It’s Christmastime: expectations can be high, and sometimes unachievable. This is especially true during this pandemic. If you are struggling to feel good during this time, here are two articles that can help:
It’s Christmastime: expectations can be high, and sometimes unachievable. This is especially true during this pandemic. If you are struggling to feel good during this time, here are two articles that can help:
This is a link to a powerful essay on the remnants of segregation in the United States. You can see these remnants faintly in the essay’s photographs, like this one above. Off to the left is the entrance to the balcony where the “coloreds” had to go while the “whites” entered through the door on the right and sat separately on the main level closer to the stage. There are many such images in this essay.
It’s good that such images are captured. Soon enough these buildings will all be gone, and the remnants too. That’s why things like this essay are good, because they call our attention to and remind us of what occurred.
The essay is not just filled with moving images, but the words themselves are worth taking the time to take in. I hope you can find the time to take it in and linger over it.
Sure, you could put it in a cocktail (e.g. sazarac), but armagnac straight up or over ice is more than fine without anything else. I’ve been a fan for decades, and if you want to know why you should become one too, read this. Then go out and grab a bottle. I’ve had the one pictured and it is really good.
If so, then you will find the next two links handy. I did. My son broke his screen and while I was able to repair it, other damaged occurred because it was so badly broken. Fortunately while he lost data, I was able to restore the phone to “new” state using these links. From there he went on to add his favorite apps, etc.
I am a huge fan of the Fitbit Aria scale, even when it is brutally honest about my weight situation. It prevents me from deceiving myself about how I am doing. And it encourages me if I’m making even a bit of progress.
The Aria scale measures both your weight and your body fat percentage to the fraction of a pound. (It also gives you your BMI, but I don’t care about that). That little bit of accuracy helps. I found when I was dieting, sometimes knowing that my weight went down by a fraction of a percentage helped me get through the day. (Motivation often turns on small points like this.) Likewise, right now with the pandemic I see my weight going up by a fraction of a pound every week. So I am trying to get it to go down by a fraction of a pound every week. A half pound every week adds up to 25 pounds in a year.
Having both those numbers prevent you from fooling yourself. If you go on a low carb diet, your weight may drop suddenly, but your body fat percentage may go up alot. (In the past mine did). That tells me that I am not really losing fat or even muscle that quickly. It’s likely water. Over time I did lose weight, but that initial weight loss isn’t what I thought.
The flip side of that is I have noticed my body fat percentage has gone up during the pandemic even though my body weight has stabilized. Makes sense: my physical effort has really gone down hill during the pandemic, and so my muscles have decreased. Sadly. That’s very different from situations I have had in the pre pandemic times when I was working out and my weight was staying the same but my body fat was decreasing. That was good: I was replacing fat with muscle.
Since I also have a fitbit for tracking my activity, all of those numbers sync up in the Fitbit app, which makes it easier for me to track the relationship between my activity and my weight.
I can also use it to track my mental state too. I can tell when I have had stressful times in my life because I either stop eating and suddenly lose weight fast, or I start eating a lot and gain weight fast. I might think I am doing fine, but the numbers say otherwise.
It’s not perfect (what is?). I tend to weigh myself the first thing every morning. If eat a carb heavy meal the night before, my weight will be up. If I stop eating early in the evening, my weight will go down. I don’t worry about it though: I am mostly focused on the trends.
I have gone through two of these scales now and if this one dies, I will certainly get another one. I find it too easy to deceive myself about my weight: the Aria scale is the brutally honest friend I need to stay on track.
Americans might find it unbelievable, but here in Canada we don’t have Venmo. We have other means of transferring cash digitally, but none of them are great, in my humble opinion. I’ve longed for something better.
Perhaps others have too because Wealthsimple has come out with an app, now in beta, that reminds me of what Venmo does. You can read about it here. It looks promising. I will definitely be looking at this over the year to come. I imagine the big Canadian banks will as well.
It’s that time of the year. And if you haven’t gotten a tree yet — either from a field or from the attic — you might be asking yourself: what is the most environmentally friendly option? Well, the folks at the New York Times asked themselves that too and wrote about it, here.
I am a big fan of real trees and will continue to get them. But read the article and judge for yourself.
Just follow these six easy steps:
Hey, if you are like me, you are ordering your presents online. When you do that, you get a lot of emails back updating you on the status of your order. Since it is Christmas, you are anxious about your order so naturally you are checking on them quickly. And that’s why you need to be careful.
Last night I got an email from Target asking me to check out the status of my order by clicking the link. This was fishy (phishy?) to me, because I didn’t order anything from Target. I checked the links in the email and sure enough: they did not go back to the Target web site.
And it’s not just merchants. I also got one from Paypal warning me of someone breaking into my account and asking me to press a button which wasn’t linked to PayPal.
In short, check your confirmation emails carefully before you click on anything. Otherwise your Christmas could be an unhappy one.
The new Apple AirPods came out, and some critics flailed them for being too expensive. A fair criticism. Some new products are terribly expensive but allow Apple to enter a market and gain share and work out aspects of the product before they move to make cheaper versions that dominant more.
Perhaps the AirPod Maxs will be like that. Some Apple products are strikeouts, and some are grand slams, but more often than not many are singles and doubles: not terrible, not great, but good to very good.
An example of that is the Apple HomePod Mini. This is one of those not bad not great products. Like the HomePod, it isn’t a failure, but it will not likely take the speaker market by storm either. Apple used to do that: wait and see what others in the marketplace were doing, them come out with something so much better and blow them away. But that was then. They are still great at what they do, and they are still financially world beaters, but I haven’t seen anything that has transformed the market like the iPod or the iPhone. And that fine.
For more on the HomePod and the AirPods Max, see these two pieces:
One product that year after year does great but is underappreciated is the Mac Mini. Apparently it is better than ever. You can read about it, here: Apple Mac Mini Review (2020): Brawn on a Budget | WIRED
Like the iPod Touch, it’s a product that Apple keeps refining and keeps make it better through each iteration. People tend to focus on the big new things from Apple, but they have some golden oldies that are always worth revisiting.
Here’s two good pieces on Paul McCartney on the eve of his latest album, “McCartney 3”.
The first one is an interview with him. Among other things, it shows the difficulty of him doing interviews, since it’s hard for him to add anything new (he still manages to do so): Paul McCartney Is Still Trying to Figure Out Love – The New York Times
While the New York Times piece is really good, this piece is great: 64 Reasons To Celebrate Paul McCartney – The Ruffian.
I have always been a fan of McCartney, but this second piece made me a greater fan. I’ve read it a few times, and even though it is long, I look forward to reading it again. It really does do a fantastic job of highlighting what a great artist Paul really is and addresses some of the many criticisms of him over the years. McCartney has been pinned down over the years both by some bad musical choices and by some (unfair?) musical criticism. One thing I liked about the second piece is how it nicely rebuffs some of that (e.g. “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da, “Another Day”). Highly recommended that piece, but both are worth a read.
P.S. Since I am banging on about him, my two cents on McCartney from the late 60s to the late 70s is that the Beatles were originally Lennon’s band, but as time past, McCartney grew and started to dominate the Beatles more. Meanwhile Harrison also came into his own. At one late point Lennon tried to come up with an arrangement of how they would allocate songs on the future albums (I think 4 for John, 4 for Paul, 2 for George, and 1 for Ringo), but I think things were too far gone by then. They were too big for the band. That’s too bad (what an understatement). If you go through their musical output of the 70s and picked out the best songs of all of them and made 3 or 4 albums, they would have been great albums (just think of taking the best of Imagine + All Things Must Past + Band on the Run, for example). Plus if they were together they would have pushed each other to do more great things.
I’m not sure how well they would have done past then. The birth of hip hop, punk and new wave might have washed them aside. Or they could have become frozen in amber, like some other big bands of that era. (Look at a Rolling Stones concert play list some time.) Then again, McCartney teamed up with Elvis Costello and made fine music, so they could have turned out to stay great.
Regardless of alternative histories, McCartney went on to make his own timeline as a creative artist. Here’s to the success of McCartney III and perhaps IV one day as well.
I’m not going to say that your goal setting is wrong. But it’s likely you are setting goals without looking at how you spend your time. So let’s start there.
Write down what you are doing or think you are doing every day, week, month. Really think about this and take the time to document your life this way. Be as quantitative as possible. Then categorize those activities. After you do that, ask yourself: do you want to spend the same amount of time doing those activities in the future? If you don’t, do you want to spend more time or less time?
Let’s take someone named Alison. Alison thinks her goal is to be a better parent. However, when she looks at what she is doing, she finds she is spending most of her time working to become a partner in her firm. That’s her real goal: promotion.
Now Alison is multifaceted, as we all are. She doesn’t need to abandon one goal to work on another. She decides she does want to get promoted, but she does so in the context of also being a better parent. So she shifts some of her time and focus towards more parenting, then works to track that over time to see whether she really has internalized that as a goal.
The time and effort and focus you spend on something tells you what your goals are. Even if you don’t know those are your goals. I discovered this some time ago when I was tracking my todos in an app called Remember the Milk. I was the opposite of Alison. I thought I wanted to get promoted, but I spent most of my time focused on being a good parent and not enough on getting promoted. Eventually I was content with that. I accepted that I would like to get promoted, but I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my parenting time to that. And I liked my work as it was. From time to time I would be disappointed to see others rise in the organization while I stayed the same, but quickly I thought that was ok. I was meeting my goals.
Likewise, I ran marathons for a long time, and I thought my goal was to run more. But over time I realized that what I got out of marathon running had slipped away. It just became a chore and my goals changed from being a marathon runner to being healthier. Maybe as my life changes I’ll go back to running marathons.
There is a famous poem by Kenneth Koch called You Want a Social Life, With Friends that addresses this:
Koch is strict here but the thinking is the same. Setting goals helps you move forward in life only if the goals you set align with your values and interests and the time you spend on that. Trying to do everything is difficult when resources are limited. So think about the time you have and set better goals.
For more on setting better goals, read this piece.
There is a good review of Pope Francis’ Encyclical Fratelli Tutti, here, in Osservatore Romano. I recommend you read it in full.
One thing in it that struck me was that in order to be good to our sisters and brothers, we need to make time for them. This is what the Good Samaritan does: he takes time to stop and care for another. We need to do this too if we are to be good.
Consider your week next week. How will you take time for others. Not yourself, but how will you give your time to make others better? In doing so, you will be doing good.
There are many ways you can be good. You can give financially. You can be virtuous. But you can also do good if you take your precious time and give it to others so they can be better, and in doing so, you can be better too.
(The image is from this piece on the Good Samaritan. I recommend you read that too. It’s insightful, and a reminder of what a powerful parable it is.)
In 2019 I posted about five links to help you with intermittent fasting. Well since the pandemic, I’ve heard from a number of people who are interesting in the idea, because let’s face it, not many of us have slimmed down during the Indoor Times. If this is you, take a look:
First up, above is a map of all the underwater fiber optic cables that provide the internet throughout the world. While much of the connectivity for the Internet is above ground, the cables that connect one continent to another all lies at the bottom of the world’s oceans.
And not just cables. One day maybe data centres themselves will also reside in the sea versus land, based on this experiment: Microsoft’s underwater data centre resurfaces after two years – BBC News
Not yet. Not even if it is raspberry pi 4. As this piece argues, there are still some issues with it that will make you want to hold on to your desktop computer. At least in 2020.
A few comments:
Eventually there will be a Pi that is both fast and full function and cheap and that will be the just the thing. But in the year 2020, you still want your desktop/laptop.
All that said, the piece is really good, really detailed. Worth reading. The image is from the piece.
Hey, if you are really really really missing your office cubicle (why?) and you want to recreate that at home (why??), you can, with this:
It’s called the Hug desk, and you can read about it, here.
Please try and make a nice work place in your home instead. I wrote about home offices to die for, here. These are much better to recreate, imho.
Occasional nightmares? No. But persistent nightmares, possibly. WIRED magazine has the story, here: How a Vibrating Smartwatch Could Be Used to Stop Nightmares | WIRED
If you want to access the app, click here.
Fascinating. I hope it helps.
How? By using their cloud service: AWS brings the Mac mini to its cloud.
Perfect for those times you need access to a Mac for a short period of time (e.g. testing software).
Throughout my career I have been involved with Macs and cloud technology. I remember when Apple made Mac servers. There was even a separate MacOS for them. So I am loving this evolution and the repositioning of Macs in a data center.
Image from here which also has a write up on this.
How to improve and get better by using taboos and your dark side seems like a contradiction. But sometimes using your dark side can be just the thing you need to improve.
Now this can be harder to do than you might suppose. Our culture (from Faust to Star Wars) says appealing to the dark side leads to your ruin. This can cause you to not want to do this. But anger (against injustice), pride (in becoming the best), gluttony (for hard work) and lust/vanity (to self improve) can sometimes motive you and drive you much better than love and happiness can. Sure, excessive vices can destroy you, I agree. But vices well harnessed and in moderation might get you through the difficult days of changing and help get you to the other side.
To see a good example of what I mean, read this: A Spiteful Guide to Self-Improvement.
You may not have an enemies or rivals or arch enemies. Fine. Invent some. Then go out and take them on and in the process become a better person. Then be magnanimous and graceful in your victory. There: now you are a better person and a good one too.
(Image by Gustave Doré, Jacob Wrestling with the Angel (1855) from wikipedia)
It is said that being grateful is good for our mental health. But being grateful when living under duress can seem next to impossible. To see others do so is educational.
So I give you this piece on someone who is grateful in a way many of us might not be. I found it educational. I am still absorbing the lesson. I hope you gain something from reading it.
In 2020, blogging is back. At least blogging as newsletters. Think Substack and all the people flocking to there. Blogging on WordPress (or Blogger or Tumblr or other blogging platforms) is not as hot but still going strong.
That’s good. I am a fan of more writing and better writing, whether it comes in blog form or newsletter form. Bring it on.
I continue to write here as I have been for some time. I’ve written a number of pieces on blogging over the last decade; this piece will join that.
I’ll likely to continue writing here until I get 1,000,000 hits (currently at 976,745 hits) but given the limited readership, that may never happen. I’ll keep writing, regardless. We all need goals, and the million hits is one of mine.
Currently I sit down every Saturday morning and review interesting things I’ve found on the Internet and saved in Pocket. I have over 1000 things still in Pocket, not to mention a spreadsheet of old links that were noteworthy. There’s always something of interest to write about. Plus the Internet never stops being interesting.
I usually take 3-4 hours to write about these things. Then I schedule them to be posted throughout the week. My thinking is that this is more likely to bring a wider readership to them. My SEO skills are limited, but this is my thinking.
I enjoy this writing time. I grab some breakfast and a coffee and craft the posts. I grab images from Unsplash.com to illustrate the posts. It’s a hobby and something I enjoy doing. I love doing it. I’m an amateur writer and thinker.
I try and mix up the posts for readers. Something on Monday to help you get your week started. Something fun on Friday. Something to make your weekend better on Saturday. Perhaps a more thoughtful post on Sunday.
As always I think: would someone reading this get any benefit? Much of my posts are advice, but in areas I am interested in. I want to share things of interest to me but that will also interest others.
Once a month I go back over posts from other years. Today I will go back over the December posts. It’s fascinating to see what was interesting to me in other years.
Whenever I am lost for what my audience is, I think: would someone in my family want to read this? Or one or more of my friends? Once I have that one reader, I can write to them. Many of my posts are letters to people that may not realize it.
Since the pandemic, I have started a newsletter within the blog. I haven’t broken it out into its separate media. Just like I never moved to Tumblr or Medium or took up podcasts. This blog is sufficient for what I want to communicate and record.
I have a few other blogs on WordPress: one on cooking that I enjoy writing from time to time. A few others that are experimental. I use Instagram still because it is easy, but photography is a very separate and different media.
I’ll continue to write here, writing for smart people I know. I’ve been doing it since before the World Wide Web. Why stop now?
As always, for those who have read this far:
An appropriate thank you card for this era.
I absolutely love this City Radio, shown above. You push the button and it play music from the city listed. So cool. Love the analog design too. It reminds me of the best of Dieter Rams and Braun.
Part of the reason I love it is because it reminds me of the old radio my grandmother had. As a kid it had all the cities of the world listed on a glowing panel, and as I would move the dial a needle would go back and forth and play music from different parts of the world (depending how good reception was). That just amazed me then.
If you have technical skills, and old radio and a raspberry pi, you can make such a thing for yourself. Just google “convert old radio raspberry pi”. Of the links I found, I like this and this and this.
This piece by Austin Kleon on being moderately gifted got me re-thinking this idea he discusses.
I say re-thinking because it is something I have thought about since I was a young man. Back then I was getting into jazz (as one does) and someone told me: the problem with being a jazz musician is your new album is always competing with the albums of Armstrong and Fitzgerald and Davis and Coltrane and Simone. People putting out pop music don’t have to worry about that. It’s tough to be moderately gifted in jazz, I thought, for you are always competing with the best. But in pop music, you are usually competing with the now. There’s more room to get by being moderately gifted. (Especially in the era I grew up when three chords was all you needed.)
If you have a creative spirit but moderate talents, it is easy to get dispirited and put your tools away. You will never be great you say, why bother? But I think the answer comes from looking at pop music. You may never be great, but you can enjoy putting in play whatever talent you do have. Maybe you can only paint flowers, or knit scarfs, or bake brownies. Do it with gusto! Do it like a punk rocker pounding away on his guitar with the 3 chords he knows! You might never be great, but in the moment, you are living large and the audience at the time is loving it. That’s enough. And enough is as good as a feast.
Perhaps you will go on to greatness. Whether you do or not, shine on as brightly as you can. Not all of us can be the sun, but sometimes being a campfire is fine.
Liisa Ladouceur (shown above) has written a thorough guide for anyone who wants to go skating in Toronto during the pandemic. No, you cannot just show up with your blades and start skating. You need to do more. And you should do more, because skating is a great way to enjoy winter in the pandemic era. So read this: Where to go skating in Toronto in 2020 by Liisa Wanders. Then get out there! Maybe I will see you at a socially safe distance with a fun mask on too.
This is a smart reuse of old VD posters to warn against the dangers of a new biological thread: COVID. Via The Daily Heller:
Adrian Wilson, provocateur par excellence, recently revisited a vintage poster prevention campaign against VD used during World War II, and remixed the various messages into a current cautionary attack on CoViD-19. This genre of repurposing images and words is not new or novel, but when accomplished satirically and wittily, as Wilson has done below, it can be an effective public messaging tool.
For more of Wilson’s work, click on the link above. It’s great.
Show them this article by
It’s the perfect comeback for them. It’s dripping in sarcasm, as it should.
My other response to people who complain about food writers writing about food (duh) is to send them a link to allrecipes.com.
If you just want a recipe for food, go there. Otherwise stop complaining already.
I found this piece on Microsoft FrontPage fascinating. I remember when it first came out: it was a great tool if you wanted to develop for the web. While serious people went with Adobe products, FrontPage made developing web page easier for the rest of us. If you want to learn about the early days of the Web, or if you want to see what well designed software looks like (even if it seems very clunky with that Windows XP interfact), I recommend you read it.
You can actually still download it, here. Now should you? No. Read the sections of the article subtitled “Bad” and “Ugly” to see why.
New Balance has been making some form of the 990s for a very long time. If you are a clydesdale runner you may have owned one of more of these.
I wanted to highlight this pair because I just love the styling of them. Long after they no longer provide you the cushioning you need to run with, you can still walk around in them and be stylish IMHO.
For more info on them, check out this Uncrate piece.
Of course, you can also go to the New Balance site. The all black ones look great too.
Sadly, you cannot buy this modular dog bed that industrial designer Hyemin Kim created called the MUF as a project for his studies. But if you go to this link, you can see more of his approach to making his dog bed that can appeal to all types of dogs. You might be able to take some of his ideas and apply them to your own dog bed. Your dog will thank you for it, because of course, they are a good dog. 🙂
Here’s 59 links (!) of things I have found interesting in tech in the last while. It ‘s heavily skewed towards Kubernetes because that’s mostly what I have been involved with. Some stuff on Helm, since I was working on a tricky situation with Helm charts. There’s some docker and Open Shift of course, since it’s related. There’s a few general pieces on cloud. And finally at the end there’s links to a bunch of worthwhile repos.
Almost all of these links are self explanatory. The ones that aren’t…well…few if anyone but me reads these posts anyway. 🙂 Just treat it like a collection of potentially good resources.
You have something we want to do but don’t because you feel there is a big risk involved. You think: what if I fail? If you fail you fear you will a) be covered in shame b) lose out big c) have other bad things happen to you that you can’t even imagine you can cope with. No wonder you have been putting it off.
First of all, you can cope with pretty much anything. Second of all, there is a good and painless way to approach that thing you think is risky. It’s outlined nicely in this article and in that diagram. The article uses opening a restaurant as an example, but it could be applied to any big goal you have, from taking on a new job position to running a marathon.
In my own job, we deal with managing risk every day. We plan to deal with risk by taking the same method and applying it over and over. It is very effective professionally. It can be effective for you personally. Keep iterating until the thing that once seemed very risky now seems much less so.
(Image from a link to the article.)
For me, it’s this bridge which according to BlogTO is going to be demolished:
When I first moved to Toronto in the 80s I lived near this area and used to pass under this bridge all the time. There’s nothing attractive about it, save the murals, which weren’t there when I lived there.
Still, I will miss it when it is gone, ugly or not.
The champagne cocktail is a minimal cocktail. It’s perfect if you want a cocktail and aren’t good at making them or you are too beat to make anything involved. Honestly you can make it in a flash. To see what, I mean, here’s a recipe for one: Champagne Cocktail Recipe | Bon Appétit
If you need convincing on the merits of them, read this: The Champagne Cocktail Is the Rented Tux of Mixed Drinks | Bon Appétit.
More on them, here.
I mean look at it: it looks delicious. Go make one.
P.S. If you do want a bit more involved cocktail that has sparkling wine as an ingredient, I recommend the French 75.
(Image via liquor.com)
American politics is about many things. One of the main things it is about is money. For a while it was believed that after the “Citizen United” case, the flood of money would almost guarantee whoever had the most money would win. Now it’s not just about what money can do, but what it cannot do.
As some states like Maine and South Carolina showed, vastly outspending the incumbent will not guarantee election: The Democrats Went All Out Against Susan Collins. Rural Maine Grimaced. – The New York Times. That’s not to say money is irrelevant. It’s just that it has limits. It’s no longer enough to bombard people with ads bought with all that money. You need to spend smarter. I am not sure if anyone in the US has that figured out.
Speaking of money, this article by Jamelle Bouie highlights the importance of money especially when it comes to low information voters: Opinion | A Simple Theory of Why Trump Did Well – The New York Times. High information voters might scoff at “Donnie Dollars” (cheques issued by the government with Trump’s name on them). But I agree with Bouie: things like that make a difference with many voters. People might not closely weigh one politician’s promises versus another, but they all remember the jobs and services and other benefits that the incumbents brought their way.
Ok, ok, maybe that is a bit ambitious. But as the winter settles in, you might want a bit of summer in your home. If just to help you get through the days when it seems like winter will never end and summer will never come. (Collapse face first on the bed after you say that. :))
If you like that idea, read this: The Plant That’ll Make it Feel Like Summer in Your Home All Year Long.
Then go get one and get started on making your own orangery.
Need more encouragement: read this from Bon Appetit.
P.S. if you are asking, “what the heck is an orangery”, then go here: Orangery – Wikipedia. It’s a fascinating idea and history.
Image above of the Belvedere Orangery in Vienna, via Wikipedia.
If you are concerned about the cost of things, then you should know about this: The COVID fee, or why many services could cost you more as Toronto reopens for business | CBC News.
I get the COVID fee. It makes sense for businesses dealing with the cost of the pandemic. But it got me thinking about how we might start seeing the airlinerization of bills.
I thought of that concept when I started to get food from Uber Eats. On top of the cost of the meals is 3 or 4 fees, not including tips. Now with the COVID fee we may start seeing other service companies stacking additional costs onto the initial cost.
This reminds me of the airline industry. To compete, the fares for flights are stripped of costs. Then after you are about to pay, you find out the true cost of things. Again, I get it. It makes sense. It makes me wary of using a service that does this.
It may seem good for businesses to charge several additional fees. The listed cost seems low and attracts customers. It’s only when you get the bill do you see what you are truly paying. In my case yesterday I didn’t even see the COVID fee until I got home. The tip is added as a percentage on top of all the fees as well. My expected costs and my actual costs were wildly out of sync. This did not leave me with a good feeling for the place I just visited. I feel they need to be more transparent with this. (It is not listed on their website or on the Square terminal when I paid).
If the cost is not a concern for you, then feel free to ignore it. But for many people buying goods and services in the pandemic, caveat emptor.