Category Archives: ramblings

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June pandemic highlights and ramblings (a newsletter, if you’ll have it)


This is my latest not-a-newsletter of highlights (not so many) and ramblings (many) since the last one at the end of May.
It’s a weird time in the pandemic: in parts of the world, the worst is behind them (e.g. parts of Europe). Where I am, the numbers are coming down, but we still have a way to go. Meanwhile in parts of the US, Brazil, and some other places, things just keep getting worse. Hard to know what to think, other than to recognize we are all in this for the long haul. What I do think is 2020 is going to be a milestone year. Perhaps a turning point will occur in 2021. American election can cause such turning points.

I miss some of the earlier aspects of the pandemic. People checking in on you. Artists  sharing their music and creativity. Patrick Stewart reading sonnets every day. The chefs of Le Bernardin sharing cooking tips from home. Sadly much of that has fallen off in this transition period.  Sad, but not surprising. We are all reverting to the norm, even if it is askew of pre-pandemic normality.

In the meantime, you can still go on Twitter and look up Patrick Stewart’s tweets to get him reading sonnets. It’s free culture. And free in this case is good!

Cooking: One thing I did feel good about was my own home cooking compared to the chefs of Le Bernardin. Obviously they are much better cooks than I will ever be. But at home they used dried herbs such as oregano, as well as adding ingredients like garlic powder to their dishes. I have always felt that those ingredients are fine and everything doesn’t have to be fresh. Watching them cook that way was validating. If you have a chance, go and look at Le Bernardin on Instagram and you will see what I mean.

In other food notes, I am a fan of cucina povera, peasant food, what have you. These are  good examples of it:  Victoria Granof’s Pasta con Ceci Recipe on Food52quick pasta and chickpeas – smitten kitchen

The Media: Newspapers, which were in trouble before the pandemic, seem to be one of the industries that are suffering more than most during this time of severe economic downturn. I expect a lot fewer of them to be in around in the time to come. Meanwhile I am subscribing to as many as I can.

Economics: Speaking of economic changes, this is something I would not have expected before the pandemic:  Toronto rent prices drop for third month in a row. Toronto is still expensive, but supply and demand is what it is.

Mental states: Simply put, people are suffering more during the pandemic. I’ve seen a number of articles like this: Am I Depressed? The Coronavirus Mental-Health Crisis – The Atlantic

The United States: I’m a strong advocate of avoid monocausal explanations for anything historic or sociological. This is not quite a monocausal argument, but it got me thinking about them: Opinion | Why Juneteenth Matters – The New York Times

Jamelle Bouie argues that Black Americans did the work to free themselves in the United States. On the flip side you had people arguing with Bouie, saying that he was wrong and that Lincoln and the Union Army freed the slaves and guaranteed freedom. But these aren’t opposing views. I understand that articles have to have a focus, but complex social changes don’t. There are lots of forces involved in social changes, and while highlighting them makes sense, trying to eliminate other forces does not. Many things led to the abolishing of slavery in the US, and while it is interesting to examine which one mattered most, it is wrong to argue solely for one of them, in my humble opinion. Bouie doesn’t come right out and say that, but it is all but implied. But don’t believe me: read him for yourself.

And not just that piece. I highly recommend that you read Bouie whenever you can. To do that, sign up and get his newsletter. If you do, you will gain a better understanding of things in the US. Also he is a great photographer and cook, and that comes out in his newsletter too.

Speaking of the US, the current president wants a second term at being president because he likes being top dog. That’s not the only reason, but it is definitely one of them. He wants to sit in that role because it is the best role, not because he wants to do anything with it: So what does Trump want to do with a second term, anyway? – The Washington Post. The man is vacant.

Not unrelatedly,  Black Lives Matter seems to me to be undergoing a transformation as a movement, but I think that will be a good thing. If BLM gets to go deeper in our societies, it can have a transformative aspect that is truly needed. That’s not to say that transformation is not already occurring, for it has. I’d like to see it get to the point where our culture and our economies are transformed by it. For that to happen, there will need to be a lot of work done over a fair amount of time. I’m looking forward to that happening, and hopeful.

Alison Roman:  I think Alison Roman is going to be an interesting example of someone in America having a second act. People like to quote F. Scott Fitzgerald (“there are no second acts in American lives”) but I disagree with that. People comeback all the time in the US, and no one loves redemption better than Americans. Let’s see if Roman has a second act in her career.  She certainly has pivoted in some interesting ways with her social media.

Summer: summer is my least favorite season of the year. (1. Fall 2. Spring 3. Winter 4. Summer) but it is summer now, and over the years I’ve slowly learned to like it a bit more. It seems like the shortest of seasons, although I’d argue that Spring gets squeezed between Winter and Summer. If I had my choice, I’d have a long Fall, a medium Spring, a short Summer and a shorter but intense Winter. Regardless of your feelings — and I know for many people, Summer is their favorite season — try and enjoy it while it is here.

Finally: one of the reason I don’t call this a newsletter is because it isn’t really newsy or personal. More just random bits and bobs.  If you got to this point, thanks for taking the time to read it.

More pandemic Highlights and Ramblings (a newsletter, as such)

 

This is my latest not-a-newsletter of highlights (not so many) and ramblings (many) since the last one at the end of March. Like many of you, I’ve felt the time blur since then. I’ve joked that the difference between the weekdays and the weekend is I am not on video calls during the weekend. Otherwise the days have a sameness. Here’s what has changed, though.

  1. Spring: despite the sameness of day to day life, Spring continues to develop. It’s been a pleasure walking my neighborhood and seeing the buds and the flowers. It’s an implicit sign of hope. Try to get out while you can.
  2. Fitness: I’ve lost a lot of interest in fitness since I lost access to a gym. That’s been bad for me. I’ve been struggling to get in more exercise, which led me to at least do daily stretching and trying to get out more. I’ve started weighing myself and wearing my Fitbit too. I’ve wanted to just ignore it, but my body and my pants have told me otherwise. My go to these days for help on this is darebee.com. And I’ve been trying to log my eating and my weight to see where adjustments can be made.
  3. Food/cooking: earlier in the pandemic, I had a passion for cooking. As the weeks have gone on, I’m still cooking, just not with the gusto I had earlier. I think that is the way it is for others. Earlier on, I saw many people posting fantastic meals and fresh bread. Now people are showing dishes with simple ingredients and simple preparations.
  4. Restaurants: it’s a tough time for them, but some are adopting new ways of doing business. I’ve been trying to patronize some of them as I can. I wish I could say it will be enough. I’ve had great meals from Bar Volo and Cote de Boeuf and Brando’s Fried Chicken, not to mention great pizza from Classico and Terroni’s, and last but not least, Brothers.
  5. Reading: my eating has been good, my reading has not been. I just can’t seem to settle my brain enough to read much of anything. The other thing is I used to read heavily during commuting and now I never commute, unless it’s from my desk to my couch. Sometimes I bring a book for when I line up for groceries, but even that doesn’t last long.
  6. Zoom get togethers and other forms of checking in: during my last rambling, there was a lot of that. I don’t see so much of it now. Perhaps the sameness of it all makes people less likely to want to do it.
  7. Leadership: I am surprised but I still steady leadership, with the occasional slips here and there. At least in Canada. In the US, I see the President continue to decline. I wish it weren’t so.
  8. Negativity on social media: I made the mistake of tweeting that Twitter had gone from being positive to nasty. That was true. How I went about it was wrong, though. That was poor judgment on my part. To fix that, I am reverting to trying to be generally positive only on social media. I should know better.
  9. Entertainment: Some people still continue to lift us with their performances on social media. Two of my favorite performers are Patrick Stewart and Angela Hewitt. But many others have dropped off and have done less. I don’t fault anyone for doing that.
  10. Scarcity: the scarcity I’ve seen early has all subsided. That is good. Perhaps I am missing some of it, but the beans and the toilet paper and the rice have all returned to the shelves.
  11. Mood: my perception is that people seem to have gone from fearful and anxious to resigned.
  12. Making things: I am still making things, but not as much. It’s enough to do what I can some days just to get through the day.

Thanks for reading this. Here’s to better days.

 

Highlights and Ramblings (a newsletter, as such)


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

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