Tag Archives: blog

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

Hey! Thanks again for reading this, my latest not-a-newsletter of highlights and ramblings since the one in August. I had a long list of things to post here, but I cannot seem to find them. Augh. Oh well.

Newsletters: a few newsletters ago they were all shiny and new. Now they have these become old hat. Almost. It seems like more and more people are jumping on the bandwagon. I’ve realized reading them now that they are a harder thing to write than most people think. The people most successful seem to have a voice and a formula/structure. If you have a formula or structure, your newsletter will hold up even on week publishing days. If you do not, it’s likely harder to maintain a base level of consistency. From what I have witnessed.

Favorite newsletters: No new ones since my last newsletter.

Pandemic update: in Canada we seem to be heading back down to the bad times, after making such good progress. I am not surprised. I think people are breaking down and thinking “oh what’s a little socializing going to do?” and the next thing you know we are back where we were months ago.

As well, schools are back: this will have an effect somehow. We will know in a few weeks.

Meanwhile I am trying to be as normal as I can and trying to get out when I can, knowing that I might not be able to in a few weeks if things spiral out of control.

Restaurants: I am not sure what will happen with restaurants if there is another form of lockdown. Many have closed, and I have to believe that the ones that haven’t are barely getting by. If this goes on for an extended period of time, I can’t imagine there being that many restaurants as we know them being around.

Other venues: other than restaurants, I wonder about other venues where people gather in large numbers. Most theatres are not doing well, and Hollywood’s hope of bringing in people with films like TENET do not seemed to have worked. As well, more studios are putting off films that should have been out awhile ago. I think they are delaying in hopes of something that will not happen.

I almost went to see TENET. I am a big fan of Nolan’s film and how he plays with time. But I can wait and see this at home.

Cooking: While I am trying to get out more to restaurants, I am still doing a lot of cooking at home. To be honest, it is often tiring. To reduce the workload, I am trying to cook more one pot meals. One pot meals result in less clean up afterwards.  Plus they tend to be less labour. If you find you are cleaning up too much, try one pot meals. I found this book really good for one pot meals. I also go to Budget Bytes and type in “one pot” in the search menu and get quite a few that way.

I’ve also found I eat more repetitively. I will go days eating the same breakfast and lunch. It just save time thinking about it.

Autumn/the New Year: As far as I am concerned, the day after Labour Day is the start of the New Year and the start of Autumn. I know fans of Summer hate that idea. Fans of Summer want you to know that Summer ends the 21st of September, not Labour Day. It’s true, it does. And it’s true, there are some very warm days in September. But I love Autumn and I am glad to pack Summer away and get on with it.

I love Autumn because I associate it with the new and transition. The start of school. The start of harvest and wonderful colour. Of mild weather. I love Autumn because I associate it with good change. Autumn is dynamic. Autumn is where we start again, move ahead, make progress. It’s the best season. A season so good we gave it two names.

Finally..

John Turner passed away this weekend. RIP. I still think this is one of the best photos of Canadian politicians ever. I sometimes wonder if Quentin Tarantino ever saw it.

Well, thanks for reading. Take care of yourself. Give yourself some slack. We are living in historic times, and that is usually difficult.

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

Hi there! Thanks again for reading my latest not-a-newsletter of highlights and ramblings since the last one in July. I didn’t think I would stick with writing these pieces, but I’ve been doing this monthly since the start of the pandemic! I still can’t see me starting a newsletter, but I am less certain now than I was months ago.

This newsletter has some bad things (references to the pandemic and Trump…sorry..) but I added some good things too (Jacques Pepin, vaccine progress, and more). I hope you find it worth reading.

Newsletters: they seem to have really taken off now. The latest one I saw is Andrew Sullivan’s. It’s only been out awhile and he already has over 70,000 subscribers and 10,000 paying subscribers. Pretty big numbers, though not surprising given his fame/notoriety (depending on how you view him). His format is very blog like and more like the Sullivan I used to read. Though a newsletter, it seems like a series of blog posts emailed to you.

You can see Sullivan’s newsletter shaping up as each one comes out. The same is true of Alison Roman’s. She fills in a bit more each time, and she seems to be learning or evolving as she goes along. She now has a free and a paid one, and the paid one gets an extra recipe. Jamelle Bouie used to do something similar before he moved over to the New York Times.

Bouie and others like Austin Kleon have been doing newsletters for years. But things seem to have really taken off since the advent of Substack. The newer ones, like Sullivan and Roman, use Substack. I’m not sure what is driving it, save that Substack makes it easier to monetize subscriptions and provide tools to make it simpler to run a newsletter. It could be that newsletters are seen as the New Thing, the way Podcasts were the New Thing only recently, and people want to get in on the New Thing. For whatever reason, newsletters seem to be taking off.

I still feel like they are emailed blogs, and because of that, I will keep blogging. Blogging, tweeting, newsletters: all just ways of expressing ourselves in the era of the Web.

Favorite newsletters: As for my favorites, Austin Kleon is near the top of the list. His is tight. He has a good structure, he is consistent in putting it out, it is diverse in what it highlights. I like Alison Roman’s too: it’s like getting a small part of what will be her next cookbook weekly. Speaking of cooking newsletters, I really like Jamelle Bouie’s for that. Unlike Roman, he doesn’t develop new recipes, but he does highlight some really good recipes from others, as well.

Bouie’s has some smart political commentary. Another person with a newsletter filled with insights is Felix Salmon. Paul Krugman’s is ok, but I don’t feel it some times.

Pandemic update: it has been dreadful to watch the pandemic play out in the United States. My optimist’s eye is I seeing some evidence that more states are getting serious about putting in restrictions to get things under control. I hope so. While Trump seems incapable of doing anything remotely useful, others seem to be doing more to keep it in check at least. I feel for Americans.

In Canada things are improving. Not as good as some other countries, but improving. The next big test  will be school’s reopening in September. After that, we may see fresh outbreaks. We will see soon enough.

Overall, we seem to be in the beginning of the middle of the pandemic. If the end is when vaccines roll out and social restrictions ease, and if the beginning was our initial confusion over what to do and eventually doing radical new things, I think we are now in the middle phase where we have to buckle down and try to get by. This part is going to be the grind. When even Michelle Obama is talking about experiencing low grade depression,  it is not surprising that people with less means than her and are worried about their jobs or their health or their loved ones are also having a hard time.

And other bad things: the pandemic is not the only thing weighing on the mind of Michelle Obama and others. The killing of black Americans, as well as the other injustices they suffer, plays a part. Here in Canada we are seeing the inequalities in our society highlighted in the way that certain groups end up bearing more of the brunt of the pandemic than other groups. I was hopeful that one silver lining of the pandemic would be more political and social effort to address those inequalities. I am less hopeful now. After a burst of coming togetherness in the early part of the pandemic, I suspect now people strongly want it just to be over.

But some good things: if you search for “covid vaccine”, you will be swamped with results showing that much progress is being made there. Plus already there are better forms of treatment for people who do suffer as a result of COVID-19. That’s really good.

With better treatment and a wide spread vaccine and possibly a change in government in the US, there is also the potential for a huge economic recovery worldwide. This is not to overlook the suffering now, but to look forward to a new and healthy and better off world.

The other good thing about the pandemic is the strong fiscal stimulus governments have put into fending off the worst from an economic perspective. I hope more progressive political parties and organizations use this to push on in the future for greater government involvement in improving the lives of more and more people.  Let’s see.

Other good things….

Jacques Pepin: I found Jacques Pepin on Instagram. He’s great! Of course he’s great, Bernie, you sigh. I mean, what I love about him is his style of cooking and sharing. Very old school in some ways, very French, but not flashy. He cooks in a little kitchen and tells stories and chops up food and even uses a microwave. I love that! Who’s going to tell him he shouldn’t use a microwave? Only a fool would do that. Jacques Pepin can cook any way he wants. He’s Jacques Pepin, that’s why. 🙂

Le Bernardin and World Central Kitchen:  Eric Ripert is making the most of his downtime by turning his world famous restaurant into a place to make meals for those less fortunate. Every week he turns out hundreds of meals that are then distributed to others. It’s a good act, and you can read about it here.

Finally…

2020 and the pandemic era: there’s a meme started by Reese Witherspoon showing a headshot for each month. Many other celebrities have adopted it. As you might suspect, each headshot shows more and more distress as the months pass. If you feel that way yourself, consider yourself part of a larger community!

We are in the pandemic era. Like other periods of great stress (e.g. the Great Depression),  time is measured more by a specific set of events and less by calendars and scheduled events. We cannot schedule this, only live through it.

It will end. Just like all era do. Try and make the most of it, and try to permanently record your thoughts and feelings and anything else that embodies the era. You will fondly look back on it, the way humans tend to do. Plus, people of later generations will want to hear about it and see evidence of it. Give them something of yourself from the time. Even if it pictures of the bread you made that one time, or a snapshot of the Zoom calls you were on, or something you bought online when all the retail stores were closed. You are living through history: you are special just by living in this time.

At the beginning of the pandemic I made this zine to remind people to make a list of things they want to do when the pandemic is over. There is still time to make that list, even though some of those things are already happening. Traveling is one of the things on mind. But even something simple like causally wandering into one of my favorite noodle bars and slurping some good brothy noodles is something I am looking forward too. And with that said, thanks again for reading this.

 

Image of a bar

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Swedish death blogging: on my favorite parts of my blog and more


I have blogged for over 13 years. I have almost 3900 posts, over 964,000s view and over 221,000 visitors. I’ve also made over 200 dollars from ads. 🙂
At one time I had hoped to get over a million views, but at 50 views a day, that is unlikely to happen. When I first started, I wrote blog posts because blogs were new and big in social media. Then I was added as a noteworthy blog on the New York Times Fashion blog list (for bizarre reasons) and I had 10 times the current traffic and I blogged to keep it going. Then that changed and I kept going to practice writing, to share ideas and advice with people, and to journal things that were happening at the time.

But in the back of my mind I had a thought that some day my kids would want to know more about their dad and they might go through my blog the way kids go through our diaries and letters after their parents pass on. To find out what made him tick. What he thought about when he was sitting on the porch those many years.

I realized though that they were never going to go through thousands of posts to find the ones I thought the most of. As a way of ensuring they would at least read some of them, I’ve tagged my favorite ones and put them here: favorites | Smart People I Know

.They are a range in different ways. I can’t say all or even most of them are any good. But of the thousands of posts here, these are among the better ones, I thought. They span the years. Some of them are about me. Others are about things I loved at the time. A few of them are historically interesting.

In a way this is like Swedish Death Cleaning: throwing away most things that you own to simplify things for people who come later.  I don’t plan on going anywhere yet, but I thought I would get started on the process now.

As well, it’s been a way to go through it and say, has any of this been worthwhile? I think I can say, some of it has. If you go through my favorites, you can see so for yourself.

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It’s 2019. Should you start a blog?


This article makes the case: Why You Should Start A Blog In 2019. Austin Kleon backs that up, here.

If you do certain things on a regular basis, you should blog. For example:

  • If you contribute to twitter on a regular basis, then you should consider blogging. All those tweets will be lost: your blog posts won’t.
  • If you discover new ways to do things, blogging is a way for other people to find it
  • If you want to demonstrate your expertise, a blog is one way to do that
  • If you want to keep a historical record of parts of your life, blogging is a good way to do it
  • If you find good things on the web and you want to track and comment on them, write that up in a blog post
  • If you find yourself sharing the same information with others regularly, write a piece on your blog and then point people to it
  • If you want to improve your writing, blogging is one way to do that

Forget about becoming famous or having a million viewers or getting rich. Just start simply and write what matters to you. Get a blog.

This is my 3000th post on this blog. Some thoughts.

Hard to believe, but this is my 3000th post on this blog, smartPeopleIKnow. I’ve been writing to this blog since April 2007 – over 8 years! – and have over 860,000 views.  It’s along way from the 10-12 views a day I used to get.

I never thought I would have so many people read my thoughts. Before blogging, the only way to get people to read your writing broadly was to publish a book, or appear in a magazine or newspaper.

While I write on pretty much any topic, the three top posts have had to do with fashion: Why I buy suits from Zara, How to wear brown and blue together, and
How to Set the time on a Phillipe Starck Watch. I can’t say for sure whay that is. I know that posts on how to do things get more views. Makes sense: people are always searching for how to do things.

It’s been alot of fun. And I still hope to achieve my goal of reaching a million views. Maybe in a year or so.

 

 

Some thoughts on blogging and social media with the news that Dooce is retiring

According to one big name blogger, Jason Kottke, another big name blogger, Dooce, is retiring. How big is big? According to this piece in the NYTimes.com (Heather Armstrong, Queen of the Mommy Bloggers – NYTimes.com), she is hinted at having earned $1M / year. That’s pretty good money. This comes on the heels of Andrew Sullivan, another big name blogger, who recently retired too.  From the sounds of it, Jason Kottke himself is thinking that the days of blogging are numbered. It seems the days of a very limited number of big name bloggers making good money are numbered.

Dooce, Kottke, Sullivan and others rode the wave of the golden age of blogging. Dooce and Kottke kept up the format longer than others. Sullivan, Josh Marshall, and many of the political bloggers I started following years ago, have all but abandoned pure blogging. Marshall’s TPM still retains some elements of his original blog, but his site is more like CNN and less like a traditional blog. Sullivan’s site was chronological, but it was more like a blog on steroids that turned out 30 or more posts a day from a variery of sources. Others, like Nate Silver (538), Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein (Vox) all went off and start up variations of what Marshall did with TPM. The model of Vox and 538 is more like Buzzfeed and less like a blog.

Kottke and Dooce are good at what they do, but they also were in the right place at the right time. I admired Kottke and modelled my blog off of what he did, but in truth, there was no way my blog would ever catch his. The same goes for Dooce and her mommy blogging. They occupy the left end of the long tail, while most of us occupy the right end. That’s fine: it is great that it is possible for anyone to be able to write and have it published for free. While your writing may not be read widely, it will be read by more people than you expect. That has certainly been the case for me. When I first started, I was thrilled to have anyone read my blog. As of this post, thousands of people have read my posts over 800,000 times. I am still astonished by that.

Like much in IT, blogging hasn’t died so much as it has been displaced. One time blogging was about the only social media out there. Now, all media is social media.  There are so many choices now. Not only that, but as networks get faster, sites like YouTube and Vine and other visual sites attract more attention. Video is the future.

Blogging still exists and likely will continue to exist for some time. The fact you are reading this proves that. As well, blogging platforms like WordPress seem to be doing well. While some platforms like Posterous went away, others like Tumblr continue to attract new writers and new audiences. I expect to see people writing in this format for some time to come.

What I don’t expect to see happen is individuals making the money that Kottke and Dooce and Sullivan made. Those days are done. Perhaps people will make money blogging by doing it in conjunction with sites like Patreon.com. That’s a possibility. Also, people may use blogs as a way to promote other ways they make money.

Blogging, derived from the words “web logging”, was a way to log your thoughts chronologically on the web. It seems  old and trite now. But the need to write and the need to have others read the words that you have written will never get old. We need new and better platforms. Medium.com tried to do that. Other sites, from Google+ to Facebook to Twitter to Ello have all tried to offer some way to do that. Maybe the golden age of online writing via some platform like blogs is over, and people will write less and share less. Or maybe people are waiting for the next great platforms to start creating again.

 

Writing I really enjoy: The New Family / 1,000 Families Project and this piece on Brian, Jen and Emily

If you ready nothing else from the The New Family / 1,000 Families Project, at least read this piece on Brian, Jen and Emily.

I predict after you do, you will want to read more of them. All of the stories I’ve read so far I’ve really enjoyed. The site itself looks great too.

A great look into the many ways we are families. Highly recommended.

How I blog now (for people interested in comparing notes on blogging)

Blogging is dead (so it is said). But I am still blogging, and happily so. Here’s why, here’s what I think has changed, and here’s what I do now.

I have been blogging a long time (since 2005). Over that time I have had blogs on Blogger, WordPress, Posterous, Tumblr, and on IBM’s hosted sites. I still blog on WordPress and IBM. (Posterous is gone, Tumblr feels less like blogging and more like social media sharing (great stuff, but not for me), and Blogger never could top WordPress for me.)

Blogging had it’s big moment in the early Web 2.0 days, and a number of bloggers went on to great success. Then more and different types of social media appeared, making blogging seemed dated and bloated. Even I dropped off blogging and started doing more with Twitter, Instagram, and more.

I have returned to blogging because it still has something that other social media lacks. It allows me to capture longer ideas, unlike other social media. It lets me go back and see what I was thinking about and doing years ago. Most social media is about the Now and about the Group, but blogging is more than that. Blogging extends in time, and starts (but doesn’t end) with me.

I was also incented by a number of small things. One, my blog traffic was declining, and I thought I would like to see if I could reverse it. I like the idea of people reading my blog, and I thought blogging again could improve the decline. Two, WordPress started paying me monthly for my blog traffic. It is a pittance: less than $6 a month. I have a goal to get it up higher than that. Three, I’d like to reach the goal of having a million views of my blog. I started the blog modestly, and I have been happy to see how it has grown. I’d like to hit that number.

Those are small incentives, though. A bigger incentive/goal is that writing my blog is Writing. Blogging is a good word, but what I really want to do is write and write better and eventually write well. Maintaining the blog helps with that goal.

(If your blog is mainly writing, consider saying you are Writing (not Blogging) when you are adding to your blog. A blog is a web log, but if you are trying to do something more than just log things — and you likely are — why not elevate what you are doing by labelling it with a better label?)

How I blog now:

  1. I use a WordPress plugin with my Chrome browser. That allows me to quickly blog about an interesting web page I come across.
  2. If I don’t want to blog about it now, I use instapaper to save interesting pages for later. Then I will take time and go though the saved pages and either blog about them or save them in delicious (or just get rid of them).
  3. To promote my blog posts, I connect twitter to my WordPress blog: whenever I update my blog, I have a link to it posted on twitter.(After all, I want people to read them, and flagging them on twitter is one way to do that).
  4. If I post a number of posts at the same time, I schedule when they are posted. Otherwise, people on twitter will get flooded with them, and I think that doesn’t help get people to read them (and it is likely annoying).
  5. Besides my web browser, I use Feedly to read other blogs. I have integrated Feedly with my WordPress blog using IFTTT. I have an IFTTT recipe that fires off whenever I save a document in Feedly. The recipe will create a new draft in WordPress for me to work on later.
  6. I process the drafts in WordPress using Firefox and a plugin called ScribeFire. ScribeFire used to work with WordPress, but it doesn’t work for mine now. But I still use it to create more complex blog posts (like this one). Then I go to the admin panel of WordPress and update my blog using copy and paste. (I know, this isn’t exactly *easy*, but I had gotten used to ScribeFire and I haven’t found a tool that I like as much as that.)

Unlike many smart bloggers I follow, I tend not to write long form posts. When I do, I write them in Microsoft Word, mainly because if my machine hangs up or reboots or does any number of stupid things, I will not lose what I have written thanks to Word’s superb autosave feature. Once it is good enough (by my meagre standards), I will copy and paste it into WordPress.