The odd third season of Ted Lasso, and other thoughts on TV, June 2023

I loved the series, Ted Lasso, and I was sad to see it end. The last season, it’s third, was a bit of a head scratcher though.

The first season was the one people really loved. But I felt that Jason Sudeikis wanted to make the Ted character more than a 3D Ned Flanders in that season. That explained what happened with Ted in season 2 and to some degree in season 3. However I think people became frustrated with that: they wanted the Ted of season 1, even though the character became less of that as time went on.

Indeed in season 3 I just saw Ted fade away. He was barely in the last of the show. All the other character become the focal point and many of them had their own series within the series.

Of course this made sense in the end. Ted Lasso the series became like Ted Lasso the character. Just like the character, who believed that coach took a backseat to the players and the fans, the show became more about the other actors and less about Ted.

Will there be a season 4? I’m not sure. Like the character, Sudeikis doesn’t seem to have his heart in it. Maybe there could be a new season about the football club AFC Richmond. They certainly set it up that way. Let’s see.

For more on Ted Lasso, here’s a good write up in the Atlantic.
Here’s an absolutely cranky write up in The Guardian about how Ted Lasso, the nice comedy, became utterly dreadful television. As Ted might say, “Ouch”.

“Succession” also ended its series. So many people loved it and I can see why: it sounds really well done. As for me, I can’t watch shows featuring despicable characters. Succession was filled with that. Here two pieces, one in the  Washington Post and one in the  New York Times that align with my view of the show. But hey, to each their own.

Besides Ted, the other show the ended this month was “Somebody, Somewhere”. Unlike Ted, it has been renewed for a third season. Yay! Here is a piece on how it is the warmest comedy on TV. More praise for the show from the New Yorker. I can’t wait to see what the show does next.






Pull up a chair. Make it into a sofa. Make it comfy, even.

I love me some Yanko Design. But I have looked at these five different chairs for unwinding after a long day at work and I have to say, I dunno. I mean, these chairs are cool:

But I would have to sit in them before deciding it was comfy.

As for this:

Well, it looks great. But comfy? I can’t imagine.

Let’s check out Design Milk and this easy chair that can turn into a bed or a sofa:

Yep, it looks more comfy. Good colors too.

Friday night cocktail: sbagliato madness

I am not sure what caused this, but for whatever reason bartenders have decided to go nuts on one of the best drinks of all time: the negroni. I am fine with a boulevardier if you must mess about somewhat. But now we have Saveur and others with the negroni sbagliato (broken negroni). Not content with that, we now have negroni sbagliato sangria! I mean, no.

Joking aside, a sbagliato is a fine drink (I can’t speak for the sangria version). But I suspect both cocktails are better suited for warmer weather.

You know what else is good in all kinds of weather? That’s right: a negroni. 🙂


Who’s a good robot? Who’s a good robot?? You are!

Ok, robots aren’t as good as dogs — even if they sometimes resemble them — but here are some good ones I’d like to highlight.

First up: almost everyone likes trash robot who helps with the trash. And pretty much everyone likes a good robot vacuum. There’s even a piece on which is the best robot vacuum. And robots aren’t just good due to cleaning. In Italy robots are helping take care of older people. Likewise, this spherical robot is your smart home guard and your family companion. Robots can do alot. Elsewhere around the home we have robots installing roof shingles and we even have robotic furniture.

Cars now are kinda robots, what with all the AI built into them. But take note: future Fords could repossess themselves and drive away if you miss payments. Yikes!

What else are robots up to? Well, we’ve got artistic robots. Like this robot band. And these robot dogs that were among 100 artists to be unleashed on melbourne for 2023 ngv triennial. Ok sure fine.

Of course, not all robots are harmless. Here’s a story on how war in ukraine becomes latest chapter in the rise of the killer robots.




It’s lilac season, people! A May highlight! Here’s some other highlights (and ramblings) for this May of 2023

Happy end of May! We are in the back stretch of Spring and heading towards Summer. Sunshine and nice weather and flowers are everywhere. I used to say that June is the best month in Toronto — and it is — but May is a close contender with September as being the second best month. If you are coming to Toronto, any of those months are good ones for a visit.

It’s interesting to look back on last May’s not a newsletter / ramblings and see what’s the same and what’s new. A year ago Canadian Mattea Roach was piling up the wins on Jeopardy. This year she is back and came so close to winning it all in Jeopardy’s Masters Tournament. Congrats to her!

Also last year, then Prince Charles opened Parliament on behalf of the Queen. Now with the passing of the Queen, he is Prince Charles no more. This month kicked off with his Coronation. Needless to say, there was some Royal family drama. And not everyone was keen on it. But overall it went without a hitch. The rich and famous and other royals were all in attendance. Naturally there was lots of coverage in places like the New York Times and the Guardian.

All and all, pretty posh. All that poshness had some journalists writing pieces on the worth of King Charles III, here and here. For all the talk about a slimmed down Monarchy, it seems like the King has money to spare.

The pandemic is going out with a whimper, rather than a bang. The WHO ended  its designation of COVID as an emergency. Even Nova Scotia, that has been more vigilant than most, has ended weekly reporting. As for Ontario, I am still monitoring the weekly stats from the province, but the number of people in the hospital due to the disease is steadily decreasing. It’s both good and weird.

COVID-19 is still a threat. People are still dying of it and getting sick. People are suffering from long COVID. And people are still wearing masks somewhat. (Note: yes, this is a good thing, because, duh, updated evidence suggests that masks may be associated with a reduction in risk for SARS CoV 2 infection. Also water is wet.)

If you still want to keep on top of the disease, the New York Times and the Toronto Star are still tracking things.  And me! I post numbers weekly on twitter, for now.

This week I wrote about remote work, which has been a big thing that resulted from the pandemic, as we all now. As a result of this shift from offices to homes, there are now so many pieces fretting about “what is going to happen to all that commercial real estate?”, no doubt generated by people with an interest in said real estate. It’s funny, no one seemed too concerned about mall real estate when it was crashing. I suspect people with office buildings should look to that as to their future. And that future is not all that bad. Case in point, here’s a story of how this toronto mall is transforming a former sears into an east asian food destination.

Commercial real estate is not the only thing that took a hit because of the pandemic. So did companies banking on people staying at home. Shopify is one such company.

But you know who did benefit from this shift? Workers. As this piece shows, working from home gave canadians a big pay raise. If anything, that has helped most people deal with inflation, which is like a bad house guest who just can’t take the hint and go away.

One thing that has changed for the worse these days is social media. Elon Musk continues to generate case study after case study on how NOT to run a media company.  So we have his less than brilliant idea on how to monitize twitter blue checkmarks. His failure in making twitter a place of free speech (elon musk tech bosses are letting dictators censor what americans see). And, well honestly it’s just tiring to relate what a colossal failure he’s been. If you are still interested, here’s a good run down.

Now Musk has cratored Twitter. But other social media is doing poorly too. It seems like Meta is doing massive layoffs every month now (see here and meta here). Remember Clubhouse? Probably don’t. Which is why they are also doing massive layoffs. Substack? Not great. People are already  Over Being Real. As for Mastodon, I suspect people are still trying to determine how make mastodon account and join fediverse.

What about BlueSky, you plead. I mean sure, I guess, if you want to do “skeets” or whatever they are called. If you must know more, you can read this or  this. Remember, it’s run by Jack Dorsey, so that may be all you need to know.

I was chatting with someone on Twitter about this and I thought that maybe the “golden age” of social media is over. Clearly the IT crowd and the VCs have moved on to making AI companies. Remember, Twitter itself was always a niche: it has less users than Pinterest for gawd sake! 🙂 Young people today are too busy making TikToks to care about some old fashioned global texting service. Friendster and MySpace all withered away: perhaps Twitter and Facebook will do the same. Might be for the best.

As for me I will still be here at my blog, blogging away, recording the times and my thoughts on it. No matter how many or how few read it. Because this has become my mantra:

I recommend you consider doing the same. Plant that garden, paint that painting, knit that scarf. None of it really matters, and yet it can matter a great deal.

For those of you still reading, thank you! I appreciate you doing so.  Now go outside and enjoy those lilacs that come every spring.



Advice for all you frustrated artists out there (including me)

Sometimes you can get so hung up about making art you don’t make anything at all. This could be due to several reasons. For example, if you are worried about your style, read this. If you are frozen because you wonder if you are you good enough to be an artist, go here. You can also read this: how to boldly pursue your artistic calling even if youre riddled with self doubt. If you wonder if your art is good enough to sell, click this. For an example, see how this artist  sells art on etsy.

If you think you are no good, get over yourself and read:  7 sins of beginner artists what keeps you from being good and 21 days to be a better artist. If you think you have no skill, head over to this: create art without skill and this: you can draw and probably better than i can. If you think you need to go to art school, read: don’t go to art school. If you think you are too old: why it’s never too late to become an artist. If you need some prompts, go here: Some good prompts from Inktober.

If nothing else, make yourself a zine. Here’s advice on making a zine, on how to fold a zine, and how to make a one page zine. Here’s some zine advice and more zine goodness is there.


On remote work, productivity (and the lack thereof) and three day weekends

Remote work that started in the pandemic continues to have an effect on the overall economy of cities. Toronto is no exception. This piece argues that workers are never going back to the office full time and Toronto will never be same. Relatedly, here’s a piece on how hybrid work is affecting downtown Toronto businesses based around downtown workers.

It’s not just cities that are affected. Here’s how this is going to affect Canada’s major banks. And here’s more on how remote work affects commercial real estate.

Elon Musk has thoughts on remote work. But honestly, who really cares what he thinks any more?

Don’t forget: companies like remote work when it suits them. For example, if they want to layoff tons of employees, like Mcdonald’s, then they think remote work is just fine.

Some companies will argue workers need to go to work to be more productive, although this piece in VOX argues that no one had a good handle on what being productive means to begin with. I’d add that good management is more than looking around and seeing who is in the office. It requires taking the time to know your employees and making sure they are doing work that benefits them and the company.

If you don’t do that, you could get unproductive workers. Case in point, here’s a study on tech workers who say they were hired to do nothing. Here’s a similar story on bullshit jobs where no work is done. And this isn’t new thing due to remote work: it’s a story as old as work itself.

We need to rethink work in light of the pandemic. Some are calling for work weeks with three day weekends. If you want productive employees, remote or not, that could be one way to get them.


What do professional runners get paid?

Well, like everything, it depends. But to get a sense of what they do make financially, you could read Kara Goucher’s recent book, “The Longest Race”. Or you could read this summary in Runner’s World that gives a summary of that part of her book. She writes about everything she made, from salaries to appearance fees to other bonuses. It’s nowhere near what professional athletes in football or basketball make, but it’s still substantial.

A thought or two on “Air”, especially after “Blackberry”

It was weird seeing “Air” just after seeing “Blackberry”. In some ways, they have much in common. Ultimately, they are very different.

In terms of commonality, they are both business stories set in the end of the 20th century about two two revolutionary products made by a bunch of white guys. They are both films that have likely have a hard time getting made in this era of superhero movies and blockbusters. (“Blackberry” benefits from being associated with the CBC, just like “Air” had a better change being  on Amazon Prime.) As much as anything, they are nostalgic films, at least for viewers like me.

Despite those common traits, they are fundamentally very different films. “Air” is very American: the main characters take risks, but nothing is insurmountable and they succeed. “Blackberry” is more Canadian: the main characters take more and more risks until they’re struck down by their limitations. “Air” is a safe middle of road film: “Blackberry” has more of an edge. In “Blackberry”, the main characters undergo a dramatic arc: in “Air”, the characters are hardly changed at the end of the film.

I liked “Air” for lots of reasons and I’d recommend it to people. But I loved “Blackberry”. “Blackberry” I could easily watch again: “Air”…once was enough.

P.S. Here’s a good piece in Time on Ben Affleck, the director and star of “Air”. Worth reading.

Blackberry: a device once loved, now a film (and a great one)

I loved this film, just like I use to love my Blackberrys. If you loved yours, or the era of the Blackberry, or just want to see a great film, I recommend you see “Blackberry”.

There’s a number of ways you can watch this film. You can watch it just as a story of that weird era from the 90s until the early 2000s. Or as a story about the tech industry in general. Or a story about Canada. It’s all those stories, and more.

To see what I mean, here’s a piece in the CBC with a Canadian angle: New film BlackBerry to explore rise and fall of Canadian smartphone. While this one talks about the tech industry as well as the cultural elements of it: ‘BlackBerry’ Is a Movie That Portrays Tech Dreams Honestly—Finally | WIRED

But besides all that, it’s a great character study of the three main characters: Mike Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel ), Jim Balsillie (Glenn Howerton) and Doug Fregin (Matt Johnson). The arc of Lazaridis in the movie was especially good, as he moves from the influence of Fregin to Balsillie in his quest to make a great device. It’s perhaps appropriate that Balsillie has devil horns in the poster above, because he does tempt Lazaridis with the idea of greatness. And Lazaridis slowly succumbs and physically transforms in the film from a Geek to a Suit.

That’s not to say Balsillie is a caricature. Under all his rage and manipulation, you can see a human also struggling with ambition and is who is aware of the great risks he is taking. His arc might not be as dramatic as Lazaridis in the movie, but it is a rise and fall of significance.

As for Fregin, his character is important but he doesn’t change the way Lazaridis and Balsillie do. But if Balsillie is the devil on the shoulder of Lazaridis, then Fregin is the angel. He provides a reminder throughout the film of what Lazaridis lost in his transformation. (And the description of his life at the end of the film is *chef’s kiss* good.)

The film is a dramatization, but it gets so much right.  Lazaridis and Balsillie were crushed in the end, just like in the film. Balsillie lost his dream of NHL ownership, and Lazaridis lost his claim of making the best smartphone in the world. There’s a part of the film when Balsillie asks: I thought you said these were the best engineers in the world?? and Lazaridis replies: I said they were the best engineers in Canada. That part is a transition in the film, but also sums up the film and the device in many ways.  Their ambition and hubris allowed them to soar, but eventually they met their own nemeses whether they came in the form of Apple or the NHL Board of Directors or the SEC.

As an aside to all that, it’s fascinating to see the depiction of Blackberry defeating Palm/US Robotics. In the early 90s Palm and US Robotics (who later merged) were dominant tech players. Blackberry surpassed them and left them in the dust. Just like Apple left RIM/Blackberry in the dust when they launched the iPhone. (Google also contributed to that with Android.)

Speaking of Apple, it was interesting to see how backdating stock options helped sink Balsillie. He was not alone in such financial maneuvering. Apple and Jobs also got into trouble for backdating options. I assume this practice might have been more common and less black and white than it comes across in the film.

In the film, there is a certain prejudice Lazaridis has about cheap devices, especially those from China.  It’s just that, though: a prejudice. That prejudice was once held against Japan and Korea too, because those countries made cheap devices for Western markets at first. But Japan and Korea went on to produce high end technology and China has too. The Blackberry Storm from China might have been substandard, but Apple has done quite fine sourcing their products from that country. Something to keep in mind.

I suspect I will watch the film many times in my lifetime. Heck, a good part of my life IS in the film as someone involved with the tech industry at the time. That business is my business. That culture is my culture. That country is my country.

None of that has to apply to you, though. If you want to watch a superb film, grab “Blackberry”.





On Warhol, Basquiat, and Haring too. All three in the news.

Three of my favorite artists were in the news recently. Andy Warhol made the front page as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against him and his estate in the Prince Photo Copyright Case. I found that concerning, but less so after I read this good analysis by Blake Gopnik: Supreme Court Warhol Ruling Shouldn’t Hurt Artists. But It Might. I feel it will be ok.

Speaking of Warhol, here’s a good piece in artsy talking about how the once dismissed colloboration between him and Basquiat is gaining greater appreciation as time goes by. A recent showing at Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris of 70 joint works should help with that.

A long running story has been these so called discovered Basquiats that were on display at a museum in Florida. It turns out that one of the people involved confessed to a forgery scheme regarding these paintings. No surprise there. Glad it’s over.

And why would anyone do that? Well his work now’s the time (shown above) was expected to fetch $30,000,000 at least by the good people at Sotheby’s.

Finally, I was glad to see that Keith Haring is getting a new show at the Broad Museum in Los Angeles. I was less glad to read about how the curator diminished Haring as she spoke about him. Haring was always a serious artist taken seriously. His work is joyful and playful and sexy at times, but it was and is never second rate. That said, see the show. Get more Haring in your life.

The best thing I’ve read on China in a while…

Is this interview of Dan Wang by Noam Smith for his newsletter, noahpinion. It’s in depth and detailed in a way I have not seen in other places.  I highly recommend it to anyone trying to understand China.

Some thoughts on using Apple devices to get fit

I have now become one of those people who tries to close their rings every day! I tease myself, but I am also happy to try and do it. I find my fitness has definitely improved from the low point it was during the pandemic.

Here’s some tips and things I’ve learned along the way that might help you too if you decide to get fitter this way.

Start of with the default goals when it comes to your rings. You want goals that are achievable but not too easy. To determine that, I recommend you use the watch for a week or so to get some measure of how you are doing. Now it is time to determine your goals.

When it comes to determining your goals, I suggest you go into the Fitness app on your phone. Go to the Summary tab, click on the box labelled Activity. Scroll down to Trends. You can click on Move or Exercise or Stand to see how well you are doing. I found I could meet the default Stand and Exercise goals, but I was having problems with the 900 cal/day goal for Move. I was achieving about 750 cal/day. To stretch and encourage myself, I wanted to change my move goal to 800 cal/day. 

To changing goals, you can go into the Fitness app on your phone. Go to the Summary tab, click on the green avatar on the top right and then click on Change Goals. It’s pretty straightforward to do that.

Now all you have to do is get off the couch or step away from the deck and close those rings!

I found the Stand goal is helpful for me because it was the first one I could achieve. Whenever I don’t achieve it I now I am sitting down or lying down too much.

Once I had the Stand goal in hand, I went to tackle the Exercise goal. While typical workouts are a good way to achieve that, so to is a brisk walk. I found I was able to get my heart rate up to 70% of my maximum heart rate just by walking. You likely will too. If I do nothing else in terms of exercise, walking alone can get me to meet my exercise goal.

I hate to say it, but it is easy to cheat on your Exercise goal. I found this out when I decided to include housework as exercise. To do that, I picked “Other” as a workout on my watch. After 15 minutes or so of housework, I stopped the workout and checked the data, only to find my heart rate was much lower than a brisk walk (not to mention other workouts). I think housework is good for helping me achieve my Move goals and Stand goals, but I will not include it off my Exercise goals. But that’s just me, though. Housework can be hard work and for some it definitely counts as exercise. (For more on other workouts, read this.)

Speaking of heart rates, I found them too high and reset mine. These should be the correct target heart rates. You can learn how to change them, as well as display them, here: use heart rate zone tracking with the Apple Watch.

I found the Move goal hardest to reach. Stand and Exercise are easy to measure. If you find that too and you need help with meeting it, read this. I learned a lot from that piece.

Finally, I was disappointed to find all this exercise was not doing much for my VO2 Max numbers. Then I read how smartwatches aren’t very good at measuring this. At best, you want to see the number trend up. But don’t put too much value in a given number.


What Ethernet (which is 50 years old today) taught me about technology (open and cheap and easy and good enough wins)

Today the Ethernet is 50! It’s the dominant networking standard in the world and important enough to merit a Turing Award for it’s creator, Bob Metcalfe (well deserved).

If you had asked me what I thought of it back in the 80s when it first came out, I would have told you it was dumb in so many ways. As Network World explains:

Basically, the (Ethernet) protocol makes sure that the line (bus) is not in use before sending any frames out. Today, that is far less important than it was in the early days of networking because devices generally have their own private connection to a network through a switch or node. And because Ethernet now operates using full duplex, the sending and receiving channels are also completely separate, so collisions can’t actually occur over that leg of their journey. Other than when encountering a collision situation, there is no error correction in Ethernet, so communications need to rely on advanced protocols to ensure that everything is being transmitted perfectly.

And that was the problem. Early networks could be half duplex, so device A on an Ethernet network would try to send information to device B on the network, but if device C tried to do this at the same time, a collision would occur and A and C would have to retransmit. If you only had a few devices on the network, it was ok. If you had many devices, collisions would happen frequently and communications was a mess.

Other / better technologies like Token Ring were designed to get around that. I was sure that they would beat Ethernet and become the standard. I was wrong.

Ethernet may have been not as good as the other technologies, but it was more open, cheaper and easier to use. And it was good enough. Anything open, cheap, easy and good enough wins. C beat other languages by being that way. DOS+Windows 3.1 won over OS/2 for similar reasons.

The next time you see a new technology that has those features, you can bet wisely that it will end up being a dominant technology. People will adopt that technology over others that lack those four features. Once adoption occurs, that tech will get better, become more than simply good enough.

Happy birthday, Ethernet. You weren’t very good in the beginning, but you were enough. Stay easy, stay cheap, stay open.

On the eel pie and mash houses of England

The English have been eating eel for a long time. Not only was it common to eat, in medieval times it was not unheard of to pay the rent in eels.  A preference for the snaky fish eventually led to the creation of a special type of restaurant in Victorian England: the eel pie and mash house.

I fell down a rabbit hole reading about these places and had the urge to get to one of them before they are all gone. Indeed, Sauveur has this piece on london eel pie shops and how they are on the decline. Here’s a story of one such place closing, L Manze in walthamstow.

For anyone who feels the same, here is a list of the top 10 places to eat eel in London (L Manze still exists in other parts). Plenty of places to dine yet. And I saw a food influencer posting about stopping in F. Cooke’s and how special it was. Perhaps there is hope for eel dining in England after all.

No more champagne: Churchill and his money

I was watching Downton Abbey recently, and some of the aristocrats were griping about running out of money and what they should do. On the surface they were well off and established, but beneath the white ties and silk they were on the road to a financial decline and fall.

A real life aristocrat following a similar path was Winston Churchill. This is a story well told in this book: “No More Champagne: Churchill and His Money” by David Lough. It’s a quirky history, in that it approaches a well known figure from a special angle. Fans of finance or Churchill or England find much to enjoy in the book. I was sad to finally finish it.

For more on the book, see this and this.

Here’s four good lists for you

Lists are a tricky thing to blog about. A good list is addictive: you want to go through every thing in the list and you are satisfied afterwards. A bad list is tiresome and you want to abandon it halfway through.

I hope you find these lists to be of the good kind. In a way, these lists are also a list! I hope you don’t abandon it. 🙂

On appreciating the Chrysler Building (my favorite building in the world)

I love the Chrsyler building in New York City. While there are many great buildings in the World — never mind Manhattan — it’s always been my favorite. So I was happy to come across this on the site, Open Culture: An Architect Demystifies the Art Deco Design of the Iconic Chrysler Building. That site highlights a video from AD and explains:

In the Architectural Digest (AD) video… architect Michael Wyetzner takes us on a tour of that design, explaining how each of its features works with the others to make an enduring visual impact. Some, like the gleaming oversized radiator-cap gargoyles, impress with sheer brazenness; others, like the Native American-derived patterns that repeat in various locations at various scales, take a more practiced eye to identify.

Fans of this building, like I am, take note.

P.S. I think Ridley Scott is also a fan. In the opening minute of his film, Someone to Watch Over Me, he takes an entire minute to lovingly film the skyscraper just as night falls. Here’s a clip of it:



What’s old is news in Toronto (May 2023 edition)

In February I wrote of Mayor Tory’s resignation and a brouhaha around Premier Ford’s involvement with developers and the Greenbelt.  That’s the old news. The new news is we have a race on to see who will be next mayor, and it seems like 8000 people are running. (Not quite, but it’s a lot.) The Toronto Star has a rundown on them, here. Election date? June 26th. If you want to vote early or find out more information, go to

As for the Premier, he continues to muck about in municipal issues. Nothing new there. First he offered up Ontario Place to private developers. Now he wants to move the Science Center there. I am sure other cities and towns in Ontario wonder if he wants to be their Premier or just the Premier of Toronto.

Premier of Toronto aside, the city has received some accolades as of late. That’s good news. Toronto General Hospital was just ranked 5th best in the entire world. And Billy Bishop Airport was named one of best in world too. Even the TTC managed to win an award, as one of the world’s most efficient transit systems in North America.

Lord knows the TTC could use some praise. It’s suffering lately. There was a fire erupting on TTC subway tracks at Bloor and Yonge station. There continues to be problems with violence. I suspect ridership is still down as Torontonians continue to work from home. And while it is good that it is being upgraded on places like Queen Street, that doesn’t make it easier for us to love it.

The TTC is still great, though. Not only it relatively efficient, it also has some great architecture, as this slideshow illustrates. (One of my favs is Rosedale, below.)

Other good news about Toronto: the Taste of the Danforth is set to return this summer for first time since 2019. There’s also this to look forward to: a major Keith Haring exhibition is coming to the AGO in Toronto. Awesome.

Not so awesome: Indigo was hit with a ransomware attack that not only affected their business, but employees’ personal information was leaked. Also not good: the recent Toronto Marathon sounds like it was a shambles. And of course no one seems to know when the  Eglinton Crosstown line will be done. This did not stop Marcus Gee from praising the Ford government for all his is  “doing right” in tearing up the area of midtown Toronto. Good grief.

If you can make it to midtown Toronto despite our woes, try and get some coffee from DeMello. It’s great! Turns out they are expanding downtown. That’s great too.

Foodwise, a new place in Bloordale has opened and looks really good: 1211. It joins a list of restaurants best categorized as eclectic. Here’s to more new eclectic places.

While new restaurants are good, so too are the olds. You can find many of those old school restaurants listed here. One that is both eclectic and old school is Gale’s Snack Bar. When it opened in Leslieville more than 50 years ago nothing cost more than $10 today that remains true. Amazing. Speaking of old restaurants, Country Style hungarian restaurant turns 60 this year and plans on serving schnitzel for years to come. That something I am happy to hear about, since so many of my favorite Hungarian places are gone. (You can read about them here  and here.)

Finally, here’s a blast from the Toronto past: the rise and fall of MuchMusic. And I discovered that the Health Center that I pass almost daily on Yonge used to be a police station (no 53). I always thought it was a hospital. Instead it was the home of the police, right next door to the fire department. (The fire fighters haven’t moved but the police have a newer and bigger place on Eglinton and Duplex.).

Homelessness is a concurrent disorder in a number of ways

When we talk about the Poor in 2023, we speak of the Homeless. In some but not all ways, this makes sense. Anyone without a home is by default poor (unless you are very rich). And it makes sense that tackling homelessness is the best way to tackle the problems that poor people have. But it’s not enough to stop at homes: we need to treat poverty as a concurrent disorder.

If someone has addiction problems and mental health problems, professionals like those at CAMH in Toronto will treat the addiction first while taking into account the mental health problems. I think the same has to be done with poverty.

Indeed, this piece at says that “decades of research have shown that focusing on housing, without making sobriety or mental health treatment a prerequisite, is the most effective way to reduce homelessness”.  People need shelter first if they are to improve their lives.

But shelter is just a start. As this shows, “110 unhoused people died last year in Toronto homeless shelters”. Poor people need more. Otherwise they will have a bed (if they are lucky), but die if they are not cared for.

Part of the challenge is the homeless poor can be difficult to care for due to many reasons. It takes a special set of skills to do so, as this piece shows: “You Have to Learn to Listen” How a Doctor Cares for Boston’s Homeless. It’s not enough to just provide facilities and insist they should go to there.

Another part of the challenge is that people don’t care, either because they are indifferent or they have a peculiar moral code that stops them from providing for those suffering from being poor. So you have politicians providing ridiculous restrictions on what poor people can get with SNAP in the US: No more sliced cheese under Iowa Republicans SNAP proposal. Or you have a councillor voting No when Toronto’s council declares homelessness an emergency and asks for more aid to deal with the growing problem.

So the Poor need homes. They need better care. They need food. All basic needs. Some of them need more, like help with addiction problems. From there they need to develop skills. Otherwise they run into the problem of what to do with themselves when they no longer need to scramble to find money to buy booze, as this piece showed.

There are others besides those who are Poor who need those things: those of us who are not Poor. Shelter, food, healthcare, occupation…we all have those needs. We need to find a way that all of us can get access to that, not just for the betterment of individuals, but for the betterment of our society as a whole. Right now our society has a concurrent disorder. Dealing with homelessness may be a good way to start to tackle it, but we need to take into account more than that as we move forward. It’s the only way out society can get better.

P.S. For more on the SNAP cutbacks, read this: No SNAP for you – by Pamela Herd and Don Moynihan. Thing you could live on what SNAP provides? Read this: Snap Challenge | Budget Bytes.

Food insecurity is often tied to other problems, like whether to get food or heat and other utilities. This is a striking story that illustrates that cruel fact.

It doesn’t help if we don’t know how many homeless people they are. According to this, there are over half a million homeless people in the US. And they may not be where you think. For example, the state with the second-highest per capita homeless rate in the US is…. Vermont. That surprised me.

This also surprised me: the story on how the mayor of  Bend, Oregon who helped the homeless ended up becoming homeless himself.

Finally, this piece about how in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont., the problem of chronic homelessness is being addressed by a community of tiny homes called A Better Tent City had me thinking continually about homelessness and poverty since I came across it.



Fashion news, for rich and poor, serious and otherwise

Fashion is for the rich, and those who aspire to look the part. For the rich, the challenge is coming up with ways of using fashion to designate that you are in fact rich. The new way to do this is with quiet luxury, as the actors in the TV series Succession illustrate.

Of course not everyone is into rich normcore. Some of the well off dress in the high end line Thierry Mugler. For those with less means who aspire to wear Mugler, H&M has once again stepped in by offering up a low cost version of the high end line. I especially liked that piece on H&M: it details the history of the low end store offering high end fashion lines, and it’s as much a sociological study as it is a fashion one.

On a serious note, I thought this was a good initiative by Saint Laurent: saint laurent launches production company to develop films by david cronenberg abel ferrara wong kar wai jim jarmusch and more.

Otherwise…one fashion guy who was in the news due to twitter was @dieworkwear, Derek Guy. There’s a profile of him here in GQ. Why he became twitter famous and newsworthy, no one but Elon Musk knows. He does know his stuff.

P.S. Image of Karl Lagerfeld from the Times. He was the first to experiment with his clothes and H&M, a risky initiative at the times. It paid off for him and H&M.





What I find interesting in cloud tech, May 2023

It’s long past time to write about IT stuff I’ve been working on. So much so I’ve too much material to provide, and rather than make an endless post, I’ll focus on cloud. I’ve mostly been doing work on IBM cloud, but I have some good stuff on AWS and Azure (Sorry GCP, no love for you this time.)

IBM Cloud: most of the work I’ve been doing on IBM cloud has been hands on, as you can tell from these links:

Other clouds: Not so much hands on, but interesting.

The Combo Pizza of Venice, and other things Glace Bay and Cape Breton

When I was growing up, there were only so many varieties of pizzas. You could get a pepperoni pizza, or a mushroom pizza, or the king of all pizzas: the Combo! The combo was pepperoni, mushroom AND green peppers. In my mind it was the best pizza ever. In some ways it still is. The last time I had such a pizza was seven years ago, from one of the places legendary for it: Venice Pizzeria.

Now people from outside of Glace Bay will tell you that the Combo was not limited to my hometown, and that’s true. The one above is from Kenny’s in Sydney, N.S. It is also good! But really pizza anywhere in Cape Breton is a good thing, and if you are visiting, try and get one. Ask for a Combo.

If you feel like something else and you are in Glace Bay, I recommend the food at Colette’s restaurant. In the morning I am a big fan of their breakfast with fried bologna. It’s fantastic. And if you are there on a Thursday, you can get their corned beef and cabbage. That’s also great. A classic, in fact.

While I haven’t been back to the Island in some time, I still like to keep up with what is going on. I was sad to hear of the passing of the great Peter Politte. The Cape Breton Post remembered him here, ‘A feel for the blade’: Legendary Glace Bay skate sharpener remembered:

When local hockey players wanted to get the edge — literally — on their competition, they turned to Peter Politte. For decades, Politte was widely regarded as the best skate sharpener in Glace Bay, if not the entire island. He died Saturday at age 91.

Everyone went to him, including me as a kid. If you had fresh ice and skates sharpened by Peter, you were bound to have a great game of hockey at the Miners Forum.

In doing some research on Glace Bay, I came across these sites that wrote about mines down home, including No 2 and the Caledonia mine where my grandfather dug coal. I even found this piece on a mining disaster at Caledonia mine in 1899. More on Glace bay mining at this link.

Finally, here’s more on the combo pizza. Here’s a recipe for corned beef and cabbage from Food & Wine if you want some and can’t get to Colette’s any time soon.

Here’s a YouTube video of  Glace Bay in 1992 that brought back memories.

Finally here’s a map of all the streets of Glace Bay:

Streets of Glace Bay

I used this site to make it: Draw all roads in a city at once.

The neighborhoods of Glace Bay

According to Google Maps — and my own knowledge — the official neighborhoods of Glace Bay are:

  • Bridgeport
  • McKays Corner
  • McLeod’s Crossing
  • East Slope
  • Passchendaele
  • Steeles Hill
  • New Aberdeen
  • Hub
  • Table Head
  • Sterling
  • Caledonia
  • Morien Hill

Unofficially, there are some neighborhoods I know because of the pit they were associated with, like No 2 in New Aberdeen and No 11 in Passchendaele. If anyone thinks I should add more, please put them in the comments and I’ll include them.

Map above is a snapshot of the Google Map for Glace Bay.

P.S. I wrote this post because recently I wanted to find information on the neighborhoods of Glace Bay and I couldn’t find anything, not even at Wikipedia. The only information I could find was from the Wayback Machine with an old link to and all it said was stuff like “McKays Corner is located at 46°11’12″N, 59°59’32″W in the Metro Cape Breton region of the Cape Breton Island, Cape Breton county.” or “Glace Bay is located at 46°11’49″N, 59°57’25″W in the Metro Cape Breton region of the Cape Breton Island, Cape Breton county.” (It must have been one of the earliest pages on the Internet!)

For the record, it also included information for:

  • Sterling (Subdivision 0.36 kms) is located at 46°12’00″N, 59°57’27″W
  • Hub (Subdivision 1.73 kms) is located at 46°12’44″N, 59°57’17″W
  • Caledonia (Subdivision 1.90 kms) is located at 46°10’48″N, 59°57’42″W
  • Table Head (Subdivision 2.27 kms) is located at 46°13’01″N, 59°57’10″W
  • New Aberdeen (Subdivision 2.32 kms) is located at 46°13’00″N, 59°57’59″W
  • Morien Hill (Subdivision 2.35 kms) is located at 46°10’35″N, 59°57’51″W
  • Passchendaele (Subdivision 2.83 kms) is located at 46°10’36″N, 59°58’46″W



You Of All People can Live a Quiet Life

It’s funny and good and strange how something new can remind you of something very old that you barely remember. That happened to me recently.

In the early 70s (1972-4) there was a TV documentary show on CBC called Of All People. It was a simple show that did short profiles of everyday Canadians.

I would watch it as a preteen with my Dad, and afterwards we would talk about what we saw and how we thought about it. It was a great show to watch as a kid (and with your kid). I think it shaped my worldview to some degree. This idea, that a worthwhile life can be anything and anywhere, was a main theme of the series, and this idea has stuck with me ever since.

It was a lovely show. Watching each episode, you were left feeling better about people and the world. I wish I could write more about it and share more about it, but barely anything exists online.

And I thought of all that again when I listened to Denison Witmer’s new song, “It’s OK to Live a Quiet Life”. The people in Of All People lived lives that were quiet and fine and good. You can live such a life too. It’s OK. Maybe more than OK. But OK is good too.

Here’s two versions of his song. For A:

and E:

Go and listen to them on your favorite music service via this link.

You can find out more about Denison and his other work, here.

The latest and greatest from Teenage Engineering: the CM-15 mic

Fans of Teenage Engineering and their designs might be interested in their new CM-15 microphone seen in the photo above. Is it expensive? Yes. Is it cool and well designed? Also yes.

These two links from Uncrate and design-milk have more details on it. Audiophiles will especially want to take a look.

I just love all the things they make, and wish I were musical enough to really appreciate them.

What’s cool? The interactive Open Infrastructure Map is cool

I can write what the Open Infrastructure Map is by using the words of its creator:

Open Infrastructure Map is a view of the world’s infrastructure mapped in the OpenStreetMap database. This data isn’t exposed on the default OSM map, so I built Open Infrastructure Map to visualise it.

But the best thing to do is tell you to head over to it and zoom in on areas you know. Being from Cape Breton, I did just that, and I was wonderfully surprised by how much detail was there. I think you will feel the same.

Highly recommended.

On Karl Lagerfeld now (thinking about difficult people)

I’ve written about Karl Lagerfeld often on this blog. In the past I found much to admire about him: his drive, his levels of energy, his capability to go in different directions, his ability to change mentally and physically. He was also quite the wit, as can be seen here and  here, and I admired that too.

Not everyone feels this way, however. The Guardian gives you a sense of that here. The New York Times calls Lagerfeld a “firehose of offense”, and they are not wrong. His disparaging remarks about any woman he considered “fat” are infamous. Over at hyperallergic they open their own firehose of criticism back at Karl. Not my approach, but again, some (not all) of what they related is true.

Despite all that, Lagerfeld still has allies. Like Anna Wintour, a friend who thought highly of him. It’s not a fluke he was the focus of the recent Met Gala, run by Wintour. And anyone who cares for fashion and design that flipped through this retrospective the Tines did of his work at  Chanel, Fendi, H&M would agree just how influential and powerful his work was.

So what to do with difficult people? I often think the best way to think and talk about them is like this. Instead of saying “I admire Mr/Ms X”,  I try to say, “There are things I admire about Mr/Ms X” or “I admire anyone who can do Y”. That is the case when it comes to me and Karl Lagerfeld now. There are things I admire about Lagerfeld. And I admire anyone who can do some of the things he achieved.

Like any famous person, Karl Lagerfeld is not my friend, my foe, or even a member of my family. I don’t have to accept or reject him unconditionally. You don’t have to either.

P.S. All this was driven by the recent Met Gala. Here’s more from the New York Times on this year’s event, which was based around Lagerfeld. Also here’s a look back at the Met Gala’s red carpet shenanigans from the last decade.

Besides being a famous fashion designer, he is also well known for the Karl Lagerfeld diet. You can read more about that here and here and  here and here.

The winter of smarter cities and why that’s a bad thing

In the early 90s, people soured on AI and work on it stopped. That period was known as AI Winter.

Smarter Cities is an idea likely in its own winter period. I concluded that when I watched the segment above on the subject. The segment’s focus (according to its Youtube comment)  was this:

In 2017, the City of Toronto embarked on a project with a subsidiary of Google called Sidewalk Labs. The idea was to develop a parcel of Toronto’s industrial waterfront in order to create a “smart city”. At first, the idea was met with a lot of enthusiasm, but eventually a number of concerned citizens, journalists and planners started to raise questions about data privacy, competition and public policy issues that Sidewalk Labs could not answer. What happened to Sidewalk Toronto and why are we so drawn to the idea of futuristic urban utopias? To help answer that: John Lorinc, author of “Dream States: Smart Cities, Technology and the Pursuit of Urban Utopias;” Josh O’Kane, author of “Sideways: The City Google Couldn’t Buy;” and Vass Bednar, Executive Director, Master of Public Policy in Digital Society Program at McMaster University.

It’s a good segment with good people critical of the idea of smart cities. Watching it, I could see why you might think that any city would be unwise to aspire to be a smarter one.

If you did think that, I’d ask you to think again. I believe cities, provinces, states and countries all benefit from becoming smarter. For example in Ontario, smart meters were deployed across the province to more accurately measure power consumption and help people shift their usage. Wastewater was measured during the pandemic to see if things are getting better or worse. And it’s not just public initiatives that matter: private services like Waze give drivers a view of the whole city and let them choose the best routes as they make their way to their destination.

Whenever there is municipal or state data available and software to process it, then you have a smarter city. It’s not at the scale that an organization like Google wanted it to be, but a smarter city nonetheless.

I strongly feel we need more of this. Smarter cities can be greener cities. Smarter cities can be better functioning cities. That’s why I am glad that Toronto is continuing to explore this, with things like its Digital Infrastructure Strategic Framework. And it’s not just Toronto: here is a list of the top 10 smart cities in the world and what makes them smarter.

It’s not just me that thinks this. Here’s Pete Buttigieg talking about smart city grants, and here is Bill Gates is talking about smart cities in Arizona.

Here’s to smarter cities. Smarter cities are better cities.

P.S. Wastewater examination is a smarter city activity, I think. Here’s more on wastewater surveillance for public health at As for me, I check the province’s wastewater signal every week to keep track of COVID-19.

Also, some time ago I worked on the smart meter project for the province of Ontario. I led the infrastructure design and build for part of the overall system. Here is an IBM red paper I contributed to that talked about how to better design systems involved in smarter cities/planet projects.

How to find your purpose in life

The folks at Vox have a good guide on how to find your purpose in life. According to them, your purpose…

  • is a long-term calling, act, or way of life that interests you
  • something you have some competence in
  • makes a marginal difference in the world

For some people, their purpose is obvious. Their work is their purpose. Or their role as a parent or sibling gives them purpose. Some gain purpose from acts of kindness. Others get it from creative tasks.

If you want some guidance on discovering your purpose, I recommend this: What do I do with my life? Here’s a non-stressful approach to finding your purpose. – Vox

In praise of bordeaux: red, white and bubbly

Perhaps you don’t drink (red) bordeaux (never mind white bordeaux). Maybe you are one of the people who nowadays prefer burgundy. Or new world reds. Or reds from elsewhere in Europe. I used to be like you. I liked big bold jammy reds. Reds with intense fruit and flavour. High alcohol reds.  Cab savs. Syrahs.

Over the last few years, though, I moved away from that and towards bordeaux wines. I like the high concentration of merlot in their reds. I enjoy “the chewier, drier style of red bordeaux (that) can go well with something more savoury such as roast beef” (as Jancis Robinson says here). I especially like that some of them come in under 13% ABV. More so, I love the value. You can obviously spend a fortune on great bordeaux, but you can find some very good ones around $20 per bottle.

I got thinking of writing about them when I read this piece by Malcolm Jolley. He talks about the region and its wine generally, then he focuses on this: Chateau Argadens. Not only is it a fine wine made by great winemakers, it’s also a bargain. Indeed, right now it is on sale for $16.95! Get a few bottles at that price. Mind you, it seems to come around every year in the Vintages section of the LCBO, so don’t panic about missing it. (Then again, if they are selling it off, who knows?)

Another one I liked in the past is this one: Jean Pierre Moueix bordeaux. It too is made by serious wine makers and it comes well rated. It has a lower alcohol content, and goes well with food like steak. (Want more? Try these: Clos Bel-Air 2016 or Chateau Hauchat 2018.)

There’s also some white bordeaux that’s good in the LCBO, like Cap Royal Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc 2021. I enjoyed that one. Again: good winemaker. Fans of fume blanc should check it out. (There’s also a lot of not so great white bordeaux in the general LCBO section, so buyer beware.) If you can get your hands on white bordeaux from the restaurant St. JOHN, do so. I had it there with a delicious meal of fish and pork and it paired up perfectly.

If you like bubbles, then there are several well regarded cremants from the region, including this one, which is a steal at under $15: Celene Bordeaux Améthyste Brut Crémant. Cremants will go with mostly anything, from oysters to dessert. Also fine all by themselves.

There’s so much good wine in the LCBO and elsewhere. But fans of good value wine should consider grabbing a bottle or two of bordeaux.



Everything but the Girl, in three times

After 24 years, one of my favorite bands has released a new album. It’s incredible that not only has this happened after a quarter of a century, but that it has managed to do so well. It’s incredible and fantastic.

Leading up to the release, they’ve received some great reviews and lots of good press. You can read some of that here in the New York Times, or in the Guardian (here and here), or Pitchfork.

With the release of this new album, I can think of them as being of three times. One time is Now, of course, in the 2020s. A second time is the 1990s. In that time they were at their peak. Here you can see them performing in 1999, just before what I thought was then end (as no doubt many people did):

The third time – the 1980s – is the time I remember them most fondly. That was the time they were just starting. Here’s some rare footage of them from then:

Pick up Fuse when you can. Meanwhile, if you are a Spotify user, here’s their Complete Discography, I believe. Give Fuse and more a listen, there.

From Henry V to King Lear: Branagh comes of an age (as do we all)

It seems only yesterday that Kenneth Branagh was wowing us with his version of Henry V. Now instead of playing one of the younger Shakespearean lead roles, he is playing one of the oldest, as he gets ready to direct and star in a new production of King Lear on London’s west end. I am sure it will be a huge success. Shakespeare has been good to him, and vice versa.

Reading that, I started to think about some of the pieces I’ve collected on aging. For example, if you or someone you love is wondering how to manage living in your home as you get older, then read this.

As we age, we hope we can retire. And by retire, we hope to work less if at all. Sadly, in some Asian societies “Retirement” just means more work. That may not be a fate limited to Asian countries, I fear.

What do you need when you get older? An old person project! Let John Demont explain. Or if the thought of getting older and wrinkled bothers you, read about preventative botox . To each their own.

Finally, here’s a fine piece on how  old women in the swimming pool gave this young woman something to aspire to.

P.S. I could not close out without including one of my favorite movie scenes, with a very bright and brash Branagh rallying the troops with his truncated version of the Saint Crispin’s Day speech:

I love that speech, that scene, and his portrayal of it.


Why the Quebecois version of the Simpsons is so great

Apparently, there are two French versions of the Simpsons: one for France, and one for Quebec. This is great for two reasons, I think, as this piece explains: The French version of the Simpsons is oddly fascinating | indy100 | indy100:

  1. “When faced with an episode that used the French language itself as a narrative tool, the Canadian team were again able to fall back on the differences between French and French Canadian.” (Bart in Paris shows this brilliantly.)
  2. “In the Quebec dub, the Simpsons family speaks with a thick working-class dialect of Montreal French called joual. They also do something the France dub doesn’t do: they regionalize the scripts, subbing in Quebecois politicians or places for the more US-centric references.” You can see this in the famous bit with Principal Skinner and Steamed Hams bit:


Trips to Uranus! Roundworms with the munchies! And much more! :) (What I find interesting in math and science, May 2023)

I continue to find interesting things in the area of astronomy, math, physics and more. Here are some of the best of them. I hope you like them! (Yes, there will be stoned earthworms, and something about Uranus. :))

Space missions and exploration: I am excited to see so many different countries sending space missions to a wide range of areas and planning more. Europe has sent the mission  Juice to go explore Jupiter.  And yes, NASA wants to explore Uranus. (Although here’s why that won’t happen until the 2040s. Hey, it’s far.)  Japan is trying to get in the game, though their rocket had some recent failure.

Venus is a tough place to explore, though not impossible. Here’s a good piece on how it could be explored using  balloons. In the meantime, NASA is using data from  Magellan to reveal volcanic activity on that hot planet. The more knowledge, the more likely a future visit will be successful.

As for other countries, I am glad that Russia will continue to use the international space station for some time. Let’s hope that doesn’t stop. As for my home country, Canada is working on it’s first ever canadian lunar rover! (see below)

Elsewhere in space: while we humans go out into space, space also comes to us. For example:  Asteroid 2023 BU is a space rock that passes closer to us than some satellites. Yikes.

And it’s not the only rock. Above is a photo of another large asteroid passing by.

As for other space objects, here’s two good pieces on black holes:  scientists discover ultramassive black hole 30bn times the mass of the sun plus this typing black holes and dark matter.

This is cool: you can be an amateur astronomer and help the pros. Check it out. Also cool is this piece on how John Glenns basic camera forced NASA to rethink space missions. Plus, here’s a good piece on using  AI in astronomy.

Mind blowing physics: If you are interested in quantum physics, read this: four common misconceptions about quantum physics. This is a good reminder that everything in physics is made up, and that’s ok. Oh, and physicists are starting to think space and time are illusions.

Math: What do you get when you cross math with the AI? Some excellent illustrations, like the one at the top of this post! More here! This is also excellent: Ideas of Calculus in Islam and India. I enjoyed finding out that you can use the lagrangian function in managerial economics. Neat! If you want to learn more math, I highly recommend these No bullshit guides.

Can non-mathematicians learn and appreciate math? This piece looks at some books on  math education that try to do that. The jury is out, though I think it’s possible.

Finally: this is a good reminder that I don’t think we  really understand the nervous system, if you can have memories without brains. Speaking of lower lifeforms:  Roundworms on weed get the muchines.

I hope more people read this on Chien-Shiung Wu and the little known origin story behind the 2022 nobel prize in physics. 

And what’s this?

Just an introduction to the TV show, The National. Back then letters like that indicated The Future. I had to find a place to show them on my blog! 🙂

If you want to get a better understanding of generative AI, it pays to see what the New York Times and Bloomberg are up to

One of the problems with generative AI like ChatGPT is it makes you think it is magical. You type in some prompt, it comes back with a complex answer, the next thing you know, you are thinking this thing is smarter than a human. It doesn’t help that there is so much hype surrounding the technology. All of this can make you think it’s supernatural.

Well, it isn’t. It’s simply good IT. It consists of data, hardware and software, just like any other IT. To get a better appreciation of the ordinary nature of that, it helps to look at two recent examples: the AI the New York Times recently built and the AI Bloomberg just built.

It’s best to start with what the Times built. They used software called nanoGPT (karpathy/nanoGPT: The simplest, fastest repository for training/finetuning medium-sized GPTs) and took the works of Jane Austen, Shakespeare and more to build a chatGPT-like program on their laptops. Then they walked through the steps of getting it working, here: Let Us Show You How GPT Works — Using Jane Austen – The New York Times. It works pretty well after much much training. Obviously it is not as massive or sophisticated as ChatGPT, but after reading the article, you will have a better sense of how this technology works, and why it’s impressive but not magical.

After that, I recommend reading more about BloombergGPT. Their press release states:

Bloomberg today released a research paper detailing the development of BloombergGPT, a new large-scale generative artificial intelligence (AI) model. This large language model (LLM) has been specifically trained on a wide range of financial data to support a diverse set of natural language processing (NLP) tasks within the financial industry.

You can find a link to that research paper, here:  BloombergGPT: A Large Language Model for Finance. What I liked about that paper is it walks through the approach they took, the data they used, and the technology deployed to make their model. Even better, they talk about how it is currently succeeding and what some of the limits of it are.

I’m happy that both these companies have been good about sharing what they are doing with this technology. I might even try and use an old laptop to build my own AI. I mean who wouldn’t benefit from tapping into the genius of Shakespeare or Jane Austen.

For more on what Bloomberg is doing, see this: Bloomberg plans to integrate GPT-style A.I. into its terminal


It’s Summer! It’s Winter! It’s April in Canada! Here’s my highlights and ramblings for April 2023 year (a newsletter, in blog form)

Is April the cruelest month? It can be in Canada. This month we’ve had summer like temperatures followed by light snow and freezing weather. It’s kinda what we expect here.

Here’s 90+ things I thought interesting that I really believe you might as well. Something for you to read on a rainy/windy/sunny/who knows April Sunday.

Pandemic: Yes, I am still going on about the pandemic. Hey, whatever public health activity is going on where you live, COVID is still making the rounds. People are still getting sick and dying. There’s a new variant going around: it’s called arcturus and so far it’s just in India. But who knows what could happen with it.

Despite all that, President Biden signed a bill ending the US COVID national emergency. Doesn’t mean no COVID, just how the US is acting upon it. Thankfully the US is rolling out new covid boosters for seniors. We all still need to fight this disease.

In Canada, there is an expectation of a small COVID bump soon. Let’s see. In Nova Scotia, someone has forecasted Nova Scotia getting it badly. Sadly this may be due to how well they handled it initially.

If you still want good data on covid cases, the New York Times has it. Here is a grim reminder of just how badly New York was hit by COVID. No wonder they still track it carefully.

In my last newsletter, I talked about feeling a weird nostalgia for the early parts of the pandemic. I felt that again watching this old clip of the Roots and the cast of Hamilton on Jimmy Fallon performing “Helpless”. I wonder what people will think years from now when they see it?

Inflation: Live COVID, inflation is still a problem, and people are still suffering from it. For instance, due to the high cost of food,  people are shopping in salvage grocery stores now. Likely dollar stores, too. Though some towns are getting fed up with them popping up everywhere. I can appreciate that.

Will inflation come down? I think so. It is coming down,  but it has a way to go. VOX has more on why  inflation is so difficult to drop. The head economist who recently left the White House conceded the economy is not yet ‘Normal’. Or maybe this is the New Normal.

Banks seemed to have settled down since the flame out last month. Here’s more on the bank failures here and here: welcome to the superprime banking crisis.

Speaking of money, here’s how the wealthy use “Wash Sales” to reap tax savings. Also why points cards are bad.

Politics: I tend not to write about politics too much on this blog. I found these pieces interesting, though.

Ron DeSantis is in a weird culture war battle with Disney for many stupid reasons. Here’s a funny story on how  Disney has used a royal clause loophole to one up him. Speaking of culture wars, here’s all about the bud light boycott due to trans issues. Here’s a left wing  framing of the culture wars in cartoon format. The framing itself could be part of the problem.

Elsewhere in the US, guns continue to be a major problem. Here’s the story of one of the worst guns in particular: the A-15. That’s a good piece on a horrible device.

One good thing: in the US, there has been an emphasis on healthcare spending in the last budget. Happy to see that.

The UK continues to suffer from Brexit. The latest minor incident was  the  Orient Express cutting is London leg due to it. At least it hasn’t damaged the Good Friday Peace accord. I thought this piece on how parts of Northern Ireland has turned out due to it rather good.

China continues to be China. Here’s a story on these menancing police outposts they have in New York and other Western cities. As well, here’s  China harassing a bookseller in  Florida. On a happier note is this story, on a Chinese Village’s breezy new library. It’s really worth a look.

Not really political, but I liked this piece on how Japan has changed a lot in recent years.

Healthcare: there were a number of pieces on healthcare in Canada at the beginning of 2023. It could be because the provinces were in negotiation with the Federal government for more money. In the end, at least some provinces signed a health deal. I expect all will come around and sign.

In my province, the Ontario government announced a plan to hire more nurses. They also had this plan to make tuition for studies in health care free. All good initiatives.

However, people were anxious about some of their plans, like this plan to use for-profit care to reduce surgical backlogs. It’s not the only instance of their plans that have people anxious. To reassure people, they did talk about protecting access to Public Health Care. But then we heard about how a private company, Maple, was charging for visits above and beyond OHIP.

So it’s been a muddle, which is par for the course with this government. Some people, like the  prime minister, thought the province was being innovative. Others thought they were not spending enough on health care. Some complained Ontario is going down the path the province of B.C. went down, only to reverse course. Others complained they had Ontario’s Health System Into a state of crisis, while some were  not so certain. Whew. It’s a muddle, to put it midly.

Ideas: A good source of ideas is Ursula Franklin’s lectures on the Real world of technology. Austin Kleon was reading it and he reminded me of how good it was.

Not so good: How much is a Pulitzer Prize worth? For non-fiction writers, not a lot. Also not good but fascinating: how did two major innovations end up being so destructive, and what can we learn from that?

Are you a doomer? Some young people are, it seems. This piece, don’t be a doomer!, exhorts you not to be.

In the future,  Gartner has identified five emerging technology trends that will blur the lines between human and machine. I dunno. I dunno about the use of these gps trackers capable of being shot at a moving car, either.

I found this, on the great philosopher Peter Singer being challenged by a disabled person, very moving.

Likewise, I was moved by this story on a California prison artist who makes his own paints. This story on DC prisons and how Jan. 6 prisoners got relief is very instructive, and not in a good way. This was a better story:  South Carolina Reduced Theft Penalties While Safely Cutting Prison. Good for South Carolina. The US has had a  mass incarceration for some time. A reckoning is coming.

Cool: Nick Cave is cool, and the advice he gives, especially so. Recycling is cool. Here’s advice on  how to recycle everything.

This is a cool story of  how a narcissist fell out of love with himself and fell in love with something greater. Another such story is this, by Adam Shoemaker, a forty-old Episcopal priest, husband, and father of three.

More cool things: this ikea guitar built almost exclusively using products and materials from ikea; this desktop wallpaper; and these esquire covers.

Incredibly cool is the ending of the John Huston film, The Dead.

Not cool: not cool is Ricky Vaughn, who is finally going to jail. Also going to jail: Real Housewife Jen Shah has been sentenced to 6.5 years in prison. Add this guy to the mix: Mafia boss Matteo Denaro, who’s been on run for 30 years 
Perhaps going to prison: Andrew Tate. Not likely prison oriented, but here’s the scoop on Rod Dreher, a very weird American conservative.

Ok, that’s enough uncool and bad people.

Famous People: Some major axe grinding in this piece on Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and Jennifer Aniston. I think they will all be fine, in their own weird way, whatever skeletons are in their closet.

As for closeted skeletons, there will be a documentary on John Lennon’s “lost weekend” in the 70s. More 70s skeletons: this is a story of three big Asian communist leaders of the 70s that I found fascinating.

Speaking of famous, here a story of how the liberal party has fared under Justin Trudeau. Relatedly, this is a story of his inheritance.

IBM used to be famous for annually breaking patent records. But it lost its Top US Patent Spot After Decades as Leader this year. Here’s why IBM is no longer interested in breaking patent records.

Fun: I found this device, The Mui Board, fun. (See it below.)

These ladders are fun. So is digits, a new game from the New York Times. If you are a fan of harry potter and le creuset, you might enjoy that. Fans of joe beef should read that piece. And fans of Campus FM radio will love that link. I thought the was especially fun.

And on that fun note, I’ll close off this newsletter and the month of April. As always, thanks for reading this and rambling along with me. I hope you found it worthwhile. Happy Spring. Now the good weather comes.

I thought these three designs were very cool

I am not sure how practical they are, but these pieces designed to look like blind contour drawings are cool. Also cool is this simple but smart furniture, shown below:

Finally, how cool is this: people are using these lego construction blocks to build homes…

I recommend you click on all the link and see a lot more.

A good reminder for the start of the weekend

I found this image on Instagram some time ago and I kept a digital clipping of it to remind me to make stuff even if the only person that cares about it is me. I would advise you to do the same. Sometimes I imagine an audience that does like whatever I make, but I am fine to make it just for me. Kids are like that, and they’re happier as a result. We should be more like kids, like the kid we once were. Make things and be happy with the making of it. Even if you immediately toss it aside. For making stuff can do wonders for us.

Happy Friday. Make something this weekend: a poem, a salad, a chalk drawing, a record of some sort. You’ll be better because of it.

It’s a short life, and the older you get, the shorter it gets. However…(some birthday thoughts)

I am fascinated by this clock above. Called Shortlife, it is developed and sold by Dries Depoorter, who explains that…

‘Shortlife’ is a small device showing how much percent of your life is completed based on your personal life expectancy.

You give him your birthday and your gender and he programs the clock based on this information and “the average number in your country provided by the World Health Organization (WHO)”.

It’s a good momento mori.

If you want a more accurate estimate of your life expectancy, you can go here. That online calculator’s estimate “is based on a detailed statistical analysis of NIH-AARP data and conducted by Wharton professor Dean Foster” and takes into account not just your age and gender, but also other factors like how fit you are and how much you drink and smoke.

Based on that calculator, it estimates I have twenty more years to live, if I am lucky. It also states that there is a 25% chance I won’t have more than a dozen. Of course it is just an estimate, a probability. I could die today, or I could live for another 40 years. But the likelihood of 12 (and no more) I think is good. When we were in school, 12 years felt like an eternity. I suspect these will not.

One problem with such a clock is it meant for people who see the glass increasingly empty. We need a clock that shows things increasing full. There is such a thing, of course. But it’s not a clock. It’s a tree. If you plant a tree and you are lucky, the tree will grow along with you. Growth: that’s what trees represent. A tree you plant can represent you as a growing living thing, not as a dying thing.

I think the clock is smart, of course, but I think a tree is wise. Get both, and be wiser, still.

P.S. I wrote about the joy of planting and owning a tree, here. That tree is no longer on my property, and perhaps that makes it better.