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On my study of history in school and out of school

In the United States and Canada recently, there have been terrible events that have driven people to ask: why didn’t we learn about XYZ in school? Tom Hanks devotes an article to this line of thinking in the New York Times, here.

I just have a few things to say about that, based on my own education in history, the education of my kids, and the education I gave to myself post high school.

In Canada there was a big discussion about the Residential School System and why did we not learn about it. I didn’t, and my kids didn’t, I don’t think. What I did learn when I was younger was different aspects of history for each year I was in grade school. In the earlier grades, we studied Nova Scotian history, British history, and Canadian history. We studied ancient world history and then history of the second millenium. We did study indigenous people at the time when the focus was on North America. (As well, we studied Mi’kmaq religion in grade 7, which was interesting). Indigenous people were not invisible in the lessons, and their role was significant at times. That said, the lessons were mainly Eurocentric and mainly focused on major events like wars and politics, though.

I noticed a shift in this when my kids were studying history in grades 7 and 8. There were lessons on injustices in Canada, especially when it came to racist events such as the internment of Japanese-Canadians during World War II. I thought that was a good improvement in the study of Canadian history.

Of course what facts are taught in history, and what are not, changes all the time. This will depend on many factors, from school administrators, teachers, parents, and others. Even what books are available matters. I hope and expect that Canadian history will be taught in a less Eurocentric way, and that Indigenous and people of non-European origin will get more focus. Also important would be more focus given to the role of women in history. That would be a change for the better.

I think it is important to acknowledge, though, that the point of history classes in school is not just to teach facts. For example my kids were learning not just about Canadian history, they were learning how to think about history. That makes a great deal of sense (though learning the facts is good too).

I can say this because I actually stopped studying  history as soon as I could in high school, and I think that is a shame. I found grade 10 history boring, and there were alternative classes that were more interesting in the next two years, classes I took instead. I made up for that later by reading history copiously starting in my late 20s, thanks to encouragement from my brother. By reading people like AJP Taylor, not only did I learn about history, I learned how historical writing could be criticized. I also learned from Taylor how history could be presented in a way different than more mainstream historical writing. I was studying history again. Thinking about it. Thinking about the arguments historians made. Agreeing and disagreeing with historians. Getting to recognize good history from not so good history, at least in a limited way.

I think knowing how to think about history is as important as ever. We are being confronted with our past and the past of others all the time. By being able to think critically of those times, we can better understand our past, our current era, and even ourselves.

P.S. If you want to understand more about how to history is taught, at least in Ontario, see this.

(Photo by Museums Victoria on Unsplash)

Two hacks for cleaning your oven

Sure, you can go out and buy oven cleaner and deal with all that. Or you can try one of these two hacks to clean your oven:

  1. Clean Oven with a Dishwasher Tablet | Kitchn
  2. Use Shaving Cream to Clean an Oven | Kitchn

I haven’t tried them, so I can verify they are good. But if they work as well as the articles say, it could be a nice alternative way to have a sparkling oven.

Let me know if you try them and if it works.

Crocs are back. It’s ok :)

Crocs shoe
According to this piece in Esquire, Crocs are back.

Well, I guess. I can’t ever see them having the classic appeal of Stan Smiths or Converse high tops, but I can see why people might pick them up from time to time. I wear them around the house every day. I find them perfect if you do a ton of standing. But wear them outside? Nope. Strictly a utility shoe for me. I suspect they will go back to being that for a lot of people after this latest craze.

Beautiful bookcase, beautiful desk

For fans of beautiful bookcases, beautiful desks, or both, check out these two from Yanko Design:

Stunning. I wish I had both.

Three great pieces on Venus, the Milky Way, and black hole visualization

This piece on the Milky Way photographer of the year is filled with amazing photos of…well, you can guess. (One of the photos is above).
This is a good piece on the efforts to study Venus. It won’t be easy to do, but it will be rewarding.
Finally, this piece on how black holes are visualized is excellent.

Zoho and other companies that hum along

When I first started following Web 2.0 companies over 15 years, Zoho was an early player. Since then, some companies became very successful and many failed. I used to joke with a friend every time a story of Zoho came up I was surprised it still existed. Not only does it still exist, but it is rolling out new features: Zoho’s pipeline-centric CRM solution built for small businesses gets new features

I’m happy to see it is a going concern. It’s easy to think companies should “go big or go home”. It’s better to think that there is another path to success. Zoho seems to have found that path.

More on them here.

What do you do if you want to keep working from home

While many of us have been forced to work from home during the pandemic, that time may be ending some time this year. Many people will be delighted to go back. If this is not the case for you, then read this article.

That article contains good advice for either finding a new job that is full time remote, or finding a job that can be a hybrid. Either way, if you want to continue to work from home, I recommend you start thinking of how to achieve that now.

(Photo by Collov Home Design on Unsplash )

 

Four pieces on Mary Oliver

You could do worse on a Sunday than read about Mary Oliver. Here’s four pieces on her from various parts of the Web:

I don’t have much to add other than that Mary Oliver is a fine person and her poetry is great and reading her and reading about her may make your life better. That’s all.

On fonts, old and new, and other design choices of St. JOHN

I’ve been thinking about fonts recently. Mainly I’ve been thinking why I love the font used by the restaurant St. JOHN so much.  I came to a conclusion after I read this piece, 60 free sans serif fonts to give your designs a modern touch, and came across this opening:

It is universally acknowledged that most contemporary designs require a versatile sans serif font. Sans serif fonts, as you might already know, are the fonts with no projecting lines at the ends. While serif fonts are known to be more traditional, sans serif fonts bring that much needed modernistic touch to the design.

That was it! When I think of modern and new, I think of thin sans serif fonts. And I am tired of modern and new for everything. Sometimes I want substantial, classic, traditional. The font for St. JOHN embodies that. It’s a chunky fat Serif font. The name itself is almost all capital letters. It is very different than the modern in that regard.

While their font is very traditional, in other ways, St. JOHN is very modern. There is a minimalism to the rest of their design, a minimalism of their design and decor is very modern indeed. To see what I mean, visit their web site (or better still, their establishments) and you will see what I mean.

And that’s perhaps what I love best about them: they mix in the best of what is old and traditional with what is new and modern and stride both worlds. It’s no easy feat, and yet they do it so well.

Ponoko: a great site for entrepreneurs and other makers wishing to implement physical designs

If you’ve ever thought of starting a business making physical objects, then you should check out thePonoko site. They can take your designs and transform them into physical materials from plastic to metal. Sure 3D printing is great for some things, but if you want to work with a great range of materials, check them out.

Click here to see some of the success stories of makers who have used their services. One of them is this very appropriate story in these pandemic times: Redesigning The Intubation Box To Better Protect First Responders

(Image above is of the intubation box and is a link to an image on their site.)

What I find interesting in tech, May/June 2021

Here’s what I found interesting lately in tech, from cloud to coding and lots more.

Cloud: I’ve been doing lots of work on Azure recently. Some things I found useful were this listing of Virtual machine sizes Also disk types. This piece on how to expand your virtual hard disks on a Linux VM was good. If you want to run Websphere on Azure, read this: Run WebSphere Application Server on Azure Virtual Machines.  If you want to learn more about deploying applications in Red Hat, read this. Finally here’s some good stuff from IBM on
Cloud Architectures.

Coding: If you want to print coloured text in Python — and who wouldn’t? — this is good. If you want to turn your HTML into an RSS feed, read this.  This will help you set up VS Code to do PHP Development. For people wanting to learn more about machine learning, IBM can help you. If you love Prolog or Javascript — or both! — check out: Tau-Prolog

Raspberry Pi/IOT: This is a great guide on how to troubleshoot problems with a Pi. This is a cool project using an OLED to make a clicker counter. If you need to load an OS or anything else on a Flash card, check out balenaEtcher. Here’s some advice on getting started with Bluetooth Low Energy. If you want to connect a raw serial terminal to a bluetooth connection, read that. If you want to do a cool Raspberry Pi Pico project with a MIDI, see this.

Fun and cool: Not a real Captcha, but a real fun one! DOOM Captcha – Captchas don’t have to be boring. Also fun: Crappy robots, ranked!. As an old user of 3270s, this downloadable version of 3270 fonts is awesome. Speaking of cool, here’s kinda the source code for Eliza! Check it out.

Other: Here’s some help on how to control smart home devices using speakers and displays. Here’s a good reminder that robots have a way to go yet: Peanut the Waiter Robot Is Proof That Your Job Is Safe. Developers! Here’s What’s Hot/What’s Not in terms of skills. Finally, have you considered how to
write software that lasts 50 years?

(Image via Raspberry Pi)

On the physical representation of the world in one object

The ball you see above is a time ball. As this Kotttke post explains:

Women from the Yakama Native American tribe used strings of hemp as personal diaries. Each major event in their life was represented by a knot, a bead or a shell. This mnemonic device is called an Ititamat, or counting-the-days ball, or simply time ball.

In these days where more and more is digital, I love that an object like the time ball can represent a life so well.

Perhaps you have something like this in your life. A diary, perhaps. Or a photo album. Or a collection of small objects that represent your life. Whatever it is, it is something worth treasuring, just like our lives are worth treasuring.

If you don’t have something like this, perhaps it’s time you do. Your life has value and is worth representing.

For more on this, see his post.

What I find interesting in general, June, 2021

Often I find links that are interesting but I don’t know what to do with. Here are some for this month.

Art related links: If you draw and are running out of ideas, try this,  Random Art Prompt Generator. I was interested in printmaking lately. Here are some links to various sites on it:

I was using this site make photos into stencils, which I could then use on other art projects…it’s good: Free Picture Stencil Maker. Robert Frank is a great photographer. Here’s a good story on how Robert Frank’s vision influenced and inspired Generations Of Photographers. Back to earth, here is Flashery,  a photo box for people serious about their home photos.

Work, economics and capitalism: I found these interesting:

Working for yourself?  How many fans do you need to be successful. Here are two views on that: The Technium: 1,000 True Fans and 1,000 True Fans? Try 100

Climate Change:  We’ve all been very focused on the pandemic. But climate change has not gone away. Here’s two pieces on it: The business as usual climate scenario may be too pessimistic, researchers warn – The Washington Post and Let’s abandon climate targets, and do something completely different | George Monbiot | The Guardian

Random:  I love motorcycles as an object, and Uncrate has some cool ones, like this Volcon Runt Kid’s Motorcycle. If you are painting your house and can’t pick from thousands of colours, perhaps this list of 50 will help you narrow it down:
50 Most Popular Sherwin-Williams Paint Colors. This was a delightful story on how professors are hanging on to chalk! Where Theory Meets Chalk, Dust Flies

If you are interested in statistical distributions other than the Bell curve/normal distribution, check out 3 interesting Statistic Distribution and
Power Law and Power Law Distribution.

Thank you for reading this far. I don’t know if anyone reads most of my posts, but I keep at it regardless.

(Photo by Courtney Hedger on Unsplash)

 

Categories: food
Tags, general

The best form of government, according to Branko Milanović

This is an interesting view of government, and I recommend you read it:
Branko Milanović – Governments of limited vice | Brave New Europe

When I first read it, I found it fascinating. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that what he is partially arguing for is moderate government. If governments get extreme one way or another, terrible things happen to their citizens.

The other benefit of this approach is that governments can adjust to what is a vice they have to crack down on, because the citizenry’s view of vice changes. Sometimes people stop considering certain acts vices. Or they downplay the harm such vices do. When this happens, governments of limited vice can back off and permit people the freedom to act a certain way.  For much of the 20th century the province of Ontario had a film censor board, and they cut out scenes they thought were offensive.  Now it’s been scraped. Once people were arrested for buying marijuana in Ontario: now the government provides guidance on how to purchase it. Governments of limited vice are moving the boundaries all the times, often due to the effort of the people who do not agree with the boundaries, and think society would be better with different boundaries.

There will always be a form of government. Governments of limited vice may be the best of them all.

(Photo by Rythik on Unsplash )

My cooking interests for May, 2021 (maybe)

This was originally a list of things I was going to cook: my cooking projects. But to be honest, I was not cooking most things. So I am revising the focus to things I am interested in, food-wise. Maybe you will make them. If you do, let me know!

Recipes: This looks like a beautiful cake (image above). If you like a good chowder, try this from Food52. If you love to cook with cream like I do, check out this list. I want to try and BBQ a whole fish this week. I might try this recipe for stuff black bass. If you need some good vegetarian recipes for summer, go here. Here’s a good recipe for a spinach ricotta cannelloni from Jamie Oliver. I am a big fan of Jacques Pepin and budget cooking. If you are too, check out this. If you don’t know what to cook, try this tool from Epicurious.

Other food stories: On the outrage over fake meat. Keto diets can help if you are trying to cut down on drinking. Finally, here’s a good story on what they eat on the space shuttle. Fancy.

 

On the new Grado x series of headphones

Fans of Grado should know that they have upgraded their Prestige line. For example, those of you who may have had their SR125e may want tto upgrade to the new SR125x. I know, the e series is great and you may never want to give them up. But check this out regardless:  Grado Labs – SR125x.

They have upgrades from the SR60 to the SR325. Whether you have the 125s or the 325s or even the 60s — all great — you can consider moving up in terms of quality, even if it is just going from the SR60e to the SR60x. So gift your old cans to someone younger who can gain a new appreciation of music and sound through a good set of headphones, then head over to their website and upgrade yourself.

(Image from the Grado site. No sponsorship here: I just think they make a great product).

 

May, 2021 pandemic highlights and ramblings (a newsletter, in blog form)


It’s May, and it’s lovely in Ontario in terms of weather. Alas, the pandemic is still going on, as is my not-a-newsletter of highlights and ramblings for this month. Hope you like it.

Pandemic: Here in Canada we are rushing to get vaccinated. Over 50% of the population has at least 1 dose, and some Canadians have two (I got my second shot of AZ/AstraZeneca today). I am happy to see that the governments all seem to be working better again. The Federal government has been procuring them, the Provincial government has been distributing them, and the City has been setting up spots for people to get them. And get them they have. Kudos to everyone making efforts to get out there and end this.

It’s not to say there are no bumps in the road. Some provinces, like mine, ended up in a panic about whether or not to allow people to get additional AZ vaccines. Eventually Ontario relented and people like me signed up and got their jabs. Still, the experience has left people bitter, as this Doug Coupland piece illustrated.

Canadians don’t need much prompting to get vaccinated. This seems to be true down south for the most part, thought some states like West Virginia are offering savings bonds to encourage vaccination while Detroit was giving out $50 debit cards to ‘Good Neighbors’ to help boost lagging COVID-19 vaccination rate.  I encourage governments using any means at their disposal to get vaccinated. It’s too bad that people just don’t go and get it done. Get it done, people! I am hopeful by this summer most of Canada and the US will be fully open or close to fully open. Indeed the mayor of New York City says his city will be open this July 1. Let’s hope every place is.

Now whether we all go back to work right away is another thing. Outlets like the BBC are arguing the future of work will be hybrid. We shall see.

Since the pandemic is still ongoing,  you need ways to cope. One way people are coping is managing their time on Zoom and WebEx calls. Techies have even been inventing devices to hang them up. Another way people have managed is by developing routines. That’s been healthy. Or getting back to exercising. A less healthy way has been drinking too much. If that is you, you might benefit on reading this piece on ways to cut back. But back to healthy, a good way to help yourself is to get out from time to time. I hope to take advantage of Toronto’s outdoor cafes once they are open.

Finally, in case you haven’t read the best restaurant review of the pandemic…now you can.

US : it’s been weird to watch what is happening in the United States. On one hand, you have the Democrats working to deal with the pandemic and the effect it has had on the American people. On the other hand, you have Republicans working hard in places like Texas and many other places to restrict the vote of people for the next election. Not only that, but Republicans are also working to prevent any examination into the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6th.

Here’s hoping for the United States to become a better democracy, not a worse one.

Meanwhile in Canada, we need to do better in many ways, starting with one that is fundamental to me: making sure everyone has access to clean water. I can’t believe I even have to say this.

Non-pandemic things: No new news on newsletters. They are still a Thing…just not as newsworthy. Good.

NFTs are still newsworthy.  For example, this piece is a good way to just see how weird and wild they are:

I still don’t think they make any sense, but I have been proven wrong on such things before.

A year ago: Last May we saw the “cancellation” of Alison Roman. Since then she pivoted to making her own newsletter and a YouTube video channel with over 100K viewers. She seems to have landed ok. Speaking of food, I wrote last May that people were already tired of making their own food. Ha! Still at it a year later.  For more on how the pandemic looked last year, here’s the newsletter I wrote then.

Finally:

Over a year ago we were all struggling to get masks and learn how to wear them properly. Now they are as common as shoes. Here’s a throw back to mask wearing tips from the City of Toronto.

Thanks for reading this! I appreciate it. Here’s hoping for a pandemic ending everywhere and soon.

 

It’s Monday. Here’s how to link your days together to make for a more productive week


Often times we start the week productive, but then things unravel midweek, until we are saying thank god it’s Friday and we are left wondering how things went so off track.

To avoid this, build bridges from one day to the next. To do this, at the end of your work day, leave aside a task or an activity that you can start on immediately the next day. This task bridges the days. Hemingway did it and Tharp did it and you can too.

By bridging like this, you already know what your work looks like tomorrow. This helps give you focus when you start your day and it will make you productive for the rest of the day. If you do this daily, it will propel you effectively through the work week too.

Bridging can be hard to do that on some teams. Some team leaders will not let go of a problem on any given day because they are worried that it won’t get done tomorrow. But here too, a bridge can be good. At the end of the day, summarize what was done today and what the next step is and how you plan to tackle it first thing on the next work day. This will give them confidence it will be done, and it will give you assurance you know what your priority on the next day.

For more on this, read this article: The Super Simple End-of-the-Day Hack That Makes Every Morning More Productive | Apartment Therapy

(Photo by kyler trautner on Unsplash)

On clean water, Canada, and the First Nations


We will soon enough have an election in Canada, and I hope this is a major topic during the campaign. No one should have undrinkable water in Canada. We need to do better as a country.

  1. If you want to read more about it, here are three links:What Would It Look Like to Take the First Nations Water Crisis Seriously? | The Walrus
  2. Liberal government will miss drinking water target by years, CBC News survey shows | CBC News
  3. Globe editorial: Since 1977, Ottawa has spent billions trying – and failing – to bring clean water to every reserve – The Globe and Mail

(Photo by manu schwendener on Unsplash )

For fans of minimalism and cats

For fans of minimalism and cats comes this minimalist cat tower. I mean, it looks great. The tower, I mean. Of course the cat looks great. 🙂

Via Yanko Design

The pandemic will soon be ending and you want to have a dinner party to celebrate. Unfortunately you’ve forgotten how to do that.

If the idea of having a dinner party after this time seems daunting, here are some resources to help you. First, check out this:  How to Plan a Menu for a Dinner Party. Now you can make anything you want, but if you are thinking of making a few dishes, those dishes should fall into each of these three categories:

Something that can be made ahead of time: This could mean days ahead or hours ahead—it’s up to you. But basically, you want at least one dish that you can make and then forget about until serving time. A cold salad, homemade bread, a dessert, or even a meat dish best served cold or at room temperature—are all good options.

Something you can kind of ignore: This may be a dish that can be roasted, very slowly grilled, or cooked in an Instant Pot or slow cooker. This could be your protein (like a pork tenderloin or some chicken thighs, for instance), but roasted carrots, baked potatoes, or rice made in a rice cooker or Instant Pot also work.

Something that demands your attention: This is anything that requires fiddling, watching, flipping, or futzing. Delicate vegetables, meat on the grill, or expensive steaks all fall into this category.

If you want even more help, why not check out this book by Corey Mintz: How to Host a Dinner Party. You can also find lots of great ideas in Alison Roman’s Nothing Fancy.

(Photo by Stefan Vladimirov on Unsplash )

Four new links on Gerhart Richter

Here are four relatively new pieces on Richter, for fans of him (like me). The last one is fun especially.

  1. Gerhard Richter’s Slippery Mystique
  2. Gerhard Richter at the Met Breuer | Apollo Magazine
  3. Gerhard Richter gives Holocaust art to Berlin | Painting | The Guardian
  4. Saltz Challenges: Produce a Perfect Faux Gerhard Richter Painting, and I’ll Buy It – Slideshow – Vulture

(Photograph: Markus Schreiber/AP)

 

The best restaurant review of the pandemic

Is this one.

If you are thinking: what? Who went to a restaurant in a pandemic? Well, we all did, the same one, every night. Read the review and see what I mean. Also it is very funny.

The one good thing about that restaurant is you always could get a reservation at the last minute. 🙂

(Photo by Hitesh Dewasi on Unsplash )

 

More help for people who hate chores


For those of us who suffer through household chores, I have two links for you. I can’t say they will help. Lord knows I have posted many such links and I still hate chores. But I keep trying. No doubt you do too.

  1. Making chores more joyful
  2. Housework as meditation

 

You need a better way to change. Here you go….


Setting goals, making plans, those are all good things. But if you find that you are not changing despite all that, read this and put it into practice: How to motivate yourself to change | Psyche Guides.

Lots of good tools and techniques in there to help you get to where you need to get where you want to be.

(Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash )

 

On Toronto housing and homelessness during the pandemic

During the pandemic, I came across many stories about homelessness and after awhile started to collect them. You can see them below. There are other stories that relate to the problem, and I’ve included them as well.

Toronto made some strides in dealing with those among us without homes and with much poverty. Much more can be done. If you are interested in reading more about this, here are fourteen stories:

  1. This Toronto hotel is going to be used as a homeless shelter for the rest of the year
  2. Toronto considering ambitious homeless housing plan in wake of COVID-19 pandemic
  3. Toronto just got its first modular supportive housing building for the homeless
  4. People are saying Toronto’s new homeless shelter looks like a prison
  5. A Maryland teen picked up woodworking during the shutdown. Now he sells his pieces to help the homeless.
  6. How a Tuxedoed Sommelier Wound Up Homeless in California
  7. Toronto landlords are offering free rent to try and convince people to stay in the city
  8. Toronto wants to build 3 000 affordable homes because shelters are now too expensive
  9. This Toronto hotel is going to be used as a homeless shelter for the rest of the year
  10. Toronto considering ambitious homeless housing plan in wake of COVID-19 pandemic
  11. More than two thirds of condo investors in Toronto plan to sell due to new vacant home tax
  12. Toronto just got its first modular supportive housing building for the homeless
  13. City of Toronto provides additional support for individuals and families in shelters
  14. Toronto is getting new affordable housing just for single moms

You can now have your own PDP/11 to play with!

If you ever wanted to get your (virtual) hands on a PDP 11, now you can, by going here: Javascript PDP 11/70 Emulator. 

They seem terribly small and limited now, but when I started in IT they were a real workhorse computer and for a time they threatened IBM’s dominance in the IT space. (Then the PC and DOS and Windows came along and did even more to challenge IBM.)

(Image from here.)

Friday night cocktails: the alt-martini


What is the an alt-martini, you ask? It’s simply a close cousin of a classic martini. Here they are: 3 Martinis for People Scared of Martinis in Bon Appétit.

They also have a recipe for a classic martini too. Something for everyone!

(Photo by Alexa Soh on Unsplash)

How to get more from your smart speakers


I am a fan of smart speakers, despite the privacy concerns around them. If you are ok with that and you have one or are planning to get one, read these two links to see how you can get more out of them:

  1. How to control Sonos with Google Assistant
  2. Alexa Skills That Are Actually Fun and Useful | WIRED

I use Google Assistant on my Sonos and they make a great device even better. And while I do have Google Home devices in other parts of the house, I tend to be around the Sonos most, so having it there to do more than just play music is a nice thing indeed.

On the limits of Elon Musk


In this piece, Elon Musk Shares Painfully Obvious Idea About the Difficulty of Self-Driving Cars, we have a good summary of the limits of Elon Musk. Not that we need reminding, since we can never seem to escape the publicity of the man. However now he is seen more as a  a huckster and a clown and less of the visionary he once seemed to be. He’s gone from being like Edison to being like P.T. Barnum. It’s too bad, really. We need more visionaries: we have too many hucksters and clowns.

Here’s hoping he stops being foolish and starts being serious again.

(Image from the piece above.)

 

 

On what not to do when you are moving apartments


I thought this was great: The Decorating Lessons I’ve Learned From Moving 12 Times in 12 Years

I’ve made many of these mistakes the last time I moved (e.g. waiting too long to decorate). I’ll review this list the next time I am getting ready to move.

If you are planning to move, you owe it to yourself to read that piece.

Good luck with your move!

(Photo by Michal Balog on Unsplash)

It’s Monday. You have a stressful week ahead. Here’s how to better deal with it

Stress in life is unavoidable (despite how much you are trying to avoid it). The question is: what is the best way of dealing with it when it occurs? If you do not have any strategies to deal with it (other than run away), then read this: How to Turn Off Harmful Stress Like a Switch.

Sometimes just knowing you have one or more tools available to you can automatically reduce your stress. Read that and load up your stress toolbox.

P.S. If you need more tools, see this piece in the New York Times.

How we work is not good for us

Likely in a few hundred years people will look back at us and wonder how we could be so screwed up when it comes to work. If you are reading this while you have the Sunday Scarries, you likely won’t need much convincing.

If you do need convincing, then read these two pieces:

There are benefits that we as individuals get out of work. But we need to seriously question and challenge how good those benefits are in comparison to the drawbacks.

Many of us are becoming less religious in the 21st century. We recognize some of the benefits, but the drawbacks of it are too great to keep us religious. If you were to go back in time 500 years ago, most people would have thought this inconceivable, that we would give up on religion. Well, what those people think of religion then we think of work now.

If you do have the Sunday Scarries, I don’t envy you. But at least you know the problem is not you, it’s work.

(Photo by Alex Kotliarskyi on Unsplash)

Getting out of your comfort zone gives you a new and better comfort zone

During the pandemic I have found myself retreating into my comfort zone. It makes sense to some degree: life is hard enough with the lockdowns and worse that this stupid disease has brought us: why make things harder?

What I have realized now though is my comfort zone has shrunk as I retreated to it more and more. This has led to a bad downward spiral. Take exercise, for example. A 30 minute run used to be in my comfort zone while a 60 minute run was not. But as I exercised less during the pandemic, now even a 5 minute run is barely in my comfort zone anymore.

This made me realize that to have a larger comfort zone, you need to regularly go outside your old comfort zone and get uncomfortable. Staying in your comfort zone only shrinks it. But by going outside it more, you expand it. Having a larger comfort zone means you feel more comfortable and in control more often.

I’m going to start pushing on the boundaries of my comfort zone not because it is fun, but because I want a bigger one. I believe life is better when you do that.

One provision I would add is to make sure that when you go outside your boundaries it is in the direction of growth, not harm. Some people avoid going outside their comfort zone because they are afraid of getting hurt. Other people go too hard (eg runners) and end up returning to their old comfort zone and get stuck. Don’t do those things. Be gradual and be consistent as you stretch yourself: that’s the best way to expand your comfort zone.

Making your organization more inclusive


I’ve always been a fan of Chatelaine magazine for its content. Now I am also a fan of them for working to build a more inclusive Chatelaine. That link shows the many ways they aim for and measure their inclusiveness. Any organization wanting to be more  inclusive should look to them for ideas and approaches.

The link also shows the limits or obstacles any one organization has in becoming more inclusive. A smaller organization can only scale out so far, and there is always more to include than is sometimes possible. But by aiming high, they have achieved much. I’m hopeful that they will try and do more, and other organizations following their example can do more too. Inclusivity spread over more organizations leads to greater inclusion for all.  That’s a great thing.

(Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash)

Upgrade your thinking about economics


If you want to upgrade your thinking on economics, I recommend these four pieces:

  • The Choice Isn’t Between Capitalism or Socialism – this seems obvious to me and likely you too, but it is a good reference to keep around for whenever you hear people talking about capitalism and socialism.
  • America Never Learns the Limits of Bootstrapping – a good piece on the limits of social safety nets built using private initiatives. My belief is that social safety nets should come both from governments and individuals, and that we should be looking into how our society is set up to provide a wide range benefits for everyone. For example, unemployment insurance is good, but free or low cost education to allow people to improve themselves and others is important also. We need more initiatives to improve people’s lives.
  • A Basic Income Could Solve 8 of Society’s Biggest Problems – the big initiative in the 21st century should be this. We can eliminate poverty and remove many social ills with it. It will not be a cure all, but it can cure a-lot.
  • If You’re so Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich? Turns out It’s Just Chance – finally, some many say if you have all these social programs, no one will every try again because we need a system in place that encourages people to work hard and get rich. If you think that, read the article.

Not everyone will benefit from these pieces. I did, though, and for some of you reading this, you will as well.

(Photo by Aziz Jus on Unsplash)

The best book to learn calculus from

This may be the best book to learn calculus from: Calculus Made Easy.

I like it for two reasons. One, it’s free. Two, it does not take itself seriously nor does it take calculus seriously. To see what I mean, here’s a clip from the beginning of the e-book:

Considering how many fools can calculate, it is surprising that it should be thought either a difficult or a tedious task for any other fool to learn how to master the same tricks. Some calculus-tricks are quite easy. Some are enormously difficult.

The fools who write the textbooks of advanced mathematics—and they are mostly clever fools—seldom take the trouble to show you how easy
the easy calculations are. On the contrary, they seem to desire to impress you with their tremendous cleverness by going about it in the most difficult way.

Being myself a remarkably stupid fellow, I have had to unteach myself the difficulties, and now beg to present to my fellow fools the parts that are not hard. Master these thoroughly, and the rest will follow. What one fool can do, another can.

So if you want to learn calculus but are struggling, give that book a look. Sure it’s an old book, but calculus is an old subject. It may suit you just fine.

(Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Unsplash)

How our relationships change over time, represented in minimal graph form

This is lovely:

I especially like “Parent” and “Dog”.

More on that, as well as the source of the image, here.

What solitary confinement teaches us


Solitary confinement is terrible. Most people confined this way for a stretch are badly affected by it. A few manage to come out of it better. It’s their stories that are told in this piece: How to Survive Solitary Confinement

The people that managed ok tend to have grit and the ability to make their minds work in a way to defeat being alone and confined. To see what I mean, read the piece. It can help you in some way if you are feeling alone and confined, as we all do from time to time.

(Photo by Marco Chilese on Unsplash)

It’s Monday. You need to start getting back in shape. Here’s a good start

If you think, I got to start exercising again, I just got to, but you can’t even begin to know to start, consider this: Easy Cardio Challenge

If you think: that’s too easy, then consider doing them faster. Or add on an additional fitness challenge from Darebee.

And if you aren’t sure how to do these exercises, here is how you a side jack:

Here’s how you do a step jack:

You’re all set. Print off the challenge and put an X through each day you do. In 30 days you will be in better shape than you are now. Just as important, you will have created an exercise routine for yourself. Kudos to you!