There’s change in the air

Featured image: Farm dog Milt examines the felled silo on the farm where I grew up.

Cogitation 4/182 Friday 25 January 2019   There’s change in the air, even with evidence to the contrary.

There’s change in the air in people recognizing the folly of what passes for prime time national politics.

What we see in the US and Great Britain is leaders riding hobby-horses as though they’re glued to the saddle.

What’s the origin of the term “hobby-horse” and what does it mean today? “To ride one’s hobby-horse was to play an infantile game of which one soon tired,” says The Wordsworth Dictionary of Phrase & Fable. “It now implies to dwell to excess on a pet theory.” The term is attributed to one of John Wesley’s sermons: “Every one has his hobby-horse!” O.K. Alright. If you say so. I’m in for some personal introspection.

In the thicket of recent political intransigence and turmoil, as in the US and Great Britain, I offer another term: Hobson’s Choice. From Wordsworth’s reference: “The saying derives eponymously [I had to look that word up: it means “after whom something is named”] from Thomas Hobson (1544?-1631), a Cambridge carrier well known in his day . . . who refused to let out any horse except in its proper turn.”

Hobson had the carrier route for passengers and mail between Cambridge and London. When horses were not needed for the business, he rented them to students. Rather than let them pick their favourite horse and thus overwork any one horse, Hobson said the students needed to take the horse closest to the stable door or none at all.

Hence Hobson’s Choice became a term applied to more than horses. Make of it what you will, for whomever you will, for whenever you will. Hobson’s Choice means you make a choice between taking what is offered and nothing at all. It also implies that the people offering the choice have solid reason, management savvy, and a good sense of the prudent use of resources behind them to stay the course.

Hobby-horse. Hobson’s Choice.  What we’ve seen with the proposed wall along the Mexican/US border begs the question. Oh no, not another phrase tossed into the mix. To beg the question is to “assume a proposition which, in reality, involves the conclusion.” The assumed proposition that security will come from building a wall, in reality, is posed as answer enough, without reference to other measures that will make the border secure, including bridges, pathways to citizenship, and acknowledgement of the travail that brought and brings people to seek asylum.

Enough. Hobby-horse, Hobson’s Choice, to beg the question. There’s change in the air.


Celestial spheres

There’s change in the air in the dynamic pulse of celestial orbs.

I watched the sunrise Sunday morning and the lunar eclipse Sunday night–the latter in brief freezing vigils on our patio. The sights gave me chills for nature’s wonders.

It was 2-for-1, a total lunar eclipse with a Super Blood Wolf Moon. But I missed the splash of light from a meteor hitting the moon.

Photos of the sunrise show the sun exploding through branches. One moon shot, bathed in Earth’s shadow, is silhouetted by the branch of an oak tree. The redness, I read, came from sunlight scattering off Earth’s atmosphere.

Sunday sunrise

Lunar eclipse

Branches of an oak tree frame the moon.


The Rinker Family Wellness Center

There’s change in the air as we take up a wellness routine in our new continuing care retirement community.

A trainer has developed a personal plan for each of us to properly use the strength training equipment and 11 pieces of cardio equipment in this spacious fitness room in the Greencroft Goshen Community Center. We already feel progress, especially with upper body strengthening.

A horse of another color. Giddy up!


Insight from LinkedIn

There’s change in the air as the rubber hits the road in naming the skills companies need most in 2019.

I’m a member of the online community LinkedIn, but have yet to use its publishing and connecting function.  I was intrigued this week to read the article, “The Skills Companies Need Most in 2019–And How to Learn Them,” by Paul Petrone, editor, LinkedIn Learning.

First, five soft skills most worth learning in 2019: creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, time management, Right on. Mentioned with each skill are recommended courses offered by LinkedIn and a one sentence statement why it matters.

Second, Petrone outlines these 25 hard skills most worth learning in 2019: cloud computing, artificial intelligence, analytical reasoning, people management, mobile application development, video production, sales leadership, translation, audio production, scientific computing, game development, social media marketing, animation, business analysis, digital marketing, industrial design, competitive strategies, customer service systems, software testing, data science, computer graphics, corporate communications.

The last one, corporate communications, is the field that helped put bread and butter on our table during my career as a writer-editor. For corporate communications Petrone lists courses in crisis communication, writing a press release, public relations foundations: media training. He writes: “Why it matters, in one sentence: With social media, local mistakes can lead to global outrages, requiring people who can manage difficult situations.”

I totally agree. Been there. I’d add that corporate communicators help put goodwill in the bank for organizations. As they act in directing two-way communication exchange across bridges within the organization, among  its stakeholders, and with the wider public, openness, transparency, and responsiveness are cultivated for the good of all. Conversely, a closed, opaque, non-responsive organization squanders its goodwill.

There’s change in the air as businesses, other organizations, agencies, schools, religious entities–and governments–adopt the skills needed most in 2019.


The silo comes down

There’s change in the air on the farm where I grew up.

The last silo on the farm no longer stands. It took 200 sticks of dynamite to bring it down. Two other smaller silos were taken down earlier. The barn came down last summer.

The landscape has changed, even as memory holds fast of horses Rose and Bell, cows, pigs, chickens, beef cattle. Tractors. Mixed farming. Corn, oats, wheat, turnips, alfalfa. Large gardens. Work bees. Neighbours helping neighbours with threshing. Shares in equipment and labour with an uncle and aunt. Chores, before and after school. Pulping turnips and mangles for the cattle.

Scooting around the smaller silos to fasten the filler pipes. Seeing the big picture from on fairly high. In the smaller silos forking down ensilage by hand. Glad that a brother and a nephew and his family today live on the farm in East Zorra Township, Oxford County, Ontario. A place rich in memories, always a pleasure to set foot there. Silos have their day, memories a lifetime.

The blast captured by a drone.
Boom. Lift off. Sand cloud. Up and then down. Photos sent by my sister, Kaye.
Still life. The giant has fallen. I climbed to the top to tie the pipe in place and another time to take shots of the farm.

There’s change in the air. I can feel it even in winter’s depth of cold. Onward!



6 thoughts on “There’s change in the air

  1. It seems like yesterday I marveled at that monstrous silo being built, and living on a farm as you have described. And then in the next breath it seems like a century ago. Change is rapid and slow at the same time, even though we sometimes grabble with change I read an article recently that all change is good. We are constantly evolving. So be it.
    What an advantage to have such a nice workout centre at your new residence complete with trainer!


    1. Yes, nothing stays the same except for dinosaurs, and they had there day, too. Remembering is a good thing. It helps us see the building blocks that brought us to where we are, both the broken and the whole pieces so vital to keep us moving forward. Let’s have the best year yet.


  2. John, I always enjoy reading your weekly cogitations, but this week’s (25 January) may be one of the very best ever..hobby horse to Hobson’s choice. A very refreshing perspective. Thanks. Phyllis



    1. Thanks, Phyllis. I found “Hobson’s choice” in The Guardian Book of English Language. The Guardian is one of the papers I like to read when in the UK and sometimes online. Amazing what clarity grammar and punctuation bring to language.


  3. The Hobby Horse is a good metaphor for our dysfunctional government: there is a lot of motion but we’re not going anywhere or getting anything done! Your photo of the fallen Giant Silo is also a metaphor of how the family farm has faded into history. Everything changes but I do feel a sadness contemplating the end of this era.


    1. Thanks, Monty. What would we understand of the world without metaphor? I’ve got another one in the wings for the next blog. The small family farm has surely changed; even so, I like what I’m seeing in the preservation of place and memory on the farm where I grew up.


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