Category Archives: new!

On the joy of train travel compared to air travel

 

Train travel is good.  Train travel from Toronto to Montreal and back exceptionally so. Let me count the ways by comparing it to airline travel.

It starts off before you even get on the train. In Toronto you can catch a subway or an Uber to Union Station downtown. Once there, it’s a short walk to get to where you board the train. There’s no getting stuck in traffic on the 401 trying to get to the airport. No paying for expensive cabs or limo. Fast and cheap.

Then you get to the station. There’s no multiple checkpoints to get on the train. You find out where the train is boarding and you line up to get on. Quick and easy.

Once on the train, you have lots of room to move around. No having to sit in your seat all the time. No seatbelts. Wide chairs. Comfortable.

If you take the business class train, you get a constant supply of food and drinks. Wine, caesars, port and cognac is all available and included. Plus hot towels, snacks and full meals. Satisfying.

Then there’s the scenery. There’s lots of it and it’s easy to see out the big windows. Tired of the scenery? You have a good amount of time to watch a movie, read and even nap. Relaxing.

Finally, you start in one downtown and end up in another downtown. You don’t have to get in still another cab to get to your final destination. Sweet.

Sure you can take Porter at Billy Bishop, but you still need to cab into Montreal from Dorval. And while the flight itself is short, the time you take getting to the airport, getting through security, building in extra time so you don’t miss your flight….it all adds up. 

Air travel is essential for long distances. But for shorter distances, you owe it to yourself to take the train.

 

 

It’s Sunday. You could use a nap. You need a nap machine!

Ok, you may need a nap, but you don’t really need a nap machine. On the other hand, it is a very cool thing to consider having:

Intrigued? Go here and read all about it.

 

It’s Labour Day. Put away that computer and make something creative

It’s Labour Day. Take a well earned break from your work. Perhaps you plan to relax and take it easy. That’s a good choice. If you are itching to be more active, though, why not do something creative?

If you are looking to make something, the Washington Post has a section on beginner diy projects.

Perhaps you always wanted to learn to paint? If so, Domestika has this creative watercolor sketching for beginner course.

If you have already started painting and you want to improve your skills, these
YouTube videos by Ian Roberts on Mastering Compostion are good. Likewise, if you can go to the artistsnetwork.com and get guides like this: how to thin acrylic paint and more.

Another source of education is My Modern Met Tutorials.

If you fantasize about going to art school but can’t imagine how you could pay for it, read this: Don’t Want to Pay for Art School? Here’s a Streamlined Syllabus for Getting your MFA.

If you want to do something musical instead, check out patatap, a fun way to make noises and visuals with your keyboard.

Finally, if writing is your thing, you can start a blog here at WordPress. If you want more people to read you though, consider writing for a larger audience and see if they will still take first person articles at The Globe and Mail.

There’s lots of ways to be creative. Have fun!

How to find more joy in your life

If you want to find more joy for your life, you can go about it in two ways. One way is to read the work of Ingrid Fetell Lee. She has a book and a web site that can help you do just that. I like her and recommend her.

So that’s one way. Another way is simpler and almost too obvious. List all the things you enjoy…those are the things that bring you joy! They are people, places and things. They are activities. They are inactivities! They are free things, and not so free things. They are rare things, and they are common things.

Here’s the main thing though: when you enjoy them, take the time to really enjoy them. I often find I partake in things I enjoy, but I allow myself to get distracted. Don’t be like me. If you are enjoying a sunrise, or a trip to someplace new, or a conversation with a friend, or a new outfit, really enjoy it.

On Counting

Too often I seem to spend my days counting. Counting the hours in the day until the work day is done. Counting the hours in the evening until the day is done. There is little joy in such hours: I am just passing through them. Some hours are boring: others are painful. At night I often think: ok, that day is over. Thank god.

Before I get up in the morning, I find my brain anticipating the hours ahead and trying to deal with them. Some mornings I can convince my brain to think about something else until I get up; some mornings that enough to let me get back to sleep.

For a long time I did not want to be here anymore. I had converted it from not wanting  “to be” to “not want to be here”.  Other people want me to be and want me to be here, and so not wanting to make things worse, I remain. A remainder of a divided life. I try my best to be responsible for those who want that dividend.

Lately people have taken to treating my heart. They are worried about the literal one, but the metaphorical one is troublesome too. Hearts are too often troublesome.

People make recommendations to improve, as if I don’t know. As if I have not tried. I know enough. Enough to keep counting. Counting the days, the hours, the beats. Counting things that don’t count. Counting on things that matter will go on after me.

Counting down. Counting off. Counting.

 

 

And how should we live our days?


One day at a time, surely. Intentionally, also. Reflective, of course.

For a good guide on that, see: How to Make the Most of Your 24 Hours at zen habits.

P.S. I haven’t posted anything from zen habits in some time, but I recommend that after you read that, you explore other posts on his blog. Worthwhile, I recall.

P.S.S. Happy Birthday, Ma, wherever you are.

 

 

 

On restaurants loved and lost: Mike’s Lunch in Glace Bay

It doesn’t look like much. Only that Teem sign on the right tells you that this is the location of the famous Mike’s Lunch of Glace Bay. It had a good run of 109 years in various locations in my hometown before closing in 2019.  It was one of my favorite restaurants in the whole world, and it was the first place I went and dined by myself as a young man.

Back when I was young, it was located on Commercial Street in a little galley type restaurant. It had a counter in the middle where you ate, while pinball machines lined the walls behind you and the cooking was done in front of you. In the summer I would sit next to the open door and look out at the beautiful house across the street (the only house left on Commercial Street). I can remember the sunshine and the warmth and the joy of sitting there while I waited for my food. While many diners had the famous fish and chips, my meal of choice was the Club Sandwich. Toasty bread and toothpicks held together chunks of turkey, crispy bacon, lettuce and mayo. Mine was completed with hot french fries coated with gravy and ketchup and accompanied by an ice cold Coca-Cola. To this day it is still one of the best meals I ever had.

Years later Mike’s Lunch moved to a nicer space in the Sterling. The pinball machines never made the transition, but it still had a counter. It also had nice tables and booths and friendly waitresses. I never failed to go any time I visited Glace Bay, often more than once a visit. I don’t know how, but no matter how long I had been away, when I returned they always remembered me. And the club sandwiches were as good when I was 50 as they were when I was 15. No wonder we all loved it.

I miss Glace Bay for many reasons: the Chip Wagon, Venice Pizzeria, and Colette’s, to name a few great places. But of all the places I miss, I miss Mike’s Lunch the most. Thank you Mike’s Lunch for all the great meals and great times I’ve had there. I have been to many great restaurants over the years, but if I could walk through the doors of any one of them one last time, it would be yours.

Bonus: footage of Commercial St in 1988. The town changed over time, but this is how I remember it growing up. By this point Mike’s Lunch had already moved to the Sterling. Teddy’s (or as this video called it, The Greasy Spoon, and a similar restaurant to Mike’s) was still there.

I switched from grocery shopping at Metro (and Loblaws) to Walmart and Instacart. It’s been much better. Here’s why

I did the math and found that I can save around $1500/year if I switch my grocery shopping from Metro / Loblaws to Walmart. I save much less and it gets more complicated if I include Instacart in the mix, though I am still doing it. Let me explain.

To determine what I could save, I built a spreadsheet of all the things that I typically buy. I set up the following columns:

  1. the price at Walmart (using numbers from the Instacart app)
  2. the price at Metro (same day numbers from the app)
  3. the difference in price. If the cell is green, Walmart is cheaper; if red, Metro is cheaper; if yellow, the comparison is off; if blue, the price is essentially the same (around 2 cents different). You can see almost everything was cheaper at Walmart, sometimes by a lot
  4. How much I save if I bought everything at Walmart that week
  5. How many times a year I buy that item
  6. How much I save a year if I buy it at all at Walmart
  7. The name of the item
  8. The category of item (Deli, Frozen, etc)
  9. The quantity of the item
  10. A description
  11. A comment

Here’s my spreadsheet on Google Sheets. You can review my numbers and see if they add up.

Of course I may buy different amounts,  and I may buy items not listed there. But that amount of savings for the year will be close, I think.

Now here’s the problem for me: I live very far from a Walmart. I don’t have a car, and there is no way I want to take that much groceries on public transit to get them. (If you can drive to any grocery store you want, then go to Walmart and you can save that much too. Maybe more.)

To solve my problem, I decided to sign up for Instacart. The problem then is all the savings turn into Instacart fees. I still estimate I save around $100 / year. (The spreadsheet has the details). Not much, but still. I essentially get the savings from Walmart to pay for my Instacart.

Overall, I see the switch to Walmart/Instacart as  positive for number of reasons:

  1. I used to shop 2-3 times a week to get all the groceries home. (This is because I don’t have a car.) It was a lot of time and effort. Now I shop with my phone on my couch and get all the groceries I need in one go. If I do any shopping in person now, it’s for speciality things. So my quality of life is greatly improved.
  2. I used to shop at my local Metro which I have hated for years. It was a crappy store for ages until Loblaws moved in. To compete, it did a make over and kept its prices low enough to keep me going there, for the most part. (I took what business I could to Loblaws). Last year they really raised their prices for the things I shop for by A LOT. There were no loss leaders. No discounts. All staples seemed to go up by 1-2 dollars. The prices were also much higher then what is in my spreadsheet. It really made me mad and frustrated. Taking my business elsewhere is satisfying: I don’t have to put up with that horrible store where I feel taken advantage of.
  3. I am budget conscious when it comes to grocery shopping. I want to best deal on food, and for commodity foods, I want the lowest price. Walmart gives that to me.

If you like grocery shopping in person and you can get to a Walmart, go to a Walmart. (Or possibly No Frills.) You can save a fair bit of money. And it’s not just my opinion. To see what I mean, read this: Which foods can you get at a big savings at discount stores? | The Star

If you hate grocery shopping and/or you don’t have a car, switch to Walmart and Instacart. You won’t save much, but the quality of life will improve considerably.

This is my experience with this. YMMV.

 

 

On Liz 2 and Chuck too. (Monarchy Watch)


The Queen of England continues to be well loved by many, both in England and abroad. Even in TV series like The Crown, she comes across well, unlike many others in it. Fine and good.

But we will all have to face a choice once the Queen dies. To make that choice, I thought these pieces are worth bearing in mind:

August 6, 2022: you would have thought after literally being caught red handed holding the bags of cash, that Prince Charles would be embarrassed enough to not do it again. You’d be wrong. Here he is taking money from the bin Laden family. Amazing.

Meanwhile schools are renaming themselves so they are no longer associated with that other disgraced royal, Prince Andrew.

September 8, 2022: the Queen has passed away today. The new monarch is Charles III.

 

On Apple, the Newton, the 90s and me

500

For people in this time, it’s may be hard to imagine Apple as anything other than a tremendously successful company. But in the 90s, it was the opposite. Under John Sculley and others, it was a company in major decline and all but at death’s door before Steve Jobs came back.

In some ways the Newton you see above was emblematic of that time. It was a device that Apple tried to use to regain the magic that it once had. It failed, but in some ways it was a glorious failure. (The Powerbook also came out at that time and it was a fine machine but the problems of Apple were baked into it.)

I’ve always had a fondness for the Newton, and wanted one for a long time, even though I could not justify getting one. And then Jobs returned and tossed it in the bin like so much crumpled paper. It was a smart decision, but a sad one for me.

That’s why I was really interested to read this recently: The Newton at 30. It’s a great rundown on that device. Reading it, I was happy to see that some of the original ideas found in the Newton later made their way into other mobile products from Apple. Good ideas deserve a home, even if they were never going to find that home in the Newton.

In the 90s I had a small role in developing IBM software that ran on Macs and that allowed our customers to access our IBM Global Network via a Mac. I loved building Apple Software, even if it was a nightmare at times. (Writing software for a rapidly declining company is no easy thing.) At the time I got to work on the Powerbook 1400 and 3400 and hang out at Apple and play around with the emate 300. It was a good time despite the difficulty. I never got a Newton then, thought I got close.

Later in the second decade of the 21st century I finally got to buy my own Newton! Mint condition, from Kijiji. 100+ bucks! Funny, a device that was so cutting edge when it first came out seems so limited now! It was a good reminder how fast technology moves. I was still glad to have it. It’s a wonderfully collectable device.

For more on the Newton, click that link.

Happy Anniversary, Newton. You were truly ahead by a century.

How to grow a garden in your kitchen

According to Yanko Design, This smart cabinet gives you the self-sustaining kitchen garden you’ve always wanted.

Not just some pots with plants, this unit has a smart system to give your plants healthier and hopefully longer.

Check it out. For people who yearn to have plants in their homes but have brown thumbs like me, it could be just the thing you need.

 

The solution to poverty and crime and homelessness is simple

And what is the solution? GIVE PEOPLE MONEY. Just give it to them.

Here’s what I mean. Case study #1: Liberia’s stunningly effective way to reduce shootings and other crimes.

Case study #2: The expanded child tax credit lifted 3 million children out of poverty.

Read and see. Over and over and over again, it’s always the same. You give people money, much of our social problems go away. Much? Most. All? Not all.

Shouldn’t we give them jobs? Jobs is a way to give people money. Good jobs are a great way to give people money. Crappy jobs, not so much. In fact, many jobs are an indirect way of giving people money, it’s just that people sit in an office for eight hours a day filling out online forms or sitting in meetings because someone has a sense that they are needed so that someone else can have someone give them money.

Where does the money come from? From people who have more money than they know what to do with. From programs we fund now to the hilt because we worry about crime. From taxes on people and organizations that harm our society, that pollute, that run their businesses on the assumption that it doesn’t matter that they treat people badly.

Won’t this cause moral hazards? It’s a good tradeoff to have.

In the future we will be harshly criticized for not doing the thing that is obvious to alleviate all our problems because of our inhumanity towards others. For allowing people to be homeless. To be hungry. To suffer needlessly. The obvious thing is to give people money.

Once they have money, then the next thing is to help them with the things they need to have a better life.

 

It’s getting warmer. Here’s the perfect speaker / lamp to help you enjoy music outside

It’s nice to sit outside in the summer and have some music playing while you grill food or enjoy a fire or simply relax. Now thanks to this collaboration, you can: IKEA teams up with Spotify to debut the Vappeby, a $65 wireless lamp/speaker with built-in ‘Spotify Tap’

The nice thing about it is that it is not only portable, but that it looks just as nice inside too:

If having sound outside this summer is on your todo list, check out the piece in Yanko design, then head out to IKEA (or their website) and try and get one soon.

How to use the motivation equation to get more motivated

On Saturday I wrote about how the motivation equation explains why you are or aren’t motivated. I want to write now on how you can use the same equation to get more motivated.

Here’s the equation again. Recall we replaced the I with F, for Friction

In short, to get more motivated, you need to:

  • Increase the chances you can do something (E)
  • Increase the value of doing it (V)
  • Decrease the things that make it harder to do something (F)
  • Decrease the delay in it occurring (D)

Remember, we all have alternatives (A) in terms of what we can do. And this is where context C comes into the picture.

Let’s take some classic examples to walk through this. I’ll underline the approaches you can take to motivate yourself and emphasize how it relates to the formula.

First example: lie on the couch or go to the gym and get in shape? V may be the same for both, but E is low and D is big for getting in shape. Plus there is hardly any friction F in being a couch potato. Going to the gym means getting ready, getting to the gym, dealing with people at the gym, washing up, and then going home. So much friction! If only you could motivate yourself to get off the couch and do something!

The way to motivate yourself with this is to reframe things. Change the context. That will help you change the equation and bump up the Vs and Es and decrease the Ds and Fs. If you need motivation for getting in shape, the question should not be: lie on the couch or go to the gym and get in shape? The question should be: 1) lie on the couch and feel bad later and sink into poor health or 2) go to the gym and feel good now and get in shape? In that context, V for #1 drops and V for #2 increases. Next, tackle the friction F for going to the gym. People do all sorts of things for that: find a gym near them, have a gym bag packed, find a friend to work out with, or skip the gym altogether and workout at home. There are lots of actions to decrease F. Likewise, if you focus on the short term goal of feeling good on the day you go to the gym,  E increases and D decreases and your motivation goes up.

This leads to my next approach: you need a plan. Plans help increase expectations E and decrease delay D. If you want to run a 5K or a marathon, if you want to learn a language, if you want do achieve anything worthwhile, it helps to have a plan. Plans help with E:  if you have an authority (coach, instructor) telling you that if you stick to the plan you will succeed, E goes up. Plans help with D too because now you can imagine/see D decreasing with every day that passes. Likely V increases every day too. Finally plans decrease F. Uncertainty of what to do is a source of Friction. A plan decreases uncertainty and thus F.

Planning is easier than you think. Can’t come up with a plan? Do this. Say: I will do this today and tomorrow. Or today and the rest of the week. After you do it, make a record. Write it down. Mark a calendar. Whatever works. After a week, tell your stupid brain: that was the plan, dummy…I tricked you because you were telling me I couldn’t do it and I did it and before you tell me I can’t do it again you told me I couldn’t do it at all and I did so I know best and I will do it! (It’s worth a shot). Don’t let planning stop you. Any plan, even a bad plan, will help. Here’s a plan: buy a dozen beer or Gatorade. Put them on a shelf. Plan to drink one every time you work out. Put the empties next to the full ones. Plan to finish them all. Voila! Who said you can’t plan?

Another way of dealing with expectations E (and your stupid brain) is visualization. Chances are you use visualization already, just in a bad way! You imagine all the reasons you cannot succeed. Now be like a professional skier or runner and imagine all the ways you can succeed. Whenever you imagine failing, imagine successful alternatives instead and practice going over them in your mind. You will see increases in E if you work at it.

Related to visualization is internal chatter. In sports, coaches will tell players on the bench to “talk it up!”. Why? Because it encourages teammates and defeats their negative internal chatter. You should do the same. When you motivate yourself to do something and you are done, what do you do? Do you just move on to the next thing? If you do, you are telling yourself: that didn’t matter. If a team scores playing a game, they get excited! They cheer! When a team is defending, everyone yells “Defense!” All of these things increase the value V of the thing they are doing. You need to do the same, and by doing so, increase the value of what you are doing or what you did. And when you succeed, you give yourself a cheer and your brain thinks: I can do it! And with that, the next time you try and do it, E is increased.

Another way to motivate yourself is overloading. If you aren’t motivated to go to the gym to get in shape, come up with several reasons to go. You aren’t just going to the gym to 1) get in shape. You are going to the gym to 1) get in shape 2) get out of the house 3) meet your friend 4) reasons of vanity 5) reasons of pride 6) etc. Give yourself as many reasons as possible. Brainstorm ideas. Ask friends. List them all out. Get as many high value ones as possible.

Related to overloading is overshooting. Didn’t do any of your hobby last month? Missed meeting up with friends? How about planning to do it every day next month? Twice on Sunday even! Imagine making huge improvements on your drawing or sewing or photography. Think about all the enjoyment you’d get seeing all your friend or just contacting them. List all the ways you could derive value V from that. Now after a month, look back. You likely didn’t do it all. (If you did, awesome!) But look at the improvements you made. As they say, you aimed for the stars and landed on the moon and that in itself is incredible. No doubt all the effort resulted in ways you learned to decrease friction F and improve expectation E. You will find you are much more motivated to do things by planning to overshoot.

Refuse to fail.This is useful if expectations E are low and is related to overloading and overshooting. So you and your friend skipped the gym but you had a good time and you needed a break and you went the next day. Or you didn’t create anything but you cleaned up your work area and made it easier to draw the next day. Sure you could beat Today You up for not doing the thing. But give yourself credit for helping Tomorrow You be more motivated by reducing the friction  For the expectations E for tomorrow. You don’t fail if you get up the next day. There is no timeclock.

If you should do good things for several reasons, do bad (or not so good) things for one reason. Don’t lie on the couch and eat cake and watch movies and talk with friends, etc. If you do, you are going to be very motivated to be a couch potato! If you are tired, lie on the couch. If you want a slice of cake, go get one (preferably as a treat…maybe after the gym.) Talk to your friends in person. You want to decrease the value V of lying on the couch. Heck, pile stuff on the couch (increase the friction F) or lie on the couch only after you do some other things (increase D) or only lie on the couch if you flip a coin and it comes up tails (thereby decreasing E).

Understand what does motivate you and apply it to other areas. If you still are struggling to motivate yourself, sit down and write down what you are motivated in doing and understand the V, E, F and D for them, Then look at what you are not motivated in doing and see how they are similar. Is there any way you can change the unmotivating ones to look more like the motivated ones. You should see ways to increase your motivation.

Keep a log for things you regularly struggle to find motivation for. Write down the V, E, F and D for the last time you did them. Maybe you are imagining F and D as being worse than they are. Likewise, maybe it was easy for you and you enjoyed some aspect and the value V and expectation E are higher than you imagine. If so, great! If not, keep logging and log what you changed to motivate yourself this time. Keep tweaking those values until you are doing better.

Choose the next best alternative. Can motivate yourself to go to the gym? Go for a good walk rather than lie on the couch. Can’t call that one friend you should call due to high friction F? Call someone else where the value V is high but F is lower. Can’t do the creative thing you think you should be doing? Do something else creative instead. Eventually you will need to understand your lack of motivation for not doing that one thing; doing a close alternative can help.

Lastly I want to mention two last things: Habits/Routines and Novelty. Habits/routines are very good at decreasing friction F and increasing expectations, E. But they can also cause you to feel a decrease in value V, because things get stale and boring and less enjoyable. That’s where novelty comes in. Novelty decreases expectation E (who knows what will happen) and increases friction F (because it is new), but can also increase V (less stale and boring) . If habits/routines are the main dish, novelty are the herbs and spices. You need both.

If you’ve read this far: wow! you were motivated! Good work! I hope the value V was high and the fraction F was low.

If you were wondering: why did he keep repeating those letters? It’s because I really think the key to motivating ourselves is to think in those terms: V, E, D and F. Repeating them helps reinforce that. Also there is nothing new here when it comes to approaches to motivation. What I think is new (at least to me) is applying them in light of the formula. I hope you found it the same.

Now go and do good things. Great things, even!

 

 

 

 

32 good pieces for a Sunday afternoon


It’s spring cleaning time. All these links are worth reading and worth commenting on, but I never found either the time or the words to do so. But on a quiet Sunday, you might find something here worth reflecting on:

  1. Intriguing:  How civilization started
  2. How to stay young (if you want to)
  3. Hmmm:  On mental illness
  4. It’s a problem:  When the rich don’t pay their fair share it exposes society to risks
  5. The problem with the trolley problem
  6. The history of holes tells a story of power and potential
  7. How to fulfil the need for transcendence after the death of God
  8. A stable sense of self is rooted in the lungs heart and gut
  9. Stephen Hawking’s Philosophical(!) Position on the Uncertainty Principle
  10. George Saunders’ commencement address: Try to be kinder – good advice
  11. New York’s Shadow Transit | The New Yorker
  12. Now adults have them – Once Upon a Time, Bedtime Stories Were Just for Kids
  13. Life is hard: I work at an office with no parents and it suck
  14. A sad story:  Drug addicted teens
  15. Something we can forget:  People Who Take Drugs Are Real People
  16. Good luck with this The out of touch adult guide to kid culture
  17. Sleep well: Insomnia tips
  18. On twitter: twitter fact watch
  19. The best read it later apps
  20. Helpful:  Working woman’s handbook
  21. Ha!  Stop being a jerk on Venmo!
  22. Can maintenance save civilisation?
  23. More on old age De Beauvoir on Aging
  24. If you care:  Is “cancel culture” over?
  25. On horseshoe theory
  26. The Crito by Plato – worth reading
  27. Not sure this is a thing:  Radical Centrism
  28. Thich Nhat Hanh on Life War and Happiness
  29. Truth is real and philosophers must return their attention to it
  30. For those who care: Fantastic Beasts Never Understood ‚Harry Potter Fans – The Atlantic
  31. End-of-Life Conversations Can Be Hard but Your Loved Ones Will Thank You
  32. Finally  On that crazy Fourier

My grandfather’s pansies

When I was a child I would often visit my grandfather’s house and admire the pansies he grew near the backdoor of his house. This area would get no sunshine. Worse it was where he would dump hot ash from his coal stove. In this dark fiery place grew white and yellow and purple pansies.

In our culture we associate pansies with softness and weakness. I learned instead that they were hardy and beautiful and defiant. We all should be like my grandfather’s pansies. We should all be so wondrous.


I wrote the above earlier this week and I realized it comes across like so many things I write. I don’t even know why I write this way anymore. Why I write like someone needs advice and I am the one to give it to them. There are few if any that need such things.

Perhaps I should write like most people. Write about what happened recently, what happened in the past, and what if anything I thought about it.

My grandfather did have those pansies. They were beautiful to look at. Even as a kid I was impressed that they could grow there. I liked seeing them as I came through the backdoor of the house he made with his own hands.

I also treasure that memory because I only have a few times I recall interacting with my grandfather. Typically they were about his yard and what was growing there. He grew so much, from the carrots and the cucumbers at ground level to the flowers and the dill that waved high in the breeze. Of all that I appreciated the pansies the most.

On acceptance, Ukeireru and the Serenity Prayer

Rainy Japanese night

Accept. It’s a word Christians use in the Serenity Prayer. It’s a word I  thought of when reading this piece: How to Adopt the Japanese Approach to Accepting Life’s Challenges, “Ukeireru’.  Like the Serenity Prayer, it speaks to acceptance as something in the bigger scheme of life. Ukeireru ….

… goes beyond self-acceptance. It’s about accepting the realities that surround you, too – your relationships, your roles in the communities you’re a part of, and the situations you face – rather than fighting them.

But it doesn’t mean you just quit. Acceptance is the beginning of change, not the end of it. Once you accept things, you are more capable of moving to a better place. And even if you don’t move, mentally you are in a better place. Either way you benefit. Read the piece  — or say the Serenity Prayer again — and see if you agree.

On qualifications


Here’s two pieces on being qualified.

If you are underqualified at something, it can be difficult to motivate yourself because you think: I am bad at this. If that’s you, read this:  A willingness to be bad. The best way to get good is not give up because you suck. You suck! So do lots of people. Focus on sucking less.

You might think you would love to be the best at the thing you suck at. So read this: Why it’s sometimes harder to get a job you’re overqualified for.

Being qualified is a relative thing. If you compare yourself to one person, you can seem overqualified. Then you compare yourself to another person and you are underqualified. Regardless, find a standard you think is appropriate and work towards that.

Good luck!

(Image from link to Austin Kleon’s blog and the first link above.)

 

 

White noise generators: virtocean

If you like the sound of the water and you like white noise generators, then this one’s for you: VirtOcean: Ocean noise generator. Good for sleeping, working, or just for relaxing sounds in your everyday life.

I’m in a New York state of mind…

…So I decided to share these links I’ve been collecting that all relate to that great city:

  • The 212 is all about “revisiting New York institutions that have defined cool for decades, from time-honored restaurants to unsung dives.” New York is always NEW, but old New York is great and continues to be for good reason.
  • Finally a fashion legend passed away recently. RIP Andre Leon Talley. Here he is photographed through the years by another fashion legend, Bill Cunningham:  Andre by Bill

Two weird pieces for a Sunday


Wasn’t sure what to do with these, though they are worthwhile for a Sunday:

Like I said: weird. But fun.

It’s Sunday. A good day to be useless. Here’s a guide to being that way


You may laugh and say “I know how to be useless”, but to truly appreciate the value of uselessness, I recommend this: How to be useless | Psyche Guides.

It talks about the ideas of the great Chinese philosopher, Zhuang Zhou and his work, the Zhuangzi. (You may know him as Chuang Tzu from the great book by Thomas Merton on him.) If you have to do something useful this Sunday, I recommend you read that. Then go make yourself useless. 🙂

On cravenness

Cravenness:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Image from NYTimes)

 

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


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

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

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

Can math prevent gerrymandering? (or what I find interesting in math, Dec 2021)

Here are seven good links to pieces on math I thought were good:

  1. These are cool:  cool alternative numbers.
  2. This is a worthwhile project:  About Project Euler.
  3. For fan of   Godel’s Theorems 
  4. This was somewhat amazing:  Fermat’s Library : Magic : The Gathering is Turing Complete annotated/explained version.
  5. This was a good intro into a form of math I wasn’t aware of:  Maths in a Minute: Category theory
  6. This is fascinating:  The 26 000-Year Astronomical Monument Hidden in Plain Sight.
  7. Some practical math:  Virginia wants to prevent gerrymandering. Can a mathematician help?.

A really good workout if you have not exercised in ages: the Standing 7-Minute Workout

athlete
I recently did this 7 minute standing workout from the Times and I found it wasn’t nothing, but it was enough to feel like I did some exercise.

Now you might think I am damning it with faint praise. Sure, if you are in good shape, it’s not for you. But if even the thought of the least bit of exercise fills you with dread, give that a go. It’s enough to make you feel: I got some exercise in.

One thing they could have done is listed out the exercises. Here they are. Do each for 30 seconds, rest for 5 in between.

  1. March in place
  2. Chair assisted squat
  3. Wall push up
  4. Standing bicycle crunch
  5. Stand and box
  6. Chair assist split squat
  7. Chair assist push up (or wall push up)
  8. Wall plank
  9. Stepping jack
  10. Wall sit
  11. Wall push up
  12. Standing side crunch

(Photo by Rendy Novantino on Unsplash )

Apparently Millennials are afraid of the Gen Z who work for them. Here’s why they shouldn’t be


Apparently 37-Year-Olds Are Afraid of the 23-Year-Olds Who Work for Them or so sez  The New York Times:

The 37-Year-Olds Are Afraid of the 23-Year-Olds Who Work for Them Twenty-somethings rolling their eyes at the habits of their elders is a longstanding trend, but many employers said there’s a new boldness in the way Gen Z dictates taste.

I am not going to dismiss this: I am sure there is a gap there. I am sure because this gap has been going on forever. This is not something new to the latest generation. The story above could be rewritten by someone from the New York Times every 10 years with some minor tweaks.

To the Millenials I say: relax…it’s fine. You are getting older. For so long the media fawned over you when you were young to the point of annoyance. Now it’s Gen Z’s turn. And just like you they are not willing to play by all the rules you have established at work, just like you didn’t. Or the generation before you. Or the one before that.

Work changes all the time, and thank god for that. And what is new and cool changes all the time too, and it’s usually dictated by the new workers. In a decade or so the Gen Z managers will wake up and discover this as well.

As for Gen X and Boomers, just sit back, eat some popcorn, and enjoy the clash between the latest generations at work. 🙂

(Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash of Millenials at work :))

The best example of why we need to regulate the social media industry? The auto industry


Wired magazine makes the case, here: Facebook’s Fall From Grace Looks a Lot Like Ford’s.

Worth considering. Social media is struggling to govern itself and Facebook is often downright defiant.

P.S. In Facebook’s defense, you may seem them play the “we are weak” card. The New York Times makes the case for their weakening, here.

(Photo by Firmbee.com on Unsplash )

If you are thinking of taking an Uber to the airport, take a limo instead

At least if you are in Toronto and are thinking of taking an Uber to Toronto, take a limo instead. I have been to the airport twice in the last month or so. And my daughter went as well. In all cases the Ubers were in the $80-100 range. Not only that, but they were unreliable.

If you get a limo, you get the following

  1. a cheaper rate. Seriously. The same fare for a limo was around $55.
  2. a reliable pickup. I use Airline limo. If you tell them to pick you up at a given time, they will actually be there and waiting 10-15 minutes before hand. It’s great.
  3. a much better ride. Seriously! The cars I were in were all high end cars. They were immaculate and very comfortable.
  4. Also most of the drivers I had were older gentlemen who drive carefully and well.

So skip the Ubers and get a limo instead. You’ll be glad you did.

Likewise, instead of waiting for an Uber at the airport, walk over to the limo line.

Maybe this won’t be the case in a few weeks or months, but right now it is true, regardless of articles like this: Uber wants to make airport trips less messy.

(Photo by Ian Taylor on Unsplash )

 

It’s Monday. You want to start drawing or painting as a hobby. These 24 links might help.

During the pandemic I tried to get back into drawing and painting. I was somewhat successful. What helped me was searching around the Internet and trying to find how to sites that were actually useful. There are so many out there that are NOT useful, I can’t begin to tell you how much time I wasted reviewing them all.

If you too are interesting in started drawing or painting, I’ve put together these links that I found,m useful and inspiring. I hope you find that too.

  1. Think you have no skills? Here’s how to make art without skill.
  2. Collaging for Beginners: if you want to try collage. Easy.
  3. How to make Your Own Pop Art Pet Portrait.  Also easy.
  4. Here’s Lynda Barry’s Illustrated Field Guide to Keeping a Visual Diary and Cultivating a Capacity for Creative Observation. Helpful.
  5. Here’s some simple watercolour techniques.
  6. A good intro on how to mix skin tones.
  7. Here’s some art therapy exercises.
  8. More art therapy exercises.
  9. You may want to know how to turn your trash into art.
  10. A good guide on how to develop a routine to make art.
  11. Here’s more advice on routine.
  12. If you are a beginner, here’s how to buy supplies.
  13. A good guide on how to paint glass reflections.
  14. And here’s how to make art people care about .
  15. A guide to make figure painting .
  16. A good intro on how to make rubber stamps .
  17. A good way to learn to paint is to learn to paint in monochrome .
  18. Here’s a guide on how to start drawing .
  19. More on how to start drawling.
  20. A step by step guide on drawing .
  21. How to draw a self portraint .
  22. I love this: a great piece on how to draw a water color in less than 3 minutes .
  23. How to draw a Renaissance portrait.
  24. Here’s how to paint like Monet (um, ok). Ok, not so beginnerish either but interesting.

Good luck!

(Photo by Kelli Tungay on Unsplash )

If you are suffering from the Sunday Scarries (with some extra thoughts from me)


If you have those feelings of dread and anxiety at the thought of work tomorrow, then read this:What are the Sunday scaries and how can you banish them?

Lots of good advice in there on how to get rid of them.

Some other things to consider:

  • If you can, on the Friday before, try and leave something positive to work on or do for the upcoming Monday. Try and fill Monday (or at least Monday morning) with positive tasks and meetings.
  • Another thing you can do on that Friday is outline what you plan to accomplish the following week and then stay focussed on that as you ease into Monday. If you can focus on things you want to achieve over the week, it helps dilute the dip into cold water that Monday leaves you feeling.
  • Acknowledge that other people feel that way and make sure that on Monday you fill their day with positive thoughts and feelings. Doing that will pay you dividends as they will likely reciprocate that positivity. It’s a win-win for all, and your Mondays will take on a more positive vibe, which should help lessen the Sunday scarries.

(Photo by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash )

On wine: what you should expect at each price point


I recently read this and I thought it was a great examination of what you should expect at each price point of wine: How to find the sweet spot in the cost of a bottle of wine | The Hub. It’s really aimed at Canadians, but it can apply elsewhere.

I am still a fan of cheap wine, but I find myself drinking closer to the $20 price point now. In Ontario at least, that seems to be the price at which wines are consistently good. There’s nothing wrong with buying wine at all sorts of price points. You should just know what to expect.

Speaking of cheaper wine, this is worth a read: The Science Behind Your Cheap Wine

(Photo by Scott Warman on Unsplash )

What I find interesting in general, Julyish, 2021


Often I find links that are interesting but I don’t know what to do with. Here are some for this month. I should have posted them in July but hey, it’s the thought that counts 🙂

  1. Enjoy the restored Night Watch but don’t ignore the machine behind the Rembrandt 
  2. Starting an Online Store as a Digital Nomad
  3. User Experience Matters: What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From “Objectified”
  4. The Infinite Loop of Supply Chains
  5. How to Not Go Broke the Next Time You Move
  6. Breaking Point: How Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook Became Foes
  7. Our Favorite Cheap Earbuds Are an Unbelievable $16 Right Now
  8. Tony Mecia’s Charlotte Ledger newsletter on pace for $175 000 in annual revenue
  9. Best budgeting software of 2021
  10. Nearly 60% of small charities have zero plans to digitally transform says CanadaHelps survey
  11. Millions of Canadians working from home could qualify for new tax deduction
  12. Simplest Stool
  13. The Rasterbator
  14. Help Your Garden Thrive By Pairing These Plants
  15. Behold: *All* the Stuff I Wish I’d Known Before Starting an Etsy Business
  16. 7014
  17. The Dreyfus Affair (1899) A Silent Film Review
  18. The Iconography of the Paris Commune 150 Years Later
  19. The Problem With History Classes
  20. Centuries-Old Paintings Help Researchers Track Food Evolution
  21. CONVERTING VHS TO A DIGITAL FILE // MAC & PC // CHEAP & EASY!!
  22. How and Why to do a Life Audit
  23. Why People Are So Awful Online
  24. The land was worth millions. A Big Ag corporation sold it to Sonny Perdue’s company for $250 000.
  25. Northern Ireland Is Coming to an End
  26. From Dominion Day to Canada Day there’s a long history of ambivalence
  27. How Amazon Bullies Manipulates and Lies to Reporters
  28. What the city and police say about the crackdown on the homeless in Torono parks seems at odds with reality. Why should we trust them?
  29. On the Occasion of Our 10-year Legal Marriage Anniversary
  30. John Tory shares strong feelings about protesters at Toronto encampment evictions
  31. Juul agrees to pay North Carolina $40 million to settle vaping accusations
  32. Newly detailed nerve links between brain and other organs shape thoughts memories and feelings
  33. lofi.cafe – lofi music

Thank you for reading this far. I don’t know if anyone reads most of my posts, especially these general ones,  but I keep at it regardless.

(Top Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash . Bottom Photo by Courtney Hedger on Unsplash)

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.

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 )

What I find interesting: dealing with getting old

Here’s some links I found around the topic of getting older and retiring. Maybe you aren’t thinking too much about that yet, but you should. For example, here’s a piece about how to have a long, fulfilling career and perhaps never retire. But if you going to retire, here’s how to retire on a fixed chuck of money. To get a fixed amount of cash, you need a plan. This piece can help you get to a million bucks regardless if you are in your 30’s, 40’s, or 50’s.

Money is just one challenge to deal with as you get older. Another is a potentially deteriorating brain. Here’s a sobering essay on how this person is preparing for the dementia she believes she will get. One wait to fight such things is to keep your mind active. One way to do that is to engage in activities such as games. Chess, for example. You might think you are too old to learn chess but this person learned when they were 40 and so can you.

(Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash)

Why are i and j (and sometimes k) used in loops? Blame Fortran (I think). Here’s why


It came up today that i and j are used for variables in loops. The reason for that likely has to do with Fortran. As this piece (Fortran – Implicit variable types | fortran Tutorial) explains:

When Fortran was originally developed memory was at a premium. Variables and procedure names could have a maximum of 6 characters, and variables were often implicitly typed. This means that the first letter of the variable name determines its type. variables beginning with i, j, …, n are integer everything else (a, b, …, h, and o, p, …, z) are real

I used to program in older versions of Fortran (in the early 80s) and we automatically used i and j for variables and loops. Likely it carried over into other languages too. For example, I have an early edition of The C Programming Language book and they use i for some of their loops (page 20).

On learning to reflect

Sunday is a good day for reflection. This Sunday in particular if you are Christian. But having a good day to reflect does not mean it is an easy thing to do.

It can be difficult and uncomfortable to reflect on your life. To help you, here are two pieces that don’t tell you what to do so much as give you some instruction on how to structure your thoughts:

Get out a notebook (or some other form of recording method) and write down your reflections. Don’t be too critical. Write the date. That’s a photo, a sketch, of your mind on that day.

You may find that as you reflect more often it gets easier. You start getting a good idea of what your mind is up to. Who you are. What you hope for, regret, like and dislike. How you see the world.

Better still, as you review what you reflect, you may find your mind changes for the better. The fears that you had in your head may become smaller. The hopes you had become clearer. The things you want to do become simpler.

It’s good to reflect. Here’s hoping you do.

(Photo by Jeremy Vessey on Unsplash )

Maybe living randomly is the best way to be post-pandemic

This is a fascinating story: Eager To Burst His Own Bubble, A Techie Made Apps To Randomize His Life : All Tech Considered from NPR. He started out small and then made bigger and bigger life changes based on randomness. Cool.

Post-pandemic, we are all going to be suddenly confronting so many choices of what to do. It may even be paralyzing . Perhaps a thing to do is write them all down on separate pieces of paper, put them in a hat, and draw them one at a time and do them. Not quite as fancy as writing an app, but still great.

The pandemic will be ending. Prepare to get out there and do things. Perhaps even do them randomly.

(Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash)