Reduce Your Stress in Two Minutes a Day – Harvard Business Review via Pocket

If you struggle with stress and don’t know where to start, start here: Reduce Your Stress in Two Minutes a Day – Harvard Business Review – Pocket. It is general advice, but even adopting a few of these practices in daily life should help releave your levels of stress. It is especially good advice for driven people who need to succeed in the areas of life they focus on, but find that their usual approach doesn’t help them when it comes to stress.

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Is it okay for a city to track … and other thoughts

This: Is it okay for a city to track what’s in your poop? – Macleans.ca, is a provocative question that headlines a good article.

Now for most people, the answer would be a loud “no!”.  But as you can see in the article, smarter cities lead to municipal governments gathering more information about you. Certainly in the case of smart meters, the government agency can tell alot about you just from when you use power. Digital technology and the need to better manage government resources can lead to further tracking, including to what is in your waste water. Expect to see more such tracking in the future.

Ideally for any information being gathered about you, there would be strict control over who has access to the information and what they can do with it. As well, there would be some accountability with regards to that information. I would expect there is a mixed record for much of that information, but the fact that I can only speculate tells me there is more work to be done with regards to accountability.

Read the article. It helps to be informed about such tracking so you can know how you can be tracked and how you can ask questions about such tracking to government officials and elected politicians.

On the myth that Hitler and the Nazis were unopposed

With the rise of right wing extremists, including neo-Nazis, I see it often said on social media that the German people of the 1920s and 1930s did little if anything to oppose Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist Party’s rise to power. This is untrue. There was a lot of opposition to the Nazis rise to power, opposition that the Nazis spent much time and effort to overcome. Ideally you should read this history to see this, whether you read works by AJP Taylor, Ian Kershaw, John Toland, Joachim Fest, or others (but not David Irving). For a start, you can read this: Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, beginning with the Beer Hall Putsch. As you read along, you can see many opposed to the rise of the Nazi party. You can argue that they were ineffective: you cannot argue that they did not exist. Many of the opponents were killed (members of the Red Front) and many others, like Ernst Thälmann, were sent to concentration camps. Some fled, others became silent, and still others become supporters. Many died in the war to come.

The Nazis were supported, of course: that is how they managed to be in a position to take over power in the first place. But the idea that they met with little or no opposition is wrong.

For more reading, you can find a link to

Don’t discount the Apple Watch, for two reasons

Reason #1: Apple is seeing growth in sales of the Watch, and plans to give it cellular capabilities will drive growth further. If cellular networks allow you to share your number across your phone and watch, it could really support people who may want to go without their phone from time to time.
Reason #2: is my belief that the Watch will provide Apple with a platform to develop miniaturization. Having different platforms and different scales allows Apple to innovate and gets their partners like Intel to do the same. This will support Apple in being either first or best in the areas they have products.

I'm glad to see the Watch continue to grow. I would not be surprised to see some of the features we once saw in the Shuffle morph into the Watch. That would make up some for the lost of that other once great platform of Apple, the iPod, which was loved and now lost.

AI is hard, China version

According to this, chatbots in China have been removed after being critical of the Chinese government. This to me is not unlike what happened to Microsoft's chat bot that became racist after being feed racist input from users. If you put AI out there and allow any form of input, then the equivalent of vandals can overtake you AI and feed it whatever they choose. I'm not certain if that was the case in China but I suspect it was.

AI researchers need to expect the worst case use cases if they allow their software to do unsupervised learning on the Internet. If they don't, it's likely that their projects will be a disaster and they will do damage to the AI community in general.

Cindy Sherman is on Instagram and is doing something new

And the New York Times has a good analysis of here work so far. I really enjoyed the analysis. As for me, I found it interesting that she has transitioned the account from a basic one that recorded events the way most of us do into something that extends her art in a way few of us can do. I also like that great artists like Sherman can take new media and incorporate it into their work but also extend it. David Hockney did something similar with the Brushes app. Here's hoping more artists do such things.

Some thoughts on HBO’s Confederate, some pro but mostly con

There seems to be many opponents and few supporters of the new series planned on HBO, Confederate. It’s easy to see why. This piece by Bree Newsome is a good example of what many think of the upcoming series:

HBO’s Confederate is just a fantasy — unless you’re black – The Washington Post

In some ways, though, I think this piece can be an argument FOR the series, though it argues the opposite. That’s not just me being Devil’s Advocate. My belief is that science fiction has a way of presenting ideas in a way that gets people to think about them and think about them unlike any other form of fiction. From Star Trek to the Handmaid’s Tale, science fiction (especially on TV)  has gotten people to think about ideas that they might normally avoid. Ideas that people might escape from in real life get in front of them when they escape into science fiction. Newsome cites a number of facts about the current suffering black Americans undergo now, facts that many white Americans would just as soon avoid or ignore. The series Confederate could be a forum to bring those ideas and facts to the foreground in a way news editorials or regular TV news cannot. The series could lead to changes in a way other media cannot.

That’s a potential pro for Confederate. I don’t believe it is enough of one. There are many alternative timelines that the producers of the show could have chosen: they seem to have chosen a terrible one. An alternative history that went in a utopian direction would have had issues of its own, but instead they seem to have gone with a dystopian vision. This is certain to cause more pain for black Americans now and likely encourage racists to interpret the series in a way to support their racism.

As artists, the makers of Confederate might argue that a dystopian view is the best way to emphasize the themes and ideas they want the show to carry. However, the makers of Confederate and HBO are in the entertainment business. Alot of money is going into the show, and no doubt they expect to make alot of money from it.  To make all that money by causing pain and encouraging racists is wrong.

This is a key thing: big TV series, like big movies, are not just a forum for ideas. They are big business, and you can’t separate the two. I think artists should have a lot of freedom to present ideas, including ideas that cause suffering and including ideas that are wrong. But artists that make big films and TV shows are artists-capitalists. And that means they need to expect not just people debating their ideas, but people pushing back on their ability to make money from their ideas, including people organizing strikes and boycotts and promoting competition for your show.

HBO and the makers of Confederate have a choice: they can communicate that the show will have good ideas and that the artistry and intelligence of the show will be of a benefit, even if it is dystopian. Or they can just ignore the obvious problems they are causing and proceed. If they chose that route, they should expect to lose both the battle of ideas and the battle of the marketplace. Let’s hope they choose for the best.