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No area should get cocky when it comes to their dealing with the coronavirus

Because as this shows, How California went from a coronavirus success story to a new hot spot – Vox,  all you need to do is let your guard down and the disease comes back. I am reading stories of many places having surges and many places are having to go back into lockdown. I understand why people want to read stories of places like New Zealand where life has returned to normal. Life hasn’t returned to normal: all places have done is managed through strong measures to stop it from spreading in their area. Meanwhile it is spreading to other areas of the globe, like India. All it will take is enough relaxing of controls and it could come back stronger.

We know very little about this disease. Social distancing and masks seem to be helping to control it. That’s what we have for now: some level of control. No medicine is coming to help us yet. No mutation is coming to blunt it yet. We may have a long way to go.

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A nice gift idea for the fish food lover in your life …


…could be this: Sustainably Harvested Canned Seafood, by Scout Canning; set of 3, 3 flavors – Lobster, Mussels, Trout on Food52

Pricer than the canned fish you are used to getting in stores, but it could be a wonderful gift for someone.  Great packaging too. Happy to see it is from Canada, too. There is different versions of this too; you could just get the lobster, for example.

Food52 has lots of wonderful products. Even if you don’t care for this one, I recommend checking them out.

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Are meal kits the future of restaurants?

I don’t know, but I do know this is a good piece to read for anyone interested in establishments having some degree of success with them: Meal kits were dying. Covid-19 brought them back to life. | The Counter.

I am not sure what the future of restaurants will be. Or any places that depend on having many people close together for periods of time.  If COVID-19 sticks around for months and years, we are going to be forced to find out. Whatever that future is, it will be substantially different to the time before the arrival of this disease.

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On the Facebook Boycott, and social media platforms generally

Like Fox News, I suspect Facebook will make tweaks to its service to make boycotts go away: As Facebook Boycott Grows, Advertisers Grapple With Race – The New York Times. But either through intent or due to systematic issues, I don’t think Facebook will ever change from being a malignant platform. Certainly not a long as Mark Zuckerberg reigns as CEO with a growth over everything strategy.

It’s easy to blame Zuckerberg. But even if he did moderate Facebook, I think we’d be not much better off. Facebook and to some degree Twitter and Reddit are all social media platforms intent on growing as much as possible. They have some other guiding principles for their companies, but growth is top of the list. In some ways they are like invasive species: they move in and grow incessantly until they dominate an environment, often at the great expense of whatever was there before (e.g. newspapers).

I believe the next thing societies need to do is understand this invasiveness and what it does to the existing social contracts and come up with approaches to manage these platforms. I am not sure how successful we will be. The Chinese government seems to have managed it, but at the expense of the people they govern. There needs to be a better way. I wish I could see better examples of what it is.

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You can still have a nice patio even if it is as small as a stamp


At least I think you can, based on this Tiny Patio Ideas – 9 Inspiring Small Patios

Plenty of ideas to steal from there, including from Igor Josifovic. (He has a blog and a book on the topic, so you can should check that out for even more good ideas. The photo is a link to the one on the Food52 site)

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The Segway, the last big hyped thing of the dot com era, is no more

To be honest, I am surprised it lasted this long! I do remember the incredible hype surrounding it during the end of the dot com era. Then it came out, and the dot com era bubble burst, and so did the hype surrounding it.

It’s good for anyone to go through a bubble: it’s a good insulation against future bubbles. So RIP, Segway: you were part of one of my first big bubbles*: Segway, the most hyped invention since the Macintosh, ends production.

* The first biggish bubbles I went through was the AI bubble in the late 80s, early 90s. Anyone working in tech will likely go through many such bubbles in their life time.

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Friday night music: Jimmy Fallon, the Original Hamilton Cast & The Roots Sing “Helpless” (At-Home Instruments)

Pure joy.

via Jimmy Fallon, the Original Hamilton Cast & The Roots Sing “Helpless” (At-Home Instruments) – YouTube

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Invisible cities: the eruv of Manhattan

What’s the eruv of Manhattan? Well according to the article below:

The eruv encircles much of Manhattan, acting as a symbolic boundary that turns the very public streets of the city into a private space, much like one’s own home. This allows people to freely communicate and socialize on the Sabbath—and carry whatever they please—without having to worry about breaking Jewish law.

Here’s a map of it:

You might think that it is hard to believe such a thing could last for long, but as this piece shows, it is diligently maintained.

I found this fascinating. There’s many interesting aspects of New York, but this is one of the better ones. For more on this, read: There’s a Wire Above Manhattan That You’ve Probably Never Noticed

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For the few (I hope) young people who think they have nothing to fear from COVID-19

I recommend you read this: ‘Feeling Like Death’: Inside a Houston Hospital Bracing for a Virus Peak – The New York Times.

Sure, your survival rates may be higher than someone much older than you. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t suffer intensively and be weakened for much longer in the future.

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This piece in the New York Times on Li Zhensheng and his photos of China’s Cultural Revolution, is worthwhile


The Times has a good obituary on a photographer worthwhile knowing: Li Zhensheng, Photographer of China’s Cultural Revolution, Dies at 79 – The New York Times

Above is just one of the photos featured in the piece. While the photos are striking and historically valuable, the story of Li Zhensheng is worth knowing as well. Take some time and click through and read it when you can.

I suspect the Chinese government would rather this time and these photographs be forgotten. I’ll leave the last words to Mr. Li: “Germany has reckoned with its Nazi past, America still talks about its history of slavery, why can’t we Chinese talk about our own history?”

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On Reddit finally getting its act together

Glad to see Reddit is finally getting it’s act together:
Reddit, Acting Against Hate Speech, Bans ‘The_Donald’ Subreddit – The New York Times.

Reading the story, you can see how extremely slow Reddit has been to deal with this. And even before they shut down this part of their site, they gave it ample warning:

… the company’s executives have struggled in particular with how to handle “The_Donald” and its noxious content. Reddit said people in “The_Donald” consistently posted racist and vulgar messages that incited harassment and targeted people of different religious and ethnic groups on and off its site.

“The_Donald” has also heavily trafficked in conspiracy theories, including spreading the debunked “PizzaGate” conspiracy, in which Hillary Clinton and top Democrats were falsely accused of running a child sex-trafficking ring from a pizza parlor in Washington.

Reddit said that as of Monday, it was introducing eight rules that laid out the terms that users must abide. Those include prohibiting targeted harassment, revealing the identities of others, posting sexually exploitative content related to underage children, or trafficking in illegal substances or other illicit transactions.

While the site had already banned many of these behaviors, the latest changes take a harder line on speech that “promotes hate based on identity or vulnerability.”

Mr. Huffman said users on “The_Donald” had frequently violated its first updated rule: “Remember the human.” He said he and others at Reddit repeatedly tried to reason with moderators of “The_Donald,” who run the subreddit on a volunteer basis, to no avail. Banning the forum was a last-ditch effort to contain harassment, he said.

“We’ve given them many opportunities to be successful,” Mr. Huffman said. “The message is clear that they have no intention of working with us.”

I mean, the rules (highlighted in bold) were what they had to follow. And they couldn’t. Meanwhile you have Glenn Greenwald tweeting this blanket statement:

Why trust Silicon Valley? Well, for once, they seem to be waking up to the problem they’ve been having. I trust them more now than I have for decades. For too long Reddit has hosted some of the worst parts of the Internet. Glad to see they’ve decided to flush it. Let it crawl off to the chan sites of the world.

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Your brain is dirty. There’s only one way to clean it

Sleep. At least according to this:  ‘Waves’ of fluid clear the brain of toxins during sleep, say researchers – Big Think.

When you sleep, your brain is designed to wash away toxic chemical buildup in your brain. If that toxic buildup is allowed to stick around (due to lack of sleep), bad things happen to your brain and you.

So clean your brain. Get some sleep. See the article to understand more of this.

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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.

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Remember Blackberry?

You don’t see too many BlackBerry mobile phones any more. But that doesn’t mean the end of BlackBerry the company. As you can see from this, they are alive and well making technology for automakers: BlackBerry QNX now in 175 million cars | IT Business

Here’s some key facts:

BlackBerry says its QNX suite is now in 175 million cars, up from the 150 million it announced at CES this year.

The BlackBerry QNX for automotive is a suite of embedded software solutions, including operating systems and middleware, as well as a host of security solutions that protects the vehicle’s systems from cybersecurity attacks. Vehicle manufacturers that don’t want to build their own secure operating systems can use BlackBerry’s QNX operating systems and frameworks to build their ADAS systems.

 

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A history degree is still worthwhile and this shows why

More than ever, post secondary institutions are dropping various humanity degrees from what they offer. History is one of them. No doubt part of the reason is because people are not studying history when they attend post secondary schools. I imagine part of the reason people are not studying it is because they believe one or more of these statements:

  1. History Majors Are Underemployed
  2. A History Major Does Not Prepare You for Gainful Employment
  3. History Majors Are Underpaid

That’s too bad. Anyone who things that should read this piece. It makes the case that those statements are myths: History Is Not a Useless Major: Fighting Myths with Data | Perspectives on History | AHA

There is economic value in attaining a degree in history. After reading that piece, no one should be able to say a history degree is worthless.

It goes without saying that there are non-economic benefits to a history degree too. The more I read history the better sense I have of my own time and my place in it. By studying history and the arguments that historians make, I am better able to think for myself. I regret not studying more history when I was younger. I make up for it now by reading history often. I hope you will too. Perhaps even study it in university.

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How to be more resilient? Emulate resilient people

To be more resilient, be more like resilient people. And what makes them resilient? According to this: What Makes Some People More Resilient Than Others – The New York Times resilient people have the following qualities:

They have a positive, realistic outlook. They don’t dwell on negative information and instead look for opportunities in bleak situations, striving to find the positive within the negative.

They have a moral compass. Highly resilient people have a solid sense of what they consider right and wrong, and it tends to guide their decisions.

They have a belief in something greater than themselves. This is often found through religious or spiritual practices. The community support that comes from being part of a religion also enhances resilience.

They are altruistic; they have a concern for others and a degree of selflessness. They are often dedicated to causes they find meaningful and that give them a sense of purpose.

They accept what they cannot change and focus energy on what they can change. Dr. Southwick says resilient people reappraise a difficult situation and look for meaningful opportunities within it.

They have a mission, a meaning, a purpose. Feeling committed to a meaningful mission in life gives them courage and strength.

They have a social support system, and they support others. “Very few resilient people,” said Dr. Southwick, “go it alone.”

If you want to be more resilient, try and adopt those qualities.

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On Haring, Basquiat and the art that defined 80s New York


Some good links on the art of the 1980s, of which Basquiat and Haring played a big part, here and here.

Most of the time the links I post are mostly because I want other people to know about them. Links that talk about my youth are mainly for me. 🙂 But fans of either painter or art of that time should click through.

Painting above by Haring in tribute to Basquiat. May they both RIP.

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Inequality is a fundamental problem over many centuries


At least, according to this:  700 years of Western inequality, in one chart – Vox

The chart shows the percentage of wealth owned by the top 10% since 1300. There are only two times it takes a major drop: during the Black Death in the 14th century and during World War II in the 20th century.

If true, it means that wealth concentration will continue unless another major catastrophe occurs (pandemic? global warming?).

There is lots to debate in all this. The numbers themselves are debatable (i.e. just how accurate and representative are they?)  As well, there is an argument to be made that it doesn’t matter how inequally distributed wealth is  if generally life for the 90% is good. But the Vox piece argues that such inequality leads to political instability and other problem, and that a good life for the majority isn’t enough.

Read the piece and consider it for yourself.

 

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The Most Influential Artists of 2019 according to Artsy

It seems every year the website Artsy puts together a list of artists who were recently influential. The lists are always interesting, mixing artists you likely heard of (e.g., Jeff Koons) and others you may hear more of.  It’s a great way to find out what artists are making a difference right now.

I had not heard of Mrinalini Mukherjee before. (Not that I even pretend to know everything about the current art world.) But I am glad to have discovered her for myself. Go here and learn more for yourself: The Most Influential Artists of 2019 – Artsy

(Image about is of Mukherjee and a featured work of hers.)

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Discrimination in design can come in two forms


Discrimination in design comes in two forms. One is through direct action. When you see benches designed to prevent homeless people from sleeping on them, that’s one example. Many more examples can be found in this ProPublica piece: Discrimination by Design — ProPublica.

Ignorance is the second way discrimination can occur in design. Just this week Twitter rolled out an audio feature that is inaccessible for deaf people. No one at twitter set out to discriminate against deaf people. The designers at Twitter just didn’t take them into account. (Apparently Twitter doesn’t have an accessibility review team for their software updates, which is bad for a technology company as large as they are.)

Keep in mind both forms when you see something that seems designed to discriminate against certain people. It may be intentional, or it may be an omission. Either way, steps should be taken to eliminate that discrimination.

(More on twitter’s audio tweets, here.)

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Which technology has lasted since 1995, 25 years ago


This is interesting. In reflecting upon Java’s 25th birthday, this article looks at what else has lasted since that then: Java’s 25th birthday prompts a look at which tech products have survived since 1995 – TechRepublic.

You might think that very little has lasted that long. And it’s true, many technologies have died. (Altavista for one.) But many technologies continue to succeed and grow. Amazon, for starters.  Java itself still is found in computers all over the world. Check out the piece and see what lives and what died since the mid 90s, when the World Wide Web came into its own.

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Tools to help you deal with anxiety, during a pandemic, or otherwise

I think this is a terrible headline, which is too bad, because there is much to take away from this piece:  How to stay sane when the world’s going mad | MIT Technology Review

There are tools and advice in there, including this:

  • Notice when you are worrying, and be kind and compassionate to yourself. This is a difficult time; it makes sense that you might be more anxious.
  • Focus on what’s in your control. Work out what is a hypothetical worry (you cannot do anything about it) and what is a real problem (needs a solution now).
  • Refocus on the present moment. Focus on your breath, or on using your five senses.
  • Engage in activities that you find meaningful and enjoyable. That could include music, walking, reading, baths, household tasks, or calls with friends and family.
  • Notice and limit your worry triggers. If the news is making you anxious, limit your consumption.
  • Practice gratitude. List the things you were grateful for that day: for example, “The sun was shining.”
  • Keep a routine, and stay mentally and physically active.

 

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Fifty ideas and concepts to ponder


I am not sure if these will change your life, but this piece is full of interesting ideas and concepts to consider: 50 Ideas That Changed My Life — David Perell

I like the circle of competence one. It’s worthwhile to consider and remember when you hear someone smart in one area making claims in other areas. Chances are they are not any more competent in all areas than anyone else, and you should take their claims with a grain of salt.

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Canadian Protesters: know your rights with this one page sheet

The Canadian Civil Liberties association has a nice one page sheet of them, here.

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How giving up coffee affects you


This may not be something you want to try during the pandemic, but if you ever thought about giving up coffee or any other form of caffeine, read this: This Is What Happens to Your Body During a Caffeine Detox.

I was impressed by how detailed the article was. Also how your nervous system changes over time. Remarkable!

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Mary Beard on Statues


Mary Beard brings her unique perspective to statues and what to do about them, here: Statue wars | blog post by Mary Beard – The TLS.

Good food for thought on people for or against the disposal of statues.

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You may be working from home for awhile. Here are some tools to help you stay focused

This is actually a great looking set of tools to help you work from home: Eight apps to help you stay focused when working from home – The Globe and Mail

Normally when I see such a list — and there have been many — I see the same tools over and over again. Not with this list. Moreover, they are a diverse set of tools to help with various difficulties when you work from home.

Have a look. I’d be surprised if there isn’t one there you could use.

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The best advice I’ve received on setting long term goals

The best advice I’ve ever gotten on setting long term goals is one I heard at a client I was working with. His team was making five year goals. It’s a difficult thing to do. It’s easy to make a vague statement about where you’d ideally like to get to in five years. To make it concrete, he told his team that they had to make a one year goal that bridged to the goal in year five and that they would commit to do before the year was done.

This is something you can do for any longer term goal, from one year to ten. Let’s say you want to run a marathon in a year. Then decide what your goal is for the next 1-3 months that brings you closer to that goal. If you want to own a house in ten years, what are you doing in the next 1-2 years to get there. By committing to shorter term goals, you get greater certainly you will achieve your longer term goals and you get closer to them with each short term goal you achieve.

If you want to set some financial goals, try reading this: How to Save for Short & Medium-Term Financial Goals? | WiserAdvisor – Blog. 

It’s also where I got the image above.

How to feel less hopeless and other good links I’ve found

Here’s some random links I have found this week and some comments. The tone is somewhat negative. The mood of the web is negative these days, and it gets to me. If you are not up for that, just ignore this for now.

 

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Reason over Passion

Still a great work, after all these years. More on it, here: 1968 – Reason over Passion by Joyce Wieland | 150 years 150 works

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Lighten your mental load by lifting a physical one: lift weights to lift depression

You may hate lifting weights, but if you struggle with depression, even from time to time, then you should consider it.

More details, here: Resistance Training May Help Relieve Depression (Time)

What are you looking at in terms of exercise? It says:

He recommends following the guidelines provided by the American College of Sports Medicine: doing strength training at least two days per week by performing eight to 12 repetitions of eight to 10 different strength-building exercises each time.

Sounds hard, but it isn’t. And if you need some exercise routes, go to Darebee and find some routines you need.

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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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Is technology designed to perpetuate racism?

That’s what this piece argues: Of course technology perpetuates racism. It was designed that way. | MIT Technology Review.

I disagree. Technology sometimes perpetuates racism, but it is often due to the fact it is NOT designed to account for racism. Sometimes machine learning software cannot perceive non-white faces correctly because they are trained with only white faces and cannot account for non-white faces. Sometimes search engines result in racist results, based on racist queries. AI systems can be made racist by engaging with a multitude of racists. If you feed systematic racist data based on redlining into your banking system or prison data into your justice software system, then those systems will make racist decisions. In all these cases, the fact that the systems are not designed to account for racism (or sexism or any form of discrimintation) is the problem. They need to be designed to account for these things.

Only when technology is designed to account for racism will it stop perpetuating racism.

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Skinny skyscrapers are coming to Toronto


There are a fair number of these in Manhattan, but if this is correct, it looks like one is coming to downtown Toronto, at Bay and Bloor: Herzog & de Meuron designs Canada’s tallest skyscraper.

I predict over the next 20-30 years we may have lots of these bean poles in many cities. Including Toronto.

Click on the link for more details.

Some ways to tackle inequality if you are an introvert

If you are an introvert and shy away from using your voice or your presence to address inequality, there are still a number of things you can do to improve things. Here’s a starter list for you to consider.

1. Contribute money. Money is power, and giving money to groups that work to combat inequality is a straightforward way to shift power to those having less of it.

2. Vote for candidates working to reduce inequality.

3. Decline positions that reinforce inequality. Do you belong to some organization that fosters inequality? Consider resigning or asking the leaders of the organization to better balance the group so it is more equal.

4. Educate yourself. Find good sources that deal with the inequalities you see and will give you better insight into the problems and how they can be solved.

5. Amplify voices dealing with inequality. If you can, help share the voices of people trying to address inequality so others can hear them.

6. Address your elected officials. Besides voting, you can prod your elected officials to do more to address inequality. Most elected officials are interested to hear what you say and even for an introvert it is not that hard to speak up to them.

7. Educate others. This may be harder for you, but consider ways you can share what you have learned and try and find ways to communicate to others existing inequalities and how they might be addressed.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it will start you on your way to help push back against the inequality you see in the world.

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On the evolution of technologies

This is a great piece on understanding technology: The best is the last — Benedict Evans. One thing I love about it is that it illustrates its point by using non-digital technology. I tend to think of information and digital technology when I think of tech. This piece overturns that and talks about planes and ships.

And what is the point it is illustrating? Namely, this:

The development of technologies tends to follow an S-Curve: they improve slowly, then quickly, and then slowly again. And at that last stage, they’re really, really good. Everything has been optimised and worked out and understood, and they’re fast, cheap and reliable. That’s also often the point that a new architecture comes to replace them.

Smart piece. Once I read it, I wanted to apply the lessons to other technology too.

The four steps to give a good apology

Hopefully you do not have to apologize too often, but if you do, you will do well to follow the steps outlined here

 

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How living in a poor neighborhood changes everything about your life (and this was before the pandemic)


This is a really good explanation piece on how living in a poor neighborhood changes everything about your life (Vox).

It is focused on the United States, but is not unique to it. Well worth reading. It can also explain why people who live in poorer neighborhoods are more likely to suffer the effects of the pandemic.

On recipes


After the controversy regarding Alison Roman written about here and elsewhere, I started thinking about recipes, where they come from, how I use them, and how I think about them.

A recipe is usually instructions for how to do something. Typically we associated it with food preparation. Recipes list ingredients and steps to prepare the ingredients. They tell you how many people the recipe typically feeds. Sometimes they tell you other things, like nutritional information.

Some recipes are like open source software. You can take a recipe and modify it to make it your own, just like open source software. Other recipes are not open and kept secret, like the formula for certain soft drinks, or the recipe for a certain fried chicken. Some are even patentable (although good luck with that).

Some recipes are associated with regions or cultures. If you think of bouillabaisse,  you think of France. Risotto: Italy. Sushi: Japan. Some recipes and dishes transcend regions and become universal. Dumplings are like that. Noodles too. The same goes for ingredients: you can find basil and oregano in many recipes all over the world, and garlic is about as universal ingredient as any.

Some are associated with certain people, such as Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce. You can claim making tomato sauce with butter and onion and tomatoes is a recipe of yours, but by now it is associated with Marcella Hazan. Likewise with Martha Stewart’s One-Pot Pasta. It’s not like no one has ever made such a dish before, but now we associate them with one particular person.

Alison Roman is a person who has had success with  recipes that became associated with her, namely her chocolate chunk shortbread cookies (” the cookies”) and her chickpea stew (“the Stew”). The Stew in particular got me thinking about recipes and ingredients and how people go about making recipes. For example, if a recipe is based on another recipe, should the author mention that? It likely depends on the publication and other factors. For example, with someone like Deb Perleman, you get a lot of detail about the recipe before she goes into it. Or with Hugh Acheson where he talks about the origin of his catfish stew recipe before proceeding to list the steps and ingredients.

Some people (like me)  prefer recipes with those details; other people just want the recipe. Anyone creating and publishing recipes needs to decide how much detail to include, depending on their audience. In publications like Bon Appetit, there is often space allocated only for the recipe itself. I don’t know what the text was wrapped around this recipe for a  Zingy Red Sauce when it was published, but I assuming it matched the minimum detail found on the web site. Now is this recipe a derivation of a Romesco Sauce (also in Bon Appetit)? Possibly. Likewise this Seafood Stew for Two Recipe  in Bon Appetit.  This stew shares a lot of ingredients with this classic Cioppino Recipe also in  Bon Appetit, but it is also varied enough to consider it to be it’s own recipe.

I think Roman does variations of recipes not infrequently, which aligns with her belief that she won’t ask you to do any more than you have to, while still making it a good dish. So this recipe for Summer Greens with Mustardy Potatoes and Six-Minute Egg Recipe in Bon Appetit is not unlike a stripped down Nicoise salad, but it is not a Nicoise salad despite some commonality. That I think explains the success of her recipes: she takes ingredients and recipes and strips them down somewhat while still making them look good, taste good, and accessible for home cooks to make.

She has not been called out for making recipes with strong European origins. But where she ran into trouble with The Stew is that she seemed to take some ingredients that resembled a curry and had it identified with her. If The Stew associated with her was the seafood stew above or this Fish Stew with Fennel and Baby Potatoes, then she still would have had a problem for the insulting things she said, but it is less likely she would have been criticized with terms like “Columbus Cuisine” and accused of ripping off other cultures and enriching herself at their expense. I don’t believe she does that, but that has been a lively topic of debate with smarter food writers than me.

I don’t think her approach to writing recipes is wrong. I can’t say that recipes  going viral is bad. What I will say is ultimately  it is better if we read from  a diverse range of food writers who can bring not just interesting recipes to publication, but the interesting stories that go with them. I also think it is good when people from different backgrounds can explore the recipes and ingredients of other cultures and make something new with them while acknowledging what the inspiration is. This is much better than remixing an older recipe without attribution. I’d add that acknowledging the origins of an ingredient can’t hurt either. After awhile some of those ingredients may seem universal. Perhaps kimchi will become as common as dill pickles in North American kitchens, and turmeric becomes as frequently used as cumin.

I think publications can do a better job of not just publishing recipes but educating their readers. Likewise, I think sharing, innovating and educating others on food is a great thing, and I hope recipe writers from all background can borrow and improvise and create new dishes. They won’t be quite as eclectic as these recipes that resulted from a collaboration with IBM’s Watson computer and Bon Appetit, but they will inspire us and help us prepare better meals and make our lives better.

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On David McMillan’s Love Letter to Toronto

David McMillan, who is responsible for some of the great restaurants in Montreal, wrote this love letter to Toronto and it’s restaurants a few years ago. It’s wonderful. Reading it over again, it has a bittersweetness as I read the names of some of the wonderful Toronto food establishments he mentions. I wonder if many of them will still exist after this pandemic. I want to hope that most will and I want to hope that the Toronto food scene will still be great. Just like I want the Montreal food scene to recover and thrive. I will say a prayer that both those things come true.