Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Dealing with Non-Human
Don’t you find that now that technology is here to stay, our relationships have been forever altered? Phones are rarely answered by a human now. I mean, whenever you call someone most of the time you get a voice mail. “I’m out having a wart on my rear end frozen. Leave a message and I’ll call you back when I feel like it.”
How did we survive before voice mail?
 And when you call a business, the phone is answered by an automated voice which guides you to which buttons to press depending on the reason for your call. And then you have to wait and wait and wait until a human finds the time to listen to your request. You waste time but the company manages customer service with a minimal number of humans.
We simply have to accept that non-humans are everywhere in our lives even though we can’t see them. They not only answer phones, they guide a truckload of operations from keeping inventories up-to-date at all times to some automated voices guiding us on our way as we drive.
Is there a gabby machine like Siri or Alexa in your home? Voice technology scientists have succeeded in making these non-humans sound almost human. You can ask these machines anything and they will answer you or tell you where to go. Literally. Statistics show that over 90 per cent of North Americans report having talked to Siri. That female is one busy non-human.
It’s interesting don’t you think that these virtual assistants are overwhelmingly female voices. I suppose that the reason is that people find a woman’s voice more caring and eager to assist – like a true live assistant.
When testing a real human voice against a computer generated voice, scientists found that it was difficult to tell which was which in a short clip. The result was different in longer conversations. One reason is that non-human voices have perfect diction while we real humans always talk in an imperfect manner (except perhaps for TV news anchors). Things like “ums” and “well” and “you know” often pepper what we say. Will there be a day when non-human voices will ape these imperfections?
Of course, with all these non-humans, privacy concerns are real. Some say that these machines record what we say to each other all the time. I don’t know if that’s true, but with technology forever galloping who is to say if in the future we will be able to manage to keep secrets of any kind.
The latest innovation, of course, is facial recognition. It is just beginning to be used, but it is predicted that in the not too distant future facial recognition will replace passwords to unlock everything from smart phones, to laptop, to the front doors of homes which begs the question what will happen when people get facelifts? but I digress.
 I wonder if it will really be that way. It seems to me that not all innovations make it. Many end up on the discarded pile. Case in point: the Google glasses that were expected to be purchased by everyone. For some reason people didn’t think catching up on the news on their eyeglasses as they walked was really useful. Go figure!
Another point is that at the moment we certainly have no guarantee that what we do on-line remains safe from prying eyes. Hackers have certainly seen to that, haven’t they?
Is it a brave new world or a scary one?


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

I hate January. There, I’ve said it.
The first month of the year is, as a rule, pretty nasty, but this year it’s darn right ludicrous. Normally, in the east when we are hit with lots of snow the temperature is not exceedingly cold. This year, we have just lived through difficult days when heavy snow was accompanied by miserably frigid thermometer readings. As everyone else, I am still trying to remove the frost from my soul!
When you’re young, a snow storm is a reason to celebrate. I remember that my brothers and I had a great time building snow forts for our snowball fights. When we came in, our cheeks were very rosy but I don’t remember our ever being cold. I enjoyed winter for years and went alpine skiing even in snowstorms as my grandchildren now do
There is no question that our bodies do change as the years pile on. Today, I do not accept snowstorms and extreme cold as I used to. Perhaps it’s part of the wisdom that accumulates with age as we strive to take good care of ourselves. Why risk freezing as we trudge through snow when we can be reading a good book while savoring a hot chocolate!
When it’s not too cold, I do still enjoy a good walk in the fresh air, but on days when a misty haze rises from the lake near my house, I know the temperature is not fit for man or beast.
But no matter the weather, dogs still need to step outside to respond to the call of nature and their owners have no choice but to go along. I did that for many years when Spencer was my beloved companion, but this January I feel sorry for those who must trek through the snow all bundled up as they walked with their pooch many of them wearing boots and coats. Are some of these dog owners tempted to question if they’d be happier with a cat? As a dog lover, my answer is a resounding no. Dogs are a great gift, no matter the weather, and it’s no surprise that dog spelled backwards is god.
This is my wisdom in this cold spell.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Thoughts on Aging

We’ve all heard the many sayings about aging:

Today is the oldest you’ve ever been, yet the youngest you’ll ever be;

Getting older is a welcome challenge;

Age is just a number;

You become happier as you get older;

Getting older sets you free;

Over the hill has become a very long trek.

To me, all of these have the same core message: forget the number of candles on your birthday cake and embrace life.

It seems to me that in the past people worked until they reached the magic age of 65 and then spent their days rocking on the front porch looking at the world go by. Today, with 30 or more years ahead, it is a time to join the world instead of just looking at it. It’s a time to fully consider that’s it’s never too late to join the parade, even if you’ve been procrastinating.

When a family friend, notorious for putting things off, turned 60 a couple of years back, she finally realized that her free time could be better spent than in front of the TV, and decided to do something about it. Now, she exercises regularly rather than sporadically, and takes courses to learn Italian. She has lost weight and is planning a trip to Italy. “It’s about time I knew more about my ancestry,” she quips, “and I’ve started looking into writing a family history for my children and grandchildren.”  Small steps have led to her being happier. Good for her, I say.

It’s never too late to make the changes needed to improve our lives and make us happier and more fulfilled. The idea is to get involved in life and to persist in our quest to make it interesting. We have accumulated a lot of experience over the years along with wisdom. Two things that shouldn’t go to waste. You might even start you own business or learn to swim if you don’t know how.

The sky is the limit, not age. To me, judging ourselves by our age should be outlawed.




Thursday, January 10, 2019

Going Retro
Looking at what the designers are strutting as the new trends, there is no mistaking the retro look. My mother used to say that there’s nothing new under the sun when it comes to fashion, just variations. She was right. This year’s crop of the latest designs seems to have found new ways of adapting styles popular decades ago. Perhaps there is a certain comfort in nostalgia and it is affecting more than fashion at the moment.
Retro is also a television trend this season as old popular shows are being retooled as it were. I suppose networks are trying to interest a new generation in the successes of yore. Originally some of these shows were excellent, but like the rest of life, not all of them.
 I suppose that point of view is the result of my having lived some less-than-pleasant work experiences over the years. How can I forget a remark made by my male boss during a meeting where I was the only non-male. I overheard him ask a colleague: Do we really need a woman here? And so it went.  Nostalgia unearths scars.
That was almost three decades ago, yet it still stings. To him, women had no business in a man’s world. Unfortunately, some older men still subscribe to this way of thinking and those who are single look for women who will essentially wash their clothes and make their meals. Of course, a case could be made that it was their mother’s fault, but I digress.
Thankfully, things have certainly changed for the better. Today, men of my children’s generation have evolved and do not discriminate against women in the workplace or anywhere else. They treat them as equals, as partners, no matter what the context, and they share equally in the running of the household and the raising of children. Most of them, anyway.
That can only mean the world is on the right path.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

.... to all those who read my blog

 Here we are: another new year. No matter how many we have experienced so far, this one like all the others gives us hope at this new beginning. We are ready to make positive changes in our lives so we formulate resolutions that will lead to better health and a better overall life.
            However, as experience has taught us, resolutions have a way of being short lived. We hold on for a week or two then let go and forget about the promises we made to ourselves. That is not surprising. Research shows that it takes 21 days for a change in behaviour to be effected. That is a full three weeks. After that it should become part of the routine of life.
            But, even if we fail in implementing our resolutions, try and try again should be our motto.  
            I know a fellow who makes a resolution to clean up his language every January, something he’s been doing for a few years now. While he still swears I must say he has improved and utters fewer spicy words now than he did a couple years ago. I suppose that subconsciously he reminds himself of his resolution from time to time, and it can only lead to success in the future.
            I believe that it’s not such a bad idea to keep repeating the same resolution throughout the year because the aim stays in our consciousness. We can still hope to succeed in losing those extra pounds if we keep reminding ourselves that baby steps do bring eventual success.  
            Certainly worth a try!