MURAnews Spring 2022 issue in PDF format
In this issue:
Your Money/Your Health, cont'd
For this year, our last Zoom meeting will be our Annual General Meeting on Tuesday, June 7th. Please plan to join us.
A second handout was one from Human Resources, “New Retiree Benefit Reminders”. This handout explained many aspects of retiree benefits and how they might differ from employee benefits. A very useful part of this handout tells you how to check your coverage. This includes the phone number (1-800- 361-6212) and website of Sun Life. MURA complements the work of McMaster Human Resources. This was acknowledged by Tim Doucette who represented McMaster Human Resources. Tim, in his remarks, mentioned that MURA does an excellent job in explaining retiree benefits to our members.
Notice of Annual General Membership Meeting
Special Presentation to the AGM
Listening to Nature - All Day and All Night - in McMaster Forest
The guest speaker, Dr. Doug Welch, Professor of Physics and Astronomy and Vice-Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies, will talk about the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club research project he is involved with. While Doug is an observational astronomer, another side of his attention has concentrated on bioacoustic monitoring of birds (and other species) in the McMaster Forest. He will share his experiences with long-time recording in locations around southern Ontario and with the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy. The audio recordings are transformed into "sonograms" (also known as "audiospectrograms" in which bird vocalizations can be visualized. The "images" are then passed through a freely-available machine-learning program called BirdNet to produce a list of detections of different species. Such constant monitoring can help reveal the arrival times of migrating birds from year to year in a systematic way.
Business Meeting: Including reports of Officers and Council Elections. The report from the Nominating Committee follows.
2022 Nominating Committee Report
MURA Council 2022/2023
MURA Graduate Scholarship Fund
Please Give GenerouslyWe are very close to awarding the first annual MURA graduate scholarship. Retirees and friends of MURA have made generous gifts to the endowment fund, and MURA Council allocated a $3,000 extraordinary budget surplus generated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Only $6,000 in additional donations is needed to reach the goal.
The graduate award fund will provide a $1,000 annual scholarship to a graduate student researching technological advances related to seniors.
Please donate online at MURAscholarship.ca, or by phone at 905-525-9150, ext. 24224.
Your tax-deductible gift, whether small or large, will help future McMaster graduate students.
MURA members have been supporting academic awards since 1992. A separate, fully-funded endowment continues to provide an annual $2,500 in-course scholarship and a $750 graduand prize to undergraduate students studying society’s aging population. The new graduate scholarship will add to MURA’s legacy of student support.
McMaster Note Cards
“Fall Colours at Mac”
$1.50 per card, plus postage (or, in the Hamilton area, you can arrange to pick up your cards)
Proceeds to the MURA special projects fund
Please include your name, postal address, phone number or email address, and the number of cards you would like.
Cost: $1.50 per card, plus postage
As an example, for MURA to mail you 25 cards: Cards $37.50 (25 x $1.50)
Retirees in the News
By Mary JohnstonMay Cohen, Professor Emeritus, Family Medicine, has donated a comprehensive collection of documents to McMaster’s Health Sciences Archives. This resource for future generations spans Cohen’s life from medical school to the present. In January, the Mac Daily News web site announced the donation and published an article documenting her remarkable life as a physician, educator and advocate for women’s rights.
compiled by Kathy Overholt
compiled by Kathy Overholt
Judith Anderson, Music, Jan 25/22
William Bennett, Surgery, Mar 1/22
Cameron Crowe, Chemical Engineering, Feb 3/22
Marju Drynan, Library, Feb 19/22
Susan Fletcher, Printing Services, Jan 25/22
Edward Glanville, Anthropology, Jan 28/22
Alvin (Archie) Hamielec, Chemical Engineering, Jan 30/22
Alan Hart, Pediatrics, Mar 23/22
Hans Heinig, Mathematics & Statistics, Apr 4/22
Rudy Heinzl, Student Affairs, Feb 12/22 *
Helen Howard-Lock, Chemistry, Feb 17/22
Anthony Kerigan, Medicine, Jan 17/22
Anna Kosicki, Facility Services, Mar 8/22
Susan McGowan, Medicine, Mar 6/22
Ernest Mead, Mathematics & Statistics, Feb 20/22
Irene Miller, Library, Feb 24/22
Claris Price, UTS – Enterprise Systems, Jan 9/22
Averil Thompson, Human Resources, Mar 17/22
Susan Watt, School of Social Work, Feb 21/22
Hazel Young, Hospitality Services, Jan 27/22
*See the Daily News article “Remembering Rudy Heinzl”.
courtesy of Meanwhile in Canada
Time Well Spent
By Dennis McCalla, Biochemistry
I got my start as a woodworker in my teens, encouraged by my father who was an accomplished woodworker, and through grades 7 to 10 by an excellent shop teacher. Upon retirement, my wife Kay and I moved to 50 acres overlooking the Beaver Valley in Grey County. This provided scope to increase my woodworking activities. With family help, we built a garage with an attached insulated and heated shop which was well separated from the house. Kay especially appreciated having my noisy and dusty activities out of the house!
By Elaine McKinnon Riehm, Faculty of Humanities, Eighteenth-Century Studies
During the past long winter, I made the acquaintance of Gervase Fen, Oxford Master of English Literature and irregular sleuth created by William Crispin (1921 ̶ 1978) in a series of murder mysteries. The book cover of The Case of the Gilded Fly assures readers that Crispin’s tales are “intelligent, humane, surprising and rattling good fun.” While engaging, his characters are often eccentric, tending towards the dotty; their vocabulary is high Oxford, tending towards the cryptic perhaps.
Crispin tells us that to keep him within bounds, Gervase Fen’s wife often has reasons to caution him, frequently interjecting “’Now Gervase’ in an objurgatory but automatic manner.” Just what manner is that? I wondered. A short paragraph later a character observes as Fen “became launched on his logomachy.” Had I missed something? How did an ancient Greek vessel find its way into an Oxford quadrangle? A few pages later, readers bump into a “goetic ritual of exorcism” (cryptic indeed, and we are only at chapter 3 and have just heard a gunshot).
Edmund Crispin was a writer and composer and graduate of Oxford. He wrote The Case of the Gilded Fly, his first Gervase Fen story, while still an undergraduate in the 1940s. It is possible that his contemporary readers glided over “objurgatory,” “logomachy,” and “goetic” without a pause let alone a dictionary. Perhaps at that time such words were commonplace or at least were understood by most readers, especially Oxford folk.
How far we have fallen since then, I thought, opening my father’s Concise Oxford Dictionary (1921). There we find “objurgatory”: a chiding or scolding manner; “logomachy”: a dispute about words, a controversy turning on merely verbal points; “goetic”: pertaining to black magic or necromancy.
The book that has recently risen to the top of my bedside pile is Newfoundland writer Michael Crummey’s Sweetland. Not a mystery, nevertheless like Crispin’s mysteries it employs an exuberant, sometimes cryptic, vocabulary, for example: “mauzy,” “streel,” and “dwy.” I am glad that by chance on a recent trip to St. John’s I bought the Dictionary of Newfoundland English. Otherwise, how would I know what a dumbledore is? For our mutual enlightenment: “About the best time to visit the Awlin is in June when the dumbledores is buzzin’ round the pissabeds, or as they would say upalong where the language has been watered down to a shocking extent, ‘when the bees are buzzing around the dandelions.’”
Be forewarned, in addition to a distinctive local vocabulary, subject-verb agreement is up for grabs in Crummey, “idn’t it”?
Judges have awarded first prize in the Odd Word Award to writers from Newfoundland and Labrador with an honourable mention to those from Oxford.
The Birthing of the Canadian Phoenix
By Steve Staniek, Health Physics
We had retired from the constant noise of the big city to a quiet place in the country we called High Reach, where we learned that we were to become grandparents for the first time. Our son’s growing family would need more space during weekend visits. It was time to finish the basement by constructing a separate apartment with a private walkout.
One early morning as I began to draw letters on a cardboard template for “Granddad’s Workshop”, my momentum suddenly disappeared, like air rushing out of a balloon. It no longer felt like the right thing to do. As my original concept faded away, more exciting thoughts, like new life from old, began to visit me.
Shamanic healing is inspired and guided by helping spirits, and I felt I was being led by my heart to something bigger. Perhaps it was my long and close relationship with the bird world that opened the door to their ancient secrets and allowed the Phoenix of healing compassion to form in my heart and emerge. I felt its energy over me for the next three weeks, as I recreated it stroke by stroke, colour by colour, and brought it to life with dormant skills that surprised me.
As a shaman working to heal communities of their colonial wounds, I’ve spent years writing anti- colonial, and anti-war articles, so many of my daily thoughts cascade in these directions.
The Phoenix has been an ancient symbol of great change, resurrection, and freedom from death. It was a popular symbol on Christian headstones until the 4th century, when Emperor Constantine the Conqueror imposed the Roman Cross on Christianity.
Now, the completed firebird smiles back at me and the world, as it reveals its transformative, healing colours. It’s message to my grandchildren will be: “We are divinely eternal”.
The Canadian Phoenix at High Reach
More of Steve’s writings can be read on the website The Art of Autism.
A Musical Journey from Playing to Composing
By Fred Moyes, Departments of Anatomy and Kinesiology
In 1943 when I was ten years old, I bought my first little accordion with ten pounds I had earned picking potatoes for a local farmer. There was no accordion teacher in Aberfeldy, the tiny Scottish country town in which I grew up, so I bought a six-page tutor titled simply “How to play the piano-accordion”. Five years later, I joined a dance band which played in the Town Hall every Saturday night. The dance program, although primarily ‘modern’ dancing, contained a few traditional Scottish dances which were danced with great gusto, unbridled energy and a notable lack of the refinements expected by the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society (RSCDS). This over-enthusiastic display, particularly by young dancers, was seen by one Jean Milligan of Glasgow as a serious deterioration in the true form and beauty of Scotland’s national dances. Miss Milligan had joined forces with Ysobel Stewart of Fasnacloich, in 1923 to create what would later become the RSCDS. To ensure the preservation and promotion of county dances as they were described in original written copies, the society collected and published over fifty books of dances over the years, and also set standards for formations, footwork, handing and other aspects of dance hall decorum. Miss Milligan was also an examiner for the Society and was my examiner when, in 1958, I became a qualified teacher of Scottish Country dancing.
Music for Scottish dancing, Country dancing and Highland dancing, had been provided throughout the 18th and 19th centuries by the violin, more commonly known in Scotland as the fiddle, and to a lesser extent the bagpipes. Highland dancing is primarily a solo exercise while Country dancing is the social dancing of Scotland and is done in sets (groups of dancers). Early in the 20th century the accordion became popular as the instrument of choice for Scottish Country dancing because of its volume and the fact that it had bass and chord accompaniment. With advanced electronic technology, the keyboard (right hand) of the accordion can generate sounds of other instruments such as trumpet, saxophone, and violin, while the bass (left hand) produces bass and chord sounds. So, with bass and chords and violin augmenting the vibrating reed sounds of the accordion, a single musician can sound like a band. Add a drum machine to this and the ‘one-man band’ is complete.
When I switched from playing for ‘modern’ dancing to playing for Scottish Country dancing I took with me a good memory and a good ear along with the electronic equipment needed to perform as a one-man band, and did so over the next several years at dances, dance classes and teacher training in Japan, Germany, Hong Kong, Scotland, England, the United States and Canada. Because I ‘played by ear’, I had hundreds of tunes stored in my head along with the accompanying harmonies. At an evening dance I would play over ninety tunes, all from memory. I note at this point that the term ‘playing by ear’ is actually incorrect. Musicians who can play without music may well have ‘learned’ by ear but are ‘playing’ from memory.
Since my entire repertoire was learned by ear, the acquisition of hundreds of tunes was time-consuming and quite demanding. It took many hours of listening to tapes and records, then practicing to find and fix good fingering, until everything was committed to memory. This, then, was how I learned and played hundreds of tunes until an embarrassing experience where I was unable to remember how a tune began and so was unable to begin the music for a demonstration dance. I vowed never to let that happen again and set about finding a way to write down the music for even the first few bars of a tune. Then, using the written music as an aide-memoire, I could begin playing and allow the memory of the tune to take over and be able to continue playing for the dance. I found the music for a tune which I had memorized and copied out the music as written. In this way I acquired knowledge of note values and other basics of notation and could now take a piece of blank manuscript and begin committing to paper tunes which, until now, had been locked in my musical memory.
Perhaps because, as a boy in Scotland, I listened to Scottish dance music on the BBC every Saturday night, playing for dancing came very naturally to me. I was told quite often by dancers in different countries that my playing made them want to dance. I was aware that something in how I played gave my music ‘lift’ which helped energize the dancers. Could I now compose music which embodied similar characteristics, tunes which would, as Robert Burns wrote “put life and mettle in their heels”?
So began my first tentative attempts at composing. Perhaps, when suitably inspired, I could write out new tunes which I could share with other musicians and receive comments, criticisms, or suggestions, all of which would help improve the appeal and Scottishness of my compositions. Scottish music is relatively simple, written on a single staff. Almost all the tunes I write are for 32-bar dances. They are therefore written in multiples of four, eight or sixteen bars. A single staff or stave is used with bass and chord symbols below each bar to indicate the harmonies required. Published music for the tunes I was playing, written specifically for this type of dancing, became a focus of study. I began to wonder if I could compose music of this genre.
When I was 17, I had ‘made up’ my first tune (at that stage ‘composed’ was too grand a term), a waltz, of which I was quite proud. With no formal training in music, I was unable to write it down, although that tune now has been recorded and is used by teachers in Scotland. In 1995, when playing for the Teachers’ Association of Canada Summer School, a fellow musician asked me for a copy of the jig I was playing, which I had composed and used frequently. I had to tell her there was no written music - that the tune existed only in my head. This was also embarrassing. I decided I should teach myself to write down some of my tunes so I could share them with other musicians. I was now 65 years old and struggled initially with note values. From high school I remembered F-A-C-E and E-G-B-D-F and how these letters related to the lines and spaces of the staff. I also was able to recall the existence of minims, crotchets, quavers, and semiquavers and hoped I could assign values to those. However, knowing how to apply this knowledge to the writing of a tune on a manuscript was a major challenge. I had to trust that my notation correctly represented the tune I could ‘hear’ in my head. I had never learned to read music, so I had to wait until I heard someone ‘play’ what I had written before discovering whether what I had written was accurate.
Then came my introduction to the computer program “Sibelius’. Sibelius is probably the most powerful music writing program on the market. I was introduced to it by a fellow musician in 2001 when he and I were playing for classes at the RSCDS Summer School in St. Andrews, Scotland. He was astonished to discover I was still writing music with pencil, eraser, and blank manuscript. This random encounter made an enormous difference to the process of music composition for me. On my computer I could select notes of the value required and slide them easily onto the appropriate line or space. When the writing of the tune was complete, I was then able to do the most exciting part of what Sibelius offers: I was able to play back what I had written and make corrections. Bass and chord harmony symbols were then added below the staves to show which buttons to press on the left-hand of the accordion. The great virtue of Sibelius is its simplicity of use, whether for the type of music I write or for complex orchestrations. Several bands have recorded tunes I have written, others have been played in BBC broadcasts and I have ‘desktop’ published a collection of sixty-one reels, jigs, and strathspeys. I have now written hundreds of tunes and if even one of them is still being played for dancing a hundred years from now it will all have been worthwhile.
Updated Information on the Shingles Vaccine
By Mary Johnston
Have you been vaccinated against shingles? With all the worry about COVID over the past two years, some retirees may not have considered getting this important vaccination. If you have not received Shingrix, the currently recommended vaccine against shingles, please read on for news about vaccine availability and recent changes to funding.
Maintaining Physical and Mental Well-Being in Less-Than-Ideal Circumstances
By Dawnelle Hawes
I was approached to write about staying fit because of the obstacles I have faced and overcome in the last 3 years to maintain my fitness. For me being “fit” inextricably intertwines mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
Personal Challenges - Part A, 2019, Fractured Lower Leg Bones
In February of 2019, I badly broke both lower leg bones on my left leg by slipping on black ice. This injury resulted in a plate and screws to hold my ankle together and limited physical movement for months. As a fitness instructor and enthusiast, the impact of the injury for me was huge. To my mind I had two choices: either change my perspective and lifestyle in a hurry or do nothing and feel sorry for myself. For me, the latter was not an option.
Challenging my accustomed lifestyle
To combat inactivity, I got inventive. I soon realized yoga was possible using my couch and the floor (even if getting to the floor was awkward) to maintain some strength and flexibility. While that did not burn a lot of energy, it was a start. With my “good” leg, I could do a number of single-leg exercises and balancing. While holding onto a wall or chair, I could perform single-leg squats by putting my lower leg (with the cast) on the couch. Strengthening my upper body and abdominal and back muscles was less of a problem. Seated exercises included using tubing to challenge my back muscles, and dumbbells for arms and shoulders. On the floor I was able to do push-ups for chest and hovers (holding the body horizontal to the floor on elbows and toes or knees) to strengthen my core. I found that I could do the hovers on just my right toes by hooking my left foot behind my right ankle.
Physical activity or movement is as vital (if not more so) for my mental health as for my physical well-being. The fact that I was able to move creatively not only kept my spirits up, but also allowed me to feel I had some control over my activity and a sense of accomplishment with my “workarounds.”
Accomplishing simple daily tasks
My piano bench became my indispensable helper, as I was able to kneel on it to do various tasks and to wash my hair in the kitchen sink. I found that I was able to push it about a little at a time by putting felt pads on the bench legs. I moved it with the front of my walker as I hopped along. My floors are polished concrete, so the task was made easier. Adding this aid (the bench) to my daily routine certainly boosted my spirits, as once again I overcame another challenge.
Figuring out how to carry items
Adapting to a non-accessible building
About six weeks into my non-weight-bearing stage, I discovered what is called a knee walker. It is like a scooter that kids use, but with a raised, padded area where you put your bent and injured leg, and four wheels instead of two. This transportation device was a gamechanger. I wish I had known about it earlier. I was finally able to get myself out of the building and do some shopping. Oh, the freedom!
Dealing with a pre-planned volunteer opportunity
Coping with transportation
An Update on Out-of-Province/Country Health Insurance Options
By Nora Gaskin
McMaster retiree $10,000 out-of-province/country emergency medical coverage
Private out-of-province/country emergency medical coverage
An insurance broker may be a good place to start. Insurance brokers represent a wide range of emergency travel insurance providers and can provide a broad range of coverage options to match individual travel plans, ages, and pre-existing medical conditions. Brokers attempt to find the best insurance to match your requirements and health. They will also educate you about some of the potential pitfalls in purchasing travel insurance (think COVID-19 complications!), and advocate on your behalf should you have to make a claim. Medi-Quote (1-800-661-3098) and Securiglobe (1-866-550-2444) are two examples of such brokers. Google “travel insurance brokers” to find a comprehensive list (but don’t forget to scroll past the first items in the results list prefaced by the word “Ad”, as they are just paid advertisements and may not be the best options).
There are many other providers of out-of-province/out-of-country medical insurance. Blue Cross, the CAA, CARP, and RBC are just a few. In addition, many premium credit cards provide travel insurance. Beware, however, of assuming that your credit card will provide you with adequate medical insurance. Many premium credit cards do provide automatic travel insurance, but this coverage is limited, often with restrictions on time period of travel, age, and medical condition, so always read the fine print.
Have you had an injury from slip, trip, or fall that has limited your mobility? Do you find you walk or take the stairs differently or less frequently than before?
McMaster Convocation Assistants
The Office of the Registrar welcomes retirees to become involved in the most exciting days of McMaster students’ academic lives — convocations.
Volunteers are needed to assist at convocations, where your role would be to meet, greet and direct students and guests, check tickets and/or distribute hoods and diplomas to students. You will work alongside a full-time employee who can offer assistance and training.
If you are interested in signing up for any of the days listed below (full or half day options), please contact Rachel Huang in the Office of the Registrar, by emailing email@example.com.
More details on convocation can be found on the Office of the Registrar's Upcoming graduation events web page, or by contacting Rachel.
Additionally, legacy convocation events for the 2020 and 2021 graduates are being planned.
Back to Mac – Update
By Mary Johnston
As I write this, we are surfing the sixth COVID wave. At this point in the pandemic, campus is busy – with students writing in-person exams, most facilities open and construction projects underway. To enter McMaster buildings, we must all wear masks and have registered proof of vaccination using the MacCheck app. The current mask and vaccination mandates will remain in place until the end of May. To stay abreast of the latest regulations, check the Back to Mac website.
Did You Know About McMaster’s Research Information Website Called “Brighter World”?
by Dawnelle Hawes
McMaster has placed second in the world in a new international ranking that recognizes the impact universities are making in their own countries and on a global scale.
It is not surprising, then, that the amount of research being undertaken at Mac is impressive.
The McMaster website provides access to information about McMaster’s research and researchers under the ‘Research & Innovation’ tab. The Brighter World section divides the research into six broad areas: Health & Medicine, Science & Technology, Canada & The World, Environment & Sustainability, Culture & Society, Business & The Economy. Each of these areas features topics of current interest.
Links to thirteen sub-areas called channels (see below) can be found by scrolling to the bottom of any of the Brighter World web pages. These channels delve into greater detail of the ongoing research at McMaster. The amount of information in each channel is quite extensive.
Here’s a highlight of one channel, Medical Discovery, as an example of what is available. A random sample here reveals research as diverse as:
CHANNELS within the Brighter World website
courtesy of Humour is Contagious
A Reminder for Your End-of-Life Planning
Make things easier for the executor of your will and your family by putting a note with your will and other important papers, instructing that both Human Resources and CIBC Mellon, which administers our pension payments, should be informed of your death as soon as possible. The Human Resources Services Centre can be contacted by phone at 905-525-9140, ext. 22247, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact CIBC Mellon Retiree Assistance by phone at 1-800-565-0479, or online via https://www.cibcmellon.com/en/retiree-assistance/index.jsp#ir/contact-us-by-phone-fax-or-mail.
Without timely notification, your estate will be required to pay back any pension payments received after your death. Also, you should keep a copy of your McMaster life insurance documents with your important papers. The Human Resources Service Centre will be pleased to provide you with a copy if you need it.
Notifying Human Resources of Address Changes
Are you moving? Please don't forget to update your address on file at McMaster University to ensure you receive any correspondence, including your T4A, at the correct address. The Human Resources Service Centre provides McMaster retirees with one point of contact to update their new addresses. Upon receiving your address change, the HR Service Centre will update the following as applicable on your behalf:
Address changes can be forwarded to the HR Service Centre using any of the following methods:
Please do not hesitate to contact your HR Advisor with any questions.
The 2022 CURAC/ARUCC Virtual AssemblyThe CURAC/ARUCC 2022 Virtual Assembly will be held on Thursday, May 19 from 9:30 am – 1 pm PDT (12:30 – 4:00 pm EDT). Join retiree association members from across the country to share ideas and participate in a series of educational sessions geared to retirement life.
The program will focus on “Faces of Wellness and Well-being”. It is co-hosted by the University of British Columbia Emeritus College, University of Victoria Retirees Association and Simon Fraser University Retirees Association. The focus on wellness and well-being has been a major area of research strength at the three organizing universities. The virtual program with distinguished presenters including Dr. John Helliwell, Dr. Angela Brooks-Wilson, Dr. Gloria Gutman and Dr. Anne Martin-Matthews, will be held with simultaneous French translation to facilitate participation for all Canadian members. The full program and registration information may be viewed at the UBC Emeritus College website.
Retiree association members from across Canada will also be invited to attend the virtual CURAC/ARUCC AGM and Best Practices Round Tables to be held on June 16. Details will be sent to MURA members by email as soon as available.
By Helen Barton
MURA has participated in the organization of College and University Retiree Associations of Canada (CURAC) since its inaugural meeting almost 20 years ago.
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