be a heavy slant on the ceremony itself, and certainly it was covered that way in detail. But along with it, and included in the commentary to a certain extent, was the questioning of the role of the British Monarchy as well as some interesting details on its chequered past. One piece was on the unconscionable behaviour from history of not owning slaves but trading in slaves as a loophole to benefit from the whole industry without actually being owners. Splitting hairs I think. A bit like those Americans who financed Hitler all the while denouncing the aggression their lending practices facilitated.

Another piece was on the number of countries who have, since the passing of Queen Elizabeth,  either removed the British Monarch as head of state, or are contemplating that removal, as either no longer relevant or more often because it is an affront to the dignity of their people, particularly in the Caribbean.

But mixed in with these very damning explorations were the light fluffy ones for the supporters of the monarchy and the drama of the coronation.  The affixing of the bunting and the painting up of the shops the new coins being minted. And with this was one piece that really stuck with me – the gilding of the finials. Now for those who are not into such things, the act of gilding is to apply gold leaf (gilt) which is  a paper thin gold sheet (think very thin foil – thinner than most aluminum foil) to a surface so it now becomes gold in colour. The finials on the fence posts around Buckingham Palace, in St. James Park for example, over time, with the weather and the pigeons and time become worn down and need a new layer to look new.

What struck me is the whole nature of this illusion and how much of a metaphor it is for monarchy. These posts are not gold, but the visual suggests they are. And over time the illusion is lost and needs to be replaced.  Most of us knew of the illusion of course, but had that knowledge tucked away in box somewhere under the bed as we had so much respect for the dedication Queen Elizabeth to various good causes and her role as a constant in a crumbling world. With the passing of time, and the passing of Elizabeth it is impossible to see how this illusion can be effective in todays world. With the coronation of Charles, the box has come out from under the bed and we are appalled  at what we see. Its time to put the rose coloured glasses in the box and put them away.

And this notion of gilt, got me to thinking about guilt. When do we stop being guilty for the actions of our parents, grandparents or predecessors? As a young Turk learning about the Armenian massacre, or a young German learning about the Holocaust, is there some point in time that we stop carrying this guilt? I cant imagine living in Berlin, and having to walk by the busses of tourists eager to take pictures of Checkpoint Charlie and the Holocaust Memorial. But equally something like the Holocaust memorial keeps it alive in the consciousness of those German youngsters and the rest of the world, so has value.

There is some level of erosion of guilty feelings of course. I feel more strongly about the treatment of Indigenous peoples in Residential Schools in Canada as it happened in my home country including in my lifetime. While I am upset by historical wrongs I don’t feel as guilty about the bad behaviour of my ancestors from several hundred years ago as I do about the recent ones.

And there is no arbiter of history. History is something we make up from our interpretation of what happened.  The Russians did the heaviest lifting in both world wars to save the freedom of Europe but that’s not how most history books or popular films tell the story.  And often even the version of history we are exposed to goes part way to  try to downplay our culpability.

While in the past I would proudly sing, God Save The Queen, the illusion has been exposed, the rose coloured glasses put away, and I will never sing God Save The King. 


P.S. While I am posting this today, I will update it from time to time as it is a topic that is haunting me.


POSTED: May 1, 2023

Once you reach a certain age, retirement creeps into your mind. You watch friends do it, your partner talks about it, there are pieces on the news about it. Much of the world’s population is quite young, but the western parts of the world are aging fast and its only immigration that is not making it worse. This whole generation of baby boomers has retired or is just about to retire.

Just the word retirement brings out crazy feelings in people ranging from elation to dread. For some of us who have not accumulated “stuff” to sell or mortgage, or the credits to a pension or other income retirement in the conventional sense, is not really an option. Similarly, for those who have worked in the gig economy or otherwise been self employed or on contract work the whole retirement thing is not as binary. Just dial back the amount of work to make life a little easier as needed is the way to go. No gold watch, no cleaning out the desk, no drunken goodby party with coworkers.

So what I mean by retirement is that traditional version – you work at something for forty or forty five years and then you stop working at that and have the income to do whatever you want without worrying about the financial side of the equation.

This has been raised in my consciousness recently by my friend Peter’s sharing with me that he is going to retire. Now unlike some friends who, like him, have worked regular jobs, largely for others and have been counting the days to stop going to a repetitive job, where their work has been eclipsed by younger, higher energy, better educated or trained people or not very personable microchips, he always enjoyed his work and has usually been senior enough to drive the culture, the work ethic, and the focus of the company’s activities. He has enjoyed his work life and had by all accounts a successful career and has I think accumulated those pension credits and paid off the debts and can do retirement fairly well financially. No regrets on the work life, but its now time to retire and do something else.

Like a lot of people he has a partner who has been chomping at the bit for him to do so. They have watched friends do round the world trips, or pursue specific hobbies at a higher level, moved to a cottage or downsized the house and bought a second home.

I don’t have any first-hand experience with retirement. I expect I will never retire as some would argue I never really got started. But as Peter is going into this with some trepidation and because I know so many people who have worked the conventional jobs and then retired, I decided to do a little survey of them to get any insights on what to expect and what to do and what to avoid. Part of my motivation for this endeavour came from the painful exercise of watching my friend Jose who loved her job as a physical education instructor at a private school, who had decided to retire and was encouraged by many to do so. She put in her notice for a school term ahead and then was loving her work even more with the knowledge it would soon end and reversed her retirement plan. She still sits on the fence on this.

What follows is my understanding of the various things told to me by these friends who have all retired from conventional jobs and gone on to have fulfilling lives after their careers. Some of the advice is expressed in the negative and some in the positive. Some have some real scars to show for their bad decisions, while others rave about how fabulous retirement has been.



What came up more than once was the overindulgence in the first year from a pend up demand for a change. Many commented that they travelled too much in the first year but hardly appreciated the expensive trips they were on. Their suggestion was that if travel is a real interest to plan one big trip per year and to really research it before hand. Learn some of the history, a bit of the language, understand the culture and the politics and geography. Then go and try to travel with a greater depth of understanding. The word savour comes up a lot when talking to retirees.

The same applies to starting a new small business or moving to a different community or changing houses. You have the time. It doesn’t all have to happen right away. Take a deep breath, do your homework and enjoy the journey – don’t just devour it and then look up and burp!


While the first point above was raised by many, almost the same number commented that there needs to be a healthy recognition that the time ahead is not endless. You may live a very long life. I have two friends in their nineties that I could certainly win against if in a boxing ring or foot race they would still win a debate with me on any topic. But too often there is a physical element or two to slow us down or otherwise impair our abilities. And the most insidious thing about aging is not the deterioration of our health, but that if we have a partner we don’t deteriorate at the same rate. One persons bad hip may hold up both for certain activities.

The point here is that at sixty or sixty-five if you have three or four things you would really like to pursue, recognize that if competing in a triathlon is a goal, its not for your eighties but for your sixties.


Ah, money. It came up a lot in my chats. It is clear to me that the world is made up two kinds of retired persons – those with a pension and those without. Good pensions that have some benefits and a steady and inflation adjusting income are what let you take that out of your stress basket.

The relationship of money and health came up a lot too. What does it take to go into a retirement home or have home health care at some later point? Those numbers are a bit scary and need to be considered, particularly if you live in a place that does not provide these things as part of a government programme.

While the comments came from retired people in all walks of life, a common bit of advice was to be honest with yourself when looking at the future and your finances. Property taxes, groceries, utilities etc. will all keep going up in cost – will your income move with those costs or be eroded over time? Can you realistically work part time if your costs and income don’t match? Perhaps for the short term, but not over the longer haul.

Sit down with a big pot of coffee and a calculator and set out conservatively what your income will look like over the next twenty years and what your expenses will probably look like over that period. It will tell you just how much you can spend each year on those trips or dinners out. It is also the exercise that has kept many from taking the retirement leap.


This title sounds grand doesn’t it. What it needs is the tag line or caveat below within your resources and capabilities. When chatting with very elderly people I have learned that very few regret trying something – even something that turned out to not be the best thing for them financially or that did not live up to their expectations. If you have worked as an accountant your whole working life and always loved  flowers and longed to have a flower shop, it may be better to have that flower shop for a least a few years, even if it does not work out perfectly financially.

There was a time when retirement really meant retiring from and not retiring to. This is a fundamental distinction. A head chef I once worked for had a little tattered and stained cartoon up by his meal planning area. It showed two old fellows sitting in a boat fishing. The dialogue box said “I don’t really like fishing, but I like golf even less”.  The implication was that these  were the only two things you could do in retirement.

The really interesting thing is how much this time is like that period right after high school or university when you have your whole life ahead of you and you get to do whatever you want. Don’t waste it. So think big and make those changes or undertake those projects (within your resources and capabilities).


Like the comments earlier about being realistic about setting the different goals for different stages of your retirement,  the notion of the right thing for right now is an important one. I have talked about this before and it is simply the idea that an activity or pursuit doesn’t have to be forever, but might be the perfect thing to do for a time, and then have as a memory. The beach house or country cottage may not be sustainable in terms of costs but might be a possibility for a few years.


I don’t tend to think of things as either strategic or tactical. Strategic are those decisions that are fundamental building blocks to achieve long term outcomes, while tactical are just those opportunities that come up from time to time that are beneficial to pursue. A formation for a soccer team and plan is strategic, but an error by the other team creating an opportunity to score is a tactical opportunity.

A few of my better educated friends went on at some length about how this applies in retirement.

Have a series of plans – short, mid, long term that will help you fulfill yourself. Anything that supports these should be a real priority as they are strategic.

But sometimes opportunities come up that are tantalizing. They need to be evaluated as whether they support, are neutral or a negative relative to your longer- term strategic goals. At earlier stages in life you can go off and pursue these tactical opportunities, sometimes for years,  and still have a chance to get back on track later. But in your retirement years I have learned you can only pursue those tactical opportunities that are positive or neutral to your longer term strategic goals as you wont have the time to recover.

I had not really thought about it in these terms but now that I am and looking back, I wish I had thought this way earlier in my life.


If you are a couple you need to think about these things individually and then see how you can mesh it all as a couple. A tough challenge I think, but a necessary process.

If single, several friends told me they found it, in most cases, rewarding to share their longer term plans with their children, siblings and close friends and often had some valuable feedback. Feedback is good, particularly from those you are close to and respect.


This whole exercise I set off on was triggered by my buddy Peter telling me about his plans to retire, and I hope these comments help. The truth of it though is that he is a fellow who is one of those methodical, honest people and good thinkers who  everyone would like to have in their lifeboat. I expect he is all over these concepts already.


If any readers have comments, I don’t have a comment section but send me comments on your retirement experience and I when I have enough will do an update to this post at some point.




I am no stranger to rejection. I experienced it quite a bit in my youth in particular. I am referring here to the classic garden variety of rejection of course – Don’t come near my end of the bar, you creep!

It hurts, but its superficial, and a learning experience.

Some people embrace it and it makes them learn, makes them stronger and better. I have a friend who is in business and who loves to rant on about the joys of failure as a learning tool. Well some of us like the equation to not all be equal in the successes and failures but more like: WIN,WIN, WIN, loss, WIN, WIN, WIN. I have known some people who just trick themselves into thinking the loss or rejection is not a loss at all but merely a deferred acceptance or win. I don’t have that skill.

The reason this topic has come up is because I am about to enter another season or waves of rejection. This stems from my finishing my manuscript some time ago and then submitting it to agents. The protocol is to submit it and then wait politely for six to twelve weeks and if you have not heard from them over that time to understand that they don’t have an interest. No letter thanking you for your nice submission but declining the opportunity. No, just an absence of a response is the big indicator that you should try with someone else. The other big kicker here is that the convention is to only submit to one at a time. It doesn’t take a math wiz to realize that with a timeline of months between submissions you can spend years being passively rejected without one clear formal rejection.

Now psychologically I guess not being formally rejected may allow you to believe that the manuscript was delivered to the wrong person, or fell behind a cabinet or was lost by the postal service, but for some of us it is quite a disconcerting process. It is as if we have proposed marriage to someone only to have the response – I’ll get back to  you on that, and if you haven’t heard from me in the next few months, propose to someone else, but don’t you dare think about proposing to someone else until the few months has passed.   WTF?

Am I longing for active rejection vs. this passive rejection? Well, not exactly, but some clarity would be nice. With that said I am sufficiently fragile that I don’t know if I can handle a ruthlessly honest response. There are only two of us on this isolated, desert island, with all variety of perils, and frankly I wish you would leave.

So when I did all that submitting to potential agents for my manuscript over a sizeable period of time, I also did not go back to the manuscript to polish it further. But there was a little burr irritating me on a key aspect of it and as time passed, I came to realize that perhaps the manuscripts rejection or lack of acceptance was a good thing in that I could make it better before submitting to a new set of rejection suitors.

In January I dove back into my manuscript with a renewed vigor as I had figured out the problem. I pulled out the burr that had been irritating the beast and rewrote key elements and can now say that I am truly proud of the outcome. The earlier version was not worthy of acceptance. This version is.

But time is a nasty mistress. As you age some rejections or failures are just not bumps in the road, or learning experiences, but indications that you may never accomplish what you are trying to achieve. So I am taking my new manuscript and sending it out to agents one at a time but with a three or four week gap between submissions. In a world that is so screwed up, I think this bit of acceleration of the waiting process between submissions is not the biggest crime of the century.

So here I am ready run the submission gauntlet again, wiser and better equipped. Stay tuned.



POSTED: March 1, 2023

In last months post I referenced the notion of some places being seemingly on the edge of the world, or at least at the extreme edge of a continent and the sense that the idea of isolation creates in people. At various times I have also chattered on about Key West. That stems largely from my buddy Jim and his partner Janice hiding out there each winter. Well today I am going to share some images of that place.

But first, a little background. I have been receiving an image or two a day from my buddy Jim. He has been walking around that little island (its about two miles by four miles in size) for about an hour every day since the beginning of January. While the island is beautiful and visually stimulating his walking is not just because he likes the scenery. Back in September of last year he had a similar diagnosis to the one I received recently for hypertension. So over the months last fall he really worked on his diet, and dialing back the wine. His blood pressure numbers improved but when he came back to Key West at the end of December, he decided to walk for about an hour a day. That really made the blood pressure numbers come into line.

Now just to go off on a bit of tangent here, the little piece I did on January 1st MY DOCTOR DOES NOT KNOW JACK  generated the most number of emails of any post I have written. Apparently both hypertension and the other issue referenced in that post are pretty common and the piece really struck a chord with people. By the way, while I don’t have a comments section on the website I am always pleased to get emails from readers.

So when he walks he takes his phone and then sends me a couple shots each day. The images below are not intended to be an intro to Key West or a comprehensive travelogue but just some random images that caught his eye.

I will put in a bit of commentary to try to add some context for those who have not been.

The foliage is full on. This place is exactly halfway between Toronto and the equator and has much more in common with the tropics than most of Florida. The issue is not as much what to plant but what to hack back as everything grows,  and grows quickly. I saw an image of a small palm tree pup that was in Jim and Janice’s yard when they bought their place, and within a few years it was over three meters (forty feet) high!


Key West is also closer to Cuba than to Miami and before the embargo was created by the U.S. to try to destroy the Cuban economy the flow of goods and people between Havana and Key West was extensive. The image below is the White Street Pier that Flagler built after completing his railroad from Miami to Key West. That railway linked various keys or islands with causeways and bridges. The longest of those bridges is seven miles!  The pier shown below was his start to the railway bridge he intended to build to Cuba so is a comment on both the ingenuity of Flagler but the hubris as well. Mother nature took out his railway from Miami to Key West with one significant hurricane.

That intertwined heritage of Americans and Cubans is quite common in many old Key West families. The success of wrecking (taking the cargo of ships wrecked on the shallow unmarked waters at the time) sponging, shrimping and cigar making has been replaced by tourism but in each phase many of the successful entrepreneurs have been from both cultures. All kinds of sponges thrive in these waters but are now protected. The water is clear enough that the shot below was just taken from above the water line in about two meters of water.

Today, because of American foreign policy Cuba of course is being starved and boats arrive each week carrying a few who have put together a very rough vessel (chug) to make the 90 mile crossing. They arrive on the various beaches in the night if not intercepted by the coast guard before making it to shore. Each week Jim sends me pictures of new chugs that have made it to the beach.

Antique cars abound. No salt on the roads, and limited mileage (where are you going to go on an island that’s two miles by four miles in size) makes for a great environment  for cars to just keep going whether pampered like collector cars or just used as regular vehicles for driving every day.

And as so small a place and with the highest point on the island being less than three meters bicycles and scooters are much more common than cars.

This island has always been a location for writers, poets, musicians and dreamers and the houses reflect that, with various expressions of creativity. The first image below is a house made of stone and coral, while the second one is more typical. Most of the houses were built in the late 1800’s when Key West was one of the largest communities in Florida. Many of the smaller houses were actually barged over from the Bahamas.


Feral chickens and roosters are everywhere. It is illegal to kill them so they just run around the streets and yards and reproduce and poop and the roosters wake people up in the morning and often throughout the day. While locals hardly notice them if you stop and spend any time observing they really are quite beautiful creatures.

Various times of the year bring out the decorations – some traditional, like Christmas, but much more significant is Halloween, the Day of the Dead, Carnival. And once a nice decoration is up, well you might as well just leave it up as that celebration is sure to come up the following year!

Now by my calculations, while I am guilty of not putting pictures in many of my posts I am hoping this post redeems me.


P.S. As always, no problem using images you have seen here but please acknowledge the source.