Monthly Archives: October 2020

Just how short a workout can you do and gain benefits? Would you believe 4 seconds?


You might find that ridiculous, but if you read this, you might change your mind.

I have been doing what is known as “greasing the groove” while working at home during the pandemic. I have noticed getting stronger. As well, I stretch at least once a day, and I have found I have become more flexible too.

You will not get in the same shape as someone who works out 30-60 minutes every day. Get yourself some weights or even some heavy objects. Or go over to a site like darebee and get a 1 minute workout. After doing it for a few weeks, you will achieve more than you imagined.

Give it a shot.

(Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash)

One way to backup your files is to the cloud


I haven’t tried this yet, but I am seriously considering it. I already use AWS for other things, so it might be time to see if I can archive old files that I rarely use but don’t want to delete. I don’t feel like getting more hardware, and I don’t have much confidence in Apple’s iCloud. So this might be the solution: ​How to Use Amazon Glacier as a Dirt Cheap Backup Solution.

And if I go that route, I will need tools. This article should give me the information  I need for that: The Best Tools for Uploading Files to Amazon Glacier – Digital Inspiration.

(Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash)

On pantry cooking with Melissa Clark

One of the better things that came out of the pandemic is this series of recipes published in the New York Times and written by Melissa Clark: From the Pantry – The New York Times.

I loved how each recipe is really a cooking lesson more than a step 1-2-3 recipe. By the time you made a dish, you can already imagine making it a dozen different ways with the suggestions she provides. That’s especially good for people who are not comfortable changing recipes around. If you are one of those people, you’ll be much more confident improvising with ingredients after you have made a few of these meals.

I also liked that the recipes really cover a range of meals, from breakfast to dinner, from salad and soup to dessert. Now that there is quite a few recipes listed here, you can pick and choose what suits you.

Finally, I like that the Times didn’t firewall off this content. Anyone can see the recipes: you don’t need a subscription to the Cooking section of the paper/website.

I highly recommend these recipes. Go use some and become a better cook.

(Photo by Nadia Pimenova on Unsplash)

It’s the weekend. You need to stop wasting it. Here’s how.

It’s the weekend and chances are you are using it up doing 1-5 of the things mentioned in this article. Don’t. (Or at least do one less). I especially liked the tip on laundry. But read the article and see what I mean. Carve out your weekend for more Me time.

(Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash)

On capsule wardrobes, or minimalism in the closet

If you are transitioning your clothes from summer to winter, you might be asking yourself: why do I have all these clothes? Do I need so many pieces? What can I do to pare down?

One option is to aim for a capsule wardrobe.  Here’s a piece on how to create one.For more on this, see this.

As for me, I am a failed minimalist, and I would likely fail at this too. But I feel the need to do it.

P.S. These guides are directed at women’s wear, but people who wear traditional men’s clothing can easily adapt this.

Everything you want to know about COBOL, but were afraid to ask

Here’s 13 links to get you started learning more about COBOL. It’s got some old school stuff and some cool cloud stuff, too.

  1. Here’s a good piece that should convince you to get into COBOL: I Took a COBOL Course and I Liked It
  2. As is this: Don’t hate COBOL until you’ve tried it | Opensource.com
  3. Convinced? Try this: Build your first COBOL application – IBM Developer
  4. Or if you are an AWS fan: toricls/cobolambda: Serverless COBOL on AWS Lambda.
  5. More COBOL in the cloud: Learn how to run COBOL in a cloud native way – IBM Developer
  6. This site has tutorials….COBOL Tutorial – Tutorialspoint
  7. …and syntax information: COBOL – Basic Syntax – Tutorialspoint
  8. Here’s some useful source code: IBM/kubernetes-cobol: A Code Pattern to teach how to run a COBOL program on Kubernetes
  9. Here’s some perspective: On the past, present, and future of COBOL – Increment: Programming Languages
  10. More source: 3 open source projects keeping COBOL alive and well | Opensource.com
  11. More courses: COBOL Programming Course
  12. More on COBOL: Open Mainframe Project Helps Fill the Need for COBOL Resources – Open Mainframe Project
  13. Now you’re skilled, get yourself a mainframe! Get hands-on COBOL development experience with IBM Z software trials – IBM Developer

Send me a link to your Github repo once you are done and I’ll add it here!

If the pandemic has you down, watch: How To Be At Home

This lovely short film, How To Be At Home, by Andrea Dorfman, and provided by the National Film Board of Canada, reunites filmmaker Andrea Dorfman with poet Tanya Davis to provide timely guidance on how to get through the pandemic, and other such isolation. Highly recommended.

 

 

On Philip Guston

I had some other things to say about Philip Guston until this  article came out in the Times, saying:

Last week, a handful of museums decided to postpone a retrospective of the painter Philip Guston over concerns that Ku Klux Klan imagery in his work, intended to criticize racism, anti-Semitism and bigotry, would upset viewers or that the works would be “misinterpreted.”

I was disappointed, to say the least. Fortunately I am not alone. The article goes on to state:

On Wednesday, a letter drafted by the art critic Barry Schwabsky addressed to those museums — the National Gallery of Art in Washington; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and Tate Modern, London — and signed by nearly 100 artists, writers and curators, was published by the Brooklyn Rail, protesting the postponement. To date, more than 2,000 names have been added — young and old, Black, Asian, Persian, Arab, L.G.B.T.Q.

So I am collecting a list of sites and pages on Guston, because he is an artist people should get to know more about. Especially if they were to simply mindedly misinterpret his work and think he has anything but abhorrence for the KKK. 

I am also doing this because I am a fan of his courage as much as I am of his work.  He made a big break from abstract expressionism late in his career and suffered for it. I don’t know many artists who have done such a thing. I think he needs to be more well known.

I also find it surprising to think people were surprised by this big break with AbEx. The elements he reintroduced were there from the beginning. And the cartoonish nature of his work is parallel to the drawings he was doing of Nixon and others. He needed to break from AbEx and went with the tools he had.

If you want to learn more about Guston, here is some links I have found that are useful:

Another watch: the smart watch from Timex

Besides the classic digital watch I wrote about earlier today, Timex also makes some smart watches that are very affordable for a smart watch.

For example, this one, the iConnect Premium watch:

This watch does a lot of the fitness work that other smart watches do and for a very good price.

Timex has many watches like this, and while this one is rated well, others are not. So buyer beware. But if you were thinking of getting a watch to help you with fitness, this could be the one.

A digital watch that is also a classic

Apple Watches are cool. I love them. So do many others.

But if want to have have a cool digital watch that is also a classic, you want this, I think:

It comes in silver and gold. You can order it, here.

On turning an old Windows laptop into a Chromebook for my son’s virtual school

For my son’s virtual classroom, most of his work is being done using Google’s cloud services. I’ve decided to take an old T420 laptop that was in the basement and turn it into a Chromebook for him to use. So far it’s going ok.

If you are interested in doing something similar, I found this article on PC World very detailed and good for all skill levels. (I’ve read a half dozen pieces and the ones I reviewed all pretty much said the same things.) All you will need is an old PC (or maybe an old Mac), a 16 GB USB stick, and some patience. 🙂

I haven’t wiped the Windows OS yet: I booted up the 420 and told it to load the OS from the USB stick. (This part will differ from machine to machine.) With the 420 it’s easy: just hold down the blue button on top of the keyboard and let it go into setup mode and then follow the prompts.

I can’t say that the user experience is fast. It’s….not terrible. Still slow. But once things come up, it should be good.

More from me as new results come in.

Oct 19: so far so good with the Chromebooks. I ended up wiping the old OS and installing the ChromeOS on the disk drive. One odd thing: there is no notification that the installation is complete. So I recommend you start it, leave it for 30 minutes or so, then reboot the laptop. It should come up with the new OS.

One nice thing about it is that my son has Chrome settings (e.g. bookmarks) specific to his Gmail account. So when he logs into the Chromebook, I can set up the bookmarks specifically for his e-learning (e.g., I have links to all his courses on the bookmark).

The other thing I like about converting old laptops into Chromebooks is that the screen and keyboard is often better than most Chromebooks. For example, I turned a T450 into a Chromebook and I love typing on it.

Finally, old laptops are relatively cheap. You can get T420 for under $300, and T450s for around $350, which is cheaper than many (though not all Chromebooks). Better still, I bet many people have an old PC lying around doing nothing. Make it into a Chromebook and give it to someone who could use it.

 

 

Canada Post wants you to send more mail. You should take them up on it by going to these sites.

First off, here’s is some tips on how you can get started letter writing (and if you celebrate Christmas, now is a good time to start thinking about it): Write here. Write now. | Canada Post

Second, if you need more info, including how to get personalized stamps: Picture Postage

Get your pen out and get going. Thank you! 🙂

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

Welcome to Autumn: a season so nice they named it twice (Autumn/Fall). Thanks again for reading one of my kinda/sorta/not really newsletters containing things on my mind since the last one in September. Let’s jump in:

The Pandemic – bad: well the pandemic seems to be going pear shaped all over the world. Places that have kept their numbers down have suddenly dropped the ball and have seen their numbers increase. There are a few exceptions, like New Zealand and the Atlantic provinces in Canada. But they are few and far between and likely in isolated places, I believe. As for Canada overall, I think this is a very good analysis of where we currently are with the pandemic: Opinion: With winter coming and the virus spreading, a feeling of dread is setting in – The Globe and Mail. I am afraid it will get worse.

The Pandemic – good: Not everything is gloom and doom, though. Some fun and joyous things have happened. For instance, the night of a thousand wines. One of the fun things that happened in the pandemic is the night Susan Orlean got drunk and then took to twitter. The results were
unintentionally hilarious. You can read about them, here. (She feels no shame, so I do not feel bad sharing this. Hey, it happens.)

One of the nicest things to happen recently is the viral video of the guy skateboarding while drinking cranberry juice and listening to Fleetwood Mac. Here’s more on that: Millions of Views Later, Nathan Apodaca Keeps the Vibe Going – The New York Times

Another one of the more positive things to come out of the pandemic: Gay couples take over the hashtag #ProudBoys to drown out the hate group – The Washington Post.

Dealing with discomfort: I wrote this three years ago, on how to think about living with discomfort. I think it holds up and is worth reading if you are suffering.

New Newsletters: Last time I hadn’t thought of any newsletters worth mentioning. Not this time. First up is this one from Laura Calder. It’s monthly and is packed with lots of good things to read. Highly recommended. For people who like a thoughtful political newsletter, there is this one, from Siri Agrell: Loss Leader.

The U.S.: well, not long now before the U.S. election.  Thank god. Here’s hoping for a change in the leadership. Both America and the world needs it. But remember, whatever bad things you think about Trump, he is STILL not the worst president ever. This guy is.

Restaurants: up until now restaurants have been getting by with patio service and by coming up with new ways to serve their customers. To see what I mean, here’s an innovative way to provide food by a place in Toronto. Elsewhere, here’s a good story of how restaurants are changing to meet the demands put on them from the pandemic: Tom Sietsema: To weather the pandemic, restaurants reinvent themselves, again and again – The Washington Post. I don’t want to paint too rosy a picture. It’s been a brutal time for restaurants.

Personal News:  Here’s the recent obituary for my uncle: Obituary of Pat Hall, Glace Bay. RIP, Pat. You were a good man.

It is an odd feeling to see your life reflected in a web page, but this one does.

My mom is referenced in that obit. When she died, I thought about this artwork often.

 You can find more about it here.

IBM: Big shake up coming for my employer: IBM, Seeing Its Future in the Cloud, Breaks Off I.T. Unit – The New York Times. I don’t have any great insights into this. It seems like a wise move. Then again, it seemed that way when John Akers did it. Time will tell.

Meanwhile I celebrated by 37th year at IBM this October 3rd. For someone who was surprised to not have to go on the “pogey” after a year, it’s been a long and rewarding trip. I wrote a long piece about it 10 years ago. (One thing I like about my blog is going back in time.)

Google Assistant: I have become a fan of Google Assistants over the last while. I now have three devices for this: a Google mini, my Sonos speaker, and this Lenovo Smart Clock (which I wrote about). I have found it has made my life better. I use it to play music, get the time, get the weather. The one in the kitchen is especially great because I can do so much just by talking to the mini. I highly recommend them.

Cooking: I wrote this a while ago about how to make French fries. If you love french fries, you should read it. It will change your life (or at least have you making fries more :)). And it is also the season for sheet pan cooking. Here’s some good advice I found on that, here.

Exercise tips: if you are like me, you need to exercise. Here’s some tips!

Pandemic – funny: this is almost funny, if you like dark humour. Here are some pandemic predictions I found recently from March, 2020. Needless to say, much of this is wrong: Coronavirus going to hit its peak and fall sooner than you think.

Not that I am one to gloat. Here is me from October 2015 predicting the next American president!

Finally, it is thanksgiving here in Canada. I am thankful and grateful for many things, despite this trying time. I hope you are too.

(Photo by 🇨🇭 Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum on Unsplash)

If you have gotten to here, thank you so much. I appreciate you taking the time to read this.

What’s this? Just some beautiful cabins to imagine escaping too

Like many of us, the people at Dwell have been thinking of escaping as a form of dealing with the pandemic. They have gone from fantasing about it to compiling this amazing list of cabins for us to drool over. The above is just one of thirty five amazing places, all of which you can see, here: 35 Magical Tiny Cabins to Pin to Your Mood Board Immediately – Dwell

On Agnes Martin

Regardless of how much you know about the painter Agnes Martin, I recommend this piece on her: 35 Odd Jobs Celebrated Painter Agnes Martin Held Before She Became an Artist – Brain Pickings.

The title is odd, but don’t let it put you off. Martin is a fascinating person, and a great artist. I find her work challenges me like no other.  But it rewards too. I hope you will learn more about her and feel the same.

How complicated is the brain?

The brain is a complex organ. Even in something as small as a fruit fly (whose brains are mapped in the image above). Yet…

Scientists from Google and the Janelia Research Campus in Virginia have published the largest high-resolution map of brain connectivity in any animal, sharing a 3D model that traces 20 million synapses connecting some 25,000 neurons in the brain of a fruit fly.

The model is a milestone in the field of connectomics, which uses detailed imaging techniques to map the physical pathways of the brain. This map, known as a “connectome,” covers roughly one-third of the fruit fly’s brain. To date, only a single organism, the roundworm C. elegans, has had its brain completely mapped in this way.

It’s a fascinating story of both biology and computer science. (It takes a lot of computing power to do this). For more details, see: Google publishes largest ever high-resolution map of brain connectivity – The Verge

What to get the book lover in your life? The Little Black Classics Box Set from Penguin

As a book lover myself, I have coveted the collection of books above from Penguin. As they say:

This spectacular box set of the 80 books in the Little Black Classics series showcases the many wonderful and varied writers in Penguin Black Classics. From India to Greece, Denmark to Iran, the United States to Britain, this assortment of books will transport readers back in time to the furthest corners of the globe. With a choice of fiction, poetry, essays and maxims, by the likes of Chekhov, Balzac, Ovid, Austen, Sappho and Dante, it won’t be difficult to find a book to suit your mood.

Sounds great! For more information, including how to order it, go here.

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Hobbies, or how to start drawing even if the idea terrifies you


Yesterday I encouraged you to take up a hobby. If you haven’t decided on one yet, I recommend drawing. You may be terrified or at least put off by the idea of taking up drawing. It’s ok. Many people feel that way. To help you, here’s some good links to get you thinking at least of taking up drawing.

Lots of good advice there in those links. As for books, I highly recommend the book above. It is superb. It can be hard to find, but these folks seem to have it.

This is a test post of a new plugin

This is a test post of a new plugin, blish.

The pandemic ain’t going away soon. Maybe you need a hobby. This can help.

I am sorry to (not) break this to you (since you know it already) but the pandemic is not going away soon. That’s bad. What’s good is it may be the right time to start a hobby. Here’s two links that can help:

  1. CrossFit, ceramics: 10 people on how much they spend on their hobbies – Vox
  2. How to Find a Hobby – Smarter Living Guides – The New York Times

The New York Times piece can help you find a hobby. And the Vox piece can give you an idea of what it might cost.

A hobby is a good thing to have and no one argues this better than Austin Kleon. To see what I mean, check out his writings on hobbies.

(Photo by Margarida Afonso on Unsplash)

On that London coffee shop charging $64 for its premium coffee

Kudos to Queen’s of Mayfair for getting CNN to write up the $64 “cup” of coffee they are serving.

You might think it is the most posh and ridiculously expensive place in the world to visit. Well it is posh, but as this blog post shows, it’s also charming and affordable.

I won’t be travelling soon, but when I do, I’d like to go there. But not for the $64 coffee. Anything else on their menu, though.

(Image is a link to the blog post).

It’s my IBM Anniversary

Every October 3rd I mark my anniversary starting working at IBM. Back then, I took a 1 hour commute via the “Red Rocket” to 245 Consumers Road in Willowdale (now Toronto) to start work in the tape library (which looked a lot like the photo above).

What else was happening with IBM back then? Only the advent of the IBM PC. Here’s a story on it here.

If you have big projects you have been struggling with…

If you have big projects that you have been struggling with, I recommend these two pieces:

Sometime you need to gain a big of perspective in the daunting face of what seems is an overwhelming effort. Those pieces can help you.

(Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash)

 

In a Hurry? Try Express Weight Training

Weight training has many benefits. If you have been considering it but balking, you likely have multiple reasons for not getting started. One reason might be: you have no time. Well, if you have thirteen minutes, you can do a weight workout. As noted here, In a Hurry? Try Express Weight Training – The New York Times, you can get stronger no matter what. Of three groups tested for strength gain: 

One group was asked to complete five sets of each exercise, with about 90 seconds of rest between sets. Their total time for a session at the gym was almost 70 minutes. A second group was asked to complete three sets of each exercise, requiring they work out for about 40 minutes. The third group had to finish only one set of each exercise, meaning that they were done after a brisk 13 minutes. Each volunteer performed his given workout three times a week for eight weeks and then returned to the lab to repeat the muscle measurements. After the two months, all of the young men were stronger, a finding that, by itself, is beguiling, since it suggests that people can continue to gain strength even if they already are experienced at resistance training. But more interesting and surprising, the strength improvements were essentially the same, no matter how many — or few — sets the men completed. The men who had stopped after one set gained as much strength as those who had done five sets or three.

As with anything, your results may vary. But if you want to get stronger with the least amount of time put in, consider this.

Friday night cocktail: the boulevardier

A wonderful cocktail, here brought to you by smitten kitchen.  All you need are:

2 ounces bourbon or rye whiskey
1 ounce red vermouth
1 ounce Campari Ice

An orange peel is a good touch. Boulevardier: simple, but delicious. 

 

Which Is Better, Rewards or Punishments? Neither

Good piece if you are struggling to change behavior in children: Which Is Better, Rewards or Punishments? Neither – The New York Times. But honestly, what is good for changing children’s behavior is good for changing any one’s behavior, including your own. 

I recommend you read the piece: it has good examples. But in a nutshell, you should:

  • Motivate Instead of Reward
  • Help Instead of Punish

There’s one other piece of advice in the article. I’ll leave it for you to find out what it is. You can do it! Just click the link above. You’ll be glad you did.

(Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash)