Author Archives: smartpeopleiknow

Highlights and Ramblings (a newsletter, as such)


Here’s a list of  random items I’ve been stashing away while working from home in this time of social distancing and the pandemic. Initially my goal was to create a newsletter, and perhaps I still will create one. Most of the newsletters I get, though, read like blog posts. That’s fine. But then why do I need to create a newsletter, when I can just post here. Plus, it will save you another thing to deal with in your inbox. Read when you have nothing else to read.

  1. Privacy: It’s worrying to me that as people try to adapt to social distancing, tech companies continue to do things poorly. I am thinking of Yelp signing up restaurants for GoFundMe, Zoom selling people’s data, and other tech companies ostensibly tracking sick people using cellphone data. It’s hard to think about things such as privacy abuse with all the fear of the pandemic, but it’s something to not lose track of.
  2. Food suppliers: Before the pandemic, it was a given that pickers would migrate to wherever crops were ripe and pick them, Perhaps not anymore. After this crisis, I think the world is going to need to reconsider so many people they took for granted before, be it food pickers, grocery store clerks, or delivery people. I hope this would mean they would be taken better care of. Maybe they will be. Or maybe the push for automation will come on even stronger. We will see soon enough.
  3. Leadership: Impressed to see that the grocer HEB in the US reached out to Chinese grocers to help them deal with the pandemic. Smart. A case study in good business leadership.
  4. Leadership, pt 2: Trump continues to be Trump: a crisis has not altered who he is or how he acts. All I can say is from my vantage point in Toronto that all three levels of government are being effective. It surprised me by how governments can spring to life during a crisis. I haven’t recalled such strong action since the start of the Great Recession. Not something to take for granted.
  5. Entertainment: As entertainers lost venues, it was heartening to see them take to Instagram and other platforms to perform for us. From singers playing new records to actors like Patrick Stewart reading sonnets was a balm.
  6. Scarcity: it was and is a shock to see sections of the grocery store still empty. Eventually it will return, and toilet paper will go back to being a loss leader versus a scarce product.
  7. Fear: lots of people seem anxious and down, understandably. The efforts of people to deal with that has been a comfort.
  8. Making things: Also, since I seem to have more time, I made a zine, did some painting, wrote some python code to process KML.  Blogged, of course.
  9. Food: Like many  people, I am baking and cooking. I mean, what else can you do? I miss restaurants and cafes and bookstores, though. They feed me with more than food.
  10. Other things: I thought this was a good piece on parenthood: https://www.theschooloflife.com/thebookoflife/the-task-of-parenthood/.  Nicholson Baker followed me on Twitter. Whenever I have interactions with prominent people, I think: oh, I should get serious now and not look the fool. But it doesn’t last for long.
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Fun Fluorescent Sculpture because we could use some fun right about now

For more, check out:  Fluorescent Cacti and Leaf Sculptures by Nobel Truong from the great art site,  Colossal

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How to clean with vinegar

Hey. You’re home. You feel: I might as well clean this place. Or maybe you want to get started on your spring cleaning. Good. Here’s a great list of how you can replace many of your kitchen cleaning products with just vinegar (and maybe a bit of water): 18 Places You Should Be Cleaning with Vinegar in Your Kitchen | Bon Appétit

Save money. Cut out those terrible chemicals. Learn some skills. 🙂

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Are you a Canadian business wanting a primer on Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan?

Then check this out:  A quick guide for businesses navigating Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan | IT Business

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How to get more cooperation from your kids regarding chores and morning activities

For people struggling with their kids while they work from home, this piece from The New York Times in 2018 might help. I think a lot depends on the personality of the child, but for some of you, it just might be the thing you need. In a nutshell, they did this:

We devised a personalized morning checklist for each child — with their input. And we created a breakfast menu and a lunch menu, just like the ones they give you in hotels. We’re talking the works here. For breakfast the children can have cereal, muffins, eggs however they want, smoothies. You name it! And the lunch menu is equally expansive. Each night the kids complete their menus for the next day’s breakfast and lunch.

How to whip your inbox into shape? Do this.

Are you one of those people who have hundreds if not thousands of emails in your inbox? Would you like to get down to Inbox Zero? Or Maybe Inbox 99? If so, try this approach:

1) First, for these next few steps, you will not open or read ANY emails. Just look at your inbox.
2) Second, sort your emails by sender. Go through and delete all emails you don’t need: email from people you don’t know or don’t care to respond to, emails from mailing lists (don’t worry, they will send you more), unsolicited email, spam, emails from your ex, etc. Delete delete delete. Read nothing.
3) Third, sort your emails by date. Delete all emails that are a year old or more. Can’t bear to do that for some reason? Then if you must, create a folder called “Attic” or “Basement” and put them there. (You will no more read them then you will look at the stuff you have stuffed in your real attic or basement either, but if it makes you feel better). Again, no reading: delete or file.
4) Ok, you have emails from the past year. Go through and sort them by subject. See all those emails with the same subject, or the “re: re:…”. Chances are you only need to keep one of those. Then delete the rest.
5) Now sort them again by date. Go to the oldest. For everyone you see, ask yourself: is this referring to something that’s over or resolved? If so, delete it or put it in the Attic folder.
6) Go through emails from newsletters. Open only to UNSUBSCRIBE. Otherwise delete.
7) Reminders for bills, etc. Write that down then file or delete.
8) Meetings that have past? Delete.

Now whatever emails you have, you can open. Try to skim them, but do this:
1) If it is an FYI, file or delete. Do NOT reply.
2) If someone did you a favor or a service, reply through non-email: a message, text or phone message even. Do not reply by email.
3) If it is a complex email, figure out what the ACTUAL request is. Write it down. Send them an email just with the request and your response; file or delete the other email.

Now the only emails you have left that are either from colleagues or family and friends. Deal with the most important ones first. Of those, make lists of what they are asking. Then consider whether to just deal with them the next time you see them. Whenever possible, do not reply via email.

By this point you should have alot less email. Look at you being all productive and efficient. Congrats! You did good.

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Adafruit goes to war against the coronavirus

That’s a bit dramatic, but Adafruit (a tech company I love) has been deemed an essential service and is helping to manufacture things needed in the fight against it. I am happy to see that.

Here’s a bit from them saying who they are and what they are doing. Awesome!

Adafruit is a 100% woman-owned, loan-free, VC-free. profitable, USA Manufacturing company. Please see our about page and press page to read about us. Our founder and lead engineer is Limor Fried, a MIT Electrical Engineer.

We have paused some operations in NYC due to COVID-19, we are paying all team members, contractors, and more. There are no layoffs for 130+ Adafruit team members.

Adafruit was deemed an essential service to distribute/make some PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) such as face shields, and manufacturer electronics for essential life-saving/preserving equipment and developement which is needed in New York and beyond.

Adafruit Industries located at 150 Varick Street, New York, NY 10013 by Executive Order 202.6, “Essential Business” by New York State:
https://esd.ny.gov/guidance-executive-order-2026

via Adafruit Industries, Essential service and business: NYC – Executive Order 202.6 Capabilities and more #NewYorkTough #NewYorkStrong #adafruitchronicles @adafruit « Adafruit Industries – Makers, hackers, artists, designers and engineers!