Author: Ian Hull
Summer is fleeting – and we often put pressure on ourselves to make the most of this 3-month sliver of warmer weather.
But here’s the issue. Day-to-day life doesn’t stop. You still have to work most weeks, kids need tending, dogs need walking, and meals need making. And expenses don’t go away – there’s a limit on what you can spend.
So, instead of focussing on big, time-consuming, or costly things that can make a summer special (trips, hot-air ballooning, cottage rentals), how about some small things that can rock your summer.
Here are five small activities that you can easily work into your summer plans.
- Jump in a fresh water lake: You actually don’t have to jump, but there is no summer experience that can match the feel of a Canadian freshwater lake. Even if you’re a non-swimmer, put on a life vest and wade in. Just once. I guarantee it will be memorable.
- Take in one outdoor concert or event: Shakespeare in the Park, a jazz concert, a baseball game – there are many ways to enjoy some sport or culture in the warmer weather. It’s a chance to sit, relax and let someone else do the entertaining.
- Eat ice cream on a hot night: Your diet is no excuse – there are sugar-free and vegan ice cream options everywhere these days. On a hot day, wait until dark then head out for ice cream. The combination of heat, cold and dark can make for some memorable moments.
- Plant a vegetable, somewhere: It can be in a garden or a pot, or secretly hidden in a park, but plant something that you can harvest later in the summer. You’ll get great satisfaction in eating a home-grown carrot, bean, tomato, or zucchini.
- Have a BBQ or patio dinner: If you have a BBQ, use it – the smell alone will bring back memories of summers past. If you don’t BBQ, make a point of having a patio dinner, at a restaurant or at home. And as you’re sitting there, remember: you can’t do this in January.
Here’s to better weather!
Ian M. Hull
When was the last time you slept (lying down) on a train? Or a better question: have you ever slept lying down on a train?
My guess is “no” , or, if you have, it was a long time ago. While overnight rail service played a role in Canada’s past, it’s no longer a preferred mode of travel. Multi-lane highways and cheap flights have replaced overnight rail service for most of us.
Still, there’s something alluring about the train. Maybe it’s the romance of exotic railway routes, like the Orient Express or the Trans-Siberian – trains that are still running today. Even if you’ve never slept on a train, you’ve likely read a book or article – or seen a movie – about these trains with their closed cabins and worlds of intrigue.
The sleeper train to Scotland
It’s this romantic nostalgia for something I’ve never done that hooked me on the news that Scotland is introducing a totally new sleeper service between London and many destinations north this summer. These totally new trains are made for the modern traveller. Some cabins have their own shower and bathroom, the mattresses are top notch, and all the mod-cons (like wifi) are onboard. You can read about it here.
The thought of leaving a world city like London at night and waking up in the morning to the Scottish Highlands whizzing by made me want to book an overnight journey. I haven’t yet, but it’s a trip that’s definitely on my list.
There’s a whole world of trains
Of course, the news of the new train in Scotland got me looking at other sleeper train journeys. There are many. Some are luxurious (there are some high-end ones in India and Africa), but many others are just interesting journeys by rail. This Lonely Planet guide to 10 amazing train journeys is worth a read.
And no matter your vehicle of choice, if you’re taking a trip this summer, happy travels!
Thanks for reading,
Ian M. Hull
Answers to every question are now online. But often, a question pops into our head only to vanish quickly from our thoughts when the triggering moment disappears. And we forget to look up the answer later.
Enough. I chose a single day and made notes of the first 4 questions that randomly popped into my head. At the end of the day, I researched the answers (okay, not all of them are shocking). Here’s what I found.
Q. What exactly is an heirloom tomato?
I went to a small, high-end grocery store and saw heirloom tomatoes for sale. My first question of the day – what are they?
Hah! Just as I expected. This is a completely unregulated designation. Real heirloom tomatoes are grown from seeds that a farmer carefully selects and passes down from season to season. No genetic modifications, no weird DNA alterations. They may be wildly coloured and shaped, but the good ones will have fabulous taste.
However, no one is monitoring this – it’s buyer beware. So, stick to heirlooms from places you trust, or buy directly from farmers at farmers markets. Bon Appetit has a great overview here.
Q. How do Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney keep great hair?
Mick delayed his 2019 tour because he needed medical treatment. That led to this second question.
But alas, still no answer. Both of these 70-something musicians are still in the public eye – a lot – but their hair has barely changed since the 1960s. Clearly work has been done. But try to find out what exactly – so frustrating! At least this 2012 article alludes to hair dye carefully applied to Jagger’s mane. McCartney won’t be far behind.
Q. Where do urban animals die?
I found a big, fat dead raccoon on our front patio. It was on its back, all four limbs in the air. The city agreed to take it away, but it got me wondering – where do these animals go to die? This was the first dead animal on my property in 20 years.
My quick research didn’t yield a lot, likely because the answer is a mix of things. They retreat to their home or other hiding place to die. They get eaten by other animals soon after death. They get picked up by the city when someone reports it. But I did learn from PBS that raccoons only have a lifespan of two to three years in the wild, so don’t let the lack of carcasses fool you. The dead are among us.
Q. How do 150lb golfers hit the ball 300 yards?
Watching a PGA tournament on TV had me gawking at a little guy – Emiliano Grillo from Argentina. He’s 26 years old, stands 5 foot 9 and weighs 141 lbs. He was hitting his drives over 300 yards!
I’m way bigger than that and can barely hit 200 yards on a good drive. I went looking for answers. This was the best article I found. Golf pros hit millions of practice balls and know how to regularly hit the sweet spot on the club face. When you hit the sweet spot, the ball travels much further. Of course, a fluid swing that generates great clubhead speed is the other half of the equation.
The best advice in the article? Swing smoother, not harder. You’ll hit the sweet spot more often and your ball will travel further.
Thanks for reading!
Ian M. Hull
During the past Halloween season, I couldn’t help laughing as I drove by a home in the country that had a very realistic looking, life-sized grim reaper on the front porch. The juxtaposition of decorative corn stalks and an inviting veranda with this figure of death looming over the doorway showed that someone inside had a very funny (but dark) sense of humour.
Of course, in real life, death is rarely funny – and it’s never funny in estate litigation situations, which we deal with every day. All to say, my laugh at the grim reaper was both welcome and cathartic. So, in the spirit of Halloween escapism, I thought that a great way to share the lighter side of death was by highlighting a few irreverent film clips that capture some funny, but deadly, moments.
Here are three that you may remember. Humour is a personal thing, but hopefully at least one of these hits your funny bone.
Bill Murray has a cameo role as himself. Zombies have taken over much of America, but Murray is uninfected and shelters a family that has made its way to L.A. Murray is killed when playing a practical joke on one of his house guests, pretending to be a real zombie.
A bit of Canada died when Leslie Nielson passed away in 2010. His killing of a villain played by Ricardo Montalban is unique in so many comic ways – and epitomizes the deadpan humour of a Canadian comic legend.
King Arthur and his knights are led to a cave and must face its guardian beast, which appears to be an innocuous white rabbit. When King Arthur orders one of his men to kill the rabbit, the action doesn’t go according to plan.
Of course, there are countless other comic film deaths. Let us know if you have any favourites!
Thank you for reading,
Ian M. Hull
The move to retail automation amazes me – its impact is so unpredictable.
The most recent kerfuffle relates to claims by Shoppers Drug Mart cashiers that they’ve been made to pressure customers into using self-checkout stations rather than traditional cashiers. Cashiers claim (probably correctly) that stores are encouraging self-checkout to reduce the number of cashiers needed in store. You can read about it here.
Where will it lead?
I have no doubt that the use of self-checkout at grocery stores will increase in the future, but will it lead to the near elimination of cashier jobs? That’s hard to say. When ATMs started breeding like rabbits in the 1980s, the loss of bank teller jobs seemed almost a certainty. While there have been some branch closures and job losses, there are still thousands of branches across the country. Go into any one and the human touch is alive and well, even with online banking at our fingertips.
Contrast that with the move to self-serve gas stations. Even though a couple of cities in British Columbia (Coquitlam and Richmond) still ban self-serve gas, more than 90% of automobile gas sold in Canada today is self-serve. Most of us never think twice about it – we just pump our own. A lot of gas attendant jobs have gone by the wayside.
Prediction – a niche only for grocery self-checkout
In London, England, I went to a 24-hour Tesco grocery store recently that had no cashiers on the overnight shift. The store had just one attendant at the front whose job was to help people navigate the self-checkout machines. That’s a use that makes sense. If you want the convenience of shopping overnight, you’ll need to do a bit of work yourself at the end. I can definitely see that trend carrying on in Canada.
But my best guess is that grocery self-checkout will remain a niche offering. Bricks and mortar retailers need to differentiate themselves from their online cousins, and the personal touch is a key way to do that. I think many people will do what I do – use the self-checkout only when the line at regular cashiers looks too long.
And who wants to make that impulsive scratch & win lotto ticket purchase from a machine anyways?
Thanks for reading!
Ian M. Hull
It started innocently enough. I was in a supermarket with my son on the weekend, and he picked up a Jiffy pop container and handed it to me. You likely know the product – a round tinfoil container with oil and kernels that expands when heated over a stove to produce popcorn.
I didn’t even know they still made it – it was something more common in the 60s and 70s before microwave popcorn took off. I laughed and we stuck it in the grocery cart for fun and went home.
Later that afternoon, my son turned on the stove and started making the popcorn. I told him that I could still chant the Jiffy pop jingle. And out of my mouth it came:
Jiffy pop, Jiffy pop the magic treat – as much fun to make as it is to eat.
Where did that come from? I hadn’t thought about Jiffy pop in 30 years. Why did I still remember a jingle from my childhood? Were 30-second Jiffy pop commercials like this one that powerful?
Advertising can work – for many years
Apparently so. And it got me thinking: what other products were etched into my mind in childhood, and could potentially still be playing a role in my purchasing decisions today?
Research has shown that there can be a connection. Studies published in the Journal of Consumer Research looked at adult judgments of the healthiness of products, some of which were heavily advertised during the person’s childhood. The study found that when children under age 13 were exposed to advertising using characters, they develop positive long-term feelings towards the characters and the brands’ nutrition for years to come. You can read a short summary of the studies here.
While this study focussed on “characters” in advertising (think Tony the Tiger, Ronald McDonald, the Kool-aid animated jug), I wonder if other associations from childhood also work, like jingles? I can still rhyme off the ingredients in a Big Mac, and say the words to Coke’s “I’d like to teach the world to sing” song. Is that why a Big Mac and a Coke still represent comfort food to me today (even if I don’t indulge)?
Re-examine product decision
Buying habits – and fond associations – can keep us locked into many things whose benefits may be long past their best-before dates. So, it’s never a bad thing to reconsider what you buy and why you buy it. You may never kick that Cap’n Crunch habit, or the lose the magic of Jiffy pop, but at least you’ll be self-aware when you make your next purchase.
Thanks for reading!
Ian M. Hull
It’s a near universal experience. Almost everyone over age 50 understands the rather uncomfortable, humble experience of the colonoscopy. For me, it wasn’t the worst experience in the world, but when I had my introduction to this procedure many years ago, I remember being delighted to hear that by the time my next one was due, they would likely have an entirely new “non-invasive” procedure in place.
For example, this “camera pill”.
Or these, which include a “virtual colonoscopy” or “at-home stool tests.”
With the profit-driven U.S. health care system just south of us, and the general hatred of the colonoscopy procedure, I knew I’d be in the clear. Bottom line (couldn’t resist that pun) – I’d never have to go through the procedure again.
So, what happened to innovation?
My, how time flies – I’m due for another colon check, but it appears that medical advancements haven’t flown quite as fast. What procedure did my doctor recommend for testing? A colonoscopy of course. Same clinic, same specialist, same 1.5 days of awful prep.
Need I say it? They can put someone on the moon, but they can’t figure out a way to check for colon polyps without a long tube going where you don’t want it to. At this rate, I think we’ll have cities on Mars before I can avoid the indignity of “now, just relax; you’ll feel some pressure, but it shouldn’t be too uncomfortable.”
Think of the positives
I do need to keep the many benefits of our health care system in mind. We live in a country that routinely checks us for common cancers – at no out-of-pocket cost. And let’s face it, not eating for two days highlights the hunger that many people experience daily. So yes, time for an attitude reset and a positive mindset as I go into battle.
But I still hope that 10 years from now, a doctor just waves a magic wand over my belly and pronounces me cancer-free. Until then, bottoms up!
Thanks for reading.
The popularity of cryptocurrencies has heightened the world’s attention on the versatility of blockchain technology. An interesting development is the application of a blockchain solution for estate planning of crypto assets.
Generally speaking, a blockchain is a shared, real-time ledger of any type of information that can be recorded ranging from financial transactions to ownership of real property. Blockchain technology allows for blocks of information to be stored in a chain on a distributed peer-to-peer network.
The traditional method of estate planning, as we know it, involves hiring a lawyer to prepare a will, which appoints the executor(s) and lists the beneficiaries. When the testator passes away it is the responsibility of the executor to administer the estate in accordance with the will. This traditional method has created uncertainty for testators who own Bitcoin or other cryptocurrency and intend for their beneficiaries to receive them.
It is estimated that millions of Bitcoins have been lost as a result of testators not adequately factoring this type of asset into their estate plan. For testators that have considered their crypto assets, concerns still remain as to whether the executor has the technological ability to access and distribute a cryptocurrency holding.
One possible way for the testator to address this uncertainty is to author a plan with detailed instructions and provide the private key to the executor(s).
A start-up company in the United States has fostered a novel approach to this issue. The company’s product offering uses a blockchain-registered will also known as a “crypto-will” to enable digital assets to be transferred automatically. The idea behind the product is that once a testator’s death record appears in the Death Master File, a computer database of death records made available by the United States Social Security Office, the crypto-will is then activated and executes the wishes of the testator. This potential solution eliminates the need for an executor to administer this portion of an individual’s estate.
As the crypto-will is still very much in the development stage, many questions still remain. It will be interesting to discover how the concept of a crypto-will evolves in the near future.
Thank you for reading,
Ian M. Hull
In the recent decision of Fica v Dmytryshyn, 2018 ONSC 2034, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice confirmed that an attorney for property and/or estate trustee has a duty to pass accounts in accordance with the Rules of Civil Procedure.
The facts in Fica feature a family dynamic in which the mother of two sons heavily favoured one over the other. The mother’s favouritism towards her younger son (the “Favoured Son”) was evident throughout his whole life, and manifested in him receiving generous financial support from his mother, for anything and everything that he needed. Her other son (the “Older Son”) appears to have had a fractured relationship with his mother and was somewhat estranged from his family.
In January 2012, the mother appointed her Favoured Son, and the mother’s brother, as her co-attorneys for property and personal care, and as her estate trustees. Both sons and Uncle were beneficiaries under the mother’s will, and entitled to share equally in the residue of the mother’s estate.
In August 2012, the mother became very sick with cancer, at which time the Favoured Son and Uncle began acting under the mother’s power of attorney for property. Even after the Favoured Son and the Uncle began acting in their roles as attorneys for property for the mother, the Favoured Son continued to receive generous financial support from the mother’s assets and, with the knowledge of his mother, continued to use her credit card to support his lifestyle.
After the mother died, the disgruntled Older Son demanded information about alleged misappropriated money and expenses incurred when his younger brother and Uncle were acting as co-attorneys for the mother. However, in what would prove to be a significant error, the Favoured Son and the Uncle declined to provide an accounting upon request. Steps were only taken in this regard by the Favoured Son and the Uncle after the Older Son brought an application to compel and obtained an order to pass attorney/estate accounts.
The Older Son also sought a court order requiring the Favoured Son and the Uncle to reimburse the mother’s estate for the funds that he alleged had been misappropriated by them. In light of the mother’s pattern of behaviour, of being frequently and consistently generous towards her Favoured Son throughout his life, as well as her knowledge that the payment of such expenses continued after the Favoured Son and the Uncle had begun acting as her attorneys for property, the judge dismissed the Older Son’s motion. The judge stated that it was the mother’s prerogative to decide what she wanted to do with her money. The judge concluded that the funds were accounted for and no undue influence was present.
The big takeaway from this decision is with respect to costs. Notwithstanding their success on the merits, the Favoured Son and the Uncle could not recover any of the costs incurred in passing their accounts. The rationale for this decision was that, as co-attorney/co-estate trustee, the Favoured son and the Uncle failed to comply with their obligations pursuant to the Rules of Civil Procedure.
Under the Rules, an estate trustee, attorney or guardian can pass his or her accounts voluntarily on notice to the appropriate parties, or can be compelled by an order of the court under Rule 74.15. Rule 74.15(1) provides that any person who appears to have a financial interest in an estate may move for an order requiring an estate trustee to pass accounts. Furthermore, Section 42(1) of the Substitution Decisions Act provides for the passing of accounts of an attorney or guardian of property.
Thanks for reading.
It’s a new year, and we all want to live well and healthy. While our bad habits can get in the way, we generally try to do the right thing.
But what’s right? In 2019, the notion of what’s “right” for our health is getting fuzzy. The reason? We live in an “always on” marketing world, and what can actually help us live well can take a back seat to the shiny new wellness tools that are being thrust upon us.
Think about it. Has there been a major “wellness” finding, backed by science, that’s emerged over the past 20 years? I’m not sure there has been.
Scottish writer, broadcast and family doctor Margaret McCartney lays out the truth we don’t want to hear in this Globe and Mail article. We don’t want to hear it because the advice is boring, obvious and “old news”.
“The truth is that well-being is simple, if not straightforward. Don’t smoke, don’t drink excessively, do exercise you enjoy, eat a Mediterranean-style diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, interact with people, work at a job and hobbies you like, and don’t be poor.”
These are the evidence-based factors that contribute to health. And while poverty is not a choice for most people, the other factors are. Margaret McCartney’s fear is that we’re becoming so focussed on the shiny new wellness trends (cleanses, colonic irrigation, crystal-infused water, 10,000 steps, this diet, that diet) that we’re missing the bigger picture and the very basic things that can help us stay healthy.
The beginning of a new year is when wellness “hype” is at its peak. My advice? Don’t buy it. By all means, enjoy your Fitbit, your new exercise program, your life without sugar or carbs, or whatever it might be. But don’t ignore the science. None of us are perfect in our health behaviours, but let’s at least strive for what can make a proven, meaningful difference.
Thanks for reading,