Monthly Archives: June 2021

The Gap Jacket from Kanye

After the hype of the collaboration of Kanye West and Gap, we now get to see the first item from what should be a long partnership. The jacket (above) is a bit of a surprise for me. I am so used to West using muted colours that I was pleasantly pleased to see he went with an electric blue. That’s a good sign. And the price is reasonable too.

Here’s hoping the pairing of the brand with the artist is beneficial to both of them.

For more details, see Uncrate.

Big city, very small (72 sq ft) apartment

I am always fascinated by very small apartments. NYC is the king / queen of them. While I have seen some small ones before, this 72 square foot one may be the smallest of all. You have to see it to believe it. It even has a kitchen (sort of) and it’s own bathroom (mainly). What it does have going for it is two amazing things: location and price.

If I was young, I would love living there. For a few years, it would be a great adventure. And like I said, you can’t beat that location at that price.

(Image via the article).

On the difficulty with being stuck on a local maximum

In math there is the concept of a local maximum. It is a point on a curve that is higher than the area around it, but not the highest point on the entire curve.

This happens in life too. You can be at a point in your life where you know life could be better, but to make a move from that point leads to life getting worse. Now if this high point is good, you can feel pretty good about it. Sure you could try and go for the higher point, but you may decide the tradeoff isn’t worth it.

The problem is when the high point isn’t good. Here you are stuck between choosing bad or worse. You could decide to move from bad to worse on the hope of getting to a much better life, but what if you don’t have the resources to do so? What if you move off the local maximum and fall into the valley of the a local minimum and never move off of there?

When you ask yourself those questions and you don’t have good answers, you will get stuck. You will be unhappy with the thought of staying, and unhappy with the thought of leaving. It’s hard. Here’s some things to consider.

First off, this is just a model. A diagram. It’s not the real world. It’s just a way of analyzing your situation. Your life is not just one point on a curve, not one score (like an IQ) that says your life is good or bad. Mathematically speaking, your life is more like a set of numbers, all different values on different curves, and these values are changing all the time. Indeed, if you only focus on one number, you may find you life painful and shallow. Some people devote their life to one measure: an award, a championship, a job title, and find themselves disappointed and even bitter when they achieve it and realize they gave up everything just for that.

Second, it is hard to measure things even at the best of times. That job title you wished so hard for suddenly means nothing when the company suddenly goes bankrupt. Or the limited domestic life you have suddenly looks good when a pandemic lands on everyone.  Measurements change all the time as the ground shifts all the time, and all measurements are relative.

That said, it is no reason to be complacent. Have more faith in yourself. Look back at all the difficulty you have had in the past that you survived and prospered in. If you do move off your local maximum, you may get stuck in a rut for awhile. But only for awhile. Keep moving. Keep remembering that you life is more than one measure, and if you are in a rut workwise, for example, your life may be at a high point in other aspects. You are not measured by one number: you are measured by a set of numbers. Better still, you can decide on some of those numbers yourself. Don’t let others dictate the numbers.

What curves you use to measure yourself, and how you measure them, are up to you. Choose wisely, and you may find your life is closer to the maximum point than you thought.

Have a good life.

It’s Monday. You want to stop procrastinating. You need to use your brain (better)


It’s Monday. If you are struggling with procrastinating, here is a good article on how to finally stop procrastinating for real this time. Basically in order to understand why you are procrastinating, you need to understand there are two parts of your brain that are influencing your behaviour. Knowing this can help you change. Here’s a key quote:

…there’s a part of the brain that accurately weighs the benefits of a behavior against its costs. This is your neocortex, and it’s one of the newest and shiniest parts of our brains. Very often, the neocortex comes to quite reasonable conclusions—that, for instance, the benefits of exercising outweigh the costs. But there’s another part of your brain that’s been around for millions of years—the limbic system—and it only seems to care about what’s happening right now. So if a behavior incurs more upfront hassles than upfront benefits, the limbic system isn’t interested in participating.

For more on this, read the article. It will help you get your neocortex and your limbic system working together. If you do that, you will definitely procrastinate less.

(Photo by Jason Strull on Unsplash )

On my study of history in school and out of school

In the United States and Canada recently, there have been terrible events that have driven people to ask: why didn’t we learn about XYZ in school? Tom Hanks devotes an article to this line of thinking in the New York Times, here.

I just have a few things to say about that, based on my own education in history, the education of my kids, and the education I gave to myself post high school.

In Canada there was a big discussion about the Residential School System and why did we not learn about it. I didn’t, and my kids didn’t, I don’t think. What I did learn when I was younger was different aspects of history for each year I was in grade school. In the earlier grades, we studied Nova Scotian history, British history, and Canadian history. We studied ancient world history and then history of the second millenium. We did study indigenous people at the time when the focus was on North America. (As well, we studied Mi’kmaq religion in grade 7, which was interesting). Indigenous people were not invisible in the lessons, and their role was significant at times. That said, the lessons were mainly Eurocentric and mainly focused on major events like wars and politics, though.

I noticed a shift in this when my kids were studying history in grades 7 and 8. There were lessons on injustices in Canada, especially when it came to racist events such as the internment of Japanese-Canadians during World War II. I thought that was a good improvement in the study of Canadian history.

Of course what facts are taught in history, and what are not, changes all the time. This will depend on many factors, from school administrators, teachers, parents, and others. Even what books are available matters. I hope and expect that Canadian history will be taught in a less Eurocentric way, and that Indigenous and people of non-European origin will get more focus. Also important would be more focus given to the role of women in history. That would be a change for the better.

I think it is important to acknowledge, though, that the point of history classes in school is not just to teach facts. For example my kids were learning not just about Canadian history, they were learning how to think about history. That makes a great deal of sense (though learning the facts is good too).

I can say this because I actually stopped studying  history as soon as I could in high school, and I think that is a shame. I found grade 10 history boring, and there were alternative classes that were more interesting in the next two years, classes I took instead. I made up for that later by reading history copiously starting in my late 20s, thanks to encouragement from my brother. By reading people like AJP Taylor, not only did I learn about history, I learned how historical writing could be criticized. I also learned from Taylor how history could be presented in a way different than more mainstream historical writing. I was studying history again. Thinking about it. Thinking about the arguments historians made. Agreeing and disagreeing with historians. Getting to recognize good history from not so good history, at least in a limited way.

I think knowing how to think about history is as important as ever. We are being confronted with our past and the past of others all the time. By being able to think critically of those times, we can better understand our past, our current era, and even ourselves.

P.S. If you want to understand more about how to history is taught, at least in Ontario, see this.

(Photo by Museums Victoria on Unsplash)

Two hacks for cleaning your oven

Sure, you can go out and buy oven cleaner and deal with all that. Or you can try one of these two hacks to clean your oven:

  1. Clean Oven with a Dishwasher Tablet | Kitchn
  2. Use Shaving Cream to Clean an Oven | Kitchn

I haven’t tried them, so I can verify they are good. But if they work as well as the articles say, it could be a nice alternative way to have a sparkling oven.

Let me know if you try them and if it works.

Crocs are back. It’s ok :)

Crocs shoe
According to this piece in Esquire, Crocs are back.

Well, I guess. I can’t ever see them having the classic appeal of Stan Smiths or Converse high tops, but I can see why people might pick them up from time to time. I wear them around the house every day. I find them perfect if you do a ton of standing. But wear them outside? Nope. Strictly a utility shoe for me. I suspect they will go back to being that for a lot of people after this latest craze.

Beautiful bookcase, beautiful desk

For fans of beautiful bookcases, beautiful desks, or both, check out these two from Yanko Design:

Stunning. I wish I had both.

Three great pieces on Venus, the Milky Way, and black hole visualization

This piece on the Milky Way photographer of the year is filled with amazing photos of…well, you can guess. (One of the photos is above).
This is a good piece on the efforts to study Venus. It won’t be easy to do, but it will be rewarding.
Finally, this piece on how black holes are visualized is excellent.

Zoho and other companies that hum along

When I first started following Web 2.0 companies over 15 years, Zoho was an early player. Since then, some companies became very successful and many failed. I used to joke with a friend every time a story of Zoho came up I was surprised it still existed. Not only does it still exist, but it is rolling out new features: Zoho’s pipeline-centric CRM solution built for small businesses gets new features

I’m happy to see it is a going concern. It’s easy to think companies should “go big or go home”. It’s better to think that there is another path to success. Zoho seems to have found that path.

More on them here.

What do you do if you want to keep working from home

While many of us have been forced to work from home during the pandemic, that time may be ending some time this year. Many people will be delighted to go back. If this is not the case for you, then read this article.

That article contains good advice for either finding a new job that is full time remote, or finding a job that can be a hybrid. Either way, if you want to continue to work from home, I recommend you start thinking of how to achieve that now.

(Photo by Collov Home Design on Unsplash )

 

Four pieces on Mary Oliver

You could do worse on a Sunday than read about Mary Oliver. Here’s four pieces on her from various parts of the Web:

I don’t have much to add other than that Mary Oliver is a fine person and her poetry is great and reading her and reading about her may make your life better. That’s all.

On fonts, old and new, and other design choices of St. JOHN

I’ve been thinking about fonts recently. Mainly I’ve been thinking why I love the font used by the restaurant St. JOHN so much.  I came to a conclusion after I read this piece, 60 free sans serif fonts to give your designs a modern touch, and came across this opening:

It is universally acknowledged that most contemporary designs require a versatile sans serif font. Sans serif fonts, as you might already know, are the fonts with no projecting lines at the ends. While serif fonts are known to be more traditional, sans serif fonts bring that much needed modernistic touch to the design.

That was it! When I think of modern and new, I think of thin sans serif fonts. And I am tired of modern and new for everything. Sometimes I want substantial, classic, traditional. The font for St. JOHN embodies that. It’s a chunky fat Serif font. The name itself is almost all capital letters. It is very different than the modern in that regard.

While their font is very traditional, in other ways, St. JOHN is very modern. There is a minimalism to the rest of their design, a minimalism of their design and decor is very modern indeed. To see what I mean, visit their web site (or better still, their establishments) and you will see what I mean.

And that’s perhaps what I love best about them: they mix in the best of what is old and traditional with what is new and modern and stride both worlds. It’s no easy feat, and yet they do it so well.

Ponoko: a great site for entrepreneurs and other makers wishing to implement physical designs

If you’ve ever thought of starting a business making physical objects, then you should check out thePonoko site. They can take your designs and transform them into physical materials from plastic to metal. Sure 3D printing is great for some things, but if you want to work with a great range of materials, check them out.

Click here to see some of the success stories of makers who have used their services. One of them is this very appropriate story in these pandemic times: Redesigning The Intubation Box To Better Protect First Responders

(Image above is of the intubation box and is a link to an image on their site.)

What I find interesting in tech, May/June 2021

Here’s what I found interesting lately in tech, from cloud to coding and lots more.

Cloud: I’ve been doing lots of work on Azure recently. Some things I found useful were this listing of Virtual machine sizes Also disk types. This piece on how to expand your virtual hard disks on a Linux VM was good. If you want to run Websphere on Azure, read this: Run WebSphere Application Server on Azure Virtual Machines.  If you want to learn more about deploying applications in Red Hat, read this. Finally here’s some good stuff from IBM on
Cloud Architectures.

Coding: If you want to print coloured text in Python — and who wouldn’t? — this is good. If you want to turn your HTML into an RSS feed, read this.  This will help you set up VS Code to do PHP Development. For people wanting to learn more about machine learning, IBM can help you. If you love Prolog or Javascript — or both! — check out: Tau-Prolog

Raspberry Pi/IOT: This is a great guide on how to troubleshoot problems with a Pi. This is a cool project using an OLED to make a clicker counter. If you need to load an OS or anything else on a Flash card, check out balenaEtcher. Here’s some advice on getting started with Bluetooth Low Energy. If you want to connect a raw serial terminal to a bluetooth connection, read that. If you want to do a cool Raspberry Pi Pico project with a MIDI, see this.

Fun and cool: Not a real Captcha, but a real fun one! DOOM Captcha – Captchas don’t have to be boring. Also fun: Crappy robots, ranked!. As an old user of 3270s, this downloadable version of 3270 fonts is awesome. Speaking of cool, here’s kinda the source code for Eliza! Check it out.

Other: Here’s some help on how to control smart home devices using speakers and displays. Here’s a good reminder that robots have a way to go yet: Peanut the Waiter Robot Is Proof That Your Job Is Safe. Developers! Here’s What’s Hot/What’s Not in terms of skills. Finally, have you considered how to
write software that lasts 50 years?

(Image via Raspberry Pi)

On the physical representation of the world in one object

The ball you see above is a time ball. As this Kotttke post explains:

Women from the Yakama Native American tribe used strings of hemp as personal diaries. Each major event in their life was represented by a knot, a bead or a shell. This mnemonic device is called an Ititamat, or counting-the-days ball, or simply time ball.

In these days where more and more is digital, I love that an object like the time ball can represent a life so well.

Perhaps you have something like this in your life. A diary, perhaps. Or a photo album. Or a collection of small objects that represent your life. Whatever it is, it is something worth treasuring, just like our lives are worth treasuring.

If you don’t have something like this, perhaps it’s time you do. Your life has value and is worth representing.

For more on this, see his post.

What I find interesting in general, June, 2021

Often I find links that are interesting but I don’t know what to do with. Here are some for this month.

Art related links: If you draw and are running out of ideas, try this,  Random Art Prompt Generator. I was interested in printmaking lately. Here are some links to various sites on it:

I was using this site make photos into stencils, which I could then use on other art projects…it’s good: Free Picture Stencil Maker. Robert Frank is a great photographer. Here’s a good story on how Robert Frank’s vision influenced and inspired Generations Of Photographers. Back to earth, here is Flashery,  a photo box for people serious about their home photos.

Work, economics and capitalism: I found these interesting:

Working for yourself?  How many fans do you need to be successful. Here are two views on that: The Technium: 1,000 True Fans and 1,000 True Fans? Try 100

Climate Change:  We’ve all been very focused on the pandemic. But climate change has not gone away. Here’s two pieces on it: The business as usual climate scenario may be too pessimistic, researchers warn – The Washington Post and Let’s abandon climate targets, and do something completely different | George Monbiot | The Guardian

Random:  I love motorcycles as an object, and Uncrate has some cool ones, like this Volcon Runt Kid’s Motorcycle. If you are painting your house and can’t pick from thousands of colours, perhaps this list of 50 will help you narrow it down:
50 Most Popular Sherwin-Williams Paint Colors. This was a delightful story on how professors are hanging on to chalk! Where Theory Meets Chalk, Dust Flies

If you are interested in statistical distributions other than the Bell curve/normal distribution, check out 3 interesting Statistic Distribution and
Power Law and Power Law Distribution.

Thank you for reading this far. I don’t know if anyone reads most of my posts, but I keep at it regardless.

(Photo by Courtney Hedger on Unsplash)

 

Categories: food
Tags, general

The best form of government, according to Branko Milanović

This is an interesting view of government, and I recommend you read it:
Branko Milanović – Governments of limited vice | Brave New Europe

When I first read it, I found it fascinating. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that what he is partially arguing for is moderate government. If governments get extreme one way or another, terrible things happen to their citizens.

The other benefit of this approach is that governments can adjust to what is a vice they have to crack down on, because the citizenry’s view of vice changes. Sometimes people stop considering certain acts vices. Or they downplay the harm such vices do. When this happens, governments of limited vice can back off and permit people the freedom to act a certain way.  For much of the 20th century the province of Ontario had a film censor board, and they cut out scenes they thought were offensive.  Now it’s been scraped. Once people were arrested for buying marijuana in Ontario: now the government provides guidance on how to purchase it. Governments of limited vice are moving the boundaries all the times, often due to the effort of the people who do not agree with the boundaries, and think society would be better with different boundaries.

There will always be a form of government. Governments of limited vice may be the best of them all.

(Photo by Rythik on Unsplash )

My cooking interests for May, 2021 (maybe)

This was originally a list of things I was going to cook: my cooking projects. But to be honest, I was not cooking most things. So I am revising the focus to things I am interested in, food-wise. Maybe you will make them. If you do, let me know!

Recipes: This looks like a beautiful cake (image above). If you like a good chowder, try this from Food52. If you love to cook with cream like I do, check out this list. I want to try and BBQ a whole fish this week. I might try this recipe for stuff black bass. If you need some good vegetarian recipes for summer, go here. Here’s a good recipe for a spinach ricotta cannelloni from Jamie Oliver. I am a big fan of Jacques Pepin and budget cooking. If you are too, check out this. If you don’t know what to cook, try this tool from Epicurious.

Other food stories: On the outrage over fake meat. Keto diets can help if you are trying to cut down on drinking. Finally, here’s a good story on what they eat on the space shuttle. Fancy.

 

On the new Grado x series of headphones

Fans of Grado should know that they have upgraded their Prestige line. For example, those of you who may have had their SR125e may want tto upgrade to the new SR125x. I know, the e series is great and you may never want to give them up. But check this out regardless:  Grado Labs – SR125x.

They have upgrades from the SR60 to the SR325. Whether you have the 125s or the 325s or even the 60s — all great — you can consider moving up in terms of quality, even if it is just going from the SR60e to the SR60x. So gift your old cans to someone younger who can gain a new appreciation of music and sound through a good set of headphones, then head over to their website and upgrade yourself.

(Image from the Grado site. No sponsorship here: I just think they make a great product).