Monthly Archives: August 2020

What will happen if students at Ontario schools get infected with COVID-19?

I am sure many parent in Ontario are wondering what will happen if students at Ontario schools get infected with COVID-19. I know I am wondering. Worried too. The best thing to help deal with worry is to get some practical information.

You can get some of that, here. That  link to a BlogTO post has a good summary of what will happen, as well as links out to other sites with more detailed information.

No one knows for sure what will happen. But reading that will give you a better sense of what may happen.

 

 

A short introduction to Ulysses S. Grant

If you are not familiar with Grant, I recommend this piece. Grant’s life makes for fascinating reading. If you agree after you read that, then I highly recommend this biography by Ron Chernow. It’s superb.

Grant is a deeply flawed and deeply great man. He deserves to be better recognized today. Here’s hoping he is.

The problem with the Mediterranean diet sadly, is…


It can be expensive for people living in parts of the world to follow it because of the way food is priced, according to this. Key quote:

The results indicate that it’s not enough to follow the Mediterranean diet simply by changing the quantities you’re eating of certain foods. The foods need to be of a high quality, too, and you need to eat a diverse range of them.

Both of those things are harder to do on a budget. Fresh produce and fish are often only available at higher costs and in certain areas (this disparity leads to the food desert phenomenon), which makes them harder for low-income people to access and afford.

Everything is harder when you are poorer, including eating healthy.

(Image Photo by Edgar Castrejon on Unsplash)

Is this “Saturday Morning” Weekend Cleaning Checklist doable?

So I read this, The “Saturday Morning” Weekend Cleaning Checklist | Apartment Therapy, which begins with

So you didn’t clean this week but you want a clean house to hang out in over the weekend. And you don’t want to spend half your weekend getting ready to enjoy it. Good news: You can condense your weekly cleaning into one super concentrated Saturday morning blitz of chores. It’s best if you can solicit some housemates (sometimes known as spouses and children) to help.

Now I am skeptical. But I will try it tomorrow and see how it goes. If you need a “goal” for the weekend, maybe you can too.

(Photo by pan xiaozhen on Unsplash)

Ok, you have a web page or a web site. Here’s how can you make it look better in no time


All you have to do is follow the instructions outlined in this piece by Anna Powell-Smith: How to Make Your Site Look Half-Decent in Half an Hour

The instructions are from 2012 but they still works really well! I took a bunch of the ideas from it to recently jazz up my web site, berniemichalik.com.

You don’t need special tools or deep HTML or CSS skills. Just follow along and you will have a much better looking web site in..well…30 minutes.

(Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash)

How to show you are a fan of a cookbook? Well if you are a fan of “Nothing Fancy”, you do this


You create an entire web site about it! This is a pretty amazing project. The author cooked his way through over 100 recipes, took a picture, and rated them (with emoji no less!)  It took him over a half a year, but I am impressed by it all.

I find if I cook 20 recipes from a cookbook, I am happy with the results. To cook over 100 recipes like this is impressive imho.

To see what I am talking about, checkout “A little fancy”.

A lesson in politics from Noam Chomsky

This whole interview with Chomsky is worth reading, regardless of your political leanings. Some of the things that struck me were:

On how the left should be:

Well, there is a traditional left position, which has been pretty much forgotten, unfortunately, but it’s the one I think we should adhere to. That’s the position that real politics is constant activism. It’s quite different from the establishment position, which says politics means focus, laser-like, on the quadrennial extravaganza, then go home and let your superiors take over.

The left position has always been: You’re working all the time, and every once in a while there’s an event called an election. This should take you away from real politics for 10 or 15 minutes. Then you go back to work….The left position is you rarely support anyone. You vote against the worst. You keep the pressure and activism going.

On Hume:

We can go back to my favorite philosopher, David Hume. His Of the First Principles of Government, a political tract in the late 18th century, starts off by saying that we should understand that power is in the hands of the governed. Those who are governed, they’re the ones who have the power. Whatever kind of state it is, militaristic or more democratic, as England was becoming. The masters rule only by consent. And if consent is withdrawn, they lose. Their rule is very fragile.

On the letter controversy:

But now segments of the left are picking up part of the same pathology. It’s harmful; they shouldn’t be doing it; it’s wrong in principle. It’s suicidal. It’s a gift to the far right. So here’s a quiet statement saying, “Look, we should be careful about these things and not undertake this.” Should’ve been the end. Then comes the reaction, which is extremely interesting….This criticism is much to the pleasure of the right wing, which hates these statements. So it’s another massive service to the right wing. … You want to play their game? Do it straight. Don’t pretend you’re on the left.

On how to participate in politics:

Well, we have no shortage of immediate ways of getting involved. But immediate changes are another story. There’s kind of an instant gratification culture. I worked for Bernie Sanders, he didn’t win. I’m going home. That’s not the way political change takes place. It takes place step by step, small changes to bigger ones, and so on.

On personality politics:

I’m not much interested in his (Joe Biden’s) personality. I don’t have any opinion. I’m interested in how things get done. And the way things get done is not by Biden having a religious conversion and saying, “Oh, we’ve got to really work on the climate.” That’s not what happened. The DNC probably hates the program, but they have no choice, because their popular base is not only demanding it, but is working constantly, hard, to force them to do it. That’s politics. Not the personality of leaders. I don’t know what’s in his mind. I don’t care, frankly.

On social media:

Social media, like most technologies, are pretty neutral. What matters is how you use them. You can use a hammer to build a house; you can use a hammer to smash somebody’s head in.

Social media are being used in very different ways. They’re used to organize activists, set up demonstrations, to give people the opportunity to interact, think, develop opinions, deliberate. But they can also be used to drive people into bubbles in which you hear only the same thing over and over. Your prejudices get reinforced, and you hate everybody else. They can be used either way. And they are being used both ways.

So the question comes back to us: How are we going to use the technology that’s available? It doesn’t care. We can use it any way we like. The net effect of social media probably, by and large, I suspect, has been mostly negative. Doesn’t have to be, but I think that’s the way it’s turned out.

On his legacy:

I don’t really think about a legacy. What I’m interested in is the people who are doing things. Mostly their names will never be known. I’m sure you can’t tell me, or I can’t tell you, the names of the kids who sat in at the lunch counter in Greensboro. These are the people who carry things forward. If there’s a legacy of people who try to do what they can to stimulate it, it’s theirs. The ones I most respect in the world, I can’t remember their names.

I don’t agree with all of Chomsky’s beliefs, but I do agree with his approach to politics. You can draw those lessons from the interview. I’ve extracted some of them, but it’s worthwhile to read the rest of it.

A collection of simple Apple scripts that I find useful to provide me encouragement during the workday (and you might too)

A long time ago, Sam Sykes tweeted this idea:

Roomba, except it is a little robot that comes into your room and says “hey, man, you’re doing okay” and I guess maybe he has a glass of water for you

I thought: what a great idea! Now I didn’t build a special Roomba, but I did build a list of Apple Scripts that offer something similar. If you are curious, you can see them here in github.

I found them useful when working from home during the pandemic. Hey, every little bit helps.

Small Victories, or how to build your own website very simply

You need to build a web site? Consider Small Victories. As they say:

Small Victories takes files in a Dropbox folder and turns them into a website.

Best of all, they can help you build a variety of different sites, from a blog to a home page to e-commerce.

The site explains it very well, so visit Small Victories and see how it’s done.

Found via Swiss Miss. Thanks, Tina!

Great insights on mathematics you should read about even if you don’t think you want to


I suspect many people will not want to read this article containing great insights on mathematics by Steve Strogatz. That’s a shame, because it is really approachable by anyone of any mathematical ability. It’s especially good for people with limited math skills, because he does a good job of showing the value and benefits to be gained from thinking mathematically. I highly recommend it if you read it.

For example, one thing I found fascinating is his discussion of the Prisoner’s Dilemma by comparing it to religion. You should read it, but in short, it’s been shown that one approach to succeeding in playing several rounds of the Prisoner’s Dilemma is to use a Tit-for-Tat strategy. This is highly effective and is similar to Old Testament Eye-for-an-Eye morality. However that can also go wrong on occasion, leading to long lasting feuds that never get resolved. Then he gets into a discussion of New Testament morality and how that can avoid some of the problems of Old Testament morality. It’s a great discussion, and one of the many great discussions in the article.

Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash

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Everything you wanted to know about flower arranging but were afraid to ask


Ok, fine, you weren’t afraid to ask. Still! If you want a mindblowing list of great ideas to arrange flowers, look no further than here: The Best Flower-Arranging Tricks & Tutorials | Apartment Therapy.

Then take those new ideas and go out and buy a big bunch of flowers and arrange them all nice and fancy.  You deserve it.

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How would proportional representation have shaped the last Canadian election’s results?


Changing the way Canadians get to decide who forms the government federally has been a hot topic for some time. Before the last election, the government tried and failed to implement reform. There hasn’t been much talk about it recently, but it is a subject for debate that is not going to go away.

If you have an opinion about this one way or another, I recommend you review this: How would proportional representation have shaped this election’s results? | CBC/Radio-Canada.

The CBC ran the results of the last election through alternative forms of representation and analyzed the results. It is fascinating to see how representation changes, depending on the format followed. Kudos to the CBC for a superb visual representation.

I think reform is needed. I am still in favor of having a local MP and having the ability to have him or her voted out of office by the constituents of the MP’s riding. But I am also in favour of the percentage of each party’s MP aligning with the percentage of national votes that they received. Obviously I need to think about it some more.

In the meantime, take a look at what CBC has done, and decide for yourself.

(Image via Owen Farmer)

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Friday night cocktail: the Gimlet


If you are a martini fan but want to changing up your Friday night cocktail, then consider this Gimlet Cocktail Recipe.

A fine drink while the weather is warm. Also good to battle scurvy. 🙂

To your health!

(Image via liquor.com)

 

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Sophie Taeuber-Arp: Modern Master


I was happy to come across this exhibit on one of the fine artists from the DaDa era: Stories — Sophie Taeuber-Arp: Modern Master – Hauser & Wirth.

I’ve read a number of books and other pieces on DaDa and I always felt that she never gets enough recognition for the fine work she did. I’m happy to see she is getting it here. If you want to learn more about her and her work, follow the link.

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For the BBQ that has everything, a Japanese A5 Wagyu Ribeye Steak

Sure, it costs $150, but look at that marbling. And as this states, it is impossible to overcook, due to that incredible amount of fat.

You may think that is terribly decadent. And it is! If you want to know more, see: Japanese A5 Wagyu Ribeye Steak | Uncrate

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Some thoughts on the New York Times and how it is becoming a behemoth

I had some thoughts on the New York Times after reading this: It is possible to compete with the New York Times. Here’s how. – Columbia Journalism Review

In some ways, it confirms what I have long thought: the goal for some newspapers is not to be a regional or even national newspaper anymore: the goal now is  to be a global one. The Daily Mail in the UK recognized that long ago. I know little of what they publish in the UK, I just know that they seem to be able to get a lot of people to read their online articles. In other words, they write locally but think globally. The same with the Guardian. And now I think the same is true for the Times.

The Times, according to the article, knows that most people are only going to subscribe to one paper. They want that paper to be the Times. And they seem to be winning this battle so far. Other papers might depend on click throughs, and no doubt the Times does too, but they also want to ensure that they have the one subscription you or your household pays for.

In some ways, the Times reminds me of a software company. They want to be the one platform you depend on and use every day.  The way Facebook or Google or Amazon or Microsoft want to be the sole platform you use for information or social media or other essential IT.

I think there are ways to compete with the Times, just like there are ways to compete against those other behemoths. You can be a niche competitor. You can provide a deeper and richer experience tailored for a specific audience.  You can be more nimble than they are. You can move to the future markets faster than they can.

None of these things are easy. But they are not impossible.

If you are in the news business, you need to learn how to compete with the New York Times. Because the Times is not going away and it is not getting smaller any time soon.

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Great advice on how to get better at drawing that can be applied to anything

I have been trying to get better at drawing lately, but I have been floundering. Much of what I have been drawing is poor by my standards. Poor and not getting better. To try and get better, I was trying different media and different tools (coloured pencils, watercolour, etc.). All these different things didn’t help. I was stuck.

Then I came across this video and had an a-ha moment. It’s really good. I recommend you take a few minutes and watch it.

In a nutshell, the idea is to focus. Focus on drawing one thing. Don’t do what I was doing, which was a little bit of everything. A little bit of everything didn’t add up to anything.

What I found was that by focusing, I didn’t have to think of what to do, I just did it. In his case he drew emus. In my case I drew robots. Just dozens of robots. I would start by drawing a shape and then adding to the shape. Or I’d start with a theme (a book robot) and use that to draw. The drawing didn’t have to be good, though I tried to make it good. Regardless of good or bad, what I discovered was that I was learning more about drawing from each picture. Before, I would think: what shall I do to practice drawing and get better? Now I don’t think, I just draw, and I am naturally getting better.

I think this can be true of any skill. Take running for example. You might fear starting because you don’t know anything about how to run well. Fine, just pick a short distance and run it. Do that over and over. Each time you do, you will learn something. Maybe you are running too fast. Or too slow. Or too long. Or too much. Take notes each time and look to improve. If you get stuck, do some research and try to apply it. The next thing you know you will be much better at it then you were only a short time ago.

Anyway, watch the video and then think about how you can apply it to your own life. You will improve. Keep with it.

Here’s a link to the video: The drawing advice that changed my life – YouTube

Speaking of keeping to it, he has another great video about “not getting off the bus”. I highly recommend that too. You can find it here.

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It’s Monday. The first thing you should do is tackle your todo list

Because as this piece argues: Your To-Do List Is, in Fact, Too Long.

I know mine is. Yours likely is too. And if you are using your inbox as an organic todo list, I am sure it is too long.

That piece argues for one way of dealing with it. To me, I think there are several ways. Here are some:

  1. Write down 1-3 things on your list that you can definitely accomplish today. Meetings count. So does research and education. Lunch too.
  2. Write down 1 hard thing and 1 fun thing to do from your list. Do that hard thing, then reward yourself with the fun thing.
  3. Park your old todo list somewhere. Come up with a new list. On the bottom of it, write down: revisit my old list later in the day. You will discover two things: one, you did things on it even if you couldn’t bear to write them down now; two, the things you actually did were more important than the things on your list.
  4. First thing on your todo list: create two new lists. One list is all the things on your todolist you can avoid doing for a month; the other list are things you have to do this month. Second thing on your todo list: for the second todo list, write down the least amount of things you have to do to push all the items off until the next month. After you do this, your list will shrink considerably.
  5. Don’t write anything down first, just start working. Every time you get something done in a period of 15 minutes or more, write it down. That was your todo list all along: you just couldn’t write it until you started.

Image via Donald Giannatti

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How to engineer your own happiness


That sounds like a ridiculous idea, but if you read this piece, you might find yourself thinking along the same lines: A Lazy Person’s Guide to Happiness.

It’s hard to be happy in a bad environment. I think most people can agree with that. It’s possible, but there is a significant mental effort to achieve it.

It’s also possible to be unhappy in a good environment. Again, it takes mental effort to achieve.

Given that, the more you can design your environment to be one you are happy in, the happier you will be. Simple when you think about it. Simple, but not often easy.

Perhaps a good task is to list all the places and people and other things in your life where you have been happy. That’s list A. Now come up with list Z, with all the things where you have been unhappy. Finally take list A and Z and come up with a plan to add more of the items on list A in your list and less of the items on list Z. But before you do, rate your happiness on a scale of 1-100. After your follow through on the plan, rate it again. Congratulations, you have engineered your own happiness. Keep it up.

(Image via David Siglin)

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The economics of Spotify


The CEO of Spotify was in the news recently for challenging artists and the way the create music. The challenge was not happily received.

That’s not the only thing artists are unhappy about concerning Spotify. I am pretty sure the amount they get paid per stream is the #1 source of unhappiness. I can see why. But I also recommend that anyone interested in the business of Spotify and streaming music read this: Lessons From Spotify – Stratechery by Ben Thompson.

Spotify has a big problem and I don’t know how they get over it. Read the article and see what you think.

(Image via Morning Brew)

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The race to Mars


In exciting news, the United States, China and the UAE are all sending missions to explore Mars. It’s not the same as the space race: there have been already a number of visits to Mars. But it’s great that the interest is continuing and we will learn more about the mission as a result.

For more on this, see:  ‘We are all Martians!’: space explorers seek to solve the riddle of life on Mars | Mars | The Guardian

Image via the article.

On making a mediocre dinner and appreciating mediocrity

I just made a mediocre dinner. You can see it above. It’s not styled in any way. The lighting isn’t great. The ingredients are cheap and basic. The side of mustard looks awful. it’s a pile of food on a plate to feed a hunger.

While it is mediocre, it isn’t bad. The food is fresh. It’s filling. It may not be the most nutritious meal ever but it’s nutritious enough. It killed my hunger and I enjoyed eating it.

While I was making it, and even before, I thought: how should I prepare this so that it will look good enough to share on social media? Should I make a sauce? Chop up some herbs to make it more photogenic? Plate it attractively?

Then I thought: I just want to eat some food that I like that is ok. It’s like a hot dog or a bowl of cereal: it can satisfy a need without being of interest to anyone but the person eating it.

And maybe I need to think more of food that way. I am not a chef or food professional, but the way I share my food photos and think about my meals, you would think I am aspiring to be. I think that aspiration is a problem at times, just as it can be for anyone with aspirations on social media. Maybe it’s time to revisit my relationship with food and my relationship with social media.

Social media can be a force of good. It can let us discover people with talent that we might not otherwise notice. It can help us celebrate the finer things in life. But it can also distort things and get us seeking attention when we don’t really need it. Perhaps a simpler and more basic approach to things outside of social media is better.

Enjoy things for what they are. Understand there is a place and a time for the most basic to the more advanced. Know when it is right to share things and when it is right to just live and be in the moment and then let it go. Those are all imperative sentences that can apply to me. Perhaps they can apply to you as well.

To many people, grey is a dull and boring colour. But for people like me, there is so much to appreciate in the colour grey. Likewise for things mediocre. My meal was mediocre tonight, but it was filling and tasty and nutritious and economical: all things I appreciate. May you appreciate all the grey and mediocre things in your life too.

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Friday night cocktails: Sangria


Ok, you can argue that Sangria is not a cocktail, but I disagree. Also, sangria is great, and it’s especially great in the hot days of summer.

You can buy sangria premade, but if you want to make your own and make it well, then read this: How to Make Sangria – Bon Appétit 

Even if you already make a pretty good batch, it’s worth reading for tips on how to change it up and possibly even improve your current recipe.

Cheers!

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A good idea on how to channel your ambitions in this time

I liked this piece: Where Did My Ambition Go?

I suspect many people will suffer this problem, wondering why be ambitious at your work when for many jobs the opportunities to succeed are decreasing.

The whole piece is worth reading, but the ending (below) was noteworthy:

At the same time, my ambition for my community and the wider world has gotten bigger and broader. I don’t know exactly where I fit in it, but I do know that I want all workers to be treated with dignity and respect — a small, humble ask that requires an unending amount of work. And I want all people who are unable to work or unable to find work to also be treated with dignity and respect. I want to become more active in organizing, I want to be a resource for those looking for guidance in their careers — at least while we’re living under capitalism — and I want to make enough money to be able to throw some of that money at the world’s problems. My medium-size dreams for myself may be getting smaller, but my ambitions for the greater wide world have to be enormous. It’s the only way to get through.

If you are ambitious in this way, you will achieve things beyond what you could achieve through your job. Wanting to succeed and achieve something of value is a good thing to want. Don’t limit that desire to just your work life: make it a desire for your whole life. That is truly ambitious.

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How the hotel industry is changing in light of the pandemic

The hotel business is changing in order to survive the pandemic. If you haven’t been to a hotel recently but plan to be, you should read this: What to expect from a hotel stay this summer – The Globe and Mail.

It says “summer” but really I expect this to be going on for some time to come.

(Image by Marten Bjork)

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WindowSwap: or how to change your view during the pandemic


If you are  tired of your view and want to look at something new, I highly recommend this site: WindowSwap.

WindowSwap gives you a random view of someone else’s window somewhere in the world.  Not all the views are beautiful or interesting, but many are. For those of you wishing you could travel but can’t, this site will allow you to vicariously do it through this website.

(Image by Mari Madriz)

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What is the equivalent of “Hello, World” for github?


This: Hello World · GitHub Guides.

If you wanted to learn how to use GitHub but felt unsure or anxious, this is a nice little tutorial on how to do it. You don’t need additional tools or deep skills or even be a programmer.

Well worth a visit.

(Image by Richy Great)

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Are calendars more effective than To Do Lists? Is there a third option? (Yes of course :))


This piece argues that they are: Why Calendars are More Effective Than To Do Lists.

I think there are definite benefits to using calendars over to do lists. For example, when you need to work with other people. Scheduling time makes sure people commit to working on something and getting it done. Calendars are also great for when you need to give yourself a deadline.

I think todo lists are better than calendars when you aren’t sure how long it will take to do a task. Calendars aren’t great if you  spend a significant amount of time planning to do things versus actually doing them. (Although you can procrastinate the same way using todo lists.)

One way of merging calendars with todo lists is to work in sprints of 1 to 2 to 4 weeks, like agile developers do. At the start of a sprint, go over your todo list and prioritize and size your tasks. Then fill up the sprint period with the tasks you can get done in that time. Then you can schedule them on your calendar to remind yourself to get them done.  If you have things blocking you that day, plan to resolve them by eliminating the blocker.

 

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Every story in the world has one of these six basic plots, now proven by data science!

Well, you can determine for yourself whether every story in the world falls into one of these six basic plots:

1. Rags to riches – a steady rise from bad to good fortune
2. Riches to rags – a fall from good to bad, a tragedy
3. Icarus – a rise then a fall in fortune
4. Oedipus – a fall, a rise then a fall again
5. Cinderella – rise, fall, rise
6. Man in a hole – fall, rise

…by reading this piece on how data scientists ran analysis on stories to see if they do: Every story in the world has one of these six basic plots – BBC Culture

It even comes with graphs! 🙂 Here’s Madame Bovary, following plot #2:

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How has New Zealand managed to go 100 days with no coronavirus community spread?

By having very strict controls.

This piece, New Zealand goes 100 days with no coronavirus community spread – Axios), shows just how strict they are:

By the numbers: New Zealand has 23 active coronavirus cases, all NZ residents newly returned from abroad in managed isolation facilities.

Of note: The border remains closed to non-residents and all newly returned Kiwis must undergo a two-week isolation program managed by the country’s defense force, which sees all travelers tested three times before they leave.

Police are stationed outside hotels where travelers are in quarantine. Officers have taken prosecutorial action against several returned travelers who’ve breached these rules by fleeing the facilities under the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act.

So good for New Zealand for doing this. But I wish people wouldn’t say New Zealand has beaten the coronavirus. What they have done is control it better than anyone.

Image by Adam Nieścioruk

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

Hi there! Thanks again for reading my latest not-a-newsletter of highlights and ramblings since the last one in July. I didn’t think I would stick with writing these pieces, but I’ve been doing this monthly since the start of the pandemic! I still can’t see me starting a newsletter, but I am less certain now than I was months ago.

This newsletter has some bad things (references to the pandemic and Trump…sorry..) but I added some good things too (Jacques Pepin, vaccine progress, and more). I hope you find it worth reading.

Newsletters: they seem to have really taken off now. The latest one I saw is Andrew Sullivan’s. It’s only been out awhile and he already has over 70,000 subscribers and 10,000 paying subscribers. Pretty big numbers, though not surprising given his fame/notoriety (depending on how you view him). His format is very blog like and more like the Sullivan I used to read. Though a newsletter, it seems like a series of blog posts emailed to you.

You can see Sullivan’s newsletter shaping up as each one comes out. The same is true of Alison Roman’s. She fills in a bit more each time, and she seems to be learning or evolving as she goes along. She now has a free and a paid one, and the paid one gets an extra recipe. Jamelle Bouie used to do something similar before he moved over to the New York Times.

Bouie and others like Austin Kleon have been doing newsletters for years. But things seem to have really taken off since the advent of Substack. The newer ones, like Sullivan and Roman, use Substack. I’m not sure what is driving it, save that Substack makes it easier to monetize subscriptions and provide tools to make it simpler to run a newsletter. It could be that newsletters are seen as the New Thing, the way Podcasts were the New Thing only recently, and people want to get in on the New Thing. For whatever reason, newsletters seem to be taking off.

I still feel like they are emailed blogs, and because of that, I will keep blogging. Blogging, tweeting, newsletters: all just ways of expressing ourselves in the era of the Web.

Favorite newsletters: As for my favorites, Austin Kleon is near the top of the list. His is tight. He has a good structure, he is consistent in putting it out, it is diverse in what it highlights. I like Alison Roman’s too: it’s like getting a small part of what will be her next cookbook weekly. Speaking of cooking newsletters, I really like Jamelle Bouie’s for that. Unlike Roman, he doesn’t develop new recipes, but he does highlight some really good recipes from others, as well.

Bouie’s has some smart political commentary. Another person with a newsletter filled with insights is Felix Salmon. Paul Krugman’s is ok, but I don’t feel it some times.

Pandemic update: it has been dreadful to watch the pandemic play out in the United States. My optimist’s eye is I seeing some evidence that more states are getting serious about putting in restrictions to get things under control. I hope so. While Trump seems incapable of doing anything remotely useful, others seem to be doing more to keep it in check at least. I feel for Americans.

In Canada things are improving. Not as good as some other countries, but improving. The next big test  will be school’s reopening in September. After that, we may see fresh outbreaks. We will see soon enough.

Overall, we seem to be in the beginning of the middle of the pandemic. If the end is when vaccines roll out and social restrictions ease, and if the beginning was our initial confusion over what to do and eventually doing radical new things, I think we are now in the middle phase where we have to buckle down and try to get by. This part is going to be the grind. When even Michelle Obama is talking about experiencing low grade depression,  it is not surprising that people with less means than her and are worried about their jobs or their health or their loved ones are also having a hard time.

And other bad things: the pandemic is not the only thing weighing on the mind of Michelle Obama and others. The killing of black Americans, as well as the other injustices they suffer, plays a part. Here in Canada we are seeing the inequalities in our society highlighted in the way that certain groups end up bearing more of the brunt of the pandemic than other groups. I was hopeful that one silver lining of the pandemic would be more political and social effort to address those inequalities. I am less hopeful now. After a burst of coming togetherness in the early part of the pandemic, I suspect now people strongly want it just to be over.

But some good things: if you search for “covid vaccine”, you will be swamped with results showing that much progress is being made there. Plus already there are better forms of treatment for people who do suffer as a result of COVID-19. That’s really good.

With better treatment and a wide spread vaccine and possibly a change in government in the US, there is also the potential for a huge economic recovery worldwide. This is not to overlook the suffering now, but to look forward to a new and healthy and better off world.

The other good thing about the pandemic is the strong fiscal stimulus governments have put into fending off the worst from an economic perspective. I hope more progressive political parties and organizations use this to push on in the future for greater government involvement in improving the lives of more and more people.  Let’s see.

Other good things….

Jacques Pepin: I found Jacques Pepin on Instagram. He’s great! Of course he’s great, Bernie, you sigh. I mean, what I love about him is his style of cooking and sharing. Very old school in some ways, very French, but not flashy. He cooks in a little kitchen and tells stories and chops up food and even uses a microwave. I love that! Who’s going to tell him he shouldn’t use a microwave? Only a fool would do that. Jacques Pepin can cook any way he wants. He’s Jacques Pepin, that’s why. 🙂

Le Bernardin and World Central Kitchen:  Eric Ripert is making the most of his downtime by turning his world famous restaurant into a place to make meals for those less fortunate. Every week he turns out hundreds of meals that are then distributed to others. It’s a good act, and you can read about it here.

Finally…

2020 and the pandemic era: there’s a meme started by Reese Witherspoon showing a headshot for each month. Many other celebrities have adopted it. As you might suspect, each headshot shows more and more distress as the months pass. If you feel that way yourself, consider yourself part of a larger community!

We are in the pandemic era. Like other periods of great stress (e.g. the Great Depression),  time is measured more by a specific set of events and less by calendars and scheduled events. We cannot schedule this, only live through it.

It will end. Just like all era do. Try and make the most of it, and try to permanently record your thoughts and feelings and anything else that embodies the era. You will fondly look back on it, the way humans tend to do. Plus, people of later generations will want to hear about it and see evidence of it. Give them something of yourself from the time. Even if it pictures of the bread you made that one time, or a snapshot of the Zoom calls you were on, or something you bought online when all the retail stores were closed. You are living through history: you are special just by living in this time.

At the beginning of the pandemic I made this zine to remind people to make a list of things they want to do when the pandemic is over. There is still time to make that list, even though some of those things are already happening. Traveling is one of the things on mind. But even something simple like causally wandering into one of my favorite noodle bars and slurping some good brothy noodles is something I am looking forward too. And with that said, thanks again for reading this.

 

Image of a bar

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On why I will likely never be a minimalist

Simply put, I love rooms like this. The books! The colour! The nik naks! 🙂

Love it. If you do too, check out where I found this photo: 19 vibrant rooms that don’t shy away from color and pattern.

Many of them are stunning and luxurious, and others are simple and low key, like this:

I’d be happy to hang out and live in any of these 19 rooms.

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Is New York dead yet?

Predictions are hard. Predictions about New York City especially so. This one was written a few years ago, and talks about how gentrification is killing NY: The Death of a Once Great City | Harper’s Magazine.

Now in the midst of the pandemic, that economic costs of that will take a bite out of gentrification, which will be nothing compared to the closures that will occur as this disease hangs over the city and the rest of the world.

Whatever happens to New York, be it 9/11 or gentrification or the pandemic, I think the best and safest prediction is to never count it out. Perhaps some far off day New York will no longer be one of the world’s great cities. Perhaps some day it will die off, like many other great cities have. I think we can predict that day is far away still.

So whenever you read about New York dying of one thing or another, take it with a grain of salt.

(Photo via malteesimo)

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On my odd fascination with minimalism

I am oddly fascinated by minimalism. It appeals to me, though I could never adopt it. Visually I like the look of minimalist places (like the one pictured above, from this piece, Goodbye things, hello minimalism: can living with less make you happier? | Books | The Guardian). But then I know I am terrible and I would be hanging pictures and adding furniture in no time.

I suspect the simplicity of it appeals to me too. So much less to manage. But then I would get bored of wearing the same clothes, like this:

Likewise, a kitchen with this many things in a drawer seems great. No clutter, no struggling to find things, or manage things

But then I think that a kitchen is a workshop and like any good workshop, you need supplies and tools to be effective.

So when I read pieces like this, about Japanese hardcore minimalist, it lures me in to thinking about it for awhile. Then that dream fades.

I am not as anti-minimalist as the author of this piece. But I think they raise some excellent points. Then again I have read the book Goodbye Things and thought it worthwhile.

I suspect that my odd fascinating with minimalism will live on for some time.

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COVID comes for the French Wine Industry


And the result, if you are a fan of French wines, is tragic: Of Wine, Hand Sanitizer and Heartbreak – The New York Times.

You can read it straight up, but it’s worth pondering what it tells us about our values right now, and what they were before. Times are tough in the pandemic era, for winemakers in particular as well as all of us in general.

(Image thanks to Sven Wilhelm).

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On the Apple Cube, a wonderful failure

It’s hard to believe that this computer (see above), that is in the MoMA no less, was a failure. But as this piece shows, it was one of Apple’s least successful computers for a number of reasons: 20 Years Ago, Steve Jobs Built Apple’s G4 Cube. It Bombed | WIRED.

Beautiful design, but not a great product. Every company has those from time to time. Apple was no exception.

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One of the best things about Toronto, the Beltline Trail, is going to get even better


According to this: This Toronto trail is getting new platforms where old train stations used to be.

The Beltline Trail is one of the things I treasure about Toronto. As a pathway alone it is wonder, full of runners and cyclists and many folks just out for a walk under the tree canopy. It likely wouldn’t exist if not for the short lived train line that cut through this part of the city. Now the pathway will be tied to the very thing that brought it to life. That’s great.

If you live in Toronto, you owe it to yourself to visit it sometime.

The soothing calm of Japanese minimalism in a canal house in Amsterdam

If you want to soothe your eyes and spirit with some calm today, check out this canal house in Amsterdam:

Design Milk has a feature on this place and every image is a sight for sore eyes. To see what I mean, take yourself to this page.

You’ll be glad you did.

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Change your rug, change your room

You might reply, sure Bernie, that’s fine and I agree, but rugs are expensive. I can’t argue that: rugs can be expensive. But there’s also good cheap rugs  and if you don’t believe me, read this: Cheap Thrills: Vintage-Style Rugs Under $100 | Apartment Therapy

Now, that’s an older piece. Some of those rugs may not be there. But it’s worth reading just to get the names of websites that have low cost rugs. Check them out; you’re sure to find one you like.

If you want to change your room, you can change your furniture and you can paint your walls. But that’s can end up being a lot  time and money. A cheap rug could just be the thing to freshen up your room.

P.S. Not all the rugs are colorful, but I like colorful rugs so I chose that image. Also that rug has pink and pink in a rug tends to go with many room colours.

P.S.S. IKEA is also a source of inexpensive rugs. And their black and white Stockholm rugs is famous for a good reason while being low cost.

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On the passing of filmmaker Alan Parker

Alan Parker just died. If you grew up in the last quarter of the 20th century, odds are very good you’ve seen one of his films, if not several. You may not even realized you did. He wasn’t a fan of the auteur idea of being a director, and that likely resulted in him not making films in a consistent way. Which is fine, since he made many a good film. The New York Times has done a wonderful thing and put together a list of some of his most well known films and where you can watch them online: Where to Stream Alan Parker’s Best Movies – The New York Times.

If you haven’t seen any of his films, now is your chance. Grab that list and go stream. I may rewatch “The Commitments”, one of the more enjoyable films from that time.