Monthly Archives: December 2020

On what Bill Gates was thinking about last New Year’s Eve

Taxes

If you thought that Bill Gates was thinking about pandemics last year, you are incorrect (although he has put a lot of thought into them). No, what he was thinking about when he wrote this,What I’m thinking about this New Year’s Eve, was taxes. Specifically, how to make taxes in the U.S. fairer.

It’s worth reading regardless of your political beliefs. If you are more right wing, you will find things to agree and disagree with. Likewise if you are left wing.

There is too much inequality and poverty in the world. Fairer taxes is one way to address that.

(Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash)

Some CBT Resources online you may find useful

Man thinking.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy is an effective way to deal with many forms of anxiety and depression. I’d argue it can help people with their thinking in general. If you are looking for tools to help you with it, here are two sets of resources:

  1.  Online Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Workshop
  2. CBT Worksheets (includes this PDF comes).

(Photo by Darius Bashar on Unsplash)

Kathy (Kathryn) Sullivan is an amazing woman and everyone should know about her


Do you know who Kathy Sullivan is? I didn’t. I know who Elon Musk is. I know James Cameron. Not to mention many other astronauts, athletes, etc. I’d argue she is as great as any one them. After all, she is the first woman to reach the deepest known spot in the ocean after being the first American woman to walk in space. That’s amazing.

If you’d like to know more about here, there’s this piece in the New York Times. And of course she has a Wikipedia page.

(Image attribution: NASA – Great Images in NASA Description, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6449687)

Four good pieces on my hometown, Glace Bay

Anyone with an interest in Glace Bay will find these worth reading:

  1. A COAL TOWN FIGHTS FOR ITS LIFE | Maclean’s | MARCH 15 1954: this was fascinating. A story from Maclean’s Magazine in the 1950s that documented Glace Bay at the crossroads. So much in this piece explains my home town and the people who lived there.
  2. Glace Bay hockey rink’s new name closer to its roots | CBC.ca: a mainstay of Glace Bay is the hockey rink. When I was a kid I lived about 100 meters from it. I spent most of my early days (until grade 10) going to it. So many memories back then revolved around that building.
  3. KEN MACDONALD: Remembering the miners | Local-Lifestyles | Lifestyles | Cape Breton Post: a good piece from the local paper on the mines of Glace Bay and the miners who lived and sometimes died in them.
  4. Miners’ houses: Lawren Harris in Glace Bay – Nova Scotia Advocate: finally this piece on Glace Bay with a focus on a famous painting of Glace Bay by Lawren Harris (shown above). It used to be in the AGO and I often paused to reflect on it, and my hometown. Just like I am doing now.

If you are thinking of doing lots of reading over the holidays…


You might find this interesting: What Happened When I (Tried to) Read 30 Books in 30 Days

Personally I think that is not the ideal way to read. But you should check it out if that sort of thing appeals to you.

Also, it’s the pandemic: don’t read that close to anyone but your immediate circle. 🙂

(Photo by Ben White on Unsplash)

It’s Boxing Day in Canada. Shoppers take note.


It’s Boxing Day in Canada. For many, it’s a time of resting and reflection. For others, it’s a time of frenzied shopping to get a good deal. I am more of the former. If you are more of the latter, this link will help you. It supposedly has the best deals for Boxing Day in Canada. Of course you can search on Google for that too. Regardless, all the best to you on your shopping. May you save a bundle.

For more on the history and traditions of Boxing Day, click here.

Merry Christmas! Here’s everything you need to know about making a turkey but were afraid to ask (or do)

Merry Christmas! I hope the day is a peaceful and joyous one for you and yours.

As part of the celebration, you may be making a turkey. Good for you. But making a turkey can be daunting and fearful. You need help. You need a guide. Indeed, what you need this excellent guide from epicurious. It will help you get it done like nobody’s business.

All the best to you and yours on this great day. Merry Christmas. And happy New Year to you as well.

Save this for your Zoom wine and cheese get togethers this holiday season….


If you are planning to have a Zoom get together over the holidays and you are look for ways to jazz it up with a wine (bourbon?) and cheese pairing, check this out: The Best Spirits and Cheese Pairings According to the Experts | The Manual

Or you can go to the site that provided the fine poster above.

Merry Christmas Eve!

If you are spending Christmas alone this year….

If you are spending Christmas alone this year and  you find the thought of it difficult (and why not?) then you might find this helpful: The Best Ways to Spend the Holidays Alone, From Someone Who Does It Every Year.

Some good tips there, pandemic or no pandemic.

Happy Christmas, wherever you are, and with whomever you are spending it with.

 

Some low cost last minute gift ideas for you…

Are here: Best Gifts from West Elm for $50 or Less | Apartment Therapy.

Even if you can’t get them from West Elm, try and use the ideas and get your last minute items crossed off your list.

(Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash)

You are running out of time and you are thinking of regifting something. Consider this

It’s tough shopping in this pandemic. If you are stuck trying to find a gift and you are thinking of regifting, then read this first: Best Regifting Ideas — 5 Things That Are OK to Regift, and 5 That Aren’t | Apartment Therapy.

Yes, wine is a good choice (assuming the person getting the gift likes wine). For other Dos and Don’ts, check out that article.

(Image Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash)

My cooking projects for the month of December and January (maybe)

I go through periods of cooking just the basics, followed by furious sessions of mad cooking. I think I am going to be transitioning from the former to the latter over the next while. So I have pulled together these recipes of pretty basic things to try out and perhaps add to my repertoire. You might want to as well.

Sushi-ish: I have a bag of sushi style rice just sitting in my kitchen asking me to make some sushi, so I think I might use these to give it a go: How to Make Sushi (with Pictures), How to Choose Sushi-Grade Seafood, Homemade Sushi: Tips, Tricks, and Toppings! – Peas and Crayons, 30 Good Ideas for Sushi Roll Fillings – Easy Homemade Sushi: and even Make a Sushi Bowl at Home — With Canned Tuna | by Mark Bittman | Heated

Crepes: I love dishes that allow you to experiment, and I love food you can carry. Sushi rolls are one form of that. Crepes are another. I want to try one or both of these. This is classic: Robyn Cooks: Ham, Asparagus, and Swiss Cheese Crepes and this sounds amazing: Shrimp and Sugar Snap Pea Bánh Xèo (Vietnamese Sizzling Rice Crepes) Recipe.

Noodles: two of my favorite noodle dishes are these too. Gonna try at least one in the next while: Dan Dan Noodles Recipe and  Singapore Noodles. Can’t go wrong with a spicy bowl of noodles.

Nashville-Style Chicken: I’ve been wanting to make this for awhile, but I have balking at it. It sounds exciting and dangerous. 🙂 But one of these recipes ought to fit the bill. Some of them are more authentic and some less so: Nashville-Style Hot Chicken Recipe | Bon Appétit, Nashville Style Hot Fried Chicken – From A Chef’s Kitchen, Nashville-Style Hot Chicken recipe | Epicurious.com, Nashville Hot Chicken, the History Behind the South’s “It” Dish and  What Is Nashville Hot Chicken? | TASTE

Cuban sandwiches: I have long loved classic sandwiches like a Reuben or a Club House. I have recently added Cuban sandwiches to that list. Such a great combination. Here’s three I liked: Cuban Sandwich Recipe | Tasting Table, Cubano: A Traditional Cuban Sandwich Recipe and 
How to Make Real-Deal Cuban Sandwiches | Serious Eats.

Gonna try and see if I can perfect these. Maybe slow roast some pork just for the sheer deliciousness of it.

Quesadillas: they aren’t really a sandwich, any more than a hot dog or a crepe is a sandwich, but again, a good bit of walking around food. Roasted Corn Quesadillas – Step by Step Photos – Budget Bytes is a nice version of one. And this is just a nice piece on how to appreciate them in general: How to Pair Wine With Quesadillas | Food & Wine.

Perfect for when you are kinda too tired to cook.

Breads: of course if you want to make sandwiches, you want bread. You may even want to make your own. I have. In that case, consider: Easy No-Knead Focaccia Recipe, No-Knead Ciabatta, Shockingly Easy No-Knead Focaccia Recipe, and No Knead Focaccia Rolls.

Various cozy dishes for the cold: Now it is winter, I start hankering for dishes like these: The Coziest Vegetable-and-Sausage Soup for Those Chilly May Days – The New York Times (I love this one), Kielbasa, Apple, and Onion Strata with Mornay Sauce Recipe (love stratas too), The 10 Most Popular Soup Recipes of 2020 | Bon Appétit (we all need good soups), Homemade Potatoes Au Gratin – Budget Bytes (perfect with everything), Kimchi Fried Rice, White Fish & Scallop Chowder Recipe on Food52, Mary Berry’s beef stew recipe, and Goulash recipe. And this is always good: Pasta e Fagioli with Escarole recipe | Epicurious.com.

Pork chops: I think pork chops are underrated. You can do so much with them. For example, here’s just two good examples: Baked Honey Mustard Pork Chops  and  Blackberry Sage Pork Chops. 

I also note that pork is sometimes the loss leader in my meat section. For those weeks, having these recipes on standby makes sense.

Salad: here’s one to go with those chops and pretty much everything else: Italian Chopped Salad Recipe.

Good snacks: You need ’em. Here’s two: Toasted Sambal Cashews Recipe, and Marinated Olives and Feta Recipe 

Pét-Nat: I had a period when I was drinking a lot of this during the pandemic. I still like it, but it can be hit and miss with it. If want to learn more, read this: A Beginner’s Guide to Pét-Nat, A More Affordable Champagne Alternative. 

Two thoughts: one, Pét-Nat is harder to find that the article let’s on. Two, the true and better affordable alternative to champagne is cremant. Get that instead.

Finally: I think I am going to do some BBQing over the winter. I may even do charcoal and do this: How to Build Your Own BBQ Chimney « Food Hacks :: WonderHowTo. 

Then I’ll get some steaks like this and cook them: How to Cook Tomahawk Steak · i am a food blog.

Now will I do all these? Likely no. But it’s good to have goals/aspirations, and fwiw, these are mine.

It’s Christmas. Expectations can be high. This can help.

It’s Christmastime: expectations can be high, and sometimes unachievable.  This is especially true during this pandemic. If you are struggling to feel good during this time, here are two articles that can help:

Learn How to Appreciate What You Already Have 

How to Be Happy.

 

 

 

On the ghosts of segregation

This is a link to a powerful essay on the remnants of segregation in the United States. You can see these remnants faintly in the essay’s photographs, like this one above. Off to the left is the entrance to the balcony where the “coloreds” had to go while the “whites” entered through the door on the right and sat separately on the main level closer to the stage. There are many such images in this essay.

It’s good that such images are captured. Soon enough these buildings will all be gone, and the remnants too. That’s why things like this essay are good, because they call our attention to and remind us of what occurred.

The essay is not just filled with moving images, but the words themselves are worth taking the time to take in. I hope you can find the time to take it in and linger over it.

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

Well well well, it’s the last month of 2020, and my last not-really-a-newsletter newsletter! I appreciate you taking a moment to read my latest not-a-newsletter of highlights and ramblings since the one in November.

I’m not sure if I will continue these here and in this format in the new year. Let’s see. Something for me to consider as the year closes. But for now, here’s things I’ve been thinking on since the last one:

Pandemic: It’s hard not to think about the pandemic. Since November, the pandemic has only gotten worse in many places. My town and province is no exception. Cases are up, deaths are up, efforts to flatten the curve seem to be going nowhere. My son’s school was shut down then the rest of the schools were shut down. As for leadership, it seems very reactive these days. A good analysis of that is here: With the pandemic surging, we need more leadership and less urging – The Globe and Mail. Also this piece: Why Doug Ford is stumbling during COVID-19’s second wave? Too often governments thought they could somehow manage the disease and open the economy. They couldn’t.

One of the reason deal with COVID has been so frustrating is well captured in this image:

Governments everywhere keep fiddling with the dial as if to find the right setting, and then find there is none. (Image from xkcd: Covid Precaution Level)

Some places have managed better than others, but even there it has not been perfect. Not long after this came out,  Living in Nova Scotia’s Covid-Free World – The New York Times, they had an outbreak in cases. Nova Scotia is still doing very well, but it is hard to stay perfect. (I’m looking at you New Zealand.)

Besides the health costs, there are the economic costs of the pandemic too. Articles like this come out every month in Toronto: Toronto rent prices are down 15% since last year at this time. Since that one, the rents have dropped to 20%. Meanwhile, places like The Gap are calling it quits in parts of the city: The Gap is closing its flagship store in Toronto

It may be a sad reality that many of storefronts will be boarded up  when the pandemic is over. Indeed, many are boarded up now.

And it will be over, this awful time. Vaccines are rolling out now. Here are places you can use to track it:

In the meantime, stay safe and try to stay healthy this winter. If you are in Toronto, consider this:  A New Way to Play: Recreation During COVID-19 – City of Toronto

Non-pandemic items:

The US: This newsletter is not just about the pandemic. It’s also time to send out a big Bronx cheer to the current president of the United States. I often argued that he was not the worst president in American history. I am wavering in that belief. Just the number of unnecessary deaths resulting from his inaction make him truly terrible. As we lift up the rock and uncover more about him, I think he will only seem worse. Meanwhile, here’s a good piece on his ending: Trump’s Final Days of Rage and Denial – The New York Times.

I would settle for Biden just being not-Trump. But he has a chance to do more. I hope he will. Here’s one way he could do it: Biden transition: How he could act fast and outrun Republican opposition to his presidency – Vox

The economy: One thing we are doing to hear a lot about is the deficits and debts now. This is not the time to do that. There is still much needs to be done for the world to recover. Not only that, but interest rates for some nations are essentially negative. See this for details: China Borrows at Negative Rates for the First Time – WSJ

One group in Canada you might hear banging on about the debt is the Fraser Institute. So here’s a reminder from PressProgress: pay no attention to anything the Fraser Institute says. Even if you are a right winger, at least find some source that doesn’t manipulate the facts.

Newsletters: they have become old hat now. So much so I think I will not comment on them any more. I would like to highlight one last one, though.  David Lebovitz has moved to Substack. Here is his.. He also has a great blog. He’s been an excellent user of social media for some time (not to mention a fine cook and author). Go check him out. Meanwhile, for anyone tired of turning bananas into banana bread, check out this: Banana and Chocolate Chip Upside Down Cake (Lowfat) – David Lebovitz

My blog: ICYMI, I wrote earlier on this blog about friluftsliv (a concept you should know), Ikea,  cardigans and why they are great, Betty Godwin and why she is great, various cocktails (and why you should drink them), as well as being moderately gifted,  being good  and being Paul McCartney.

Thanks for reading this, as well as anything else on my blog. I always appreciate it.

And for those celebrating it:

Friday night cocktails: Armagnac, straight up

Sure, you could put it in a cocktail (e.g. sazarac), but armagnac straight up or over ice is more than fine without anything else. I’ve been a fan for decades, and if you want to know why you should become one too, read this. Then go out and grab a bottle. I’ve had the one pictured and it is really good.

Did you or your teen damage their phone and need to reset it?

iphone problemsIf so, then you will find the next two links handy. I did.  My son broke his screen and while I was able to repair it, other damaged occurred because it was so badly broken. Fortunately while he lost data, I was able to restore the phone to “new” state using these links. From there he went on to add his favorite apps, etc.

Links:

If you forgot the passcode on your iPhone, or your iPhone is disabled – Apple Support

If you see the Restore screen on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch – Apple Support

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The Fitbit Aria scale is the honest friend you need if you are worried about your weight. Here’s why.

I am a huge fan of the Fitbit Aria scale, even when it is brutally honest about my weight situation. It prevents me from deceiving myself about how I am doing. And it encourages me if I’m making even a bit of progress.

The Aria scale measures both your weight and your body fat percentage to the fraction of a pound.  (It also gives you your BMI, but I don’t care about that). That little bit of accuracy helps. I found when I was dieting, sometimes knowing that my weight went down by a fraction of a percentage helped me get through the day. (Motivation often turns on small points like this.) Likewise, right now with the pandemic I see my weight going up by a fraction of a pound every week. So I am trying to get it to go down by a fraction of a pound every week. A half pound every week adds up to 25 pounds in a year.

Having both those numbers prevent you from fooling yourself. If you go on a low carb diet, your weight may drop suddenly, but your body fat percentage may go up alot. (In the past mine did). That tells me that I am not really losing fat or even muscle that quickly. It’s likely water. Over time I did lose weight, but that initial weight loss isn’t what I thought.

The flip side of that is I have noticed my body fat percentage has gone up during the pandemic even though my body weight has stabilized. Makes sense: my physical effort has really gone down hill during the pandemic, and so my muscles have decreased. Sadly. That’s very different from situations I have had in the pre pandemic times when I was working out and my weight was staying the same but my body fat was decreasing. That was good: I was replacing fat with muscle.

Since I also have a fitbit for tracking my activity, all of those numbers sync up in the Fitbit app, which makes it easier for me to track the relationship between my activity and my weight.

I can also use it to track my mental state too. I can tell when I have had stressful times in my life because I either stop eating and suddenly lose weight fast, or I start eating a lot and gain weight fast. I might think I am doing fine, but the numbers say otherwise.

It’s not perfect (what is?).  I tend to weigh myself the first thing every morning. If  eat a carb heavy meal the night before, my weight will be up. If I stop eating early in the evening, my weight will go down. I don’t worry about it though: I am mostly focused on the trends.

I have gone through two of these scales now and if this one dies, I will certainly get another one. I find it too easy to deceive myself about my weight: the Aria scale is the brutally honest friend I need to stay on track.

 

Is this new Wealthsimple app Canada’s answer to Venmo?

Americans might find it unbelievable, but here in Canada we don’t have Venmo. We have other means of transferring cash digitally, but none of them are great, in my humble opinion. I’ve longed for something better.

Perhaps others have too because Wealthsimple has come out with an app, now in beta, that reminds me of what Venmo does. You can read about it here. It looks promising. I will definitely be looking at this over the year to come. I imagine the big Canadian banks will as well.

Are artificial trees better for the environment than real trees?

Christmass tree

It’s that time of the year. And if you haven’t gotten a tree yet — either from a field or from the attic — you might be asking yourself: what is the most environmentally friendly option? Well, the folks at the New York Times asked themselves that too and wrote about it, here.

I am a big fan of real trees and will continue to get them. But read the article and judge for yourself.

(Photo by Danny Castaneda on Unsplash)

A reminder of how to cancel an Apple app subscription

Just follow these six easy steps:

  1. Go to Settings > [your name] > iTunes & App Store.
  2. Tap your Apple ID at the top of the screen.
  3. Tap ‘View Apple ID’. You might need to sign in or use Touch ID.
  4. Tap Subscriptions.
  5. Tap the subscription that you want to manage. …
  6. Use the options to manage your subscription.

It’s pandemic Christmas. Here’s details of a new phishing attack coming to your inbox


Hey, if you are like me, you are ordering your presents online. When you do that, you get a lot of emails back updating you on the status of your order. Since it is Christmas, you are anxious about your order so naturally you are checking on them quickly. And that’s why you need to be careful.

Last night I got an email from Target asking me to check out the status of my order by clicking the link. This was fishy (phishy?) to me, because I didn’t order anything from Target. I checked the links in the email and sure enough: they did not go back to the Target web site.

And it’s not just merchants. I also got one from Paypal warning me of someone breaking into my account and asking me to press a button which wasn’t linked to PayPal.

In short, check your confirmation emails carefully before you click on anything. Otherwise your Christmas could be an unhappy one.

On the new products from Apple

The new Apple AirPods came out, and some critics flailed them for being too expensive. A fair criticism. Some new products are terribly expensive but allow Apple to enter a market and gain share and work out aspects of the product before they move to make cheaper versions that dominant more.

Perhaps the AirPod Maxs will be like that. Some Apple products are strikeouts, and some are grand slams, but more often than not many are singles and doubles: not terrible, not great, but good to very good.

An example of that is the Apple HomePod Mini.  This is one of those not bad not great products. Like the HomePod, it isn’t a failure, but it will not likely take the speaker market by storm either. Apple used to do that: wait and see what others in the marketplace were doing, them come out with something so much better and blow them away. But that was then. They are still great at what they do, and they are still financially world beaters, but I haven’t seen anything that has transformed the market like the iPod or the iPhone. And that fine.

For more on the HomePod and the AirPods Max, see these two pieces:

One product that year after year does great but is underappreciated is the Mac Mini. Apparently it is better than ever. You can read about it, here: Apple Mac Mini Review (2020): Brawn on a Budget | WIRED

Like the iPod Touch, it’s a product that Apple keeps refining and keeps make it better through each iteration. People tend to focus on the big new things from Apple, but they have some golden oldies that are always worth revisiting.

Not 1 but 2 good pieces on the eve of McCartney 3

Paul McCartney

Here’s two good pieces on Paul McCartney on the eve of his latest album, “McCartney 3”.

The first one is an interview with him. Among other things, it shows the difficulty of him doing interviews, since it’s hard for him to add anything new (he still manages to do so): Paul McCartney Is Still Trying to Figure Out Love – The New York Times

While the New York Times piece is really good, this piece is great: 64 Reasons To Celebrate Paul McCartney – The Ruffian.

I have always been a fan of McCartney, but this second piece made me a greater fan. I’ve read it a few times, and even though it is long, I look forward to reading it again. It really does do a fantastic job of highlighting what a great artist Paul really is and addresses some of the many criticisms of him over the years. McCartney has been pinned down over the years both by some bad musical choices and by some (unfair?) musical criticism.  One thing I liked about the second piece is how it nicely rebuffs some of that (e.g. “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da, “Another Day”). Highly recommended that piece, but both are worth a read.

P.S. Since I am banging on about him, my two cents on McCartney from the late 60s to the late 70s is that the Beatles were originally Lennon’s band, but as time past, McCartney grew and started to dominate the Beatles more. Meanwhile Harrison also came into his own. At one late point Lennon tried to come up with an arrangement of how they would allocate songs on the future albums (I think 4 for John, 4 for Paul, 2 for George, and 1 for Ringo), but I think things were too far gone by then. They were too big for the band. That’s too bad (what an understatement). If you go through their musical output of the 70s and picked out the best songs of all of them and made 3 or 4 albums, they would have been great albums (just think of taking the best of Imagine + All Things Must Past + Band on the Run, for example). Plus if they were together they would have pushed each other to do more great things.

I’m not sure how well they would have done past then. The birth of hip hop, punk and new wave might have washed them aside. Or they could have become frozen in amber, like some other big bands of that era. (Look at a Rolling Stones concert play list some time.)  Then again, McCartney teamed up with Elvis Costello and made fine music, so they could have turned out to stay great.

Regardless of alternative histories, McCartney went on to make his own timeline  as a creative artist. Here’s to the success of McCartney III and perhaps IV one day as well.

To set goals, you need to look at your life. Here’s what I mean. (Or how to deal with Wanting to Have a Social Life, with Friends)

I’m not going to say that your goal setting is wrong. But it’s likely you are setting goals without looking at how you spend your time.  So let’s start there.

Write down what you are doing or think you are doing every day, week, month. Really think about this and take the time to document your life this way. Be as quantitative as possible. Then categorize those activities. After you do that, ask yourself: do you want to spend the same amount of time doing those activities in the future? If you don’t, do you want to spend more time or less time?

Let’s take someone named Alison. Alison thinks her goal is to be a better parent. However, when she looks at what she is doing, she finds she is spending most of her time working to become a partner in her firm. That’s her real goal: promotion.

Now Alison is multifaceted, as we all are. She doesn’t need to abandon one goal to work on another. She decides she does want to get promoted, but she does so in the context of also being a better parent. So she shifts some of her time and focus towards more parenting, then works to track that over time to see whether she really has internalized that as a goal.

The time and effort and focus you spend on something tells you what your goals are. Even if you don’t know those are your goals. I discovered this some time ago when I was tracking my todos in an app called Remember the Milk. I was the opposite of Alison. I thought I wanted to get promoted, but I spent most of my time focused on being a good parent and not enough on getting promoted. Eventually  I was content with that. I accepted that I would like to get promoted, but I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my parenting time to that. And I liked my work as it was. From time to time I would be disappointed to see others rise in the organization while I stayed the same, but quickly I thought that was ok. I was meeting my goals.

Likewise, I ran marathons for a long time, and I thought my goal was to run more. But over time I realized that what I got out of marathon running had slipped away. It just became a chore and my goals changed from being a marathon runner to being healthier. Maybe as my life changes I’ll go back to running marathons.

There is a famous poem by Kenneth Koch  called You Want a Social Life, With Friends that addresses this:

Koch is strict here but the thinking is the same. Setting goals helps you move forward in life only if the goals you set align with your values and interests and the time you spend on that. Trying to do everything is difficult when resources  are limited. So think about the time you have and set better goals.

For more on setting better goals, read this piece.

(Photo by Isaac Smith on Unsplash)

To do good, you need to take your time

Good samaritan sculpture

There is a good review of Pope Francis’ Encyclical Fratelli Tutti,  here, in Osservatore Romano. I recommend you read it in full.

One thing in it that struck me was that in order to be good to our sisters and brothers, we need to make time for them. This is what the Good Samaritan does: he takes time to stop and care for another. We need to do this too if we are to be good.

Consider your week next week. How will you take time for others. Not yourself, but how will you give your time to make others better? In doing so, you will be doing good.

There are many ways you can be good. You can give financially. You can be virtuous. But you can also do good if you take your precious time and give it to others so they can be better, and in doing so, you can be better too.

(The image is from this piece on the Good Samaritan. I recommend you read that too. It’s insightful, and a reminder of what a powerful parable it is.)

 

 

Nine more links to help you with intermittent fasting

In 2019 I posted about five links to help you with intermittent fasting. Well since the pandemic, I’ve heard from a number of people who are interesting in the idea, because let’s face it, not many of us have slimmed down during the Indoor Times. If this is you, take a look:

  1. The science behind intermittent fasting — and how you can make it work for you
  2. How to Manage One’s Moods -The School of Life Articles | Formally The Book of Life
  3. Intermittent Fasting For Beginners: Should You Skip Breakfast? | Nerd Fitness
  4. Read This Before You Try Any of These Intermittent Fasting Diets
  5. Foods to Eat While Intermittent Fasting: The Full Breakdown
  6. The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting – The New York Times
  7. Intermittent Fasting May Aid Weight Loss – The New York Times
  8. How Good a Diet Is Intermittent Fasting? – Scientific American
  9. The science behind intermittent fasting — and how you can make it work for you |

(Photo by Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis on Unsplash)

 

The Internet is under water

Literally.

First up, above is a map of  all the underwater fiber optic cables that provide the internet throughout the world. While much of the connectivity for the Internet is above ground, the cables that connect one continent to another all lies at the bottom of the world’s oceans.

And not just cables. One day maybe data centres themselves will also reside in the sea versus land, based on this experiment: Microsoft’s underwater data centre resurfaces after two years – BBC News

Can you replace your desktop computer with a Raspberry Pi in 2020?

rapsberry pi 4
Not yet. Not even if it is raspberry pi 4. As this piece argues, there are still some issues with it that will make you want to hold on to your desktop computer. At least in 2020.

A few comments:

  • depending on your use, you may read this and think: hey, those issues aren’t deal breakers for me. If so, I say go for it.
  • If you have been using a Chromebook and it’s been fine, then you may be more likely to say yes too.
  • If you need a second computer for specific uses, then the Pi 4 may be just the thing.

Eventually there will be a Pi that is both fast and full function and cheap and that will be the just the thing. But in the year 2020, you still want your desktop/laptop.

All that said, the piece is really good, really detailed. Worth reading. The image is from the piece.

If you want to recreate a cubicle in your home, you can (but why would you??)

Hey, if you are really really really missing your office cubicle (why?) and you want to recreate that at home (why??), you can, with this:

Cubicle at home

It’s called the Hug desk, and you can read about it, here.

Please try and make a nice work place in your home instead. I wrote about home offices to die for, here.  These are much better to recreate, imho.

 

Can an app stop nightmares?

smart watch
Occasional nightmares? No. But persistent nightmares, possibly.  WIRED magazine has the story, here:  How a Vibrating Smartwatch Could Be Used to Stop Nightmares | WIRED

If you want to access the app, click here.

Fascinating. I hope it helps.

(Photo by Oscar Nord on Unsplash)

Need a temporary Mac? Now with AWS, you can get one!

How? By using their cloud service: AWS brings the Mac mini to its cloud.

Perfect for those times you need access to a Mac for a short period of time (e.g. testing software).

Throughout my career I have been involved with Macs and cloud technology. I remember when Apple made Mac servers. There was even a separate MacOS for them. So I am loving this evolution and the repositioning of Macs in a data center.

Image from here which also has a write up on this.

 

How to improve and get better by using taboos and your dark side


How to improve and get better by using taboos and your dark side seems like a contradiction. But sometimes using your dark side can be just the thing you need to improve.

Now this can be harder to do than you might suppose. Our culture (from Faust to Star Wars) says appealing to the dark side leads to your ruin. This can cause you to not want to do this. But anger (against injustice), pride (in becoming the best), gluttony (for hard work) and lust/vanity (to self improve) can sometimes motive you and drive you much better than love and happiness can.  Sure, excessive vices can destroy you, I agree. But vices well harnessed and in moderation might get you through the difficult days of changing and help get you to the other side.

To see a good example of what I mean, read this: A Spiteful Guide to Self-Improvement.

You may not have an enemies or rivals or arch enemies. Fine. Invent some. Then go out and take them on and in the process become a better person. Then be magnanimous and graceful in your victory. There: now you are a better person and a good one too.

(Image by Gustave DoréJacob Wrestling with the Angel (1855) from wikipedia)

On being grateful despite duress

Grateful sign
It is said that being grateful is good for our mental health. But being grateful when living under duress can seem next to impossible. To see others do so is educational.

So I give you this piece on someone who is grateful in a way many of us might not be. I found it educational. I am still absorbing the lesson. I hope you gain something from reading it.

(Photo by Dylan Ferreira on Unsplash)

On blogging/writing online in 2020 (how I write now)


In 2020, blogging is back. At least blogging as newsletters. Think Substack and all the people flocking to there. Blogging on WordPress (or Blogger or Tumblr or other blogging platforms) is not as hot but still going strong.

That’s good. I am a fan of more writing and better writing, whether it comes in blog form or newsletter form. Bring it on.

I continue to write here as I have been for some time.  I’ve written a number of pieces on blogging over the last decade; this piece will join that.

I’ll likely to continue writing here until I get 1,000,000 hits (currently at 976,745 hits) but given the limited readership, that may never happen. I’ll keep writing, regardless. We all need goals, and the million hits is one of mine.

Currently I sit down every Saturday morning and review interesting things I’ve found on the Internet and saved in Pocket. I have over 1000 things still in Pocket, not to mention a spreadsheet of old links that were noteworthy. There’s always something of interest to write about. Plus the Internet never stops being interesting.

I usually take 3-4 hours to write about these things. Then I schedule them to be posted throughout the week. My thinking is that this is more likely to bring a wider readership to them. My SEO skills are limited, but this is my thinking.

I enjoy this writing time. I grab some breakfast and a coffee and craft the posts. I grab images from Unsplash.com to illustrate the posts. It’s a hobby and something I enjoy doing. I love doing it. I’m an amateur writer and thinker.

I try and mix up the posts for readers. Something on Monday to help you get your week started. Something fun on Friday. Something to make your weekend better on Saturday. Perhaps a more thoughtful post on Sunday.

As always I think: would someone reading this get any benefit? Much of my posts are advice, but in areas I am interested in. I want to share things of interest to me but that will also interest others.

Once a month I go back over posts from other years. Today I will go back over the December posts. It’s fascinating to see what was interesting to me in other years.

Whenever I am lost for what my audience is, I think: would someone in my family want to read this? Or one or more of my friends? Once I have that one reader, I can write to them. Many of my posts are letters to people that may not realize it.

Since the pandemic, I have started a newsletter within the blog. I haven’t broken it out into its separate media. Just like I never moved to Tumblr or Medium or took up podcasts. This blog is sufficient for what I want to communicate and record.

I have a few other blogs on WordPress: one on cooking that I enjoy writing from time to time. A few others that are experimental. I use Instagram still because it is easy, but photography is a very separate and different media.

I’ll continue to write here, writing for smart people I know. I’ve been doing it since before the World Wide Web.  Why stop now?

As always, for those who have read this far:

An appropriate thank you card for this era.

(Coffee Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash. The other image is also from Unsplash but I could not find who to attribute it to)

Retro radios, remade

null

I absolutely love this City Radio, shown above. You push the button and it play music from the city listed.  So cool. Love the analog design too. It reminds me of the best of Dieter Rams and Braun.

Part of the reason I love it is because it reminds me of the old radio my grandmother had. As a kid it had all the cities of the world listed on a glowing panel, and as I would move the dial a needle would go back and forth and play music from different parts of the world (depending how good reception was). That just amazed me then.

If you have technical skills, and old radio and a raspberry pi, you can make such a thing for yourself.  Just google “convert old radio raspberry pi”. Of the links I found, I like this and this and this.

On being moderately gifted, and the pain and pleasure that brings


This piece by Austin Kleon on being moderately gifted got me re-thinking this idea he discusses.

I say re-thinking because it is something I have thought about since I was a young man. Back then I was getting into  jazz (as one does) and someone told me: the problem with being a jazz musician is your new album is always competing with the albums of Armstrong and Fitzgerald and Davis and Coltrane and Simone. People putting out pop music don’t have to worry about that. It’s tough to be moderately gifted in jazz, I thought, for you are always competing with the best. But in pop music, you are usually competing with the now. There’s more room to get by being moderately gifted. (Especially in the era I grew up when three chords was all you needed.)

If you have a creative spirit but moderate talents, it is easy to get dispirited and put your tools away. You will never be great you say, why bother? But I think the answer comes from looking at pop music. You may never be great, but you can enjoy putting in play whatever talent you do have. Maybe you can only paint flowers, or knit scarfs, or bake brownies. Do it with gusto! Do it like a punk rocker pounding away on his guitar with the 3 chords he knows! You might never be great, but in the moment, you are living large and the audience at the time is loving it. That’s enough. And enough is as good as a feast.

Perhaps you will go on to greatness. Whether you do or not, shine on as brightly as you can. Not all of us can be the sun, but sometimes being a campfire is fine.

How to go skating in Toronto in the pandemic

Liisa Ladouceur (shown above) has written a thorough guide for anyone who wants to go skating in Toronto during the pandemic. No, you cannot just show up with your blades and start skating. You need to do more. And you should do more, because skating is a great way to enjoy winter in the pandemic era. So read this: Where to go skating in Toronto in 2020 by Liisa Wanders. Then get out there! Maybe I will see you at a socially safe distance with a fun mask on too.

Anti COVID Posters!

This is a smart reuse of old VD posters to warn against the dangers of a new biological thread: COVID. Via The Daily Heller:

Adrian Wilson, provocateur par excellence, recently revisited a vintage poster prevention campaign against VD used during World War II, and remixed the various messages into a current cautionary attack on CoViD-19. This genre of repurposing images and words is not new or novel, but when accomplished satirically and wittily, as Wilson has done below, it can be an effective public messaging tool.

 

For more of Wilson’s work, click on the link above. It’s great.

The next time someone complains about the length of a recipe…

Online recipe

Show them this article by 

It’s the perfect comeback for them.  It’s dripping in sarcasm, as it should.

My other response to people who complain about food writers writing about food (duh) is to send them a link to allrecipes.com.

If you just want a recipe for food, go there. Otherwise stop complaining already.

(Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash)