Monthly Archives: April 2021

April 2021 pandemic highlights and ramblings (a newsletter, in blog form)

The pandemic is still going on and so is this! Here’s my latest not-a-newsletter of highlights and ramblings and thingamabobs for this April.

Pandemic:The pandemic is a story of extremes this month. Some countries, like the US and the UK and Israel, are seemingly coming to the end of it. Meanwhile countries like India are burning up with cases and death. It’s terrible to see. For countries like the US and UK, being able to produce their own vaccines made a big difference. But it wasn’t the only difference (Ahem, going from Trump to Biden). For a deeper dive on just one country, here’s a good piece on how Israel was so successful

In Canada we model the world in some ways. For parts of Canada life is relatively normal and aims to stay that way. (I’m look at you up North and out East.) Then there is Ontario, where I am, which seems to have suffered a collapse in provincial leadership. The provincial government recently issued edicts to the province, only to have everyone from the police to the public health units to the people either ignore it or rally against it. Some newspapers are saying that’s the end for the premier.

I have some sympathy for the government’s plight. On one hand you have  hospitals halting non-emergency surgeries as COVID-19 patients fill ICUs, which is terrifying. On the other hand, you have businesses everywhere saying that they’re at risk of losing everything and need help. What you need is strong leadership at this point, but as the Globe and many other argued, we aren’t getting it. We have a panicked leadership seemingly refusing to do anything other than hope for the vaccines to rescue them for their inability to do more.

I’m too discouraged to say more. I’ll let the Toronto Star have the last word:  A 278-word timeline of Ontario’s COVID-19 response | The Star

Individually, the New York Times says we have all hit the wall and we are languishing. I agree. Some of us are getting vaccines, but the unequal distribution can make us feel guilty. Lots of difficult feeling to deal with. We just have to take breaks when we can and forge on.

Meanwhile for something completely different, pandemic-wise, check out this: Honeywell and rapper just debuted a futuristic face-mask with built-in wireless earphones at Yanko Design.

 Newsletters:last month I said newsletters are “still a thing”. What an understatement. If anything, they are now a Big Thing. So big that the New York Times is getting ready to go toe to toe with Substack.

It makes sense. There are likely some writers at the Times looking at Matt Yglesias and others generating close to a million in annual revenue and thinking: I want some of that. Money changes everything, and the amount of money newsletters are generating tells me that we are going to be talking about them for some time.

US : I am glad of two things in the United States. One, we no longer have to hear about the last president any more. (Although some writers still can’t give him up: he’s like an addiction they can’t quit). Two, they have a president who seems to be in a hurry. Awhile ago Vox argued Joe Biden should do everything at once. It looks like he has decided to do that. Besides Vox, two good pieces on Biden that helped me understand him better were this, Bidenomics, explained – Noahpinion,  and this, the radicalism of Joe Biden.

Other interesting things: I am looking to purge my basement and other rooms of things, so I found this piece on how to let go of any possession good. Post-pandemic, we are all likely going to want to live with less.

IKEA came out with this fascinating cookbook: IKEA ScrapsBook – Zero-Waste Recipes & Ideas – IKEA CA. Worth a look.

In the next few decades, I predict many brutalist buildings will be destroyed. Once I may have cheered this, but I have come around to appreciating them more. Articles like this helped.

Poor Orlando Bloom. He gave an interview on what his day in Los Angeles looked like and was widely mocked and ridiculed for it. I had to laugh as well. Then I came across this piece: California dreamin’ with Orlando Bloom, and other tales of only-in-L.A. obliviousness. It helps explain Mr. Bloom and L.A. in general. Worth reading!

Libertarians have been taking a beating during this pandemic. Understandably. Still, they make a good case for why libertarian principles are still useful during this time here.

Finally: I came across this site which I love: All the Restaurants in New York. It reminded me of the work of the late great Jason Polan, and his attempt to draw every person in New York. This gives me a chance to share some links I have of the beloved artist, including this piece in the New Yorker about his Taco Bell Drawing Club. The New York Times also has a piece on it. Finally here are two other sites showing their appreciation for him: and 20×


May we all get through this pandemic soon and gather in large crowds again and be with everyone in New York and every place else as well. RIP, Jason. (Image via the NYT’s piece).

Revisiting my views on the Renaissance and the Middle Ages

Growing up, I learned about the glorious Renaissance and the Dark Ages that preceded them. If you learned something similar, here are two articles to set you straight. The first one argues that the Middle Ages (not the Dark Ages, thank you very much!) were pretty interesting, actually. After you read it, I think you will agree. The second one argues not only were the Middle Ages good, but the Renaissance was not all that great. I had to agree after reading it.

I will still have a fondness and a preference for the Renaissance, but I found these two pieces were good correctives for my bias against the Middle Ages.

(Image from the first piece in

In praise of katas and other forms of motion

Reading this great piece by John DeMont on how he finds calm while doing katas made me think that I often forget that motion is a good way to deal with a too active mind. Sure, mindfulness and meditation are great, but there are days when my brain resists that. Moving, whether it is katas or tai chi or simply  walking, all help the mind in finding a place to center and calm down. I believe involved movement such as katas help with that even more.

If you have a discipline such as martial arts, then you can tap into that. You can also do workouts, even workouts that approach tai chi, such as this. Or just go for an engaging walk where you push yourself not only to walk a bit faster but to really observe and take in the world as you go.

You’ll be glad you did.

(Photo by Jason Briscoe on Unsplash)

On taking time off on your birthday

Since I started work, decades ago, I have always taken the day off from work for my birthday. There are two good reasons for this:

  1. You get to celebrate and do things special things. I would often go to the Senator in downtown Toronto and have the fantastic breakfast they serve. Then I would roam around downtown and shop for things I love. I’d meet friends for lunch. Perhaps go to an afternoon movie or just go home and have a nap before the evening festivities. Whatever makes a great day, having the day off means you get to indulge in it.
  2. You get to avoid difficult things. Work is often difficult, and difficult things can spoil your birthday. If you have a great job then this isn’t such a problem. But if you have a demanding job, it’s hard to enjoy your birthday with all that. Best to take the day off!

The next time your birthday rolls around, I recommend you do the same. Tell people in advance, book off the time, and plan your own idea of a great day. You’ll be glad you did. It’s like a gift you give yourself.

This year I am celebrating a milestone birthday and am taking off the entire week! How old am I? The dog photo contains a hint. 🙂

Happy birthday for whenever your day is!

(Top photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash. Dog Photo by Glenn Han also on Unsplash)

It’s Monday. Here’s some links on moving from being resilient to being successful

Here’s two pieces on being resilient. The first one argues that to be more resilient, it pays to journal. That’s certainly a good thing to do. To move from being resilient to being successful, consider taking an active role in shaping your story, as this piece argues. If you are unsure of how to do that, consider examining role models who have struggled with similar difficulty and succeeded. Look at what they did and how they thought and felt during their struggle. Take all of that which applies to you and use to change your story.

(Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash)

What I find interesting: physics

Last week I talked about not learning music being a regret of mine. The other regret I have is not learning physics. I dabble in it, but it’s a struggle.

If you are interested in learning physics, read this piece from my friend Susan. I got to know her because of it: So You Want to Learn Physics… — Susan Fowler. She now has a new version of it at a new site! You can find it here.

Other friends I have who do know physics tell me the thing to learn is Lagrangian mechanics. Here’s a good guide to it: Lagrangian Mechanics For Dummies: An Intuitive Introduction – Profound Physics

Another way to learn physics is via Youtube. This guy has an amazing YouTube channel on Physics: DrPhysicsA – YouTube Worthwhile.

Of course you can also read text books on it. I think Dover Books are among the best for this. For example, this: Classical Mechanics: 2nd Edition: Corben, H.C., Stehle, Philip: 9780486680637: Gateway –

Still another way is via experimentation. For example:  build your own particle detector | symmetry magazine

(Speaking of experimentation, here’s a great piece on how the LIGO Observatory detects gravitational waves)

A problem I have always had with physics is how did physics get to where it got to, and why are certain areas more prominent than others. To better understand that, it’s good to look backwards at how physics was done in previous time. For example, this article on Ole Roemer: Ole Roemer Profile: First to Measure the Speed of Light | AMNH. We all know light has a specific speed but back then some thought light was instantaneous. But Roemer came up with a method to show light had an actual speed and it could be measured. Likewise, here is the great physicist James Maxwell with a book on how scientists developed their idea of what heat is and how it works: Theory of Heat – James Clerk Maxwell – Google Books.

Finally, a good way to learn physics is read good articles on it. Here’s a collection of some:

(Photo by Roman Mager on Unsplash)

Noir: films old and new for cold rainy nights

It’s April and cold and rainy. A good time to watch film noir. Here’s a couple of blog posts that lovingly list 55 films, old and new, you should know about and hopefully watch:

  1. Film Noir in 50 Perfect Shots: Dark Beauty On Screen From 1940 to 1958
  2. 5 Classics of Cyberpunk Noir ‹ CrimeReads

(Image linked to in the second piece)

On Basquiat’s Defacement (The Death of Michael Stewart)

This is a very good story about an exhibit centered around the painting above. It deals with our time, Basquiat’s and much more: Behind Basquiat’s ‘Defacement’: Reframing a Tragedy – The New York Times.

A minor aside is that Basquiat painted on so many objects, from fridges to walls. It’s great that Keith Haring saved this.


Good advice for any age can be found here

Do you wish you could give someone (or yourself) good advice at a particular age? Well now you can, if you go here: Select An Age – Hey From The Future

Good advice, whether you are 16 or 60.

(Photo by Frame Harirak on Unsplash)

Yes, you can run broadband over wet string (which is how my home internet feels lately)

Remember tying two tin cans together with string to communicate? Well according to this article at BBC News

Engineers at a small British internet service provider have successfully made a broadband connection work over 2m (6ft 7in) of wet string.

The connection reached speeds of 3.5 Mbps (megabits per second), according to the Andrews and Arnold engineer who conducted the experiment.

The point of the experiment appears to have been purely to see if it was achievable.

Cool! See the article for details.

For the meantime, I think I’ll stick with copper and fiber.

(For more on tin can phones, check out: Tin can telephone – Wikipedia)

That problem you have? There’s a pill for that

Yes there is a pill for every problem you have at the web site of Dana Wyse!

Actually, it’s a really good art site where Wyse has a pill (or other packable object) for problems real and imagined. You can buy them too.  Worth checking out.

John Stuart Mill on why you should not argue with people on the Internet (and especially twitter)

I have long tried to not get into arguments with people on the Internet*. This has served me well. If you are struggling with that, I recommend this piece:
150 Years Ago, a Philosopher Showed Why It’s Pointless to Start Arguments on the Internet

Mill makes the case for why trying to argue with people won’t get anywhere.

Read it. Practice it. Enjoy a better Internet.

(*Especially Twitter. Even debating with reasonable people is awful on Twitter due to the format of the medium.)


It’s Monday. A good time to remember there is something better than willpower to succeed

It’s Monday. You might be thinking: I could be more successful if only I had more willpower. I am here to challenge that with this article: Willpower Isn’t the Key to Success.

In a nutshell, set yourself up so that the thing you need least of all is willpower. It’s easier said than done, I know. But it is true: the easier it is to start something, the less effort is required, the easier it is to succeed. Easier, but not necessarily easy.

Focus on setting yourself up for success. Once you start making progress, you may find your willpower is increasing along with everything else.

What I am interested in: music (lots of great links)

One of my regrets in life is I never learned how to play music. So I kept a bunch of links for me and anyone who wants to try:

If you don’t want to learn how to make music, here are some other interesting music links:

(Photo by Simon Noh on Unsplash)

It’s the weekend. Time to clean house. And you hate cleaning house. So read this.

Some people love cleaning their house. I envy them. I hate it, and only the thought of a dirty and mess place gets me through it.

If you are like me, I highly recommend this: The Lazy Person’s Guide to a Happy Home: Tips for People Who (Really) Hate Cleaning | Apartment Therapy

You will find some tips to make the process less painful. Will you enjoy it? Please. Let’s not get carried away. But you will not mind it so much.

(Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash )


Were Marcel Duchamp’s Monte Carlo Bonds the precursor to NFTs?

If you are a fan or even passingly aware of Marcel Duchamp , you likely have heard of works of his: Nude Descending a Staircase to Fountain to Large Glass. They are all well known With the arrival of NFTs on the art scene, I was reminded of another of his works not so well known: Monte Carlo Bonds. As Wikipedia explains:

The Monte Carlo Bonds were a 1924 Marcel Duchamp work in the form of legal documents, created as bonds, originally intended to be produced in editions of 30. The creation of the work came out of Duchamp’s repeated experiments at the Monte Carlo Casino, where he endlessly threw the dice in order to accumulate profit through an excruciatingly gradual process.

The use of an artificial and random process is not unlike using blockchain for NFTs. And while both methods are associated with art, the primary purpose seems to be to generate profit. Duchamp was well ahead of his time.

Christie’s has more on these bonds.

To lose weight is simple: eat 2000 calories daily and walk 10000 steps

It seems ridiculous to say that, but it really is simple (but not easy): eat 2000 calories daily and walk 10000 steps. To see what I mean, read these two articles:

  1. ‘The Good News About What’s Bad for You’ Junk Food Diet – Bon Appétit | Bon Appetit
  2. How Fit Can You Get From Just Walking? | GQ

In both of them, the people who lost weight ate about 2000 calories a day. I mean the guy in the first one literally lived on junk food and still lost 11 pounds in a month.In the second one, the people participating walked 10000 steps as well as ate around 2000 calories. The combination will get you fit and keep you in a calorie deficit mode that will cause your body to lose weight.

For more examples of that, see this (Fixing His Diet Helped This Guy Lose 100 Pounds and Get Shredded at 50) and this (Walking For Weight Loss – How to Lose Weight by Walking) and this (Apple Watch, New Year’s resolutions, and losing 50 pounds – 9to5Mac).

Is it easy? For most people, no. Do you have to be disciplined? Yes. Is there ways to go about it that are smarter than others? Certainly.

If you need motivation, read this: You’re ‘Prediabetic’? Join the Club – The New York Times. Why? You might think: I am fine with being overweight. And that’s ok: not everyone looks like a model. But you don’t want to be diabetic if you can help it.

P.S. 2000 calories is a guide. If you are a much smaller person, you might need a smaller number of calories. If you aren’t sure, consult your doctor.

(Photo by Diana Polekhina on Unsplash )

On how you are in terrible times

I’ve been thinking about the terrible times we live in a how it affects us. When life is easy /not difficult, it is relative easy to be good. That’s normal, and by normal I mean like the vast majority of people. However as life gets more and more difficult, some people don’t change their behaviour and manage to stay the same. Those people are saints (1a). What about the rest of us: does that mean we are monsters? I’d argue that as life becomes much harder (1b) our behaviour tends to become terrible too. That doesn’t make us monsters: that makes us….normal still. Most of use are fairly elastic and as things become easier we slide back (2b) to being good. A few though end up staying terrible (2a). The hard times affect them in a way that doesn’t allow them to behave the way most people do when times are good and easy. We end up as seeing them more like monsters. We may avoid them but we should also have pity.

It’s hard to tell the saints in good times: they seem normal too. It’s only when difficult times occur do they stand out. Likewise it’s hard to know if people are monsters in difficult times because everyone seems to be not their best. It’s also hard to know if monstrous people have always been that way or if the times shaped them so.

Have some pity and understanding on all during difficult times: saints, monsters and the rest. We are all struggling to deal with what life throws at us.

How to spot a really old IBMer

Here’s a good list, albeit from a decade ago: How to spot an old IBMer. There’s fewer such IBMers any more that recognize those terms, but no doubt there are still a few. Ahem.

P.S. From this blog, which is still current and great: Aussie Storage Blog

P.S.S. Another way you can spot one is if he ever used the computer above. I have! Via Reddit.

On using your comfort zone effectively

When people use the term “comfort zone”, they are talking  about  getting out of it. They say you need to get out of your comfort zone to grow. The problem with that is it implies the comfort zone is a bad place. And it isn’t.

It is true you need to leave it to grow. But you don’t always need to be growing. Sometimes you need to care for yourself. You need to recharge, repair, recover. During those times finding your comfort zone and staying in it is the right thing to do.

I recommend you be aware of your comfort zone and leave it when you want to grow and improve yourself. And stay in it when you need to get yourself back to where you need to be. This is the best way to use your comfort zone.

(Photo by Luca Dugaro on Unsplash)

Web site of the day! or what’s old is new again

In the early days of the Web, there were several sites that would feature the Web Site of the Day. It would be something someone put together that was smart or wacky of useful. Those days were good.

Good news! Here is a list of web sites that Buzzfeed put together that made me think of those days: 38 Super Useful And Fun Websites You Never Knew You Needed In Your Life.

Every day check out a different one!

In a similar vein, here is a list of places in New York that have been around forever that are still going. Likewise, check out a different one every day: The 212 – The New York Times

The Internet can feel stale. Let’s make it fresh again.

(Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash )


There is no perfect body for an athlete, and anyone can be fit

It can be a problem: people who are fat or whose bodies don’t fit a stereotype of an athlete don’t think they can be fit without changing their body. So they give up or focus on losing weight rather than trying to get fit. That’s too bad. Fitness leads to a better life, regardless of your age or sex or body size.

What I love about this piece is that it clearly shows there is no perfect body shape for an athlete and you can be fit and athletic regardless: The Body Shapes Of The World’s Best Athletes Compared Side By Side | Bored Panda

For more on this, I recommend you read this: In Obesity Research, Fatphobia Is Always the X Factor – Scientific American.

(Image from the Bored Panda site. I recommend you go through it. It is amazing to see just how different are the bodies of athletes in different sports.)

It’s Monday. Here’s a good challenge you’ve likely already been doing

The challenge is this: can you get by with 33 articles of clothing for 3 months? Before the pandemic I would have thought: that could be tricky. Now, I think I may be about do 12 months with 20 items!

Why not check out the web site and see if it is for you. Heck, a lot of the clothes you have in your closet you likely don’t want any more as it is. With this challenge, you have a chance to get started on getting rid of them.

Check out Project 333 – Be More with Lessfor more details.


On restaurants loved and lost: Harvey’s on Bloor Street in Toronto

Can you be abandoned by a restaurant? If it is me, it’s the Harvey’s that was on Bloor in the 1980s.  I used to go there and get my favourite, a charbroiled chicken sandwich with mayo and pickle on the side. (Still my favourite thing to get at Harvey’s). I loved sitting in the front window and look over U of T’s Varsity Field.  When I was in my 20s I used to joke with my gf that when I was in my 60s I would still be coming here and eating the same sandwich and sitting in the same spot.

Times change and streets change, especially in Toronto. That area is now filled with condos. It’s nice and I still like the area, but I miss that Harvey’s. I’m much closer to my 60s than my 20s and I would love to be able to fulfill the need. Guess I will have to go to Okonomi House instead. 🙂

(Image via a link to this good piece on the History of Toronto’s Swiss Chalet (also in the image above, from the blog Historic Toronto)

P.S. Okonomi House is the same as it was in the 1980s. I hope it never closes. Click on the link and order from it if you can.

Retio: One very cool radio

While generally I don’t like promoting devices on Kickstarter, I make an exception for the beauty above. As Yanko Design says, this steampunk radio, speaker and clock comes with a display made from real nixie tubes!. 

It’s very cool. Over at Yanko Design they have lots of beautiful pictures of it, plus links to the Kickstarter.

Love it.


On How to Do What you Love

This piece, How to Do What You Love by Paul Graham, should be something we all read from time to time. It’s especially good to read if you aren’t happy with your job and you are about to make a career change. It will give you the necessary perspective you need to make the right and difficult choice. For example, it is tempting at times to take on a new role because of the prestige that comes with it. Graham outlines the dangers of that. He’s also realistic about the fact that work is still work, and there are times when you won’t love it. But if you are rarely loving what you are doing, I highly recommend you read Graham.

(Photo by Johnson Wang on Unsplash )

A very cool way to listen to ambient sounds

If you need some ambient sounds, you should check out: A Soft Murmur

It’s great for a number of reasons:

  1. It has lots of different sounds, from rain to coffee shops to white noise.
  2. You can mix sounds together (e.g., rain and thunder and birds)
  3. You can create your own mixes and share them with people!

Anyway, it’s good. You should check it out.

(Photo by reza shayestehpour on Unsplash )

Why are i and j (and sometimes k) used in loops? Blame Fortran (I think). Here’s why

It came up today that i and j are used for variables in loops. The reason for that likely has to do with Fortran. As this piece (Fortran – Implicit variable types | fortran Tutorial) explains:

When Fortran was originally developed memory was at a premium. Variables and procedure names could have a maximum of 6 characters, and variables were often implicitly typed. This means that the first letter of the variable name determines its type. variables beginning with i, j, …, n are integer everything else (a, b, …, h, and o, p, …, z) are real

I used to program in older versions of Fortran (in the early 80s) and we automatically used i and j for variables and loops. Likely it carried over into other languages too. For example, I have an early edition of The C Programming Language book and they use i for some of their loops (page 20).

Mindfulness revisited (or the benefits of adopting a broader approach to mindfulness)

For some time I have been practicing a simple form of mindfulness to deal with stressful thinking. It’s a good skill to practice, and while I am not an expert, it has helped me deal with anxiety.

However as this article reminded me, mindfulness as it is practiced in Japan is much more than that. Mindfulness is a way of being present. Of being aware. Of appreciating the transient nature of our lives and thereby enriching them. Japanese people have mindful practices woven through their lives. I think we could all gain from adopting these practices. Read the piece: I am sure you will agree.

P.S. I have adopted the practice of shisa kanko (literally ‘checking and calling’) and have found it helpful in making sure I do things properly. It’s a very different form of mindfulness than focusing on breathing, but it comes from the same source.

(Photo by Motoki Tonn on Unsplash )

The unstoppable David Hockney

David Hockey keeps going and going and I love that about him. Now he’s using Apple devices to make more works of art, and they are wonderful. To see what I mean, go read this at David Hockney Has Made Beautiful (and Rarely Seen) iPad Drawings of the View From His Bedroom Window. Enjoy Them Here.

If that gets you excited, in theory you could order the book. However at a price of  $2000, it is more a work of art than a simple book: David Hockney. My Window (Limited Edition) – TASCHEN Books

I hope he continues to make art in one form or another. Based on this on Austin Kleon’s site, it’s likely he will.

P.S. I love that drawing above. The raindrops are especially good.

P.S.S. I recommend that Kleon post too. Or anything Hockney says about art.

(Image link from article on

It’s Monday. You need a positive and uplifting goal to achieve this week. Here’s one

Do you want a weekly challenge that is easy to do but also satisfying? Then you want to read this and then start giving out one compliment a day: I Challenged Myself to Give One Compliment a Day – PureWow

You may think: that’s easy, why do I need to read an article on it. Well there are good and not so good ways to go about it. After you read it, you’ll see what I mean.

Good luck with that this week. I hope you feel much better about yourself after the week is done.

(Photo by Trung Thanh on Unsplash )


On learning to reflect

Sunday is a good day for reflection. This Sunday in particular if you are Christian. But having a good day to reflect does not mean it is an easy thing to do.

It can be difficult and uncomfortable to reflect on your life. To help you, here are two pieces that don’t tell you what to do so much as give you some instruction on how to structure your thoughts:

Get out a notebook (or some other form of recording method) and write down your reflections. Don’t be too critical. Write the date. That’s a photo, a sketch, of your mind on that day.

You may find that as you reflect more often it gets easier. You start getting a good idea of what your mind is up to. Who you are. What you hope for, regret, like and dislike. How you see the world.

Better still, as you review what you reflect, you may find your mind changes for the better. The fears that you had in your head may become smaller. The hopes you had become clearer. The things you want to do become simpler.

It’s good to reflect. Here’s hoping you do.

(Photo by Jeremy Vessey on Unsplash )

If you contribute to political campaigns, you should read this

If you come across this article, How Trump Steered Supporters Into Unwitting Donations – The New York Times,  you might initially think a) well yeah Trump is a crook so no surprise b) his supporters are dumb so also no surprise. You can think that.

However, consider it from the point of view of people working on campaigns. Some of them on both sides might be thinking: this is a good way to bring in money. It’s hard to raise money, they might think, and this is a way to make it easier. These campaign workers might be working on campaigns for people you support. They might think the ends justifies the means.

So if you do contribute to political campaigns, consider doing it from an account that has a limited amount of funds in it. That way even if they trick you into overdonating, you won’t run into some of the trouble that Trump’s supporters did.

(Image comes from a link to an image in the New York Times piece)

When you don’t know what to create, record what you know

When you don’t know what to create, record what you know. I was reminded of that rule when admiring the paintings of Rachel Campbell, here:  Colorful Oil Paintings Depict Give a Glimpse into the Life of the Artist.

If you are trying to write or draw or paint, you may be stuck with two problems: being able to make things look “nice” and not knowing what to make. Recording what you know solves those two problems. You know what you are going to make: a recording of what is in front of you. And even if you don’t make a good recording (i.e. it isn’t “nice”), I can assure you years from now you will look at it and say “oh that! I forgot all about that, but I am glad I have a recording of it now!”

Here’s another tip: ask yourself what is something you know that you Love or think is Beautiful. Whether it’s a place or a person or a thing or even a time of day, record that. When you see it, you won’t think the lines aren’t great or the colour is wonky: you will see the Thing you Love or think is Beautiful. Others will think it too.

Here’s a final tip: record something of your era. Include something fashionable, or technology, or anything that is not long lasting. Years from now it will be fascinating to your or others. “Look at that old phone”,  they’ll say. Or “look how cheap everything is”, or “look at that dress”.  You get the idea.

Sure you can take a photo, and it may be a good photo. But put some creative thought and effort into it. Your art will get better, and the work you produce will be better.

(Image is a link to the article in My Modern Met.)

It’s Friday. You need a to-don’t list

Ok, that’s a cute name, but what do I mean by “to don’t” list? Chances are, you have a long list of todos. Worse, you don’t even have a list: you just have a foggy anxious stew in your head of many things you feel you need to do.

Here’s what to do. Write out everything. You can use paper, you can use post-it notes. You can use workflowy like I do. But get down those todos. If you already have a long list, then great. I mean…”great”. 🙂

Once you have your list, go through the four questions here: Multiply your time by asking 4 questions about the stuff on your to-do list

Take all those items you are going to eliminate and put them in one list. The items you are going to automate in another, the items you plan to delegate in a third, and the items you can put off in a fourth. Then remove them from your list. Tada!  You’ve decluttered your todo list and separated it into a To-do List and a To-don’t List.

If you find this difficult — and decluttering is difficult — ask a friend to come in and help you. They can be much more objective about things that you can. Don’t dither: if you can’t decide, put an item into the Put Off list.

As for automation, don’t just think of the one time you do something, think of the many times a year you have to do something. It adds up. A little bit of time automating might add up to hours of effort in the next year or two.

The point of a todo list is not to accumulate a list: it’s to get things done. Get the unnecessary things off of it so you can focus on the necessary ones.

(Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash )

What I find interesting in tech, April 2021. Now with Quantum Computing inside!

Here’s 9000 links* on things I have found interesting in tech in the last while. There’s stuff on IT Architecture, cloud, storage, AIX/Unix, Open Shift, Pico, code, nocode, lowcode, glitch. Also fun stuff, contrarian stuff, nostalgic stuff. So much stuff. Good stuff! Stuff I have been saving away here and there.

On IT Architecture: I love a good reference architecture. Here’s one from an IBM colleague. If you need some cloud adoption patterns when doing IT architecture, read this. Here’s a tool to help architects design IBM Cloud architectures. Like it. Here’s some more tools to do IBM Cloud Architecture. Architectural Decision documentation is a key to being a good IT architect. Here’s some guidance on how to capture ADs. This is also good on
ADs I liked this:some good thoughts on software architecture.

Here’s some thoughts from a leading IT architect in IBM, Shahir Daya. He has a number of good published pieces including this and this.

One of my favorite artifacts as an architect is a good system context diagram. Read about it here. Finally, here’s a piece on UML that I liked.

Cloud: If you want to get started in cloud, read this on starting small. If you are worried about how much cloud can cost, then this is good. Here’s how to connect you site to others using VPN (good for GCP and AWS). A great piece on how the BBC has gone all in on serverless.. For fans of blue green deployments, read this. A good primer on liveness and readiness probes. Want to build you own serverless site? Go here

Storage: I’ve had to do some work recently regarding cloud storage. Here’s a
good tool to help you with storage pricing (for all cloud platforms). Here’s a link to help you with what IBM Cloud storage will cost. If you want to learn more about IBM Object storage go there. If you want to learn about the different type of storage, click here and here.

AIX/Unix: Not for everyone, but here is a good Linux command handbook. And here is a guide to move an AIX LPAR from one server to another. I recommend everyone who use any form of Unix, including MacOS, read
this. That’s a good guide to awk, sed and jq.

Open Shift:  If you want to learn more about Open Shift, this is a good intro. This is a good tutorial on deploying a simple app to Open Shift. If you want to try Open Shift, go here.

Raspberry Pi Pico:  If you have the new Pico, you can learn to set it up here.
Here’s some more intros to it. Also here. Good stuff. Also good is this if you want to add ethernet to a Raspberry Pi pico.

On Networking: If you want to know more about networking you want to read this, this and this. Also this. Trust me.

Code: Some good coding articles. How to process RSS using python. How to be a more efficient python programmer. Or why you should use LISP. To do NLP with Prolog the way IBM Watson did, check this out. If you want to make a web app using python and Flask, go here. If you need some python code to walk through all files within the folder and subfolders and get list of all files that are duplicates then you want this. Here’s how to set up your new MacBook for coding. Here’s a good piece on when SQL Isn’t the Right Answer

Glitch: I know people who are big fans of If you want to see it’s coolness in action, check. out this and this

No Code Low Code: If you want to read some good no-code/low-code stuff to talk to other APIs, then check out this, this, and this.

Bookmarking tool: If you want to make your own bookmarking tool, read
this, this and this. I got into this because despite my best efforts to use the API of Pocket, I couldn’t get it to work. Read this and see if you get further.

Other things to learn: If you want to learn some C, check out this. AI? Read this Open Shift? Scan this. What about JQuery? Read this or that Bootstrap. this or this piece. Serverless? this looks fun. PouchDB? this and this. Express for Node? this. To use ansible to set up WordPress on Lamp with Ubuntu, go over this. To mount an NFTS mount on a Mac, see this. Here’s how to do a Headless Raspberry Pi Setup with Raspbian Stretch

Also Fun: a Dog API. Yep. Here is CSS to make your website look like Windows 98. A very cool RegEx Cheatsheet mug.. And sure, you can run your VMs in Minecraft if you go and read this. If you want to read something funny about the types of people on an IT project, you definitely want this.

Contrarian stuff: Here are some contrarian tech essays I wanted to argue against, but life is too short. Code is law. Nope. Tech debt doesn’t exist.Bzzzt. Wrong. Don’t teach your kids to code. Whatever dude. Use ML to turn 5K into 200K. Ok. Sure.

Meanwhile: Back to earth, if you want to use bluetooth tech with your IOT projects, check out this, this, this, and this. If you have an old Intel on a stick computer and want to upgrade it (I do), you want this. If you want to run a start up script on a raspberry pi using crontab, read this If you want to use Google Gauge Charts on your web site, then read this and this.

Nostalgia: OS/2 Warp back in the 90s was cool. Read all about it
here.Think ML is new? Read about Machine Learning in 1951
here. This is a good piece on Xerox Parc. Here is some weird history on FAT32. And wow, here is the source code for CP/67/CMS. And I enjoyed this on Margaret Hamilton.

Finally: Here are IBM’s design principles to combat domestic abuse. Here is how and why to start building useful real world-software with no experience. Lastly, the interesting history of the wrt54g router

(* Sorry there was less than 9000 links. Also no quantum computing inside this time. Soon!)

March 2021 pandemic highlights and ramblings (a newsletter, in blog form)

Yikes! It’s April 1st so I am a day late (and a dollar short?) on sending out my latest not-a-newsletter of highlights and ramblings since the one a month ago.Here’s a few things I’ve found noteworthy in March to share with you:

Pandemic:Right now the pandemic has been about the next wave (sadly) and vaccines (happily). It’s been a real roller coaster when it has come to vaccines. But with all the ups and downs, more and more vaccines have been distributed, thank heavens. The latest medical miracle is from Johnson & Johnson. This piece talks about how they work which I thought helpful. Also helpful is this piece from the site Our World in Data, which has some great stats on how vaccinations worldwide are doing. It gives me hope.

Locally, here’s how Ontario is doing: Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccination plan. Not bad, but not great. Somewhere through the pandemic the Ontario provincial government reverted to the idea that somehow being frugal during a catastrophe is a good idea. So we got things like this: Ontario rejected proposals to protect LTC residents, deeming them ‘too expensive’: documents, according to CBC News. Being conservative with water is a good idea, except when your house is on fire, but that looks to be the approach of the current Ford government. His team is not the only group coming up short. Toronto is struggling with a homelessness problem, and has lead to bad situations like this crackdown on tiny shelters. Meanwhile vaccine portals everywhere are failing. We all hoped for better. Meanwhile we all slog along. It’s tough.

A year into the pandemic, the effect on people is significant. Even people who have the luxury of working from home are struggling.  Artists in particular are having a hard time getting by, based on this really good piece in the New York Times on how 75 Artists On How They Spent a Year in Coronavirus . Even those who have been productive in the pandemic, like the famed art duo Gilbert and George, acknowledge that “this is an enormously sad time’ . So if you feel down on yourself, it’s understandable. But not hopeless, as this writer/runner shows. You may have given up on things, but you can start again.

Looking back, we were so cautiously optimistic at the beginning of the pandemic, making food and doing crafts. I was  using sites like this and also this to make zines. Others made chapbooks. And of course we all cooked a ton. Here’s an almost nostalgic run down of all the pandemic food trends, from Dalgona coffee to banana bread.

Post-pandemic: While the pandemic still rages on, with the rollout of vaccines, we are already looking forward to what the world is going to be like afterwards. For example, will vaccine passports be a thing? Will services discriminate based on that, as this piece discusses: Should Only Vaccinated People Be Allowed to Use the Gym?. Will our work places change? Will they feature things like this?

One thing I am afraid will happen is people will start arguing that all the sacrifices made and all the money spent wasn’t worth it. That we were duped. You can see the gaslighting already starting here: The Lockdowns Weren’t Worth It – WSJ. The thing to note in that piece is the total disregard for those who died and those who became sick. There is no accounting in it for deaths and illnesses that could have been avoided. Be on the lookout for that.

Meanwhile, if you are preparing to travel post pandemic, this is a good guide on how to visit New York City on a budget . And here’s a fun guide on how to go to concerts when you’re middle-aged because let’s face it you are going to want to do it all.

 Newsletters: still a thing. We’ve gotten to the point where they are so successful that there are debates about who is making money and what should be done about it. To see what I mean, read this: Why Substack writers are mad about money Substack is paying out – Vox.

US : I came across this article years ago concerning the Obama Administration:
Barack Obama is officially one of the most consequential presidents in American history – Vox. Funny enough, I think the Biden Administration took it as a challenge! They seem to be trying to outpace not even Obama but LBJ or FDR. It’s early days, but there is a sense Biden’s team will make great changes to the social contract in the US. Perhaps more and more people in America will be able to agree with Wallace Shawn in this essay he wrote: Why I Call Myself a Socialist.

Finally: if you can barely manage to make anything food wise these days, I recommend you read this: THE MINIMALIST; Three-Way Pasta – The New York Times. It’s a classic from Mark Bittman. I usually try to have a pasta dinner once a week. With that in hand, I have ¾ of the month covered in terms of what to make.

If you find working from home stressful, this might be helpful. How lo-fi artists make music perfect for work. (Or studying. Or chilling.) 

Perhaps in 2022 more of us will be working in fancy schmantzy sheds like the one below:

I for one would not mind. 🙂

(Image via that piece on how our workplaces will change in Yanko Design)

If you drilled through the earth to the other side, where would you be?

Well, with this site, you can find out. Just click the link to, enter your location (or any location), and you can see what is on the other side of the world.

Sure you can also find out by digging, but the web site is easier.  🙂

(Photo by Andres Siimon on Unsplash )