Saturday, August 29, 2020

Is Cash Obselete?

    I recently read an article about the scarcity of coins in circulation.  Apparently during the pandemic people are not shopping as much with cash.   In recent years my payment process for shopping has been almost strictly credit cards.     It has been at least 10 or months since I have used cash.   I carry no coins and when I have no alternative but to use cash, the coins I get in change go directly to my wife.  She stills like to operate in the cash world.

    Along with the aversion to cash I am on a kick to avoid writing checks!   I love the process of setting up monthly bills for either credit cards or electronic bank transfers.  I can't remember the last time I ordered new checks.  The check providing company thinks I have fallen off the earth,

    Are the changes progress?   I certainly think so.  During my first international travel in the 70's  the standard payment process revolved around travelers' checks.   At the airport of the country of arrival one would go to a currency conversion kiosk and convert an appropriate amount of US Dollars to the local currency.    Before the European Union and the advent of the Euro that meant each country had their own currency.   Speaking of coins, I still have some Spanish, German, Dutch and Belgium coins of minor value.   What a blessing it was for later travel to simply pay with credit cards.

    Often geezers are heard to complain how things were great in the good old days.   I am not one of them.  I am delighted to have lived long enough to see progress on so many fronts.  And speaking of progress on many fronts I am reminded how many splendid improvements have been made in ski clothing and ski gear.   I am happy to see T-bars go obsolete.  Maybe in the shopping society the best thing could be for cash to become obsolete.


Saturday, August 22, 2020


     As a crossword puzzle solver I am both puzzled (pun intended)  and amazed by the plethora of word meanings even for common every day vernacular.    The word woke has come at me recently.  In conversation with a friend about our mutual concern over a social injustice, she exclaimed that I was a woke person.   Yes, one aware of social injustice.   I guess it is nice to have a word that sums up a lot meaning in one simple stroke.

    All this got me to thinking about how we interact in a multiple of professional, family, and social situations with a vernacular that we may or may not understand.   Communication if often stymied if the people do not have the same vocabulary or the same vernacular (dialect).     I am reminded of an experience over 50 years ago when I travelled with a Cornell engineering consultant  for  the poultry industry in New York State.  Hollis Davis was a bit of a character.  A rough and ready guy who broached no nonsense.  On our journey he was consulting with a poultry farmer who was planning new housing for his birds.   When we met, Hollis went about explaining how the structure should be built and the type of beams and trusses to be used in various locations in the structure.  The structural elements actually went by different names depending on the part of the state we were in.  As I observed their exchanges, I noticed that Hollis would check with the farmer every few sentences to see if he was comprehending his recommendations.  When the communications broke down,  Hollis would refer to the particular structural element with a different name.   One time I think he went through at least three names until the farmer understood what he was talking about.   For a neophyte like me,  it was a lesson in effective communication.

    Perhaps the moral of this screed is that we need to recognize who we are communicating with and use the correct vernacular for the situation.   When in conversation about skiing with people outside the skier fanatics,  I notice I will use terms that have little meaning to them.  Then it is time to check in and rephrase with interpretation of the vernacular  I have fallen into.  No wonder folks who learn English as a second language have trouble with our idioms and dialects.   Meanwhile I will continue to enjoy learning new words and new vernacular.   It is part of my entertainment during my pandemic isolation.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Chaos and Clutter

     My wife and I are orderly people and minimalists.    We abhor clutter and by many standards we have a sparsely decorated home.  It is our choice and if others wish to live differently, we say enjoy you life style.     As a senior couple we have developed routines and live with very little chaos and clutter.

     We are often blessed with several day visits by our daughter, son-in-law and now two grandsons.   You can imagine how this changes our environment.   Our routines are thrown into disarray.  Changing from a household of two seniors to a multi-generational household of six presents a whole new definition of order.   Don't get me wrong.  The clutter that comes is a joyful clutter of an active 4 year old playing with a multitude of toys that Nana has accumulated.   And the new infant grandson is a delightful distraction as he gurgles in delight at the play items in his view as he lays on the living room floor.  All the clutter for the visit I would classify as good clutter.   The kind that has purpose and entertainment.

    Post the most recent visit our household has bounced back to our old routine.  By gosh, I sure do miss the chaos of the latest visit.  Now we have to entertain ourselves with other activities and savor memories of the good times with family.

    My thoughts about chaos and clutter other than the above have as well been sparked by travels in the countryside of Cortland County, New York scoping out derelict silos of defunct dairy farms.   Sometimes I come across boneyards of inoperative machinery cluttering the surroundings of the farm.   My sense of orderliness is offended by some of these eyesores.   If I was couple of decades younger, I think I would start up a scrap metal business and harvest these boneyards.  On the other hand, I do see some operational dairy farms with machinery parked around the buildings in somewhat disarray.   Since they are being used, I would classify them as good clutter.    Perhaps, I just don't understand a mind set that is willing to live with what to me is an excess of things and a chaotic environment.  

    To each his own.  In my professional life, I have encountered colleagues who had both totally chaotic offices and totally pristine offices.   In both cases they were exceptionally productive.  Each of us knows what works for us.


Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Each Day Has a New Surprise

    As I reflect on the passing of the days during the pandemic I am glad that I have maintained a positive outlook.  In the new normal, the old patterns are disrupted and I have had to adapt to new activities and expectations.  As has been true for all of us.

    I have decided not to plan too far ahead.  Thus I arise each day simply looking forward to being surprised by something unusual happening in my life, however small it might be.  And so far each day has lived up to that expectation.  In this new mode tiny differences in my routine take on special significance.   Often my day will include an unexpected need for a change or repair in the household.  (Or just now a surprise kiss from my loving wife as I sit at the computer typing.  Those are the best kind, )   A recent example of household change is adding a repeater to my Wi-Fi to extend coverage to a far corner of the house where I might use my Ipad to watch a movie.   Today as I used the central vacuum, I was reminded that I hadn't  emptied the barrel or changed the filter in a long time.   I just finished the nasty job and ordered a new foam filter on line.  Good for another few months. 

    My wife, Nancy is a marvelous cook.  I am so fortunate that each evening meal is both delicious and often surprising in flavors and presentation.  I am a total omnivore and I think the only thing I detest is sardines.   Another surprise for the day can be the sights we see on hikes within our region.  We have an amazing number of  rarely frequented trails in the area where we discover marvelous greenery, forests and vistas.  

   In summary,  I am happy to go with flow.    New things will happen and old things will crop up.   And almost daily, my wife and I are delighted with photos of our most recent grandchild, grandson Finnian.   A most delightful, adorable and handsome dude heading for age three months

  My friends and readers, I hope you can find a new, entertaining and rewarding surprise in each of your days.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Dreams of Old Men?

   I have lived over 85 years and accumulated a lot of memories.   Many of them come forth during my waking hours and sometimes I like to relate them to anyone who is close by.  Especially if it relates to an ongoing conversation.  My wife is often the recipient of my musings and often suggests I heard that one before.
    In the wee hours this morning a memory intruded into my sleep in the form of a dream.   In summary I dreamt of interviewing for a job with Deere and Company for an engineering job.   Hey, I am long retired and in reality I have no interest in going to work again.  Also I had a long stint as an academic doing teaching and research in agricultural engineering.  Not an industrial person.
    Here is my interpretation of the dream.   It relates to an experience that dates back to 1956.   The summer before my senior year at Cornell I was looking for a summer job in the agricultural equipment industry.  There were two leads on jobs.  One with Avco-New Idea in Ohio via a Cornell alum and the the other with Deere  and Company in Moline, Illinois.     I interviewed for both jobs and was immediately offered a position with the first.  Deere was late in getting back to me with an offer so in I decided to go ahead and grab the first opportunity.   However, shortly after accepting the first offer, Deere came through with a much better offer.  What a dilemma!   Being honorable won out and I declined the Deere offer.   (Here is another irony in this story.   My son Colin during his time at Cornell University spent two summers working for Deere in Moline, Illinois!  And if the equipment business has not gone in the tank in the 1980's he would likely have spent a career there.   More irony.  He has ended a 30 year career with IBM with early retirement. )
         Now returning to the dream story.   The experience at Avco-New Idea was less than satisfactory.   The upshot is that I left behind any thoughts of going into industry and so pursued academia.  Perhaps the dream today is returning to a this question.  What if I had taken the Deere job?  Would I have been a career engineer designing agricultural machinery?  Would it have been satisfying?    I guess dreams do arise from unresolved understanding of twists of fate.