Changes on SNL, new and old

I’ve been wondering when this would happen, but finally some of the bigger names from SNL are departing next year, including Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant and Kyle Pete Davidson, according to Deadline. I’ve been surprised both by how stable SNL has been over the last decade and how big the cast has grown. It started off with less than 10, now it’s over 20.

Having a big cast makes sense in some ways. It means there is a deep bench of talent ready and eager to step up. It also helps SNL deal with the lack of diversity problem they had all too recently.

I’ve been watching more SNL recently, ironically because of Twitter. I say ironically because social media used to freak Lorne and company out. Now they feed the whole show via twitter on the weekend. I get to skip the ads, and I get to watch the best bits. It’s ideal for me. My rule of thumb is if Kenan Thompson is in a sketch, it’s probably funny. That’s likely why he is sticking around.

That piece above got me to this piece: ‘Saturday Night Live’: Actors Who’ve Hosted The Show The Most – Photos – Deadline. Several things to note there. In the early years, it was often people associated with the show, like Chevy Chase (although that is also true with Tina Fey in the later years). Later it was big actors who were just really good at being funny. For awhile Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin were tied in appearances (there was even a bit where to win, Martin knocks out Baldwin, wraps him in a rug and throws him out the window!) Baldwin eventually ran away with it, not just for hosting, but by being a regular with his Trump appearances. (It probably helps too he lives in Manhattan.)

I have a sentimental weakness for SNL. It’s been on 47 seasons and I’ve been watching off and on since S1. I’m looking forward to it reaching S50 and beyond. Who knows will show up for that season. Tune in.

On the Smiths and those album covers

The Smith’s were (are?) great for many reasons. One reason in particular was their album covers. Looks like the folks at NME agree, because they put together

an exhaustive guide to each and everyone of their 27 single and album releases’ sleeves, and what they mean

You can find here. Fans of the band will enjoy that. I did.

Speaking of the Smiths, this piece by Doug Coupland, Morrissey will never be cancelled is worth a read.

Your desk needs an upgrade. This can help

If you’re like me, your work desk could use an upgrade. Maybe it’s too cluttered. Maybe your tech is looking a bit shabby. Either way, I recommend you go see these top 10 desk accessories to level up your work from home productivity over at Yanko Design. For example, the organizer above is a nice way to get things off your desk.

And this keyboard below looks like it would be an improvement on the one you currently have:

Hey, new stuff isn’t everything, but it could be just the thing to make you a bit more productive and happier when you sit down at your desk to work.

 

Friday night cocktail: a formula to make your own

Tonight you can be your own mixologist by heading over to the Food & Wine web site and reading this article: How to Make Classic Cocktails Without Looking Up a Recipe. Think about what you want: bitter, boozy, bubbly, tart,  or fizzy. Then use their ratios to make something new! If it’s good, name it after yourself and make one for your friends.

Worse case, you toss it out and head over to Liquor.com and make something they recommend (they have everything).

Cheers!

P.S. Hat tip to Dana McCauley who tweeted this.

How Many Close Friends Do You Need in Adulthood is a good question


How Many Close Friends Do You Need in Adulthood asked The New York Times:

One 2016 study suggested people who have six or more friends have improved health throughout their lives, while a 2020 study by Suzanne Degges-White, professor and chair of the Counseling and Higher Education department at Northern Illinois University, found that middle-aged women who had three or more friends tended to have higher levels of overall life satisfaction.

Hmmm.

Before you dismiss it — I see you, fellow introverts! — go read it. Not everyone needs the same number of friends, nor does everyone need the same type of contacts. But like other parts of our lives, if we neglect our friendships, it has a adverse health on us.

We all need friends. And like exercise, we have to work at it as we get older. When we are younger, it’s much easier to find and make friends. For proof of that, check out this: Who We Spend Time with as We Get Older from FlowingData.

It’s been hard for anyone, young or old, to make and keep friends during these pandemic. Especially in places like Toronto, which suffered numerous lockdowns. But the weather is getting nicer, so get outside (literally) and work on your friendships.

On the new Google Glass(es), 2022 edition

In 2013, Google gave the world Google Glass. While their high tech glasses seemed cool at first, eventually it was revealed to be terrible technology, and people sporting it became known as “glassholes”. Not good.

Google did not give up, though, and have unveiled a new version of there glasses. at their recent annual convention on all things Google:

After announcing a whole new catalog of products, including the Pixel 6A, Pixel 7 and 7 Pro, Pixel Buds Pro, Pixel Tablet, and Pixel Watch, Google gave us a taste of an AR Glasses prototype they’ve been working on (labeled Proto 29) that combines natural language processing and transcription to provide subtitles to the real world. Wear the glasses and, in theory, you can understand any language. The glasses pick up audio and visual cues, translating them into text that gets displayed on your lens, right in your line of vision. These virtual subtitles overlay on your vision of the world, providing a contextual, USEFUL augmented reality experience that’s leaps and bounds ahead of what the Google Glass was designed to do in 2013.

I know, they’re still a prototype. But it’s exciting to think about! I could see how they could even show you a potential response, just like they do when you use Gmail and they suggest potential responses. Quite an amazing tool for those who travel to places with different languages.

Among other things, this shows that tech still has ways to be innovative and useful in ways we haven’t even thought of. Good job, Google, for not giving up on this technology. Looking forward to the day when these go from prototypes to the real thing.

Today in good robots: reforesting drones


I’m often critical of robots and their relatives here, but these particular drones seem very good indeed. As that linked article explains:

swarms of (theese) seed-firing drones … are planting 40,000 trees a day to fight deforestation…(their) novel technology combines artificial intelligence with specially designed proprietary seed pods that can be fired into the ground from high in the sky. The firm claims that it performs 25 times faster and 80 percent cheaper compared to traditional seed-planting methodologies.

I am sure there is still a role for humans in reforestation, but the faster and cheaper it can be done, the better. A good use of technology.

A great article / repo to learn about Kubernetes, Terraform, IBM Cloud, Scripting, and more

If you are looking for a way to gain knowledge in a lot of different ways (Kubernetes including ingress, services, and COS as a way to holding information, plus Terraform and more) then I recommend this article.

It has a link to a repo you can use that had 2 issues at the time, so I forked a copy and in the meantime to fix the issues. You can get it here.

What’s nice about this is it comes with some shell scripts that use terraform to build and configure the cluster. It’s a good way to learn many things at the same time. Recommended.

How to use the motivation equation to get more motivated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Tables and desks for people like myself that cannot get enough shelf space :)

I love all three of these pieces of furniture. First there is this table that also functions as a bookshelf:

Then there is this table /desk that has tons of storage:

A few years ago when I was making furniture, I made something similar. I could definitely see someone good at DIY/carpentry making the above two. As for this one below, I love that desk but it’s not for your typical DIYer! Fabulous though:

They remind me of the old telephone tables people used to have. They used to have a particular function, and they had special storage as part of them.

All three links lead to Yanko Design, where you can find out more about each of them. Worth a look.

How the motivation equation explains why you are or aren’t motivated

I was having a hard time getting motivated last week. I knew there were a number of things I needed to work on. For some of them, I had no problem tackling. For others, I really struggled. Why was this?

This simple equation, from this article, The motivation equation, really helped me. But I also felt it was lacking something:

For those who hate math, the “M” stands for motivation, “E” stands for Expectancy, “V” stands for Value, “I” stands for Impulsiveness, “D” stands for Delay.  E is the likelihood of getting something, and V is how much you value it. D is how far away it is, and I is impulsiveness. Let me walk through an example.

Let’s say it’s lunch and you have a choice of leftovers or something new. You value something new over leftovers, so all other things being equal, you are more motivated to eat something new rather than the leftovers.

Now let’s say there is a chance that the new thing you want to eat may be sold out before you get there. With leftovers, E is high: you know you can eat them right now. For the new thing, E is lower: it might not be there so expectation has dropped. To bring E up, you think: well, there are many new dishes you can try…one of them will be there for sure.

To further complicate things, let’s say it is 11 am and you are hungry but the place selling something new doesn’t open for an hour. The delay for something new is larger than leftovers. That means your motivation for eating something new may drop.

Finally, impulsiveness. I would like to replace that with F, for friction. Friction is impulsiveness and more. Friction is all those things that put a drag on you doing the things you need motivation to do. In this case, getting something new may mean having to go out in bad weather to get it. Bad weather is friction. Or you may not like the food court where the new food is because it is too crowded or noisy. Unpleasant atmosphere is friction. Or you may be hungry or tired or bored and want to eat right away. All those feelings are friction. The more friction you have, the less motivation you have.

Two other things to consider are A: alternatives and C: context. Sometimes we may be motivated to do something in one Context and not the other. On a cold day I may be motivated to have a hot chocolate. On a hot day I may not. The value of something can change in different context. Likewise, my motivation for something may change if there are alternatives. I may be motivated to eat a frozen dinner because the alternatives (make my own, get take out for the 4x this week) are worse for me at the time.

I recommend you do what I did this week and list some things you are motivated to do and NOT motivated to do and run them through the formula.

For a work example, I had two things I wanted to do on Friday, write a report and solve a hard technical problem. I worked on the latter. D E and F were the same for each. But for the report, I felt it had little value. I have to do it, but it was hard to motivate myself to do it because V was Low. On the other hand, V for the hard technical problem was High. I learned alot (which I value), I have more value as an employee because of what I learned, and I felt proud of this accomplishment. Given this, it’s not surprising I chose the hard technical problem. Now, if the expectation (E) of me solving it was lowered, then my motivation would have dropped too. Likewise, if I thought it would take a week or more (delay, D) to solve it,  motivation would have decreased.

For a home example, I have two chores to do: organize the basement and organize the living room. Both have a high value (V) for me. But D is higher for the basement: it’s much more work and will take much longer. E is the same: I can accomplish both. Also F is higher for the basement, since there is so much stuff to go through and move around. Naturally I am motivated to tackle the living room.

Finally, a personal example. I have several hobbies: painting and website design. D and E are the same, but V and F are different. I am good at web site work and poor at painting, so the outcomes are better for web site work than the outcomes of my painting. Likewise, for painting, there is setting up to paint and then cleaning up. For website work I just sit down at my computer: no setup and no cleanup. Painting has higher friction F and lower value V, so I tend to do it less.

Ok, Bernie, you say, that’s great. How do I deal with that to get motivated. That will be in part 2 of this, since this is already too long and you are likely losing your motivation to keep reading. (V is dropping, D is getting longer, E may be dropping too. Likewise you may have alternatives A that you are more motivated to do.) That will come out on Monday.

The beauty of Charleston

I suppose I should specify which Charleston, but to me there is only one, and that one is in South Carolina. It really is filled with beauty and color. Like that door you see above.

I came across this blog, Just a Girl Blog, and she has posted some wonderful views of the city here Best of Charleston: Doors and here: Best of Charleston: Gardens. Someday I’ll post my photos of that wonderful city and put them a link to them here. Meanwhile, go and enjoy those. Better yet, make a trip there and see them for yourself.

(Image a link to Just a Girl Blog.)

On “The Computer Girls: 1967” in Cosmopolitan


One of the great shames of the IT industry has been the push to marginalize women in our profession. As this 1967 piece shows ( The Computer Girls: 1967 Cosmo article highlights women in technology– ), women had a dominant role in the early days of the computing industry. I believe as long as the the 1980s, women were at least equally represented in the profession as men. Then for various reasons, IT became dominated by the boys and not the girls. That was a shame and it will only stop being a shame when women are at least equally represented. We still have a way to go, according to Deloitte and others. Until that time comes, read what used to be in Cosmo.

(Image from here, which is also worth reading: 10 women who changed the tech industry forever – The Daily Dot)

On Time magazine making Hitler (and Stalin) Man of the Year

In 1938, Time Magazine made Adolf Hitler their Man of the Year. Since then, they have taken much abuse because of it. I have often heard people mock Time because of their lack of judgment. Yet, I have never read the actual magazine. I assumed they simply praised Hitler at the time.

So I was intrigued when I was checking out Amazon Singles and came across the chance to learn more about it, here: Amazon.com: Adolph Hitler: TIME Person of the Year 1938 (Singles Classic). In the blurb for the magazine, it states:

Führer of the German people, Commander-in-Chief of the German Army, Navy & Air Force, Chancellor of the Third Reich, Herr Hitler reaped the harvest of an audacious, defiant, ruthless foreign policy he had been pursuing for five and a half years. He had torn the Treaty of Versailles to shreds. He had rearmed Germany to the teeth— or as close to the teeth as he was able. He had stolen Austria before the eyes of a horrified and apparently impotent world.

All these events were shocking to nations which had defeated Germany on the battlefield only 20 years before, but nothing so terrified the world as the ruthless, methodical, Nazi-directed events which during late summer and early autumn threatened a world war over Czechoslovakia. When without loss of blood he reduced Czechoslovakia to a German puppet state, forced a drastic revision of Europe’s defensive alliances, and won a free hand for himself in Eastern Europe by getting a “hands-off” promise from powerful Britain (and later France), Adolf Hitler without doubt became 1938’s Man of the Year.

Nowhere in there is Time praising Hitler for his goodness or wisdom or any such nonsense. They highlight his ruthlessness and his terrifying actions. Even his stealing of Austria and his bloodless (for the time) destruction of Czechoslovakia. However horrible Hitler was and remains, he was the most significant political leader in 1938. And that significance led to him being chosen Man of the Year.

Ironically he would have been chosen Man of the Year for 1941 too, says Time, if not for another man. That man, Joseph Stalin, was chosen Man of the Year then. Another horrible person.

Both Hitler and Stalin caused monumental suffering and death with their actions, some of it well before World War II. You can argue that such men don’t deserve to be Man of the Year. But that’s not how Time goes about choosing who gets the title.  They continue to do pick people, however odious, even naming Trump Man of the Year after winning his first election. (That they put him in a chair turning seems to echo a picture Time had of Hitler at the time, which is possibly coincidental. Possibly.)

If you want to learn more about this, check out the links. Better still, if you want to read a good history book that ties Hitler and Stalin together, read Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin.

Not every act of kindness is good

It’s tempting when reading these two pieces

  1. Community fridges pop up in Toronto neighbourhoods during COVID-19 pandemic–
  2. Councillor blasts group building shelters after altercation at Dartmouth park

to say, “at least they’re trying”. Or to ask “what’s the alternative”. Or even to think “you don’t support these ideas because you are “heartless, bourgeois, selfish,” etc.

First off, let me say the impulse of these initiatives are good. And the alternatives — lack of food and shelter — are terrible. So in that way these are good ideas. Some food and some shelter is better than none.

But in comparison to any other initiative involving food and shelter these ideas are poor ones. These shelters are good because they are shelters and nothing else. And the idea of having a community fridge is a disaster waiting to happen.

I’m glad that these initiatives provoke the comfortable to make a better effort to help the poor and homeless. But I will never think these are good works for any reason other than the basic ones.

Not every act of kindness is good, and sometimes a small act of kindness allows a bigger problem to fester.

IBM Cloud tip: take advantage of free IBM cloud products, including the IBM Kubernetes Service

IBM has numerous free products in its Cloud Service, and you can find them, here.

One I recommend especially is the Kubernetes Service. You can create a free cluster and learn a lot about both IBM Cloud and Kubernetes by using this.

If you aren’t sure where to start, I put together a github repo to help you get started. It gives you all the information you need, so you can go from a simple web page or node.js app on your own machine to having it up and running on the IBM Kubernetes service. You can find it here: blm849/networkcontainertesting: a simple way to test connectivity in and out of a container.

It’s up to date as of May, 2022. While there are plenty of tutorials out there, you may want to see if they are up to date. For example, some features may be deprecated.

Drop me a comment if you have any feedback. Good luck!

The end of an era: the iPod Touch is being discontinued. Here’s why you still might want one.

I’ve been a fan of the iPod Touch since I wrote this in 2008: Why I love my iPod touch. It was a great device then, and 14 years later it is still great. Which is why I am sad to hear it is being discontinued, according to AppleInsider and others.

However, there are several reasons y0u still might want to buy one. At the time I first bought mine, I was locked into using my Blackberry device, but I wanted to experience what Apple devices could provide. If you have an Android phone, you can still get that experience today.  You can have the best of both worlds: an Android device for some things and an Apple device for others.

If you are a parent, you likely have experienced your kids wanting to use your phone to play games, etc. With the Touch, you can give them that to use instead. Much cheaper than an iPad.

If you want to cut the cord — somewhat — on your technology use, a Touch can help you. You can take it with you on outings and from time to time connect to a wireless signal to check on things, but the lack of a cell phone signal means you are much less tethered than normal.

The iPod Touch is still a great device. Get one new, while you still can.

On why Jony Ive left Apple

Jony Ive did not leave Apple because of the ‘Accountants’, or at least that’s not the only reason, despite what this The New York Times piece says. I think that’s one of the reasons, sure. After Steve Jobs died, I am sure Ive felt less important. Plus he already had made a significant difference and he made a lot of money.

I believe one of the other reasons was simply because he and Apple have designed themselves into a minimalist corner. Jony Ive’s career rose on the design of the machine that saved Apple…this:

Since then the Apple computers have gone from that to this:

It’s a great computer,  but very little in the way of physical changes year over year. The engineers still get to do a lot, but there’s very little for Ive and the design team to do there.

Sure he got to design some of the higher end devices, like this:

But the Macbooks and the iMacs are very simple now. (Never mind the iPhone.) They are all wonderful engineered and fantastic minimal designs. But that’s the point: they are minimal to an extreme. And that, I believe, is one of the main reasons that Ive left.

The book that inspired that article is supposed to be really good. Apple fans, get a copy if you can.

On Maud Lewis and the art world and Henri Rousseau too


This is an interesting but odd view of the great Canadian artist, Maud Lewis. It’s somewhat about her, but really it’s more about the art world and how they go about. In short, it’s about how the paintings that she used to sell for a few bucks to buy food are now worth many thousands of dollars. It proceeds to speculate if they will continue to go up in value.

I think it’s worth reading. Her life and work are interesting. I still don’t think the art world knows how to think or talk about her.

If anything, she makes me think of the work of Henri Rousseau. They didn’t quite know what to do with him either. But eventually they did. I think the same is happening with Lewis.

Regardless what they think, I hope you will think she is a fine artist and seek out her work. (And Rousseau’s.) Your life will be enhanced the more you know of their work.

(Image links from Canadian Art and ibiblio.org)

32 good pieces for a Sunday afternoon


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

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

On the joy of not-quite-silence

What’s better than silence? Near silence.

When I was younger and living in Glace Bay, I used to enjoy walking down to the end of South Street to the beach. Except for summer there was no one there, and I could sit and watch the watch the waves. Some days I would dream of sailing down the coast or sailing across the ocean. Other days I used the sounds of the sea to calm my mind. The simple sound of the waves and nothing else is something I crave to this day.

Silence is great. But there is something in the almost silence of a place that is better. It can be any sounds, from the ocean to the wires in the walls humming.  Part of your brain is engaged by the simple sound while the rest of it finds peace in the background of quietness.

If you can, try to find such near silence. Give your brain just the break it needs.

More cat furniture! Now with dogs and other weird stuff

Yep, it’s time for another — likely my last — edition of cat furniture links. It’s been a weird fixation of mine. I blame Yanko design, which keeps posting these links: they are like cat nip for me. So here’s some more cat furniture to check out.

It’s not all goofy stuff for spoiled felines. For example this  post has good design aimed for your pets, like this wheelchair for dogs:

The again, there is this dryer/sauna for cats….I dunno:  Still more cat stuff.

There is also this, so you can be like your pet. Sheesh

Finally, there is this dog leash + smart tag design tracks your pet’s emotions to help you communicate better.

Ok, that’s enough of all that. Enjoy!

On tiny homes, 2021 and 2022

I don’t know what it is, but I am fascinated by tiny homes. While many of them are unattractive, the ones featured in these four pieces are anything but:

All four links are to Yanko Design. (As are these images.) Check them out: they’re beautiful and set in gorgeous locations.

With the way real estate is going, we may all be living in such tiny spaces soon.

On Godel and Game Theory (what I find interesting in math and sciences, May 2022)

Math education: here’s some good pieces on that topic. First up, Susan Fowler (now Rigetti) on how you can learn more math. One way to learn is to see how others do it. Here’s Fields medalist Tim Gowers working through math problems on YouTube. Also this is a good resource on YouTube: math channel.

Speaking of learning math, here’s a piece on how to fix math class.

Math theory: For fans of game theory: Game theory and Cuban Missile crisis. Here’s two more good theory pieces, one on Godel’s Incompleteness Theorems and one on Fermat’s last theorem.

Philosophy: Here’s two good pieces on math and philosophy: How Julia Robinson helped define the limits of mathematical knowledge and another on how math and philosophy need each other.

Physics and space: this is cool, Visualizing Black Holes with General Relativistic Ray Tracing. So is this: SpaceX’s Starship and NASA’s SLS Could Supercharge Space Science. This is odd,  NASA Will Test Gigantic Centrifuge for Hurling Objects Into Space. This is fun, measuring the earth using the traceroute command! This is fascinating, what I learned as a hired consultant to autodidact physicists.

Brain: here’s two good pieces on the brain. First, Your brain expands and shrinks over time. Second, Deep sleep drives brain fluid oscillations.

On the Gap, sweat shirts, Ralph Lauren blazers and other things fashion

It’s funny: the reason my blog was able to get so many visits initially was because someone at the New York Times took me to be a influential fashion blogger and put me on their blogroll many years ago. Talk about good luck!

Since then I have not wrote much about fashion. I don’t know why. It’s not like my deep thoughts on other things are all that great. Maybe I wanted to come across as smart and not shallow and scattered like I am.

Time to change that up. So here’s a good story on The end of the Gap and their Rise and Fall. Very good journalism.

Speaking of good journalism, the Guardian has a great weekly newsletter on fashion. Here’s one such piece: A shopping guide to bold men’s sweatshirts. Highly recommend subscribing to their fashion newsletter.

For sneakerheads: these Nike X black Comme des Garcons Eagle sneakers look great:

Who knows if I can link to this image on the Bay for long, but I love this unconstructed madras blazer from Ralph Lauren, below. I had one like it when I was in my 20s and I loved it.

Pair this up with linen top and pants that pick up the colours in the blazer and you will be well suited up. Add some espadrilles and thin socks and you will bear any heat in style.

 

Jeff Koons, skiffle, and other things You may find interesting about art, May 2022

How to: If you want to make cartoons & comics but you have no idea where to start!, read that. If you want to draw a head, read How to draw a head: A complete guide. If you want some good books on art, there is this, 16 Best Books for Learning to Paint of 2022 and this Top 10 Best Books on Painting. Click these links if you want to draw fabric or draw glass. If you want to go to OCAD and study art, click on this or this.

Artists: if you want to read about artists, here some pieces on Jeff Koons, Marcel Duchamp, Keith Haring, James Castle‚ Richard Serra and Jeff Koons again.

Thinking: if you like to think about art, then you might want to read, is my art good enough, What Does It Really Mean to Make Art?, When art transports us where do we actually go? and 24 Hours in the Creative Life.

Music: if you prefer music over the visual arts, here’s some good stuff: Guitarist Randy Bachman Demystifies the Magical Opening Chord of The Beatles‚ Hard Day’s Night. Speaking of the Beatles, here’s a piece on Skiffle. And if that inspires you: How to Play Guitar Without Learning How to Play Guitar.

Writing: if your thing is writing, here’s a piece on Essay writing. This was fun: a defense of the em-dash. This may discourage you: No one will read your book. This may encourage you: Dagny Carlsson Centenarian Blogger Dies at 109.

P.S. The good rules you see above are from that link to Swiss Miss.

It’s Monday. You’re on your own.


Do you find these “It’s Monday” posts useful? I suspect not. It’s just me writing mostly about things I find helpful, and hoping others do too. I think it’s time for me to give that up.

Here’s a few of the last ones I had queued up that I hoped to write about in depth. I think I’ll just leave them here. Hopefully someone finds them good:

Remember: to be successful, you need hard work. You need talent. And you need good luck.  You likely don’t need another post from me. 🙂

P.S. Here are all my monday posts, fwiw.

 

Spot the robot finds useful work in Pompeii

I am not a fan of Boston Dynamics or their overhyped robots. They are often put to poor use, like harassing homeless people. And yet people seem positive about them. To which I normally reply: “meh”.

I am happy to make an exception for this use of them shown above. It’s  Spot, Boston Dynamics robot dog, working in Pompeii. It’s also a good example of where their robot is being useful and taking on risks that humans should avoid. If Spot’s manufacturer wants to make their robots do jobs like this, I’ll be more supportive of them.

(Image link to article)

It’s Spring (somewhat). Here’s my highlights and ramblings for month year (a newsletter, in blog form)


It’s spring, somewhat, here in Ontario. That means one day you can be out walking in the sunshine, admired all the blossoms, only to have a snowfall dump on you the next day. It’s a rollercoaster of a month. You could almost say that April rambles. Much like this newsletter. Here it is, once again! May you associate it more with sunshine than snowfall.

Pandemic: is the pandemic over? Well, the behavior of many seems to be, yes. I dunno. I still see enough hospitalization and deaths to say it is not. It seems we are in a state where most people can avoid the worst, but still get sick. Sometimes repeatedly, as this shows. And what happens as you try to move on? Well, as airlines have shown, the ones that dropped mask requirements are now suffering staff shortages.  Meanwhile, we are seeing soaring covid infections among health care workers. And places that did well during most of the pandemic, like Nova Scotia, are now getting walloped.

What should you do? Remember, you are more or less on your own now in the pandemic. I’d recommend sticking with masks and social distancing still. If you do still get COVID then here are two pieces on managing it yourself at home: this and this.

That’s for the short term. What does the long term look like? Well there’s this: Five reasons why COVID herd immunity is probably impossible, and this: Canada’s hospital capacity crisis will remain long after the pandemic is over. And then there is long COVID to consider. Not promising.

And let us not forget these things. A study in Nature says that COVID’s true death toll is much higher than official records. And when people say we should have handled things like Sweden did, here’s a reminder how badly Sweden did during the pandemic.

One last thing. I go downtown sometimes and see many places closed up. Like the many deaths that have occurred, there is a blindness to it, it seems. I find it throws me off, that we have gone through this terrible event and we are still dealing with it and yet there is a rush to act like it never happened and move on. It’s weird.

Ontario: In Ontario where I live, the province is gearing up for an election. The government is doing what it can to prepare to win the election, including releasing this budget and hoping it can win enough people over by things like eliminating some highway tolls. Let’s see. Meanwhile for those of you concerned about COVID in this province, here is the Ontario COVID dashboard to keep track of.

Ukraine: I don’t have to tell people that life in Ukraine continues to be grim. There are constant stories about it everywhere. Here is a snapshot that shows what life under the occupation by Russia is like.

Meanwhile Ukrainians fight. I support them and want them to be free and independent from Russia. There is nothing good about the situation, just degrees of bad. That’s why I find it is sad and remarkable with how many people in the West are war happy and get excited about shipping more and more weapons to Ukrainians. It may be a necessary evil, but it is an evil in the light of a greater evil.

As an aside, here’s what is happening to one of the few allies Russia has left: Belarus. It’s a place I am keeping an eye on. I suspect the last thing Putin wants is for stuff to go poorly there: he has enough trouble his hands (trouble he is solely responsible for).

USA: There is a weird thing happening on the right wing in the US with regards to moral panic. My belief is that it is a strong reaction on the right to the push on the left against transphobia and other such initiatives. Even Disney got swept up in all this talk about “grooming” and generally abusing kids. You can see part of it here and here . I have a theory that this is partly a blending of moral panic/bigotry and the rise of the Internet. In the days of early trolling there was this bizarre character that was used to accuse people and groups of being pedophiles. (Pedophile being the worst thing you could accuse someone of.) I suspect that right wing push, combined with Internet culture, has led to those accusations being used widely. Gotta love when the sewers of the Internet overflow into the general culture. (Not!)

The right in the US is also in some cases trying to restrict the use of abortion pills. These are all skirmishes on the broader culture war occurring down south, in places like Florida with its battle against “indoctrination” with things like this and this. All events to set up the governor of Florida as being the next Trump. That’s what culture wars stoked by politicians are about.

Speaking of Trump, the first family of corruption continue to make news with stories like this and this .

I had some other ramblings about the world, but frankly it is all too grim. Let’s change gears.

Elon Musk: yeah, no. The man is festering in attention as it is. You can get nonsense elsewhere.

Fun: I loved this: the museum of endangered tech sounds. We all know them! Speaking of sound, this is a very cool device.

Not fun but useful: do you have trouble finding a notary? It can be hard. If you need one, consider this. I also thought this piece on starling murmurations was great.

Finally, I think I need to switch this newsletter up soon. It has become too worldly, too worldweary. I appreciate you reading it: thanks for that. But you deserve better ramblings. I’ll try to do that. Meanwhile, enjoy Spring!

 

On buying cheap wine at the LCBO, 2022

 

 

Annually various publications in Toronto will publish articles on how to buy cheap wine at the LCBO. BlogTo takes a stab at it here: The top 10 cheap wines at the LCBO.

 

 

 

 

If you want to buy cheap wine at the LCBO, here’s some things to consider:

  • the wines that appear on these lists often tend to be the same year after year. The price changes, but the wines listed more or less are the same. The wines themselves are consistent too. Hey, these are not handcrafted wine! So a cheap wine list published in 2015 will likely have a list of wines you can still buy now, just with a different price and a different date.
  • Once these wine lists used to be “best wines under $10”, but that price ceiling is outdated now. Most cheap wines are over $10. There are still a few good ones, as the Toronto Star argues, but not many.
  • Once you get up into the $14-15 price point, head over to the Vintages section instead. Wines there will generally are good at any price point, and you’ll get something better than the general section, imho.
  • These wine lists will hype up these cheap wines. Note: most of them are limited in quality. Not too much wine in the LCBO is Bad anymore. None of these will be Great either. Most cheap wine is pleasant and drinkable. Something to have at dinner or on an outing. They are not sophisticated. If you can’t taste all the notes of “peaches, nectarines, pears” mentioned in the lists, there’s a reason for that.
  • The “cheap” wines I’ve been drinking lately (under $15) have been Ontario Riesling. They go great with so many foods and are good value, I believe. If you want red, consider a Baco Noir. Many of them are fine and under $15.
  • If you have to go closer to $10, the best bets tend to still be Portugal, Italian and South African.

(Image linked to LCBO.com of a Californian Chard that just slips under $10)

It’s Friday. Don’t you wish you were out on the road on a cool bike?

I know I feel that way after looking at some of these babies. For example, this could be uncomfortable, but just look at how great this modular ebike looks! 

For something a bit more practical, there’s this  cool café racer bike:

Very nice!

If you want something bigger, there’s this 2022 Harley:

Too big? How about this little number via Justin Bieber no less:

But wait, maybe you agree with this piece on bike road safety that laments how dangerous riding a bike is in the city? In that case, maybe you just want something like this exercise bike:

The weather is getting nicer. Get yourself a bike and get out there.

(Images courtesy of Uncrate and Yanko Design)

On the working class, manual labour, and how it is still perceived

There is a famous story about Philip Glass installing a dishwasher for Robert Hughes who was then Time magazine’s art critic, among other things. Upon realizing who was his installer, Hughes exclaimed: “But you’re Philip Glass! What are you doing here?” Glass replied that he was installing his dishwasher and he would soon be finished.

I have been thinking of that story and more after recently reading these two pieces:

In all three cases there is an implicit bias against being working class.  All three men are doing jobs of physical labour. In each case, the implication is that they could be doing something else, something better. The conclusion is that they have a talent and that their time could be better spent elsewhere applying it.

I agree that if you have a talent, it is good to use it. But you may be tired of using your talent. Or your talent doesn’t pay the bills. Or you don’t value your talent. In any case, it’s up to you what you do with it. Like money, talent is yours to use as you will.

Perhaps though you get more satisfaction out of performing manual labour than performing your other ability. If so, then that can be the best use of your time. You help people and you help yourself with your physical efforts. There is nothing wrong with that, whatever society thinks.

Glass and Richardson make a defense for what they do. To me, no defense is needed. Glass did installations and applied his artistic talent. Richardson is done with his talent and now gets satisfaction out of working in Whole Foods. They were living their lives in the best way they knew how. We all should be so fortunate.

 

Essays on aging, from Oliver Sacks, on my birthday

 

 

It’s my birthday. I’m into my seventh decade. Born in ’61, now 61.

 

My first decade was one of being shy and smart and tall and skinny and bullied. My second decade was one of growth: growing out of everything, from my clothes to my hometown. Cruising into my twenties I became independent and anxious and happy. By my thirties, I became responsible. In my forties, I became lost. In my fifties, I was crushed.

I expected worst things still to fall on me in my sixth decade, and I was surprised instead by things that uplifted me. Where I will land in my seventh decade, I don’t know. On good days I look to remain open, on bad days I hope for a close.

In all that time, with rare exception, I have taken off every day since I started working in the early 80s. Often those free days were filled with simple pleasures. Mixed in with that was some contemplation.

I think two good things to contemplate on this day are these two essays by Oliver Sacks. One was written when he was still vibrant and turning 80: Opinion | The Joy of Old Age. (No Kidding.) in The New York Times. The second one when he was dying of cancer not much more than a year later: Opinion | Oliver Sacks on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer, also The New York Times.

What impression they will leave on will depend on your current perspective. I encourage you to move around, literally and figuratively, to have to best perspective on life that you can have. The days will be what they are, regardless. How you perceive them depends on where you stand and how you look out.

AJP Taylor, on Winston Churchill

So there’s a new article/book critical of Churchill, and like most anti-Churchill work, it fails by emphasizing his faults and diminishing his accomplishments.

Of the many things I’ve read on Churchill, the one thing that convinced me of his greatness despite everything else is this 1974 essay by AJP Taylor: Daddy, what was Winston Churchill? – The New York Times. Taylor’s essay succeeds because he clearly sees Churchill for what he is. He sees a man who goes from an outcast to an unrivaled leader, his people fully behind him. He sees a leader making many mistakes but succeeding on the one essential thing he had to do. He understands how much worse the world would have been if he, and those he led, had failed. And after you read that essay, you should see and understand that too.

The criticisms of Churchill’s many failures are valid. But the one thing, the most important thing he did, leading the defeat of Hitler and Nazi Germany, should never be diminished.

Indeed, as Taylor starts his essay:

On Jan. 24, 1965, there died Winston Spencer Churchill, Knight of the Garter and, if he had not refused the title, Duke of London. Six days later he was given a state funeral in St. Paul’s Cathedral, an honor previously reserved for two great men of war — Admiral Lord Nelson, victor at Trafalgar, and the Duke of Wellington, victor at Waterloo. What brought Churchill into this select company? The men of the time had no doubt as to the answer. He was the savior of his country, the first Englishman to be so hailed since King Alfred the Great.

Perhaps Churchill’s stature will crumble under a constant eroding criticism. It has happened to other leading historical figures of England and it could happen to him. What should not be forgotten or diminished is what he accomplished in a way only he could have accomplished it. It’s an inconvenient truth for some. But it is a truth that will remain.

P.S. That essay also appears in a fine collection of Taylor’s works, Essays in English History. I highly recommend it. Among other things, it has a great cover. Like Cromwell, Churchill will remain relevant for centuries to come. Warts and all.

(Top image from Wikipedia. Bottom image from Goodreads.)

It’s Monday. You’re struggling. Maybe you need some help adjusting

If it’s Monday and you feel already like you’re struggling, it may be time to hit the reset button and ask why.

One reason may be you have too high expectations of what you can accomplish. If so, I recommend you read this: It’s Okay to Be Good and Not Great

Another reason may be that you just don’t have any energy/vigor/gas in the tank/what have you to get things done. If so, then start with this:
Building Healthy Habits When You’re Truly Exhausted

Finally, if you’re not sure what the problem is, but you think you suck for some strange reason, then go through this fine collection of articles to see if any of them can help: You’re Not So Bad: The Case Against Self Improvement

We don’t have to be at our best all of the time. Sometimes we are at our worst or close to it. These things come and go like clouds. Be good to yourself. Take a moment for yourself. Then do what you can.

On the Zanclean Flood and other extinction threats


The world is full of extreme events that can wipe us out. Case in point, this: When the Mediterranean Sea Dried Up. If you are not familiar with the story….

About 5.9 million years ago, due to a combination of tectonic movements and changes in climate, the Mediterranean Sea mostly dried up for over 600,000 years. The Messinian salinity crisis may have raised global sea levels by as much as 33 feet and decreased the salinity of the world’s oceans, raising the freezing point. And then, much more suddenly, it was refilled in less than two years in the Zanclean Flood.

The Zanclean Flood, like the Chicxulub meteor that killed off the dinosaurs, are two reminders that the planet we live on can be subjected to extreme events that can kill off many of us without really harming the planet itself. have no doubt that this is going to be true of global warming as well. Perhaps even a nuclear war. We can be removed and the planet will continue to operate without us.

The world is more hostile to us than we let in. We are only making it worse with dangers such as nuclear weaponry and climate change. We need to be striving to increase our chances of survival, not decrease them. There are enough forces in the universe that can destroy us.

(Image By Paubahi – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20096173)

Your next piece of luggage could be your next piece of furniture too

If you are in the market for luggage, I recommend you consider this sturdy luggage that morphs into an attractive trolley for dual functionality when not traveling.

It’s great for several reasons besides the obvious:

  • when you aren’t travelling, you don’t have to store/hide it anywhere. Great for places with little or no storage space
  • when you are travelling, it is an additional piece of furniture for your room. Again, you don’t have to store it: just set it up near a desk and use it to hold stationery, snacks, and other temporary items.

Lots of reasons to make this your next piece of luggage.

Friday night cocktail: the negroni. A classic

I’ve become enamored with negronis these days! The 5 pound negronis at Brutto sealed the deal. The crimson cocktail has pushed aside a martini as my go to cocktail (though I still love a good martini, and a sazerac, and a G&T on hot days, and French 75s let’s not forget them).

The recipe for a negroni couldn’t be simpler:

  • 1 ounce gin
  • 1 ounce Campari
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • Garnish: orange peel

For me, the garnish really makes a difference. That hint of orange. As does having it ice cold on the rocks. Delicious.

Over at uncrate they have more to say on it, based on this book:

It’s an easy drink to start a love affair with. Thanks to Brutto and the Art Counsel for that!

(Top image is mine: I took it at Brutto. Second image from a link to uncreate. Recipe from liquor.com)

What I find interesting in tech in general, Apr 2022


Well, I didn’t expect this week to be “what I find interesting in IT Week” , but here we are! I hope you have found it all useful. While the other posts were specific, these are of a general nature. From weird cool stuff to mainframes to iphones to architecture. Dig in!

IT Architecture: Here’s some tools you IT architects can use:

Cloud: some cloud related stuff:

Programming: here’s some things software and hardware folks might find interesting:

Finally: here’s some links that need to be seen without falling into a particular category:

What I find interesting in tech: DevOps and CI/CD (April 2022)

Yesterday I wrote about DevOps. One of the things I emphasized there was that DevOps was more than Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD). And while I still think that, I also know that for many people, CI/CD is a very important part of DevOps. It’s important for me too. Here’s a list of things I’ve found interesting in that area that I thought were worth sharing:

Generally:

Toolchains:

Tekton:

Helm

GitOps