Tag Archives: 2022

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. 🙂

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’s true death toll is much higher than official records. And when people say we should have handled things like Sweden did, here’s a reminder how badly Sweden did during the pandemic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The pandemic is not done and neither is my newsletter. Here’s 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’s 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‚’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.