In praise of e-paper and alternative displays

Here’s three pieces by Max Braun on using alternative displays for information. I think they are great.  For example, I would love to have postersized screen on my wall to read the paper each day.

And this calendar is minimal and cool:

For more on these, see these links:

Tech Stuff I am interested in, Arduino edition, March 2021


Last March at the beginning of the pandemic I was doing a bunch of Arduino projects. I stopped for some reason. Well, a number of reasons. But I want to get back at it and dive back into these sites.

If you are interested in working with an Arduino, check these out:

  1. Circuito.io: a good site to draw and plan out circuits!
  2. Using Arduino with a Nokia 5110 screen
  3. How to use bluetooth and Arduinos together
  4. More on using bluetooth and Arduinos together
  5. How to use Infrared receivers and Arduinos together
  6. A good tutorial to start you off
  7. How to use LEDS and Arduinos together
  8. How to use LCD displays and Arduinos together
  9. How to use temperature displays and Arduinos together
  10. Morre on LCD displays
  11. More tutorials
  12. A classic intro: getting an LED to blink
  13. How to use Raspberry Pis and Arduinos together
  14. How to use Arduinos to check your website
  15. More on bluetooth
  16. How to use a 16×2 display and Arduinos together

A bonus Raspberry Pi section

Finally, the homepage for Arduino is here.

(Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash )

On Eric Schmidt


I could never figure out Eric Schmidt. As a CEO, he seemed to be successful. However, he would get in public and say and do things that I would disagree with often and that seemed ridiculous at times. But nonetheless people would nod their heads and agree because hey he was the head of Google.

He’s an odd guy.

For instance, I am curious about why he became a European citizen vs Cyprus. I suspect it may be something to do with taxes. Meanwhile here he is making an anodyne statement about how China will dominate AI unless the US invests more. It’s hard to argue against it because there’s no there there. Whoever spends the most in any field will likely dominate it. How is that thoughtful or interesting?

I suspect we will hear from him less in the future. But when we do I’ll come back here to see if my opinion of him has changed.

 

Not your typical staplers

It may be hard to believe that anything to do with getting a stapler could be interesting. But these two are.

First here is one you can get to staple your own skin if you are injured. This one isn’t dramatic but if you want to staple a booklet, it’s perfect.

(Photo by Viktor Talashuk on Unsplash )

On Anger

It is natural to feel angry at times. As the Mayo Clinic explains, anger is a natural response to perceived threats. What you do with your anger is what is important.

For some, stopping your anger is what is important. Some but not all. This piece argues that anger can be a public good. On the other hand, this article compares it to a form of madness that needs to be curbed. Certainly if you have kids, especially kids with severe difficulties of their own, knowing how to regain your sense of calm (as this pieces shows) is important.

My personal view is that anger is like a fire, and while fire has its uses, it is generally someone you want to contain if you don’t want to cause major damage to yourself and others. It is worthwhile to examine what you perceive to be a threat and try and break it down and determine if it really is a threat. Often the things we fear are not as threatening as we imagine. Plus sometimes we feel that way because we are tired or feeling isolated.

The last piece I want to recommend on anger is this piece in Zenhabits.

(Photo by Yaoqi LAI on Unsplash)

Why web sites crash and become inoperable

I see many people complain about websites crashing and becoming inoperable as governments rush out IT systems to support vaccinations. People wonder: how does this happen? You might gripe: websites normally don’t crash like that so these new ones must be terrible. Let me explain why that’s not necessarily the case.

Let’s talk about the diagram above. Websites are made of software running within an environment. (An environment can be a physical computer in a data center, or it could be several computers working together, or even a mainframe. In this diagram it is the box around the web site box). You use an app or your browser to send a request through the Internet to the web site for information. The software that makes up the web site provides you with the information in a response. Sometime the source of information is from the same environment, other times it has to go outside the environment to get the information. For example, you might go to a web site and click on a link to get store hours: that is your request. The website sends a response that is a web page with the store hours. Another time you might send a request to a site to give you all your account information. In that case the web site might go get that source of information from a number of different systems outside the environment and then send you a response with all your account information.

Where it often starts to break down is when too many requests come in for the web site to handle. There are a number of reasons for that. As requests come in, web site software will sometimes need to use up more resources like CPU or memory to respond to the increasing number of requests. Sometimes the web site software will ask for more resources than the environment allows. When that happens, the software might fail, just like a car running out of gas fails. Now people monitoring the software might bring it back up again but if the requests are still coming in too fast, the same problem reoccurs. Indeed, it’s usually when people give up and the requests subside that the web site software can finally come back up and work without crashing or becoming inoperable.

Not all web site software consumes resources until they crash. Some software will set some limit to prevent that from happening. For example, the software might start quitting before it has a chance to properly respond to save itself from taking up too much resources. The software will send you a response essentially saying it can’t respond properly right now. The software didn’t crash, but you didn’t get the answer you wanted.

One way to prevent this is to get a really big environment to run the web site software. There are two problems with this approach. One is that it can be difficult to know how big this environment should be; this is especially true of new web sites. The other problem is that it can be expensive to pay for that. Imagine buying an 18 wheel truck instead of a minivan just so you can have it for when you have to move your home. That doesn’t make sense. You have all this trucking capacity you don’t normally need. The same is true with website software environments.

Another difficulty can occur when the web site software has to leave the environment to get information. The web site software might have a lot of capacity in the environment, but the other systems it has to go to outside the environment to get the information do not. In that case, the other system can fail or timeout or be very slow. In which case, there is nothing you can do to make the web site better. You cannot just add capacity in the middle if the other systems are capped. The best you can do as the developer of the web site is to find tricks to not ask the back end systems for too much information. For example, if 1 million users are asking for rate information that changes daily, you can ask the backend system for it once and then serve that to the million users that day, rather than asking for the same information a million times.

There are many ways to make web sites resilient and capable of responding to requests. However with enough load they will crash or become inoperable. The job of IT architects like myself is to make the chances of that happening as small as we can. But there is always a chance, especially with new systems with great demand.

An important flow chart you need to keep in mind this week

The twitter account lizandmollie (@lizandmollie) tweeted this last week and I think we all need to read it

Only do important stuff that may be urgent.

Original tweet: @lizandmollie

It’s Monday. You have some emails you want to send but don’t know what to say. This can help


Have you’ve been putting off sending an email to someone because you don’t know what to say? Well with canned emails, you have a good start. Simply go to this site: Canned Emails – a minimal site with prewritten emails. and search for what you want to say. Want to catch up with someone? There’s an email for that. Does someone owe you money? There’s another one for that. Want to cancel a service? That site has you covered.

Some people have a knack of knowing what to write in any situation. For the rest of us, canned emails can help us get over the hump and get that communication going.

Give it a try.

(Photo by Melinda Gimpel on Unsplash )

Sodom, or when science collides with early religions and folklore

I thought this was fascinating: New Science Suggests Biblical City Of Sodom Was Smote By An Exploding Meteor.

There is an archaeological dig happening that seems to say that a meteor hit the region at some point and destroyed the place people were inhabiting. You can see how this could have been taken for divine retribution, just like the Great Flood was. Then this great event is incorporated into folklore and early religion.

Now how good is this new science? If you read the wikipedia page for Sodom, you can see at the bottom in the section Historicity that shows the claims made and how debatable they are. So maybe this isn’t the actual site and it’s possible Sodom was not wiped out by a meteor. Still, it is fascinating to think about.

(General Photo by John Ballem on Unsplash of a site hit by a meteor.)

Three good links on terrazzo

Terrazzo is hot. (Says the guy who doesn’t really know what is hot anymore. :)) Once limited to floors, now you can see it on everything from dresses to basketballs. If you love it, you are in luck; this piece highlights one company you can use to get a vinyl version for your floors. I love it.

Now not everyone is a fan. The author of this piece, for instance: Will the Millennial Aesthetic Ever End?. But for everyone else, you now have many ways to bring it into your life. Time to jazz up your flooring.

On Bernie Michalik’s Rule of Performance Testing

Two things. First my rule of performance testing is that you cannot avoid performance testing: you either do it with test data and test users in a test environment or you do it with live data with real users in a production environment.

So often I see clients try to slim down or avoid performance testing. I came up with my rule to show them that it is impossible. Now sometimes you can get away with it but it’s risky. I never advise it. You can always do some form of performance testing before you go live. Always. Still some try not to.

Second, above is an example of a site that clearly was performance tested. Even better, it is designed to respond to peak loads. Impressive.

You are going to be hearing a lot – ALOT! :) about NFTs. Here’s your NFT 101

You may already be sick of hearing about NFTs (Non-Fungible Token). I have bad news: you are going to be hearing a lot about them for the next year. Two reasons for that: techies love them and they are all about money. So there’s going to be a ton of hype regarding them for the next while as people experiment with them. As you can see from the chart above, things regarding blockchain are still making their way up the Gartner Hype Curve, and NFTs are blockchain-based assets.

That aside, here’s Forbes with the info you need: Non-Fungible Tokens 101: A Primer On NFTs For Brands And Business Professionals

P.S. Gartner is very good at assessing technologies and how they play out. That particular Hype curve is from this article.

If you thought about growing a vegetable garden this year, read this now

vegetablesIf you thought about growing a vegetable garden this year, I highly recommend this piece: 13 Vegetables to Plant in Early Spring in Apartment Therapy. It has a wealth of information on what to plant, how to plant it, and when you should harvest it.

Sure a garden is work, but it’s good work. Indeed, as Samin Nosrat demonstrated, it might make you happier.

Good luck. Happy harvesting to you.

Are you eating oddly during the pandemic? Of course you are!

baby in a cake

I have been eating oddly during the pandemic compared to how I used to eat in the Before Times. Some days I will skip breakfast: other days I’ll have two! Or I’ll have dinner at 4 and then a snack at 10. I bet something similar  happening to you.

Well good news! As this article shows, everyone is going through the same thing: Your Weird Pandemic Meals Are Probably Fine – The Atlantic.

If you have maintained a consistent way of eating the whole time, that’s fine too. But if you are a bit weirded out by how you eat these days, read that article and you should feel better.

(Photo by Henley Design Studio on Unsplash)

The feeling wheel: a great tool to help you assess how you feel

If you are in therapy or using some sort of mood log to assess how you feel, I highly recommend this tool: the emotional word wheel. It’s more than a fancy thesaurus. As the creator explains:

I work with people who have limited emotional vocabulary and as a result the intensity of their negative emotions and experiences is heightened because they can’t describe their feelings (especially their negative feelings). That’s why this list is heavily focused on negative emotions/ experiences. Being able to clearly identify how we are feeling has been shown to reduce this intensity of experience because it re-engages our rational mind.

I think it’s great, especially for men of a certain generation who have difficulty assessing how they feel and therefore have difficulty in dealing with it.

Speaking of mood logs, if you are interested in why you want to keep one, see this. Mood logs don’t have to be fancy: you can write your daily moods on post it notes for all it matters. And you don’t have to only write down bad moods: if you note the good moods, you can better understand what makes you feel good and look for ways to replicate that. That’s the goal for people like me.

You can find more on the emotional word wheel all over the Internet. The version I am referencing is here.

It’s Monday. Here’s a guide for teens to cope with anxiety that you too should read

Sign with the word Emotions on it.
Wait a second, you say. I am not a teen with anxiety, and I don’t know any. Fine, read this anyway: How to cope with teen anxiety | Psyche Guides

We all have a mix of bad feelings at all stages of our lives. You are likely reading this on a Monday: don’t tell me you don’t have some bad feelings right now. 🙂 The good news is that techniques used in CBT can help you deal with those feelings, whether you are somewhat anxious or depressed.

Not only that, but I think CBT can help people with feelings like being bored, disappointed or frustrated. Feelings you may feel weighing on you that don’t make you feel good. You can use it to shake yourself our of your current mindset which may not be helpful to you and move you into a better mindset.

Take those emotions that don’t make you feel your good self and move towards some better ones. Hey, it’s Monday: a good day to take a crack at it.

All the best.

(Photo by Alexas_Fotos on Unsplash)

Iowa shows why the move from big cities may be only temporary

Brooklyn
One thing that happened during the pandemic is that big cities like New York vacated to some degree. When they did, there was talk about how in the future more people would continue to work from home, and if they did, they might go to smaller and more affordable cities, like Des Moines, Iowa. Indeed, places like Des Moines has been recruiting people.

The problem these cities have, though, is that they are missing part of the puzzle. People in big cities like NYC and San Francisco live there for a lot of reasons. One of those is the freedom and rights that come with living there.  The respect those places have for progressive values are a big draw. Unfortunately, as this really good piece shows, Iowa (and likely other conservative cities and states) can’t and won’t provide that any time soon.

After reading that piece, I thought: yeah, even if the majority of people can still work from home, the mass exodus from Brooklyn to Des Moines is not going to be happening. Some will, for sure. But when the pandemic is over, people are going to head back to the major cities. They have more to offer than  affordability.

(Photo by Julian Myles on Unsplash)

 

Good design: OneClock

Alarm clock

The clock shown about is the OneClock. It looks great on the outside, and it’s smartly designed on the inside. Over at Colossal, they say, well:

Say goodbye to the days of being jarred awake by the alarm blaring from your iPhone. The creative team over at OneClock designed a streamlined device with the intention of rousing people in a more peaceful manner, one with soothing melodies that are in stark contrast to the startling sounds many of us hear every morning.

Smart. For more on the clock, click on the link to Colossal. Not only will you learn more about the clock, but there’s lots of great photos of it too.

Deleted scenes: Michael and the Don reuniting in “The Godfather”

I love deleted movie scenes. You often get insights into a film from seeing what was taken out. Sometimes the deletion is obvious: the scene doesn’t work or it redundant. Other times, though, I feel like it may have been dropped just to make the film shorter. I felt that way watching this scene:

Coppola does foreshadowing in a number of scenes in the film, including this one. You can see laid bare Michael’s desire for revenge, a revenge he gets at the end. You also see how happy the Don is to have him back.

There are key transition points for Michael in the film: when he shows up at the hospital to protect his father and when he proposes to kill McCluskey and Solozzo. I feel this deleted scene is one of those.

Obviously Coppola is a great director and he knows how to cut a film. I would have liked to see this one kept in, though.

More goodness from the 80s

David Salle painting

Here at this blog I will always share my love of the 1980s.

First up, here is a great piece in the New Yorker on a recent Whitney art show which highlighted the Joy of Eighties Art. It’s begins great:

Starting in the late nineteen-seventies, young American artists plunged, pell-mell, into making figurative paintings. That seemed ridiculously backward by the lights of the time’s reigning vanguards of flinty post-minimalism, cagey conceptualism, and chaste abstraction. The affront was part of the appeal. As with contemporaneous punk music, sheer nerve rocketed impudent twentysomethings to stardom on New York’s downtown scene. The powerful excitement of that moment has been languishing in a blind spot of recent art history, but “Fast Forward: Painting from the 1980s,” at the Whitney, a show of works by thirty-seven artists from the museum’s collection, comes to the rescue. Some of the names are famous: Julian Schnabel, David Salle, Eric Fischl, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring.

I loved reading every word of that. A great review.

Other 80s things I found recently is this here ode to a great album of the the early 1980s: Rattlesnakes from Lloyd Cole and the Commotions.

Saxophones don’t feature on that recording, but they did on many other great recordings of the 1980s. Gradually they died off. Here’s a good piece exploring that.

If you still have music from that era, chances are some of it is on a cassette tape, which was big then. If you suddenly have the urge to listen to that, you can, with this player (shown below at Uncrate.com). It’s not the original Walkman, but in some ways it’s better.

cassette player

Rock on.

(Top image is David Salle’s “Sextant in Dogtown” (1987).Courtesy David Salle / VAGA, NY. Linked to in the article. Bottom image is from the uncrate.com article)

In praise of spreadsheets (and some new ways for you to use them)

Excel
Let’s face it: there is no better tool than Excel/spreadsheet software when it comes to managing information. New tools come out all the time, and yet people still depend on this workhorse software to get the job done.

At least it is for me. If that’s you too, then you might be interested in what they have over at Vertex42.com, including these three tools:

  1. Free Gantt Chart Template for Excel
  2. Project Timeline Template for Excel
  3. Savings Snowball Calculator

Of course Google Sheets are also great. Whatever you use, check out that site for some good tools and ideas.

New office chair and phone ideas (or, be good to your back and head :))

chair

Two things that can make our lives easier as we work from home are a good chair and a good phone. If you are in the market for a new office chair, see this:

Best office chairs of 2021 for your home office or student workstation – TechRepublic.

If you are in the market for a new phone, consider something out of the ordinary, like these minimal phones.

If your outputs aren’t great, look at your inputs


Are your outputs bad lately? Do you find your work is not up to the same grade they used to come up to? Are you finding yourself struggling to maintain good relationships with others? Maybe you find you aren’t taking care of yourself the way you used to? If your outputs are not great lately, I recommend you look at your inputs.

Simply put, if you have bad inputs, you will have bad outputs. Anyone who runs a well run machine will tell you that. It’s also true for you.

First of all, you are living in a pandemic in the middle of winter as I write that. Some of us are in a lockdown.  Just that alone is one big bad input into every day. Part of your pandemic life may be that you don’t get to see and meet people who at one time would give you a lot of positive input. A deficit of good inputs can be as  bad as a surfeit of bad inputs.  If you find you aren’t sleeping properly, or eating properly, or doing other things to take care of yourself, then those too are bad inputs.

Some of us can do well with even meagre inputs. But few can thrive that way. If you want to do better, you need to improve your good inputs and reduce your bad inputs. To do that,  I want to point you to this piece I wrote about it some time ago: Motivational Jiu-Jitsu: Staying Positive in the Face of Negativity & Indifference – Adobe 99U

There’s some inputs you can’t change. But you can tune some of them out, just like you can amplify some of your good inputs. If you do, I can assure you that you’ll get better outputs.

P.S. For more on the importantance of inputs on outputs, see: Austin Kleon – Posts tagged \’input and output\’

(Photo by Pete Nuij on Unsplash)

Two pieces to help with (getting back into) mindfulness

mindfulness sign
For some time, I was doing well practicing mindfulness. I found it helpful. I don’t know why I stopped. But then I have stopped doing so many things during the pandemic, and mindfulness was one of those.

If that sounds like you too, here’s two good pieces that could help:

  1. How to Practice Mindfulness | A Cup of Jo
  2. How to Meditate: It’s Not Complicated, but It’s Not Easy | GQ

They’re also good if you haven’t done mindfulness before and want to start.

(Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash)

If you are afraid to draw, blind contour drawing is a good way to start

There are several benefits of blind contour drawing:

  1. if you are afraid you can’t draw “well”, then use blind contour drawing. Chances are it won’t look like the thing you are drawing, and that’s ok. But you will learn and get better at drawing.
  2. it is a good way to be mindful. If you are focused on doing a blind contour drawing, it’s hard to think of anything else
  3. It’s a good way to shake off your bad habits that you may have picked up.

Here’s some good links to help you learn more about it:

(Image is a link to the Austin Kleon post)

It’s Monday! You need help in keeping going. This can be the thing you need

Dontt give up sign

It’s Monday! The first of March! We’ve been doing this stupid pandemic thing for a year now. We’ve managed somehow, and we have to continue to manage.

If that sounds daunting to you, I highly recommend this article: An Ode to Low Expectations in The Atlantic. I think it could be just the thing to help you get through the week, the month, and the rest of the pandemic.

We talk about managing their expectations. It’s never more important to do that in turbulent times with feelings of great anticipation.

Good luck! Appreciate what you have. Things will get better.

(Photo by Rosie Kerr on Unsplash)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pandemic advice

On John Baldessari

John Baldessari passed away recently.  He was one of my favourite artists from the post World War II era. Here’s two traditional write ups on him from the leading papers of our day:

  • John Baldessari on his giant emoji paintings: ‘I just wondered what they’d look like large’  The Guardian
  • John Baldessari, Who Gave Conceptual Art a Dose of Wit, Is Dead at 88 –The New York Times

They are fine. However, I found what helped me reappreciate him was this piece: A brief appreciation of John Baldessari by Austin Kleon. It’s a short piece, but I came away from it with a better appreciate of Baldessari than I did from the other two.

Finally there is this interview in Interview magazine where he speaks with the artist (and former student) David Salle. Well worth reading.

Everything you wanted to know about Prolog, but were afraid to ask

If you were ever curious about learning Prolog, here’s 11 links to get you started. I did a lot of Prolog programming in the 1990s. It was one of the highlights of my career.  I played around with Lisp and other A.I. technology, but Prolog was the one I kept coming back to. I don’t write as much code these days, and when I do, I tend to write it in Python. But Prolog still has a place in my heart. It’s a great language that can do things no other language can. To see what I mean, check these out:

  1. Here’s a good intro to get you a handle on the language:Introduction to logic programming with Prolog
  2. Want to dive in and learn Prolog? This is good: Learn prolog in Y Minutes
  3. When learning code it is good to look at other people’s code. Here’s a repo on Github of sample code to look at: mjones-credera/prolog-samples: Sample Prolog code
  4. This repo has even more code: Anniepoo/prolog-examples: Some simple examples for new Prolog programmers
  5. You can take advantage of all that data in a relational database by connecting it up to Prolog like this: SWI-Prolog connecting to PostgreSQL via ODBC – Wiki – SWI-Prolog
  6. You can even run it on a Raspberry Pi: Prolog on the Pi | scidata
  7. IBM used Prolog with the initial version of Watson. You can read about it here: Natural Language Processing With Prolog in the IBM Watson System – Association for Logic Programming
  8. One of the things Prolog was really good at. In some ways I think better than some standalone ML tools: Expert Systems in Prolog
  9. Lots of good links, here: The Power of Prolog | Hacker News
  10. I haven’t played around with this but it is worth considering:  Small Prolog – Managing organized complexity
  11. Finally, here’s 99 small problems that Prolog can solve.

On Basquiat’s notebooks

At the Brooklyn Museum they had an exhibit of Basquiat’s notebooks. They wrote:

A self-taught artist with encyclopedic and cross-cultural interests, Basquiat was influenced by comics, advertising, children’s sketches, Pop art, hip-hop, politics, and everyday life. Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks emphasizes the distinct interplay of text and images in Basquiat’s art, providing unprecedented insight into the importance of writing in the artist’s process. The notebook pages on display contain early renderings of iconic imagery—tepees, crowns, skeleton-like figures, and grimacing faces—that also appear throughout his large-scale works, as well as an early drawing related to his series of works titled Famous Negro Athletes.

If you are a fan of the artist, I recommend you check this out: Brooklyn Museum: Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks.

If you have someone who is interested in making their own art, encourage them to check it out too. Seeing Basquiat’s notebooks can remind them that even with humble materials, the potential to create something great exists.

Friday night cocktail: a spritz

Amaro spritz
Technically this post is about an Amaro Spritz from aCoupleofCooks.com but really any combination of sparkling wine, club soda / soda water (but not tonic water) and a bitter can make a spritz. So amaro, Aperol, Campari, Lillet…even St Germain is good.

The ratio mentioned in aCoupleofCooks is this: 3 parts sparkling wine, 2 parts liqueur, 1 part soda water. And that’s good. But if you want it lighter, just increase the amount of soda water. If you want it less bitter, you might even consider a 1:1:1 ratio vs 3:2:1. But try 3:2:1 first. Enjoy!

What is going on with Google and Facebook in Australia and why you should care

Map of Australia
Have you been following what is happening with Google and Facebook in Australia?  I found it interesting for a number of reasons. One, it seems Facebook and Google have taken very different approaches, with Google coming to an agreement with the Australian government while Facebook has not. (At least not as of Feb 20, 2021.) Two, I believe whatever happens in Australia will have an effect on what is happening in Europe and the United States when it comes to the big digital giants.

I’ve read a number of pieces on it, but I found this one especially detailed: Australia’s Proposed “Fox News Tax” | by James Allworth | Jan, 2021 | Medium

If you want to get a deeper dive into what is driving things with regards to Facebook and Google in Australia, start there.

(Photo by Joey Csunyo on Unsplash)

Why you should point at things on the Internet (and elsewhere)

A person pointing at a painting

If you are stuck at creating things, find something worth pointing at and create something about it. For example:

  • if you see something interesting, take a picture of it and post it somewhere
  • if you have a favourite song, sing it for someone
  • if you have a favourite food, make it for someone
  • if you have an interesting place or person or idea and you think others should know, write about it

You get the idea.  I have been mulling this idea over since I read this: Pointing at things – Austin Kleon. 

The format of my blog since the beginning has been to point at things by writing about them. I’d estimate over 90% of my posts are me pointing at other parts of the Internet and saying why they are interesting. Even this post is about pointing at someone else’s post about pointing at things.

Pointing at things is an old tradition of the Internet. There is far too much information on it and often the only way of finding something useful is for someone to point it out. The best pointers often garner the most attention.

I hadn’t thought before to apply the idea of pointing to other creative forms. I somewhat do that on Instagram. Now I want to try and do it elsewhere.

Start pointing at things! Then tell people why you are. Everyone will benefit.

(Photo by kevin laminto on Unsplash)

How to use math to improve your relationships at home and work

the number 5

According to this, the way to have a good relationship with someone is to have five (at least) or more positive interactions with someone for every one negative interaction: Use the Magic 5:1 Ratio to Improve All Your Relationships | Inc.com.

While the focus for that study was on spouse or partner relationships, I think it is likely a good rule to follow for any relationships you have with people. That goes for people at work.  Think about the people you work with: how often do you have positive (vs neutral) interactions with them? If it is infrequent, consider increasing that. Especially if you are a leader. If you are a leader and you find the only time you interact with people is to criticize their work, you likely have many unhappy people under you.

Think about when you interact with your people and be conscious about making more of your interactions positive. After time you will find you have a better relationship with others, and that will lead to other benefits too.

(Photo by Ralph Hutter on Unsplash)

On preparing for a post-pandemic world

Theatre sign saying the world is temporarily closed

If you are in business, you need to start thinking today about how everything will change after the pandemic. If you need help, review this piece in HBR: Preparing Your Business for a Post-Pandemic World

If you are not responsible for a business, it could still benefit you to read it. I see plenty of people fantasizing about what they might do after the pandemic. Why not go further and start planning to do it? If you are thinking of moving after the pandemic, what will that take? If you are planning on travelling, what do you need to have in place to make that happen?

The pandemic will end. Not soon enough, but sooner than you are prepared for. Get started on that today. The world is only temporarily closed.

(Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash)

On the benefit of long lists of advice

list
The benefits of long lists of advice are twofold:

    1. You can pick and choose the advice you need.
    2. You can build your own list

I’ve done 1: I’ve yet to do 2, but I want to.

Meanwhile, if you want to do both, here’s a bunch of long lists of advice I’ve found.

On the wonderful colourful world of old churches

old church

This is a good piece on how, actually, Medieval Cathedrals Used to Be Full of Brilliant Colors. If you imagine them to be dark and dreary and colourless, read the piece. They were likely nothing like that, based on some good detective work by restoration specialists.

 

Crazy coffee tables!

Coffee table that is also a planter

Let’s face it: many coffee tables are boring. For a view of some that are anything but, you want to go to this link.

Take the one above, where you can have a coffee AND grow a garden.

For something completely different, there is this steampunk version:

Steampunk coffee table

There are also simpler but unique ones as well.

On the benefits of insomnia

Person with insomnia

For anyone suffering from persistent insomnia, the idea that the condition has benefits is an absurd one. However, if you have occasional bouts of sleeplessness, you can reap some rewards. As this piece argues

Being unable to sleep night after night, for weeks on end, is – of course – hell. But in smaller doses, insomnia does not need a cure. Occasional sleeplessness is an asset, a help with some key troubles of the soul. Crucial things we need may only get a chance to happen during a few active hours in the middle of the night. We should revise our assessment of sleeplessness.

I agree with this. I have had a few rounds of insomnia lately brought on from work stress and I found that I was able to work out some problems during this time. I was fortunate: I took a break midday when I was tired and had a brief nap and I was fine. I realize that not everyone can recover so easily.

To read the entire piece, go here: Perspectives on Insomnia -The School of Life Articles | Formally The Book of Life. Photo by Megan te Boekhorst on Unsplash.

End of university watch

classroom

It’s tempting to think that colleges and universities will start to see a major decline as a result of the pandemic. I think they will take a hit as a result of it, but I don’t think their demise is anywhere near. As this piece argues, people will take great lengths to take part in post-secondary educational experiences, pandemic or not: Why Did Colleges Reopen During the Pandemic? – The Atlantic

More than ever, the pandemic has made clear that major changes are required for post secondary education. Even before the pandemic, too many people waste their time and money going to university just so they can get a job. That’s wrong, but many employers demanded it. Fortunately, that is changing, as this piece shows:  14 companies that no longer require employees to have a college degree

Going to university is a good experience. Ideally I think university programs should split bachelor programs into 2. After two years, students could get some form of completion certificate. From there, they could go on to two more years of university study and complete their bachelor program, or they could switch to a vocational school and get something applied. (Or skip university all together.)

University isn’t for everyone. It should definitely not be something you need to start a job. A vocational school is fine for that. Indeed, most workplaces train people on the job once they hire them. Why wait for people to study something irrelevant to your profession?

P.S. Employers need radical rethinking of how they hire people. To see what I mean by radical, read this: This Company Hired Anyone Who Applied. Now It’s Starting a Movement.

(Photo by Changbok Ko on Unsplash)