Tag Archives: 2021

July, 2021 pandemic highlights and ramblings (a newsletter, in blog form)

Happy Autumn to you. It’s the end of September, one of my favorite months. It’s been a good month for me, despite the pandemic. I’ve travelled to Nova Scotia and Montreal. In many ways, travel felt “normal”, save the masks and vaccine passports. If those things mean we get to get around and see the people and places we love, I am all for it.

Pandemic: It seems like a weird time in this seemingly never ending pandemic.  In many places there has been great progress. But there have been terrible exceptions. Generally wherever there are right wing governments with ideological commitments to “freedom”, people have lost out. For example, Florida. Here’s a story on how Florida’s massive Covid-19 spike got so bad .In other places like Kentucky,  schools overwhelmingly keep mask mandates even after Republicans scrapped state requirement. Not that Canada’s provinces are necessarily better: even the New York Times is writing about the failure that is Alberta. To make it worse, covidiots are still being a menace to society. Fortunately,the public is forcing timid governments to get tough with vaccine resisters. I am sure there are a small number of them are genuinely afraid of the vaccine. Mostly though you have fools who will take Ivermectin even though it doesn’t work and is meant for animals.

Governments aside, businesses continue to try and get back to normal, but many companies like Apple are throwing in the towel until January 2022, citing the COVID-19 surges. The fact that remote work may last for two years worries some bosses. On the other hand, who wants covid-19 outbreaks occurring when workers get together? That’s right: no one.

Not only are businesses having trouble getting back to “normal”, but many of them cannot find enough workers to do the job. In the restaurant industry, many former worker are tired of the job and are more than happy to say so. But it’s not just restaurants: lots of industries including the gig industry are losing out. Here’s a good analysis by Noah Smith on why that is. As for Canadian workers, most picked up side hustles during lockdown and plan to keep them.

Finally, it’s no surprise that people are a lot less happy during the pandemic. There’s plenty of data to back that up. And we may stay that way for awhile, if you take into account people are still burnt out from this terrible time. Some argue a 4-day work week might fix that. I’m not so optimistic. Sure, a 4 day work week would be good , but more is needed.

Non pandemic stuff: Here in Canada we just had a federal election and…not much changed. Just check out these charts and you’ll see.

Toronto continues to develop new buildings everywhere. There are so many signs for new developments that someone decided to have fun and came up with a  fake development sign trolling an area with giant tower in middle of Toronto park. Many were not amused.

Homelessness continues to be a problem being struggled with everywhere, especially in Toronto. During the pandemic there were encampments forming everywhere.  Eventually they were  driven underground with a wave of summer crackdowns  that supposed cost Toronto nearly $2 million. Sad, to say the least.

People continue to do crazy stupid things with NFTs because there is crazy stupid money involved. For example, this boy 12 made 290 000 pounds in non-fungible tokens with digital whale art. People are now working on NFT blockchain video games. Meanwhile, an Insider Trading Scandal Hits NFT Industry. Things are just insane, but whenever easy money is to be had, it’s not surprising.

Two of the most underestimated and successful politicians continue to make news. Angela Merkel is exiting the stage, while Joe Biden is suffering politically. I think Merkel will be one of those politicians that rises in stature historically, while Biden will recover from his current doldrums.

That’s it for this newsletter. Enjoy your Autumn all. It’s a time of harvests, and get togethers, but it is also a time of colour and beauty. Enjoy it while it lasts.

 

August, 2021 pandemic highlights and ramblings (a newsletter, in blog form)

I hope you are enjoying your summer and staying safe and well. Summer is the best time of the pandemic — it’s sad I can say that, but this is our second pandemic summer —  so enjoy it as best as you can. If you need something to read as you soak up the sun and sip a cold one, here’s my latest blog newsletter for you.

Pandemic: it’s a weird time in the pandemic: on one hand, most people in places like Canada are getting vaccinated. Meanwhile, in other parts of the world, the Delta variant is causing death and devastation.  I once thought the pandemic would be receding, now I am not so sure. We have signs of normality like Via Rail bringing back Montreal-Halifax service. But there is also talk about the fourth wave. People are patronizing restaurants and  people are trying to avoid going to gyms. Places like Israel are struggling after early success. And while restaurants are open, restaurants are having a hard time staying staffed. (I can see that personally: my son works at Stock TC and he tells me they are struggling to hire and keep people.)

As for me, I am finally looking forward to doing some travelling to Halifax and Montreal in the upcoming months. I am going to be going to the east coast to accompany my son as he goes to university there. Then I am going to take advantage of my empty nest status to go to Montreal and partake in that great city and their wonderful views and food. Can’t wait!

It’s weird trying to arrange the trips. So much I used to do with certainty I do with great uncertainty now.

In non-travelling news, I’ve been going to some restaurants in Toronto and eating on their patios. Some patios are really great, others not so much. I love certain restaurants, but sitting on a busy street while cars and bikes whiz by is less than relaxing. Happy to patronize these restaurants, and looking forward to when we can all dine safely inside again.

Besides restaurants, other businesses are struggling to return to normal. My own employer is backing off having people return to the office, at least in NYC. The pandemic is going to have a big impact on companies in a number of ways. For example, there is much talk about preparing for the Great Resignation: 4 ways to be a better boss during the Great Resignation.

Olympics: During the recent Olympics, I expected that this sporting event could be cause of outbreaks. However, this piece argued that  Tokyo has shown the pandemic can be beaten Games health adviser says. That’s good.

Health: One thing that came out of the Olympics was a discussion of taking into account not just physical health but mental health. This lead to articles like this: Why We Need To Normalize Taking Sick Days For Our Mental Health. Speaking of physical health, I agree with this, that  COVID-19 has given us an opportunity to look at weight and what it means to be healthy. Our views of health change from generation to generation, but they should change dramatics because of the pandemic.

Denial: As with climate change, there are people who want to deny it is happening or that it is significant. That never ends well. For example: Oops. Canadian Province That Acted Like COVID Was Over Just Realized It Isn’t. (Yes, that’s Alberta). Some of those same people are using HIPAA as an excuse to not disclose their vaccination status. Those people need to read this: What Is HIPAA? Read This Before You Use HIPAA as an Excuse to Complain About Vaccine Requirements.

My last pandemic comment is this. You might be working from home for awhile, still. If some, here’s some good WFH furniture ideas from Simons. I may be checking it out soon. Regardless of buying new things, you may want to improve the look of your place. If so, check this out: How to curate (just about) anything.

Non pandemic stuff

Climate Change: there is so much news about climate change that I could easily fill the newsletter with references to that. Perhaps I will one day. One thing that stood out for me recently is this news: Hotter than the human body can handle: Pakistan city broils in world’s highest temperatures. The thought of parts of the world being unlivable is terrifying. My belief is that the way to turn it around is massive change on all fronts. So when I read things like this, I get concerned, to say the least: A Bill Gates Venture Aims To Spray Dust Into The Atmosphere To Block The Sun. What Could Go Wrong?. There is no silver bullet for climate change, and anyone who thinks so is wrong.  Climate change is overwhelming, and only overwhelming action on all fronts is going to stabilize and improve things.

Canada: It’s Federal election time in Canada. If you need info on that, go here.  If you need to see the latest polls, go here. I can’t predict what will happen: I expected the Liberals would win in Nova Scotia but the Conservatives ended up on top with a majority.

The US: for a time the President was on a roll in terms of success . His enemies and opponents like Lindsey Graham were struggling to stay relevant. But then he announced that the US was withdrawing from Afghanistan. Since then things have not been going well from him. I suspect over time it will work out for him and the American people. The occupation itself was never going to end well and it was best he declared this early in his presidency.

For some good insight on this, read this piece by Noah Smith: The Afghanistan occupation and the Japan occupation .

Still a thing: NFTs (Russell Simmons launches NFT collection to help pioneers of hip-hop), ransomware (Top 5 ransomware operators by income), and space exploration  (NASA looking for people to spend a year pretending they live on Mars so it can prepare to send astronauts to red planet). Newsletters also still a thing.

Fun: this was a fun thing to read: An Oral History of Adam Sandler Pickup Basketball Legend.

Finally, this is a great time to eat fresh fruit and vegetables. Not only are they enjoyable, it is also a great way to live healthier. So eat as many as you can while you can.

Stay safe. Stay well. Hang in there.

(Photo by Dan-Cristian Pădureț on Unsplash)

July, 2021 pandemic highlights and ramblings (a newsletter, in blog form)

Happy midsummer to you. We are halfway through the summer of 2021 which also means it’s time for my latest blog newsletter.

Pandemic: For some time now, as vaccination was on the rise, the underlying story of the pandemic was “this will soon be over”. Masks were coming off. Indoor dining was on coming back. Travel restrictions were easing.

Now the Delta variant has taken over the story and masks are going back on and cases are on the rise. More on that here. I suspect that for at least the time being, we are still going to be struggling with COVID-19 in its many forms/variants.

Some places are trying to just act like it isn’t happening. For example, Tennessee abandoned vaccine outreach to minors and not just for COVID-19. That bout of madness lasted only a bit of time before the wise folks of that state reversed things. But like the pandemic, that madness is going around. For example,  Alberta is going to try a similar route, ending COVID rules.

Here’s the problem with this, in my opinion: unlike poverty, politicians can’t ignore COVID. If you try and do so, cases rise, hospitals fill up, more people die. People get upset and promise to vote you out. There’s no getting around it. The only way politicians win in that case is when people ignore them and do the right thing. Even then, their poor judgment is going to hurt them come election time.

As for other provinces,  Ontario  is trying to open as fast as it can, but it has a good plan and it seems to be sticking to it. However, daily cases were in the 150/day range and have creeped up to over 200. The plan may not hold.

I’m still hoping Canada is on the way to post-pandemic status. Based on our vaccine rates, it’s possible. But who knows. The pandemic humbles us all.

In other pandemic stories, it’s important to acknowledge that all tragedy did not occur directly because of the disease. In Ontario, more young people died from effects of lockdown than of COVID itself. That story is a good reminder that making choices in a pandemic are never straightforward. The choice of lockdown, while benefiting many, harmed others.

The New York Times has had many a good piece on how the pandemic has affected us. Here’s another: The Year of Purchasing and Purging

Finally, many of you have been forced to work at home during the pandemic. Here’s a silver lining: Introducing a simplified process for claiming the home office expenses for Canadians working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Non-pandemic things :

 Olympics: It is crazy that the Olympics are going on during the pandemic. There is talk that COVID cases count spike as a result. We will see. As for the Olympics themselves, people are tuning them out. I am not surprised. I know why they weren’t cancelled altogher — a lot of money is at stake — but they should have been.

NFTs: Not much to say here. The fact that Coke is getting into the NFT game tells me that either they are becoming more mainstream or they are petering out.

US: In the US we have a tale of two presidents. The former president continues to be in hot water. First off, it looks like he will be forced to turn over tax records. As well, his actions during the attempted coup of January 6th are getting more scrutiny. Good.

Meanwhile this is what amounts to a Biden controversy: people are upset about his choices of ambassadors. That aside, Biden has a good chance that Congress is going to pass his bipartisan Infrastructure bill. That will be a big win for him.

Another big plus for his presidency is that poverty dropped considerably as a result of poverty aid programs. It’s a reminder that poverty and homelessness are a choice we make.

Finally there was the billionaire space race. I wrote about it here.

Ransomware: Continues to be a problem everywhere including Canada. It looks like Biden has expressed his unhappiness with things to Putin. I am not sure if this is a result of that conversation, but some of the people responsible for ransomware suddenly disappeared.

Lastly thanks for reading this! I appreciate it. Go out and enjoy the summer days while you can.

(Photo by Chris Galbraith on Unsplash)

June, 2021 pandemic highlights and ramblings (a newsletter, in blog form)

Wow. It’s the end of June and summer has started. Here’s my latest blog newsletter for you. Short and sweet.

Pandemic:  Canadians continue to ramp up on getting vaccinated. 30% of the population has been fully vaxxed, including yours truly. Well done! I have been impressed by the Federal government procuring the vaccines, as well as the distribution in Toronto. They even had a big event where over 26,000 people were vaccinated in one day at the Skydome/Rogers Center.

Not everything has been awesome. Take the response from the government of Ontario. The Globe has said it has been the worst of all the provincial governments. Hard to disagree with that assessment. Ford has tried to distract others from his performance by trying to shift some of the blame on to Trudeau. That didn’t go far…Trudeau shifted it back onto Ford big time.

While Canadians have generally been good in getting vaccinated, some pockets have been resistant. So governments like that in Manitoba have been offering incentives. Here’s to everyone getting it done this summer!

There has been some positive things to note regarding the pandemic. Crime has plummettedQuarantine rules are changing for the better in Canada. So that’s good.

Businesses are trying to return to normal, but even the best of them, like Starbucks, are having a hard time getting supplies. There is still a labour shortage too. We are not out of the woods in terms of business.

Overall, this has been a tough time. As VOX argues, it has not been a sabbatical.

If you need more on the pandemic, the New York Times has a whole section, here.

Non-pandemic things I noted: NFRs are getting smarter, though there are still lots of nonsense. However at least  this time people like Sotheby’s are tying their value to the artist themselves. That’s a good thing. Another thing I keep an eye on is ransomware. Sadly, it’s getting worse.

In the US, the GOP are still focused on limiting who can vote in the US. They don’t want to change their platforms, they just want to stay in power.
That is obvious as shown here. Meanwhile, Biden seems to have their number, based on this.As for Canada, there has been a lot of focus on indigenous issues and in particular the residential schools. Here’s a good editorial
on it.

Try and go out and enjoy the nice weather while you can. Everything you can do to make the pandemic better is worth doing.

(Photo by Sofia Mejia on Unsplash )

May, 2021 pandemic highlights and ramblings (a newsletter, in blog form)


It’s May, and it’s lovely in Ontario in terms of weather. Alas, the pandemic is still going on, as is my not-a-newsletter of highlights and ramblings for this month. Hope you like it.

Pandemic: Here in Canada we are rushing to get vaccinated. Over 50% of the population has at least 1 dose, and some Canadians have two (I got my second shot of AZ/AstraZeneca today). I am happy to see that the governments all seem to be working better again. The Federal government has been procuring them, the Provincial government has been distributing them, and the City has been setting up spots for people to get them. And get them they have. Kudos to everyone making efforts to get out there and end this.

It’s not to say there are no bumps in the road. Some provinces, like mine, ended up in a panic about whether or not to allow people to get additional AZ vaccines. Eventually Ontario relented and people like me signed up and got their jabs. Still, the experience has left people bitter, as this Doug Coupland piece illustrated.

Canadians don’t need much prompting to get vaccinated. This seems to be true down south for the most part, thought some states like West Virginia are offering savings bonds to encourage vaccination while Detroit was giving out $50 debit cards to ‘Good Neighbors’ to help boost lagging COVID-19 vaccination rate.  I encourage governments using any means at their disposal to get vaccinated. It’s too bad that people just don’t go and get it done. Get it done, people! I am hopeful by this summer most of Canada and the US will be fully open or close to fully open. Indeed the mayor of New York City says his city will be open this July 1. Let’s hope every place is.

Now whether we all go back to work right away is another thing. Outlets like the BBC are arguing the future of work will be hybrid. We shall see.

Since the pandemic is still ongoing,  you need ways to cope. One way people are coping is managing their time on Zoom and WebEx calls. Techies have even been inventing devices to hang them up. Another way people have managed is by developing routines. That’s been healthy. Or getting back to exercising. A less healthy way has been drinking too much. If that is you, you might benefit on reading this piece on ways to cut back. But back to healthy, a good way to help yourself is to get out from time to time. I hope to take advantage of Toronto’s outdoor cafes once they are open.

Finally, in case you haven’t read the best restaurant review of the pandemic…now you can.

US : it’s been weird to watch what is happening in the United States. On one hand, you have the Democrats working to deal with the pandemic and the effect it has had on the American people. On the other hand, you have Republicans working hard in places like Texas and many other places to restrict the vote of people for the next election. Not only that, but Republicans are also working to prevent any examination into the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6th.

Here’s hoping for the United States to become a better democracy, not a worse one.

Meanwhile in Canada, we need to do better in many ways, starting with one that is fundamental to me: making sure everyone has access to clean water. I can’t believe I even have to say this.

Non-pandemic things: No new news on newsletters. They are still a Thing…just not as newsworthy. Good.

NFTs are still newsworthy.  For example, this piece is a good way to just see how weird and wild they are:

I still don’t think they make any sense, but I have been proven wrong on such things before.

A year ago: Last May we saw the “cancellation” of Alison Roman. Since then she pivoted to making her own newsletter and a YouTube video channel with over 100K viewers. She seems to have landed ok. Speaking of food, I wrote last May that people were already tired of making their own food. Ha! Still at it a year later.  For more on how the pandemic looked last year, here’s the newsletter I wrote then.

Finally:

Over a year ago we were all struggling to get masks and learn how to wear them properly. Now they are as common as shoes. Here’s a throw back to mask wearing tips from the City of Toronto.

Thanks for reading this! I appreciate it. Here’s hoping for a pandemic ending everywhere and soon.

 

April 2021 pandemic highlights and ramblings (a newsletter, in blog form)

The pandemic is still going on and so is this! Here’s my latest not-a-newsletter of highlights and ramblings and thingamabobs for this April.

Pandemic:The pandemic is a story of extremes this month. Some countries, like the US and the UK and Israel, are seemingly coming to the end of it. Meanwhile countries like India are burning up with cases and death. It’s terrible to see. For countries like the US and UK, being able to produce their own vaccines made a big difference. But it wasn’t the only difference (Ahem, going from Trump to Biden). For a deeper dive on just one country, here’s a good piece on how Israel was so successful

In Canada we model the world in some ways. For parts of Canada life is relatively normal and aims to stay that way. (I’m look at you up North and out East.) Then there is Ontario, where I am, which seems to have suffered a collapse in provincial leadership. The provincial government recently issued edicts to the province, only to have everyone from the police to the public health units to the people either ignore it or rally against it. Some newspapers are saying that’s the end for the premier.

I have some sympathy for the government’s plight. On one hand you have  hospitals halting non-emergency surgeries as COVID-19 patients fill ICUs, which is terrifying. On the other hand, you have businesses everywhere saying that they’re at risk of losing everything and need help. What you need is strong leadership at this point, but as the Globe and many other argued, we aren’t getting it. We have a panicked leadership seemingly refusing to do anything other than hope for the vaccines to rescue them for their inability to do more.

I’m too discouraged to say more. I’ll let the Toronto Star have the last word:  A 278-word timeline of Ontario’s COVID-19 response | The Star

Individually, the New York Times says we have all hit the wall and we are languishing. I agree. Some of us are getting vaccines, but the unequal distribution can make us feel guilty. Lots of difficult feeling to deal with. We just have to take breaks when we can and forge on.

Meanwhile for something completely different, pandemic-wise, check out this: Honeywell and rapper Will.i.am just debuted a futuristic face-mask with built-in wireless earphones at Yanko Design.

 Newsletters:last month I said newsletters are “still a thing”. What an understatement. If anything, they are now a Big Thing. So big that the New York Times is getting ready to go toe to toe with Substack.

It makes sense. There are likely some writers at the Times looking at Matt Yglesias and others generating close to a million in annual revenue and thinking: I want some of that. Money changes everything, and the amount of money newsletters are generating tells me that we are going to be talking about them for some time.

US : I am glad of two things in the United States. One, we no longer have to hear about the last president any more. (Although some writers still can’t give him up: he’s like an addiction they can’t quit). Two, they have a president who seems to be in a hurry. Awhile ago Vox argued Joe Biden should do everything at once. It looks like he has decided to do that. Besides Vox, two good pieces on Biden that helped me understand him better were this, Bidenomics, explained – Noahpinion,  and this, the radicalism of Joe Biden.

Other interesting things: I am looking to purge my basement and other rooms of things, so I found this piece on how to let go of any possession good. Post-pandemic, we are all likely going to want to live with less.

IKEA came out with this fascinating cookbook: IKEA ScrapsBook – Zero-Waste Recipes & Ideas – IKEA CA. Worth a look.

In the next few decades, I predict many brutalist buildings will be destroyed. Once I may have cheered this, but I have come around to appreciating them more. Articles like this helped.

Poor Orlando Bloom. He gave an interview on what his day in Los Angeles looked like and was widely mocked and ridiculed for it. I had to laugh as well. Then I came across this piece: California dreamin’ with Orlando Bloom, and other tales of only-in-L.A. obliviousness. It helps explain Mr. Bloom and L.A. in general. Worth reading!

Libertarians have been taking a beating during this pandemic. Understandably. Still, they make a good case for why libertarian principles are still useful during this time here.

Finally: I came across this site which I love: All the Restaurants in New York. It reminded me of the work of the late great Jason Polan, and his attempt to draw every person in New York. This gives me a chance to share some links I have of the beloved artist, including this piece in the New Yorker about his Taco Bell Drawing Club. The New York Times also has a piece on it. Finally here are two other sites showing their appreciation for him: ghostly.com and 20×200.com

 

May we all get through this pandemic soon and gather in large crowds again and be with everyone in New York and every place else as well. RIP, Jason. (Image via the NYT’s piece).

March 2021 pandemic highlights and ramblings (a newsletter, in blog form)

Yikes! It’s April 1st so I am a day late (and a dollar short?) on sending out my latest not-a-newsletter of highlights and ramblings since the one a month ago.Here’s a few things I’ve found noteworthy in March to share with you:

Pandemic:Right now the pandemic has been about the next wave (sadly) and vaccines (happily). It’s been a real roller coaster when it has come to vaccines. But with all the ups and downs, more and more vaccines have been distributed, thank heavens. The latest medical miracle is from Johnson & Johnson. This piece talks about how they work which I thought helpful. Also helpful is this piece from the site Our World in Data, which has some great stats on how vaccinations worldwide are doing. It gives me hope.

Locally, here’s how Ontario is doing: Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccination plan. Not bad, but not great. Somewhere through the pandemic the Ontario provincial government reverted to the idea that somehow being frugal during a catastrophe is a good idea. So we got things like this: Ontario rejected proposals to protect LTC residents, deeming them ‘too expensive’: documents, according to CBC News. Being conservative with water is a good idea, except when your house is on fire, but that looks to be the approach of the current Ford government. His team is not the only group coming up short. Toronto is struggling with a homelessness problem, and has lead to bad situations like this crackdown on tiny shelters. Meanwhile vaccine portals everywhere are failing. We all hoped for better. Meanwhile we all slog along. It’s tough.

A year into the pandemic, the effect on people is significant. Even people who have the luxury of working from home are struggling.  Artists in particular are having a hard time getting by, based on this really good piece in the New York Times on how 75 Artists On How They Spent a Year in Coronavirus . Even those who have been productive in the pandemic, like the famed art duo Gilbert and George, acknowledge that “this is an enormously sad time’ . So if you feel down on yourself, it’s understandable. But not hopeless, as this writer/runner shows. You may have given up on things, but you can start again.

Looking back, we were so cautiously optimistic at the beginning of the pandemic, making food and doing crafts. I was  using sites like this and also this to make zines. Others made chapbooks. And of course we all cooked a ton. Here’s an almost nostalgic run down of all the pandemic food trends, from Dalgona coffee to banana bread.

Post-pandemic: While the pandemic still rages on, with the rollout of vaccines, we are already looking forward to what the world is going to be like afterwards. For example, will vaccine passports be a thing? Will services discriminate based on that, as this piece discusses: Should Only Vaccinated People Be Allowed to Use the Gym?. Will our work places change? Will they feature things like this?

One thing I am afraid will happen is people will start arguing that all the sacrifices made and all the money spent wasn’t worth it. That we were duped. You can see the gaslighting already starting here: The Lockdowns Weren’t Worth It – WSJ. The thing to note in that piece is the total disregard for those who died and those who became sick. There is no accounting in it for deaths and illnesses that could have been avoided. Be on the lookout for that.

Meanwhile, if you are preparing to travel post pandemic, this is a good guide on how to visit New York City on a budget . And here’s a fun guide on how to go to concerts when you’re middle-aged because let’s face it you are going to want to do it all.

 Newsletters: still a thing. We’ve gotten to the point where they are so successful that there are debates about who is making money and what should be done about it. To see what I mean, read this: Why Substack writers are mad about money Substack is paying out – Vox.

US : I came across this article years ago concerning the Obama Administration:
Barack Obama is officially one of the most consequential presidents in American history – Vox. Funny enough, I think the Biden Administration took it as a challenge! They seem to be trying to outpace not even Obama but LBJ or FDR. It’s early days, but there is a sense Biden’s team will make great changes to the social contract in the US. Perhaps more and more people in America will be able to agree with Wallace Shawn in this essay he wrote: Why I Call Myself a Socialist.

Finally: if you can barely manage to make anything food wise these days, I recommend you read this: THE MINIMALIST; Three-Way Pasta – The New York Times. It’s a classic from Mark Bittman. I usually try to have a pasta dinner once a week. With that in hand, I have ¾ of the month covered in terms of what to make.

If you find working from home stressful, this might be helpful. How lo-fi artists make music perfect for work. (Or studying. Or chilling.) 

Perhaps in 2022 more of us will be working in fancy schmantzy sheds like the one below:

I for one would not mind. 🙂

(Image via that piece on how our workplaces will change in Yanko Design)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pandemic advice

January pandemic highlights and ramblings (a newsletter, in blog form, a month late)

Hey! How has your new year been? Mine has not started great: January was both tough and busy. I kept trying to get to this, but somehow never had the energy or the focus to write it. Now I have found both. Thanks for dropping by and reading this, my latest not-a-newsletter of highlights and ramblings since the last one in December.

Pandemic: we are now in the phase of the pandemic where we are being told in Canada to hurry up and wait concerning the vaccines. It’s been slow to get them, and slow to deliver them. The rate of progress has been discouraging. To make it worse, more variants of the COVID-19 virus have appeared, variants that spread more rapidly. I feel like someone on the Titanic waiting for my turn on a lifeboat while the ship takes on more water. And I am lucky to be able to stay at home and stay healthy. Meanwhile doctors are hospitals are overwhelmed and hanging on. Barely.

Vox took time to try and figure out why Covid-19 beat social distancing, lockdowns, and “flatten the curve”. Reading that could give you some consolation.

Of course, everyone had their monocausal explanations for why we are still struggling with the pandemic. The premier of Ontario brought in another lockdown because he said people are traveling too much. That’s one explanation, but not the only one.

In the early part of the pandemic I felt governments were strong on taking actions. They were like sprinters at the start of a marathon. Then things petered out. For example, the Federal government funded a Toronto COVID-19 isolation hotel. They pumped big money into the economy. Provinces like Ontario provided pandemic pay for frontline workers fighting COVID-19. But I never felt like they tried as hard recently as they did initially.

That’s not to say it is easy and they aren’t trying. This piece explains why
it’s so hard to ramp up Ontario’s COVID-19 testing. Yet it still seems like things are half hearted these days.

It’s not all grim, though much is. We have adopted. Sweatpants for instance :). And we are trying to maintain some form of work-life balance, but as my head boss says,  achieving healthy work-life balance in a hybrid work environment ‘remains to be seen’. Some of us are making unique friends (Riding Out Quarantine With a Chatbot Friend: ‘I Feel Very Connected’).  Some people tried to get out of their old pandemic habits and live better by taking on a Dry January. Others have taken up unusual self help books, such as this: A working from home manual in disguise.

I believe by the end of 2021 we will have put this pandemic behind us. Perhaps we will see a Roaring Twenties to match those of a century ago. Let’s hope, and for those who pray, let’s pray. Most importantly, let’s get vaccinated. If you want to know more about vaccines  in Canada, go here. More on that here.

Last word on this subject. If you want to know how others are getting through the pandemic, this is good: The Pandemic Logs in The New York Times.

The US: finally, after much nonsense, the worst president the United States ever had left the White House. What a long terrible four years it has been for America and the world with him nominally in charge. Whatever else the new president does, the fact that he is at least competent and not corrupt will be good for that country. I am hopeful for America, and my American friends, and I am looking forward to things getting better for them in the years to come.

Restaurants: I was drawn to this piece that Bon Appetit did some time ago on the best restaurants in Toronto . I wonder how many will still be around when all this is over. Some of them have taken to becoming takeout places, like this Michelin-starred restaurant, but many have not. Even for those that did, it might not be enough to get through to the other side of the pandemic.

Gamestop: It has a bizarre time in the world of finance as several forces came together to drive stocks like Gamestock into the stratosphere, only to crash down again. In some ways, it was a bit of a mystery to me. Just when I thought I understood the story, so me new fact would come along. There was a number of good pieces on it. This one, for example: The GameStop Reckoning Was a Long Time Coming

Jeff Bezos and Amazon:  Jeff Bezos has left Amazon. No doubt he was not looking forward to more grilling from the government into his monopolistic practices. I don’t have much to say about him, other than he did  not seem to be a person you want to work for. Here’s hoping Amazon becomes a better place with the new CEO. Meanwhile here’s some markers on the man who ran that company. Like Larry Ellison and unlike Steve Jobs, I doubt he will be missed:

Quantity over quality : there is a great book called Art and Fear which gives lessons on making art. One of my favorite parts of it has to do with how a ceramics class was split into two: one group were given the task of making many vases (quantity) and another group of making one vase (quality). The first group would pit their best vase against the second group. In the story, the first group wins. The lesson: quantity beats quality. I love that story.

Sadly, the story isn’t entirely true. The details on that are here: The Credibility Is in the Details.

Recent blog highlights: here are some things I blogged about in January that I thought were worth reading:

Finally: here is an interactive web site where you can be a cat playing the bongos. Worthwhile! 🙂

And don’t forget…

Good news is coming. Meanwhile, thanks as always for taking the time to read this newsletter, and other things on this blog. I appreciate it.

 

Things to look forward to in 2021: growing a small garden


It’s important to have things to look forward to in difficult times. Planting a garden when the weather gets warmer can be one of those things.

If that appeals to you, you want to check this out and perhaps print it out: Everything You Need to Know About Vegetable Gardening in One Graphic. It’s a fine infographic and article outlining what you need to know about growing a plot or patio vegetable garden, including important info like when to plant (some in February!) and when to harvest. (You can see this in the snippet of the infographic is above).

You have to admit it is pleasing to think of going to your patio or plot and pulling up some nice greens to make a fresh salad. To turn that winter dream into a summer reality, check out the article linked to above.

On recording (why you should think about it differently, why you should resolve to do it)

Recording. Record. To me those words bring up images of black vinyl disks to play music. Records are great, but there is so much more to making a recording.

A recording can be anything, on any media. All the photos you take on your phone and store on Instagram are a recording. All the receipts you collect in a box are a recording too: a recording of what you spent and where you spent it. Last year I wrote down all the dinners I had since the start of the pandemic: it too is a recording.

For 2021, a good resolution is to record some part of your life. Do it in a way that is easy to do regularly. Do it such that there is enough information to look at it later. Some of my recordings this year were terrible: books I read, runs I went on. Others were strong: things I enjoyed despite the pandemic, politicians I wrote, friends I kept in contact with.

Some people like to use paper for this. Austin Kleon, a master of recording, outlines his process here: The year in notebooks. As he says

If you’re looking for a New Year’s Resolution, keeping a daily notebook is a pretty solid one.

On the other hand, if you are a digital person like me, use a simple tool like SimpleNote or Evernote or just your smartphone camera to record that part of your life. Whatever tool works best for you is the best tool.

It doesn’t have to be a diary or journal format. It can be a log of the best thing that happened each day. Or the funniest thing that happened that week.  Or the weather. Just record something, even if it is a few words.

There’s a number of benefits to making these recordings. If you do it well, at the end of your year you may be able to build up a list like this: 100 things that made my year (2020) – Austin Kleon. Even if your list is smaller, what you may get out of such a list is a recording of what makes your life worth living and what made things worthwhile during times when perhaps things weren’t that great.

Later, as you go through it again, your memory will fire up and you may recall other good moments not captured on paper or computer but still there. That’s another great thing about recording things: it helps you remember so much more.

Your life has value and meaning. Recordings help show that. So get making them.

(Photos by Photo by Samantha Lam  (top) and  by Markus Winkler  (bottom) on Unsplash)

Welcome to the New Year. This advice could come in handy.

Optimism

It’s a new year. A new year after a very difficult one.  It’s a good year to work on being optimistic. If you want to put in that work, start by reading this: How to Be More Optimistic – The New York Times. It will give you some tools to get you started on the path of seeing the fullness of your life.

Yes, there will be difficulties: there always are. The glass is never full. But being able to see things positively is a skill to work on. Today is  a good day to start working on it.

(Photo by Ian Taylor on Unsplash)