Still Life is underrated. Let this interactive piece help with that

Still life is underrated. You won’t see crowds of people blocking the view of paintings of food and drink and plates. That’s somewhat understandable, but also too bad. To help promote the greatness of this painting genre, I’d encourage people to take this in:  Dutch Still Life – an interactive guide from the New York Times. It’s a fantastic study of one painting and what it can tell us. What all still life can tell us, really. A feast.

(Above image of Dutch still life taken at the National Gallery in London by me.)

Two pieces on people Doing the Thing despite Difficulty

Some people find it motivating to see people doing the thing (in this case art and running) despite challenges. If that’s you, then you may find these pieces worthwhile:

I admire people struggling and working to do the thing they love, despite their physical challenges. But I don’t romanticize the physical challenge. And I wish them (and all of us) the best of good fortune in overcoming it.

Computer memory isn’t our memory and AI isn’t our intelligence


Since the beginning of the digital age, we have referred to quickly retrievable computer storage as “memory”. It has some resemblance to memory, but it has none of the complexity of our memories and how they work. If you talked to most people about this, I don’t think there would be many who would think they are the same.

Artificial Intelligence isn’t our Intelligence, regardless of how good it gets. AI is going to have some resemblance to our intelligence, but it has none of the complexity of our intelligence and how it works. Yet you can talk to many who think that over time they will become the same.

I was thinking about that last week after the kerfuffle from the Google engineer who exclaimed their software was sentient. Many many think pieces have been written about it; I think this one is the best I read from a lay person’s perspective. If you are concerned about it or simply intrigued, read that. It’s a bit harsh on Turing’s test, but I think overall it’s worth your time.

It is impressive what leaps information technology is making. But however much it resembles us as humans, it is not human. It will not have our memories. It will not have our intelligence. It will not have the qualities that make us human, any more than a scarecrow does.

A sharp critique on stoicism

It seems to me that Stoicism has had a good run recently. I have seen plenty of references to stoicism and famous stoics, and those references have been positive. So it was refreshing to come across this piece, Don’t be stoic: Roman Stoicism’s origins show its perniciousness. The whole piece is worthwhile, but the closing especially so:

The world stands in the middle of a pandemic, a climate crisis, and, in many countries, our own crises of (at least quasi-) democratic self-governance. It may be tempting to embrace a philosophy that counsels us not to be sad, not to mourn the things we’ve lost, to accept all that happens as fate, and to do our duty even as the world crumbles around us. But we should not write speeches for Nero; nor should we glorify the power of the emperor. We should mourn our families when bad things happen to them, our cities when they are threatened, our houses when they burn or flood. It is not easy to feel grief, and it is tempting to seek out exercises to suppress it. But to look around the world and feel the pain of injustice, to understand and wallow in the hurt of the natural world – this is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of humanity, and the first step towards taking action. Because if you accept your fate joyfully, as a Stoic sage should, you’ll never try to change it.

Well said. There are times when change is impossible and suffering inevitable and in such times stoicism (and other philosophies of detachment) can help. More often than not, change is possible and suffering is optional. In those times, you need a better philosophy to guide you. Keep than in mind while reading Marcus Aurelius or Seneca.

In praise of ritual


I am not sure about this, but these two pieces argue that ritual is the thing you need to live a better life:

I can see value in ritual. But ritual can be as bad as a habit in that they both can lock you into behaviours that limit your life rather than freeing it. But read and judge for yourself.

Not that ritual is essential. Sometimes just a good habit can help. For example, the artist Charles Ray walks to Burger King every day and finds value in that.

Here’s eight good pieces reflecting the state of work these days

I wanted to say the state of work is in flux these days due to the pandemic, but I have to admit that work is always in a state of flux, regardless of what is going on in the world. Here’s eight pieces that reflect that:

  1. According to VOX,  employees don’t want to return to the office . If the pandemic had lasted less than a year, we might not have seen this. But two years later, many people have adjusted and settled.
  2. Still, some are going back to the office. It will be interesting how this looks in a year.
  3. For those working at home, try and find an employer that does not use such surveillance. Such companies do not care about you at all.
  4. If you are going to look for a new job, here’s how to get your resume past the robots .
  5. If you are considering how to balance work and non-work, here may be the best thing ever written about “work-life balance” according to Austin Kleon .
  6. Whatever you do, do not write open letters complaining about your employer, especially AT WORK. Sheesh. I know I am old, but this is a terrible idea and I am not surprised that SpaceX fired the open letter writers.
  7. Here’s a good piece on how the billable hour is a trap into which more and more of us are falling. For some jobs, the billable hour is important. But find other ways to show your value to your clients, your employer and your co-workers.
  8. And finally, whatever you do, remember that you are more than your job title. 

How to grow old, and other things I learned from my Father and his Father

My dad in 2012, around his 72nd birthday, looking over the land he would someday buy

My dad had two dreams late in life. One was to win a (relatively) big lottery, which he did. The other was to buy the property behind his house, which he did some time after winning the lottery. He had played the lottery for years and played the same numbers consistently each week. I thought he would never win but he prevailed.

When I was a child my grandfather planted new fruit trees in his yard. I remember being stunned when he said that they might yield fruit in a decade or so. I could not see the point in spending effort on something you might not get to enjoy soon, if at all.

The lottery tickets and the fruit trees were small acts in support of a belief in a better future. That better future may not come, but the only way it could come would be to take some action and increase — if only in a small way — the chance it would happen.

Fatherhood is like that. You plant roots and you try your luck and work and hope for a better future that may not come, or come after you’re gone. You do it regardless.

Sons and daughters live off the luck and the land of their Fathers and Mothers before they set off to find their own. During their stay some seeds are taken, some luck rubs off, some lessons (intentional and otherwise) are learned along the way. Then they go.

After you go, you think there is nothing left to learn. But then you are old like they were old, and you learn lessons even then. Lessons like the importance of having dreams and goals no matter how old you are. Lessons like living like you will never die and acting accordingly. Or the overriding lesson of believing in a better future no matter what. Though the person passes away, the lessons are passed on, like the fruit that falls from that long ago planted tree.

Happy Father’s Day to us Fathers, living and not. We the living have much to learn, and trees to plant. Wish us luck.

On June being National Indigenous History Month in Canada (and other links)

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June is National Indigenous History Month in Canada. Here are some pieces I’ve been collecting over time that I thought worthwhile sharing.

Drinkable water for indigenous people in Canada is a serious problem that is ongoing and needs more focus from everyone. Here’s how the Government of Canada is investing in sustainable water infrastructure for Iqaluit. That’s some progress. And here’s a story on how one indigenous group solved their own drinking water problems. That’s promising. Also promising is this story on how one community at Shoal Lake that was on water advisories for 24 years now has its own award winning treatment plant. All good. We need more of this.

This piece on 5 Anishinabek First Nations in Ontario who have signed an agreement with Ottawa that would allow them to self-govern is also good to see.

The Pope will be coming to meet some of those who suffered as a result of the Residential School system. Here’s more on that from the CBC. Let’s pray for progress.

Finally, here’s a story on a fine initiative showing how one group of indigenous people are using technology to foster and maintain their culture. More on that here.

(Image link of a worker at the Shoal Lake water treatment facility.)

The beauty of the Elysée Shelving System, or not all furniture from the 70s is bad

While many of the furnishings of the 1970s should stay in that decade and never be revived, these shelves are an exception. As Designmilk.com explains, these shelves date

… back to the 70s, when Pierre Paulin was commissioned by President Pompidou to design furniture for the Elysée Palace’s private apartments, (but they were not) …. officially launched to the public until 2009 …

They make me think of the 70s, but they don’t scream it. They would work wonderfully with contemporary furniture today. Also highly expandable. Perfect for book collectors like myself.

For more on them, see: From a Palace to Your Home: The Elysée Shelving System.

On Apple, the Newton, the 90s and me

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For people now, it’s may be hard to imagine Apple as anything other than a tremendously successful company. But in the 90s, it was the opposite. Under John Sculley and others, it was in major decline and all but at death’s door before Steve Jobs came back.

In some ways the Newton you see above was emblematic of that time. It was a device that Apple tried to use to regain the magic that it once had. It failed, but in some ways it was a glorious failure. (The Powerbook also came out at that time and it was a fine machine but the problems of Apple were baked into it.)

I’ve always had a fondness for the Newton, and wanted one for a long time, even though I could not justify getting one. And then Jobs returned and tossed it in the bin like so much crumpled paper. It was a smart decision, but a sad one for me.

That’s why I was really interested to read this recently: The Newton at 30. It’s a great rundown on that device. Reading it, I was happy to see that some of the original ideas found in the Newton later made their way into other mobile products from Apple. Good ideas deserve a home, even if they were never going to find that home in the Newton.

In the 90s I had a small role in developing IBM software that ran on Macs and that allowed our customers to access our IBM Global Network via a Mac. I loved building Apple Software, even if it was a nightmare at times. (Writing software for a rapidly declining company is no easy thing.) At the time I got to work on the Powerbook 1400 and 3400 and hang out at Apple and play around with the emate 300. It was a good time despite the difficulty. I never got a Newton then, thought I got close.

Later in the second decade of the 21st century I finally got to buy my own Newton! Mint condition, from Kijiji. 100+ bucks! Funny, a device that was so cutting edge when it first came out seems so limited now! It was a good reminder how fast technology moves. I was still glad to have it. It’s a wonderfully collectable device.

For more on the Newton, click that link.

Happy Anniversary, Newton. You were truly ahead by a century.

On Cabaret, 50 years later

1972 was a very good year for film. Many of the films listed at that link are now seen as classics. One of them, The Godfather, is getting much of the focus this year for its 50th anniversary. While I’m glad people are revisiting and paying attention to that great film, another great film celebrating that milestone that people should also revisit is Cabaret.

Like The Godfather, Cabaret is a period film set in around World War II. Perhaps because of that, neither film feels dated / stuck in the 70s, the way a film like The Candidate might. You can watch them as if they were made in any decade. You can also watch and rewatch both of them because they remain great, half a century later.

To get a sense of what makes Cabaret so special, I recommend this piece: Cabaret at 50: Bob Fosse’s show-stopping musical remains a dark marvel. For fans like me, here are two pieces that allow you to do a deeper dive on the film and its background: 1) Is Bob Fosse’s Cabaret An Unfaithful Adaptation? | by Keith Schnabel | Medium and 2) That Controversial Cabaret Lyric Change – The Official Masterworks Broadway Site.

If you want to stream it but don’t know how, check this out: Cabaret streaming: where to watch movie online?

 

The Surprise of Rousseau (be surprising too)

Henri Rousseau is the Great Outsider. An outsider to the Establishment of the Art World, from the Salons to Picasso. Despite rejection and mockery, he persevered and painted and exhibited.

Recently the Guardian featured one of his masterpieces, Tiger in a Tropical Storm (also known as Surprised!). It is seen here. (That National Gallery link provides a nice interface you can use to zoom in and out of.) You can read more about the painting here. I highly recommend you check both of those sites out.

In some way Rousseau surprised his fellow artists. Artists like Picasso were fans but mocked him too. You can read about that here (Le Banquet Rousseau: Picasso and Rousseau’s Friendship) and here (When Henri met Pablo, The Guardian).

Keep Rousseau in mind whenever you are doing something you love with little encouragement and even mockery. You may not be making something great, but you never know. Keep going nonetheless. Surprise them.

 

 

 

On Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg is leaving Facebook/Meta. I used to think at best she was weak tea. Like Eric Schmidt, she was brought in to provide a degree of professionalism and organizational skill missing from their respective companies and leadership. And like Schmidt, she left when that missing skill was no longer needed or wanted.

I think Sandberg benefitted from having someone like Zuckerberg as her boss. The worst aspects of Facebook were associated with him, while whatever nefarious actions she was taking were unrecognized. This is not to absolve him or say that she was the one to blame. It’s just to note that many of the terrible things that happened on her time at that company should also fall on her.

Right now I think her legacy will change and darken over time. It will certainly  be less bright than it was in her Lean In days. But who knows: she may pull a Bill Gates and go on to be someone who spends her time and efforts in being philanthropic and charming.

Whatever her future, here’s some things I’ve been reading now in mid 2022 about her leaving:

On my recurring pandemic dreams

During the pandemic I had a recurring dream that was unique to me. It’s not unlike the recurring dream people have about showing up to class and realizing there is a test. In my recurring dream I am travelling somewhere and I know this because I am on a boat or at an airport or in the process of transporting from A to B. But I can’t get to B. Something in the dream starts to come undone: the transportation breaks down, or I don’t have my travel documents, or I have to go back. I keep trying to prevent the breakdown, but it continues until I wake up. Or in some dreams, I say to myself: you are having the Failed Travel dream again, it’s not real.

I wonder if others have had a similar dream or their own dream during the pandemic?

I wanted to record this in case I forget that this occurred.

On the great painter, Christopher Pratt

Last week the great painter and printmaker Christopher Pratt died.

I was going to say Canadian or Newfoundland painter — for he was that — but it is better to leave off the modifiers. His greatness can stand against any painter of any time or place.  I am especially drawn to his hyperrealist paintings of roads and boats and houses. How the light in them changes, how your mood changes as you absorb them. There’s an abstraction to them, despite clearly recognizable imagery.

I’ve been a fan of his ever since I read Jay Scott write so eloquently of him back in the late 80s, early 90s and which was captured in this book, The Prints of Christopher Pratt 1958-1991 by Jay Scott; Christopher Pratt – 1991.

Canada has had many great painters. While many people say Colville is their favorite — especially when it comes to east coast artists —  I have always preferred the work of Pratt.

Though he lived and painted in Newfoundland, for decades he’s been represented by the Mira Godard Gallery in Toronto. If you want to read more about him or see his fine work, go there.

(The image above, Summer on the SouthEast, is a link to the Mira Godard website. I can just feel the heat of the east coast summer as I look at it. I can hear the drone of flies, see the brightness of the sun. It’s perfect.)

 

 

On retiring my COVID-19 reporting (for now)


Recently I was reporting COVID-19 data daily. I wrote a program called covid.py that scraped the Ontario.ca Covid web site and and pulled out data for hospitalization and cases. It was a rough but useful gauge to see how COVID was going in Ontario, and I was able to get the information in a snap.

Unfortunately the information is no longer posted on the page I was visiting with my code. The data is out there somewhere in the datasets, but I think I will reconsider things before modifying my code. It is a shame that the data is harder to get though.

All these actions by government organizations to make it harder to get data is a bit frustrating. I read people say: you should track the pandemic and make good decisions. It’s hard to do that though when the information is hard to get.

For more information and data:  Government of Ontario data sets on COVID-19 are here. Government of Canada COVID-19 information is here. More on my code, here.

 

On Getting Things Done

The book and system Getting Things Done (GTD) has been around for so long that I used to assume that everyone knew of it and used it. Lately I’ve been reminded that is not true.

Well, if you haven’t heard of GTD and forgot about it, this primer on it may be just the things you need to (re)acquaint yourself with it.

I have issues with GTD, but if you are someone who feels like you can never get all the things you have to do organized and get yourself feeling productive, then get using GTD. You will get more productive, for sure.

How to grow a garden in your kitchen

According to Yanko Design, This smart cabinet gives you the self-sustaining kitchen garden you’ve always wanted.

Not just some pots with plants, this unit has a smart system to give your plants healthier and hopefully longer.

Check it out. For people who yearn to have plants in their homes but have brown thumbs like me, it could be just the thing you need.

 

On Davis Day, and other histories of Cape Breton

Today is Davis Day in Cape Breton. It’s now known as Miners Memorial Day, but growing up we honoured this day and thought about William Davis and all the sacrifices miners and their families suffered over the years as they struggled to live better lives. It was a solemn day. You can read more about it here: Miners Memorial Day: Davis Day | Museum of Industry. Here’s a good piece on how this day is still relevant in places like my home town of Glace Bay.

Over the last while I have been collecting these links regarding Cape Breton history which I thought worthwhile and you may as well:

(Image from a link and comes from the Beaton Institute)

The water works of Maya Lin


The last few days have been taken up with blogging about artists. Here’s one last one from Colossal: The Precious Nature of Water Ripples Through Maya Lin’s Sprawling Installations.

You may know Lin through her memorial work, but she is a brilliant artist as well. The image above is just a taste of her work featured in Colossal: you really want to go to that site to get the details.

After that, go visit her site for more fine work.

 

Six pieces on six fine artists


Sticking with yesterday’s them, here are seven good pieces on artists that I’ve read recently that are good and worth reading:

  1. Unlike the Basquiats, these art works of  Francis Hines really were found in storage and have been released to the public (hooray)
  2. This is a happy story:  Ernie Barnes’s Sugar Shack Painting Brings Big Price at Auction
  3. This is a sad one: Matthew Wong’s Life in Light and Shadow.
  4. David Shrigley is always interesting. I see his work everywhere on social media. You may have as well.
  5. Gilbert and George, here talking about their epic Covid artworks are also interesting, not the least because of their conservative views. Unlike most conservative artists, they’re brilliant.
  6. Last but not least,  Ema Shin. That beautiful image above is of her work. You can click on the link to see more of them and to learn what is the thought behind them.

On Basquiat and Recent Crimes

Basquiat has been in the news this week on account of two alleged crimes: theft and fraud. In the first instance, this “Brazen” Couple Tries to Walk Out of Manhattan Gallery With a Basquiat. Nice try, brazen couple.

The other alleged crime is fraud, although the owners of these works deny that in this instance: Is the Orlando Museum of Art Displaying Fake Basquiats?

All I can say is to anyone buying these “new” Basquiats: caveat emptor.

(Image from this tumblr, which has quite a few good images of the man, including the one above.)

 

The irony of the Nike’s new shoe, the NikeCraft x Tom Sachs General Purpose Shoe

If this shoe was coming out from anyone other than Nike, I would just straight-up praise it. It’s a practical shoe. It will likely wear well over the months and even years. If you are someone who likes to wear the same shoe all the time (e.g. Birkenstocks or Blundstones) then these could be perfect for you.

Coming from Nike, though, which is famous/notorious for making rare and high priced shoes intentionally, the fact that they make these and portray these shoes as typical of them is …well, something.

To step back, Nike does make shoes for different markets. The Pegasus brand and the Air Force 1 lines are for mass markets, just like these are. Just like the Jordan brands and other high end lines are for different markets. It’s all just capitalism: they have a model for whatever you value and whatever your values are. For more on the these shoes, check out Uncrate and Yanko Design.

The solution to poverty and crime and homelessness is simple

And what is the solution? GIVE PEOPLE MONEY. Just give it to them.

Here’s what I mean. Case study #1: Liberia’s stunningly effective way to reduce shootings and other crimes.

Case study #2: The expanded child tax credit lifted 3 million children out of poverty.

Read and see. Over and over and over again, it’s always the same. You give people money, much of our social problems go away. Much? Most. All? Not all.

Shouldn’t we give them jobs? Jobs is a way to give people money. Good jobs are a great way to give people money. Crappy jobs, not so much. In fact, many jobs are an indirect way of giving people money, it’s just that people sit in an office for eight hours a day filling out online forms or sitting in meetings because someone has a sense that they are needed so that someone else can have someone give them money.

Where does the money come from? From people who have more money than they know what to do with. From programs we fund now to the hilt because we worry about crime. From taxes on people and organizations that harm our society, that pollute, that run their businesses on the assumption that it doesn’t matter that they treat people badly.

Won’t this cause moral hazards? It’s a good tradeoff to have.

In the future we will be harshly criticized for not doing the thing that is obvious to alleviate all our problems because of our inhumanity towards others. For allowing people to be homeless. To be hungry. To suffer needlessly. The obvious thing is to give people money.

Once they have money, then the next thing is to help them with the things they need to have a better life.

 

Tools for people who struggle saying “no”

If you struggle to say “no” to people, part of your difficulty may arise from not knowing how to go about doing it well. If that’s the case, then check out this site.

That site provides you with 31 templates you can import into Gmail. No fuss, no muss.

You can’t say Yes to everything. So learn to say No better.

On being able to walk through your old home

Have you ever wanted to go back and go inside homes you once lived in? I have. I still have memories of places I lived in as a child, and I have a yearning to go back to them, go back to Minto Street or Borden Street, and walk through and touch the houses I once inhabited.

The last and longest place I lived in was 110 Castlefield. I can’t go back there, but thanks to that Youtube video above, I can virtually go through it. I can see all the changes that were done to it by me and others. I can have countless memories of it as the video progresses.

It’s true, I have hundreds of photos as well, and those are great. But I really love that video. I hope it never comes down.

Cool bamboo buildings at Colossal

Over at Colossal is a nice piece on this book: ‘Bamboo Contemporary’ which Spotlights 14 Designs Advancing Sustainable Architecture Around the World.

The house above is just one of the many featured there that you want to take a peek at.

Bamboo is an impressive material for many reasons. To see why, head over to Colossal and read that piece.

We need a better IKEA, or an IKEA alternative


That’s what I was thinking when I read these two pieces:

IKEA, for a large part, is DIY furniture. But for many reasons, there is a limited range of furniture pieces to choose from. I wish there were better alternatives to them that offered more thoughtful pieces, like the ones found in those Yanko Design articles.

Anyway, it’s likely not going to happen soon. But I think there is a market for it. We just need the right business leaders to build it.

(Image from the first article.)

Beef and chicken and pork, oh my. (My cooking interests for December to May, 2022


Yikes! Another too many months have slipped by since I last did one of these. October, February and now May has passed! I have a ton of good recipes and food links to share, so let’s get at it!  🙂

Beef: grilling season will be upon us, and smash burgers are all the rage, so make some advice on how to make those. Perhaps you prefer a steak? Here’s how to Reverse Sear Steak to get THE best result. If you just want a bit of beef, try these Garlic-Butter Steak Bites or this, Easy Beef Cube Steak With Onions and Mushrooms. If you prefer something fancy, go for this, Beef Wellington Recipe or Ossobuco alla Milanese Recipe/. Love them!

Pork: prefer pork? Then how about this recipe for juicy pork chops or this one for spinach mushroom pork chops? Pork Chops with Sherry Pan Sauce with Ras Al Hanout sounds exceptional. Pork schnitzel is also great. Here’s two recipes: Pork Schnitzel with Warm Potato Salad Recipe and this one.

There are so many ways to enjoy pork, from Grilled Korean-Style Short Ribs  to 11 Best Pork Shoulder Recipes. Or just make bacon. Anyway you like it, pork is perfect.

Chicken: how about the other white meat? Here’s how to make exceptional grilled chicken from smitten kitchen. For something a bit spicy, try Chicken Thighs with Burst Tomatoes Harissa and Feta or Nigella’s Slow-Cooker Moroccan Chicken Stew. You can’t go wrong with Chicken Piccata or this pairing of  Chicken Cutlets & Roasted Asparagus. Chicken Quesadillas? Why yes. Or for something you likely haven’t made yet but should, do this, Poul Nan Sos (Haitian Chicken in Sauce, seen below).

Soup/Salad:  Let’s move on to something lighter still, but still tasty. Basque Garlic Soup and Healing Garlic Tonic Soup can both meet that criteria. As can Zuppa Toscana. Go here if you want to learn How to Make Better Soups in general.

Pair up those soups with Roasted Citrus Beet Salad with Goat Cheese or Arugula Salad with Pears and Goat Cheese or the famous Jennifer Aniston salad.

Here’s some more salad goodness from Food and Wine: Yogurt Salad Dressing Recipes and You’re Not Adding Enough Vinegar to Your Vinaigrette.

One pot/sheet pan/slow cook:  these are three ways I love to cook. For example, one pot Greek Turkey and Rice Skillet and One pot puttanesca are both good. As for sheet pan recipes, try Sheet Pan Breakfast, Easy Sheet Pan Beef Skirt Steak Fajitas Recipe, Sheet Pan Roasted Vegetables and Chickpeas Bowl Recipe, Sheet Pan Italian Sausage Bean And Tomato Tray Bake, or Sheet Pan Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Arugula.

Slow cookers are actually great when the weather gets warm. Try these out:  Slow-Cooker Coffee-Braised Brisket With Potatoes and Carrot, Slow-Cooker Tuscan Pot Roast Recipe, Sweet and Spicy Asian Pork Shoulder, Slow-Cooker Asian Short Ribs, 4-Ingredient Slow Cooker Cola Chicken, or finally Lazy Crock Pot Chicken With Mushrooms.

Casseroles/dump dinners: I’ve been on a kick to make dinners easier, so I’ve been trying making more casseroles and other easy dishes. Here’s what I found: 6 Easy Steps to a Customizable Casserole  by Mark Bittman, Sauces vs. Soups for Casseroles, French onion macaroni and cheese recipe, Easy one-pan lasagna recipe,  and Modern Tuna Casserole. Related, here are the Easiest-Ever Dump Dinners and Chicken Tortilla Dump Dinner.

Cuisines (French, English, Eastern Europe, India): if you find yourself in the mood for something in particular, try these ideas from France: Pate en croute, How to Make Terrine Easy and Simply or La Buvette Terrine. Two sources of UK dining are roast dinners in the UK and UK food. From Eastern Europe, we have Pierogi Ruskie: Potato-Cheese Pierogi, Polish Potato Pancakes (Placki Ziemniaczane), Goulash and Eastern European Main Dish Recipes. Last but not least, Green-Lentil Curry Recipe from the great Madhur Jaffrey.

Sauces: here’s some sauces I like: Peruvian Green Sauce Recipe,  Simple and Delicious Homemade Brown Gravy,  Aioli, and Garlic Sage Brown Butter Sauce.

Pastry: If you want something sweet, try chocolate puddle cakes, Fast Easy Simple Everyday Basic Biscuits, Apple and walnut crumble, or Jumbleberry Crumble also look good.

In addition: none of these fell into a proper category but all are worthwhile, including this recipe for Roasted Red Pepper and Feta Frittata, Lamb Loin Chops with Red Wine Pan Sauce with Cumin and Chiles, and homemade merguez with herby yogurt.

Finally: Here’s some pantry ideas, plus these 31 Underrated Pantry Staples Every Home Cook Should Have.  Here’s how to Convert a 9×13 Recipe to 8×8. .  Here’s why ultra-processed foods have a calorie problem.  Here’s 31 Underrated Pantry Staples Every Home Cook Should Have.  Here’s The 20 Recipes BA Readers Love the Most.  Here’s a list 51 Valentine’s Dinner Ideas for Romantic Rendezvous and Date Nights at Home.  A good piece on Good cheap food. .  If you want to know the What’s the Difference Between Pastrami & Corned Beef? click there.  If you need to know how to light a Charcoal Grill click there.  This is a list of things to move out your fridgeThis is a fine piece on why Appalachia Doesn’t Need Saving It Needs Respect in terms of food.  For fans of Summerlicious 2022.   More pantry ideas . (I should have grouped these.)   On the indispensable rotisserie chickens.  On The Michelin controversy in Toronto.  How to Fry an Egg…Good advice.  Also good advice: Cook well spend less.  This was thought provoking: Who killed the great British curry house?   This was fascinating: Michelangelo’s shopping List.   If you want: Dry-Age Your Meats at Home.  Once the Bon Appetit test kitchen was flying high. Now we have people writing pieces on how their staff (Brad Leone) are causing people to get food poisoning.  Here’s a piece on the creator of fish and chips.  Here’s how to make a Toronto cocktail.

Allright: let’s go grocery shopping! (That’s Michelangelo’s list below.)

(Top image: theculinarycook.com. Bottom from Atlas Obscura)

The elusive spotlight (being a pop star as a career)


Pop stars have unique careers. For some of them, it can be like being an athlete: you do it while you are young and then you are done. That what came across to me in this piece: ‘That’s it? It’s over? I was 30. What a brutal business’: pop stars on life after the spotlight moves on | Music | The Guardian.

Then there are some artists — not as many — who go on and on and whose careers shift and they become more akin to academics (e.g, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen).

What happens after the spotlight shifts depends on the artist. Read the article and see.

It’s an interesting career, to say the least. All the power in the world to those that can make a go of it.

May is done. Here’s some of the highlights and some ramblings for May, 2022

Last month, I thought I needed to switch up this monthly missive of a quasi newsletter. Make it a bit more rambling, a bit less worldly and world weary. I decided to push down the pandemic stuff and look at some other things first. I hope you like it.

In Canada one of the big things last month was the streak that Mattea Roach had on Jeopardy. I swear everyone in Canada was proud of her. In fact, it was funny to read the news in Nova Scotia and Ontario, because both of them wanted to claim her for their own. I get it! She’s great!

She caught the attention of not only Canada, but the US too. Even the NY Times did a piece on her. Not surprising: she is newsworthy.

Speaking of the Times, they did two pieces this month that gave me some perspective. First there was this piece on why for tens of millions of Americans the Good Times are Right Now. That was somewhat hopeful. And this piece on the relationship between being happy and being rich was also good, perspective wise.

I mean let’s face it, if being rich meant being happy, then Elon Musk would be the happiest person ever. Instead, he is on social media all the time making a fool of himself. Not just due to his trying to buy twitter, but his opinions in general. If you want to read more about what he is/was up to at this time, you can read this or this. I think the less we hear from him, the better.

Speaking of rich, the whole NFT/ crypto/thingamabobs did not do well this month, with articles on their big meltdown all over the place. This says NFT sales are flatlining , but ‘flatlining’ is too kind a word. Finally, I think the Beaverton captured it perfectly . I love the Beaverton: a perfect blend of Canadian humour and perspective. A good counterpoint to all that financial madness.

Apropos of nothing, here’s news on the black hole at the center of our galaxy. Very cool.

Overall, May has been a month of transition, from the relatively new (Apple phases out the iPod) to the relatively old (Charles Gives Queen’s Speech at State Opening of Parliament in U.K.). The iPod is not coming back, but the Queen did, opening her new subway line, the Elizabeth Line, in London this month. My daughter was in London and I was encouraging her to ride it for bragging rights in the future, if nothing else.

The pandemic is in a state of transition too. Here in Toronto we have ended our pandemic emergency declaration after 777 days. Wow. That’s a long time and big number. Another big number is the number of Covid deaths in Canada, 40,000, and in the US, 1,000,000. For those who have lost loved ones, the fact that Canada managed the pandemic better than the US is cold comfort. It’s also astounding to think about, numbers wise. I can only imagine how much worse it would have been without vaccines.

I’m also curious to see what happens as people let down their guard. Lockdowns are over everywhere. Concerts and travelling are ramped up. People are still wearing masks, but less and less so from what I can see.

What’s next? Well, hospitals are in transition, if I read this piece correctly in The Atlantic . Also viruses on hiatus during the pandemic are coming back which is not great. Smart people like Bill Gates and others are thinking about how to prevent the next pandemic. I hope we can. We will need lots of effort, smart people and tools. Although I don’t think the metaverse is going to be one of those tools, despite what this piece says. (Wanted to throw a bone to the metaverse here….we used to hear about it all the time. Now, barely at all. :))

The provinces of Canada are in transition too. In Alberta Premier Jason Kenney stepped down after barely surviving leadership. I was surprised by that. Let’s see how Premier Ford does in Ontario after the upcoming election. Maybe he will be surprised too.

There’s been other things happening too, like the Roe vs Wade situation in the US, not to mention the horrible shootings there. Sadly, no transition for the better in either case. And the war in Ukraine still goes on, though sadly it has become less newsworthy.

Inflation has been bad and newsworthy, but I believe it is going to be transitioning for the better. It has been tough on people, though, leading to articles like this: How to put delicious meals on the table as inflation drives up costs. Inflation is good for people with large fixed debt, but bad for people barely getting by. Let’s hope it gets under control soon.

The weather is also transitioning, from cool to hot. That can make it tough to sleep at nights. If that’s you, consider some of the ideas here: 5 Cheap(ish) Things to Keep Your Bedroom Cool | Wirecutter .

That’s it for another month! Thanks for reading, you half dozen people who read these every month. I appreciate it. 🙂

Enjoy the nice weather.

 

 

What skateboarding can teach you (even if you don’t skateboard)


What or where is the value of skateboarding? If you read this, you might think the value is endless failure: Sisyphus, skateboarders, and the value in endless failure from Psyche Ideas.

Perhaps. But like many activities, the value that comes from any activity is dependent on the participant.

I think one thing I got from thinking about this is putting “failure” in perspective. For skateboarders, failure is irrelevant (barring injury). They just try and try again. They may eventually succeed occasionally at what they are attempting. They may even master parts of skateboarding.

I think this is a meta-lesson we could all use. When it comes to learning things, failure should be accepted and its meaning diminished. Set up a learning environment where failure has little cost, and get on with learning.

That’s a lesson from skateboarding that I get.

On Marvel Movies, and how Robert Downey Jr made almost half a billion dollars from them


Here me out. You might think this story about how Robert Downey Jr. made $450m as Iron Man would be boring.It’s not. It was a fascinating journey for both Downey and Marvel over the last 14 years. In 2008 when the first Iron Man came out, both the actor and the company were down on their luck. However bad luck turned into good, and both parties went on their way to become incredibly successful.

Disney bet big on Marvel, and Robert Downey Jr bet big on himself, and the bets paid off big. After all his years struggling with addiction, it was good to see.

It was not without some twists along the way, so read the piece to see how it went down. Or I should say, went up.

P.S. Also a good intro to how the movie biz works and how actors get paid.

(Image linked to the article)

 

 

It’s getting warmer. Here’s the perfect speaker / lamp to help you enjoy music outside

It’s nice to sit outside in the summer and have some music playing while you grill food or enjoy a fire or simply relax. Now thanks to this collaboration, you can: IKEA teams up with Spotify to debut the Vappeby, a $65 wireless lamp/speaker with built-in ‘Spotify Tap’

The nice thing about it is that it is not only portable, but that it looks just as nice inside too:

If having sound outside this summer is on your todo list, check out the piece in Yanko design, then head out to IKEA (or their website) and try and get one soon.

What’s new and what is old in Toronto, May 2022


What’s new in Toronto? Well we are getting a New IKEA downtown. That’s smart of IKEA: I am sure they got a good deal on rent in the Aura (great building, bad retail). Plus lots of condo owners can save themselves a trip to the ‘burbs to get their IKEA fix.

There’s also new subway stations and new U of T architecture soon to admire. There’s this year’s Luminato festival to take in.

There’s new restaurants to take in, such as Bouffe and the latest version of one of my favorite restaurants once, Beast Pizza.

There’s new ways of doing things, whether it’s this fancy new sidewalk that filters water and sustains plants or it’s this new approach to feeding people at the  Anarchist Café. Of course new isn’t always good, as Freshii found out from the outrage they received when they used remote order takers from Nicaragua in their stores.

Somethings aren’t new, but are interesting, like these recent stores on Toronto’s infamous Path system or this piece on how much more seedy Toronto used to be.

And finally some things are very old, like this oak tree older than Canada and the Canadians / Torontonians trying to save it . Given that Toronto has just declared the oak tree as its official tree, that makes much sense.

(Image link to BlogTo piece on U of T architecture.)

 

 

The occulation of Saturn is worth it

Someone posted this occultation of Saturn and I am taking a chance and sharing it on the blog because it’s too cool not to. (An occultation is an event that occurs when one object is hidden by another object that passes between it and the observer.)

I say “take a chance” because I have so many broken Youtube links on my blog, rendering many posts useless as a result. (Word of advice: don’t post Youtube links of songs or movies.) I’m hopeful this one will stay up.

Basquiat 101

People in New York City have the great pleasure of having not one but two exhibits dedicated to him at the moment. (Not to mention his works being on display at MoMA.) If you are not familiar with him or would like to know how to better appreciate him, this piece, How to Look at a Basquiat in The New York Times is worth a read. It’s like Basquiat 101.

Better still, read it and then go check out the shows.

Things I wish were real: Braun wireless earbuds

Sadly, only a design concept, but I wish these Braun wireless earbuds were a real thing. I’m a big fan of Braun, and while I like my earbuds from Apple, if time came to switch, I’d love something like this to be for sale.

Let’s make it happen, Braun! (It likely won’t happen in such a competitive space, but I can dream. )

Changes on SNL, new and old

I’ve been wondering when this would happen, but finally some of the bigger names from SNL are departing next year, including Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant and Kyle Pete Davidson, according to Deadline. I’ve been surprised both by how stable SNL has been over the last decade and how big the cast has grown. It started off with less than 10, now it’s over 20.

Having a big cast makes sense in some ways. It means there is a deep bench of talent ready and eager to step up. It also helps SNL deal with the lack of diversity problem they had all too recently.

I’ve been watching more SNL recently, ironically because of Twitter. I say ironically because social media used to freak Lorne and company out. Now they feed the whole show via twitter on the weekend. I get to skip the ads, and I get to watch the best bits. It’s ideal for me. My rule of thumb is if Kenan Thompson is in a sketch, it’s probably funny. That’s likely why he is sticking around.

That piece above got me to this piece: ‘Saturday Night Live’: Actors Who’ve Hosted The Show The Most – Photos – Deadline. Several things to note there. In the early years, it was often people associated with the show, like Chevy Chase (although that is also true with Tina Fey in the later years). Later it was big actors who were just really good at being funny. For awhile Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin were tied in appearances (there was even a bit where to win, Martin knocks out Baldwin, wraps him in a rug and throws him out the window!) Baldwin eventually ran away with it, not just for hosting, but by being a regular with his Trump appearances. (It probably helps too he lives in Manhattan.)

I have a sentimental weakness for SNL. It’s been on 47 seasons and I’ve been watching off and on since S1. I’m looking forward to it reaching S50 and beyond. Who knows will show up for that season. Tune in.

On the Smiths and those album covers

The Smith’s were (are?) great for many reasons. One reason in particular was their album covers. Looks like the folks at NME agree, because they put together

an exhaustive guide to each and everyone of their 27 single and album releases’ sleeves, and what they mean

You can find here. Fans of the band will enjoy that. I did.

Speaking of the Smiths, this piece by Doug Coupland, Morrissey will never be cancelled is worth a read.