Author Archives: smartpeopleiknow

How to garden in the winter

What’s cooler than summer gardening? Winter gardening! 🙂 No seriously, winter gardening is very cool. I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but the Times and specifically Niki Jabbour of Halifax have convinced me otherwise. As the Times explains:

Is it really possible to garden year-round? Yes, even in Nova Scotia. Through years of experimentation, Niki Jabbour has developed an all-seasons approach to edible gardening, despite the rigors of her Halifax location, where frost can linger until late May and return in early October. What Ms. Jabbour — an intrepid vegetable gardener and the host of the radio show “The Weekend Gardener” — calls her “vegetable garden tool kit” doesn’t include a trowel and pruning shears (although they are always within reach). Her essentials are an assortment of fabrics and the supports she drapes them over.

It’s really impressive. The article below gets into great depth as to how such an activity is possible. I don’t know if I will ever do it, but I really enjoyed reading about it, here: The Year-Round Garden – The New York Times

Forget cremation. When I die, turn my into a diamond.

Seriously, that is one of the options mentioned on the site Interesting Engineering. You can also be dissolved in a liquid (apparently Desmond Tutu chose this option). Or you can be turned into soil.

For more on this, see:

(Image via algordanza, makers of the diamonds)

 

 

It’s Monday. You want to be more productive. Maybe you need to be less available.


With all the ways people can reach you, you may find that you spend much of your time responding to requests and less time doing work you consider productive. Being responsive is good but not at the cost of being unproductive. If that sounds like you, I recommend you read this: I’m Not Sorry for My Delay – The Atlantic.

Much of the time we respond quickly because we feel we must. Being able to comfortably separate the times we must respond quickly versus the times we can respond slower is a worthwhile thing to cultivate. Reading that article can help you get there.

How to Make Your Home Smell Like a Williams Sonoma Store


Now here’s an unusual recipe. Instead of it being to cook something to eat, you use the ingredients to make your house smell better!  To see what I mean, check this out: How to Make Your Home Smell Like a Williams Sonoma Store – Williams-Sonoma Taste

If you ever have been into a Williams Sonoma store, you know how good they smell. Especially around Christmastime. You might think you have to buy some expensive product to make them smell good but you don’t. Just get some simple ingredients.

How would you like a cube of titanium, or copper, or even uranium? With the Luciteria web site, you can!

How cool is this Luciteria web site? Well if you are a geek like me, very cool indeed. Among other things they sell are cubes of each of the elements in the periodic table. As they say:

Cubes of each of the elements are our most popular sellers. And it’s not hard to see why. Precision machined and labeled each one is a self-contained ambassador of the periodic table. From the small cubic centimeter up to the hefty 5cm these cubes practically define the ideal desktop gadget for anyone who loves to nerd out on science. So get one as a conversation starter, a few as a clever means to spell out a name or phrase or go for broke and get as many as possible to make your own “real life” periodic table!

Some of them, like copper above, are pretty harmless and common. Others, like the uranium cube below, not so much.
I think these would be a great gift for anyone into science, or for teachers teaching the elements.

My first thought when I went there was that they would only have a few of the elements, but no, they have pretty much all of them. (With some reasonable exceptions.) Very much worth checking out.

On the sorry state of printers, 2021

What does the Verge think of printers?

Printers are the worst. They’re unreliable, they guzzle reportedly $12,000-a-gallon ink, and their manufacturers have been known to use dirty tricks, scare tactics, and DRM to strongly encourage you to buy cartridges exclusively from them.

Whoa! Strong but true. What prompted this? Well it seems…

Some of Canon’s own toner cartridges are now being detected as fakes — and they’re forcing the company to teach customers how to bypass its own DRM (via Techdirt).

Wild. You can read more about that here: Canon printers now think Canon’s own toner is fake – The Verge.

I have always wondered why printers are in the sorry state they are. While they are common, they are almost seen as a dead end technology. People don’t write about new printers the way the write about new smartphones. They are seen as a necessary evil in many cases. No one in Silicon Valley is coming along to disrupt the printer business.

I remember when IBM spun off their printer division into a company called Lexmark. And I can remember over a decade ago Kodak made printers with cheap ink. Now when I go into a computer store, those brands aren’t there. It’s the Canon’s and HP’s of the world that are making printers and presumably making money from them. Perhaps the only way to make a go of printers is to make them poorly. Which is sad.

On the five different levels of hype

In tech we often talk about the hype curve. When we do, we don’t distinguish the degree of hype we are talking about. This piece does exactly that: The five Levels of Hype. I hadn’t thought about it before, but the hype of marketing a new product is a different thing than the hype of a new technology. To see what I mean, see this chart from the article:

Much of the hype we are seeing around cryptocurrencies are up there in level 4 and 5. But this isn’t restricted to just that technology.

A good piece. Anyone familiar or referencing with the Gartner Hype Curve should read it.

New New York: the plan to expand Manhattan

One thing I like about Americans is their desire to dream big. This is easily demonstrated in this New York Times piece about expanding Manhattan.

It’s a smart idea. Is it doable? I don’t know. I do know that the cost of shoring up Manhattan to deal with global warming is going to be a big one. Why not use real estate and additional taxes to do that? Read the article and see what you think.

1980s me would have laughed at the idea of expanding Manhattan, since so much of the existing island was unlivable. Amazing how much has changed.

On twitter and MLK Day

So yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the US. I think it is great Americans celebrate the life and work of Dr. King, and I hope all Americans take the day to reflect and work towards a more perfect union inspired by his ideals and vision.

It’s always a weird day on Twitter, though. I think this Wesley Yang quote hits the nail on the head:

MLK said some stuff that radicals like to quote and other stuff that conservatives and moderates like to quote, and of course what made him what he was is the ability to hold these contrasting impulses in balance

It’s true: MLK did say some radical things and he also said some moderate things. Moderate people want to claim him for his own and ignore the radical things, and radicals do the reverse. He was trying to bring people together and to move civil rights forward. There was no one way to do that. So was he moderate or radical? It depended on the context.

It’s also a weird thing when someone or some organization references Dr. King and someone quote tweets that and says “oh by the way, they are hypocritical to says that for reasons A, B, and C”. It’s the nature of people to dunk on others on twitter: I feel it just feels like petty squabbling on a day we should aspire to better.

The other thing that seems to happen on twitter every year on MLK day are tweets stating how unpopular he was at one point.  As Gallup states:

in 1966 — the last Gallup measure of King using this scalometer procedure — it was 32% positive and 63% negative.

Which is not false. It’s also not the whole picture. As CNNPolitics shows, “Black Americans” saw things differently:

 The vast majority in 1963 thought his work for equal rights was moving at the right speed (71%) or not fast enough (21%) compared to 8% who believed it was happening too fast. In 1966, 84% of Black adults had a favorable view of him, while 4% had an unfavorable view.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was an active political figure trying to effect major change. It is not surprising that his popularity was not high like it is now. That’s fairly common of political figures.  For additional context, he was listed as one of the top ten admired men in the nation in 1964 and 1965 but not 1966, according to that Gallup piece.

Popularity is a complex thing to measure. People trying to say King was unpopular back in his time are being highly selective in their selection of data, to say the least.

Anyway, I hope people’s tweets are aspirational versus petty when the holiday arrives.  I think Dr. King would want that.

What programming language should you learn? (2022 edition)

The best programming languages to learn in 2022, according to TechRepublic are these:

It’s interesting to see how things have changed. Back in 2015 when I wrote about this, Java was 1st and Python was in 4th. Javascript was 8th! I am not surprised by this.

Java and the C languages will always be good to know. But if you want to be marketable, learn some Python and Javascript.

Here’s 100 ways to improve your life by tweaking it slightly


I love this: 100 ways to slightly improve your life without really trying | Life and style | The Guardian. While it’s great to tackle big resolutions in the new year, sometimes small changes are fine.

Here’s a few of the 100 to give you a sense of what they recommend:

24 Start a Saturday morning with some classical music – it sets the tone for a calm weekend.
25 Look closely.
27 If possible, take the stairs.
30 Be polite to rude strangers – it’s oddly thrilling.

I especially like 30!

While the Guardian says they are slight, I think some of them take a bit of work. But see for yourself. Look closely. 🙂

On cravenness

Cravenness:

noun. Ignoble lack of courage: chicken-heartedness, cowardice, cowardliness, dastardliness, faint-heartedness, funk, pusillanimity, unmanliness.

For more examples of it in action, read: ‘Weakness and surrender’: Ted Cruz seeks to move on from Tucker Carlson mauling | Ted Cruz | The Guardian

I was going to reference Pyrrhic Victory, but it doesn’t cover an event where so much is given up and nothing is gained.

On Seneca, or good advice is good advice, regardless of whom it comes from

500

I’ve always thought highly of the wisdom dispensed by Seneca. Many do. However, I started to think about it more after reading this: Lucius Annaeus Seneca | Daily Philosophy.

Seneca’s advice is admirable and worthwhile. His life, less so. Read that piece and you will see what I mean.Which is once again why I will conclude that good advice is good advice, regardless of whom it comes from. Not everyone is as consistent in life and thought as Diogenes. 🙂

 

It’s Friday. A good day to tidy up, workwise. Start with your inbox


It’s Friday, a good day to tidy up, workwise. That way it’ll be easier to start things fresh on Monday.

Sure you can tidy up your Downloads folder, your desktop, maybe delete some really big files that have been hanging around forever. Those are all good, but I recommend you clean up your inbox.

If you need a tool to do this, I know some really smart people who have recommended this: Mailstrom: Clean Up Your Inbox Now.

Your Monday self will thank you.

Billie Eilish, or what’s no longer new in social media

Social media is in a funny period these days. For one thing, the “old” social media seems to have plateaued and is not yielding big results. For example, Ms Ellish’s Millions of Followers did not result in big book sales. Nor did Mr. Timberlake’s social media fans. No doubt their books suffered for many reasons, but one time social media could be the thing to propel them to success. Not any more.

It’s been long known that Facebook has been struggling to maintain its young users. It seems the same is now true for another part of Facebook/Meta: Instagram. It’s not that people have given up on social media. For example, there are new contenders, like Twitch and Discord. Perhaps Meta will buy them to stay fresh, just like they bought Instagram and WhatsApp. Meanwhile, Meta plans to remove thousands of sensitive ad-targeting categories. The more things change….

Before I close, if you still use RSS like I do (with the Feedly app), here are the  Top Toronto RSS Feeds.

(Image from NYTimes)

 

Money is not fake or abstract or unreal if you are poor

Or so I thought when I was read this piece, From crypto to meme stocks to NFTs, money has never felt more fake – Vox, especially this:

… NFTs — non-fungible tokens, little digital assets that exist on a blockchain — are having a moment. What’s not really clear is why. Then again, everything about money feels a little strange at the moment. Between NFTs, crypto, and GameStop, AMC, and other meme stocks, money has rarely felt more fake. Or, at the very least, value has rarely felt so disconnected from reality.

Two thoughts on that. First thought: money does seem fake for many these days. In times where there is a surfeit of capital and assets have highly inflated valuations, money can seem unreal.

Second thought: it’s important to backup and define what money is. Money is a medium of exchange. That’s it. If you are well off, and you are using money to exchange one abstract good for another, it can see fake and unreal.

If you are poor, then it is a different story. If you are poor,  the things you need your hard earned money to exchange for are very concrete goods and services. Concrete things like food and shelter and medicine and transportation. All those things are denied you without money. For poor people, money is not abstract at all, and the absence of it makes life difficult.

The richer you are, the higher in abstraction the medium you call Money is. But for poor people, it is not an abstract thing at all.

The New Space Race!

I was a young boy for the first space race in the 1960s and 1970s. After that the pace of space exploration seem to decrease. Recently, though, that pace has picked up, as the Times shows, here: Big Rockets, Massive Asteroids and More Space Highlights for 2022 – The New York Times.

So much happened in 2021, and 2022 seems to be just as busy. We have the James Webb Space Telescope,  China building the Tiangong Space Station, NASA’s attempt to deflect an asteroid and much more. If you go to that article, you can subscribe to The Times Space and Astronomy Calendar and keep up to date of everything going on.

Sure billionaires jaunting into space grabs our attention, but there is so much more going on than that, and unlike much in the news, space exploration is fun and exciting to follow. Join the new Space Race!

Notes from having COVID last week

Last Monday (Jan 3) my daughter had a sore throat. She got tested later that evening and was positive for COVID. No one in my house/bubble had symptoms before that, but by Wednesday morning, all but one of us had them.

Our experience with the disease was similar to Liz Renzetti and her family, described here: Opinion: Lessons from the COVID not-so-sick bed – The Globe and Mail.

All of us felt tired and exhibited symptoms associated with COVID. I had a incessant cough, runny nose, stuffy head, and at one point fever then chills. I also slept a lot. Normally I am restless so if I am sleeping that much then I am sick.

We all isolated from each other as much as we could. We had a hepa filter going, and we were all vaccinated (and in some cases boosted). We did what we could to minimize the impact. As it was, the course of the disease took under a week (at least in terms of present symptoms).

People were great in offering us well wishes and close friends offering to bring us food. We were lucky to be able to have food delivered and appreciative of the people who did so.

We only had one rapid antigen test between us. (Good luck getting one of those anywhere.) We were all pretty sick, but we used it and the results were negative. My doctor friend tells me the false negative percentage is 30% (vs 1% false positive).  We acted all we all had COVID anyway and we likely did.

I don’t have any great insights into the disease. Get as vaccinated as you can as soon as you can. Follow local public health guidelines. Take care of yourself and others. Hang in there.

(Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash )

 

What did you learn in 2021? What will you learn in 2022?


Well if you are Tom Whitwell, quite a lot, as he shows here: 52 things I learned in 2021 by Tom Whitwell from Fluxx | Fluxx Studio Notes

His piece is fascinating. Even better, it makes me think I might like to keep a similar log for 2022. Maybe you want to as well! Meanwhile read Tom.

(Photo by Andrea De Santis on Unsplash )

A better dock for your Apple Watch

I love this! Not only can you charge your Apple Watch easily, but you can also use this device to easily see the time and your alarm. Brilliant. More on it, here:
Nightwatch Magnifying Clock Dock.

On TV, the 90s and me


I stopped watching TV in the 90s.  The last three TV series I watched were Northern Exposure (1990-1995), Seinfeld (1989-1998) and Friends (1994-2004).

I thought of that when I recently started rewatching Friends clips weirdly via Instagram. It is full of them. This Vanity Fair piece hits on something that Seinfeld and Friends and to some degree Northern Exposure had in common:

It was the ’90s; oh, was it ever the ’90s. The show’s anxieties are inextricably tied to the that decade—answering machines, VCRs, the discomfort its straight characters feel upon encountering queer people.

Yep, all that. The discomfort (or whatever you want to call it) in Friends is particularly painful to watch.

You notice other things too. No smart phones (obviously). No internet. Also suits and ties. Chandler and Ross in the early episodes are often in business attire of the time and it seems as dated as tuxedos and top hats now.

In the end, I gave up on each of those shows for different reasons. Northern Exposure lost its bearing and became some sort of Alaskan fantasy land. Friends seemed to become a landing place for cameos of famous actors. As for Seinfeld, I have to agree with the Vanity Fair piece, who said:

… for more than a few episodes at a time, these people and their concerns—so self-absorbed, so entitled, so stupid—are a little deadening to watch.

Seinfeld’s leads are a tiresome quartet; in the show, everyone who meets them ends up deeply regretting it.

I skipped the golden age of TV with the Wire and the Sopranos and all that. None of it appealed to me. I’m trying to get back into watching things via streaming, but even that is a struggle. I don’t think I am superior for not watching it. I just find it is something I can’t watch on my own.

For now I’ll watch clips via Instagram and maybe that is enough TV for me. 🙂

On the things parents tell their kids and the things kids remember

Vihos Sweets

This is a picture of a street in downtown Glace Bay. Next to the Dominion is a small place called Vihos Sweets. It didn’t exist when I was growing up, but it did when my mom was a teen. She worked there for a time, and she occasionally talked about it.

Though she didn’t talk about it a lot, it stuck in my mind and I often thought about it. I don’t know why. Maybe I liked the sound of it. Maybe the way she described it made it seem special. Perhaps I was trying to imagine having my own job someday. I am not sure.

I wonder of the many things I’ve told my kids what they remember. You hope that the big lessons you try and impart to your kids are the things that stick. But often times it is the little things. Things like the name of a place you worked at for a short time when you were younger.

Try and be comfortable with the notion that  you have less control than you think.  You can only live and speak as best as you can, and hope that is enough to send them in the right direction. They may recall the important things you passed on. They may recall something you said in passing. They are their own person, and they will absorb and recall what they need.

(Image via http://capermemories.blogspot.com/)

 

Why beach robots are good

While I am not a fan of most popular robots these days, I will make an exception for this one: This Microsoft-powered AI-enabled robot cleans up cigarette butts littered on the beach! – Yanko Design

It’s sad we need such a robot, but if this problem is going to exist, I am all for such technology. It’s a great project and not unlike a Roomba for the beach. Nice.

A good reminder that the large social media sites are bad because they choose to be

You might think that there is nothing to be done with the the people who spread lies and misinformation (and worse) on social media. But I believe that there is nothing inevitable about it and it is not impossible to fix.

For a case study of this, see this piece: Vaccine misinformation has run rampant on pregnancy apps in The Washington Post. The What to Expect app was being overrun with misinformation until they decided to clamp down. The result?

The experience of What to Expect shows that, when smaller apps do explicitly prioritize content moderation, the results can be striking.

The Post backed off a bit, but I would not. I think that if bigger apps did this too, the results would also be striking. I think the bigger apps like YouTube and Facebook and TikTok and Twitter only do it when things get too extreme. Otherwise they are happy to have the engagement, even if people think their sites stink.

(Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash )

A worthwhile goal for the new year is a different form of extremism


It’s hard to do anything extreme these days in the middle of a pandemic. Even if you want to do extreme events, you might not be able to find any that aren’t cancelled.

So consider extreme moderation. A life that is in balance. Chances are you find a lot of imbalance in your life already, two years into the pandemic. If so, read this: In Praise of Extreme Moderation.

It might just give you the goal you need for 2022.

On families and loved ones

I hope you had a chance to spend time with your family over the holidays. Here’s two pieces on families I thought are worth reading: Visiting My English Grandmother and How I wish my old diary held more detail of the night I met my husband.

How I track my goals and my year using spreadsheets: my 2021 review. (Maybe you can steal this approach)

I’ve used a number of ways to track my goals and my year, and I have found spreadsheets the best way to do it.

Below are snapshots of the two worksheets I used in my spreadsheet. The first image is the worksheet I use for the goals I have regarding my responsibility for people and other things. The second image is the worksheet I use for the goals I have regarding myself. Each row is a week in the year. If I did nothing to advance the goal that week, I colour the cell red. If I did something but fell short, I use yellow. If I had a good week, the cell is green, and if I had a great week the cell is purple.

What’s nice about using colour like this is that I can zoom out and see how I am progressing over the year.

In the first two columns above I track how much I do for my son and daughter. Pretty good there. The next column is what I do for my brother and sister: I started weak but picked up throughout the year. It was good, and better than last year, but it can be better still. Next column is for keeping in touch with friends. It’s tough in a pandemic but I could email and use social media. The last three columns are my home, my finances, and my involvement in politics.  I was much better with political engagement last year: this year the pandemic wore me down. Likewise I did ok managing my home and finances this year but it could be better. All in all too much red and yellow in those last 2 columns. (Part of the problem is I find them thankless tasks that provide little or no good feedback.)

After my responsibility to others,  my goals are managing myself. I found I did poorly on the hard parts of this but better on the soft parts. lol! The first two columns above are fitness (do more exercising) and reading (do more reading). I get a D to an F grade for much of the year there. The third column tracks how much I draw and do other art. Again, D or maybe a C-. I did well writing (column 4): I wrote every week in my main blog, and sometimes elsewhere.  After that comes column 5 and IT skills development: I got maybe a B- there. Often that takes a backseat to other things. In terms of cooking (column 6) that was easy in a pandemic! I did a lot of cooking and cooked hundreds of different recipes. (I track all the meals separately because I am a nut.)

For a long time I felt homebound and never did things for myself, so I tried to improve that and make them goals. So the last three columns are Treats, Restaurants I’ve tried, and new and good things I have done. Mostly I’ve done well there, compared to reading and fitness. Sigh. Ah well. (Those are easy to do, since the feedback you get once you do them is really good.)

The colour coding is subjective, of course, and in a pandemic the bar to green and purple is lower. But as a consultant, I quite like this way of tracking my goals.

Now I have a lot of goals, I admit. One thing nice about that is that I usually feel like I am accomplishing something. So if I am not getting in shape, at least I am keeping in touch with people and taking care of other things.

I also don’t track everything in a spreadsheet: I have some goals I track elsewhere, for example for some relationships and responsibilities. Likewise I sometimes have goals that are in a limited time window of weeks instead of months: they don’t go here.

It may seem like a lot to track, but I find I spent a few minutes each day then I can get it done. Plus I can course correct this way too and shift my priorities around.

If you struggle with goals and tracking them and moving forward, I recommend this approach. It’s fast and painless.

Here’s to achieving your goals, small and big, in 2022.

Happy 2022!

Happy New Year! Maybe this year will be year we finally see the end of the pandemic!

One of my resolutions this year is to do more with less. In that vein, I am going to share some of my old posts on the new year, rather than recreate another. You can find them here. I think they are still good and still worth revisiting, both by me and you.

All the best to you in 2022.

Another pandemic year is done. Here’s my highlights and ramblings for December 2021 (a newsletter, in blog form)

Happy New Year’s Eve to you! Raise a glass of cheer for another year of pandemic nonsense down the drain. Last month I said: it’s hard to believe we are in the pandemic, like it was about to be finished soon. Now what we got in December was almost a throwback to the beginning of the pandemic! Painful. I hope the reading of this newsletter brings something other than pain.

Pandemic: Last month I wondered what the Omicron variant would bring. Now I know: it brought us an incredible amount of sickness. Cases have shot through the roof and it seems like COVID, once preventable with reasonable measures taken, is less so. Worse, even with vaccines people are still getting ill. The one piece of good news so far is hospitalization seems to be manageable.

That said, Omicron has been hard on us.  Like this piece says, the week Omicron arrived was  the week that Covid sucker punched the world. Alot of our hopes and dreams have been dashed because Omicron is rewriting the COVID plan for 2022. Not surprisingly, across the world Covid anxiety and depression take hold.

But people have also been making an effort. People are getting test like crazy, and not surprisingly, this has led to test backlogs. The challenge here is sometimes the backlogs are due to overwhelming demand and sometimes it is due to underwhelming supply. People are assuming the problem is the latter, but even the most efficient supply chain can get overwhelmed by too much demand. That said, some places (Nova Scotia) are really good at distributing tests, while other places (Ontario) not so much.

Before omicron, the number of hot takes on COVID had seem to die down. Now they have fired back up again. Uncertainty provides fuel for all these spicy opinions. My boring take is that people should continue to mask up, avoid crowds, and get fully vaccinated as soon as they can. Heck wash your hands for 20 seconds still…it can’t hurt.

I get that people are sick of the pandemic. We all are! But pretending it isn’t happening is ridiculous. Unfortunately we have organizations like the NBA limping along because money, I suppose. I mean here are the Raptors with 10 of their players out due to COVID.  So we have these ridiculous events with 10,000 people in the stands to watch pickup basketball. No wonder we are stuck. I understand restaurants trying to get people into them: it’s do or die for many of them. The rich NBA? I have less understanding.

Christmas: it’s Christmastime, despite the pandemic. Here are three pieces on that time of year that aren’t necessarily festive, but are certainly interesting: first, here’s a story on how Irving Berlin’s ‘White Christmas’ helped U.S. fight fascism in WWII. This was interesting: Christmas and slavery: The holidays were the best time to escape. Finally, this was fun: Christmas shopping the IBM way: computerized gift selection in 1962.

Non-Pandemic: In the US, lots of people writing off Joe Biden due to Joe Manchin putting a pin in his Build Back Better legislation.  My take is: we shall see.  It’s certainly benefited Manchin in the short term. But the cliche that a week in politics is a long time is a cliche for a reason. Biden has time. He’s already achieved a lot, but it is hard to feel that. This article attempts to understand that and is worth a look.

Elsewhere in the US, unions are having a moment. So says Time. Time also says Elon Musk was man of the year. Meh to that. Every year brings my opinion of the man down a level.

Speaking of technology, there’s lots of talk lately about web3. Frankly I am highly skeptical of it. It seems like a bunch of overhyped schemes to make money. If I had to recommend one thing to read on it, it would be this.

The other thing people were talking about technology-wise were the multiple outages at AWS and the log4j vunerability. The former I was surprised by: the latter not so much. People do not realize how exposed we all are to the soft underbelly of open source: the log4j problems were a good reminder/wake up call.

Entertainment wise, I continue to avoid going to movie theatres, concerts or anything with crowds. I made an exception for television/streaming. While I rarely watch TV, there were a few things I did watch this December, including Don’t Look Up and Get Back. I thought the former was a hot mess. and this piece aligns with my views. As for Get Back, there was a lot I liked about it, including how it changed my  opinions of the band. Although a huge Paul McCartney fan, my opinion dropped of him after watching it. Same with George Harrison. My opinion of John and Ringo rose, as did my opinion of Yoko. I still love them all, but I was surprised to see my opinion still change despite all these years of being a big fan.

I also watched  some of American Crime Story on the Clinton Scandals. Bill Clinton does not come out well in it, however sympathetic you are to him. The women generally come across as human and multidimensional, which I liked. If you are into such drama, I recommend it.

Other things I enjoyed and continue to enjoy is the twitter account Canadian Paintings.  Whoever curates it does a superb job. There is such a wide range of art displayed and it is often topical. I love it every time the account posts.

Cooking-wise,  my new  favorite instagram account and web site is Salt & Lavender. Good RICH food. The account does not shy away from high fat ingredients and frankly, I love that. If you need to treat yourself, visit their website.

The other food person I follow is Carolina Gelen on IG. A very entertaining account with good recipes. She is a superb communicator.

Well that’s it for the newsletter. Remember, last year in January we were still waiting for the vaccine: we have made tremendous progress since then! We still haven’t put the pandemic behind us (I am a terrible predictor!) but I think we can soon. Hang in there!

Speaking of hanging in, if you got this far, thank you! I appreciate it! I hope you have a good and safe New Year’s Eve, and despite the challenges, you manage to have a good year next year. You deserve it. We all do.

Profiles on four cool dudes


Here’s links to four cool dudes worth reading about. First up is  Lingdong Huang and his very cool projects. This is a good piece on  how Duro Olowu gets dressed in the morning. This is on  Hanif Abdurraqib and how he cuts through the noise. Finally, this piece is on a man who earned a Ph.D. and fulfilled his dream of being a physicist — at 89.

Each one is a good profile. Enjoy.

 

 

 

Great dumbbell exercises and other good things to get back in shape post holidays

If you are past Christmas feast you may be thinking of getting in shape as a New Year’s Resolution. If so, good for you. But you may need help. Here’s some links to do that.

I am a big fan of dumbbells, both at home and in the gym, and I think they are a great way to get stronger and fitter. This particular guide is one of the best ones I’ve seen: 19 Best Dumbbell Exercises for Building Muscle 2021 | Garage Gym Reviews. If you want to take them up or get back into them, read that.

If you aren’t sure how often you should work out, read this, How to Motivate Yourself to Exercise Every Morning, this Can You Do a Full-Body Workout Two Days in a Row?, and this I Stopped Working Out Daily. Here’s What Happened.

If you want to get started but find the idea of it daunting, read this,  How to ‘Grease the Groove’ and Exercise Easy – The Atlantic and this, From Zero to 45 Days in a Row: How I Built a Habit of Daily Exercise.

Good luck! Get up and go!

(Image from Garage Gym)

 

 

 

10 good pieces to mull over these holidays

  1. A good piece on how grief affects us:  How the brain responds to grief can change who we are.
  2. Good for people who have monkey minds, like me:  How to Quiet Your Mind Chatter
  3. Good advice here:  How to (Actually) Change Someone’s Mind.
  4. Really something for all ages, not just olds like me:  I Just Turned 60 but I Still Feel 22.
  5. Same for this: 88 Important Truths I’ve Learned About Life 
  6. The pandemic may not have killed ironic living, but it has affected it:  The Great Irony-Level Collapse
  7. A example of the gaps in AI and ethics still. Wide gaps IMO:  Moral Machine 
  8. Speaking of ethics:  Is it okay to harvest pig kidneys to save human lives? 
  9. A good piece on Wittgenstein:  Los Angeles Review of Books 
  10. Finally, worth a read is this:  George Forss 80 Photographer Discovered on the Streets of N.Y. Dies.

Late night thoughts on America, China and Africa

Here’s some interesting links I found on America, China, and Africa over the year that I thought worth revisited as we move from 2021 to 2022.

On American justice: There was plenty of turmoil in the American justice system in 2021. For example, the Arbery trial outcome was uncertain:  Nearly All-White Jury in Arbery Killing Draws Scrutiny while the Rittenhouse trial was not: Of Course Kyle Rittenhouse Was Acquitted. The effects of the US Supreme Court becoming more conservative was discussed in pieces like this  Five Justices Did This Because They Could and this It’s time to say it: The conservatives on the Supreme Court lied to us all. Finally a reminder of how terrible capital punishment is in many ways, as this piece shows: They executed people for the state of South Carolina. For some it nearly destroyed them.

On American history: Americans spent much time debating their history, too, in pieces like this, Date of Viking Visit to North America Pinpointed to 1021 AD,
this The Debate Over a Jefferson Statue Is Missing Some Surprising History  this Cancel Columbus Day: Sun storms pinpoint Europeans being in Canada in 1021 A.D., and this: Does America really lose all its wars?.

A special focus was put on the 1619 Project, here The 1619 Project and the Demands of Public History and here The 1619 Project started as history. Now it’s also a political program. Relatedly, this: List of last surviving American enslaved people.

Finally, this bears rereading:  Bertrand Russell’s Ten Commandments for Living in a Healthy Democracy.

China: like the US, China is struggling too. Struggling with it’s young people (‘Lying flat’: The millennials quitting China’s ‘996’ work culture to live ‘free of anxiety’), scandals (Beijing Silenced Peng Shuai in 20 Minutes, Then Spent Weeks on Damage Control), worldwide distrust (As Distrust of China Grows Europe May Inch Closer to Taiwan), and their treatment of  Uyghurs (U.S. Holocaust Museum Says China May Be Committing Genocide Against Uyghurs). And as Xi Jinping gains more control, he is coming under more scrutiny, as seen here China’s Xi Jinping Remakes the Communist Party’s History in His Image and here What if Xi Jinping just isn’t that competent?

Africa: For the first part of the 21st century, China and the US will be the dominant great powers. However as we move towards the 22nd century, the next great power may come from Africa. At the very least, Africa’s rising cities will be dominant.

Happy Boxing Day! Go have a snowball fight! Here’s some inspiration!

Happy Boxing Day to those that celebrate. It’s always a good day to go outside after all the festivities of Christmas. If you are fortunate to have snow, maybe you can go have a (gentle) snowball fight. Either way, this link is a collection of Snowball Fights in Art (1400–1946) over at The Public Domain Review. Dive in.

 

 

Merry Christmas! From me and the Three Tenors!

Here are the Tenors performing White Christmas:

Regardless of whether your Christmas is white or not, like them, I hope that your days are merry and bright.

Some thoughts on wine in Ontario after shopping for it in the US

Recently I have spent some time in Charleston, S.C. and enjoying many things about that city, including their wine options. These options have given me some insight into wine options in Ontario and has reshaped my thinking of what I am getting.

Before the pandemic, the  way I bought wine was through the LCBO. If I wanted something special, I’d buy it from LCBO’s Vintages section vs the general section. When the pandemic hit, I could buy wine from nearby restaurants as well as other local distributors.  I was glad to have wines options that were varied and weren’t too expensive.

However, as restaurants have been allowed to open,  I’ve noticed their bottle prices outside the LCBO have increased. During the pandemic, I could find such wines for 20-40 dollars easily. Now the prices have all shot back up to what you pay in a restaurant. That may be good for the restaurants, but it’s disappointing for me.

That’s Ontario. Really, Toronto. In contrast, when in Charleston I could visit a number of wine shops that had lots of great wine around $20. Even with exchange rates, that was good. And these shops were as common as LCBOs in Toronto.

The other thing I noticed was that much of the US wine in the Vintages section of the LCBO is “supermarket” wine. I was under the impression that American wine in the LCBO was hard to find wine, but really it is stuff you can find in any store.

That got me thinking: is most of the wine in Vintages simply basic wine made everywhere in the world? Perhaps it is. That doesn’t make it bad: it just makes it everyday.

I think the LCBO still has a great selection in many ways. But I also wish there was another retail option like those in Charleston where I could get small scale wine that is good and affordable.

 

How to easily buy wine as a gift at the LCBO


You want to buy wine for a gift at the LCBO. Maybe you know nothing about wine. Maybe you only know a little bit. Unless you know a lot, here’s what I recommend. It’s simple.

Go into your local LCBO. Ask for where the Wines of the Month are. Buy as many of those as your budget allows. That’s it.

You can also go to the web site and look for Vintages New Releases. Once on that page, look for Explore our featured products and click on it. Then look for Wines of the Month. Easy peasy.

What’s great about this is you can be sure those wines are very good and carefully selected by staff at the LCBO. Not only that, but most of the time they are around twenty bucks. Want to spent $40? Buy two bottles.  If you want to spend over a $100, you can consider getting a half case or more. Or mix in a bottle of champagne: you can’t go wrong with that.

If you know what the person likes, then you can buy that. If you know wine, then you should pick what you think is best. Otherwise, follow this and you won’t go wrong.

 

Nine great design/decor links to kill some time with :)

If you are still working at this date, you are either working desperately to finish or you are killing time until the end. If you are the latter, these are for you:

  1. Here’s some good things for your home: this Aldi launches clever cooling bedding range for hot sleepers and this Smart Kitchen Appliances that will transform you from a home cook to a MasterChef! but also this Jonathan Adler and Ruggable Just Collaborated on a Washable Rug Collection That‚Äôs Dripping with Style.
  2. Speaking of your home, These Are the Items Visitors See First In Your Home.
  3. Not your home, but cool: the  El Cemento Uno House.
  4. Here are two good storage solutions, this  Kartell Componibili Smile 2 Tier Storage and this Vadolibero Domus R3 Bicycle Storage System.
  5. Also good if you don’t have much space:  This folding electric bike shrinks to the size of a CPU fitting under your desk! (See images)
  6. Speaking of little space: Tiny Cabins designed to be the ultimate micro-living travel destinations!
  7. More on min/maxi-malism: How to Embrace Minimalist Decor When You’re Not a Minimalist and Maximalism.
  8. A shout out to the man: Dieter Rams: Less but Better / $40.
  9. Finally, here’s  This Futuristic Litter Box Has an App That Lets You Know When to Empty.

(Images of this cool bike from Yanko)

Something to consider if you are gaming this holiday season (never mind the metaverse)

If you are planning to do some gaming this holiday season, especially Halo, then read this: Cheaters are already ruining Halo Infinite multiplayer games – The Verge. And it’s not just Halo, but lots of big online games.

As an aside, when I read about Mark Z’s Metaverse, I imagine them not even considering things like this.

(Image from article).

It’s Monday. The Holiday Season is Upon Us. You need help

The holiday season is upon us! If you need help, The Washington Post has your back with these tips for decorating — and staying organized — for the holidays.

Included are such classics as:

  • How to stay organized
  • How to pick a tree
  • How to do your lights

And more. Don’t fret. You can do it. It’s not too late. Grab a piece of paper and a candy cane and get working on planning, and more importantly ENJOYING, the holidays. Cheers!