Category Archives: blog

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

I hope you are enjoying your summer and staying safe and well. Summer is the best time of the pandemic — it’s sad I can say that, but this is our second pandemic summer —  so enjoy it as best as you can. If you need something to read as you soak up the sun and sip a cold one, here’s my latest blog newsletter for you.

Pandemic: it’s a weird time in the pandemic: on one hand, most people in places like Canada are getting vaccinated. Meanwhile, in other parts of the world, the Delta variant is causing death and devastation.  I once thought the pandemic would be receding, now I am not so sure. We have signs of normality like Via Rail bringing back Montreal-Halifax service. But there is also talk about the fourth wave. People are patronizing restaurants and  people are trying to avoid going to gyms. Places like Israel are struggling after early success. And while restaurants are open, restaurants are having a hard time staying staffed. (I can see that personally: my son works at Stock TC and he tells me they are struggling to hire and keep people.)

As for me, I am finally looking forward to doing some travelling to Halifax and Montreal in the upcoming months. I am going to be going to the east coast to accompany my son as he goes to university there. Then I am going to take advantage of my empty nest status to go to Montreal and partake in that great city and their wonderful views and food. Can’t wait!

It’s weird trying to arrange the trips. So much I used to do with certainty I do with great uncertainty now.

In non-travelling news, I’ve been going to some restaurants in Toronto and eating on their patios. Some patios are really great, others not so much. I love certain restaurants, but sitting on a busy street while cars and bikes whiz by is less than relaxing. Happy to patronize these restaurants, and looking forward to when we can all dine safely inside again.

Besides restaurants, other businesses are struggling to return to normal. My own employer is backing off having people return to the office, at least in NYC. The pandemic is going to have a big impact on companies in a number of ways. For example, there is much talk about preparing for the Great Resignation: 4 ways to be a better boss during the Great Resignation.

Olympics: During the recent Olympics, I expected that this sporting event could be cause of outbreaks. However, this piece argued that  Tokyo has shown the pandemic can be beaten Games health adviser says. That’s good.

Health: One thing that came out of the Olympics was a discussion of taking into account not just physical health but mental health. This lead to articles like this: Why We Need To Normalize Taking Sick Days For Our Mental Health. Speaking of physical health, I agree with this, that  COVID-19 has given us an opportunity to look at weight and what it means to be healthy. Our views of health change from generation to generation, but they should change dramatics because of the pandemic.

Denial: As with climate change, there are people who want to deny it is happening or that it is significant. That never ends well. For example: Oops. Canadian Province That Acted Like COVID Was Over Just Realized It Isn’t. (Yes, that’s Alberta). Some of those same people are using HIPAA as an excuse to not disclose their vaccination status. Those people need to read this: What Is HIPAA? Read This Before You Use HIPAA as an Excuse to Complain About Vaccine Requirements.

My last pandemic comment is this. You might be working from home for awhile, still. If some, here’s some good WFH furniture ideas from Simons. I may be checking it out soon. Regardless of buying new things, you may want to improve the look of your place. If so, check this out: How to curate (just about) anything.

Non pandemic stuff

Climate Change: there is so much news about climate change that I could easily fill the newsletter with references to that. Perhaps I will one day. One thing that stood out for me recently is this news: Hotter than the human body can handle: Pakistan city broils in world’s highest temperatures. The thought of parts of the world being unlivable is terrifying. My belief is that the way to turn it around is massive change on all fronts. So when I read things like this, I get concerned, to say the least: A Bill Gates Venture Aims To Spray Dust Into The Atmosphere To Block The Sun. What Could Go Wrong?. There is no silver bullet for climate change, and anyone who thinks so is wrong.  Climate change is overwhelming, and only overwhelming action on all fronts is going to stabilize and improve things.

Canada: It’s Federal election time in Canada. If you need info on that, go here.  If you need to see the latest polls, go here. I can’t predict what will happen: I expected the Liberals would win in Nova Scotia but the Conservatives ended up on top with a majority.

The US: for a time the President was on a roll in terms of success . His enemies and opponents like Lindsey Graham were struggling to stay relevant. But then he announced that the US was withdrawing from Afghanistan. Since then things have not been going well from him. I suspect over time it will work out for him and the American people. The occupation itself was never going to end well and it was best he declared this early in his presidency.

For some good insight on this, read this piece by Noah Smith: The Afghanistan occupation and the Japan occupation .

Still a thing: NFTs (Russell Simmons launches NFT collection to help pioneers of hip-hop), ransomware (Top 5 ransomware operators by income), and space exploration  (NASA looking for people to spend a year pretending they live on Mars so it can prepare to send astronauts to red planet). Newsletters also still a thing.

Fun: this was a fun thing to read: An Oral History of Adam Sandler Pickup Basketball Legend.

Finally, this is a great time to eat fresh fruit and vegetables. Not only are they enjoyable, it is also a great way to live healthier. So eat as many as you can while you can.

Stay safe. Stay well. Hang in there.

(Photo by Dan-Cristian Pădureț on Unsplash)

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

Happy midsummer to you. We are halfway through the summer of 2021 which also means it’s time for my latest blog newsletter.

Pandemic: For some time now, as vaccination was on the rise, the underlying story of the pandemic was “this will soon be over”. Masks were coming off. Indoor dining was on coming back. Travel restrictions were easing.

Now the Delta variant has taken over the story and masks are going back on and cases are on the rise. More on that here. I suspect that for at least the time being, we are still going to be struggling with COVID-19 in its many forms/variants.

Some places are trying to just act like it isn’t happening. For example, Tennessee abandoned vaccine outreach to minors and not just for COVID-19. That bout of madness lasted only a bit of time before the wise folks of that state reversed things. But like the pandemic, that madness is going around. For example,  Alberta is going to try a similar route, ending COVID rules.

Here’s the problem with this, in my opinion: unlike poverty, politicians can’t ignore COVID. If you try and do so, cases rise, hospitals fill up, more people die. People get upset and promise to vote you out. There’s no getting around it. The only way politicians win in that case is when people ignore them and do the right thing. Even then, their poor judgment is going to hurt them come election time.

As for other provinces,  Ontario  is trying to open as fast as it can, but it has a good plan and it seems to be sticking to it. However, daily cases were in the 150/day range and have creeped up to over 200. The plan may not hold.

I’m still hoping Canada is on the way to post-pandemic status. Based on our vaccine rates, it’s possible. But who knows. The pandemic humbles us all.

In other pandemic stories, it’s important to acknowledge that all tragedy did not occur directly because of the disease. In Ontario, more young people died from effects of lockdown than of COVID itself. That story is a good reminder that making choices in a pandemic are never straightforward. The choice of lockdown, while benefiting many, harmed others.

The New York Times has had many a good piece on how the pandemic has affected us. Here’s another: The Year of Purchasing and Purging

Finally, many of you have been forced to work at home during the pandemic. Here’s a silver lining: Introducing a simplified process for claiming the home office expenses for Canadians working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Non-pandemic things :

 Olympics: It is crazy that the Olympics are going on during the pandemic. There is talk that COVID cases count spike as a result. We will see. As for the Olympics themselves, people are tuning them out. I am not surprised. I know why they weren’t cancelled altogher — a lot of money is at stake — but they should have been.

NFTs: Not much to say here. The fact that Coke is getting into the NFT game tells me that either they are becoming more mainstream or they are petering out.

US: In the US we have a tale of two presidents. The former president continues to be in hot water. First off, it looks like he will be forced to turn over tax records. As well, his actions during the attempted coup of January 6th are getting more scrutiny. Good.

Meanwhile this is what amounts to a Biden controversy: people are upset about his choices of ambassadors. That aside, Biden has a good chance that Congress is going to pass his bipartisan Infrastructure bill. That will be a big win for him.

Another big plus for his presidency is that poverty dropped considerably as a result of poverty aid programs. It’s a reminder that poverty and homelessness are a choice we make.

Finally there was the billionaire space race. I wrote about it here.

Ransomware: Continues to be a problem everywhere including Canada. It looks like Biden has expressed his unhappiness with things to Putin. I am not sure if this is a result of that conversation, but some of the people responsible for ransomware suddenly disappeared.

Lastly thanks for reading this! I appreciate it. Go out and enjoy the summer days while you can.

(Photo by Chris Galbraith 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 )

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


It’s May, and it’s lovely in Ontario in terms of weather. Alas, the pandemic is still going on, as is my not-a-newsletter of highlights and ramblings for this month. Hope you like it.

Pandemic: Here in Canada we are rushing to get vaccinated. Over 50% of the population has at least 1 dose, and some Canadians have two (I got my second shot of AZ/AstraZeneca today). I am happy to see that the governments all seem to be working better again. The Federal government has been procuring them, the Provincial government has been distributing them, and the City has been setting up spots for people to get them. And get them they have. Kudos to everyone making efforts to get out there and end this.

It’s not to say there are no bumps in the road. Some provinces, like mine, ended up in a panic about whether or not to allow people to get additional AZ vaccines. Eventually Ontario relented and people like me signed up and got their jabs. Still, the experience has left people bitter, as this Doug Coupland piece illustrated.

Canadians don’t need much prompting to get vaccinated. This seems to be true down south for the most part, thought some states like West Virginia are offering savings bonds to encourage vaccination while Detroit was giving out $50 debit cards to ‘Good Neighbors’ to help boost lagging COVID-19 vaccination rate.  I encourage governments using any means at their disposal to get vaccinated. It’s too bad that people just don’t go and get it done. Get it done, people! I am hopeful by this summer most of Canada and the US will be fully open or close to fully open. Indeed the mayor of New York City says his city will be open this July 1. Let’s hope every place is.

Now whether we all go back to work right away is another thing. Outlets like the BBC are arguing the future of work will be hybrid. We shall see.

Since the pandemic is still ongoing,  you need ways to cope. One way people are coping is managing their time on Zoom and WebEx calls. Techies have even been inventing devices to hang them up. Another way people have managed is by developing routines. That’s been healthy. Or getting back to exercising. A less healthy way has been drinking too much. If that is you, you might benefit on reading this piece on ways to cut back. But back to healthy, a good way to help yourself is to get out from time to time. I hope to take advantage of Toronto’s outdoor cafes once they are open.

Finally, in case you haven’t read the best restaurant review of the pandemic…now you can.

US : it’s been weird to watch what is happening in the United States. On one hand, you have the Democrats working to deal with the pandemic and the effect it has had on the American people. On the other hand, you have Republicans working hard in places like Texas and many other places to restrict the vote of people for the next election. Not only that, but Republicans are also working to prevent any examination into the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6th.

Here’s hoping for the United States to become a better democracy, not a worse one.

Meanwhile in Canada, we need to do better in many ways, starting with one that is fundamental to me: making sure everyone has access to clean water. I can’t believe I even have to say this.

Non-pandemic things: No new news on newsletters. They are still a Thing…just not as newsworthy. Good.

NFTs are still newsworthy.  For example, this piece is a good way to just see how weird and wild they are:

I still don’t think they make any sense, but I have been proven wrong on such things before.

A year ago: Last May we saw the “cancellation” of Alison Roman. Since then she pivoted to making her own newsletter and a YouTube video channel with over 100K viewers. She seems to have landed ok. Speaking of food, I wrote last May that people were already tired of making their own food. Ha! Still at it a year later.  For more on how the pandemic looked last year, here’s the newsletter I wrote then.

Finally:

Over a year ago we were all struggling to get masks and learn how to wear them properly. Now they are as common as shoes. Here’s a throw back to mask wearing tips from the City of Toronto.

Thanks for reading this! I appreciate it. Here’s hoping for a pandemic ending everywhere and soon.

 

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

The pandemic is still going on and so is this! Here’s my latest not-a-newsletter of highlights and ramblings and thingamabobs for this April.

Pandemic:The pandemic is a story of extremes this month. Some countries, like the US and the UK and Israel, are seemingly coming to the end of it. Meanwhile countries like India are burning up with cases and death. It’s terrible to see. For countries like the US and UK, being able to produce their own vaccines made a big difference. But it wasn’t the only difference (Ahem, going from Trump to Biden). For a deeper dive on just one country, here’s a good piece on how Israel was so successful

In Canada we model the world in some ways. For parts of Canada life is relatively normal and aims to stay that way. (I’m look at you up North and out East.) Then there is Ontario, where I am, which seems to have suffered a collapse in provincial leadership. The provincial government recently issued edicts to the province, only to have everyone from the police to the public health units to the people either ignore it or rally against it. Some newspapers are saying that’s the end for the premier.

I have some sympathy for the government’s plight. On one hand you have  hospitals halting non-emergency surgeries as COVID-19 patients fill ICUs, which is terrifying. On the other hand, you have businesses everywhere saying that they’re at risk of losing everything and need help. What you need is strong leadership at this point, but as the Globe and many other argued, we aren’t getting it. We have a panicked leadership seemingly refusing to do anything other than hope for the vaccines to rescue them for their inability to do more.

I’m too discouraged to say more. I’ll let the Toronto Star have the last word:  A 278-word timeline of Ontario’s COVID-19 response | The Star

Individually, the New York Times says we have all hit the wall and we are languishing. I agree. Some of us are getting vaccines, but the unequal distribution can make us feel guilty. Lots of difficult feeling to deal with. We just have to take breaks when we can and forge on.

Meanwhile for something completely different, pandemic-wise, check out this: Honeywell and rapper Will.i.am just debuted a futuristic face-mask with built-in wireless earphones at Yanko Design.

 Newsletters:last month I said newsletters are “still a thing”. What an understatement. If anything, they are now a Big Thing. So big that the New York Times is getting ready to go toe to toe with Substack.

It makes sense. There are likely some writers at the Times looking at Matt Yglesias and others generating close to a million in annual revenue and thinking: I want some of that. Money changes everything, and the amount of money newsletters are generating tells me that we are going to be talking about them for some time.

US : I am glad of two things in the United States. One, we no longer have to hear about the last president any more. (Although some writers still can’t give him up: he’s like an addiction they can’t quit). Two, they have a president who seems to be in a hurry. Awhile ago Vox argued Joe Biden should do everything at once. It looks like he has decided to do that. Besides Vox, two good pieces on Biden that helped me understand him better were this, Bidenomics, explained – Noahpinion,  and this, the radicalism of Joe Biden.

Other interesting things: I am looking to purge my basement and other rooms of things, so I found this piece on how to let go of any possession good. Post-pandemic, we are all likely going to want to live with less.

IKEA came out with this fascinating cookbook: IKEA ScrapsBook – Zero-Waste Recipes & Ideas – IKEA CA. Worth a look.

In the next few decades, I predict many brutalist buildings will be destroyed. Once I may have cheered this, but I have come around to appreciating them more. Articles like this helped.

Poor Orlando Bloom. He gave an interview on what his day in Los Angeles looked like and was widely mocked and ridiculed for it. I had to laugh as well. Then I came across this piece: California dreamin’ with Orlando Bloom, and other tales of only-in-L.A. obliviousness. It helps explain Mr. Bloom and L.A. in general. Worth reading!

Libertarians have been taking a beating during this pandemic. Understandably. Still, they make a good case for why libertarian principles are still useful during this time here.

Finally: I came across this site which I love: All the Restaurants in New York. It reminded me of the work of the late great Jason Polan, and his attempt to draw every person in New York. This gives me a chance to share some links I have of the beloved artist, including this piece in the New Yorker about his Taco Bell Drawing Club. The New York Times also has a piece on it. Finally here are two other sites showing their appreciation for him: ghostly.com and 20×200.com

 

May we all get through this pandemic soon and gather in large crowds again and be with everyone in New York and every place else as well. RIP, Jason. (Image via the NYT’s piece).

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

Yikes! It’s April 1st so I am a day late (and a dollar short?) on sending out my latest not-a-newsletter of highlights and ramblings since the one a month ago.Here’s a few things I’ve found noteworthy in March to share with you:

Pandemic:Right now the pandemic has been about the next wave (sadly) and vaccines (happily). It’s been a real roller coaster when it has come to vaccines. But with all the ups and downs, more and more vaccines have been distributed, thank heavens. The latest medical miracle is from Johnson & Johnson. This piece talks about how they work which I thought helpful. Also helpful is this piece from the site Our World in Data, which has some great stats on how vaccinations worldwide are doing. It gives me hope.

Locally, here’s how Ontario is doing: Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccination plan. Not bad, but not great. Somewhere through the pandemic the Ontario provincial government reverted to the idea that somehow being frugal during a catastrophe is a good idea. So we got things like this: Ontario rejected proposals to protect LTC residents, deeming them ‘too expensive’: documents, according to CBC News. Being conservative with water is a good idea, except when your house is on fire, but that looks to be the approach of the current Ford government. His team is not the only group coming up short. Toronto is struggling with a homelessness problem, and has lead to bad situations like this crackdown on tiny shelters. Meanwhile vaccine portals everywhere are failing. We all hoped for better. Meanwhile we all slog along. It’s tough.

A year into the pandemic, the effect on people is significant. Even people who have the luxury of working from home are struggling.  Artists in particular are having a hard time getting by, based on this really good piece in the New York Times on how 75 Artists On How They Spent a Year in Coronavirus . Even those who have been productive in the pandemic, like the famed art duo Gilbert and George, acknowledge that “this is an enormously sad time’ . So if you feel down on yourself, it’s understandable. But not hopeless, as this writer/runner shows. You may have given up on things, but you can start again.

Looking back, we were so cautiously optimistic at the beginning of the pandemic, making food and doing crafts. I was  using sites like this and also this to make zines. Others made chapbooks. And of course we all cooked a ton. Here’s an almost nostalgic run down of all the pandemic food trends, from Dalgona coffee to banana bread.

Post-pandemic: While the pandemic still rages on, with the rollout of vaccines, we are already looking forward to what the world is going to be like afterwards. For example, will vaccine passports be a thing? Will services discriminate based on that, as this piece discusses: Should Only Vaccinated People Be Allowed to Use the Gym?. Will our work places change? Will they feature things like this?

One thing I am afraid will happen is people will start arguing that all the sacrifices made and all the money spent wasn’t worth it. That we were duped. You can see the gaslighting already starting here: The Lockdowns Weren’t Worth It – WSJ. The thing to note in that piece is the total disregard for those who died and those who became sick. There is no accounting in it for deaths and illnesses that could have been avoided. Be on the lookout for that.

Meanwhile, if you are preparing to travel post pandemic, this is a good guide on how to visit New York City on a budget . And here’s a fun guide on how to go to concerts when you’re middle-aged because let’s face it you are going to want to do it all.

 Newsletters: still a thing. We’ve gotten to the point where they are so successful that there are debates about who is making money and what should be done about it. To see what I mean, read this: Why Substack writers are mad about money Substack is paying out – Vox.

US : I came across this article years ago concerning the Obama Administration:
Barack Obama is officially one of the most consequential presidents in American history – Vox. Funny enough, I think the Biden Administration took it as a challenge! They seem to be trying to outpace not even Obama but LBJ or FDR. It’s early days, but there is a sense Biden’s team will make great changes to the social contract in the US. Perhaps more and more people in America will be able to agree with Wallace Shawn in this essay he wrote: Why I Call Myself a Socialist.

Finally: if you can barely manage to make anything food wise these days, I recommend you read this: THE MINIMALIST; Three-Way Pasta – The New York Times. It’s a classic from Mark Bittman. I usually try to have a pasta dinner once a week. With that in hand, I have ¾ of the month covered in terms of what to make.

If you find working from home stressful, this might be helpful. How lo-fi artists make music perfect for work. (Or studying. Or chilling.) 

Perhaps in 2022 more of us will be working in fancy schmantzy sheds like the one below:

I for one would not mind. 🙂

(Image via that piece on how our workplaces will change in Yanko Design)

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

Hi there! Thanks for taking the time to read my latest  not-a-newsletter of highlights and ramblings since the one in January. (Well, it was off January, but it was out in February because of a slow start).

Pandemic: It’s been a year now since I last started writing these newsletters at beginning of the pandemic. Last February I was still going to restaurants, still going to gym, still socializing with people and working in an office. No doubt you were doing that too.

I was going over links from earlier in the pandemic, and it was interesting to see how things evolved. When the pandemic first hit, people were recommending we read The Plague, by Albert Camus to get a sense of reference. That’s something we no longer need after a year. (Still a great book, though read it for other reasons). Back at the end of last March, some were asking if the measures taken were worst than the disease. I doubt anyone is asking that now. A big thing back then was making sure you washed your hands thoroughly.Some hackers even proposed a DIY Hand Washing Timer. Now we wear double masks. In the fall, someone wrote that it was fine the virus was mutating. That’s no longer true.

We in Canada and other rich countries are now at the beginning of the end (I hope). I am keeping an eye on Ontario’s latest vaccine update and will go when the time is right. Meanwhile we have to get through it somehow, even if this winter is going to seem hard. I wish I had the gumption to
walk 20,000 Steps a Day like this person: some days I barely do 1000. I watch the case counts go up and down. I don’t think anyone knows why. I’ve lost faith in many Canadian leaders, especially when they do things like this or this. Mostly the premiers are trying to get to the finish line somehow, so they keep doing this because the alternative is too expensive, I feel. Even cooking has been affected by the pandemic, with butter no longer being as good as it used to be. Ah well, I need to lose The the ‘Quarantine 15’ anyway.

One silver lining is that the flu seems to have been all but wiped out this year, according to this. I hope that becomes an annual thing after the pandemic is over.

Things I used to write about: I used to ramble often on the U.S., newsletters and restaurants. I no longer feel the need to so. The Biden administration is more than competent, and it’s almost like Trump no longer was president. The sooner he fades away, the better. Restaurants have not faded away, but they have definitely faded. Happily most are hanging in. I remain cautiously optimistic. Newsletters have done anything but fade: they are bigger than ever.

New things: Clubhouse seems to be the next new social media thing. If you haven’t received an invite, chances soon you will. Like podcasts, Tiktok and other new social media, there will be a rush to it at first, and there will be some people who suddenly become famous as a result. It looks promising, and it likely will be a big new platform. At least as long as the pandemic is underway. One thing to point out, though, is there are concerns with how secure and private it is. Keep that in mind.

Another new thing I like that isn’t new at all: Jacques Pepin. I love watching his videos on Instagram. He’s on YouTube too. Here he is making an egg. I have more to write on him in the days ahead.

Fun things: for a hot minute after the Inauguration there were all these memes of Bernie Sanders dressed up with mittens and placed in all these unlikely settings. Someone even wrote a bit of software to let you do it yourself! You can find it here.

Instagram and Facebook: I deleted my Facebook account years ago, after my Dad died. I didn’t like Facebook the company: they have been an abuser of people privacy since the early days, and they continue to be morally shoddy. Once both my parents were gone, I no longer felt the need to be on that platform in any way.

Meanwhile I’ve been trying to pretend Instagram is different, even though Facebook owns them. Based on how the service is changing and becoming more and more like its owner, I am having a hard time keeping up the illusion.

I am still hesitant to delete my Instagram account. I like the people who post on there, and I’d miss them if I left. I am still there, but I archived my posts from almost a decade. It took a long time, to be honest; that may be a design feature of Instagram. It may be easier to delete your account.

If you do want to delete your account, here’s a piece on how you can backup your photos first.

Good things: finally here’s some good things I’ve read about recently, including this story about a guy who goes on walks and picks up garbage. Here’s some coffee scented candles to pick up your day. If you are feeling like you need to have a good moment right now, read this.

Until the next newsletter, let’s keep each other safe by doing what this illustration says.

pandemic advice

January pandemic highlights and ramblings (a newsletter, in blog form, a month late)

Hey! How has your new year been? Mine has not started great: January was both tough and busy. I kept trying to get to this, but somehow never had the energy or the focus to write it. Now I have found both. Thanks for dropping by and reading this, my latest not-a-newsletter of highlights and ramblings since the last one in December.

Pandemic: we are now in the phase of the pandemic where we are being told in Canada to hurry up and wait concerning the vaccines. It’s been slow to get them, and slow to deliver them. The rate of progress has been discouraging. To make it worse, more variants of the COVID-19 virus have appeared, variants that spread more rapidly. I feel like someone on the Titanic waiting for my turn on a lifeboat while the ship takes on more water. And I am lucky to be able to stay at home and stay healthy. Meanwhile doctors are hospitals are overwhelmed and hanging on. Barely.

Vox took time to try and figure out why Covid-19 beat social distancing, lockdowns, and “flatten the curve”. Reading that could give you some consolation.

Of course, everyone had their monocausal explanations for why we are still struggling with the pandemic. The premier of Ontario brought in another lockdown because he said people are traveling too much. That’s one explanation, but not the only one.

In the early part of the pandemic I felt governments were strong on taking actions. They were like sprinters at the start of a marathon. Then things petered out. For example, the Federal government funded a Toronto COVID-19 isolation hotel. They pumped big money into the economy. Provinces like Ontario provided pandemic pay for frontline workers fighting COVID-19. But I never felt like they tried as hard recently as they did initially.

That’s not to say it is easy and they aren’t trying. This piece explains why
it’s so hard to ramp up Ontario’s COVID-19 testing. Yet it still seems like things are half hearted these days.

It’s not all grim, though much is. We have adopted. Sweatpants for instance :). And we are trying to maintain some form of work-life balance, but as my head boss says,  achieving healthy work-life balance in a hybrid work environment ‘remains to be seen’. Some of us are making unique friends (Riding Out Quarantine With a Chatbot Friend: ‘I Feel Very Connected’).  Some people tried to get out of their old pandemic habits and live better by taking on a Dry January. Others have taken up unusual self help books, such as this: A working from home manual in disguise.

I believe by the end of 2021 we will have put this pandemic behind us. Perhaps we will see a Roaring Twenties to match those of a century ago. Let’s hope, and for those who pray, let’s pray. Most importantly, let’s get vaccinated. If you want to know more about vaccines  in Canada, go here. More on that here.

Last word on this subject. If you want to know how others are getting through the pandemic, this is good: The Pandemic Logs in The New York Times.

The US: finally, after much nonsense, the worst president the United States ever had left the White House. What a long terrible four years it has been for America and the world with him nominally in charge. Whatever else the new president does, the fact that he is at least competent and not corrupt will be good for that country. I am hopeful for America, and my American friends, and I am looking forward to things getting better for them in the years to come.

Restaurants: I was drawn to this piece that Bon Appetit did some time ago on the best restaurants in Toronto . I wonder how many will still be around when all this is over. Some of them have taken to becoming takeout places, like this Michelin-starred restaurant, but many have not. Even for those that did, it might not be enough to get through to the other side of the pandemic.

Gamestop: It has a bizarre time in the world of finance as several forces came together to drive stocks like Gamestock into the stratosphere, only to crash down again. In some ways, it was a bit of a mystery to me. Just when I thought I understood the story, so me new fact would come along. There was a number of good pieces on it. This one, for example: The GameStop Reckoning Was a Long Time Coming

Jeff Bezos and Amazon:  Jeff Bezos has left Amazon. No doubt he was not looking forward to more grilling from the government into his monopolistic practices. I don’t have much to say about him, other than he did  not seem to be a person you want to work for. Here’s hoping Amazon becomes a better place with the new CEO. Meanwhile here’s some markers on the man who ran that company. Like Larry Ellison and unlike Steve Jobs, I doubt he will be missed:

Quantity over quality : there is a great book called Art and Fear which gives lessons on making art. One of my favorite parts of it has to do with how a ceramics class was split into two: one group were given the task of making many vases (quantity) and another group of making one vase (quality). The first group would pit their best vase against the second group. In the story, the first group wins. The lesson: quantity beats quality. I love that story.

Sadly, the story isn’t entirely true. The details on that are here: The Credibility Is in the Details.

Recent blog highlights: here are some things I blogged about in January that I thought were worth reading:

Finally: here is an interactive web site where you can be a cat playing the bongos. Worthwhile! 🙂

And don’t forget…

Good news is coming. Meanwhile, thanks as always for taking the time to read this newsletter, and other things on this blog. I appreciate it.

 

On recording (why you should think about it differently, why you should resolve to do it)

Recording. Record. To me those words bring up images of black vinyl disks to play music. Records are great, but there is so much more to making a recording.

A recording can be anything, on any media. All the photos you take on your phone and store on Instagram are a recording. All the receipts you collect in a box are a recording too: a recording of what you spent and where you spent it. Last year I wrote down all the dinners I had since the start of the pandemic: it too is a recording.

For 2021, a good resolution is to record some part of your life. Do it in a way that is easy to do regularly. Do it such that there is enough information to look at it later. Some of my recordings this year were terrible: books I read, runs I went on. Others were strong: things I enjoyed despite the pandemic, politicians I wrote, friends I kept in contact with.

Some people like to use paper for this. Austin Kleon, a master of recording, outlines his process here: The year in notebooks. As he says

If you’re looking for a New Year’s Resolution, keeping a daily notebook is a pretty solid one.

On the other hand, if you are a digital person like me, use a simple tool like SimpleNote or Evernote or just your smartphone camera to record that part of your life. Whatever tool works best for you is the best tool.

It doesn’t have to be a diary or journal format. It can be a log of the best thing that happened each day. Or the funniest thing that happened that week.  Or the weather. Just record something, even if it is a few words.

There’s a number of benefits to making these recordings. If you do it well, at the end of your year you may be able to build up a list like this: 100 things that made my year (2020) – Austin Kleon. Even if your list is smaller, what you may get out of such a list is a recording of what makes your life worth living and what made things worthwhile during times when perhaps things weren’t that great.

Later, as you go through it again, your memory will fire up and you may recall other good moments not captured on paper or computer but still there. That’s another great thing about recording things: it helps you remember so much more.

Your life has value and meaning. Recordings help show that. So get making them.

(Photos by Photo by Samantha Lam  (top) and  by Markus Winkler  (bottom) on Unsplash)

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

Well well well, it’s the last month of 2020, and my last not-really-a-newsletter newsletter! I appreciate you taking a moment to read my latest not-a-newsletter of highlights and ramblings since the one in November.

I’m not sure if I will continue these here and in this format in the new year. Let’s see. Something for me to consider as the year closes. But for now, here’s things I’ve been thinking on since the last one:

Pandemic: It’s hard not to think about the pandemic. Since November, the pandemic has only gotten worse in many places. My town and province is no exception. Cases are up, deaths are up, efforts to flatten the curve seem to be going nowhere. My son’s school was shut down then the rest of the schools were shut down. As for leadership, it seems very reactive these days. A good analysis of that is here: With the pandemic surging, we need more leadership and less urging – The Globe and Mail. Also this piece: Why Doug Ford is stumbling during COVID-19’s second wave? Too often governments thought they could somehow manage the disease and open the economy. They couldn’t.

One of the reason deal with COVID has been so frustrating is well captured in this image:

Governments everywhere keep fiddling with the dial as if to find the right setting, and then find there is none. (Image from xkcd: Covid Precaution Level)

Some places have managed better than others, but even there it has not been perfect. Not long after this came out,  Living in Nova Scotia’s Covid-Free World – The New York Times, they had an outbreak in cases. Nova Scotia is still doing very well, but it is hard to stay perfect. (I’m looking at you New Zealand.)

Besides the health costs, there are the economic costs of the pandemic too. Articles like this come out every month in Toronto: Toronto rent prices are down 15% since last year at this time. Since that one, the rents have dropped to 20%. Meanwhile, places like The Gap are calling it quits in parts of the city: The Gap is closing its flagship store in Toronto

It may be a sad reality that many of storefronts will be boarded up  when the pandemic is over. Indeed, many are boarded up now.

And it will be over, this awful time. Vaccines are rolling out now. Here are places you can use to track it:

In the meantime, stay safe and try to stay healthy this winter. If you are in Toronto, consider this:  A New Way to Play: Recreation During COVID-19 – City of Toronto

Non-pandemic items:

The US: This newsletter is not just about the pandemic. It’s also time to send out a big Bronx cheer to the current president of the United States. I often argued that he was not the worst president in American history. I am wavering in that belief. Just the number of unnecessary deaths resulting from his inaction make him truly terrible. As we lift up the rock and uncover more about him, I think he will only seem worse. Meanwhile, here’s a good piece on his ending: Trump’s Final Days of Rage and Denial – The New York Times.

I would settle for Biden just being not-Trump. But he has a chance to do more. I hope he will. Here’s one way he could do it: Biden transition: How he could act fast and outrun Republican opposition to his presidency – Vox

The economy: One thing we are doing to hear a lot about is the deficits and debts now. This is not the time to do that. There is still much needs to be done for the world to recover. Not only that, but interest rates for some nations are essentially negative. See this for details: China Borrows at Negative Rates for the First Time – WSJ

One group in Canada you might hear banging on about the debt is the Fraser Institute. So here’s a reminder from PressProgress: pay no attention to anything the Fraser Institute says. Even if you are a right winger, at least find some source that doesn’t manipulate the facts.

Newsletters: they have become old hat now. So much so I think I will not comment on them any more. I would like to highlight one last one, though.  David Lebovitz has moved to Substack. Here is his.. He also has a great blog. He’s been an excellent user of social media for some time (not to mention a fine cook and author). Go check him out. Meanwhile, for anyone tired of turning bananas into banana bread, check out this: Banana and Chocolate Chip Upside Down Cake (Lowfat) – David Lebovitz

My blog: ICYMI, I wrote earlier on this blog about friluftsliv (a concept you should know), Ikea,  cardigans and why they are great, Betty Godwin and why she is great, various cocktails (and why you should drink them), as well as being moderately gifted,  being good  and being Paul McCartney.

Thanks for reading this, as well as anything else on my blog. I always appreciate it.

And for those celebrating it:

On blogging/writing online in 2020 (how I write now)


In 2020, blogging is back. At least blogging as newsletters. Think Substack and all the people flocking to there. Blogging on WordPress (or Blogger or Tumblr or other blogging platforms) is not as hot but still going strong.

That’s good. I am a fan of more writing and better writing, whether it comes in blog form or newsletter form. Bring it on.

I continue to write here as I have been for some time.  I’ve written a number of pieces on blogging over the last decade; this piece will join that.

I’ll likely to continue writing here until I get 1,000,000 hits (currently at 976,745 hits) but given the limited readership, that may never happen. I’ll keep writing, regardless. We all need goals, and the million hits is one of mine.

Currently I sit down every Saturday morning and review interesting things I’ve found on the Internet and saved in Pocket. I have over 1000 things still in Pocket, not to mention a spreadsheet of old links that were noteworthy. There’s always something of interest to write about. Plus the Internet never stops being interesting.

I usually take 3-4 hours to write about these things. Then I schedule them to be posted throughout the week. My thinking is that this is more likely to bring a wider readership to them. My SEO skills are limited, but this is my thinking.

I enjoy this writing time. I grab some breakfast and a coffee and craft the posts. I grab images from Unsplash.com to illustrate the posts. It’s a hobby and something I enjoy doing. I love doing it. I’m an amateur writer and thinker.

I try and mix up the posts for readers. Something on Monday to help you get your week started. Something fun on Friday. Something to make your weekend better on Saturday. Perhaps a more thoughtful post on Sunday.

As always I think: would someone reading this get any benefit? Much of my posts are advice, but in areas I am interested in. I want to share things of interest to me but that will also interest others.

Once a month I go back over posts from other years. Today I will go back over the December posts. It’s fascinating to see what was interesting to me in other years.

Whenever I am lost for what my audience is, I think: would someone in my family want to read this? Or one or more of my friends? Once I have that one reader, I can write to them. Many of my posts are letters to people that may not realize it.

Since the pandemic, I have started a newsletter within the blog. I haven’t broken it out into its separate media. Just like I never moved to Tumblr or Medium or took up podcasts. This blog is sufficient for what I want to communicate and record.

I have a few other blogs on WordPress: one on cooking that I enjoy writing from time to time. A few others that are experimental. I use Instagram still because it is easy, but photography is a very separate and different media.

I’ll continue to write here, writing for smart people I know. I’ve been doing it since before the World Wide Web.  Why stop now?

As always, for those who have read this far:

An appropriate thank you card for this era.

(Coffee Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash. The other image is also from Unsplash but I could not find who to attribute it to)

The next time someone complains about the length of a recipe…

Online recipe

Show them this article by 

It’s the perfect comeback for them.  It’s dripping in sarcasm, as it should.

My other response to people who complain about food writers writing about food (duh) is to send them a link to allrecipes.com.

If you just want a recipe for food, go there. Otherwise stop complaining already.

(Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash)

 

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

Hi there! It’s time for my monthly newsletter-but-not of highlights and ramblings. As always, thanks for stopping by and reading this.

It’s been an intense period of time since October. Starting with the pandemic…

Pandemic – bad: we have terrible new statistics coming out of many places, including Canada. Months ago people were talking about the second wave, and now it seems to be crashing over us in so many places. I am fearful it is going to take a dreadful toll on us this winter. I think so much has collapsed and as I feared in the last newsletter, people are just dropping the ball. Here in Canada I see a number of provincial leaders just floundering and since healthcare is their jurisdiction, I am not hopeful things will get better soon.  And it’s not just Canada: many other countries seem to be either flailing or bringing in stricter measures. I think sooner than later many places will head back to lockdown.

And it’s not just Canadian politicians. I think people have become more social and the natural outcome of this is more spreading of the virus, more people getting sick, and more people dying.

Pandemic – good: the silver lining is the news of the vaccines coming out. It can’t happen soon enough, though obviously it is going to be well into 2021 before we get them.  Let’s hope there is enough will and discipline to crack down on socialization and other contributors to the spread of COVID-19 until they are widely delivered.

Pandemic – otherwise: I thought this was an interesting approach to the pandemic: Self-care in 2020: I’m handling the election and the pandemic by throwing a series of tantrums

There’s been much good said about how the Atlantic Provinces have been handling the pandemic. But it has come at a cost. For example my home of Cape Breton has no air travel in or out of Sydney airport: Air Canada flights cancelled between Sydney, Halifax | CBC News. There is no rail either: that was cancelled long ago. Sad.

Personally,  I have not done much differently since March. I went to two indoor restaurants with plenty of social distancing in the summer, and I have had two indoor gatherings with two other people outside my tiny bubble of four, but that’s it. What I have found is I am just am accepting things as normal now. I don’t have any special projects or activities on the go the way I was earlier in the pandemic. But I am not putting things on hold either: I find I am looking forward to things that I can afford to look forward to.

The USA : the other big news of the last month is the defeat of Donald Trump by Joe Biden. Whatever shortcomings President Biden will have, they will be nothing in comparison to the shortcomings of President Trump. I argued some time ago that Trump was not the worst US President ever. I think Buchanan still might be. But I think Trump might be the second worse now, given the number of preventable deaths due to COVID if he had acted sooner. Like I said, I think Buchanan is still the worst, but with the deaths, corruption, lying, nepotism, and so many other faults, Trump is the second worst. At least he is no longer President, come January. All the world will benefit from this.

Speaking of Trump, this was quite a story: Donald Trump Has At Least $1 Billion In Debt, More Than Twice The Amount He Suggested. . I suspect he will be having more than his fair share of difficulties starting with his time out of office.

Restaurants: restaurants still continue to have a tough time of it, and come winter in Canada, I don’t know how many we will lose. Likely a lot. So I am always on the lookout for any sliver of hope out there. One I found was this innovative way to provide food.

Related to that is this article: Has the pandemic changed how we eat forever? – The Globe and Mail. Not sure if it has changed it “forever”, but it will have changed it substantially and for a long time to come.

Newsletters: Not sure if I am going to keep highlighting them. But for now I will mention that if you want a really good newsletter on the law, and I think you do, I highly recommend The Popehat Report. The author, Ken White, goes by the name of Popehat on twitter. I learn something new an in depth every time I read it.

Speaking of newsletters, the Substack service seems to be on a roll when it comes to signing up big names to provide newsletter services. I suspect this will build for awhile as a gold rush of sorts occurs. Lots of people will think they will be able to cash in. But as always the Long Tail effect will occur, and just a small number of people will really benefit from the monetization of newsletter.

Climate Change: Between the pandemic and the US election, it has been easy to forget there is still a climate crisis occurring. There are so many examples of it, but this struck me: Phoenix to break record for most 100-degree days in calendar year – The Washington Post. Eventually many parts of the world will be uninhabitable as time passes and Climate Change worsens.

Cool science: gravitational waves were first discovered in 2015. Since then, scientists have captured 50 events pertaining to gravitational waves. Here’s what that means: What 50 Gravitational-wave Events Reveal about the Universe – Scientific AmericanI love that this new tool is already letting us learn so much more about our universe.

Cool tech: I have been a fan of Raspberry Pis for a long time. They continue to come out with new and improved versions of the technology. Case in point, this: Raspberry Pi 400 – Complete Kit – BuyaPi.ca. It could be a great way to get someone interested in computers.

Plants: I’ve written number of pieces on plants; you can find themhere. I used to be terrible with them. But one good thing about the pandemic is that I am home all the time. This helps me keep a better eye on my green friends. Partially as a result of that, they are thriving. If you have problems with plants, I recommend that you read this: How to stop killing your houseplants – Vox

Finally: I realize the pandemic is getting you down. Your not alone. But there are vaccines coming, so find ways to deal with it until then.

Remember:

 

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

Welcome to Autumn: a season so nice they named it twice (Autumn/Fall). Thanks again for reading one of my kinda/sorta/not really newsletters containing things on my mind since the last one in September. Let’s jump in:

The Pandemic – bad: well the pandemic seems to be going pear shaped all over the world. Places that have kept their numbers down have suddenly dropped the ball and have seen their numbers increase. There are a few exceptions, like New Zealand and the Atlantic provinces in Canada. But they are few and far between and likely in isolated places, I believe. As for Canada overall, I think this is a very good analysis of where we currently are with the pandemic: Opinion: With winter coming and the virus spreading, a feeling of dread is setting in – The Globe and Mail. I am afraid it will get worse.

The Pandemic – good: Not everything is gloom and doom, though. Some fun and joyous things have happened. For instance, the night of a thousand wines. One of the fun things that happened in the pandemic is the night Susan Orlean got drunk and then took to twitter. The results were
unintentionally hilarious. You can read about them, here. (She feels no shame, so I do not feel bad sharing this. Hey, it happens.)

One of the nicest things to happen recently is the viral video of the guy skateboarding while drinking cranberry juice and listening to Fleetwood Mac. Here’s more on that: Millions of Views Later, Nathan Apodaca Keeps the Vibe Going – The New York Times

Another one of the more positive things to come out of the pandemic: Gay couples take over the hashtag #ProudBoys to drown out the hate group – The Washington Post.

Dealing with discomfort: I wrote this three years ago, on how to think about living with discomfort. I think it holds up and is worth reading if you are suffering.

New Newsletters: Last time I hadn’t thought of any newsletters worth mentioning. Not this time. First up is this one from Laura Calder. It’s monthly and is packed with lots of good things to read. Highly recommended. For people who like a thoughtful political newsletter, there is this one, from Siri Agrell: Loss Leader.

The U.S.: well, not long now before the U.S. election.  Thank god. Here’s hoping for a change in the leadership. Both America and the world needs it. But remember, whatever bad things you think about Trump, he is STILL not the worst president ever. This guy is.

Restaurants: up until now restaurants have been getting by with patio service and by coming up with new ways to serve their customers. To see what I mean, here’s an innovative way to provide food by a place in Toronto. Elsewhere, here’s a good story of how restaurants are changing to meet the demands put on them from the pandemic: Tom Sietsema: To weather the pandemic, restaurants reinvent themselves, again and again – The Washington Post. I don’t want to paint too rosy a picture. It’s been a brutal time for restaurants.

Personal News:  Here’s the recent obituary for my uncle: Obituary of Pat Hall, Glace Bay. RIP, Pat. You were a good man.

It is an odd feeling to see your life reflected in a web page, but this one does.

My mom is referenced in that obit. When she died, I thought about this artwork often.

 You can find more about it here.

IBM: Big shake up coming for my employer: IBM, Seeing Its Future in the Cloud, Breaks Off I.T. Unit – The New York Times. I don’t have any great insights into this. It seems like a wise move. Then again, it seemed that way when John Akers did it. Time will tell.

Meanwhile I celebrated by 37th year at IBM this October 3rd. For someone who was surprised to not have to go on the “pogey” after a year, it’s been a long and rewarding trip. I wrote a long piece about it 10 years ago. (One thing I like about my blog is going back in time.)

Google Assistant: I have become a fan of Google Assistants over the last while. I now have three devices for this: a Google mini, my Sonos speaker, and this Lenovo Smart Clock (which I wrote about). I have found it has made my life better. I use it to play music, get the time, get the weather. The one in the kitchen is especially great because I can do so much just by talking to the mini. I highly recommend them.

Cooking: I wrote this a while ago about how to make French fries. If you love french fries, you should read it. It will change your life (or at least have you making fries more :)). And it is also the season for sheet pan cooking. Here’s some good advice I found on that, here.

Exercise tips: if you are like me, you need to exercise. Here’s some tips!

Pandemic – funny: this is almost funny, if you like dark humour. Here are some pandemic predictions I found recently from March, 2020. Needless to say, much of this is wrong: Coronavirus going to hit its peak and fall sooner than you think.

Not that I am one to gloat. Here is me from October 2015 predicting the next American president!

Finally, it is thanksgiving here in Canada. I am thankful and grateful for many things, despite this trying time. I hope you are too.

(Photo by 🇨🇭 Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum on Unsplash)

If you have gotten to here, thank you so much. I appreciate you taking the time to read this.

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Swedish death blogging: on my favorite parts of my blog and more


I have blogged for over 13 years. I have almost 3900 posts, over 964,000s view and over 221,000 visitors. I’ve also made over 200 dollars from ads. 🙂
At one time I had hoped to get over a million views, but at 50 views a day, that is unlikely to happen. When I first started, I wrote blog posts because blogs were new and big in social media. Then I was added as a noteworthy blog on the New York Times Fashion blog list (for bizarre reasons) and I had 10 times the current traffic and I blogged to keep it going. Then that changed and I kept going to practice writing, to share ideas and advice with people, and to journal things that were happening at the time.

But in the back of my mind I had a thought that some day my kids would want to know more about their dad and they might go through my blog the way kids go through our diaries and letters after their parents pass on. To find out what made him tick. What he thought about when he was sitting on the porch those many years.

I realized though that they were never going to go through thousands of posts to find the ones I thought the most of. As a way of ensuring they would at least read some of them, I’ve tagged my favorite ones and put them here: favorites | Smart People I Know

.They are a range in different ways. I can’t say all or even most of them are any good. But of the thousands of posts here, these are among the better ones, I thought. They span the years. Some of them are about me. Others are about things I loved at the time. A few of them are historically interesting.

In a way this is like Swedish Death Cleaning: throwing away most things that you own to simplify things for people who come later.  I don’t plan on going anywhere yet, but I thought I would get started on the process now.

As well, it’s been a way to go through it and say, has any of this been worthwhile? I think I can say, some of it has. If you go through my favorites, you can see so for yourself.

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It’s 2019. Should you start a blog?


This article makes the case: Why You Should Start A Blog In 2019. Austin Kleon backs that up, here.

If you do certain things on a regular basis, you should blog. For example:

  • If you contribute to twitter on a regular basis, then you should consider blogging. All those tweets will be lost: your blog posts won’t.
  • If you discover new ways to do things, blogging is a way for other people to find it
  • If you want to demonstrate your expertise, a blog is one way to do that
  • If you want to keep a historical record of parts of your life, blogging is a good way to do it
  • If you find good things on the web and you want to track and comment on them, write that up in a blog post
  • If you find yourself sharing the same information with others regularly, write a piece on your blog and then point people to it
  • If you want to improve your writing, blogging is one way to do that

Forget about becoming famous or having a million viewers or getting rich. Just start simply and write what matters to you. Get a blog.

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Two good sources of images for your website/blog/whathaveyou.

Are Unsplash and Pexels.com

You can do something great with them. (Image from Unsplash)

Merry Christmas!

For those celebrating, a very merry christmas.

For those looking to relax after a busy day, here are many Christmas links I’ve gathered over the years for you to read if you are still in the Christmas spirit.

 

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Some thoughts on the end of Paul Krugman’s blog and blogging generally

I accidentally went to Paul Krugman’s blog today and was surprised to see he ended it some time ago. To quote him:

A message for regular readers of this blog: unless something big breaks later today, this will be my last day blogging AT THIS SITE. The Times is consolidating the process, so future blog-like entries will show up at my regular columnist page. This should broaden the audience, a bit, maybe, and certainly make it easier for the Times to feature relevant posts.

I remember when the Times (and many other places) finally recognized blogging as a way of communicating and started a big section on their site to blogging.

Is blogging dead? Not really. It’s no longer what is what, but people are still blogging. Does it matter? No. Blogging is writing. Communicating via words on the Internet. We have all these tools and media to communicate. For a time, blogging and blogs were a way to share that writing. Now people are doing it other ways.

What matters is the writing. The format matters much less. I still like the blogging format, but what I like more is that so many people can communicate with others.

Meanwhile, here’s a link to Krugman’s blog: Economics and Politics by Paul Krugman – The Conscience of a Liberal – The New York Times

Blogging: still a good idea


Of all the social media that has come along in the last 10 years, blogging is in some ways the best of them all. It allows for a wide range of expression.  It is not ephemeral. It has a freshness to it, but you can look back in a few years and still read it.

I recommend that everyone blogs. Even in 2017. If you are still skeptical, consider this piece: Seth Godin Explains Why You Should Blog Daily — CJ Chilvers

This is my 3000th post on this blog. Some thoughts.

Hard to believe, but this is my 3000th post on this blog, smartPeopleIKnow. I’ve been writing to this blog since April 2007 – over 8 years! – and have over 860,000 views.  It’s along way from the 10-12 views a day I used to get.

I never thought I would have so many people read my thoughts. Before blogging, the only way to get people to read your writing broadly was to publish a book, or appear in a magazine or newspaper.

While I write on pretty much any topic, the three top posts have had to do with fashion: Why I buy suits from Zara, How to wear brown and blue together, and
How to Set the time on a Phillipe Starck Watch. I can’t say for sure whay that is. I know that posts on how to do things get more views. Makes sense: people are always searching for how to do things.

It’s been alot of fun. And I still hope to achieve my goal of reaching a million views. Maybe in a year or so.

 

 

Some thoughts on blogging and social media with the news that Dooce is retiring

According to one big name blogger, Jason Kottke, another big name blogger, Dooce, is retiring. How big is big? According to this piece in the NYTimes.com (Heather Armstrong, Queen of the Mommy Bloggers – NYTimes.com), she is hinted at having earned $1M / year. That’s pretty good money. This comes on the heels of Andrew Sullivan, another big name blogger, who recently retired too.  From the sounds of it, Jason Kottke himself is thinking that the days of blogging are numbered. It seems the days of a very limited number of big name bloggers making good money are numbered.

Dooce, Kottke, Sullivan and others rode the wave of the golden age of blogging. Dooce and Kottke kept up the format longer than others. Sullivan, Josh Marshall, and many of the political bloggers I started following years ago, have all but abandoned pure blogging. Marshall’s TPM still retains some elements of his original blog, but his site is more like CNN and less like a traditional blog. Sullivan’s site was chronological, but it was more like a blog on steroids that turned out 30 or more posts a day from a variery of sources. Others, like Nate Silver (538), Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein (Vox) all went off and start up variations of what Marshall did with TPM. The model of Vox and 538 is more like Buzzfeed and less like a blog.

Kottke and Dooce are good at what they do, but they also were in the right place at the right time. I admired Kottke and modelled my blog off of what he did, but in truth, there was no way my blog would ever catch his. The same goes for Dooce and her mommy blogging. They occupy the left end of the long tail, while most of us occupy the right end. That’s fine: it is great that it is possible for anyone to be able to write and have it published for free. While your writing may not be read widely, it will be read by more people than you expect. That has certainly been the case for me. When I first started, I was thrilled to have anyone read my blog. As of this post, thousands of people have read my posts over 800,000 times. I am still astonished by that.

Like much in IT, blogging hasn’t died so much as it has been displaced. One time blogging was about the only social media out there. Now, all media is social media.  There are so many choices now. Not only that, but as networks get faster, sites like YouTube and Vine and other visual sites attract more attention. Video is the future.

Blogging still exists and likely will continue to exist for some time. The fact you are reading this proves that. As well, blogging platforms like WordPress seem to be doing well. While some platforms like Posterous went away, others like Tumblr continue to attract new writers and new audiences. I expect to see people writing in this format for some time to come.

What I don’t expect to see happen is individuals making the money that Kottke and Dooce and Sullivan made. Those days are done. Perhaps people will make money blogging by doing it in conjunction with sites like Patreon.com. That’s a possibility. Also, people may use blogs as a way to promote other ways they make money.

Blogging, derived from the words “web logging”, was a way to log your thoughts chronologically on the web. It seems  old and trite now. But the need to write and the need to have others read the words that you have written will never get old. We need new and better platforms. Medium.com tried to do that. Other sites, from Google+ to Facebook to Twitter to Ello have all tried to offer some way to do that. Maybe the golden age of online writing via some platform like blogs is over, and people will write less and share less. Or maybe people are waiting for the next great platforms to start creating again.

 

Writing I really enjoy: The New Family / 1,000 Families Project and this piece on Brian, Jen and Emily

If you ready nothing else from the The New Family / 1,000 Families Project, at least read this piece on Brian, Jen and Emily.

I predict after you do, you will want to read more of them. All of the stories I’ve read so far I’ve really enjoyed. The site itself looks great too.

A great look into the many ways we are families. Highly recommended.

How I blog now (for people interested in comparing notes on blogging)

Blogging is dead (so it is said). But I am still blogging, and happily so. Here’s why, here’s what I think has changed, and here’s what I do now.

I have been blogging a long time (since 2005). Over that time I have had blogs on Blogger, WordPress, Posterous, Tumblr, and on IBM’s hosted sites. I still blog on WordPress and IBM. (Posterous is gone, Tumblr feels less like blogging and more like social media sharing (great stuff, but not for me), and Blogger never could top WordPress for me.)

Blogging had it’s big moment in the early Web 2.0 days, and a number of bloggers went on to great success. Then more and different types of social media appeared, making blogging seemed dated and bloated. Even I dropped off blogging and started doing more with Twitter, Instagram, and more.

I have returned to blogging because it still has something that other social media lacks. It allows me to capture longer ideas, unlike other social media. It lets me go back and see what I was thinking about and doing years ago. Most social media is about the Now and about the Group, but blogging is more than that. Blogging extends in time, and starts (but doesn’t end) with me.

I was also incented by a number of small things. One, my blog traffic was declining, and I thought I would like to see if I could reverse it. I like the idea of people reading my blog, and I thought blogging again could improve the decline. Two, WordPress started paying me monthly for my blog traffic. It is a pittance: less than $6 a month. I have a goal to get it up higher than that. Three, I’d like to reach the goal of having a million views of my blog. I started the blog modestly, and I have been happy to see how it has grown. I’d like to hit that number.

Those are small incentives, though. A bigger incentive/goal is that writing my blog is Writing. Blogging is a good word, but what I really want to do is write and write better and eventually write well. Maintaining the blog helps with that goal.

(If your blog is mainly writing, consider saying you are Writing (not Blogging) when you are adding to your blog. A blog is a web log, but if you are trying to do something more than just log things — and you likely are — why not elevate what you are doing by labelling it with a better label?)

How I blog now:

  1. I use a WordPress plugin with my Chrome browser. That allows me to quickly blog about an interesting web page I come across.
  2. If I don’t want to blog about it now, I use instapaper to save interesting pages for later. Then I will take time and go though the saved pages and either blog about them or save them in delicious (or just get rid of them).
  3. To promote my blog posts, I connect twitter to my WordPress blog: whenever I update my blog, I have a link to it posted on twitter.(After all, I want people to read them, and flagging them on twitter is one way to do that).
  4. If I post a number of posts at the same time, I schedule when they are posted. Otherwise, people on twitter will get flooded with them, and I think that doesn’t help get people to read them (and it is likely annoying).
  5. Besides my web browser, I use Feedly to read other blogs. I have integrated Feedly with my WordPress blog using IFTTT. I have an IFTTT recipe that fires off whenever I save a document in Feedly. The recipe will create a new draft in WordPress for me to work on later.
  6. I process the drafts in WordPress using Firefox and a plugin called ScribeFire. ScribeFire used to work with WordPress, but it doesn’t work for mine now. But I still use it to create more complex blog posts (like this one). Then I go to the admin panel of WordPress and update my blog using copy and paste. (I know, this isn’t exactly *easy*, but I had gotten used to ScribeFire and I haven’t found a tool that I like as much as that.)

Unlike many smart bloggers I follow, I tend not to write long form posts. When I do, I write them in Microsoft Word, mainly because if my machine hangs up or reboots or does any number of stupid things, I will not lose what I have written thanks to Word’s superb autosave feature. Once it is good enough (by my meagre standards), I will copy and paste it into WordPress.

China and Web 2.0

 

Cnn.com has alot of stories on very trivial matters. But this China story is anything but. It’s about:

Wei Wenhua (who) was a model communist and is now a bloggers’ hero — a “citizen journalist” turned martyr.

The world needs China to open up, and so does China. Here’s hoping they do. Everyone will benefit.

For more details, see Death pits technology against Chinese control. Kudos to CNN.

Great reasons to start a blog from lifehack.org

For
people who wonder, “why blog?”, the people at lifehack.org have listed
a number of strong reasons why you should in their article, How To Use Your Blog To Make 2008 Your Best Year Ever!

The
article is written from a viewpoint of how to use a blog to improve
yourself, and the bonuses they list regarding blogging (e.g. track
progress, get feedback, share knowledge) apply to anyone, either
personally or professionally.

My favourite new blog: Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories

This is a great site for all you geeks / evil mad scientists.

Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories – Making the World a Better Place, One Evil Mad Scientist at a Time

Tip from one of my other favourite blogs, Geekdad.

How to drive traffic to your blog

Not sure how useful this is, but based on examining my blog stats on WordPress.com, here are some observations I came up with that seem related to driving traffic to my site (not that I am Robert Scoble or anything..and what is alot for me is really not much). But they are practical tips.

Here they are:

  • Make it easy for search engines to find you: use searchable words in your blog title. I used to use interesting titles. Now I think about how to put as many searchable words in the title (and hence the URL) as possible so search engines will fine it.
  • Make the first sentence and the first paragraph catchy: search engine results (like Google) will have the first line or first paragraph highlighted in the search result. Make that something people want to read and therefore clickable.
  • Comment on general interest topics: I wrote an entry on the social effects of Facebook. People search for that alot it seems.
  • Comment on seasonal topics: like Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc. People will be searching for things like that.
  • Comment on things in the news: new media, people in the news, new technology. People will be searching for new things. I am a big fan of Blade Runner, so I blogged about the latest version of it coming out, and I get lots of hits on that.
  • Offer helpful advice: Ok, I don’t know how helpful this is, but I used to have alot of people asking me for wine advice, so I blogged about how to find good cheap wine at the LCBO (i.e. the liquor stores of Ontario). I get alot of hits due to that, and if you google “cheap wine lcbo” I come out ahead of some established wine writers in Ontario. Go figure. I should give up this IT gig and write on wine for a living. 🙂
  • Use Images: I try to use images on my blog entries to make them more appealing (and give credit where it is due). But I also get alot of hits as a result of images.google.com
  • Write on offbeat topics: easier said than done, I know. I once wrote a blog entry on using a blackberry as a flashlight. I get at least 1 person a day searching on that.
  • Comment on sites with automatic trackback: some blogs like those at the nytimes.com and other places have automatic trackback. If you comment on those sites and put a link on your page, you may show up on their site.
  • Include a pointer to your blog whenever you can. 🙂


I’m moving my blog!

Thanks for coming to this blog. If you like my blog, please come and see my new blog at:

http://smartpeopleIknow.blogspot.com

Different domain name, same good contents.

How much is your blog worth?

Go here and find out: How Much is Your Blog Worth?

blogging from a blackberry

One of the nice features that WordPress has is the ability to blog via a mobile device. Just goto https://m.wordpress.com

Very cool.

My favourite blog: (fake) Steve Jobs

A scathing satire of the IT industry and genius-boy himself. 🙂

And here’s the blog.

A very nice blog on Design

Some day, my blog will look as nice as Design Observer: writings about design & culture

WordPress itself!

I decided to look around for a new blogging site after blogger started changing. I considered technorati, but went with WordPress for a number of features, including the option to be notified via email when updates occur (a very nice feature). More from me soon….