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Why you should point at things on the Internet (and elsewhere)

A person pointing at a painting

If you are stuck at creating things, find something worth pointing at and create something about it. For example:

  • if you see something interesting, take a picture of it
  • if you have a favourite song, sing it
  • if you have a favourite food, make it for someone
  • if you have a place or person or idea, write about it

You get the idea.  I have been mulling this idea over since I read this: Pointing at things – Austin Kleon. 

The format of my blog since the beginning has to point at things. I’d estimate over 90% of my posts are me pointing at other parts of the Internet and saying why they are interesting. Even this post is about pointing at someone else’s post about pointing at things.

Pointing at things is an old tradition of the Internet. There is far too much information on it and often the only way of finding something useful is for someone to point it out. The best pointers often garner the most attention.

I hadn’t thought before to apply the idea of pointing to other creative forms. I somewhat do that on Instagram. Now I want to try and do it elsewhere.

Start pointing at things! Then tell people why you are. Everyone will benefit.

(Photo by kevin laminto on Unsplash)

How to use math to improve your relationships at home and work

the number 5

According to this, the way to have a good relationship with someone is to have five (at least) or more positive interactions with someone for every one negative interaction: Use the Magic 5:1 Ratio to Improve All Your Relationships | Inc.com.

While the focus for that study was on spouse or partner relationships, I think it is likely a good rule to follow for any relationships you have with people. That goes for people at work.  Think about the people you work with: how often do you have positive (vs neutral) interactions with them? If it is infrequent, consider increasing that. Especially if you are a leader. If you are a leader and you find the only time you interact with people is to criticize their work, you likely have many unhappy people under you.

Think about when you interact with your people and be conscious about making more of your interactions positive. After time you will find you have a better relationship with others, and that will lead to other benefits too.

(Photo by Ralph Hutter on Unsplash)

On preparing for a post-pandemic world

Theatre sign saying the world is temporarily closed

If you are in business, you need to start thinking today about how everything will change after the pandemic. If you need help, review this piece in HBR: Preparing Your Business for a Post-Pandemic World

If you are not responsible for a business, it could still benefit you to read it. I see plenty of people fantasizing about what they might do after the pandemic. Why not go further and start planning to do it? If you are thinking of moving after the pandemic, what will that take? If you are planning on travelling, what do you need to have in place to make that happen?

The pandemic will end. Not soon enough, but sooner than you are prepared for. Get started on that today. The world is only temporarily closed.

(Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash)

On the benefit of long lists of advice

list
The benefits of long lists of advice are twofold:

    1. You can pick and choose the advice you need.
    2. You can build your own list

I’ve done 1: I’ve yet to do 2, but I want to.

Meanwhile, if you want to do both, here’s a bunch of long lists of advice I’ve found.

On the wonderful colourful world of old churches

old church

This is a good piece on how, actually, Medieval Cathedrals Used to Be Full of Brilliant Colors. If you imagine them to be dark and dreary and colourless, read the piece. They were likely nothing like that, based on some good detective work by restoration specialists.

 

Crazy coffee tables!

Coffee table that is also a planter

Let’s face it: many coffee tables are boring. For a view of some that are anything but, you want to go to this link.

Take the one above, where you can have a coffee AND grow a garden.

For something completely different, there is this steampunk version:

Steampunk coffee table

There are also simpler but unique ones as well.

On the benefits of insomnia

Person with insomnia

For anyone suffering from persistent insomnia, the idea that the condition has benefits is an absurd one. However, if you have occasional bouts of sleeplessness, you can reap some rewards. As this piece argues

Being unable to sleep night after night, for weeks on end, is – of course – hell. But in smaller doses, insomnia does not need a cure. Occasional sleeplessness is an asset, a help with some key troubles of the soul. Crucial things we need may only get a chance to happen during a few active hours in the middle of the night. We should revise our assessment of sleeplessness.

I agree with this. I have had a few rounds of insomnia lately brought on from work stress and I found that I was able to work out some problems during this time. I was fortunate: I took a break midday when I was tired and had a brief nap and I was fine. I realize that not everyone can recover so easily.

To read the entire piece, go here: Perspectives on Insomnia -The School of Life Articles | Formally The Book of Life. Photo by Megan te Boekhorst on Unsplash.

End of university watch

classroom

It’s tempting to think that colleges and universities will start to see a major decline as a result of the pandemic. I think they will take a hit as a result of it, but I don’t think their demise is anywhere near. As this piece argues, people will take great lengths to take part in post-secondary educational experiences, pandemic or not: Why Did Colleges Reopen During the Pandemic? – The Atlantic

More than ever, the pandemic has made clear that major changes are required for post secondary education. Even before the pandemic, too many people waste their time and money going to university just so they can get a job. That’s wrong, but many employers demanded it. Fortunately, that is changing, as this piece shows:  14 companies that no longer require employees to have a college degree

Going to university is a good experience. Ideally I think university programs should split bachelor programs into 2. After two years, students could get some form of completion certificate. From there, they could go on to two more years of university study and complete their bachelor program, or they could switch to a vocational school and get something applied. (Or skip university all together.)

University isn’t for everyone. It should definitely not be something you need to start a job. A vocational school is fine for that. Indeed, most workplaces train people on the job once they hire them. Why wait for people to study something irrelevant to your profession?

P.S. Employers need radical rethinking of how they hire people. To see what I mean by radical, read this: This Company Hired Anyone Who Applied. Now It’s Starting a Movement.

(Photo by Changbok Ko on Unsplash)

How much would you pay to own the same sneakers that Barack Obama owns?

Rare sneakers

There are only two pairs of these shoes in existence. One pair is owned by Obama.  The other pair can be owned by you, if you can afford them. As this article (Barack Obama’s Nike Hyperdunk PE Sneakers | Uncrate) explains, these Hyperdunk sneakers…

… were designed in 2009 for Obama building off of the Hyperdunk created for Team USA at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing for Nike’s “United We Rise” collection. This customized pair adds the official Presidential Seal on the tongue tag, the number ’44’ by the toe, and insoles with bald eagles, and the date ‘1776’. The size 12.5 hi-tops go up for sale via Sotheby’s Buy Now platform on February 12th.

That’s right: Sotheby’s. Starting bid? $25,000.

 

Let’s play the game of Five Nice Things

Tulips for sale
This is a game you can play any time, but it’s especially good to play it in a pandemic. What is the game you say? Here’s Siobhan O’Connor to explain in this piece, An Easy Way to Practice Gratitude | Forge. Key quote:

At our dinners, we sometimes played a game we called Five Nice Things. It is what it sounds like: You take turns naming things that are nice. Five is the number. It can be a thing that makes you happy, a compliment for the other person, a win at work, “This broccoli is tasty,” whatever. It’s a bit sappy, but it’s not the sappiest, and the rules were: Don’t overthink it, and be specific. We’d roll it out in other settings: group hangs, work, whatnot. It was, generally speaking, a hit. Even Eeyores can get into it if you bring to the game your Tigger energy. But it was most meaningful when it was just the two of us.

I think the way to make it easy to play is to avoid trying to find the five NICEST things. Five low key nice things are fine. For example five low key nice things for me are:

  1. Waking up in the morning and feeling good and energetic
  2. A bright sunny day after days of overcast skies
  3. Walking by a store with lots of tulips for sale in buckets on the sidewalk
  4. Buying a hot mocha on a cold winter day and sipping it as I walk
  5. Late at night, looking at a yard filled with new fallen snow and seeing how uniform it is and how it sparkles

Just thinking about them makes my brain feel better. I think once you come up with some, your brain will feel better too.

(Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash)

On letting go of garbage

garbage bag

If you had a bag of garbage, would you continue to keep it? Likely not. Once you had the opportunity to get rid of it, you would. You don’t need it any more. You are under no obligation to keep it. So you’d get rid of it.

The same is true for other things in your life. For example, garbage thoughts. Or garbage people.

Speaking of garbage people, I see the crew from Trump’s regime are still trying to keep people paying attention to them. Hanging on to them and giving them attention is like hanging on to garbage. Don’t do it. Put them to the curb and let them get hauled away.

Your life and the lives of others improve when you get rid of the trash. The sooner the better. Say goodbye and walk away.

P.S. I hesitate to use the phrase garbage people. People are complicated, and simple characterizations can harm your ability to see others clearly. That said, metaphors like garbage can help you constructively modify your behaviors and thoughts. Just be careful with them.

(Images from by Markus Spiske and Sven Brandsma on Unsplash)

It’s a new week. Perhaps you need a new goal for the week. Consider working out in the middle of the day.

Person doing yoga

I was skeptical of the idea of working out every day, but after I read this, I thought it was a good and achievable goal for a week: Midday Workout Habit — I Tried It: Working Out in the Middle of the Day. The key is to be open to change and not go hard every day. But if you can go harder, try it.

If you are thinking, “exercise? I can barely walk”, then choose walking to be your new fitness routine. If you need advice on that, read this: How to Keep a Fitness Streak — Turn Daily Walks into a Habit.

If you were walking before as exercise and you found it boring (confession, I did), here’s some advice on how to make it more interesting: The Joy of Steps: 20 Ways to Give Purpose to Your Daily Walk

If walking still isn’t your thing, then here’s a guide to finding something good to do: Keeping Fit: How to Do the Right Exercise for Your Age

Remember, you don’t normally have to exercise a lot. Indeed, this article encourages you to take a bit more than 10 minutes to get some benefits: Exercise 11 Minutes a Day for a Longer Life.

While 11 minutes is good to extend your life, if you want to lose weight, then read this: Exercise for Weight Loss: Aim for 300 Minutes a Week

Finally, whatever you do, remember this: Exercise Shouldn’t Feel Horrible

Good luck!
(Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash)

On restaurants loved and lost: Brothers

Brothers Restaurant Toronto

It’s Valentine’s Day, a good day to write a love letter to one of my favorite restaurants of all time, Brothers.

Brothers is a restaurant that should not have worked. Crowded between the entrance of the Bay Street subway and a downtown mall, there was barely room for anyone. One table in the window, a midsized bar, and a few tables in the back. Amongst all that a kitchen the size of a big closet nestled in a corner. It should not have worked, but in the short time it was around, it worked wonderfully.

You realized it was special when you first walked in, and I walked in often. I worked nearby, and whenever I needed a treat, I would wander over and sit at the bar and have lunch. I went so often that Chris who ran the front of place would warmly greet me after a time. (Later, as the place became extremely popular, Chris would sadly greet me after a time to tell me there was no room. It got so bad — for me, not them —  that I ended up scheduling lunch at 2ish just in the hopes of  getting a spot.)

While the service, atmosphere, and location were all great, what had me come back again and again was the food. The food was superb. I would take the hearty bread they offered and wipe down the plate to get every bit of it. The cooking was precise, simple and stellar. I loved to get something like sausage served with beans or vegetables and accompanied by a well chosen sauce. I’d take my time to slowly eat it, trying to appreciate and understand why it was so good. It was as much a cerebral as it was a sensory experience.

I would ask Chris about their tomato sauce or their green sauce, and he would tell me how they experimented with the amount of dairy or herb or whatever ingredient was in it to make the dish just right. And just right it was.

Most of the time I would get their sausage dish. The meat would change in the sausage, but it was always expertly balanced with seasoning. At first they may have been traditionally shaped, but later they were puck shaped. I loved that, and I loved them.

Sausage was not the only thing they excelled at. Pastas were always handmade, cooked to just the right texture, then served with a sauce better than any pasta sauce I ever had. Carpaccio was thin slices of whatever was appropriate for the season and accompanied with a light, lively dressing. The beef carpaccio was one of my favorite. They once said they could teach anyone to make it, but I doubt that. Fish, salad, dessert: whatever they made, they made well, listed it on their minimal menus, and I was happy and lucky to have it.

Brothers wasn’t around long, and in the time it was around, it lived three lives. The first was before the New York Times wrote about it, the second was after that article, and the third was the pandemic. Before the Times article, it was not too hard to get a seat there. They didn’t even take reservations. After the Times article, it was very hard to get in. There were weeks when I could not get a spot at the bar.  It got so busy they went with a reservation system. It slowed down a bit, but it was always popular.

Until the pandemic occurred. That was their last life. They tried to pivot to take out, and I did a curbside pickup of a wonderful meal from them. In the end they decided they didn’t want to be that kind of place and closed it down.

Lots of places have gone due to the pandemic. Some of them would have gone regardless. Not Brothers. If there was no pandemic, I am sure it would still be running, still sliding plates of that chewy soft bread and warm mixed olives and perfectly cooked food for me and you to delight in. I am going to miss many places because of the pandemic, but I think I will miss Brothers most of all.

(From more on it, see the New York Times article, or this blogTO piece. Images from the blogTO piece.

Check out their old web site. It’s simple but smart, just the way it used to be.

Finally this Google link will show you a wealth of photos for the place.)

 

On how I resolved my problems installing Big Sur on my MacBook Air

Mac keyboard
Recently I tried to upgrade my Mac from Catalina to Big Sur. I have done OS upgrades in the past without any problems. I assumed it would be the same with Big Sur. I was wrong.

I am not sure if the problem was with Big Sur or the state of my Mac. I do know my MacBook Air was down to less than 20 GB free.  When I tried to install Big Sur, my Mac first started complaining about that. However after I freed up more space (just above 20 GB) it proceeded with the install.

While it proceeded, it did not complete. No matter what I did, I could not get it to boot all the way up.  Recovery mode did not resolve the problem. Internet recovery mode would allow me to install Mac OS Mojave, but not Catalina or Big Sur.

Initially I tried installing Mojave, but after the install was complete, I got a circle with a line through it (not a good sign). I tried resetting NVRAM or PRAM and that helped me get further, but even as I logged in, I could not get the MacOS to fully boot up (it just went back to the login).

Eventually I did the following:

  1. Bought a 256 GB flash drive. Mine was from Kingston. I bought a size that matched my drive. I could have gotten away with a smaller one, but I was tired and didn’t want to risk not having enough space to use it as a backup.
  2. Put the flash drive into the Mac (I had a dongle to connect regular USB to USB-C)
  3. Booted up the mac by going into Internet recovery mode
  4. Went into disk utilities and made sure my Macintosh HD, Macintosh HD – Data and KINGSTON drive were mounted. (I used the MOUNT button to mount them if they weren’t mounted).
  5. Ran FIRST AID on all disks.
  6. Left Disk Utility. Clicked on Utilities > Terminal
  7. Copied my most important files from Macintosh HD – DATA to KINGSTON (both of them could be found in the directory /Volumes. For example, /Volumes/KINGSTON.)  The files I wanted to backup were in /Volumes/Macintosh*DATA/Users/bernie/Documents (I think).
  8. Once I copied the files onto the USB Drive — it took hours —  I checked to make sure they were there.  I then got rid of a lot more files from the Documents area on my hard drive. After careful deleting, I had about 50 GB free. At one point I was talking to AppleCare and the support person said: yeah, you need a lot more than 20 GB of free space. So I made a lot.
  9. Then I went back into Disk Utility and erased Macintosh HD
  10. This is important: I DID NOT ERASE Macintosh HD – DATA! Note: before you erase any drive using the Disk Utility, pursue other options, like contacting AppleCare.  I did not erase Macintosh HD – DATA in order to save time later on recovering files. I was only going to erase it as a very last resort. It turns out I was ok with not erasing it. The problem were all on the Macintosh HD volume, the volume I DID erase.)
  11. Once I did that, I shut down and then came up in Internet Recovery Mode again. THIS TIME, I had the option of installing Big Sur (not Mojave). I installed Big Sur. It created a new userid for me: it didn’t recognize my old one.
  12. I was able to login this time and get the typical desk top. So that was all good.
  13. Now here is the interesting part: my computer now had two Macintosh HD – Data drives: an old one and a new one. What I did was shutdown and go into Internet Recovery Mode again and mounted both drives. I also mounted the KINGSTON USB drive. Then I moved files from the old Macintosh HD – Data to the new one. (You can use the mv command in Terminal. I did, plus I also did cp -R for recursive copying).
  14. My Mac is now recovered. Kinda. I mean, there are all sort of browser stuff that needed to be recovered. I had to reinstall all my favorite apps. Etc. But it is a working MacBook.

All in all, I learned a ton when it comes to recovering a Mac. If you are reading this because your Mac is in a similar situation, I wish you success.

While I was trying to do the repair, these links were helpful:

(Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash)

My cooking projects for the month of February and March (maybe)

scallops in cream sauce

This is the second in a list of (aspirational?) cooking projects/lists. I say aspirational because I only cooked a fraction of what I planned to cook with the last one. Ah well. It’s good to have a goal. It’s fun to share cooking ideas too. Plus I will look back years from now and think either: oh yeah that was delicious, or, what was I thinking? 🙂

Here’s my latest list:

TikTok Cooking: TikTok is influencing a lot of things these days, including cooking. The baked feta dish I had and it was delicious! Here’s one version of it:
baked feta with tomatoes and chickpeas from smitten kitchen. Another thing I saw people do was the tortilla fold. Haven’t done that yet but want to try it. Here’s more on it: The TikTok tortilla trend is a quesadilla with extra fun folded in – The Washington Post

Kimchi: I have a desire for kimchi and I have a big jar in the fridge. Here’s two recipes I want to try using it. Both are simple but both look delicious: Kimchi and Ketchup Fried Rice and Kimchi Roasted Salmon

Meatballs: I’ve been craving meatballs lately. I’ve made two of these: this one Crispy Sheet-Pan Meatballs with Salsa Verde Recipe from Bon Appétit and this one: A Newsletter #14 from Alison Roman’s newsletter. I haven’t tried this Mojo Meatballs Recipe from Bon Appétit or this tomato-glazed meatloaves with brown mashed potatoes but I want to. I love Greek flavours, so I may make this too:
Easy Greek Lamb Meatballs Recipe with Dill Dipping Sauce.

Dill/Greek flavours! Speaking of dill and Greek flavours, here’s a ton of recipes to use up that dill: 20 Best Dill Recipes – What to Make With Dill | Kitchn. Still want more dill recipes? Head back to Alison Roman’s newsletter for that.

Moving from dill to greek, here’s a nice looking Lemony Garlic Chicken and Orzo Soup from Half Baked Harvest. And finally, yes, more meatballs:
One Skillet Greek Meatballs and Lemon Butter Orzo. – Half Baked Harvest

Garlic soup: I was wanting to make garlic soup so I did some recipe research on it. I tried one of these, but the result was underwhelming, despite using good ingredients. Not sure why it was a dud. Need to retry. Meanwhile, here’s some recipes:

Soup and salad: here’s some more soups I want to try, and one salad I have tried and enjoyed: Miso Soup from Mark Bittman, and since I have a lot of lentils, Vegan Red Lentil Stew from Budget Bytes. If you want a reliable salad to go with all your pasta dishes, I recommend this: Italian Chopped Salad Recipe from Bon Appétit

This is a real project: I love Dan Dan noodles. I have a recipe for them that approximates the taste, but is not the same. THIS recipe seems like it would be more like it, but I am not sure I can find all these ingredients: Dan Dan Noodles: Authentic Sichuan Recipe from The Woks of Life


Indian / Asian flavoured dishes:
that’s a poor description for a list of great looking dishes. Give your slow cooker a workout with this: Slow-Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe from Real Simple or this Slow-Roast Gochujang Chicken Recipe from Bon Appétit. For something faster, there is Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce from Damn Delicious. And if you want to work your sheet pan, there’s Sheet-Pan Garam Masala Chicken Recipe via Bon Appétit.

Skewers: I’ve been wanting skewers lately. Really any meat marinated, cut into cubes and combined with fruit or veg will do, as this argues: How to Make Skewers for Pork, Chicken, Steak, and More | Bon Appétit. That said, here’s a specific recipe I may try: Grilled Sirloin Skewers with Peaches & Peppers Recipe from MyRecipes

Good sides: are good. Salad always works, as does simple rice. For something a bit finer, there is this: Muffin Tin Cheesy Potato Gratins Recipe from BettyCrocker.com

Bistro: I’ve been think a lot about bistro food this winter. Maybe it was after reading how this woman turned a cookbook into a cooking school: The Balthazar Cookbook: My Personal Cooking School. Here’s some nice recipes I found from Chatelaine: Bistro lentils with sausage and French bistro steak & tomatoes.  This  Apple Crunch Tart by David Lebovitz would go well in any bistro. As would this Sole with Lemon-Butter Sauce Recipe from Martha Stewart

Kosari/No recipe meals: I am a fan of recipes that are more like guidelines than strict instructions. If you are a fan of that too, try this: This Koshari Recipe is Easy to Make and Comes Together With Whatever Leftover Grain and Beans You’ve Got from Bon Appétit. If you prefer a recipe, then this will get you there: Koshari Recipe from Food.com

Tacos! And slow cookers:  I love slow cookers and I love tacos. So I think I will love these two recipes, one for beef, Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef from Kitchn and one for pork, Crispy Pork Carnitas (Mexican Slow Cooked Pulled Pork) from Cafe Delites

Fancy: I made this for my daughter and it came out well: Pan-Seared Sea Scallops with Cauliflower Purée and Fried Capers – Recipe from FineCooking. Next time I might add a bit of milk or other dairy to make the sauce creamier, but otherwise excellent. (The top image is it.)

Fun: I used to love an Orange Julius when I was a kid, so I will be trying this: Homemade Pineapple Orange Julius from Budget Bytes. I love a good breakfast sandwich, and although I am lazy in the morning I might give this a go: BA’s Best Breakfast Sandwich Recipe | Bon Appétit

Finally: a good pantry meal for busy weeknight is this: Cajun Salmon Burgers Budget Bytes. I might try this soon…it’s simple but perfect (and sorta bistro): Cast-Iron Roast Chicken with Crispy Potatoes Recipe | Bon Appétit. I have made a number of these recipes and they were great. Perfect for winter: 7 Delicious—And Pantry Friendly—Casserole Recipes | Chatelaine. And while I can’t say they make these pork chops in Vietnam, I can say it has flavours you have come to expect from Vietnamese food, and is likely delicious:
Vietnamese Pork Chops Recipe from Alison Roman/Bon Appétit

There was a lot of Alison Roman recipes in this, from the meatballs to the pork chops. But lots more as well, including Chatelaine, which has many great recipes. Let me know if you make any of them!

Smartwatches: more than just the Apple Watch

 

There was a flurry of smart watches coming on the market a few years ago. But that seemed to have died down. Now after reading this,
Innovative smartwatch designs that are the perfect culmination of form, functionality and style! | Yanko Design, I wonder if there will be a new outbreak of smart watches. Apple’s Watch is great, but it can’t be all things to all people.  To see what others are doing, check out that Yanko Design post. (The braille watch, shown above, is one example of smart watch design that is unique and brilliant.)

In praise of amateurs, young and old

Are you an amateur? Do you sometimes feel you can never accomplish anything doing something you love? Then here’s three good stories on amateurs doing great things you want to read:

  1. High school students discover exoplanets during mentoring program 
  2. Decades-Old Graph Problem Yields to Amateur Mathematician
  3. How older amateur athletes are staying fit through the pandemic

Not all amateurs can accomplish great things, but never let anyone tell you that amateurs are incapable of great things. Because surely they are. Go on, pursue the thing you love. Great things may result.

(Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash)

Will a $15 minimum wage in the US be a good thing?


If you are wondering if a $15 minimum wage in the US will be a good thing or not, read these two pieces:

  1. Economists reverse claims that $15 Seattle minimum wage hurt workers admit it was largely beneficial
  2. How new research is shaking up the debate about a $15 minimum wage

My belief is it will be a good thing. We may get a chance to see that soon.

(Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash)

Everything you wanted to know about the Filibuster

 

That is an odd title, because while there is much talk in the United States about the Filibuster, they are really only talking about the use of the filibuster in the U.S. Senate. Mind you, because of the composition of that current political body, there will be much more talk about it. If you want to have some context regarding it, read this: The History of the Filibuster

If you just want to know about filibusters in general, read this.

(Photo by Joshua Sukoff on Unsplash)

The arc of every long project and what you need to keep it mind

 

This chart came from John Hendrix.  It is much like the Gartner Hype Cycle but with some key differentiators.

At the beginning of John’s curve you get an idea and as you imagine it more and more, the idea may get better and better.  You get excited about it. By the time you are about to start, you can imagine how great it will turn out. But it is only an idea still.

Then you start the project. As you progress, the idea goes from being Great to Good to Ok to Horrid. At some point you enter The Pit of Despair (or as Gartner calls it, The Trough of Disillusionment). This is the low point of the project. Like John says: a) you want to give up b) this is normal. Think of it as the first draft of something.

How do you get out of the pit? By applying yourself. By sticking to it. Slowly it gets better. It goes from Horrid to Ok to Good. It may even get to Great.  What will happen for sure is that it will Suck Less. (A concept I learned from Austin Kleon.)

When you have finished the project,  you may notice two things. One, it is different than how you imagined it. Two there is still a gap between what you had hoped for or imagined and what you had accomplished. It’s important here to acknowledge that and also acknowledge how far you’ve come and how good it is.

John’s chart is for art projects, but it can be applied to fitness projects, IT projects, home improvement projects….you name it.

Japan: more different than you might think

When I think of Japan, I think of cherry blossoms, Mt. Fuji, busy Tokyo streets, temples, sushi, and a homogenous society with very few outsiders. It turns out the last one is not really true. To see what I mean, read this: How homogeneous is Japan? – Noahpinion.

The author, Noah Smith, has depth when it comes to things Japanese and it shows in that piece. I highly recommend him in general, not just for things about Japan. But if your ideas of Japan haven’t changed in some time, that piece will give your brain a much needed upgrade.

To my daughter on her big birthday

It’s my daughter’s birthday today. It’s been a better quarter century with her in the world and in my world especially.

Fifteen years ago I helped her set up a blog where she could write about her summer: SRM @ 110. Just a few years ago I helped her set up a home page on github: Sophie Reich-Michalik. And twelve years ago I wrote this advice to someone who is (more or less) 25 | Smart People I Know.  Perhaps she can find some value with this too. I give her lots of advice. Some is even taken. 🙂

Happy birthday, Sophie! You’re the best! (I know, she always replies. :))

 

 

 

It’s February. A great month. Here’s why

I used to think February was a terrible month. In Canada it is one of the coldest and darkest parts of the year. By the time you get to this month, you’ve already been slogging through months of winter. The joy of Christmas and the New Year has worn off. February is bleak.

Now I think February is a great month. It’s a good month to make resolutions and challenge yourself. It’s a good month to get things done indoors. And it’s a good month to get ready for spring.

If you have to make resolutions or challenges for yourself, make them in February, not January. The latter has 31 days, the former at worst has 29. So if you are trying to exercise every day for a month or not drink for a month or…whatever….you have less days to get to your accomplishment. You will still have a sense of accomplishment and you will have an easier time accomplishing things.

In the cold northern hemisphere, you are likely spending more time indoors, so do some excellent indoor things. Why not take that time and start a new hobby? Or purge your closet/basement/attic of stuff you always wanted to get rid of? Or lie down and binge watch that show you always have been planning to binge watch? Soon Spring is coming and you will want to get outside. Now is the time to tackle all that.

Once you have done your indoor tasks, plan to do your outdoor activities. If you are going to do gardening in the spring, figure out how to do that in February. If you want to get a bike to do cycling in spring, start researching where to get the best bike before March comes. Whatever you want to do in spring, start thinking and planning for it now before it’s too late.

For more on why February is a great month, see this: February resolutions – Austin Kleon

(Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash)

A good tool to help you stop doomscrolling…

Is scrollaby mentioned here: This App Can Help You Fall Asleep During Your Nightly Doomscroll | Apartment Therapy.

It can be too easy to just reach for your phone when you can’t sleep. If this is you, this may be a good alternative to stay off social media.

(Photo by Mark Broadhead on Unsplash)

January pandemic highlights and ramblings (a newsletter, in blog form, a month late)

Hey! How has your new year been? Mine has not started great: January was both tough and busy. I kept trying to get to this, but somehow never had the energy or the focus to write it. Now I have found both. Thanks for dropping by and reading this, my latest not-a-newsletter of highlights and ramblings since the last one in December.

Pandemic: we are now in the phase of the pandemic where we are being told in Canada to hurry up and wait concerning the vaccines. It’s been slow to get them, and slow to deliver them. The rate of progress has been discouraging. To make it worse, more variants of the COVID-19 virus have appeared, variants that spread more rapidly. I feel like someone on the Titanic waiting for my turn on a lifeboat while the ship takes on more water. And I am lucky to be able to stay at home and stay healthy. Meanwhile doctors are hospitals are overwhelmed and hanging on. Barely.

Vox took time to try and figure out why Covid-19 beat social distancing, lockdowns, and “flatten the curve”. Reading that could give you some consolation.

Of course, everyone had their monocausal explanations for why we are still struggling with the pandemic. The premier of Ontario brought in another lockdown because he said people are traveling too much. That’s one explanation, but not the only one.

In the early part of the pandemic I felt governments were strong on taking actions. They were like sprinters at the start of a marathon. Then things petered out. For example, the Federal government funded a Toronto COVID-19 isolation hotel. They pumped big money into the economy. Provinces like Ontario provided pandemic pay for frontline workers fighting COVID-19. But I never felt like they tried as hard recently as they did initially.

That’s not to say it is easy and they aren’t trying. This piece explains why
it’s so hard to ramp up Ontario’s COVID-19 testing. Yet it still seems like things are half hearted these days.

It’s not all grim, though much is. We have adopted. Sweatpants for instance :). And we are trying to maintain some form of work-life balance, but as my head boss says,  achieving healthy work-life balance in a hybrid work environment ‘remains to be seen’. Some of us are making unique friends (Riding Out Quarantine With a Chatbot Friend: ‘I Feel Very Connected’).  Some people tried to get out of their old pandemic habits and live better by taking on a Dry January. Others have taken up unusual self help books, such as this: A working from home manual in disguise.

I believe by the end of 2021 we will have put this pandemic behind us. Perhaps we will see a Roaring Twenties to match those of a century ago. Let’s hope, and for those who pray, let’s pray. Most importantly, let’s get vaccinated. If you want to know more about vaccines  in Canada, go here. More on that here.

Last word on this subject. If you want to know how others are getting through the pandemic, this is good: The Pandemic Logs in The New York Times.

The US: finally, after much nonsense, the worst president the United States ever had left the White House. What a long terrible four years it has been for America and the world with him nominally in charge. Whatever else the new president does, the fact that he is at least competent and not corrupt will be good for that country. I am hopeful for America, and my American friends, and I am looking forward to things getting better for them in the years to come.

Restaurants: I was drawn to this piece that Bon Appetit did some time ago on the best restaurants in Toronto . I wonder how many will still be around when all this is over. Some of them have taken to becoming takeout places, like this Michelin-starred restaurant, but many have not. Even for those that did, it might not be enough to get through to the other side of the pandemic.

Gamestop: It has a bizarre time in the world of finance as several forces came together to drive stocks like Gamestock into the stratosphere, only to crash down again. In some ways, it was a bit of a mystery to me. Just when I thought I understood the story, so me new fact would come along. There was a number of good pieces on it. This one, for example: The GameStop Reckoning Was a Long Time Coming

Jeff Bezos and Amazon:  Jeff Bezos has left Amazon. No doubt he was not looking forward to more grilling from the government into his monopolistic practices. I don’t have much to say about him, other than he did  not seem to be a person you want to work for. Here’s hoping Amazon becomes a better place with the new CEO. Meanwhile here’s some markers on the man who ran that company. Like Larry Ellison and unlike Steve Jobs, I doubt he will be missed:

Quantity over quality : there is a great book called Art and Fear which gives lessons on making art. One of my favorite parts of it has to do with how a ceramics class was split into two: one group were given the task of making many vases (quantity) and another group of making one vase (quality). The first group would pit their best vase against the second group. In the story, the first group wins. The lesson: quantity beats quality. I love that story.

Sadly, the story isn’t entirely true. The details on that are here: The Credibility Is in the Details.

Recent blog highlights: here are some things I blogged about in January that I thought were worth reading:

Finally: here is an interactive web site where you can be a cat playing the bongos. Worthwhile! 🙂

And don’t forget…

Good news is coming. Meanwhile, thanks as always for taking the time to read this newsletter, and other things on this blog. I appreciate it.

 

A good American list of wines that Canadians can use

Most of the time, I find that wine recommendations for Americans are useless for Canadians to adopt, because most of the wines recommended are not available in Canada. This list of wine recommendations is different:  50 Affordable Wines You Can Always Trust | Food & Wine.

A majority of the wines are available, at least in Ontario. And needless to say, the wines are good. If you are looking for some new wine ideas, check the list.

 

The problems with supertall towers

I am not a fan of supertall towers. They are bland looking, and they add little to a skyline. Therefore I was glad to see this week that they are being exposed for being problematic. First up was this piece in the New York Times on how one of them has been having lots of problems:  The Downside to Life in a Supertall Tower: Leaks, Creaks, Breaks.  Then there was a more general critique of them here:  Why Pencil Towers are Problematic.

It seems to me that there are some problems with the buildings that not even super-engineering can fix. Perhaps this means that this is the beginning of the end of supertall buildings. I can hope.

(Image link to NYtimes.com)

If you need help in designing a simple(r) life….

…you can find it  here at this site:  No Sidebar – Design a Simple Life

The clutter in my house has seemed more oppressive since the pandemic. Maybe you have the same experience. If so, sites like that can help.

(Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash)

 

The anti-smartphone

I love this! Not just for the design, but for the thinking behind the design. To see what I mean, read: An Anti-Smartphone With a Rotary Designed and Built by Space Engineer Justine Haupt | Colossal

Contrarian or anti-design patterns get us to rethink the technology we take for granted. One of the reasons I love it.

A novel theory of procrastination


I write a fair bit about procrastination because I tend to put things off more than I want. If you struggle with this problem too, I recommend you read this theory of ….Why Procrastinators Procrastinate — Wait But Why

I think there is more to it than this, but it is an interesting theory. Worth a read.

The pandemic isn’t over and neither is working from home. Why are you working like before times?


Until recently, I was working like I always did: get up, get coffee, start work around 9 and finish work around 5 while sitting in the same place for the whole time. Then I read this:Working From Bed Is Actually Great – The New York Times.

After reading it, I thought: why am I working like I used to? Why not take advantage of being at home to work better? For example, last week I was working on a hard problem and I was sitting at my desk and getting nowhere. I decided to go out for a walk. After about 20 minutes of walking the solution came to me. I went home and wrote it up!

Likewise I have weights next to my desk now. When I get stuck I get up an do a microworkout. Other times I will take a break and do a drawing. Or stretch. Anything to get my brain going.

Consider shaking up your own work routine. I know for some people, that’s impossible. End of story. But if it is not impossible, try doing what I did. Or work from a different part of the house. Even the bed.

We are going to be working from home for some time. Let’s make the most of it.

(Photo by Avi Richards on Unsplash)

 

What do Bernie Sanders, billionaires, global warming and you have in common?


What Bernie Sanders, billionaires, global warming and you all have in common is this: you are all mentioned in one or more of these articles I found on economics. All good pieces.

  1. Sanders & Socialism: Debate Between Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman & Socialist Economist Richard Wolff | Democracy Now!
  2. Free exchange – Why Americans and Britons work such long hours | Finance & economics | The Economist
  3. Billionaires should be taxed out of existence, says Thomas Piketty
  4. The technological and economic prospects for CO 2 utilization and removal | Nature
  5. Daily chart – How much would giving up meat help the environment? | Graphic detail | The Economist
  6. The Flaws a Nobel Prize-Winning Economist Wants You to Know About Yourself
  7. Frederick Douglass Railed Against Economic Inequality

(Photo by rupixen.com on Unsplash)

Muji, but for houses


Now wait, you say, Muji makes things for homes. Well, yes m they do, but they also make homes. To see what I mean, see these links:

If you love Muji, you’ll love these links. How practical any of them would be in a Canadian winter, I don’t know, but they are inspiring in their own way.

Image is of the prefab hut.

If you need some inexpensive wall art to freshen up your place, here are 27 ideas

I have to say, having seen the rooms people work out of, you people really need some wall hangings. Seriously, those walls are dull! 🙂

Things are not hopeless, though. You can have nice and inexpensive things to freshen up those walls if you go here:

27 Inexpensive Posters You’ll Actually Want To Hang On Your Wall

There’s something there to appeal to everyone. For example, I like this:

It doesn’t work, but it is far classier than the button Trump had on his desk the resulted in a diet Coke for him whenever someone pressed it.

Will interest in the topic of fascism fade in the US?


Looking at this Google Trends line, there were two peak periods when there was a strong interest in fascism in the US: at the beginning of Trump’s term and towards the end. While those were peaks, there was much talk about fascism through his period in office. As he fades away (rots in jail?), I expect that interest to die off now the US has a new president. Let’s hope.

Meanwhile, the more and more I became convinced of the fascist behavior of the Trump administration, the more I started to read about it. Two links I found interesting were these:

  1. What 1930s political ideologies can teach us about the 2020s | Aeon Essays
  2. The Best Books on Fascism | Five Books Expert Recommendations

If you are interesting / worried about the rise of neo-fascism, I recommend those links.

(Image is one of the best books on fascism).

The worst ever president of the United States of America (revised) is…

No longer this guy:

Three years ago I argued Buchanan was the worst president, here:
The worst ever president of the United States of America is… | Smart People I Know

But a lot has happened in three years, and I now agree with Tim Naftali who argues that: Trump Is the Worst President in History – The Atlantic.

He makes a strong case. Not only that, but we haven’t even begin to know all the bad things Trump has done.

There have been many bad presidents, from Harding to Johnson to Nixon. But Trump takes the “prize” for being the worst.

On the new Raspberry Pi products: the 400 and the Pico

Years ago I worried if  the future for Raspberry Pi would dim. I am happy to say I worried for nothing. The good folks at Raspberry Pi continue to stride boldly into the future with new and better products. Case in point: the Pi 400 and the Pi Pico.

The 400 has been out for a short time, but it is still fairly new. If you are wondering if it could be effective for everyday use,  read this: Raspberry Pi 400 for working and learning at home – Raspberry Pi. I am seriously thinking of getting one for some basic day to day computing.

As the Pi Pico, it is brand new! If you are a fan of the Pi for IoT work, the Pico could be the device you want. To see what I mean, read this: Meet Raspberry Silicon: Raspberry Pi Pico now on sale at $4 – Raspberry Pi. I have order four! I can’t wait to try it out.

The future looks bright for Raspberry Pi.

It’s Monday! First up: dealing with your procrastination

Let’s face it: Monday is a good day to deal with tasks you’ve been putting off. So you write them down, say: this week I will deal with these! And then….you don’t.

It’s ok. Procrastination is a complex thing. If you don’t believe me, read this:
‘Why Do I Spend Weeks Avoiding Tasks That Will Take Me 10 Minutes to Do?’

So much of our culture rewards us for meeting deadlines, so we are encouraged to do things at the last minute. That can encourage our use of procrastination. Likewise, many of us do not acknowledge we have ebbs and flows of energy as well as ebbs and flow of mood. If we were to acknowledge that, we would schedule tasks when we know we have energy and in a good mood.

Read the article and pick out the things that contribute to your putting things off (e.g. mood). Then schedule and do those things that have been on your todo list for so so long.

Good luck!

(Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash)

On restaurants loved and lost: the Boulevard Cafe

On Harbord Street in the 1980s I fell in love with the Boulevard Cafe. My life was just starting, and my girlfriend and I were living just up the street from it, on Brunswick Avenue. We would stroll down and line up with the other people in the area for the wonderful Peruvian style food they had there.

It was the first time I learned to love fish. I come from Nova Scotia, but the fish was prepared terribly when I was growing up. Plus fish was associated with poor people food, unlike all the packaged food I wanted. I hated it.

Or I did until I had the Boulevard’s sea bass. (Sea bass was big in the 80s.) They would gently cook it and serve it with a perfect combo of delicious salad and fragrant rice.  I was instantly transformed into a fish lover after that first meal. Many a fish meal I had after that, and all were great.

And their soups. Their soups were incredible. I once had a garlic soup there that was so good that I still recall it decades later. It was simple, and yet I have often had garlic soup elsewhere and it never compared. They had many great dishes there, but the soup and the fish kept me coming back.

When we first started going, it was popular but not too busy. There was seating on both floors, and half of the upstairs was just a seating area where you could sip your drink and enjoy their  fireplace. I remember one night we were sitting there next to the fire, looking out over Harbord Street as a nice snowfall floated down covering everything. I could have stayed all night.

Later on the word got out and it got busier. The lovely seating area was replaced with more tables. The patio area in the summer was jammed with everyone enjoying the wonderful flavours that came out of the small kitchen in the back.

I was shocked to be riding my bicycle across Harbord Street a few summers ago and seeing it all closed up. It was then I took those photos. It was so good, I thought it would last forever. I stood there for quite awhile and remembered all the wonderful times of my youth sitting outside under the awning and living the good life with great friends and great food. I am lucky to have had such a time.

(In the top photo you can see the chimney where the fireplace was. In the bottom photo you can see the main doors that led to the dining room on the lower floor. The bulletin board would list all the specials. There would be tables put in front of the benches, and you either sat on the benches or chairs opposite. In the evening the lights would come on and it would seem magical.)

P.S. Over at Zomato there is still a copy of the menu and some other photos.

 

The last works of seven famous artists

This is interesting and something I’d like to see more of: the final works of famous artists. At Artnet.com they have at least seven of them: the Poetic, Heartbreaking Final Paintings of 7 Famous Artists, From Salvador Dalí to Marcel Duchamp.(They kinda gush a bit in that title. :))

Here is the last one from Dali:

That is interesting in itself. (Dali is always interesting.) But what makes it more interesting to me, as someone interested in the form of mathematics known as catastrophe theory, was that Dali was interested in and and inspired by it too. As artnet explaiins:

During the last years of his life, Dalí became obsessed with the mathematical catastrophe theory developed by French mathematician René Thom, who suggested that there are seven “elementary catastrophes” that occur: fold, cusp, swallowtail, butterfly, hyperbolic umbilic, elliptic umbilic, and parabolic umbilic. This painting, with its generous curves and sharp edges, mimics these catastrophic events in black lines painted atop what appears to be a crinkled white sheet of paper. The organic curves of a cello appear to one side along with, perhaps as a reference to his own famous facial feature, a handlebar mustache…

Fascinating.