Tag Archives: 2022

What was new in our crazy mixed up world, November 2022 edition

Yowza! It’s been a crazy month, this month, between surges in diseases, Twitter turning into a dumpster fire, crypto imploding, inflation hanging on, the war in Ukraine intensifying with seemingly more attacks on civilians, the US GOP becoming more Nazi curious….you name it.  Let’s take a look.

Pandemic: we are still seeing the effects of the pandemic rippling through our society. In Ontario the ICUs of our children’s hospitals have been slammed, with usage up to 108% at one point. Blame the pandemic on that. Other things to blame the pandemic on? Nursing shortages. In fact work shortages in general: long COVID continues to affect many people and has taken many of them out of the workforce.

In response, people are still wearing masks, though not many. Some people are carrying their own CO2 monitors to tell them when internal air quality is risky. Other people are even making their own. Fortunately new vaccines are rolling out, and you can still get COVID tests for free at some places, although that may be going away. Get that flu shot too, don’t end up being a flu statistic.

Will things gradually improve? I believe they will, but who knows. Some people thought worse variants would come along, but so far so good.

Social media: after years of something of a status quo, social media has entered a meltdown/transformation phase. This has been lead by Elon Musk, who has taken over Twitter. Initially people were wondering: will it matter? Turns out it mattered a lot. He started by firing lots of people. Then he told those left to either be “hardcore” and work under insane work conditions or quit. Not surprisingly, many quit. Other people quitting? Celebrity users. And most importantly, advertisers like GM. It doesn’t help that Musk has loaded up the company with a lot of debt. It’s going to get worse before it gets better, if it even can get better.

With Twitter in chaos, what can users do? Some people like me are considering moving on to other platforms, like Hive and Post and Mastodon. However, the alternatives have not really taken off yet, and in some cases, they are not keen for people like journalists to take their business there.  (Maybe they should have read these mastodon tips.) Who knows how it all shakes out.

One good thing about the twitter debacle: it has lead to some good essays. Like this one: Welcome to Hell, Elon. Or this one on the fraudulent king. This one by McSweeney’s was funny.  Also this. Last but not least, this piece with a rundown on how Musk is a terrible person.

If Twitter is quickly imploding, Facebook/Meta is slowly collapsing. Like Twitter, it has had its shares of layoffs. The whole Meta project seems to be failing or at least flailing. It has suffered security problems, too. Generally the company is seen poorly, as this piece by Om Malik shows. It doesn’t help that much of the popular content is trash on Facebook, though they have tried to clean it up. I’m not sure what will happen with this company either, so I’ll leave the last word on Facebook/Meta to Stratechery.

In other news, Trump’s Truth Social continues to be a dud. Tumblr is allowing nudity. And Youtube, which is kinda social, struggles with ad targeting. Just one dumpster fire after another.

How to consider all this? Maybe by reading this piece in Nature on collapsing social networks. I found it very insightful.

Crypto/NFTs: other things melting down recently is the whole crypto currency business. This was lead by Sam Bankman-Fried and his FTX company.  Not that the lunacy is limited to him: Peter Thiel had a new company that lasted three months.  Relatedly, NFTs are not doing well, but people are still flogging them. Companies are looking to incorporate them into TVs.  Into the restaurant scene. Even into famous paintings like the work of Hilma af-Klimt. Ugh. Crypto winter can’t come soon enough.

Christmas: speaking of winter, for those of you celebrating Christmas, here’s a few links you might like. Here’s some gift ideas for those of you on a budget. Here’s more gift guides you can use. I especially thought this would be a good gift for young and aspiring scientists. For people looking for cool decorations, check out that link.

Other Cool stuff:  I’ve recently got an Apple Watch and it is excellent for anyone worried about their heart. Here’s something on how it detects arrhythmia. I recommend the Apple Watch just as a health device. In terms of other devices, if you use a Kindle, I recommend Libby. This is also a cool plant device (shown below).

Inflation: Inflation is like a tenacious beast, hanging on. One place in particular that people are experiencing it is in food prices. Lots has been said about the cost of food these days. Companies like Loblaw have done quite well in turn. There has been some attempt by them to respond to this, despite these moves, I expect there will be more pressure on them in the months ahead. For one thing, the Walmart giant is waking up. Maybe more people will join me and get their groceries there. I’m a happy customer. Let’s see.

Work: workwise, things are still unsettled post pandemic. Wages aren’t rising, despite inflation. Some employees are returning to the office, but aren’t necessarily happy about it. Indeed, employees seem to be unhappy in general. It doesn’t help to be reading of layoffs in many places, even Amazon. Odd times.

Ukraine: the war in Ukraine slogs on. It could be a very tough winter for Ukrainians, though they continue to fight back in many ways. I don’t think anyone knows how to end the war. Either one side will collapse or it will be a stalemate. Zelenskyy wants it to end. The head of Turkey says Putin wants it to end. Let’s hope and pray for a quick ending.

Finally: for new fans of football watching the World Cup, here’s how to determine offsides. You’re welcome. ūüôā

Thank you to those who have read this far. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you! Enjoy the last few days of 2022: here’s to a brighter 2023.

 

A ramble through what was new in the world, Oct. 2022 edition

Here’s a month end cornucopia of things I found interesting and worth reading but don’t really fit into any specific category. (I would have posted it yesterday, but I had that very important 12 foot skeleton post to submit. :))

As I’ve said before, I like posting these because I will be curious to see how they read in the next 5-10 years. I hope you find it worth reading now, though. And thank you!

AI and art: Artists and non-artists continut to make art and play around with AI. Microsoft is even going to incorporate some of the tools into their software. Where this goes, I am not sure. But here’s something on an artist in Amsterdam using it. Not everyone is keen on it: the¬†Getty is banning it.

NFTs: speaking of the art world and new technology, they continue to flirt with NFTs, as you can see here: MoMA and NFTs. Also here’s a piece on what Christie’s is doing:¬† Meet The Artist Who Just Launched Christie’s New Platform For NFT Sales. This investment by museums does not seem like a good idea to me, as this shows: NFTs and art going bust. Not to mention that NFTs are tanking on Opensea and¬†these six-figure NFTs are down 99%. That won’t stop people trying to make money from them, such as these private clubs using nfts. But there has been some payback: Kim K getes a fine for crypto flogging. NFTs have been terrible forever and that doesn’t look like it is changing soon.

Pandemic/Inflation: we continue to make our way through the pandemic as COVID remains a threat. Even though we also continue to try and live with it, the disease has brought big pandemic life changes,  Fortunately there are more booster coming out. Also a number of people I know are using  CO2 monitors to measure CO2 in indoor spaces. There is still some mask wearing.

In Canada there’s been some complaints about the cost of the arriveCAN system. It was expensive, for sure. ¬†This piece breaks down the costs. Meanwhile, some jokers convinced some in the media it could be built for next to nothing at a Hackathon. This just tells me the media needs to get more tech savvy to such boasts.

One holdover from the pandemic is the rise of tipping for everything. I get it, but I also think it has gotten out of control. This piece touches on that: Why tip requests on touchscreen tablets are everywhere (and make us feel guilty.

Part of the problem is that everyone feels they have to cut back due to inflation, tipping and otherwise. So we get pieces like this from Consumers Reports on how we save money now . Or this on how inflation is costing lives. Relatedly, car prices are crazy right now, so you see lots of pieces like this  How to Negotiate With Car Dealers as Prices Keep Rising.

Canada: We’ve had some political changes in Canada. A new premier in Quebec. A new one in Alberta. The PM is promising money to the folks out east to recover from Fiona.

Meanwhile in Toronto we had an election with poor turnout and mostly incumbents voted back in, including the mayor. People in the city are worried about the fact that the city is cashed strapped and the mayor isn’t going going to do anything about it other than cut services like the Toronto Public Library. Grim. The Mayor was even mocked in this art installation called austerityTO.

Totally unrelated but not grim: the Canadian legend Mr. Dressup is getting a documentary! Nice.

Work: employers continue to struggle with remote work. The Times argues: Remote Work Is Here to Stay. Lean In Employers.. The flip side of that is we get many stories of employers tracking workers. It’s a strange new working world. Speaking of that, here’s a piece arguing for using AI to supercharge workers. As a long time automation specialist, I agree.

The World: In the US, here’s some pieces on the January 6th commision: Jan 6th and the Oath Keepers and¬†Laws passed to prevent another Jan 6th. Lizzo played a historical crystal flute and racism broke out. Never mind, Lizzo: you sounded great. The right wing is morphing into something ugly in America, so you get things like this:¬† We Need To Stop Calling Ourselves Conservatives. I think the word they are looking for is Fascist. Finally, here’s a piece on the US Supreme Court: Inside the law school chaos caused by SCOTUS decisions. More on SCOTUS .

In China, everyone was shocked by what happened to  Hu Jintao. More on Hu Jintao here.  Meanwhile, Noah Smith uses game theory to explain why he thinks an invasion of Taiwan probably means WW3. Yikes. In other news, China Delays the Release of G.D.P. and Other Economic Data. Never a good sigh.

Elsewhere in the world, the right wing leader is unusual to say the least, based on this: How Lord of the Rings Inspires Italy’s Giorgia Meloni. Ok. Meanwhile lots of speculation on the¬† Russian nuclear threat. Clearly a sign of how bad things are going for Putin. Speaking of going badly, we have the chaos currently underway in¬†UK Strong and stable? Maybe maybe not.

Signs of the times: A weird chess scandal broke out recently. I thought these pieces in the WSJ here and here did a good job on assessing it. As did this piece in the Atlantic.

Cheating is not just a chess thing either. The Times had a story on the  Fishing Contest Rocked by Cheating Charges After Weights Found in Winning Catch. Lots of money and fame can bring the cheaters out everywhere.

Meanwhile, social media continue to dominate some people’s lives, based on this:¬† Want to Get Noticed by a Celebrity? Snag Their Username on Social Media. Speaking of social media, Facebook/Meta is tanking and Elon Musk took over Twitter. Oh well. Blogging is still going strong! As are you if you are reading this: thanks very much!

Happy Autumn!

What was new in the world, September 2022 edition

Here’s a month end cornucopia of things I found interesting and worth reading but don’t really fit into any specific category. Among other things, I like posting these because I will be curious to see how they read in the next 5-10 years. I hope you find it worth reading now, though. ūüôā

China: China has been making noise about invading Taiwan. A recent visit by Nancy Pelosi especially helped stir that pot. Foreign Policy had some good pieces on it here and here. China has been threatening Taiwan with drones, although it will take much more than drones to accomplish it.

Other things to note that are happening in China are a¬†Banking Scandal and a poetry contest that causes problems. For more on China, this¬†talks about how China is dealing with Covid. This addresses how China’s Surveillance State is encountering public resistance. Businesswise, Huawei is running into problems. More stories on China’s entrepreneurs.¬† Last, this piece and this one address how good or bad Xi Jinping is as a leader.

Asia: in Japan, Chie Hayakawa imagines a Japan where the elderly volunteer to die. Bleak. Here’s a piece on how the Unification Church causes problems in Japan. Meanwhile, India scrambles to contain fallout over insulting comments about Islam.

Europe:¬† Mikhail Gorbachev recently passed away. Vox looked at his legacy. As everyone knows, the Queen also died. Here’s why VOX thinks monarchies are better than republics. As for the new king, some think that he could be an improvement, at least when compared with Charles I and II ūüôā

The right is strong elsewhere in places like Poland and Hungary, though the paths of those countries have diverged. Indeed, as the war goes on in Ukraine, Polish pilots Training to fly the Bayraktars war drones. Meanwhile, The right is ascendent in places like Italy and Sweden.

The U.S.:¬†While Biden and Trump are likely to be fighting to be president in 2024, others are looking to content. Politico looks at how Nikki Haley raises money. And Josh Barro dismisses Gavin Newsom . AOC ponders if she will ever be president. Some day. Maybe. Finally, here’s a piece on the DeSantis Martha’s Vineyard stunt. Odious. Speaking of odious, Ken Starr died. Politico properly assesses his poor legacy.

Canada: Here in Canada the Conservative party has a new leader. Let’s see how that goes. I’d like to pause for a moment to highlight the interim leader, Candice Bergen. She forced the previous leader out of Stornoway so she could move in. Then she retires. Nice. Have to remember that the next time the Tories complain others not being fiscally conservative. More on that¬† here and here.

It’s the end of August. This looks like a newsletter, and reads like a newsletter, but it isn’t a newsletter

Here’s a month end cornucopia of things I found interesting and worth reading but don’t really fit into any specific category. I hope you find it worth reading, too.

The pandemic is being memory-holed, unfortunately. Before people forget or try to gaslight us, here’s a piece comparing how Canada did in the initial 2 years of the COVID-19 pandemic vs other places. And here’s where you can find information on Covid and Ontario . Who knows how long that will last?

Have you wanted to learn how to play chess? Check out this at the New York Times. Here’s a good piece on how to copy quotes from a library book. If you want to learn about ten classic polish films , go there.

Filmwise, here’s a sad piece on the decline of Bruce Willis . These pieces, on the death of a Minecraft Youtuber, a young influencer who dropped out of college,¬†and a piece on Hope Solo struggling with addiction were all sad but worth reading. Also sad was reading about an old relative in the obits: John (Jonk) Raymond Melnick | Pierson’s Funeral Service Ltd.. RIP, Jonky.

Old movie trailers, even for great films, can be embarrassing. This link can help with that: Aliens modern trailer. Speaking of Sci-Fi, here a piece on the rise of Skywalker nostaglia.

Do you know if you live in one of one of the 49 Coolest Neighbourhoods in the World Right Now? You may be if your area appears on that list. Nothing for Toronto, though some for Montreal and Vancouver.

Speaking of cool, here’s a video of Night Music episode 121 from 1989 fearuring Robert Cray, John Hiatt, Nat King Cole, Tracy Nelson, World Saxophone Quartet. Night Music was always cool.

The Stones video of “Emotional Rescue”? Also cool:

Speaking of odd, here’s something on What Justin Bieber taught someone about fun things to do. Also odd, at least to me: How influencers get paid by affiliate marketing . If you were wondering why the Girl Explaining meme is all over your Twitter feed , that link will explain why. Odd.

I used to write often on newsletters. The newsletter boom has died down but the format isn’t going away. Crypto isn’t going away either, but this the SEC crackdown of it won’t help. Shame. Not.

Finally, here’s a twitpic I took a long time ago. Amazing they still exist.

The end. Here’s my last highlights and ramblings (a newsletter, in blog form, June 2022 edition)

Hey there! Yes, this is my last newsletter in blog form. My first edition of Highlights and Ramblings (a newsletter, as such) was in March of 2020, the beginning of the pandemic. When I started I wanted to provide:

a list of  random items I’ve been stashing away while working from home in this time of social distancing and the pandemic. Initially my goal was to create a newsletter, and perhaps I still will create one. Most of the newsletters I get, though, read like blog posts. That’s fine. But then why do I need to create a newsletter, when I can just post here. Plus, it will save you another thing to deal with in your inbox. Read when you have nothing else to read.

That was my goal. But pretty soon (as early as June 2020) these monthly posts transformed mostly into what was happening pandemic wise. In that month I noted it was…

…a weird time in the pandemic: in parts of the world, the worst is behind them (e.g. parts of Europe)

“The worst is behind them”. How little did I know! In fact, as the months passed, things grinded on with wave after wave of infections. But there was also progress, as I highlighted a year later in June of 2021 :

Canadians continue to ramp up on getting vaccinated. 30% of the population has been fully vaxxed, including yours truly. Well done!

And now it’s been a year later and most Canadians have not only been vaccinated but boosted. Some — like me — double boosted! And many of us — me again! — got COVID anyway. Got COVID and lived and stayed out of hospitals. Not great but good nonetheless.

Societally, we have shifted in our stances. From lockdowns to free travelling and association. Restaurants are full. People are still working from home (although some bullies like Elon Musk are telling staff that ‘remote work is no longer acceptable’). People are still wearing masks. Ottawa even announced the end of troubled COVID Alert app this month. All in all, it feels like the pandemic is over.

But it is not over.¬† COVID-19 is still out there mutating and people are still getting sick and in some cases dying. It hasn’t gone away, only our extraordinary approach to it has. I don’t know what will happen in the fall. No one knows. Many have beliefs. Some are wondering if and when will COVID-19 be endemic? We will just have to do our best and see.

With that, I think it is time to retire this “newsletter”. Truth is, I don’t have much news to share on a monthly basis that you don’t already know. I’m never go to get rich or gain a big following that way. It’s fine. And not having a monthly deadline is a relief.

Unless¬† the pandemic was to be medically and socially disruptive, it will stay done. What I do plan to do is just randomly writing my ramblings posts on general topics. We will see. In the meantime, a list of all my newsletters is here. If nothing else, it’s a somewhat interesting plague journal.

Plenty of things have happened in this period. The worst of people (e.g. Putin, Trump) did their worst and left unpunished. The better people (Biden) did their best, only to be unappreciated. Economies recovered, but inflation sprung up. With luck and strong action, in a year from now the war in the Ukraine and worldwide inflation will be positively resolved. One hopes.

Besides newsletters, the other fad of the pandemic  was cryptocurrencies, NFTs, Web3 and all that nonsense. Now with the coming of crypto winter, we may hear less of that. There was also Wordle. Some of you are still playing Wordle, though it seems less so. (if you are, click here to help your score).

We will go on. Thanks to all of you who have read these pandemic ramblings over these many months. If you want to continue to keep up to date on what is happening with Covid, I recommend this newsletter from Eric Topol called Ground Truths. As for me, look here for my (non-pandemic) ramblings and other posts. Take care. Stay well.

 

May is done. Here’s some of the highlights and some ramblings for May, 2022

Last month, I thought I needed to switch up this monthly missive of a quasi newsletter. Make it a bit more rambling, a bit less worldly and world weary. I decided to push down the pandemic stuff and look at some other things first. I hope you like it.

In Canada one of the big things last month was the streak that Mattea Roach had on Jeopardy. I swear everyone in Canada was proud of her. In fact, it was funny to read the news in Nova Scotia and Ontario, because both of them wanted to claim her for their own. I get it! She’s great!

She caught the attention of not only Canada, but the US too. Even the NY Times did a piece on her. Not surprising: she is newsworthy.

Speaking of the Times, they did two pieces this month that gave me some perspective. First there was this piece on why for tens of millions of Americans the Good Times are Right Now. That was somewhat hopeful. And this piece on the relationship between being happy and being rich was also good, perspective wise.

I mean let’s face it, if being rich meant being happy, then Elon Musk would be the happiest person ever. Instead, he is on social media all the time making a fool of himself. Not just due to his trying to buy twitter, but his opinions in general. If you want to read more about what he is/was up to at this time, you can read this or this. I think the less we hear from him, the better.

Speaking of rich, the whole NFT/ crypto/thingamabobs did not do well this month, with articles on their big meltdown all over the place. This says NFT sales are flatlining , but ‘flatlining’ is too kind a word. Finally, I think the Beaverton captured it perfectly . I love the Beaverton: a perfect blend of Canadian humour and perspective. A good counterpoint to all that financial madness.

Apropos of nothing, here’s news on the black hole at the center of our galaxy. Very cool.

Overall, May has been a month of transition, from the relatively new (Apple phases out the iPod) to the relatively old (Charles Gives Queen’s Speech at State Opening of Parliament in U.K.). The iPod is not coming back, but the Queen did, opening her new subway line, the Elizabeth Line, in London this month. My daughter was in London and I was encouraging her to ride it for bragging rights in the future, if nothing else.

The pandemic is in a state of transition too. Here in Toronto we have ended our pandemic emergency declaration after 777 days. Wow. That’s a long time and big number. Another big number is the number of Covid deaths in Canada, 40,000, and in the US, 1,000,000. For those who have lost loved ones, the fact that Canada managed the pandemic better than the US is cold comfort. It’s also astounding to think about, numbers wise. I can only imagine how much worse it would have been without vaccines.

I’m also curious to see what happens as people let down their guard. Lockdowns are over everywhere. Concerts and travelling are ramped up. People are still wearing masks, but less and less so from what I can see.

What’s next? Well, hospitals are in transition, if I read this piece correctly in The Atlantic . Also viruses on hiatus during the pandemic are coming back which is not great. Smart people like Bill Gates and others are thinking about how to prevent the next pandemic. I hope we can. We will need lots of effort, smart people and tools. Although I don’t think the metaverse is going to be one of those tools, despite what this piece says. (Wanted to throw a bone to the metaverse here….we used to hear about it all the time. Now, barely at all. :))

The provinces of Canada are in transition too. In Alberta Premier Jason Kenney stepped down after barely surviving leadership. I was surprised by that. Let’s see how Premier Ford does in Ontario after the upcoming election. Maybe he will be surprised too.

There’s been other things happening too, like the Roe vs Wade situation in the US, not to mention the horrible shootings there. Sadly, no transition for the better in either case. And the war in Ukraine still goes on, though sadly it has become less newsworthy.

Inflation has been bad and newsworthy, but I believe it is going to be transitioning for the better. It has been tough on people, though, leading to articles like this: How to put delicious meals on the table as inflation drives up costs. Inflation is good for people with large fixed debt, but bad for people barely getting by. Let’s hope it gets under control soon.

The weather is also transitioning, from cool to hot. That can make it tough to sleep at nights. If that’s you, consider some of the ideas here: 5 Cheap(ish) Things to Keep Your Bedroom Cool | Wirecutter .

That’s it for another month! Thanks for reading, you half dozen people who read these every month. I appreciate it. ūüôā

Enjoy the nice weather.

 

 

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‚Äôs 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!

 

The pandemic is not done and neither is my newsletter. Here‚Äôs my highlights and ramblings for March 2022 (a newsletter, in blog form)

Spring is here. And with Spring, thoughts turn to getting outdoors. I understand the feeling. People want to enjoy themselves after a tough winter. But hey, if you have a few minutes, I hope you can take the time to read this, my latest newsletter.

Pandemic: Well Omicron rushed out as fast as it rushed in, at least in my part of the world. Just in time to mark the 2nd anniversary of the pandemic. It’s been so dramatic that people are willing to declare the pandemic is over. There’s been constant talk of returning to normal. But what does Normal even mean? I’m not sure, and I don’t think anyone else is either. As this post states, How Did This Many Deaths Become Normal? . There’s nothing normal to return to. Ask Hong Kong. ¬†They are dealing with a¬† ‘preventable disaster’. They wish they could return to normal.

Nonetheless, in some parts of Canada, premiers are trying to get there somehow, even as they are cautioning that the pandemic isn’t over. And newspapers like the Toronto Star are reminding us that just because we are feeling done with covid, it doesn’t mean it is done with us. ¬†This hasn’t stopped places like Ontario from removing restrictions like the mandatory use of masks, although you will need them in some places like subways.

Speaking of the Ontario Government, I was disappointed that the Minister of Health decided to stop posting COVID stats on twitter. Fortunately they can be found on a web page. So I wrote a python program called covid.py to scrape the data and output it. I then post it on twitter myself. (You can find the code here.)

As for what is in store for us as we trying to be Normal again, there is some good insight published here, here and here. Whether people are ready for potential new waves of the pandemic remains to be seen. Case in point:  Once again America is in denial about signs of a fresh Covid wave.

Finally, I recommend that you take matters into your own hands and keep an eye on things. For example, here’s data on Hospitalizations for COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Ontario. Also good data in general, here. CBC.ca is tracking information here.

Work: As for work life, people have been going into the office. If this will be you and you forget how to dress, then this (on dress jackets) or this (on no suit business attire) may help. It would be nice if the office you went back to looked as green and lush as this. Or they were as open to personalizing your space as Corbusier wanted.

Ukraine: things seem to be reaching¬† new phase in the Russian-Ukrainian war. Apparently peace talks are progressing. We shall see. I am sad to see such needless suffering has been brought on by the Russian government.¬† It is bittersweet that the Ukrainians have held out this far, thanks to their own fighting and the aid of NATO nations. Let’s hope for an end to it soon.

Unlike the pandemic, I haven’t kept too many pieces on it. However, I thought these two were worth reading: one from a socialist perspective and one from a¬†military perspective. As was this: Xi’s China during the war.

Climate: Is it possible to write anything positive about Climate Change? Well this piece comes close: Global update: Projected warming from Paris pledges drops to 2.4 degrees after US Summit: analysis.

In other news:¬† I was in London last week and I saw the British Museum is getting into NFTs. Sigh. According to this, it’s not just them. (London was great btw. We had a week of sunshine and warm temperatures. It was a perfect vacation.)

Streaming is becoming a bigger and bigger deal. So what are these streaming platforms considering doing more of? Ads. Streaming also had its moment at the Oscars recently, as this piece shows. (What about Oscars and the Slap, Bernie? We don’t talk about the slap no no.)

Inflation is still a concern these days. One way companies are dealing with it is by shrinking the products you buy. Many products are too big, so this could be something of a good thing. Inflation is still a bad thing.

Twitter: someone made a twitter bot specifically to respond to brands posting their Ws during International Women’s Day. Here the story behind the Twitter Bot posting the gender pay gap of brands celebrating IWD . A nice bit of guerilla activism.

Electric vehicles continue to make progress. A new (to me) competitor for the Tesla is the Polestar . I like how their ads are mainly saying they are not Elon Musk’s company. Tesla’s shareholders should take note.

Thanks again for reading this newsletter. I hope someday it will be filled with things having nothing to do with sickness or conflict.¬† It’s good to be hopeful. See you next month.

 

The bleak midwinter is done! The pandemic is not! Here‚Äôs my highlights and ramblings for February 2022 (a newsletter, in blog form)

Well, happy (?) end of February to you. February has always been the toughest month for me in Canada. It’s too dark, too cold, and both Christmas and Spring seem far away. Perhaps this newsletter can distract you and I from the challenges of this time. Or remind you of them. Sigh.

Pandemic: Omicron came in with a roar and is now rushing back out again. Good. It was very contagious, which means most of us had it but then it was done. I hope that’s true.

For more on why it was so contagious, see this: Omicron’s Surprising Anatomy Explains Why It Is Wildly Contagious.

There are tons of people, including politicians, who want to declare the pandemic over! Especially since this is the end of the second year of dealing with it. Here’s a good piece on why being done with COVID is easier said than done. That said,¬†I am hoping we are done with it, but here’s a good reason why we may not be: Discovery of New HIV Variant Sends Warning for COVID Pandemic.

Finally, here’s an interesting piece on how the two years of COVID have affected us physically: How The Pandemic Is Changing Our Bodies.

Russia: As I write this, Russia is in the process of invading Ukraine. In the short term this is catastrophic for the latter, but the pain of this will soon increase for the former. No one gets to invade a country and not pay the price. Putin may not think so, and perhaps he will quickly overrun the country and put in a puppet government that does all the dirty work. All the scenarios are hard to consider.

China:¬†Russia seemed to have waited until the Olympics completed before moving on Ukraine. A sad transition from a joyless Olympic games. Perhaps a fitting Olympics for a joyless state, or at least that is how China seems to me. Here’s two pieces on them:¬†George Soros: Investors in Xi’s China face a rude awakening and¬†A Digital Manhunt: How Chinese Police Track Critics on Twitter and Facebook.

America:¬†America continues it’s weird drift away from what it could be. States continue to gerrymander and their Supreme court continues to veer right so hard that even the Chief Justice, John Roberts, has lost control.

Joe Rogan: Everyone has been talking about this guy recently. I don’t have much to say about him. Certainly not much that is good. I certainly am not happy about how he has supported and help propagate COVID-19 misinformation right-wing myths. Not many others are happy about him either. For more on him, such as his other Spotify controversies, you can read this.

Trucker protests:¬†Well after almost a month of shenanigans at the capital of Canada and elsewhere, the “trucker” protest has retreated. It took Trudeau using The Emergencies Act, partially due to some prompting from his critics.¬† Thankfully he quickly withdrew it. Like Joe Rogan, I don’t have anything positive to say about it either. This sums up the delusion of the protesters:¬†The American Anti-Vax Fantasy of Canada’s “Freedom Convoy”.

Meanwhile, most truckers are vaccinated and doing their jobs. And a hard job it is, based on this: The Real Reason America Doesn’t Have Enough Truck Drivers.

Otherwise: the metaverse shambles on. Here’s a study on the hype of the Metaverse. Speaking of hyped things, here’s more on NFTs: New Study on NFTs Deflates the “Democratic” Potential for the Medium. Zero surprise there.

Finally,¬†here’s something fun: The best Jedi. I liked this guy’s site:¬†Kevin Basset. And for all of you into punk, here’s¬† Dystopia-core: what is the new pandemic-era punk look? You can see it below. It seems right for our time.

(Photograph: Broadimage/Rex/Shutterstock)

 

It’s the third year of the pandemic. Sigh. Here’s my highlights and ramblings for January 2022 (a newsletter, in blog form)

This is the third calendar year of being in this pandemic: 2020, 2021 and now 2022. True, the duration is technically less than 3 years (March 2020-January 2022) but heck it feels like three years to me. Likely it does for you too. I can assure reading this newsletter will go by quickly in comparison.

Pandemic: The last month has seen Omicron variant slamming into the world with  full force, including yours truly. After managing to avoid Covid-19 in all its variant forms, me and the people in my bubble (save my son) managed to get it within a day of each other. Fortunately we were all vaxxed and in some cases boosted. Likely because of that, we all felt sick and weak but nothing remotely requiring a visit to a hospital, never mind a stay. It sucked, and I missed some work in order to rest up (and frankly in the early days I slept most of the day while my body worked overtime to squash those bugs). We are now as healthy as we were before.

And it wasn’t just us. It seemed almost everyone had it.¬†Partially because of all this sickness, we started to see impacts of it everywhere, such as the grocery stores. It seems like grocery stores running out of food, but this piece has what’s really going on. The stores are empty in many parts. But I suspect this will not be for long.

Other areas continue to suffer, such as travel. Case in point:¬† Air Canada ending flights between Sydney and Halifax in January. Also the¬† health care system. While Omicron is relatively milder, hospitals are still filling up with people due to the number of unvaccinated people. I am not sure if it’s true that our current health-care disaster could have been averted, but some believe it could have been

Meanwhile, speaking of the unvaccinated and the anti-vaxxers, in much of the West the walls are closing in on them. Let’s hope that leads to less and less unvaccinated people. Sadly, there is still a big convoy going to Ottawa to protest vaccine mandates. Idiots.

A milder form of protest is in the form of people whose livelihood depends on crowds. Restaurants for sure, but also the arts. It was stated here that  arbitrary shutdowns show that most Canadian leaders hold little value in artists. It may seem unfair, especially in light of sporting events going on. But to say that crowded venues are harmless is wrong, in my opinion.

Elsewhere, here’s two views on other parts of the world that are in the vanguard of dealing with the pandemic: Japan (What Japan Got Right About Covid-19) and Israel (How do key COVID-19 metrics compare to the early 2021 peak in Israel?).

It’s important thing to keep in mind the true cost of the pandemic. As this shows,¬† the pandemic’s true death toll is millions more than official counts. It has been a time of great tragedy and loss.

Business: the pandemic continues to impact business and the working world in many ways. Besides food shortages, we also have demand driven inflation.¬† Here’s a horribly wrong take on how to deal with it: What a Socialist Response to Inflation Should Look Like. While I am sympathetic to the impact inflation has on low income workers, price controls will not effectively deal with it. Income supports and other programs would be far more effective.

Besides that,¬† workers quit jobs in droves to become their own bosses. At least in the US.¬† Here’s how ¬†millions of jobless Americans can afford to ditch work. As well, ¬†distributed work continues to appeal. Companies are going to want to move away from that and back into offices. I am not sure how successful that will be.

Toronto: Meanwhile in Toronto we were hit with a big blizzard this month. it was so bad, people helped push a TTC bus out of the snow during it.  Meanwhile, our premier, who is trailing in the polls, decided to drive around Toronto and pick up people stranded by the blizzard. It did not go over well it seemed, as people mocked the whole thing as a stunt.

Crypto:¬†it seems like there is an explosion of discussion with regards to digital finance. While there are many aspects to it, it seems to have centered around the term “crypto”. Here’s a good piece on it from Josh Barro: Why I hate cryptocurrency. Here’s an attempt at a fair assessment Crypto: the good the bad and the ugly.¬† I still think it is mostly bad. Even in areas where it is supposed to be helpful, it isn’t. Case in point:¬†NFT art sales are booming. Just without some artists’ permission. I find the whole topic depressing to think about.

Speaking of depressing, here’s the dumb man’s idea of a smart man, Jordan Peterson making a fool of himself on the topic of climate: ¬†word salad of nonsense: scientists denounce Jordan Peterson’s comments on climate models. This is grim: The return of the 10-minute eviction in the US. Also downbeat is how America can’t seem to help themselves when it comes to improving their country with programs like Biden’s Build Back Better. This article seems to think it will not go well for one opposing senator:¬†West Virginia‚Äö’s coal miners just made Joe Manchin’s life a lot harder. I’ll believe it when I see it. Of course we just can’t stand by and watch it happen.¬†The American polity is cracked and might collapse. Canada must prepare. Sad.

Wordle! One good thing about the pandemic was the mass adoption of the game Wordle.  For those of you wondering or have forgotten, here are  your other Wordle questions answered. Also on the topic: Six Lessons From the Success of Wordle.

Finally and positively: In general, it is easy to get downbeat in the midst of winter during this seemingly endless pandemic. But it is truly incredible how quickly we have developed a vaccine and rolled it out (and continue to roll it out) around the world. Most people have worked hard to do the right thing and try and end this situation. It is too easy to focus on the bad parts like the antivaxxers and antimaskers, when at least in Canada the vast majority are provaxx and promask and supportive of good initiatives. Let’s focus on that for a moment. Meanwhile do what you can to stay well and help your community to do the same.

P. S. I took a drawing challenge this month: draw every day and post it on Instagram. I failed, but I failed in a “shoot for the stars, land on the moon” way. I didn’t manage to draw 31 images, but I managed to draw much more than I had been in ages. I was glad for that. Here’s one of those sketches: white conte on black paper.

When I lived on Castlefield Avenue I would often see the sky like this walking home late at night. It’s a good image and memory for me. Thanks to my friend and old colleague Karen Maxwell for the challenge.

Hey! Thanks for reading this. See you next month.

Happy 2022!

Happy New Year! Maybe this year will be year we finally see the end of the pandemic!

One of my resolutions this year is to do more with less. In that vein, I am going to share some of my old posts on the new year, rather than recreate another. You can find them here. I think they are still good and still worth revisiting, both by me and you.

All the best to you in 2022.