Techtopia

Welcome To The Future

This hilarious video was shared on Facebook the other day. It shows two 17-year-old kids trying to figure out how to use a rotary phone. Priceless! It has occurred to me, not for the first time, that we live in a digital paradise. When I think of how far technology has come in the past twenty years, it’s truly staggering. We’ve gone from yakking on a phone with a curly cord, that was bolted to the wall, to sending each other text messages from phones that fit in our pocket! To say nothing of the ways we can watch TV! Gone are channels 2,4,7,9 & 50! Now, you can spend countless hours scrolling through everything that’s available to stream on your TV, computer, tablet, phone, or even watch!!

dick-tracy-1024x768When I was a kid, there were two eagerly anticipated products that would let us know when we had finally arrived in the Sci-Fi Future. The first was from a cartoon, of course. Each week, Dick Tracy would check-in with HQ on his WATCH! Dick Tracy was a comic strip from the 1930s. The fact that he had such a futuristic watch, just blew our minds! For Christmas, we were excited to receive gigantic walkie-talkies that had a range of about ten feet. Today, people have technology on their wrists that has the power of multiple supercomputers from the 1970s, and weighs only a few ounces! These gadgets play music and video, answer phone calls, monitor your fitness level and much, much more.

The second harbinger of the future is obviously the flying car. With advancements in drone technology, they are getting closer. However, I can’t see any of these vehicles parked in a tight spot at the mall anytime soon. The inspiration for the flying car came, once again, from a cartoon. The futuristic Jetsons debuted in 1962. While many advances depicted on the show (robots, video-chats, jetpacks, holograms, 3-D printed food, and others) have come to fruition, we’re still waiting on that Flying Ferrari, George! I guess we’ll just have to be patient. Who knows, maybe Elon Musk is working on a Jetson-Mobile right now. I wouldn’t be surprised. In the words of one of my favorite Brad Paisley songs, “Welcome to the Future!”

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https://youtu.be/1OADXNGnJok

https://youtu.be/JgeMJ1hX9KI

The FHL (Frankenstein Hockey League)

Some Truly Frightening Hockey

In 1976, my family moved from the east side of Detroit to St. Clair Shores, Michigan. Back in the mid-70s, St. Clair Shores was the original Hockeytown. Joe Louis Arena was still in the planning stages for a prime spot on the Detroit River. Back then, it seemed like every kid in the neighborhood was on at least two hockey teams. When I met some of the guys from our street, the first words out of their mouths were, “So what team do you play on?” My smartass answer was, “The Detroit Backyard Hockey League”. It wasn’t until many years later that I finally joined some friends for a pick-up game at the St. Clair Shores Civic Arena. A real ice rink, with boards!

I was hooked! If I shot and missed the net (which was likely), the puck bounced harmlessly off the boards and didn’t bury itself in a nearby snow pile. In Detroit, the closest outdoor rink was eight blocks away. On that pond, even if I scored a goal between the two boot goal posts, I still had to go snow-spelunking to find the puck. Getting to the rink was no picnic either. I remember negotiating snow-filled streets on my bike, with a stick slung over my shoulder, skates hanging around my neck and a pile of pucks in my pocket. Playing at an indoor rink certainly had its advantages! However, as time passed, I gave up my dream of becoming a suburban hockey player.

Then, many years later, I joined some friends for Friday night pick-up hockey at the Oak Park Ice Arena. We played from midnight until 2am (cheaper ice time). It was a blast, even though some of the guys were coming straight from the bar. This made for some interesting gameplay and short tempers. I also played in a couple of other leagues over the years. One, in particular, my wife called the Frankenstein Hockey League. She gave it that nickname because we all skated like we had green skin and bolts coming out of our necks. Or, maybe she was just talking about me. Either way, it was a lot of fun, and I look forward to getting back into it. First, I’ll have to sharpen up my skates and see if I still look like Boris Karloff on the ice. Then I’ll stop by and pick up my buddies, Dracula, and the Wolfman and see if we’ve still got it! I can hear my wife now, rolling her eyes and saying, “You never had it!” Nice one, dear.

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Greener Pastures

Is It Time To Mosey On?

Now that we’re well into the new year, many resolutions have already fallen by the wayside. Was one of your resolutions to strike out on a new career path? We’ve all asked the question from time to time, “What If?” What if you decided to try something new in the job market? You’ve been stuck in the same job for over fifteen years, and quite frankly, you’re bored out of your skull! But is it worth the risk? What if it doesn’t work out? How will you pay your bills? What about your benefits and 401k? What if you’re not cut out for the new job? Will your spouse leave in a fit of rage, scattering your clothes all over the front lawn? These are all valid questions that need to be answered.

We’ve all asked, “What If?” However, most of the time we never take any action. Mainly because we don’t want to sacrifice our job security and paycheck. That said, last year I decided to give “What If?” a try. I left my job at Global Discovery Vacations and took a sales position with Art Van Furniture. To be honest, one of the main reasons for this decision was because Art Van’s Warren location was only three miles from my house. Global Discovery Vacations was thirty-one miles away, and if the weather was bad, it could take up to an hour to get there. In retrospect, living close to a prospective job should never be a determining factor in taking the position. It’s always a good idea to fully weigh the Pros and Cons, before making any life-changing decision.

However, another reason for considering the Art Van job was that appointments at Global had slowed down drastically. So, after a lot of thought, I decided a change to Art Van might actually do me some good. The training classes, which were very informative, were brutal. However, after two weeks of classroom instruction, I aced the final exam and moved onto the showroom floor. I was not prepared for what awaited me. The cutthroat business of retail furniture sales is not something to be taken lightly. Fortunately, I had to quit for medical reasons. My right foot gave out after a few weeks on the hard tile floor. Then, after returning from a two week vacation in Florida, I was able to get my job back at GDV. Now, I’m happily ensconced back at my desk, loving what I do. Take it from me the pasture is not always greener. However, you’ll never know unless you try!

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Winter Walks

Can You Hear It?

(Author’s Note: This article was written before a recent storm in the Detroit area dumped about 3-5 inches on us.)

Well, it finally happened. Early last week, I was able to engage in one of my favorite winter activities. Taking an evening stroll during a snowfall. It certainly wasn’t like a picture print by Currier & Ives. Probably no more than ½” of the white stuff coated the sidewalk. Here in the Detroit area, we have been having one of the biggest snow droughts I can remember. It has been cold enough for a white blanket of fluff, but so far in January, nothing. December, virtually nothing. However in November, we did get some “Pre-shovelled” snowfalls. They amounted to no more than 2”, and only covered the grass.

This night, the conditions for a winter walk were perfect. The snow was still falling, and the streets and sidewalks had a thin layer of the white stuff. I got home a little late from work, so it was around 10 pm when I headed out for my nightly walk with Skittles, the crazy dog. As I pulled the front door shut, I noticed it immediately. QUIET. Even a little bit of snow so effectively mutes the sounds of the suburbs, it becomes eerily silent outside. I love taking these walks, and I have been looking forward to them all winter. Just when it looked like we were going to skate by without any “Real Snow”, we were predicted to get one to three inches in the next few days.

These quiet journeys take me back to when we first welcomed a rescue dog named Skittles into our home. I resolved to walk her every day, regardless of the weather. And I have, for the most part. However, 17 degrees BELOW ZERO is just too damn cold! When I worked days, I would have to get up at 5 o’clock for our morning constitutional. If there was some snow overnight, these walks would take on that surreal feeling. As we made our way around the hushed neighborhood, it seemed like we were the only creatures on the planet. Eventually, the sounds of traffic would pick up. The snow plows and school buses would start running, and the illusion would be ruined. However, for a brief moment, it seemed like we had the world to ourselves. Sigh. I can’t wait to do it again.

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The Resolutioners

Will You Make The Cut?

Here they come. Every year like clockwork. The ball drops in Times Square and millions of people RESOLVE to make lasting changes in their lives. These changes usually center around losing weight, quitting smoking, finding a new job, etc. However, by the end of January, most of these resolutions are long forgotten. It never ceases to amaze me how my gym fills up in early January with people who have the best of intentions. However, by the end of the month, I can get a good parking spot and hop on my favorite Elliptical machine without having to wait in line.

I have broken my share of resolutions over the years. Most of them involved screaming at the TV when the Red Wings gave up yet another goal with less than a minute left in the period! Or, losing my mind when Michigan lost to Ohio State, again! However, a resolution I made a few years ago has really stuck. My resolution to stay out of political discussions altogether, if at all possible. This has worked out pretty well for the most part. However, there are some days on Facebook when I want to jump back into the fray and straighten out some knucklehead. Then, I remember an article I read by a very deep and thoughtful individual. The title of that article was, What Good Will It Do? That guy is just brilliant!

Another resolution I managed to keep for the past five years was to get to the gym three days a week. That one was tough. I had been planning on getting into shape for a long time and finally decided to bite the bullet. Now if I miss a workout, I’m feeling out of sorts for the next few days. Once you make a major commitment like that in your life, there’s no going back. Ask any gym rat. There’s nothing worse than almost reaching your fitness goal, then getting sick, or injuring yourself. Then, you have to start all over again from scratch. A lot of people will give up at this point. However, this is where you really have to suck it up and keep going. You’ll be glad you did! Whatever resolution you are struggling with, just keep something in mind. If you can hang on until the end of January, the odds are good that you just might make it! Good Luck!

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Walk Like A Superhero

You’ll Never Know What You’re Missing

As long as I can remember, I’ve had bad posture. Over the years, I have tried a number of ways to correct it, but to no avail. The main reason for my slouch is that I am 6’3” and have a tendency to bash my skull into just about any low-hanging object. This is especially true in our basement, where the drywall covering our ductwork has put divots into my head, as well in the heads of my two sons. Over time, my posture has evolved into a self-defense mechanism. It’s better than wearing a hockey helmet everywhere I go. However, in this new year, one of my goals is to correct my posture. To look at me walking my dog, you would think I was looking for dimes on the sidewalk. Especially at this time of year. Walking with my head down protects my face from the icy wind. However, come May, I have no excuse. Just habit.

I have heard somewhere that to correct poor posture, you should walk like a Superhero. To perfect my Superhero Strut, I imagined myself walking toward a movie camera in slow motion. My cape, flowing in the wind behind me. If that doesn’t do the trick, nothing will. However, this is where my plan hits a snag. When it comes to Superheroes, I have always been a Marvel guy. By and large, capes are not real big in the Marvel Universe. To my knowledge, the only exceptions to that rule are Thor, Doctor Strange and The Vision. I can picture Edna Mode from The Incredibles having an in-depth discussion with Stan Lee about this subject. I guess I’ll have to go with Superman (DC). That red cape with the gold “S” stands out in the wind! If I can perfect my Man of Steel walk, my posture problem should be history.

Part of my rationalization for walking with my head down has always been, “Gotta keep an eye out for dog poop!” While that is a concern, if I re-focus my vision down the sidewalk, I should be able to spot any biological hazards ahead. The other night I was consciously walking with my head up and I was amazed by what I saw. It was a cold, clear night and the stars were shining brightly. Well, as brightly as they can shine in the suburbs. The clouds looked just like window blinds in the sky. It was breathtakingly beautiful. If I had been trudging along as I normally do, looking for dimes and poop, I would have missed an incredible sight. There’s a life lesson in there. Although you may sometimes step in some poop, keep your eyes on the stars! That sounds like it should go on a t-shirt. Dibs!

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The Post-Holiday Blues

Maybe It’s Time To Get Some Help

Now that the Christmas season has come and gone, the blues can’t be very far away. The holiday gear from the front yard, living room, family room, basement, and backyard all have to be taken down and stored away until next year. While all of this festive decor adds to the enjoyment of the season, breaking it all down is always a little depressing. Mainly, because here in Southeast Michigan, we know that all we have to look forward to is the rest of Winter, rainy disgusting Spring, and then finally, Memorial Day.

For some reason, I just wasn’t into Christmas this year. Not that I was Grinching-out or anything, I just wasn’t feeling it. Putting up the decorations felt like more of a chore than part of the annual holiday build-up. One afternoon, after wrestling with our green LED trees on the front lawn, I sat down to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. I could relate to CB this year more than ever before. His blah-ness about the whole season summed up exactly how I felt. This was a new attitude for me. I love the holidays, and this malaise about Christmas left me feeling puzzled and frustrated. Why was I feeling like this, during The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

I think part of the reason was, to quote Sgt. Murtaugh, “I’m getting too old for this sh*t!” For many years, my lower back has bothered me. Even though I wear a support wrap while decorating, I still wind up having to toss down a couple of Motrin and spend a few hours recuperating in my recliner with the back massager running. Maybe next year, I’ll contract out some of the more labor-intensive parts of the holiday prep. It sure couldn’t hurt. It might be time to scale back some of the decorations anyway. Reset my focus on the true reason for the season. Celebrating the Birth of Christ, and getting together with family and friends. To quote Linus, “And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown”. Amen Linus, amen.

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The Gold Watch

Better Late Than Never

There once was a time-worn tradition in the working world. You bounced around various jobs in your youth, looking for the right fit. Eventually, you found a career that would provide you and your family with a decent salary, benefits, and job security. Once you joined that company, you toiled away for the next twenty-five years or so, until you eventually reached your reward for all of that hard work. Retirement. The symbol of achieving that goal was a beautiful gold watch. However, these days many people never get their retirement party or that gold watch. I was one of them.

There is a growing trend across the business world. Companies fire their senior employees before they ever reach retirement. That way, businesses get to avoid the higher salaries and benefits costs paid to these employees. Then they either eliminate the positions entirely or hire shiny new college kids to fill those jobs, at less than half the salary. My journey over the past five years (has it really been that long?) is detailed in my blog The Brown Parachute Club. If you know someone in a similar situation, please share this website with them. There are over thirty articles designed to help my fellow Brown Parachuters get through these tough times.

In my case, a funny thing happened along the way. Once the stress of my previous job was lifted off my shoulders, I became much happier. A friend of mine, Gerard Baltrusaitis (Career Evangelist), gave me some good advice. Reinvent Yourself. And that’s exactly what I have done. I absolutely love my job with Global Discovery Vacations. Also, between TBPC and this blog, I have discovered writing skills I never knew I had. Recently, while picking up some last minute Christmas gifts at JCPenney, I noticed a beautiful gold watch. The retirement party I was never given immediately sprang to mind, so I bought the watch. I wear it proudly to a job I look forward to each day. A sign of a career successfully reinvented. Thanks, Gerry!

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https://www.linkedin.com/in/gerardcareerev

Share Your Gifts

Sometimes Your Leap of Faith is Made For You

Happy New Year and welcome back to Become Nostalgic About Today! There’s a great commercial I saw during the recent Black Friday Ad Blitz. You may have caught it as well. The spot is animated, and it’s done in the Pixar style. While melancholy music plays, a young woman sits in her bedroom, furiously typing away on her Macbook. Initially, it’s not clear what she’s working on. Eventually, we see that she’s a writer. Her dog keeps watch over her as she prints out her stories, then lovingly places them in a treasured green box, locked away from the world. I won’t give away what happens next, but this ad is brilliant.

Click on this link to view it yourself. I don’t pretend to know what goes on in the mind of an angsty young Jane Austen. However, as an aspiring writer myself, this commercial really brought a lump to my throat. Please take a moment to watch the whole two minutes and fifty-two seconds of this gem. I’m not going hit you with any spoilers, but I think it perfectly illustrates how a writer feels when composing her latest story, blog post, or article. It does a terrific job of showing the creative process.

Like the young lady in the video, I feel I have kept my stories locked away in my own green box. In my case, the green box is Facebook and LinkedIn. This leads me to make an announcement. In an effort to have this blog seen by more readers, I will be soon be launching a brand new website. It will combine this blog, along with The Brown Parachute Club, and any other future endeavors. As of my last post, Christmas Eve Bowling, I have written 53 articles for this blog, and I am hoping to actually make a few pennies from my writing in the future. There are plans for a YouTube page, as well as an eBook of some of the better articles. I hope you like the upgrade, and as always, I welcome your comments. This post-holiday season, don’t forget to share your own gifts. Whatever they may be.

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https://youtu.be/3dJCroCMBPM