Post-It Notes

Mr G Sivakumar, our senior at school commented on my earlier blog For your kind information and necessary action please, that he had worked for a boss who used to write PDTN on the noting and he thought it meant ‘Please Destroy This Note,‘ where as the boss intended ‘Please Do The Needful!‘ On Googling PTDN, I found ‘Professional and Technical Diversity Network‘ and ‘Please Do The Needful!‘ (India.)

The expression ‘Please Do The Needful‘ is currently used in Indian English. The expression was in vogue in both British and American English until the early 20th Century, but is now considered obsolete and improper.

Please Destroy This Note‘ expression reminded me of my tenure with The Army Headquarters at New Delhi where the Post-It notes were used extensively by the senior officers. The yellow coloured piece of paper, which neither stuck nor stood, always irritated me, both in its colour and also in what was written on it. The senior officer when not in agreement with the junior’s noting on a file, or when he thought that noting may raise hackles with his seniors, resorted to sticking up the Post-It note with instructions to change the noting. I always thought that in case the senior officer felt that my line of thought was incorrect, he must put in a note saying so. As the days passed by, I realised that many of the seniors did not have the conviction to do so and hence resorted to much more use of the yellow paper.

Every time a file came back to me with a Post-It note, I removed it and returned the file without any changes to my original note. In most cases, I was summoned by the senior officer and in the end, the case was taken off from my responsibility as I failed to budge and tow someone’s lines. The files that went to the Ministry of Defence came back approved/sanctioned or with a query, but never with the yellow paper stuck on it.

Similarly, the noting sheets used at the Army Headquarters ranged from drafting paper to the photocopying paper. Many a time the noting of General Officers and even the Defence Minister was on a drafting sheet. However, the very same officers when commanding brigades or divisions end up demanding that all the documents put up to them must be on ‘Bond’ paper. Bond paper is a high quality durable writing paper having a weight greater than 50 g/m2. The name comes from it having originally been made for documents such as government bonds.

After the tenure at the Army Headquarters, I took over command of the Regiment and I ensured that the Yellow Post-It note and the ‘Bond‘ paper was banned from all the offices of the unit. I encouraged all the officers to place on record their thoughts, even if it was not in accordance with my thoughts or with the common military thoughts. In case anyone up the chain did not agree with the note, they had to record their disagreement on the same file. This ensured increased faith in the system by the junior commanders and also gave them a feeling that their opinions were heard and many a times adhered to.

My aversion for this poor yellow Post-It note made me research into its origin and development. It appears that the invention was a mere accident at the 3M lab. The 3M Company, formerly known as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, has more than 55,000 products, including: adhesives, abrasives, laminates, dental and orthodontic products, electronic materials, car-care products, etc.

Spencer Silver in 1968, researching at the 3M lab to create super strong adhesives for use in the aerospace industry, ended up creating an incredibly weak adhesive. They found that the adhesive when stuck to any surface, can be peeled off without leaving any residue and was re-usable. 3M could not think of any practical and marketable use for this adhesive and hence the research was shelved.

In 1973, Silver came up with a bulletin board with the adhesive sprayed on it. One could then stick pieces of paper to the bulletin board without drawing pins or tape. The paper could subsequently be easily removed without any residue being left on the board or the paper. As the bulletin boards were not much in demand, the idea was dropped being uneconomical and unmarketable.

Chemical engineer Art Fry, worked for 3M and had attended one of Silver’s seminars on the low-powered adhesive. He realised that this adhesive could be used to stick page markers on his church choir book. This facilitated him to turn to the correct page using the markers and the markers never fell out of the book. From his experience, Fry suggested use of the adhesive on the paper than being used on the bulletin board. The early prototypes had the problem that the adhesive often detached from the paper and stayed on the object the paper was stuck to, or, at least, leave some of the adhesive behind.


Have you wondered as to why most of the Post-It notes are yellow in colour? The colour was never selected but was also an accident. It is believed that the lab next door to where they were working on the Post-It note had some scrap yellow paper and later the developers stuck with the colour. However, 3M’s official version is that good emotional connection with users and that it will contrast well stuck to white paper.

Post-It notes became extremely popular internally at 3M labs and in 1977, 3M began running test sale runs of the Post-It note, then called Press ‘n Peel. It did not become popular and after five years of rejection it slowly became a success and today is a mainstay in offices all over the world and is one of the top five best selling office supply products in the world.

There are many uses I found for the Post-It notes, but never the one as was being used at the Army Headquarters or by the many indecisive bosses in offices. Some of the uses I found are:-

  • Book marker.
  • Mark the notes or glossary at the back of a book for easy repeated access.
  • Coffee coaster.
  • Memory aid
  • Decorating tool.
  • To-Do List.
  • A reminder for the children to be left on their door-knobs.
  • An ideal tool to clean the gaps on the keyboards and other instruments.
  • To be stuck on the refrigerator door as a shopping list, wherein everyone can add their requirements so that I could buy them at the supermarket. The note can be removed and stuck on to the wallet when leaving for the supermarket and at the supermarket it could be peeled off and stuck to the handle of the shopping cart.

Thomas Alva Edison once said that “I never did anything by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident; they came by work.  It is mostly true with many inventions by the humanity, but some were mere accidents.

The Burden of Pay

Our son Nikhil, a grade 12 student, applied for a position as a volunteer at the local hospital. The aim of joining the volunteer team at the hospital was to have a firsthand feel of the hospital environment as he intends to pursue a career in the medical field. Volunteering gave him a chance to explore different occupations in the hospital and he would be exposed to a wide range of health care workers, from front line nursing and medical staff to program administrators. He got to know the people, challenges and rewards involved and gain a better understanding of the roles and jobs available.

It was also intended to help him manage his time better. Statistics show that students who work or volunteer are better time managers and fare better in the universities. Volunteering provided him chance to meet new people and through them expand his network, opening up new opportunities. It also facilitated him to use the French language he had improved with a one month stay in France. It also provided him a chance to find out how other people viewed him and his strengths.

Nikhil was called for an interview by the volunteer coordinator at the hospital and motivated with the above factors, he faced the interview. The last question he was asked was about the difference between a job and a volunteer position. Nikhil answered “there is no difference at all except that there is no burden of pay being a volunteer.”

Nikhil  was also hired by the Mississauga City to be a swimming instructor and a life guard at the swimming pool. This job he got after volunteering as an assistant instructor at the pool for an year. To be a swimming instructor one got to be a certified lifeguard by the National Lifeguard Service. The certification involves about twelve levels of swimmer training and a swimming instructor course. Further one got to be certified in first-aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) by the Canadian Red Cross and also be certified in child psychology. All these certifications are valid for only a two year period after which he has to re-certify in all.

In many provinces of Canada and US, forty hours of community service is mandatory for graduating from high school. Nikhil had already completed this requisite as he had volunteered at the pool for over 100 hours. The purpose of the community involvement is to encourage students to develop awareness and understanding of civic responsibility and of the role they can play and the contributions they can make in supporting and strengthening their communities. This also gives the kids the opportunity for new experiences, whether it be visiting a senior-citizens’ home, volunteering in a hospital or working in the library.

Students who engage in community service have many opportunities for personal growth. They gain exposure to people and experiences that broaden awareness and understanding of the world around them. Most kids learn new skills in these situations and work with people of diverse backgrounds and lifestyles. This is often the first time some of them have worked for a boss, and it is helpful in learning how to follow orders on the job.

One of the biggest problem students face in school is lack of motivation. Many students are unable to fathom the gap between the curriculum and their everyday lives. Community service provides an opportunity to apply academic learning to real human needs and to make the knowledge gained usable. This would motivate a child to research further into the subject being taught.

Studies indicate that students who volunteer have demonstrated improvement in positive feelings and mental health, and have helped them to reduce depression and stress. Many students feel that it is ‘cool’ to volunteer and many flaunt their volunteer T-Shirts in the school. Many students have reported an increased sense of social responsibility, and a subsequent desire to “give back” to their communities. This attitude help create social capital, that is, social networks of trust and cooperation.

Most well paying jobs in the health related fields in North America is regulated and the licensing procedure is applicable to both immigrants and the North American students. This is mainly applicable to doctors, pharmacists and nurses. The licensing test consists of a written and a practical element and covers all real-life scenarios encountered in the profession. Most Canadian students are well versed with the system as they undergo on the job training, mostly as volunteers and thus qualify these tests with much ease. The immigrants find it pretty difficult as they are not well versed with the North American system and also they have learnt many an incorrect practices back home. The only way to learn the North American system is to volunteer and obtain some experience.

Most hospitals have over 500 volunteers on their role and some have even over a thousand. There is a long wait-list of people who want to enroll as volunteers. They are high school students and retirees; they are the veterans from the Canadian forces; they are university students, young professionals and seasoned executives. Some have an interest in health care, some are considering a medical profession, while others have spent much time in hospitals recuperating from some serious illness or accidents. To enroll into the volunteers corps at a hospital as a student, one got to get two recommendations from the teachers (not easy to come by) and after the interview with the volunteer coordinator undergo a medical examinations, mainly to ensure that they are not carriers of any communicable disease.

In North America one needs experience to get a job and the best way for gaining experience and showcasing one’s talents and skill is only through volunteering. This not only looks good on the resume, the recommendations by the supervisors at the volunteering organisation also gives one a better chance of getting the job. Volunteering is the only way a new immigrant can gain US/Canadian experience and many immigrants are reluctant to take up a volunteering position as it does not pay or there is no burden of pay.

Cadet Yaseen’s Graduation Parade

Yasin CTC 11

Our family friends – Hussain and Fatima, invited me to attend their son Cadet Yaseen’s Graduation Parade at the Cadet Training Centre (CTC) Blackdown, Ontario on August 14, 2015. CTC conducted a training camp for six weeks to train Cadet Instructors in Drill & Ceremonial, Survival Techniques, Adventure & Expedition, Fitness & Sports, Military Band and Pipes & Drums. Cadet Yaseen was attending the Drill & Ceremonial Instructor Course. The Graduation Parade marked culmination of their training.

On August 14, by 3 PM, I picked up Hussain from their home and drove towards the CTC. Fatima could not attend as she was indisposed. The CTC Blackdown is co-located with the Canadian Forces Base Borden (CFB Borden) and is about 100 kilometres North of Toronto, in the heart of Simcoe County, one of the major tourist areas in Ontario. The drive through the picturesque country side was breathtaking. Being a summer Friday evening, the traffic was heavy on the highways with vehicles towing boats and camper-trailers and cycles, heading to the cottage country to spend the weekend.

Vet Plate

On reaching the CTC, the Military Police points-woman on duty directed my car to the parking lot adjacent to the parade ground as the vehicle had the Veteran’s plate. That was the first time I ever got a preferential treatment after receiving the Veteran’s plate.

The ceremonial parade was in keeping with any British Army parades, being followed by the armies of all the Commonwealth countries. The Reviewing Officer of the day was Lieutenant General Chris Whitecross OMM, CD, a Three-Star General. She is the first lady officer to hold the rank of a Lieutenant General in the Canadian Forces.

Yasin CTC LtGenWhitcross

Lieutenant-General Chris Whitecross enrolled in the Canadian Forces in 1982, joining the Canadian Military Engineers after spending 4 years in the Cadet program. Her postings have taken her from Germany to Afghanistan and almost every province in Canada. She had served with United Nations Protection Force in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia and Commanded 1 Construction Engineering Unit.

Lieutenant-General Whitecross has a Bachelors Degree in Chemical Engineering from Queen’s University and a Masters Degree in Defence Studies from the Royal Military College. She is a graduate of both the Command and Staff College and the Advanced Military Studies Course, both conducted at the Canadian Forces College. She is a recipient of the Order of Military Merit and was awarded the US Defense Meritorious Service Medal for her service at Kabul, Afghanistan. Currently, she is the Commander of the Canadian Forces Strategic Response Team on Sexual Misconduct. She was promoted to her current rank on 26 May, 2015.

Yasin CTC Prd

The graduating cadets smartly marched into the drill square in 14 Squadrons and after the General Officer received the customary General Salute, the reviewing of the parade took place.   There were 14 officers and veterans, mostly Lieutenant Colonels, who reviewed each of the squadrons. This allowed opportunity for the reviewing officers to speak with each of the graduating cadets.

Yasin CTC Review

The Cadets were well turned out and looked very smart. Boys and girls, Army, Navy and Air Force Cadets formed the Squadrons based on the type of course they underwent at the CTC. The Army cadets wore the berets of the Regiments to which their school’s Cadet Company was affiliated to. Cadet Yaseen wore the Red Beret with the Military Police Cap-Badge. Some cadets were wearing Regimental Kilts, Stockings, Belts, etc. This practise of wearing the Regimental accoutrements by the cadets will surely go a long way in inducing pride in the cadets.

Yasin CTC Band

The General Officer reviewed the Band Squadron and at the end of the review addressed all the Cadets of the Band and appreciated them for an excellent show. She reminisced the days she was a cadet in her teens, playing in the very same band and as to how the training she received at the very same place had stood in great stead with her till today. This gesture from the General Officer would have surely enthused the cadets of the Band Squadron.

The review, which took about 30 minutes was followed by the Reviewing Officer’s address. The General Officer was so roused by the spirit of the cadets that she spoke from the saluting base, without moving to the pre-designated rostrum. She opened her speech with the line that she was not going to follow the script that she had prepared and which was duly placed on the rostrum by her Staff Officer, but would speak from her heart. The speech was electrifying and inspirational – in its content and in delivery. She complimented the cadets for the successful completion of their training and exhorted them to carry what they learnt to their Cadet Companies back at school and impart the skills to other cadets there.

Yasin CTC MarchPast

The squadrons then marched past the saluting base, saluting the General Officer and each squadron was applauded by the audience with a standing ovation.

Yasin CTC Gnrs

On culmination of the Parade, Cadet Yaseen left to collect his Course Certificate, Movement Order and his belongings and Hussain and I met Lieutenant Colonel O’Leary from the Artillery Regiment (Gunner) of the Canadian Army. This marked the meeting of two Gunners from two different countries and we exchanged pleasantaries and notes about the life in both armies. A Gunner will always reamin a true Gunner in deed and in spirit, irrespective of the army they served was proved once again.

We bid goodbye to Colonel O’Leary, picked up Cadet Yaseen and drove home. Enroute I treated Cadet Yaseen to a sumptous dinner in appreciation of him graduating from a tough course and also for providing me an opportunity to attend such an august function (in August). We all enjoyed the dinner, especially Cadet Yaseen, as it was surely a welcome change from the usual camp food.

Photographs – Courtsey Hussain Chirathodi ‎

The Home Coming


On 29 June 2015, Monday, by afternoon, we checked into Fairfield Inn Hotel of the Marriot group of hotels at Sault Ste Marie. Everyone was in a hurry to take a shower, something they missed for the four days they were out camping. After the shower, Nikhil stretched on his bed and he said that it is a great luxury to have running cold and hot water, a comfortable washroom and a refreshing bath. A soft bed at the end of a tiring day is what looks forward to and one must be thankful to the God and the parents for providing us kids with all these luxuries. I felt that the aim of the camping has been achieved to a great extent.

Nikhil found the Mermon Bible (The Book of Mormons) in the room and settled down on the couch to read it. The Mormons are one of the most successful and prosperous cults that owns large pieces of land in Utah, Hawaii and Canada, along with owning the Marriott Hotel chain, Beneficial Life Assurance Company and many television and radio stations. The cult was started in New York State by a farm worker in the 1820’s named Joseph Smith. Mr Smith was driven to action after he claimed to have been visited by a vision of God and by an angel called Moroni who revealed the whereabouts of buried golden plates to him. The Book of Mormons is based on these very same magical golden plates. Mitt Romney, who ran as Republican Party’s nominee for US President in 2012 election an and who served as the Governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007 belongs to the cult.

In the evening we drove to the Harmony Beach for a swim and dinner thereafter. By evening everyone retired to the bug free environs for a good night’s sleep. After the courtsey breakfast at the hotel, we checked out and drove to Sudbury, about 300 km along Trans National Highway 17. This city of about 160,000 has the most happy people in the country according to Statistics Canada report of 2015. It is also the largest city in Ontario by area and the seventh largest municipality by area in Canada. The city was founded following the discovery of nickel ore by Tom Flanagan, a Canadian Pacific Railway blacksmith in 1883.

We drove to the Science North, an educational resource for children and adults across the province. The centre provides hands-on experience for kids and the exhibits can be handled by kids and they can perform various science experiments. This place is a must visit place for all middle and high school students. Some of the impressive exhibits were:-

  • Northern Forests – In this area, you learn and see animals who live in northern forests. Some of the animals include the Northern Screech Owls, the porcupine and the skunk. Other notable animals include the Northern Flying Squirrels, the Grey Rat Snake and the Big Brown bats. The nocturnal room allows people to see active nocturnal animals during the day. The intricate bee hive, behind a plate glass window, allows visitors to see into the hive.
  • Rivers and Lakes – In this area, animals that live in rivers and lakes are featured. The Beaver, Common Snapping Turtle, Northern Water Snakes and local fish found in Northern Ontario Lakes feature in this section. This sections allow people to get a better understanding of the aquatics systems that surround Northern Ontario and the difficulties and challenges these systems are currently facing and how erosion effects the landscape around us.
  • Tropical Invertebrates – This is where the visitors can learn why our bugs are so small and find out what a snail feels like in your hand or how millipedes protect themselves by touching and handling the real thing.
  • Discovery Theatre – The discovery theatre is where visitors watch live science shows on topics ranging from fire to sound.
  • BodyZone – The exhibits are about DNA and how it makes you unique, and how our body works. There are stations that allow the visitor to measure various body performance.
  • FedNor CyberZone – The focus of CyberZone is on computer and communications technology. You can mix your own music at the DJ station, play with green screen technology, and create stop-motion animation movies.
  • Space Place – This lab focuses on astronomy and space exploration. Exhibits include a 6-foot gravity well, a microgravity drop tower, and information on Canadian space exploration.
  • TechLab – Technology and engineering area where you can create your own circuits, take apart old electronics, and play with pulleys and gears.

At the end of the visit was the film Wildfires! A Firefighting Adventure in 4D. It is a remarkable experience in that it uses 3D film techniques combined with motion seating and special wind, water, scent and smoke effects to explore the science of fire behaviour and firefighting. The film takes you into the heart of a major forest fire to give you a close-up and unforgettable look at how fires are created and ultimately controlled, and how scientific research and practical experience have combined to develop effective forest fire fighting techniques used today. The film captures the valiant efforts of the firefighters and pilots from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources’ Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services section – and the equipment and knowledge they use to battle this incredible force of nature.

The entire film was shot during the biggest forest fire in Ontario in nearly a decade. The film also provides visitors with the rare opportunity to ride in a Bombardier 415 Superscooper waterbomber aircraft and experience the intensity of a raging inferno that destroys everything in its path. This aircraft is a Canadian amphibious aircraft specifically built as a water bomber, specifically built for aerial firefighting. These planes move to a pre-reconnoitered lake near the forest fire, then descend from 15 metres altitude, scoop 6,137 litres of water during a 12-second 410 metres long run on the water at 70 knots (130 km/h), then climb back to 15 metres altitude. With the water in their belly, they fly to the place of the fire and discharge this load to quench the fire. That kind of flying takes special skills, training and bravery.

We departed from Science North, had lunch and drove home to reminisce our camping experiences. During the drive the children were more anxious about our next camping and hence I booked for a two day camping at Alogonquin National Park to witness the changing colours of the Fall Season in October.  From the last week of September though October, the leaves in this park are alive with various shades of red, yellow, purple, black, orange, pink, magenta, blue and brown. In the Fall, as daylight hours shorten and temperatures cool, the veins that carry fluids into and out of the leaves are gradually closed off, reducing the chlorophyll contents in the leaves. At this time, the other pigments in the leaves take over and results in a riotous display of colour and then the leaves fall off.