Author Archives: smartpeopleiknow

Haiti and the Dominican Republic: a case study as to why results are never monocausal

Dominoes

People like to think outcomes, especially political or social outcomes, are monocausal. They’ll say: Y happened because X occurred.

I think that is rarely true. At best, X could be the main contributor as to why Y occurred. But it is never the only contributor. Often it is not even possible to determine which cause made the most difference. Most outcomes are not monocausal.

A good case study for this can be found in this essay on Haiti vs. the Dominican Republic – by Noah Smith.People will often say the main contributor to Haiti’s poverty was French colonialism or American intervention. Smith makes the case there are many factors that contributed to the significant differences between the two nations and it is not easy or even possible to single out one cause.

The next time someone tries to argue for single causes, look deeper. You’ll like find at least a half different other factors that contributed. People who can highlight multiple causes for an event understand the event better.

(Photo by Tamara Gak on Unsplash )

On getting back into running with Darebee

Here on this blog I am a big booster of Darebee. While they have a wide variety of workouts, the ones I am interested in recently are having to do with running. If you are trying to get into or back into running, you might find these useful:

On the big anniversary of the Lunar Rover

Lunar rover

While there has been a lot of talk lately about space travel due to the billionaire space race, I want to highlight something people rarely mention but should. It’s that it is the anniversary of  Apollo’s First Lunar Rover, Driven 50 Years Ago. The Atlantic has a great story on it, including amazing photos.

It’s crazy to think that not only did we land on the moon, but we brought a car with us to drive on the moon! That’s amazing, to me.

In the film Ad Astra with Brad Pitt, there’s a great chase scene with Lunar Rovers. Nothing quite so exciting like that happened during the Apollo missions, but the fact that we brought a car to the moon is exciting as it is. Plus it is still parked up there! I hope the parking rates aren’t too expensive 🙂

 

It’s Monday. Here’s some advice on how to work hard EFFECTIVELY. (Think Marathon training)

Marathon event

It’s Monday. You have a work week ahead of you. Here’s a good essay by Paul Graham on: How to Work Hard – Paul Graham

I often disagree with Graham on Twitter and you may too. However don’t be put off by that: his essays tend to be well thought out and worthy of a read and your consideration.

As for me, where I learned how to work hard effectively is during marathon training. Training for a marathon is a form of hard work. I would argue it is the best form of hard work. Here’s why.

For marathon training, you need:

  1. a clear goal. For many people, it is to finish the marathon. Or to finish it under a certain time. There are subgoals too: not get injured during the race, or to race easy, or to have a negative split. To work hard effectively, you need goals and subgoals
  2. a well thought out plan. People who train effectively for a marathon have a well thought out plan to achieve their goal. These plans can be anywhere from 12-20 weeks and describe what you are doing each day. The plan is often broken up into phase: a phase where you build up your mileage, a phase where you work to get faster, and a tapering phase. A good training plan gets you much closer to achieving your goal.
  3. A mix of hard and easy training. No one goes hard every day in marathon training. You will fail if you do. Overall the training is hard, but there are many days where it is easy. Days your body gets to recover. Some days you may not train at all. The most effective way to work hard over a long period of time is to mix in easy periods.
  4. A good amount of fun and variety. Yes, good marathon training has fun and variety mixed in. It’s not the same every day. It’s not all a grind. Good marathon runners will run fartleks for fun or run with friends to help keep their spirits up. They might mix in some cross training. They rarely run the same distance every day.
  5. Passion and vision. More than anything, you need these. You need to have a strong desire to get through the training. A desire that gets you out of bed for those long runs when you really don’t want to. You need to have a vision of where you will end up when you complete the training. Successful marathoners see themselves reaching that goal most days of their training. It’s the thing that gets them excited to run the same routes over and over again. It’s the thing that gets them pumped when they have to charge up hills. Preparing for a marathon can’t feel like a job if you are going to do it well.

Now ask yourself about hard work that you have to do? Do you have those things. That hard project you have in front of you: are you passionate about it? Do you have a vision of what completing it looks like? Do you have a clear goal and a well thought out plan? Do you have a practice of taking breaks, or is it full tilt all the time? Is it merely a grind, or do you have fun and variety in it? If you have all the features of marathon training in your plan, chances are you will be able to work hard, very hard, and be successful.

Do work hard poorly is to waste yourself, to waste your life. Don’t do that. Work hard effectively and  make the most of your life.  Good luck!

(Photo by Capstone Events on Unsplash )

On Jacques Pepin

I am a big fan of Jacques Pepin: I watch his Instagram videos from start to finish. If you want to see why they are great, you can go here and see YouTube version of them all.

I especially liked this one:

Pepin also has a “new” cookbook out. You can find out more about it at the Times:

One thing I love about Pepin is his approach to cooking is truly about making the most of it. Every Tuesday he prepares budget versions of some dishes. He uses the microwave…he even uses Spam. Hey, he’s Jacques Pepin, he can do what he wants. And I think his use of low cost foods and his practice of not throwing away food or wasting it is admirable

P.S. Not Pepin, but something similar: Old Italian cooking.  Love it.

Apple and the limits of minimalism as a design quality

I like minimalism as a quality in phones. But when I look at the phone above, I see two bulges. One is the camera, and two is this battery pack. It’s as if companies want to have the best of both worlds: minimal design and maximum capacity. But rather than designing for it, we get….well, what you see above.

I understand the economics of it. I just don’t see why Apple doesn’t spend more time to design a battery pack and a camera that incorporates better into the phone.

For more on the battery pack, go here: Apple’s ‘Camel Hump’ battery pack is back… this time in a wireless MagSafe avatar | Yanko Design

(Image: link to image in the article)

 

Friday Night Cocktail: the shrub

What can be a more perfect drink in the hot days and nights of summer than a shrub? A gin and tonic? Yes, that is very good. And like a G&T, you can take that frosty cold glass and put it against your skin and cool yourself off. But a shrub also takes advantage of all that great fresh fruit showing up at your grocer. What can be better than that?

So grab any berry that catches your fancy and go here and make tonight’s cocktail and cool off: Any-Berry Shrub Recipe | Bon Appétit

On long lived institutions and companies

Most companies come and go, as do organizations. Even former great ones can collapse or merge with others.

Most do, but not all. Here’s two really good studies of companies and organizations that have lasted for a very long time:

  1. The Data of Long-lived Institutions | by Alexander Rose | Long Now | Medium
  2. See the oldest company in each country around the world

 

 

The Internet has always had its bad parts. You just didn’t know about it


Every so often someone will highlight Something Bad on the Internet and remark that once the Internet was a Good Place but now because of Something Bad, it no longer is.

I am sure they believe that, but they are wrong. The Internet has been a place for Something Bad for as long as it has been around. Case it point, Usenet groups. Before the Web, Usenet was a popular way to read about sports and the news and IT and pretty much anything else. Most of it was pretty mainstream, but some of it, especially the “alt” Usenet groups, was not.

To give you a taste of what I mean, read this: alt.binaries.images.underwater.non-violent.moderated: a deep dive – Waxy.org

There has always been Something Bad on the Internet since forever.  (To see what I mean, read about ASCII porn.) There was never a golden era.

(Photo by Leon Seibert on Unsplash )

5 or 10 thoughts on the billionaire space race

Image of Jeff Bezos blasting into space

Jeff Bezos blasted into space today with three other people. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has an opinion about it. Even Variety magazine did. (That’s worth a read BTW).  So fwiw, here’s 1o things I thought about it:

  1. It’s good to see more interest in space in general. NASA and other space agencies do plenty in terms of space exploration, but often it is overlooked by people. Suddenly — for better or worse — people are talking about space again.
  2. It’s good to see money being spent on space travel. NASA has suffered for years with cutbacks. Decades. Here’s to more money being effectively used in space.
  3. These flights of Branson and Bezos are small steps in terms of space travel.  They are miles behind SpaceX even, never mind NASA or other space agencies. As we like to say in business: it’s a good start (implying there is a long way to go).
  4. Small steps can lead to big steps if they continue to pursue this and pour money into it. That’s a big if. Like any space exploration, it is hard to continue to make people interested in it after it starts to seem repetitive. They might find it much harder to get space tourists to pay a small fortune their 10th or 15th flight. Never mind after the first person dies (and someone will).
  5. Even if everything goes well, it could still fail  in the longer run. The Concorde failed and it was much simpler technology than this stuff. Not everything that is the best and fastest gets to succeed.
  6. I can’t see the ROI on space travel. Musk and SpaceX can get away with it because they have a client with the money to spend on it (i.e. NASA). Not sure if Bezos can wrestle some of that business away. Then again, perhaps there’s a global market for these services.
  7. I think there would have been a much more positive reaction if it wasn’t Bezos or Branson leading these endeavours. Give Musk credit: he lets the real astronauts do the work. Plus none of these men are inspiring to most people. They aren’t John Glenn or Neil Armstrong: they are billionaires. Bezos was at least smart enough to Wally Funk with him: that was a good distraction from the other members on his team.
  8. It will remain to be seen if they can catch up to Musk, or if they are even interested. Musk can act the fool, but he seems driven to push private space exploration to the limits. I can see Branson dropping out soon once some other thing comes along. Bezos is a bit of a mystery to me.
  9. People are criticizing them for spending money on space rather than here on earth, but Bill Gates spends his fortune on such things and he is criticized mightly for it. It’s a no win in terms of spending your money. They all should pay more taxes. (Although a lot of tax money in the US goes into the military budget. That’s a different but related issue.)
  10. Here’s to more inspiring people going to space soon, and to more inspiring space travel. Let’s hope this leads to that.

(Image: link from the Variety article)

On Pepper and Watson


If you have even a passing knowledge of IT, you likely have heard of Pepper and Watson. Pepper was a robot and Watson was an AI system that won at Jeopardy. Last week the Verge and the New York Times had articles on them both:

  1. Go read how Pepper was a very bad robot – The Verge
  2. What Ever Happened to IBM’s Watson? – The New York Times

I don’t have any specific insights or conclusions into either technology, other than trite summations like “cutting edge technology is hard” and “don’t believe the hype”. AI and robotics are especially hard, so the risks are high and the chances of failure are high. That comes across in these two pieces.

Companies from Tesla to Boston Dynamics and more are making grand claims about their AI and their robotics. I suspect much of it will suffer the same fate as Pepper and Watson. Like all failure, none of it is final or fatal. People learn from their mistakes and move on to make better things. AI and robotics will continue to advance…just not at the pace many would like it too.

In the meantime, go read those articles.  Especially if you are finding yourself falling for the hype.

(Image: link of image on The Verge)

The lie within resilience

There is a lie within resilience. Not just the letters themselves: there is a falsehood included in the concept.

The lie is that if you are resilient, you snap back. You recover. You regain what you lost. This is what I have thought. I believed that.

After every one of the many setbacks I have suffered over the last decade I have told myself that I am resilient. Even my doctor told me that I was the most resilient people she had ever met. Every time I thought that, I thought: I will come back. I will recover. I will be who I was.

I don’t believe that any more. I don’t think resilient people recover. You may not break, but you can no longer come back to what you were. You turn into something else. Something misshapen. You become like a piece of paper than is crumpled up and then flattened out: you are never the same as you were before the crumpling. Never as good.

I am sure some people can comeback from setbacks. But if you get enough of them, even when the thing that crumpled your life goes away, you can never go back to the way you once were. You’re ruined.

It’s Monday. You need to start writing better emails. This can help


It’s Monday. Most of you need to write better emails. Want to know how to do that? Read this: How to Write Less Terrible Emails If Writing Doesn’t Come Easy to You. You will learn several good things from that article, including how to structure your email. Essentially your emails should be in this form:

1. Greeting
2. Ask or action requested
3. Concise description of context and impact
4. Closing

Now some of you may say: I don’t need email, I have Slack. Trust me: you still need email and you need to know how to construct good emails. Read that and you will.

If you don’t have to send email, then don’t. That’s the best option. But if you do, send a good one.

What do Willy Wonka and Terminator 2 have in common?


Not much, other than Willy Wonka turns 50 this year and Terminator 2 turns 30. For fans of either movie, those links have good things for you to read up on.

(Photo by Jeremy Yap on Unsplash )

Bring back A/V equipment that looks like furniture! :)

Ok, that’s not going to happen. I suspect most audio-visual equipment is going to look more like computers and less like furniture for the foreseeable future. Most, but not all. Take the bluetooth speaker above. Yep, that’s a bluetooth speaker! The tech is modern, but the enclosure is a throwback to midcentury modern. I love it.

For more on it, see: Hifi Case Aura 2 Speaker | Uncrate

 

On what you can learn from the obituaries of the not quite famous


What can we learn from the obituaries of the not quite famous? I thought of that when I was reading the sad fate of Hash Halper, here: Hash Halper, Street Artist Who Adorned New York With Hearts, Dies at 41 – The New York Times.

Obituaries in big newspapers tend to be for the rich and famous and powerful and great. Mainly. But sometimes you read about someone who was none of those things, who was struggling, yet who affected people in a positive way. Someone like Hash Halper.

What we learn, perhaps, is that it doesn’t matter if you were rich and powerful.  Bernie Madoff was rich and powerful. It didn’t make his life better or more worthwhile. Hash Halper did more good with his chalk hearts than Madoff did with all he had. In the end, it all washes away, save for the things you did to affect the lives of others.

We can learn many things from the obituaries of the not quite famous. Maybe we can learn/be reminded of what it is we want to do in the world, while we are here. That’s a very fine thing to learn indeed.

Rest in peace, Hash Halper.

(Image Kholood Eid for The New York Times, link)

In the future, will you own anything?


In 2030, you may not own any gadgets, says this Gizmodo piece: In the Future, You Won’t Own Any Gadgets.

It makes some strong points. It’s true, younger people aren’t as keen to own things. (Heck, this is also true of older people who get fed up with the accumulation of things). And companies are keen to lease things. Add that up and you will see less and less owning.

From an IT perspective, I’ve been through this before. For a long time IBM had a very strong business in leasing technology. That gradually went away and more and more companies bought their technology. Then server farms came followed by the cloud, and now we are effectively seeing companies lease more IT again. Will it switch back again?

I think so. Eventually the cons outweigh the pros, be it for leasing or owning. People will move to leasing because it saves them money in the short term. Then eventually it gets more costly and the restrictions on the leases push them to own things again. Until the costs of owning add up and they switch back to leasing.

So yes, people will be moving to leasing for some time. Then they will switch back to owning more stuff. Of this I am confident.

(Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash)

A brilliant use of tattoos


Over at My Modern Met they have a story on how artist Ngoc Like uses tattoos to cover the scars of her patrons: Scar Cover-Up Tattoos Help Women Regain Confidence in Their Bodies.

Some people may not want to cover their scars: they may not like tattoos or they may be indifferent or even proud of their scars. And that’s fine. But for people badly affected by scaring, this is a wonderful way to recover from that, I think.

See the article for many more photos such as the one above.

 

On the historic smashed guitar of Paul Simonon of the Clash

From small moments of frustration, history is made.  As the Guardian explains:

The guitar was last played on stage at the Palladium in New York on 20 September 1979. Frustrated at the stiffness of the audience, Simonon raised his guitar like a giant axe, turned his back to singer Joe Strummer, and brought it crashing down.

That moment was captured on film, made into part of the cover for the band’s London Calling record, and the rest, as the cliche goes, is history.

For more details, see: Bass guitar smashed at Clash gig to join relics at Museum of London | The Clash | The Guardian

(Image via GuitarWorld)

It’s Monday. Time to rewrite those S.M.A.R.T. goals. Here’s why

If you’ve done any work on goal setting, you’ve likely heard of SMART goals. You may even have used them to achieve an outcome you wanted. That’s good. Before you do that again, read this good argument on why you need to critically rethink the use of them: SMART Goals Are Overrated.

For example do you do this? Do you say: S.M.A.R.T. stands for…

Specific, Measurable, something, something, Time-bound. There’s disagreement on what some of the letters stand for, which is our first hint that maybe they’re not that important.

Yep, I do that too. I usually get the R (realistic), but then I get tripped up on the A (if it’s Achievable, how is that different than Realistic?).

Ok, you say, fine…it’s a weak acronym, but it still works. True, it can work. It can help you define your goal and get it done.  But as the article says, you can end up getting “tunnel vision”.  Instead of aiming on achieving your utmost, you settle for something smaller that you can measure and achieve in a set time. That’s less than ideal.

The article goes on and promotes the idea that you should…

Deliberately remove one or more of those SMART parameters and push yourself to see what you can achieve when it’s no longer a pass/fail test.

I like that. Essentially use the SMART goal as a stepping stone to a much large goal that may not be achievable or timely but it’s a goal that gets you excited.

Because here’s the thing: SMART goals may be achievable but they might not be the thing that gets you up early in the morning to do the thing you have to do to achieve your goal. Sometimes you need that big goal, that vision of something great, that …that is the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning.

So yes, SMART goals are good. But tweak them and stretch them and build upon them and make something better. You may find that you not only achieve more goals, but you achieve bigger goals too.

(Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash )

A brilliantly visual way to learn philosophy

This site, www.denizcemonduygu.com/philo/browse,  is a fantastic way to learn more about philosophy. It lists out the major world philosophers, several of their key ideas, and how these ideas link to ideas of other philosophers.

It is a brilliant use of visualization software, too.

One thing: it can be hard to navigate at first. To make it easier, go to the Menu in the top right and then you can browse and search more easily.

(Photo by Alex Block on Unsplash )

I only have one thought on this insane chair designed with your cat in mind

And that thought is this: no matter how much of this piece of furniture is devoted to your cat, the only place your cat will want to go is where you are sitting!

I honestly think this furniture is insane, but I am sure for some cat lovers, it is a dream come true. To each their own.

For more on this piece of fantasy furniture, go here: This furniture design is a functional piece for you and a playful landscape for your cat! | Yanko Design

 

Friday night cocktail: an Old Fashioned

I am a huge fan of the Sazerac cocktail, but I really find it best if you use absinthe (something that is not easy to find). So I was intrigued when Esquire said an Old Fashioned has the bones of a Sazerac. And I looked and it does. So I’ll be making some of these soon and hoping it is as satisfying as its New Orleans’ cousin.

Sure, it is never fashionable. But it never goes out of style, either.

Here’s Esquire with their Best Old Fashioned Recipe.

Good rules for twitter use


There’s been some discussion of the pros and cons of twitter this week. From one of the pro pieces came these rules which I thought were pretty good:

Never check the site before 8am.

Mute anyone who is neither funny nor polite.

Mute notifications regularly.

Delete the app periodically.

Never assume anything is important just because it’s big on Twitter.

Never say in conversation, “As I recently tweeted”.

The pro piece is here: I’m a Twitter addict and I don’t care | Financial Times

(Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash)

The problems with the trolley problem

Even if you have never heard of the Trolley Problem, if you have watched the TV series, The Good Place, you are aware of it. I’m willing to bet you do know of it, though.

For a time I was fascinated by it, but lately I have found it disposable. And when I came across this, Does the trolley problem have a problem? my answer was “yes, clearly”.

Whether you love, hate or are unaware of the Trolley Problem, I recommend you read that.

As for me, I don’t find it is revealing as people who use it might suppose. That’s the conclusion of many in the article, too. But read it for yourself and decide.

(Photo by Jack Patrick on Unsplash )

If you think you are suffering from complex PTSD

If you think you might be suffering from PTSD, I recommend you review this checklist: Signs You Might Be Suffering from Complex PTSD.

As someone who suffered from PTSD, I found it useful. If too many of them ring a bell for you, what should you do? First,

… stop being brave. We should allow ourselves to feel compassion for who we were; that might not be easy, given how hard we tend to be with ourselves. The next step is to try to identify a therapist or counsellor trained in how to handle Complex PTSD

There is nothing wrong with being brave. It’s admirable in many ways. Just don’t let it get in the way of getting help.

.(Photo by Finn on Unsplash )

On using Tumblr again because of my DD


When Tumblr and Posterous came out over a decade ago, I started using them a fair bit. Sadly Posterous died. Tumblr kept going, but I stopped using it. It’s not that Tumblr is a bad technology platform: it’s just that I didn’t have a need for it. But now I do.

I wanted a platform to do knowledge transfer of IT concepts for my daughter who is also currently in IT. I could email them directly, but they are not personal and others might benefit from them too. I could use WordPress or even just a straight up website. I decided to mix it up a bit and use an old Tumble log I’ve had since 2009 called BLMonIT . It has a great old school theme that looks like an old Mac OS background. It originally was meant for sharing IT knowledge. It has been hardly used. It was just the thing I needed.

I’m going to be posting IT knowledge and opinion there, I hope. If you find it might benefit you, head over to BLMonIT.tumblr.com.

Good news. No one wants to become a Wall Street banker anymore


That may seem snarky, but it’s true. Despite efforts by firms like JPMorgan hiking entry-level pay, it remains to be seen if it will be enough to attract young people to come and work with them. It’s true, many are not attracted to the extreme hours required to do the job. It’s more than that, though. As Bloomberg argues, the real reason

… isn’t only the hours. All the exciting work has been regulated within an inch of its life, leaving millennials and Gen-Z employees searching elsewhere.

And that is great news. It means regulation of banks is working. Sure the work is boring. Boring banking is stable banking. After the Great Recession of 2008, the last thing we need for a long time (i.e. eternity) is exciting banks.

Let the young people looking for exciting careers look elsewhere. Let them go join firms and fight climate change, pandemics, world inequality. Leave the people looking for stable jobs to go into banking. Everyone wins that way. Even the banks. (Ask the people who used to work at Lehmans if you disagree.)

(Photo by Sean Driscoll on Unsplash )

It’s Monday. The best time management tool you have is the word “No”

I was reading this piece, Time Management Won’t Save You, and thinking about it a lot. Some of it I agreed with, other parts of it I thought dumb. However, I did do some thinking after I read this:

In all of these instances, the solution isn’t to become more efficient to accommodate more tasks, more decisions, and more distractions. The imperative is clear: simplify. Reduce the number of tasks you take on, replace decisions with principles, and put structure in place to eliminate distractions.

He is arguing that the goal is simplifying. I agree. But I would be more assertive: if you have too much to do, the goal is to say “no”. You have to say “no” to many things in order to say “yes” to the things that matter. Saying “no” gives you more time to do the things you need to do.

You might find saying “no” hard, but you are doing it all the time. If you choose one task to work on over another, you are saying yes to one and no to the other. If you interview 5 people for a job, you have to say no to the others. It goes on and on.

Part of the reason we think saying “no” is hard is because it implies a judgment on what you said no to. For example, if I hire one person over 4 others, it doesn’t mean the people I don’t hire are bad. It means the person I hired is the best fit for this particular job. If I buy a medium size shirt, it doesn’t mean the large shirt and the small shirt are bad: it means the medium fit best. That’s all.

Likewise sometimes we say “no” when we really mean “not now”. For example, I love chocolate cake, but I might say “no” to it because I am full. I still love the cake, it just isn’t the right time for it.

Indeed, if you find say “no” hard, try “not right now” or  “not this week ” or “not until my next review period”.

Saying “no” is like weeding your garden. Weeds aren’t bad: some are beautiful. But your focus is on what you are trying to grow. That’s all you are saying with the weeding you do. Likewise, that is all you are doing when you are saying “no”. You are maintaining your focus in order to have the best outcome.

Go through all the things taking up your focus. Dump most of them into your “no/not now” list. Enjoy the time you now have to do the things that matter most.

(Photo by Daniel Herron on Unsplash )

More on New York in the 80s


Here on my blog I like to write about one of my favourite places (NYC) and my favorite eras (the 80s). So I am happy to highlight this piece on an exhibit on the music of New York at time: New York, New Music: how the city became a hotbed for music in the 80s | Music | The Guardian.

New York then was a hotbed not only for music, but for art. After almost dying in the 60s and 70s, it started it’s Phoenix rebirth in the 80s. I was happy to be a part of it, and I often like to highlight it. That Guardian piece does a good job of capturing the place and the time.

(Photo by Bryan G. on Unsplash.  I don’t think it is of the 80s, but it is a photo of the Lower East Side and it is reminiscent of it.)

Blue, the classic from Joni Mitchell, turned 50


Joni Mitchell’s great album, Blue, turned 50 this year. To celebrate, there’s been a number of good pieces done on it, including this superb one from the Times: Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ at 50 – The New York Times.

If you are a huge fan or just curious to know more about the album, I recommend this: Hear Demos & Outtakes of Joni Mitchell’s Blue on the 50th Anniversary of the Classic Album | Open Culture

Of course, you can also check out the Wikipedia entry too.

Finally, Carey is one off my favorite pieces on the album and one of my all time favorite songs. So I loved reading this piece on the inspiration of that song (and California, too): When Joni Mitchell Met Cary Raditz, Her ‘Mean Old Daddy’ – WSJ

 

Friday night cocktails: the marg’

Ok, a marg(arita) may be more of a Saturday afternoon cocktail on a hot summer day, but here on my blog we only write about cocktails on Friday night. Regardless, as the days heat up, you need a cool drink to help you stay chill and relaxed and the margarita fits that description to a tee. If you’ve never made one before, or if you want to try new versions, Bon Appetit has the advice you need.

How powerful is twitter?


I agree with this assessment by Noah Smith: it is not powerful at all. It can seem powerful at times, like a very high wind. But like a very high wind, it either subsides or moves on. Sometimes there is damage, but mainly not.

If you disagree, I recommend you read his piece. It’s a pretty strong argument for why twitter as a social force is limited.

P.S. I have felt that for some time. I mainly post things that are either positive or amusing. If I want to take social action, there are concrete ways to do that.

P.S.S. Tweets are like straw, blowing this way and that way, yet not moving and not affecting things, besides making a nice noise.

(Photo by seth schwiet on Unsplash )

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

Wow. It’s the end of June and summer has started. Here’s my latest blog newsletter for you. Short and sweet.

Pandemic:  Canadians continue to ramp up on getting vaccinated. 30% of the population has been fully vaxxed, including yours truly. Well done! I have been impressed by the Federal government procuring the vaccines, as well as the distribution in Toronto. They even had a big event where over 26,000 people were vaccinated in one day at the Skydome/Rogers Center.

Not everything has been awesome. Take the response from the government of Ontario. The Globe has said it has been the worst of all the provincial governments. Hard to disagree with that assessment. Ford has tried to distract others from his performance by trying to shift some of the blame on to Trudeau. That didn’t go far…Trudeau shifted it back onto Ford big time.

While Canadians have generally been good in getting vaccinated, some pockets have been resistant. So governments like that in Manitoba have been offering incentives. Here’s to everyone getting it done this summer!

There has been some positive things to note regarding the pandemic. Crime has plummettedQuarantine rules are changing for the better in Canada. So that’s good.

Businesses are trying to return to normal, but even the best of them, like Starbucks, are having a hard time getting supplies. There is still a labour shortage too. We are not out of the woods in terms of business.

Overall, this has been a tough time. As VOX argues, it has not been a sabbatical.

If you need more on the pandemic, the New York Times has a whole section, here.

Non-pandemic things I noted: NFRs are getting smarter, though there are still lots of nonsense. However at least  this time people like Sotheby’s are tying their value to the artist themselves. That’s a good thing. Another thing I keep an eye on is ransomware. Sadly, it’s getting worse.

In the US, the GOP are still focused on limiting who can vote in the US. They don’t want to change their platforms, they just want to stay in power.
That is obvious as shown here. Meanwhile, Biden seems to have their number, based on this.As for Canada, there has been a lot of focus on indigenous issues and in particular the residential schools. Here’s a good editorial
on it.

Try and go out and enjoy the nice weather while you can. Everything you can do to make the pandemic better is worth doing.

(Photo by Sofia Mejia on Unsplash )

Piquette: your new summer quaffable drink


I remember when rose used to be a hard sell in Ontario. It took years before people started drinking it in the summer.

Now people adopt new approaches to wine as fast as they can. In the last few years I’ve seen cremants, orange wines and pet nats all become hugely successful. (Though you wouldn’t know it at the LCBO).  The latest thing to catch my fancy are piquettes. This write up of them in Toronto Life describes them better than I can. As they say, piquette is a …

…low-alcohol wine is made by fermenting the pomace—leftover skins and dregs of the winemaking process—and diluting it with water. What results is a wine lover’s answer to summer-y spiked seltzers. It’s zippy, sessionable, slightly bubbly and certainly affordable—you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bottle over $20. Traditionally, piquette was reserved for farmhands and winemakers to sip while working the fields, when wine may have been easier to come by than clean drinking water. And it’s low enough in alcohol (typically, 5-9 per cent ABV) to not impact productivity. “Vineyard work is very tough, physical work, and your body gets sore and full of aches and pains,” says Mike Traynor, of Prince Edward County’s Traynor Vineyard. “Piquette takes that edge off without putting you out.”  There’s also a huge sustainability appeal to piquette. Once nothing more than compost, discarded wine skins can be a thirst-quenching source of revenue. “This actually allows me to bring down the prices on a lot of my wines because I’m getting a better yield from the grapes,” Traynor says.

A few additional thoughts:

  • piquettes are fun, but the taste of them vary widely. If you get an apple cider or a glass of sauvignon blanc, you know what to expect. With piquettes, I have not found that to be the case. The taste of one brand of piquette can be very different from another. They are like pet nats in that way.
  • I can see why winemakers like them: they can squeeze another product out of their harvest. Good for them.
  • I can’t see piquettes reaching a large audience like pinot grigio or moscato did. They will have to compete with beer and cider, which already have a huge part of the summer beverage market. But I am a bad predictor, so who knows.
  • a bottle of piquette can also be good at the end of the evening if you have a big group over for a dinner party. Try it sometime.
  • I’ve had a few piquettes now and I really like the one from Leaning Post. Indeed I like much of the wine from them. Good people, great wine.
  • The wine pictured above is from Leaning Post. It has a great punk rock vibe to it, which perfectly describes a piquette.

On the planet about to visit our solar system!

It’s true! A planet is going to make a fly by.  According to Kottke, the minor planet 2014 UN271  is about to visit our solar system. By 2031 it should be about as close to the sun as Saturn is!

I hope we can get some good views of it while it is in the area.

For more on it, see the Kottke article. He also has links to more pieces on it.

(Photo by Guillermo Ferla on Unsplash )

Work is not good for working parents. The pandemic exposed that.


If you are parenting small kids (or in my case, single parenting a large teen), you know how hard it has been during the pandemic to be a good worker. You know it was very hard to be a good parent, and it was basically impossible to take over the job of support staff for your kid’s teacher. Yet even before the pandemic it was hard to do all those things.

If you agree, I highly recommend this article.

If you are young and planning to have a career and have children, you should especially read it. At many firms, you should expect your career to take a hit if you have to beg off to do parental thing. Plan according.

(Photo by Alexander Dummer on Unsplash )

S.A.D. – not just for winter


If you think Seasonal Affective Disorder is something that only affects people in winter, read this. In some ways, it can be worse in the summer. People think: you should be happy with all the nice weather. There’s all kinds of sunlight too, they might add. But people can struggle in the dog days as much as any other time….I know I do. I find August as difficult as February. The reasons are different, but the challenges are similar.

If you find your mood goes poorly in the summer, read that piece.

(Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash )

GAP comes home (with home decor)

It looks like Gap is expanding into home decor like other companies like Zara and HMV. As Apartment Therapy explains:

Gap Home is a new brand of over 400 home essentials including bedding and bath, kitchenware, and general home decor like curtains, pillows, and bathroom necessities, with prices starting under $16. The brand plans to release seasonal and special lines throughout the year, so get ready to add a bunch of goodies to your holiday decor collection.

For more on it, see Apartment Therapy.

Does work leave you feeling exploited, exhausted, and alone?

Do you look to work to love you back? To make you feel valued, energized, part of a big family? Instead, do you feel “exploited, exhausted, and alone”? If so, you will want to read this.

It is a piece aimed at creative workers, but really, it can apply to anyone.

There is a lot to be gained from work besides a paycheque. But sometimes the expectations set are well beyond what work can do. If you feel your expectations are too hard, read that.