Author Archives: smartpeopleiknow

A feel good todo list: how it helps you with difficult tasks


There is a  problem I have with some items on my todo list, and you might have this too. The problem? I hate the process of doing that task, but I feel good when I finish it. Those are the tasks I’ll avoid for a long long long time, then do them — possibly cursing the whole time — and then when I’m done, I’ll think: well that feels good to have that done!

For those tasks, I’ve built something called the Feels Good todo list. For my Feels Good Todolist (FGT List), I have two columns. In the first column I write the task, and in the next column I write how I feel after it is done.

When I have to do the task I hate, I try and focus on how I feel when it is done. It requires some concentration, because my mind wants to think about how I hate it. Just as importantly, when it is done, I take the time to enjoy that feeling. I don’t rush off to do the next thing. I am trying to teach my brain to remember how good it feels so that it is somewhat easier the next time. Try it!

It’s hard to do certain tasks. If you get satisfaction from the process, that’s great. If not, focus on how good you feel when it is done. It will keep you going.

The best time to visit New York is in December. And other things NYC

The best time to visit New York is in December. I did once many years ago and I just remember how magical it was: the city was lightly covered in snow, the shops were all lit up and decorated for Christmas, and everyone was bustling about. I had a moment where I stood in front of a store, the snow lightly falling on me, and thinking excitedly: it’s perfect. I hope you can go and experience something similar.

Whenever you go, you’ll need a place to stay.  Vogue has some suggestions on places. The New York Times has a recent guide to what you can do in 36 hours. The food writer Michael Ruhlman has some suggestions, too. If you want to go where few do, perhaps you can head to the Bronx and enjoy what that borough has to offer. One day the Bronx will have it’s moment. Get there first.

If you haven’t been in awhile, this piece tells you what has changed in terms of dining. Don’t be deterred though: New York is always changing and is always good.

I’ll close off with three New York Stories. Here’s a sad story of how Trump destroyed one of the gems of Mahhattan to put up his Tower: Vanished New York City Art Deco – Bonwit Teller. Here’s a cool story on the Hart Island cemetery. And here’s a good story on planting a million trees in NYC .

One last thing: here is the trailer for one of my favorite films, Metropolitan. It’s set in New York in December, and that’s just one of many things I love about it.

(Image from Cup of Jo. I recommend their Guide to NYC in Winter.)

 

Transition Toronto (what’s new in Hogtown, December 2022)

It’s a time of Transition in Toronto. Transitions due to municipal and provincial elections. Transitions due to Covid. And transitions in general.

The Premier — who could not somehow find time to attend the Emergency act hearing or even certain sessions of the legislature — has managed to insert himself into city politics once again. (More on that here). I honestly think the guy would prefer to be a strong mayor of Toronto vs premier of Ontario. Anyway, that’s all going to lead to some transition.

Even with new powers the Premier has provided him, it will be a challenge for the current mayor, revenue-wise. He has new home sales dropping to a historic low and home prices overall dropping dramatically. In terms of commercial real estate, we have Toronto  workers still avoiding downtown, which is going to have an impact there. Things are tough. Let’s face it: there’s only so much money that can be raised from utilities.

Perhaps the fact that people are spending more time at home is the reason why people living in Toronto are feeling more socially isolated than ever before. I was feeling that way too, but lately I’ve been going out more and I am starting to feel more connected to the city. Can I recommend you find a friend and check out one or more of the 50 restaurants in Toronto with breathtaking interior design? I’ve been to several: it’s uplifting to go to them. Or maybe do something simpler but still great, like hitting up one of the many great dumplings places we have in the city. If you do the latter, head over to your favorite book store and pick up this fun anthology on dumplings by some fine Canadian writers: “What we talk about when we talk about dumplings”.

Or maybe you just want to get out and move. If you can skate, head down to Union Station, which is getting a free outdoor skating rink and it’s big! Winter is coming: choose to enjoy it.

Getting around the city, you’ll notice more and more people on transit. I have. Sadly, we’ve lost one of my favorite tools for that:  the Rocketman app. We need more good transit tools. Among other reasons, we are going to be getting more transit, such as the new Ontario line. Good to see the TTC continue to improve. Even old stations like Yonge and Bloor are getting upgrades.

Indigo is also getting upgraded with new coffee shops going in where the old Starbucks used to be. I miss the original cafes that Indigo first had: they served wonderful soup, among other things. But I’m glad there will be places for refreshments in the bookstore chain.

Other things getting improved: the park in my area. On one hand, I think improvements are great. On the other, the constant change / upheaval in my area can get to one (i.e., me). But hey, that’s Toronto. Nothing stays the same, not even the old Canadian Tire on Yonge north of Bloor. I mean look at that development.

Improvements are important though. It’s better for someone like IKEA to build new stores in places like a former Sears location, then for things to just be boarded up. It’s not a bad thing Toronto has the means to change and improve.

Still, it’s good to be reminded of the way things were. This piece on what Mirvish Village looked like in Toronto before it was demolished does that. I miss that area. Likewise, this visual history of Kensington is great. Heck, even this look at the soon to be vanishing pay phones is good.

Lots of change is happening in Toronto, and much of it is good. Here’s to the vibrant city I call home. Cheers!

(Images: all links to blogTO. Top: proposed new development on Canadian Tire. Middle: dumpling resto. Bottom: Mirvish Village.)

 

 

 

Friday Night Cocktail: a fancy martini (or three)

Here on the old blog, we like a good martini. Indeed, we have written often about that drink, as you can see. Many of those have been either classic or – dare I say – basic. Which is fine. Basic and classic are good. Fancy and new are also good. If you have a preference or are in the mood for that, I have three appealing martini offerings for you:

Whatever you prefer, fancy or basic, classic or new, I raise my glass to you. Cheers!

(P.S. Thanks to the good folks at Food and Wine for these recipes. If you want even more martinis, check out this article by them. The three you see are on a list of many more.)

How to deal with recurring nightmares (plus four other good pieces on better sleeping)

Do you suffer from recurring nightmares? If you do, I highly recommend you read this. It has worked for me and it may work for you too. Sleep can be hard enough to get: being fearful of repeating a nightmare makes it harder.

Here are some other sleep tips from the New York Times  that I thought were useful.

The Times also has advice on how to deal with waking up in the middle of the night and being unable to get back to sleep, here.

Do you exercise hard? If so, listen to  Atlantic CEO Nicholas Thompson who argues that among the things you need to be successful athlete is good sleep.

Sleepwell is an initiative to help people sleep better without medication. You can check it out,  here.

 

What was new in our crazy mixed up world, November 2022 edition

Yowza! It’s been a crazy month, this month, between surges in diseases, Twitter turning into a dumpster fire, crypto imploding, inflation hanging on, the war in Ukraine intensifying with seemingly more attacks on civilians, the US GOP becoming more Nazi curious….you name it.  Let’s take a look.

Pandemic: we are still seeing the effects of the pandemic rippling through our society. In Ontario the ICUs of our children’s hospitals have been slammed, with usage up to 108% at one point. Blame the pandemic on that. Other things to blame the pandemic on? Nursing shortages. In fact work shortages in general: long COVID continues to affect many people and has taken many of them out of the workforce.

In response, people are still wearing masks, though not many. Some people are carrying their own CO2 monitors to tell them when internal air quality is risky. Other people are even making their own. Fortunately new vaccines are rolling out, and you can still get COVID tests for free at some places, although that may be going away. Get that flu shot too, don’t end up being a flu statistic.

Will things gradually improve? I believe they will, but who knows. Some people thought worse variants would come along, but so far so good.

Social media: after years of something of a status quo, social media has entered a meltdown/transformation phase. This has been lead by Elon Musk, who has taken over Twitter. Initially people were wondering: will it matter? Turns out it mattered a lot. He started by firing lots of people. Then he told those left to either be “hardcore” and work under insane work conditions or quit. Not surprisingly, many quit. Other people quitting? Celebrity users. And most importantly, advertisers like GM. It doesn’t help that Musk has loaded up the company with a lot of debt. It’s going to get worse before it gets better, if it even can get better.

With Twitter in chaos, what can users do? Some people like me are considering moving on to other platforms, like Hive and Post and Mastodon. However, the alternatives have not really taken off yet, and in some cases, they are not keen for people like journalists to take their business there.  (Maybe they should have read these mastodon tips.) Who knows how it all shakes out.

One good thing about the twitter debacle: it has lead to some good essays. Like this one: Welcome to Hell, Elon. Or this one on the fraudulent king. This one by McSweeney’s was funny.  Also this. Last but not least, this piece with a rundown on how Musk is a terrible person.

If Twitter is quickly imploding, Facebook/Meta is slowly collapsing. Like Twitter, it has had its shares of layoffs. The whole Meta project seems to be failing or at least flailing. It has suffered security problems, too. Generally the company is seen poorly, as this piece by Om Malik shows. It doesn’t help that much of the popular content is trash on Facebook, though they have tried to clean it up. I’m not sure what will happen with this company either, so I’ll leave the last word on Facebook/Meta to Stratechery.

In other news, Trump’s Truth Social continues to be a dud. Tumblr is allowing nudity. And Youtube, which is kinda social, struggles with ad targeting. Just one dumpster fire after another.

How to consider all this? Maybe by reading this piece in Nature on collapsing social networks. I found it very insightful.

Crypto/NFTs: other things melting down recently is the whole crypto currency business. This was lead by Sam Bankman-Fried and his FTX company.  Not that the lunacy is limited to him: Peter Thiel had a new company that lasted three months.  Relatedly, NFTs are not doing well, but people are still flogging them. Companies are looking to incorporate them into TVs.  Into the restaurant scene. Even into famous paintings like the work of Hilma af-Klimt. Ugh. Crypto winter can’t come soon enough.

Christmas: speaking of winter, for those of you celebrating Christmas, here’s a few links you might like. Here’s some gift ideas for those of you on a budget. Here’s more gift guides you can use. I especially thought this would be a good gift for young and aspiring scientists. For people looking for cool decorations, check out that link.

Other Cool stuff:  I’ve recently got an Apple Watch and it is excellent for anyone worried about their heart. Here’s something on how it detects arrhythmia. I recommend the Apple Watch just as a health device. In terms of other devices, if you use a Kindle, I recommend Libby. This is also a cool plant device (shown below).

Inflation: Inflation is like a tenacious beast, hanging on. One place in particular that people are experiencing it is in food prices. Lots has been said about the cost of food these days. Companies like Loblaw have done quite well in turn. There has been some attempt by them to respond to this, despite these moves, I expect there will be more pressure on them in the months ahead. For one thing, the Walmart giant is waking up. Maybe more people will join me and get their groceries there. I’m a happy customer. Let’s see.

Work: workwise, things are still unsettled post pandemic. Wages aren’t rising, despite inflation. Some employees are returning to the office, but aren’t necessarily happy about it. Indeed, employees seem to be unhappy in general. It doesn’t help to be reading of layoffs in many places, even Amazon. Odd times.

Ukraine: the war in Ukraine slogs on. It could be a very tough winter for Ukrainians, though they continue to fight back in many ways. I don’t think anyone knows how to end the war. Either one side will collapse or it will be a stalemate. Zelenskyy wants it to end. The head of Turkey says Putin wants it to end. Let’s hope and pray for a quick ending.

Finally: for new fans of football watching the World Cup, here’s how to determine offsides. You’re welcome. 🙂

Thank you to those who have read this far. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you! Enjoy the last few days of 2022: here’s to a brighter 2023.

 

Forget going to Mars. Go to Iceland

I think going to Mars is a terrible idea, but if you are the opposite of me and would love to experience that, I have a suggestion for you. You can get the experience of going there today by going to…Iceland. NPR explains:

Iceland is like Mars — if the Red Planet had hot tubs. That’s the cheeky idea behind a new pitch from Iceland’s tourism board, which says people don’t need a spaceship to see otherworldly sights like red rocks, black sand and subglacial volcanoes. Plus, they note, oxygen is abundant in Iceland. To drive home the message, they launched a promo video and a space billboard with the tagline, “Iceland. Better than space.”

See? All you need is a plane ticket and a place to stay and you can go to Mars next week. If you think the tourism people are just making stuff up, listen to NASA. NPR again:

NASA agrees: the agency has repeatedly used Iceland as a stand-in for the Moon, and it’s doing so again as it prepares astronauts for new missions off-world. “Iceland is an amazing analog for both the Moon and Mars,” says NASA’s Kelsey Young, who researches the exploration of planetary surfaces and who has done geologic fieldwork in Iceland.

For more on this, see the NPR article, here: Iceland says it’s better than space. We asked NASA about that.

How to succeed in business: make life better for people by taking advantage of new technology

What drives innovation? If we look at the most innovative companies in the last decade, we see innovation happening in areas such as:

Finance: Square, Venmo, Zelle
Communications: Spotify, Tiktok, Instagram, Slack
Logistics: Uber, Lyft

What underlies all those companies: the mobile phone. While the mobile phone is not synonymous with innovative companies,  those innovative companies I listed were able to capitalize on the capabilities of that device to vault themselves into leadership positions.

Mobile phones are not new on the whole, but the capabilities they provide in the last decade provided these companies with the means to innovate.

What else do all those companies have in common? With one of two exceptions, they all made life better for a large population of people. They made life more entertaining, they made it easier to work, to manage your money, to get in better shape, to cook well, to get around easier.

Companies that find ways to make life better for many people while taking advantage of new technologies will be successful companies. It seems obvious, but too often I see companies focused on the technology and not on making life better for people. You need both things to succeed. Obvious, not easy.

For more on this, see: The 16 most innovative new companies of 2010s.

 

 

 

On restaurants loved and lost: Brasserie in midtown Manhattan

It was fairly nondescript from the outside: a simple awning, some signs stating its name, and a revolving door. You might not think much of it walking along East 53rd.

Once you walked in, though, your impression immediately changed. Especially if you were there early in the morning, the way I often was in the 80s and 90s. You would be at the top of the stairs looking over the whole place, and it was packed with people there for power breakfasts. The sound of people talking just washed over you, and if you managed to find a seat, you would hear what was on the mind of Manhattan men and women of that era.

It could be intimidating, especially walking down those stairs into the middle of it all. Everyone seemed so confident, so polished, so put together. The fact Mike Bloomberg would often dine here to start his day gives you an idea of what it was like. While I felt shy on my first visit,  I quickly found the place thrilling and energizing. No doubt the other diners did too.

Among other things, it was a convenient place to go. I would be in the city for business and the offices we worked in and the hotels we stayed in were nearby. I could wander over to the Brasserie and have delicious croissants or a proper egg and sausage breakfast before I went to work. The coffee and orange juice? Also great. As was the service.  Convenient yes, but excellent too.

I don’t ever recall it changing that much over the years, which is one of the things about it that appealed to me. It gave me that constant connection to midtown Manhattan over the decades. It was my spot. After a long period of not visiting, I went back to NYC around 2018 and I wanted to hit it up, only to discover it had closed. Sad.

I’m glad I got to go all those years. If you visit a city often, I hope you can find such a place that allows you to fit in and belong and be part of something. It won’t be Brasserie, but I hope you find the next best thing.

For more on it, see this piece in Eater on it’s closing. Looks like they went out with a bang. Nice. More on it, here. (Images from those two places.) Finally this piece is in Japanese but you can get Google to translate it and there are some good images of Brasserie in it too. One thing I like about the Japanese post is you can see some of the food but you can also get a sense for what the stairs were like.

The fine photography of Jared Bramblett, London and elsewhere


My friend Jared Bramblett was recently in London, and as he does, he took some fantastic photographs of his visit, which you can see here:  5 Days in London – Jared Bramblett.

Once you check that out — and you should — take some time to look at the rest of his site. It’s wonderful.

(Image: link to image on his site.It looks so much better on his site.)

How to pick a good bottle of wine from your local LCBO with Decanter and one simple trick


I have a rule of thumb when it comes to choosing a bottle of wine for the first time: any wine highly rated by Decanter is good. If you are unsure what to get, look for bottles with a round Decanter sticker on them and you can be confident in your purchase. And  good news: most LCBO stores will have quite a few such bottles.

Alas, not all such wines rated by Decanter bear their sticker. And yes it can be a lot of work trying to find them at all.  Wouldn’t it be great if you could easily find them in the store near you?

Well there is a way you can do that: with your browser. To do this, first go to the LCBO website (lcbo.com) and pick your local store (or a store you plan to go to).

Once you do that, enter the following URL in your browser (from https all the way to [true]):

https://www.lcbo.com/en/catalogsearch/result/#q=decanter%20world&t=Products&sort=relevancy&layout=card&f:@stores_stock=[true]

What you will get back are wines in your local LCBO store rated highly by Decanter magazine. With bigger stores like the one at Yonge and Summerhill in Toronto I got over 30 results back, with many around the $20 price point.

If you are cost conscious, enter this version in your browser:

https://www.lcbo.com/en/catalogsearch/result/#q=decanter%20world&t=Products&sort=%40ec_price%20ascending&layout=card&f:@stores_stock=[true]

It will return the same list but sorted with the lower cost ones listed first.

There are lots of ratings and plenty of ways to find a good wine at the LCBO. I find this way works great for me. Perhaps you find the same thing for you.

P.S. You can play around with other rating groups. For example, Wine Enthusiast is also associated with wine in the LCBO and many of them are at an attractive lower price point. To see what I mean, enter this:


https://www.lcbo.com/en/catalogsearch/result/#q=wine%20enthusiast&t=Products&sort=%40ec_price%20ascending&layout=card

Happy Friday! It’s the weekend!

Woo! It’s Friday! If you are American, then there is a good chance you are participating in Thanksgiving activities! May your days be joyous and your feast plentiful. As for me, I’m in Canada, where we celebrated our Thanksgiving weeks ago. I suspect I will be gearing up like many Canadians for that other festive time that is coming soon: Christmas.

Speaking of feasts, here’s a cornucopia of things for you to check out and enjoy as you head into the weekend.

How cool is this  Balmuda speaker? I just love it. Move over Sonos! (JK I love my Sonos One speaker too.)

Also cool: this public bench. I wish my city had such great places to sit.

This artwork by  Rafael Lozano-Hemmer (below) is stunning. Plus it is related to your pulse. Intriguing, yes?

Speaking of stunning, check out these bold black houses. I just love to look at them and to imagine staying in them.

As for imagining things, how great it would be to take some time and do this 750-Mile Bicycle Route from New York. That’s a good bucket list item.

Or perhaps that’s too much effort. In which case, why not daydream about climbing on board The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express for one of their Winter Journeys? That sounds fabulous.

If you can’t afford that, then maybe you just want to stay at home and have a low key meal tonight. I recommend you look into what Austin Kleon does every Friday. He has these Pizza night blockbusters with his family that you might want to try (this link even has his wife’s pizza recipe). It’s a great idea and the pizzas look delicious.


Or maybe you can’t even decide what to eat. Kavall, a Swedish grocery delivery company, understands.  See that button? You press it and they will  randomly selects a recipe and have the ingredients delivered by bike in around 10 minutes. Amazing! You can read more about it here!

Want to impress your kids after dinner? Show them the metal rig Jelle Seegers built with a handmade fresnel lens on top that can concentrate solar rays tightly enough to smelt metal. You can see it, here. It will blow their mind.

Or show them this small paper microscope that works!

But don’t show them this McDonald’s gaming chair because they might want one! Unless you too like it…I dunno. 🙂

I have written often on cat furniture. Perhaps too much. But I can resist sharing this one called Igloo that is a side table that also gives your cat a cozy home.

Have fun on the last Friday of November! This year is flying by. Have a great weekend.

 

 

 

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On twitter poisoning


At first I was dismissive of this oped by Jaron Lanier on how  Trump, Musk and Kanye Are Twitter Poisoned because I thought he was overstating the case for that trio. I thought: those three were messed up long before twitter!

The key thing that changed my mind on the idea of twitter poisoning was this:

Twitter poisoning is a little like alcoholism or gambling addiction, in that the afflicted lose all sense of proportion about their own powers. They can come to believe they have almost supernatural abilities. Little boys fantasize about energy beams shooting from their fingertips.

When I read that, a light went off. I know people on twitter like that! People who started off small and went on to accumulate many followers, and along the way they have suffered that form of poisoning. They have lost their sense of proportion. They seem to think they are more influential than they really are. In addition to what Lanier describes, the poisoning also seems to make some of them harder and meaner somehow. Less their former selves. The vanity that rose from their position on twitter curdled them.

Go read the article to get a full sense of this affliction.

On the wrongness of vandalizing famous paintings


Well, attacks on famous paintings continue. Since the initial throwing of  tomato soup on VanGogh’s Sunflowers, we have had vandalism on a number of works, including someone recently pouring black liquid on a Gustav Klimt painting in Vienna .

I have to say that I hate these acts. I think they achieve little and the idea that we need this form of protest to gain attention to climate change is ludicrous. As they attacks continue what I fear is this: people who resort to destructive means to gain attention will resort to more drastic forms of destruction once the spotlight moves on.  So far the works have not been seriously damaged: there’s nothing to say it won’t escalate to that point.

In response to this, some museums are bringing on undercover cops. The people who targeted  Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring are going to jail. Needless to say, all museums are being much more strict about what can be brought into the galleries they provide.

That’s leads me to the other fear I have. Long after these protests have moved on, museums may end up becoming a much less open space for people to view works. One thing I love about museums is that I can walk right up to works of art and examine them closely for as long as I want. Others can take in their own art supplies and study and copy the works to become better artists. All that is due to the openness of museums. That could all be lost due to these protests.  And that would be a great loss for anyone who loves the visual arts.

If you are looking to join a Discord Server or run yours better, read this

David Seah provides an excellent model for anyone looking to run their discord server effectively. I recommend you check out what he has to say, here: DSri’s Virtual Coworking Cafe – DSri Seah. As he describes it:

The DS|CAFE Discord is a virtual office that has became a virtual coworking space in 2016. It’s designed to provide “the right level of distraction” you need to have a productive day with the option of sharing our interests with each other.

He goes on to briefly describe what it’s for, what the people are like, what the main chat areas are, and — very important — what the chat guidelines are. I would hope all discord servers are as thoughtful.

You might be thinking: that’s all well and good, but I don’t want to start a Discord server, I just want to join one.  Well, you are in luck, because David’s server allows you to sign up. Instructions are on the site. If you do on my recommendation, I also strongly state you should respect their guidelines and their community.

P.S. David Seah is one of those people who makes the Internet a better place by sharing what he has. We need more people like that.

 

 

Two useful tools for people who want to be productive but find their work day gets away from them

Do you find the work day slide by and you think: what did I even get done today? Or do you find yourself tracking what you are doing but finding that you lost focus on what you are supposed to be doing?

If so, David Seah has tool useful tools on his web site you can use:

  1. The Emergent Task Timer
  2. The Emergent Task Planner

The first tool is a good way to track what you even got done today. David has some good examples of how he uses it. Generally I like to put what I think my focus will be at the top, put administrivia work and breaks at the bottom, and put meetings etc in the middle. You only have room for 12 tasks, so if you find you have a lot of meetings, consider grouping them all into one task: Meetings. Or you may have two tasks: Client Meetings and Internal Meetings.  However you do it, don’t sweat it too much. The first few days you might find it hard to get everything done, but it gets easier over time.

The second tool is a good way to plan your day and try to keep it focused. It takes a bit more work, but it is good when you want to ensure you spent your time well. It can be handy if you are doing daily standups, because you can list the main thing you are working on at the top. Ideally you are spending most of your day working on that…if you are doing other things below it, chances are they are a blocker of some sort.

These are just two useful tools on David Seah’s web site. I recommend you take a few minutes to check out the rest of his site: you might find other things he has worthwhile. I know I have. I’ve been using his tools off and on since 2007, and wrote about how good they are.

Good luck with the tools. Here’s to being more productive this week.

P.S. If you need a timer, I recommend this site.

(Image: link to image on David Seah’s web site)

Big hair, don’t care: more good links on the best decade, the 1980s


The 80s come back in vogue from time to time, such as when current works like Stranger Things delve into it.  Mostly the decade is seen historically. That’s fine. It was a good decade, at least for me, and I love to think and write on it. One of the great things about having your own blog is you can write what you want about whatever you want. 🙂 So here’s more things on that era that I found worth reading lately…

Much of the music of the early 80s started at the end of the 70s.  Take the music of bands like Talking Heads. Or the Ramones. Speaking of them, here’s some great bootleg footage of the Ramones in concert before the person filming it got caught!

As for other artists of that time, here’s a good piece on Blondie.  Like  punk and new wave, another trend of the time was Blitz.  This piece covers the Blitz era and all the music that was associated with it. Moving from the English music scene to Canada, here’s something on Rebecca Jenkins, an artist and musician who was involved with so many other performers I loved at the time, from Jane Siberry, to Holly Cole, to the incomparable Mary Margaret O’Hara.

Another incomparable artist from the time is Richard Grant. I will never forget him for his great turn in the film “Withnail and I” back in the 80s. Nowadays he has suffered a great loss but still keeps going and is inspirational on twitter and elsewhere. This is a good piece to catch up on him: Richard E Grant on grief fame and life without a filter.

Finally, gone but not forgotten, here’s a fine piece on Ruth Polsky Who Shaped New York’s Music Scene in that era. Recommended.

(Image from the piece on Blitz)

Fall cleaning tips


Is Fall cleaning a thing? I know Spring cleaning is. I think Fall cleaning should be something we do as well. Especially if you celebrate big festivities in November or December. Fall cleaning can be just the thing to get your place in shape before those events occur.

On that note, here’s some good cleaning tips that can help you with your cleaning, whatever season it is:

Dishwashers are like towels: they are involved with cleaning, but need to be cleaned, too. Here’s some hacks to help you do that.

Relatedly, here’s some good cleaning hacks you can do with Dishwasher Tablets. Not just for your dishes.

Yellow pillows are…not great. Rather than throw them away, why not scan this and see if you can clean your yellow pillows?

A reminder in this age of many germs, that clean and disinfecting are not always equivalent. Read and see.

For big cooks like me: How to Clean the Worst Cooking Messes in Your Kitchen

Moving to the bathroom, this advice came in handy for me: How to Clean a Bathroom Floor. Relatedly Ways to Use Distilled White Vinegar.

Happy cleaning!

The Santa Claus parade returns to TO this weekend!


What are you plans this weekend? As for me, I think anything I do outdoors will involve warm clothing because the weather is getting colder. And while I won’t be attending this year, I will be thinking of all the parents and their kids who will be bundling up to go downtown this Sunday and attend the Santa Claus parade! It has been on hold due to the pandemic, but now it’s back! Yay!

I love the Santa Claus parade. When I was a kid, I always wished I could attend. In my 20s I remember seeing it in person for the first time and being a little kid again as the floats and bands went by. And then I got to take my own kids. Some of my best parenting memories are with them at the event. It’s one of those  things that makes Toronto great.

(I also use the Santa Claus parade as a reminder than Christmas is coming soon and it’s time to get planning! Perhaps this will be a good reminder to you.)

If you are thinking of going, here’s the official site for the parade. (Map above is from the site.) Have fun!

P.S. Here’s some tips I found to having a success Santa Claus parade:

When I would take my kids, we would go stand to Bloor and Avenue Road. There is lots of space around that area, so there’s a chance you can see the parade. As well, it is near two subway stops (Museum and Bay), which makes it easy to get to and easy to leave if you take transit. Finally, the parade has to turn there which gives you lots of ways to enjoy the view.

Instead of hoping right on the subway, I would find a place to get a coffee / hot chocolate. (There used to be lots of Starbucks and other coffee shops all around Bloor and Cumberland.) My kids loved this ritual, as did I. Just as good too was the fact that it was easier to get on the subway after your drinks since the crowds had dissipated by then.

If it is going to be cold, bring hot pockets or things to warm you up. You might be ok when you first get there, but after standing around for hours, you will get very cold. Be prepared.

 

 

 

Ideas on furnishing and living in small spaces in the future

I suspect that living in smaller and smaller spaces is going to be the rule rather than the exception, as more people move to expensive cities. I think if that’s true, we need to think about how such spaces should be furnished.

Traditional furniture assumes a certain amount of room to move about. Those assumptions need to be challenged.

For example, this piece envisions a massive piece of furniture that combines a bed, storage and seating area into one (see below):

Or take this piece, which imagines everything within reach (see below):

I know, it’s not for everyone. But it may be the way things are going for many urban dwellers.

As I get older I get more attuned to this way of thinking: Why I Don’t Want a Bigger Home – Benefits of Small Space Living. Maybe in the near future we will all have smaller personal spaces and larger and more varied public spaces.  If so, we will need different furnishings to accommodate this.

P.S. The links have many more images showing how these pieces of furniture look. Worth checking out.

Things that are making me happy (that could make you happy too): tiny plants

Tiny plants have been making me happy. I was typically bad with plants, but since the start of the pandemic, I’ve been keeping some in my home and mainly they’ve been doing well. So I recommend if you want to be happier, getting some tiny plants might be a good way to do that.

How do they make me happy? First, I like to see them around the place. They are like small art pieces scattered on shelves, desks and tables. It’s also just pleasant having greenery nearby. Second, they give me a reason to take care of something. Just a little of taking care of something makes me happy. Third, the success of them makes me proud and also happy: I no longer feel I have a black (not green) thumb. Fourth, it gives me a reason to go shopping — which I enjoy — and get something small and not spend too much money but still something nice (which is satisfying).

I am fortunate in that I have plenty of shops nearby that sell small plants. Another option is to get cuttings from friends who have plants. Here’s a guide to doing that..

As for pots, I got a half dozen or so from Ikea. They have some for as low as $1.99.

Now that I have you convinced :), here’s a guide to the 25 best plants for the home. I have several of them.

(Image on top is from that article on the 25 best plants. Image below is from IKEA.)

On the mind and mental health


I sometimes posts links I find on physical health, which is all well and good. Here’s some pieces on mental health care and the the mind that I found worthwhile.

When I would run I was always struck by how I felt physically would literally changed my mind. If I was having a good run, positive thoughts would spring up. If I was struggling, plenty of negative thoughts arose. So I thought this was a good reminder of how our body — in this case, our physical heart — influences what we perceive and fear. Relatedly,  when you feel sick, you can thank your brain. It’s a good reminder to me of the tight interconnection between our physical and mental health.

An important way to take care of your mental health is therapy. Here are a few pieces on the topic. Therapy is important and useful, but it has its limits. For example,  this is a sad reminder of the limits of mental health therapy.  More on the topic of the limits of therapy, here: The philosophical roots of CBT help explain its limitations.

Moving on to a practical note, here’s a good piece on the importance of rituals. And this piece on training your brain for hard things is good. As is this one on how habit stacking will trick your mind into adopting a new habit.

Let’s not forget exercise. A reminder that even a single exercise session can help shift depression. That’s especially important in the winter time if you suffer from something like SAD. Besides exercise, there are other things you can do for it. See this and feel better.

Finally, if  Jonah Hill can take mental health breaks from his work, we all should.

Mental health is a serious matter, as is physical health. That’s why I think this made me sad: advice columnist does not take the mental health of someone’s dad too seriously.

Take care of yourself, mentally.

On the fall of SBF (Sam Bankman-Fried) and FTX


I got excited last week watching things unravel for SBF and FTX. It’s hard not to get excited when someone/some org goes from being worth $16B to $0 in the matter of a few days. It’s a story that reminds me of something between the Big Short, Theranos, and Enron.

This isn’t even the end of the story, as far as I can see. I suspect we will find out more in the next few weeks. I also suspect it won’t be pretty. It will definitely be interesting.

Meanwhile here are some good pieces covering the story for anyone interested:

Sunday reads on just about anything, from Inflation to Reversing Death

Sunday is a good time to catch up on our reading. If you are looking for something interesting to get you thinking, I recommend these eight pieces:

Inflation is on everyone’s mind these days. Back in the late 20th century, Paul Volcker was credited with solely bringing it down. This Vox piece argues the decline in inflation at the time was much more complicated. An excellent revision to the common wisdom on the greatness of Volcker.

We think a lot about scarcity. Maybe too much. We need to think more about abundance. Read this: Unblocking Abundance – by Sarah Constantin and see if you agree.

Here’s some good pieces on history worth reading even if you don’t think history is interesting.  For example, this is a fascinating article: Who owned slaves in Congress? As was this, on the rare coins of ancient Israel. Who were the radium girls? This piece explains.

Is death reversible? In some ways, yes. For more things philosophy related, here are the best philosophy books of the last decade. 

Lastly, I recommend this: Why Gen X Failed. Even if you are not Gen X.

 

If you want to run a marathon but struggle with running


It’s Fall, and Fall means marathon season. Many of the big marathons, like the one in NYC, happen at this time. If the idea of running one next fall is appealing to you and you want some advice on how to approach it, the Washington Post has some fall marathon running tips that can help. And you can find advice everywhere on the Internet, including this blog!

However, for this post, I want to recommend some links for people who find running a struggle. For instance, if  you want to run but honestly hate running, then this piece could help. Likewise, this piece is useful: Try This One Simple Trick the Next Time You’re Struggling in a Race or Workout. But what should you do if you can’t even run slowly? Read that. If you think you can never get over your problems with running, this piece can give you hope: enjoy running and actually look forward to it.

Last but not least, this article on Violet Piercy might help you find some  inspiration: Overlooked No More: Violet Piercy Pioneering Marathoner.

Good luck! Get out there and do your best, whatever that is. It gets better, for sure.

Friday night cocktail: the QEII

Ok, technically it’s not called the QEII. But what you see is Queen Elizabeth’s favorite drink: a Dubonnet and Gin. It’s a rather straightforward concoction, but still, if you want the recipe, head over to Food and Wine and they will not only tell you how to make it, but they’ll fill you in on the details.

Here’s to her Majesty, gone but not forgotten.

On starter wines, or how to go about learning about wine (if that’s what you want to do)

Wine is like art or food or fashion: you can devote a lot of your time and attention to it and you will get a lot from it. Like many topics, though, not everyone wants to do that. Some people just want to know the basics and leave it there. Both approaches are valid.

If you do want to learn more about wine, one thing to do is pick a starter wine. A starter wine should be one that you can afford and that’s easy to drink and ideally goes well with the food you like to eat. Of course it should also be fairly well made and worth drinking for more than just the fact it contains alcohol. 🙂

If you want to pick a starter wine, I recommend two things: one, this list from Food and Wine to get going: 50 Affordable Wines You Can Always Trust. Two, this book, Wine Simple, by Aldo Sohm, the sommelier at Le Bernardin in NYC.

Both the wine list and the book will get you get started on the path to drinking better wine. For example, let’s say you try some of the listed cabernet sauvignons and  you prefer the first one: the Beringer. That’s a good start. From there you might try more expensive Cabernets from Beringer to see if you can determine what distinguishes them from each other. Maybe you find you prefer one more expensive (or maybe you can’t tell the difference in taste). Or you can compare it to other cab sauvs on the list, like the Penfolds. Perhaps the Californian wine goes better with the food you like and has a taste that you like. While you are considering the wines you try, dip into the book. The book will give you more insight into the wines you are drinking and why you might like it and what types of wine you want to try next.

Wine is something enjoyable, and something you can learn much about. That said, you should enjoy it at the level you want. Just like some people just want to wear jeans and T shirts all the time, other people just want to drink the same thing all the time. And that’s ok. But if you want to learn more about wine, pick a starter wine you are comfortable with and enjoy them and then go from there.

Cheers!

P.S. One thing I like about the list of 50 wines is that they are very easy to find. Most of them can be found all across Canada and certainly in the LCBO.

Also, Food & Wine has a list of affordable whites. Some people have problems with red wine due to tannins (though there are low tannic reds). If that is you, that list is a keeper.

P.S.S. I’ve been meaning to write this after reading this critique of starter wines that I read some time now: The Myth of So-Called “Starter Wine”. It’s written by someone knowledgeable and passionate about wine. I respect that. I don’t agree with it, but I respect it. I recommend you read it and think for yourself.

What’s cool? I thought these things were all pretty cool

Alan Rickman’s diaries have been published. You can see excerpts from them here. What I thought was cool was how he not just wrote a journal, but he wonderfully illustrated it.

Also cool is this cassette shaped white noise machine (shown above).

To me, Blade Runner is cool and more Blade Runner is also cool. So I was pleased to see that there will be an new TV show of it coming to Amazon Prime..

Libraries of course are cool. So to is the Libby App, which gives you free ebooks & audiobooks from your library.

Finally, here’s a cool story of how a British writer rediscovered what it means to be European by train. Train travel is the coolest.

Great advice for anyone from 6 to 66, from Nick Cave (be foolish and be basic)

So someone named Chris wrote to Nick Cave and asked, “I’m 62 years old and decided to learn how to play guitar. Rock guitar. Is such an endeavour a fool’s errand for someone of my age?” To which he replied “Yes… AND…”. I think anyone considering starting something new should read it. (It can be found here: Nick Cave – The Red Hand Files – Issue #210 – I’m 62 years old and decided.) It reminds you that you can suck and you may be too old (or too short, tall, thin, fat, shy, awkward, etc.) but that good things can come out of it if you keep at it.

Reading it, I was reminded of the classic three chord recommendation: learn three chords and form a band! Why not? If this got you thinking hey maybe I should learn to play the guitar, then you might find this useful: Guitar card cheat sheet. Start with E. 🙂

BTW, I think the advice “learn the basics” and then get out there and make something is good for any creative endeavour, be it drawing or making a web page. Don’t try to learn a lot at first. Learn enough to get started and go from there.

P.S. I think “Yes….AND…” is a great way to answer things. It acknowledges the concerns someone might have while opening them up to possibilities they might not have considered or appreciated.

(More on three chords and form a band, here (and where I got the image from))

 

13 good pieces on 12 good artists (and Damien Hirst :))

I’ve been reading much on artists lately. (If you follow this blog, you know.) I thought these 13 pieces on different artists were all good, even the one on Damien Hirst.

Was Andy Warhol a Lame Copier? Some judges think so. I think that this is crazy, but read it and just for yourself.

Gone and once overlooked, but overlooked no more: here’s something worth reading on Lee Godie, the eccentric Chicago Street Artist.

If you are interested in Keith Haring, this talks about a new showing of his work in LA

For fans of philosophy and art, you might want to read about the links between Nietzsche and Rothko. Intreguing.

This is for fans (and there are many) of Hilma af Klint .

A good obit on a fascinating painter: Pierre Soulages, who painted in one colour ( black).

Ho hum: Artist Damien Hirst just burned 1000 of his paintings and will soon burn more. 1000 paintings? More like 1000 photocopies. Anyway, Hirst continues to do what he does best: make money.

This is a good question: How Did a Minister Come to Own Hundreds of Edward Hoppers?

As a fan of John Atkinson Grimshaw, I recommend this 5-Minute History.

This is a good piece on General Idea.

And this, on Maud Lewis forgeries, is a sign her work is bringing in big money.

I don’t know too much about Rodney Graham but this obit made me want to learn more.

There was lots of buzz recently about how a Mondrian painting has been hanging upside down for 75 years!

(Image is of Paintings by Soulages at the Musée Fabre (photo by Fred Romero via Flickr) – linked to in the piece on him)

It’s Sunday. Let’s make some art. Here’s some links to help with that.

First off, if you are stuck on the the never ending question:  Why make art ? then read that. Austin Kleon has an answer: art gives you a chance to study something you love in depth.

Ok, let’s talk tools. I love these pens. If you’re wondering how to use them: How do you use a Micron pen to draw? | In My Sketchbook. Speaking of tools, I love conte…more on that hereConte Crayon – Drawing Techniques – Joshua Nava Arts. and  Drawing with Conte crayons.

Instagram has some good advice for artists. For example: here’s some good drawing advice from Instagram. Also from IG: how to make flesh color with paint.

For people struggling with this: draw a head with a 5×8 box, read that. If you are  drawing on toned paper, then read that.

You may not be Andy but you can silkscreen like Andy Warhol.

This is helpful if you are stuck wondering what to paint: DPW – The DPW Painting Challenges. This is a good way to get better: get faster …How to draw faster 

I just like these: Amy Beager’s Dreamy Paintings.

Finally, a cool way to turn photos into images you can collage with Photo Editor: BeFunky.

Cool furniture for cool people like you

I love the site Yanko Design. They highlight some amazing designs, especially when it comes to furniture. Here’s some of the ones I’ve been collecting from them that I thought were really good.

First up, I thought this was a cool chair. It reminds me of the old telephone tables people used to one have.

Something that would go really well with it is this very cool coffee table.

If you want to get something really amazing for your walls, I would suggest this beautiful but  very high end (Raf Simons) shaker furnishing. Or this thing: an odd device to help you relax. It’s hard to describe: you really have to go to the piece.

I love that crazy but beautiful shelving you see above. It’s incredibly modular, too. Over at Yanko Design they have a variety of configurations showing what you can do with it. Quite a lot!

P.S. This is not Yanko but good if you are interested in 4k TVs . Hey, TVs are furniture. 🙂 Finally, this from the New York Times: Have You Seen This Table Lamp? If You Eat Out in New York You Will. It’s a cool lamp. Good for restos, but good for you too.

Have a great Autumn weekend!

One of the ideas that I really like, from one of my favorite blogs, are the posts they have every Friday. Posts like this: Have a Lovely Weekend. It’s a great idea. Who doesn’t like a nice positive and update piece to read on before you start your weekend?

On that note, here are some links that I think are positive and upbeat and perfect to read on a Friday:

If you are going to try and get a better sleep this weekend, here are some sleep tips from experts that might surprise you.

I might use my free time to take a walk in the Dundas West area of Toronto. It’s been highlighted as being one of the coolest neighborhood ever, and I can see why.

Or maybe I’ll go and get some steak frites (here are some of Toronto’s best, though they did not include my fav, Cote de Boeuf, shown below).

Did you know that asking yourself  one simple question can change entirely how you feel? It’s seems too much, but I agree with it.

Do you fear that people thing that you are a bit much? I think that’s a good thing. So does that piece. Also a good thing: A gratitude zine from Austin Kleon.

Does Arthur Brooks Have the Secret to Happiness? I don’t think so, but you might read that and think differently.

If it’s time, you may want to read this first:  How to Clean an Oven by Wirecutter.

But maybe you’d prefer to read something lovely instead of practical. If so: The Ponds poem – Mary Oliver poems.

Kudos to this artist who puts mosaics in potholes.

How crazy is this: a Fish tank for cats!

If you want to watch a classic this weekend, I recommend: All that Jazz.

Here’s the opening:

(Top image is a link to Toronto Life. Second image is a link to BlogTO).

This has style, this has grace, this here watch has a minimal face. (Get your fill of fashion here)

I’ve been wanting to to simplify and minimize my style lately. If that’s appealing to you, check out this link to minimal classics that never go out of style. Want to simpify your watch? Well you could get this one. But maybe that’s too minimal.  This might be better. (shown above)

Also pretty minimal are these New Balance 327:

I’m a big fan of the 327s in general. Those would go great with this very casual men’s wardrobe. It’s not really my style. Personally I prefer this gray wardrobe:

Very minimal and simple. The over shirt in it is featured here.

Speaking of great clothes to put over things, this very cool Bestall Astern Peacoat is all that. You can see it included in this striking wardrobe:

All gray is great, but you can’t beat a black on black wardrobe.

What’s cool and fashionable? This T shirt: “The Garbage T-shirt diverts waste like old clothes and plastic bottles from landfill and repurposes it into sustainable clothing.” Relatedly, the New Balance 57/40 are also using sustainable material. Also cool and minimal AND vegan:  Oliver Cabell Vegan 481 sneaker. This  scooter is cool. These Yeezy Shades are cool no longer.

(All images: links to Uncrate).

On Joan Didion’s estate (our life in objects and what they say about us)

Joan Didion died last year. On Nov. 16, there will be an estate sale auction of her possessions. The New York Times covers it here. The piece is titled: Joan Didion’s Life in Objects.

It’s a good piece. Among other things, it got me thinking once again that we leave an impression on the world in several ways. One of those ways is what we collect from it. Some of those objects are mundane and collected by many:

Others are unique to ourselves:

Some of them, by how we collect them, tell a particular story:

Our objects are not just things laying about: they say something about us. They say what we were interested in.  They indicate what our passions were.  They tell a story about the person who owned them and what type of person they were or wanted to be. The books on shelves, the overused and the underused cookware, the tools either on display or tossed away: each and every one of them are like a shadow or a sketch of their owner. They don’t say everything about us, but they say a lot.

Perhaps after you read this you may want to go over your own objects and ask yourself: what does this thing say about me? Because it does, perhaps in ways you don’t even realize.

The BBC had a series, The History of the World in 100 Objects. Like the world, if we were to take 10 or 20 or even 100 objects in our lives, they would tell the history of ourselves.

(All images: links to the story in the Times. All items belonged to Joan Didion.)

A ramble through what was new in the world, Oct. 2022 edition

Here’s a month end cornucopia of things I found interesting and worth reading but don’t really fit into any specific category. (I would have posted it yesterday, but I had that very important 12 foot skeleton post to submit. :))

As I’ve said before, I like posting these because I will be curious to see how they read in the next 5-10 years. I hope you find it worth reading now, though. And thank you!

AI and art: Artists and non-artists continut to make art and play around with AI. Microsoft is even going to incorporate some of the tools into their software. Where this goes, I am not sure. But here’s something on an artist in Amsterdam using it. Not everyone is keen on it: the Getty is banning it.

NFTs: speaking of the art world and new technology, they continue to flirt with NFTs, as you can see here: MoMA and NFTs. Also here’s a piece on what Christie’s is doing:  Meet The Artist Who Just Launched Christie’s New Platform For NFT Sales. This investment by museums does not seem like a good idea to me, as this shows: NFTs and art going bust. Not to mention that NFTs are tanking on Opensea and these six-figure NFTs are down 99%. That won’t stop people trying to make money from them, such as these private clubs using nfts. But there has been some payback: Kim K getes a fine for crypto flogging. NFTs have been terrible forever and that doesn’t look like it is changing soon.

Pandemic/Inflation: we continue to make our way through the pandemic as COVID remains a threat. Even though we also continue to try and live with it, the disease has brought big pandemic life changes,  Fortunately there are more booster coming out. Also a number of people I know are using  CO2 monitors to measure CO2 in indoor spaces. There is still some mask wearing.

In Canada there’s been some complaints about the cost of the arriveCAN system. It was expensive, for sure.  This piece breaks down the costs. Meanwhile, some jokers convinced some in the media it could be built for next to nothing at a Hackathon. This just tells me the media needs to get more tech savvy to such boasts.

One holdover from the pandemic is the rise of tipping for everything. I get it, but I also think it has gotten out of control. This piece touches on that: Why tip requests on touchscreen tablets are everywhere (and make us feel guilty.

Part of the problem is that everyone feels they have to cut back due to inflation, tipping and otherwise. So we get pieces like this from Consumers Reports on how we save money now . Or this on how inflation is costing lives. Relatedly, car prices are crazy right now, so you see lots of pieces like this  How to Negotiate With Car Dealers as Prices Keep Rising.

Canada: We’ve had some political changes in Canada. A new premier in Quebec. A new one in Alberta. The PM is promising money to the folks out east to recover from Fiona.

Meanwhile in Toronto we had an election with poor turnout and mostly incumbents voted back in, including the mayor. People in the city are worried about the fact that the city is cashed strapped and the mayor isn’t going going to do anything about it other than cut services like the Toronto Public Library. Grim. The Mayor was even mocked in this art installation called austerityTO.

Totally unrelated but not grim: the Canadian legend Mr. Dressup is getting a documentary! Nice.

Work: employers continue to struggle with remote work. The Times argues: Remote Work Is Here to Stay. Lean In Employers.. The flip side of that is we get many stories of employers tracking workers. It’s a strange new working world. Speaking of that, here’s a piece arguing for using AI to supercharge workers. As a long time automation specialist, I agree.

The World: In the US, here’s some pieces on the January 6th commision: Jan 6th and the Oath Keepers and Laws passed to prevent another Jan 6th. Lizzo played a historical crystal flute and racism broke out. Never mind, Lizzo: you sounded great. The right wing is morphing into something ugly in America, so you get things like this:  We Need To Stop Calling Ourselves Conservatives. I think the word they are looking for is Fascist. Finally, here’s a piece on the US Supreme Court: Inside the law school chaos caused by SCOTUS decisions. More on SCOTUS .

In China, everyone was shocked by what happened to  Hu Jintao. More on Hu Jintao here.  Meanwhile, Noah Smith uses game theory to explain why he thinks an invasion of Taiwan probably means WW3. Yikes. In other news, China Delays the Release of G.D.P. and Other Economic Data. Never a good sigh.

Elsewhere in the world, the right wing leader is unusual to say the least, based on this: How Lord of the Rings Inspires Italy’s Giorgia Meloni. Ok. Meanwhile lots of speculation on the  Russian nuclear threat. Clearly a sign of how bad things are going for Putin. Speaking of going badly, we have the chaos currently underway in UK Strong and stable? Maybe maybe not.

Signs of the times: A weird chess scandal broke out recently. I thought these pieces in the WSJ here and here did a good job on assessing it. As did this piece in the Atlantic.

Cheating is not just a chess thing either. The Times had a story on the  Fishing Contest Rocked by Cheating Charges After Weights Found in Winning Catch. Lots of money and fame can bring the cheaters out everywhere.

Meanwhile, social media continue to dominate some people’s lives, based on this:  Want to Get Noticed by a Celebrity? Snag Their Username on Social Media. Speaking of social media, Facebook/Meta is tanking and Elon Musk took over Twitter. Oh well. Blogging is still going strong! As are you if you are reading this: thanks very much!

Happy Autumn!

It’s Hallowe’en! Here’s everything you need to know about the Home Depot 12 foot skeleton!

For Hallowe’en, people have become more involved in decorating their homes. Nowadays a mere jack o’lantern is not enough. Instead, homes have yards filed with things, from fake tombstones to inflatable animals. A new member of those  spooky menageries and a favorite of many is the 12 foot skeleton from Home Depot.

People love the 12 foot skeleton. They are making Tik Toks and Reels with them driving around town. Other people leave them in their yards all year round. They have a weird likability to them, those bony giants.

If  you have one or want to get one, then read this: How to Maintain Your 12-Foot Skeleton and Other Giant Halloween Decorations – The Home Depot. Home Depot has all the info you need to take care of the new addition to your home/haunted house.

Some thoughts on the genre of food writing, after reading about Chantal Braganza’s cake

Good genre writing tends to make us forget it belongs to a genre. Atwood and Kafka and Borges all can write in the genres of SF and fantasy, but we don’t think of them as genre writers. They are good writers who happen to (sometimes) write genre fiction.

I thought of that when I read this piece by Chantal Braganza in Maisonneuve: An Ugly Sweet Thing. Food writing is also a genre, and while Braganza is a food writer here, she is first a good writer who in this case is writing about food. It’s a really fine piece and I encourage you to read it. It’s about food, of course, but it’s about so much more. That’s what good food writing does.

Food writing gets knocked about these days, and that’s too bad. So many food writers that include a recipe in their writing have a button at the top that allows people to skip just to the recipe. People who click on that button are missing out. The writing is important too, not just the recipe. If you just want a recipe, go to AllRecipes.com. If you want to learn more about food and what the author thinks about this particular dish and why it is important to them and perhaps you, too, read the writing. You’ll be glad you did.

More and more I buy food books not for the recipes, but to get inspired to cook and to create in the kitchen. Preparing food is work, and some times that work gets us down. (Ok, it gets me down.)  We need things to lift us up. One of those things is good food writing. Here’s to more of it.

Now go get some cake.

 

The history of technology and telecommunications is also a history of Cape Breton


Cape Breton is known for many things, including a great deal of history. One part of that history that I wish were played up more is the part it played in telecommunications at the beginning of the 20th century. I thought of that when I read about how a Cape Breton town (North Sydney) knew about the end of WW I before the rest of North America. It knew about it because of the Western Union offices there. It was a leader at the time. Sadly that Western Union building in North Sydney was torn down.

While that place is lost, there are still other sites on the Island that recognize that history of technology. There is the Alexander Graham Bell museum in Baddeck that is worth visiting. And while it is small, The Marconi Museum in Glace Bay is also good. There are some fine museums in Cape Breton: if you are going there to there to see that sort of thing, make sure you include those two.

Cape Breton had a significant role to play in the history of world telecommunications. That role should get recognized and more museums should be made to promote that era, in my opinion.

For more on North Sydney, see:   wikipedia North Sydney Nova Scotia.

(The image above is the Marconi National Historic Site of Canada in Glace Bay, linked to at goCapeBreton.com)

Friday Night Cocktail: the freezer martini

On my Instagram feed I am seeing lots of reels on how to make fridge cocktails. Essentially you have a bottle of liquor in your fridge but instead of it being simply vodka or gin, it is a full on cocktail, premixed and ready to drink. Why not?

In the same vein, I propose you consider making the freezer martini. Like the fridge cocktail, the freezer martini sits in your…well, you know. So when you need a martini this weekend, just pull this out and pour a splash in your martini glass. All you need to add is some olives or a lemon twist and you are set.

For more on this and how to best make them, see Imbibe Magazine or Eater. It’s slightly different than you typical martini.

Speaking of olives, you can freeze them too! I mean who wants a warm martini? No one of good taste.

For an alternative way to keep your martinis cold, see this nice hack: How to Make a Pitcher of Martinis That Stays Cold at the Thrillist.

Cheers!

(Image link: to Imbibe magazine)