Tag Archives: blogging

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. 🙂

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.

Another pandemic year is done. Here’s my highlights and ramblings for December 2021 (a newsletter, in blog form)

Happy New Year’s Eve to you! Raise a glass of cheer for another year of pandemic nonsense down the drain. Last month I said: it’s hard to believe we are in the pandemic, like it was about to be finished soon. Now what we got in December was almost a throwback to the beginning of the pandemic! Painful. I hope the reading of this newsletter brings something other than pain.

Pandemic: Last month I wondered what the Omicron variant would bring. Now I know: it brought us an incredible amount of sickness. Cases have shot through the roof and it seems like COVID, once preventable with reasonable measures taken, is less so. Worse, even with vaccines people are still getting ill. The one piece of good news so far is hospitalization seems to be manageable.

That said, Omicron has been hard on us.  Like this piece says, the week Omicron arrived was  the week that Covid sucker punched the world. Alot of our hopes and dreams have been dashed because Omicron is rewriting the COVID plan for 2022. Not surprisingly, across the world Covid anxiety and depression take hold.

But people have also been making an effort. People are getting test like crazy, and not surprisingly, this has led to test backlogs. The challenge here is sometimes the backlogs are due to overwhelming demand and sometimes it is due to underwhelming supply. People are assuming the problem is the latter, but even the most efficient supply chain can get overwhelmed by too much demand. That said, some places (Nova Scotia) are really good at distributing tests, while other places (Ontario) not so much.

Before omicron, the number of hot takes on COVID had seem to die down. Now they have fired back up again. Uncertainty provides fuel for all these spicy opinions. My boring take is that people should continue to mask up, avoid crowds, and get fully vaccinated as soon as they can. Heck wash your hands for 20 seconds still…it can’t hurt.

I get that people are sick of the pandemic. We all are! But pretending it isn’t happening is ridiculous. Unfortunately we have organizations like the NBA limping along because money, I suppose. I mean here are the Raptors with 10 of their players out due to COVID.  So we have these ridiculous events with 10,000 people in the stands to watch pickup basketball. No wonder we are stuck. I understand restaurants trying to get people into them: it’s do or die for many of them. The rich NBA? I have less understanding.

Christmas: it’s Christmastime, despite the pandemic. Here are three pieces on that time of year that aren’t necessarily festive, but are certainly interesting: first, here’s a story on how Irving Berlin’s ‘White Christmas’ helped U.S. fight fascism in WWII. This was interesting: Christmas and slavery: The holidays were the best time to escape. Finally, this was fun: Christmas shopping the IBM way: computerized gift selection in 1962.

Non-Pandemic: In the US, lots of people writing off Joe Biden due to Joe Manchin putting a pin in his Build Back Better legislation.  My take is: we shall see.  It’s certainly benefited Manchin in the short term. But the cliche that a week in politics is a long time is a cliche for a reason. Biden has time. He’s already achieved a lot, but it is hard to feel that. This article attempts to understand that and is worth a look.

Elsewhere in the US, unions are having a moment. So says Time. Time also says Elon Musk was man of the year. Meh to that. Every year brings my opinion of the man down a level.

Speaking of technology, there’s lots of talk lately about web3. Frankly I am highly skeptical of it. It seems like a bunch of overhyped schemes to make money. If I had to recommend one thing to read on it, it would be this.

The other thing people were talking about technology-wise were the multiple outages at AWS and the log4j vunerability. The former I was surprised by: the latter not so much. People do not realize how exposed we all are to the soft underbelly of open source: the log4j problems were a good reminder/wake up call.

Entertainment wise, I continue to avoid going to movie theatres, concerts or anything with crowds. I made an exception for television/streaming. While I rarely watch TV, there were a few things I did watch this December, including Don’t Look Up and Get Back. I thought the former was a hot mess. and this piece aligns with my views. As for Get Back, there was a lot I liked about it, including how it changed my  opinions of the band. Although a huge Paul McCartney fan, my opinion dropped of him after watching it. Same with George Harrison. My opinion of John and Ringo rose, as did my opinion of Yoko. I still love them all, but I was surprised to see my opinion still change despite all these years of being a big fan.

I also watched  some of American Crime Story on the Clinton Scandals. Bill Clinton does not come out well in it, however sympathetic you are to him. The women generally come across as human and multidimensional, which I liked. If you are into such drama, I recommend it.

Other things I enjoyed and continue to enjoy is the twitter account Canadian Paintings.  Whoever curates it does a superb job. There is such a wide range of art displayed and it is often topical. I love it every time the account posts.

Cooking-wise,  my new  favorite instagram account and web site is Salt & Lavender. Good RICH food. The account does not shy away from high fat ingredients and frankly, I love that. If you need to treat yourself, visit their website.

The other food person I follow is Carolina Gelen on IG. A very entertaining account with good recipes. She is a superb communicator.

Well that’s it for the newsletter. Remember, last year in January we were still waiting for the vaccine: we have made tremendous progress since then! We still haven’t put the pandemic behind us (I am a terrible predictor!) but I think we can soon. Hang in there!

Speaking of hanging in, if you got this far, thank you! I appreciate it! I hope you have a good and safe New Year’s Eve, and despite the challenges, you manage to have a good year next year. You deserve it. We all do.

Some reflections on reaching one million views on my blog today

I started this blog on April 2007. After four years, it had reached 500,000 views. A decade later, it has reached a new milestone: a million views!

In the first four years, blogging was hot. I even had my blog featured on one of the blog roles on the New York Times. (It was a fluke, but it meant I got 500 views a day: now I average around 50 views.) In the last decade, blogging has been superseded many times by other online media, from twitter to TikToks. I use some of them, but I keep beavering away here too.

I have been steadily blogging for ten years, never knowing if I would reach this peak. Now that I have, I don’t know what I will do. Will I still blog every weekend and have them distributed throughout the week? Or will I just go with a random schedule? Will I move this off of WordPress and go to another platform and more effectively monetize the few popular posts I have? I don’t know. Something will change.

Meanwhile, I expect I will continue to blog. I like it. Maybe my next goal is 5000 posts. Or 250,000 visitors. We will see!

As always, thanks for reading this. I’ve been lucky to have thousands of people like you reading my posts a million times. That’s great, and greatly appreciated.

P.S. I’ve written a fair bit of blog posts about blogging. You can read them, here.

P.S.S. My favorites are here.

 

 

On the creator economy, access, and monetization


The following quote from an Axios piece struck me as odd:

The creator economy was supposed to democratize media, but it turns out that a small portion of creators still reap the most revenue for their work across multiple platforms.

I wonder how they came up with their assumptions. The creator economy has been going on since blogging and other Web 2.0 technologies, and while it has given creators equal access to platforms, it has never spread the wealth. Ever. There is a reason why books like The Long Tail were successful: they accurately described how things worked. Platforms come and go, from Blogger to Twitch, and no doubt more will come in the future. Everyone will have equal access to them. Likewise, a few will reap the lion’s share and the rest will get crumbs. That’s how it works.

For more on it, see: The creator economy is failing to spread the wealth – Axios

On using Tumblr again because of my DD


When Tumblr and Posterous came out over a decade ago, I started using them a fair bit. Sadly Posterous died. Tumblr kept going, but I stopped using it. It’s not that Tumblr is a bad technology platform: it’s just that I didn’t have a need for it. But now I do.

I wanted a platform to do knowledge transfer of IT concepts for my daughter who is also currently in IT. I could email them directly, but they are not personal and others might benefit from them too. I could use WordPress or even just a straight up website. I decided to mix it up a bit and use an old Tumble log I’ve had since 2009 called BLMonIT . It has a great old school theme that looks like an old Mac OS background. It originally was meant for sharing IT knowledge. It has been hardly used. It was just the thing I needed.

I’m going to be posting IT knowledge and opinion there, I hope. If you find it might benefit you, head over to BLMonIT.tumblr.com.

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

Well well well, it’s the last month of 2020, and my last not-really-a-newsletter newsletter! I appreciate you taking a moment to read my latest not-a-newsletter of highlights and ramblings since the one in November.

I’m not sure if I will continue these here and in this format in the new year. Let’s see. Something for me to consider as the year closes. But for now, here’s things I’ve been thinking on since the last one:

Pandemic: It’s hard not to think about the pandemic. Since November, the pandemic has only gotten worse in many places. My town and province is no exception. Cases are up, deaths are up, efforts to flatten the curve seem to be going nowhere. My son’s school was shut down then the rest of the schools were shut down. As for leadership, it seems very reactive these days. A good analysis of that is here: With the pandemic surging, we need more leadership and less urging – The Globe and Mail. Also this piece: Why Doug Ford is stumbling during COVID-19’s second wave? Too often governments thought they could somehow manage the disease and open the economy. They couldn’t.

One of the reason deal with COVID has been so frustrating is well captured in this image:

Governments everywhere keep fiddling with the dial as if to find the right setting, and then find there is none. (Image from xkcd: Covid Precaution Level)

Some places have managed better than others, but even there it has not been perfect. Not long after this came out,  Living in Nova Scotia’s Covid-Free World – The New York Times, they had an outbreak in cases. Nova Scotia is still doing very well, but it is hard to stay perfect. (I’m looking at you New Zealand.)

Besides the health costs, there are the economic costs of the pandemic too. Articles like this come out every month in Toronto: Toronto rent prices are down 15% since last year at this time. Since that one, the rents have dropped to 20%. Meanwhile, places like The Gap are calling it quits in parts of the city: The Gap is closing its flagship store in Toronto

It may be a sad reality that many of storefronts will be boarded up  when the pandemic is over. Indeed, many are boarded up now.

And it will be over, this awful time. Vaccines are rolling out now. Here are places you can use to track it:

In the meantime, stay safe and try to stay healthy this winter. If you are in Toronto, consider this:  A New Way to Play: Recreation During COVID-19 – City of Toronto

Non-pandemic items:

The US: This newsletter is not just about the pandemic. It’s also time to send out a big Bronx cheer to the current president of the United States. I often argued that he was not the worst president in American history. I am wavering in that belief. Just the number of unnecessary deaths resulting from his inaction make him truly terrible. As we lift up the rock and uncover more about him, I think he will only seem worse. Meanwhile, here’s a good piece on his ending: Trump’s Final Days of Rage and Denial – The New York Times.

I would settle for Biden just being not-Trump. But he has a chance to do more. I hope he will. Here’s one way he could do it: Biden transition: How he could act fast and outrun Republican opposition to his presidency – Vox

The economy: One thing we are doing to hear a lot about is the deficits and debts now. This is not the time to do that. There is still much needs to be done for the world to recover. Not only that, but interest rates for some nations are essentially negative. See this for details: China Borrows at Negative Rates for the First Time – WSJ

One group in Canada you might hear banging on about the debt is the Fraser Institute. So here’s a reminder from PressProgress: pay no attention to anything the Fraser Institute says. Even if you are a right winger, at least find some source that doesn’t manipulate the facts.

Newsletters: they have become old hat now. So much so I think I will not comment on them any more. I would like to highlight one last one, though.  David Lebovitz has moved to Substack. Here is his.. He also has a great blog. He’s been an excellent user of social media for some time (not to mention a fine cook and author). Go check him out. Meanwhile, for anyone tired of turning bananas into banana bread, check out this: Banana and Chocolate Chip Upside Down Cake (Lowfat) – David Lebovitz

My blog: ICYMI, I wrote earlier on this blog about friluftsliv (a concept you should know), Ikea,  cardigans and why they are great, Betty Godwin and why she is great, various cocktails (and why you should drink them), as well as being moderately gifted,  being good  and being Paul McCartney.

Thanks for reading this, as well as anything else on my blog. I always appreciate it.

And for those celebrating it:

On blogging/writing online in 2020 (how I write now)


In 2020, blogging is back. At least blogging as newsletters. Think Substack and all the people flocking to there. Blogging on WordPress (or Blogger or Tumblr or other blogging platforms) is not as hot but still going strong.

That’s good. I am a fan of more writing and better writing, whether it comes in blog form or newsletter form. Bring it on.

I continue to write here as I have been for some time.  I’ve written a number of pieces on blogging over the last decade; this piece will join that.

I’ll likely to continue writing here until I get 1,000,000 hits (currently at 976,745 hits) but given the limited readership, that may never happen. I’ll keep writing, regardless. We all need goals, and the million hits is one of mine.

Currently I sit down every Saturday morning and review interesting things I’ve found on the Internet and saved in Pocket. I have over 1000 things still in Pocket, not to mention a spreadsheet of old links that were noteworthy. There’s always something of interest to write about. Plus the Internet never stops being interesting.

I usually take 3-4 hours to write about these things. Then I schedule them to be posted throughout the week. My thinking is that this is more likely to bring a wider readership to them. My SEO skills are limited, but this is my thinking.

I enjoy this writing time. I grab some breakfast and a coffee and craft the posts. I grab images from Unsplash.com to illustrate the posts. It’s a hobby and something I enjoy doing. I love doing it. I’m an amateur writer and thinker.

I try and mix up the posts for readers. Something on Monday to help you get your week started. Something fun on Friday. Something to make your weekend better on Saturday. Perhaps a more thoughtful post on Sunday.

As always I think: would someone reading this get any benefit? Much of my posts are advice, but in areas I am interested in. I want to share things of interest to me but that will also interest others.

Once a month I go back over posts from other years. Today I will go back over the December posts. It’s fascinating to see what was interesting to me in other years.

Whenever I am lost for what my audience is, I think: would someone in my family want to read this? Or one or more of my friends? Once I have that one reader, I can write to them. Many of my posts are letters to people that may not realize it.

Since the pandemic, I have started a newsletter within the blog. I haven’t broken it out into its separate media. Just like I never moved to Tumblr or Medium or took up podcasts. This blog is sufficient for what I want to communicate and record.

I have a few other blogs on WordPress: one on cooking that I enjoy writing from time to time. A few others that are experimental. I use Instagram still because it is easy, but photography is a very separate and different media.

I’ll continue to write here, writing for smart people I know. I’ve been doing it since before the World Wide Web.  Why stop now?

As always, for those who have read this far:

An appropriate thank you card for this era.

(Coffee Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash. The other image is also from Unsplash but I could not find who to attribute it to)

The next time someone complains about the length of a recipe…

Online recipe

Show them this article by 

It’s the perfect comeback for them.  It’s dripping in sarcasm, as it should.

My other response to people who complain about food writers writing about food (duh) is to send them a link to allrecipes.com.

If you just want a recipe for food, go there. Otherwise stop complaining already.

(Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash)

 

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

Hi there! It’s time for my monthly newsletter-but-not of highlights and ramblings. As always, thanks for stopping by and reading this.

It’s been an intense period of time since October. Starting with the pandemic…

Pandemic – bad: we have terrible new statistics coming out of many places, including Canada. Months ago people were talking about the second wave, and now it seems to be crashing over us in so many places. I am fearful it is going to take a dreadful toll on us this winter. I think so much has collapsed and as I feared in the last newsletter, people are just dropping the ball. Here in Canada I see a number of provincial leaders just floundering and since healthcare is their jurisdiction, I am not hopeful things will get better soon.  And it’s not just Canada: many other countries seem to be either flailing or bringing in stricter measures. I think sooner than later many places will head back to lockdown.

And it’s not just Canadian politicians. I think people have become more social and the natural outcome of this is more spreading of the virus, more people getting sick, and more people dying.

Pandemic – good: the silver lining is the news of the vaccines coming out. It can’t happen soon enough, though obviously it is going to be well into 2021 before we get them.  Let’s hope there is enough will and discipline to crack down on socialization and other contributors to the spread of COVID-19 until they are widely delivered.

Pandemic – otherwise: I thought this was an interesting approach to the pandemic: Self-care in 2020: I’m handling the election and the pandemic by throwing a series of tantrums

There’s been much good said about how the Atlantic Provinces have been handling the pandemic. But it has come at a cost. For example my home of Cape Breton has no air travel in or out of Sydney airport: Air Canada flights cancelled between Sydney, Halifax | CBC News. There is no rail either: that was cancelled long ago. Sad.

Personally,  I have not done much differently since March. I went to two indoor restaurants with plenty of social distancing in the summer, and I have had two indoor gatherings with two other people outside my tiny bubble of four, but that’s it. What I have found is I am just am accepting things as normal now. I don’t have any special projects or activities on the go the way I was earlier in the pandemic. But I am not putting things on hold either: I find I am looking forward to things that I can afford to look forward to.

The USA : the other big news of the last month is the defeat of Donald Trump by Joe Biden. Whatever shortcomings President Biden will have, they will be nothing in comparison to the shortcomings of President Trump. I argued some time ago that Trump was not the worst US President ever. I think Buchanan still might be. But I think Trump might be the second worse now, given the number of preventable deaths due to COVID if he had acted sooner. Like I said, I think Buchanan is still the worst, but with the deaths, corruption, lying, nepotism, and so many other faults, Trump is the second worst. At least he is no longer President, come January. All the world will benefit from this.

Speaking of Trump, this was quite a story: Donald Trump Has At Least $1 Billion In Debt, More Than Twice The Amount He Suggested. . I suspect he will be having more than his fair share of difficulties starting with his time out of office.

Restaurants: restaurants still continue to have a tough time of it, and come winter in Canada, I don’t know how many we will lose. Likely a lot. So I am always on the lookout for any sliver of hope out there. One I found was this innovative way to provide food.

Related to that is this article: Has the pandemic changed how we eat forever? – The Globe and Mail. Not sure if it has changed it “forever”, but it will have changed it substantially and for a long time to come.

Newsletters: Not sure if I am going to keep highlighting them. But for now I will mention that if you want a really good newsletter on the law, and I think you do, I highly recommend The Popehat Report. The author, Ken White, goes by the name of Popehat on twitter. I learn something new an in depth every time I read it.

Speaking of newsletters, the Substack service seems to be on a roll when it comes to signing up big names to provide newsletter services. I suspect this will build for awhile as a gold rush of sorts occurs. Lots of people will think they will be able to cash in. But as always the Long Tail effect will occur, and just a small number of people will really benefit from the monetization of newsletter.

Climate Change: Between the pandemic and the US election, it has been easy to forget there is still a climate crisis occurring. There are so many examples of it, but this struck me: Phoenix to break record for most 100-degree days in calendar year – The Washington Post. Eventually many parts of the world will be uninhabitable as time passes and Climate Change worsens.

Cool science: gravitational waves were first discovered in 2015. Since then, scientists have captured 50 events pertaining to gravitational waves. Here’s what that means: What 50 Gravitational-wave Events Reveal about the Universe – Scientific AmericanI love that this new tool is already letting us learn so much more about our universe.

Cool tech: I have been a fan of Raspberry Pis for a long time. They continue to come out with new and improved versions of the technology. Case in point, this: Raspberry Pi 400 – Complete Kit – BuyaPi.ca. It could be a great way to get someone interested in computers.

Plants: I’ve written number of pieces on plants; you can find themhere. I used to be terrible with them. But one good thing about the pandemic is that I am home all the time. This helps me keep a better eye on my green friends. Partially as a result of that, they are thriving. If you have problems with plants, I recommend that you read this: How to stop killing your houseplants – Vox

Finally: I realize the pandemic is getting you down. Your not alone. But there are vaccines coming, so find ways to deal with it until then.

Remember:

 

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

Welcome to Autumn: a season so nice they named it twice (Autumn/Fall). Thanks again for reading one of my kinda/sorta/not really newsletters containing things on my mind since the last one in September. Let’s jump in:

The Pandemic – bad: well the pandemic seems to be going pear shaped all over the world. Places that have kept their numbers down have suddenly dropped the ball and have seen their numbers increase. There are a few exceptions, like New Zealand and the Atlantic provinces in Canada. But they are few and far between and likely in isolated places, I believe. As for Canada overall, I think this is a very good analysis of where we currently are with the pandemic: Opinion: With winter coming and the virus spreading, a feeling of dread is setting in – The Globe and Mail. I am afraid it will get worse.

The Pandemic – good: Not everything is gloom and doom, though. Some fun and joyous things have happened. For instance, the night of a thousand wines. One of the fun things that happened in the pandemic is the night Susan Orlean got drunk and then took to twitter. The results were
unintentionally hilarious. You can read about them, here. (She feels no shame, so I do not feel bad sharing this. Hey, it happens.)

One of the nicest things to happen recently is the viral video of the guy skateboarding while drinking cranberry juice and listening to Fleetwood Mac. Here’s more on that: Millions of Views Later, Nathan Apodaca Keeps the Vibe Going – The New York Times

Another one of the more positive things to come out of the pandemic: Gay couples take over the hashtag #ProudBoys to drown out the hate group – The Washington Post.

Dealing with discomfort: I wrote this three years ago, on how to think about living with discomfort. I think it holds up and is worth reading if you are suffering.

New Newsletters: Last time I hadn’t thought of any newsletters worth mentioning. Not this time. First up is this one from Laura Calder. It’s monthly and is packed with lots of good things to read. Highly recommended. For people who like a thoughtful political newsletter, there is this one, from Siri Agrell: Loss Leader.

The U.S.: well, not long now before the U.S. election.  Thank god. Here’s hoping for a change in the leadership. Both America and the world needs it. But remember, whatever bad things you think about Trump, he is STILL not the worst president ever. This guy is.

Restaurants: up until now restaurants have been getting by with patio service and by coming up with new ways to serve their customers. To see what I mean, here’s an innovative way to provide food by a place in Toronto. Elsewhere, here’s a good story of how restaurants are changing to meet the demands put on them from the pandemic: Tom Sietsema: To weather the pandemic, restaurants reinvent themselves, again and again – The Washington Post. I don’t want to paint too rosy a picture. It’s been a brutal time for restaurants.

Personal News:  Here’s the recent obituary for my uncle: Obituary of Pat Hall, Glace Bay. RIP, Pat. You were a good man.

It is an odd feeling to see your life reflected in a web page, but this one does.

My mom is referenced in that obit. When she died, I thought about this artwork often.

 You can find more about it here.

IBM: Big shake up coming for my employer: IBM, Seeing Its Future in the Cloud, Breaks Off I.T. Unit – The New York Times. I don’t have any great insights into this. It seems like a wise move. Then again, it seemed that way when John Akers did it. Time will tell.

Meanwhile I celebrated by 37th year at IBM this October 3rd. For someone who was surprised to not have to go on the “pogey” after a year, it’s been a long and rewarding trip. I wrote a long piece about it 10 years ago. (One thing I like about my blog is going back in time.)

Google Assistant: I have become a fan of Google Assistants over the last while. I now have three devices for this: a Google mini, my Sonos speaker, and this Lenovo Smart Clock (which I wrote about). I have found it has made my life better. I use it to play music, get the time, get the weather. The one in the kitchen is especially great because I can do so much just by talking to the mini. I highly recommend them.

Cooking: I wrote this a while ago about how to make French fries. If you love french fries, you should read it. It will change your life (or at least have you making fries more :)). And it is also the season for sheet pan cooking. Here’s some good advice I found on that, here.

Exercise tips: if you are like me, you need to exercise. Here’s some tips!

Pandemic – funny: this is almost funny, if you like dark humour. Here are some pandemic predictions I found recently from March, 2020. Needless to say, much of this is wrong: Coronavirus going to hit its peak and fall sooner than you think.

Not that I am one to gloat. Here is me from October 2015 predicting the next American president!

Finally, it is thanksgiving here in Canada. I am thankful and grateful for many things, despite this trying time. I hope you are too.

(Photo by 🇨🇭 Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum on Unsplash)

If you have gotten to here, thank you so much. I appreciate you taking the time to read this.

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.

 

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

Hey! Good evening (to people in my time zone, GMT -5. :))

Thanks for stopping by.

This is my latest not-a-newsletter of highlights (not so many) and ramblings (many) since the last one at the end of June.

We are still in the era of the pandemic, but we seem to have spin offs of it: in some places, it is getting much worse (e.g. the US, Brazil), in other places it is dying down (e.g. Canada) and then there places it seems to have died down but then flared up again (e.g. Australia). I think the only safe thing to say about this disease in any place is that we are in it for the long haul. Countries and governments that get that will be the ones that do best.

Pandemic: speaking of the pandemic, here are two pieces I found worth highlighting.
First up: As people mostly have to dress up only for work videoconferences, they have adopted some innovative ways of doing this: The Video Call Is Starting. Time to Put on Your Zoom Shirt. – The New York Times Secondly, a reminder: if you are going on a road trip, be prepared for failure and don’t expect things to work the way they did in the past: Canada Reopens, but Little Returns to the Old Ways – The New York Times
Free speech: there’s been lots of chatter about free speech in the US recently. Two things I noticed were the changes at Reddit, followed by the so called Open Letter defending free speech published by Harpers.

My thought on Reddit cancelling the subreddit ‘The Donald’ was: Good. That subreddit had ample opportunity to follow the most basic of rules and they didn’t, as this piece explains: Reddit, Acting Against Hate Speech, Bans ‘The_Donald’ Subreddit – The New York Times

As for the other item, I don’t have much to say about the somewhat controversial Open Letter in Harper’s. I thought it was something of a nothingburger. Others did not: it got plenty of people riled up. For those who think it was somewhat significant, I recommend this piece: Don’t Fall For The ‘Cancel Culture’ Scam | HuffPost Australia.

Also, stop writing Open Letters, people. Get a blog or something. 🙂

Bad thought: There is so much bad thought/writing in the world today, some of which I write myself! Most of it is ignored. But then some of it hits bigger sites, like The Big Think. I like the Big Think. There’s some good stuff there. There’s also some dubious stuff, such as this: End of the world: MIT prediction from 1973 is proving true – Big Think. I was surprised that they would just reference Club of Rome so generally. If you do some research into the predictions of the Club of Rome, there’s many articles debunking them. As always, take anything you read on the Internet with a grain of salt, even if it comes from reputable sources.

Speaking of bad thought,  a twitter cliche is to say “Everything is terrible, but here is something good”. For example:

Not sure why people just can’t say “here’s something to good”. Everything isn’t terrible, obviously. It’s a distorted world view. If you say, “everything is wonderful”, people would rightly give you the side-eye or worse. But say “everything is terrible” and many just nod in agreement. Bah!

More on the US: I found this accidentally while going through the New York Times site recently. It says something about the US that this barely registers as news anymore: 2 Dead in Shooting at Walmart Distribution Center in California, Including Gunman – The New York Times

Remember that couple who came out brandishing guns when Black Lives Matter protesters crashed their gates? Here’s a good follow up story on them. These people are almost Dickensian in their terribleness: Portland Place couple who confronted protesters have a long history of not backing down | Metro | stltoday.com.

I am not a fan of Kayne’s clothing — I find the designs heavy handed, bulky, and colourless – but I found this interesting: Kanye West and Gap Strike 10-Year Deal for ‘Yeezy Gap’ Apparel Line – The New York Times. I could actually see him doing something interesting with the Gap. He could help lift them up for a bit, and maybe he could find his stride with the line. Fans of West could argue that he has been successful with Adidas, and I’ll grant him that. If he and the Gap paired and succeeded, I would be first in line to applaud them both.

I’m just going to ignore the whole “Kanye running for President” non-event.

Canadians: on Twitter, people often flare up and tweet about how smug Canadians are. I thought this was solely a habit of left wing Canadians, but a search through Google showed me it cuts across the spectrum of politics: smug canadian – Google Search.

I find the idea of smug Canadians quaint, to be honest. Canadians have much to be proud of, but I am not sure they should be excessively proud (i.e. smug). And from my limited perspective, I don’t think I have ever met a smug Canadian. After all, we have many faults. And we are secondary at best when it comes to many other places in the world. So,  lots of  reasons to temper our pride. As for our accusers, I wonder if the people wagging a finger at “smug Canadians”  just don’t care for Canadians or a particular set of Canadians? I find it an odd phenomenon.

The rest of the world: I struggle with how blind we are to what is happening in the world because we focus so much on the US and its problems. We miss tragedies like this one. There is unprecedented violence in Mexico now and it barely registers north of their border: Mexico Police Chief Shot in Possible Assassination Attempt – The New York Times.

Finally, something out of this world: I think, based on this, that our understanding of our Solar System is going to change in a big way soon: Beyond Pluto: the hunt for our solar system’s new ninth planet | Science | The Guardian

Thanks for reading this. I hope you found it interesting and somewhat useful.

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June pandemic highlights and ramblings (a newsletter, if you’ll have it)


This is my latest not-a-newsletter of highlights (not so many) and ramblings (many) since the last one at the end of May.
It’s a weird time in the pandemic: in parts of the world, the worst is behind them (e.g. parts of Europe). Where I am, the numbers are coming down, but we still have a way to go. Meanwhile in parts of the US, Brazil, and some other places, things just keep getting worse. Hard to know what to think, other than to recognize we are all in this for the long haul. What I do think is 2020 is going to be a milestone year. Perhaps a turning point will occur in 2021. American election can cause such turning points.

I miss some of the earlier aspects of the pandemic. People checking in on you. Artists  sharing their music and creativity. Patrick Stewart reading sonnets every day. The chefs of Le Bernardin sharing cooking tips from home. Sadly much of that has fallen off in this transition period.  Sad, but not surprising. We are all reverting to the norm, even if it is askew of pre-pandemic normality.

In the meantime, you can still go on Twitter and look up Patrick Stewart’s tweets to get him reading sonnets. It’s free culture. And free in this case is good!

Cooking: One thing I did feel good about was my own home cooking compared to the chefs of Le Bernardin. Obviously they are much better cooks than I will ever be. But at home they used dried herbs such as oregano, as well as adding ingredients like garlic powder to their dishes. I have always felt that those ingredients are fine and everything doesn’t have to be fresh. Watching them cook that way was validating. If you have a chance, go and look at Le Bernardin on Instagram and you will see what I mean.

In other food notes, I am a fan of cucina povera, peasant food, what have you. These are  good examples of it:  Victoria Granof’s Pasta con Ceci Recipe on Food52quick pasta and chickpeas – smitten kitchen

The Media: Newspapers, which were in trouble before the pandemic, seem to be one of the industries that are suffering more than most during this time of severe economic downturn. I expect a lot fewer of them to be in around in the time to come. Meanwhile I am subscribing to as many as I can.

Economics: Speaking of economic changes, this is something I would not have expected before the pandemic:  Toronto rent prices drop for third month in a row. Toronto is still expensive, but supply and demand is what it is.

Mental states: Simply put, people are suffering more during the pandemic. I’ve seen a number of articles like this: Am I Depressed? The Coronavirus Mental-Health Crisis – The Atlantic

The United States: I’m a strong advocate of avoid monocausal explanations for anything historic or sociological. This is not quite a monocausal argument, but it got me thinking about them: Opinion | Why Juneteenth Matters – The New York Times

Jamelle Bouie argues that Black Americans did the work to free themselves in the United States. On the flip side you had people arguing with Bouie, saying that he was wrong and that Lincoln and the Union Army freed the slaves and guaranteed freedom. But these aren’t opposing views. I understand that articles have to have a focus, but complex social changes don’t. There are lots of forces involved in social changes, and while highlighting them makes sense, trying to eliminate other forces does not. Many things led to the abolishing of slavery in the US, and while it is interesting to examine which one mattered most, it is wrong to argue solely for one of them, in my humble opinion. Bouie doesn’t come right out and say that, but it is all but implied. But don’t believe me: read him for yourself.

And not just that piece. I highly recommend that you read Bouie whenever you can. To do that, sign up and get his newsletter. If you do, you will gain a better understanding of things in the US. Also he is a great photographer and cook, and that comes out in his newsletter too.

Speaking of the US, the current president wants a second term at being president because he likes being top dog. That’s not the only reason, but it is definitely one of them. He wants to sit in that role because it is the best role, not because he wants to do anything with it: So what does Trump want to do with a second term, anyway? – The Washington Post. The man is vacant.

Not unrelatedly,  Black Lives Matter seems to me to be undergoing a transformation as a movement, but I think that will be a good thing. If BLM gets to go deeper in our societies, it can have a transformative aspect that is truly needed. That’s not to say that transformation is not already occurring, for it has. I’d like to see it get to the point where our culture and our economies are transformed by it. For that to happen, there will need to be a lot of work done over a fair amount of time. I’m looking forward to that happening, and hopeful.

Alison Roman:  I think Alison Roman is going to be an interesting example of someone in America having a second act. People like to quote F. Scott Fitzgerald (“there are no second acts in American lives”) but I disagree with that. People comeback all the time in the US, and no one loves redemption better than Americans. Let’s see if Roman has a second act in her career.  She certainly has pivoted in some interesting ways with her social media.

Summer: summer is my least favorite season of the year. (1. Fall 2. Spring 3. Winter 4. Summer) but it is summer now, and over the years I’ve slowly learned to like it a bit more. It seems like the shortest of seasons, although I’d argue that Spring gets squeezed between Winter and Summer. If I had my choice, I’d have a long Fall, a medium Spring, a short Summer and a shorter but intense Winter. Regardless of your feelings — and I know for many people, Summer is their favorite season — try and enjoy it while it is here.

Finally: one of the reason I don’t call this a newsletter is because it isn’t really newsy or personal. More just random bits and bobs.  If you got to this point, thanks for taking the time to read it.

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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.

More pandemic Highlights and Ramblings (a newsletter, as such)

 

This is my latest not-a-newsletter of highlights (not so many) and ramblings (many) since the last one at the end of March. Like many of you, I’ve felt the time blur since then. I’ve joked that the difference between the weekdays and the weekend is I am not on video calls during the weekend. Otherwise the days have a sameness. Here’s what has changed, though.

  1. Spring: despite the sameness of day to day life, Spring continues to develop. It’s been a pleasure walking my neighborhood and seeing the buds and the flowers. It’s an implicit sign of hope. Try to get out while you can.
  2. Fitness: I’ve lost a lot of interest in fitness since I lost access to a gym. That’s been bad for me. I’ve been struggling to get in more exercise, which led me to at least do daily stretching and trying to get out more. I’ve started weighing myself and wearing my Fitbit too. I’ve wanted to just ignore it, but my body and my pants have told me otherwise. My go to these days for help on this is darebee.com. And I’ve been trying to log my eating and my weight to see where adjustments can be made.
  3. Food/cooking: earlier in the pandemic, I had a passion for cooking. As the weeks have gone on, I’m still cooking, just not with the gusto I had earlier. I think that is the way it is for others. Earlier on, I saw many people posting fantastic meals and fresh bread. Now people are showing dishes with simple ingredients and simple preparations.
  4. Restaurants: it’s a tough time for them, but some are adopting new ways of doing business. I’ve been trying to patronize some of them as I can. I wish I could say it will be enough. I’ve had great meals from Bar Volo and Cote de Boeuf and Brando’s Fried Chicken, not to mention great pizza from Classico and Terroni’s, and last but not least, Brothers.
  5. Reading: my eating has been good, my reading has not been. I just can’t seem to settle my brain enough to read much of anything. The other thing is I used to read heavily during commuting and now I never commute, unless it’s from my desk to my couch. Sometimes I bring a book for when I line up for groceries, but even that doesn’t last long.
  6. Zoom get togethers and other forms of checking in: during my last rambling, there was a lot of that. I don’t see so much of it now. Perhaps the sameness of it all makes people less likely to want to do it.
  7. Leadership: I am surprised but I still steady leadership, with the occasional slips here and there. At least in Canada. In the US, I see the President continue to decline. I wish it weren’t so.
  8. Negativity on social media: I made the mistake of tweeting that Twitter had gone from being positive to nasty. That was true. How I went about it was wrong, though. That was poor judgment on my part. To fix that, I am reverting to trying to be generally positive only on social media. I should know better.
  9. Entertainment: Some people still continue to lift us with their performances on social media. Two of my favorite performers are Patrick Stewart and Angela Hewitt. But many others have dropped off and have done less. I don’t fault anyone for doing that.
  10. Scarcity: the scarcity I’ve seen early has all subsided. That is good. Perhaps I am missing some of it, but the beans and the toilet paper and the rice have all returned to the shelves.
  11. Mood: my perception is that people seem to have gone from fearful and anxious to resigned.
  12. Making things: I am still making things, but not as much. It’s enough to do what I can some days just to get through the day.

Thanks for reading this. Here’s to better days.

 

Highlights and Ramblings (a newsletter, as such)


Here’s 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.

  1. Privacy: It’s worrying to me that as people try to adapt to social distancing, tech companies continue to do things poorly. I am thinking of Yelp signing up restaurants for GoFundMe, Zoom selling people’s data, and other tech companies ostensibly tracking sick people using cellphone data. It’s hard to think about things such as privacy abuse with all the fear of the pandemic, but it’s something to not lose track of.
  2. Food suppliers: Before the pandemic, it was a given that pickers would migrate to wherever crops were ripe and pick them, Perhaps not anymore. After this crisis, I think the world is going to need to reconsider so many people they took for granted before, be it food pickers, grocery store clerks, or delivery people. I hope this would mean they would be taken better care of. Maybe they will be. Or maybe the push for automation will come on even stronger. We will see soon enough.
  3. Leadership: Impressed to see that the grocer HEB in the US reached out to Chinese grocers to help them deal with the pandemic. Smart. A case study in good business leadership.
  4. Leadership, pt 2: Trump continues to be Trump: a crisis has not altered who he is or how he acts. All I can say is from my vantage point in Toronto that all three levels of government are being effective. It surprised me by how governments can spring to life during a crisis. I haven’t recalled such strong action since the start of the Great Recession. Not something to take for granted.
  5. Entertainment: As entertainers lost venues, it was heartening to see them take to Instagram and other platforms to perform for us. From singers playing new records to actors like Patrick Stewart reading sonnets was a balm.
  6. Scarcity: it was and is a shock to see sections of the grocery store still empty. Eventually it will return, and toilet paper will go back to being a loss leader versus a scarce product.
  7. Fear: lots of people seem anxious and down, understandably. The efforts of people to deal with that has been a comfort.
  8. Making things: Also, since I seem to have more time, I made a zine, did some painting, wrote some python code to process KML.  Blogged, of course.
  9. Food: Like many  people, I am baking and cooking. I mean, what else can you do? I miss restaurants and cafes and bookstores, though. They feed me with more than food.
  10. Other things: I thought this was a good piece on parenthood: https://www.theschooloflife.com/thebookoflife/the-task-of-parenthood/.  Nicholson Baker followed me on Twitter. Whenever I have interactions with prominent people, I think: oh, I should get serious now and not look the fool. But it doesn’t last for long.
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More good reasons to blog

Here, in this blog post: 28th May 2019 — Daniel Benneworth-Gray.

It was charming to read about blogs in 2006. They were such a force for a time.

P.S. I think it’s a shame blogs have such a unique and unattractive name. Online journal is a better name than blog, but blog we are stuck with.

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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.

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Two good sources of images for your website/blog/whathaveyou.

Are Unsplash and Pexels.com

You can do something great with them. (Image from Unsplash)

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Some thoughts on the end of Paul Krugman’s blog and blogging generally

I accidentally went to Paul Krugman’s blog today and was surprised to see he ended it some time ago. To quote him:

A message for regular readers of this blog: unless something big breaks later today, this will be my last day blogging AT THIS SITE. The Times is consolidating the process, so future blog-like entries will show up at my regular columnist page. This should broaden the audience, a bit, maybe, and certainly make it easier for the Times to feature relevant posts.

I remember when the Times (and many other places) finally recognized blogging as a way of communicating and started a big section on their site to blogging.

Is blogging dead? Not really. It’s no longer what is what, but people are still blogging. Does it matter? No. Blogging is writing. Communicating via words on the Internet. We have all these tools and media to communicate. For a time, blogging and blogs were a way to share that writing. Now people are doing it other ways.

What matters is the writing. The format matters much less. I still like the blogging format, but what I like more is that so many people can communicate with others.

Meanwhile, here’s a link to Krugman’s blog: Economics and Politics by Paul Krugman – The Conscience of a Liberal – The New York Times

Blogging: still a good idea


Of all the social media that has come along in the last 10 years, blogging is in some ways the best of them all. It allows for a wide range of expression.  It is not ephemeral. It has a freshness to it, but you can look back in a few years and still read it.

I recommend that everyone blogs. Even in 2017. If you are still skeptical, consider this piece: Seth Godin Explains Why You Should Blog Daily — CJ Chilvers

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.

 

Why Laurie Penny writes may also be good reasons for you to write

In the Overland literary journal, Laurie Penny has a long and interesting essay on why she writes. For anyone who is thinking of writing more and writing publicly, I highly recommend it.

Have reservations about writing? Her piece should persuade you to give them up and get down to the business of putting your thoughts and words out there for others to read.

Do it!

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.

My blog on wordpress: 2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog. (Thanks, Helper Monkeys! :))

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 160,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Blogging: still a good idea in 2012

With all the social media available now, blogging no longer gets the same love it did just a few years ago. That said, blogging is still a great medium with lots of flexiblity. If you have something to share (who doesn’t) and need to log it some where, blogging is still a great way to go.

One thing you want to know if you are blogging is where should I blog. This fairly up to date post, Choosing a Free Blog Host – Comparing WordPress.com, Blogger, Tumblr and Posterous, has a great rundown of four of the most popular places to blog.

As for me, here’s my post on What blogs I have and what I host them on

It’s a few years old, but still holds true. I have cut back on my blogging and now have limited to posterous and WordPress.com. But tumblr is really good, and it has a social aspect that cannot be beat. And blogger.com has been revamped not too long ago and it is much better. I don’t think you can go wrong with any of them. You just need to find the one best for you.

For pure ease of use, I still think posterous is best, although they have all taken ideas from each other and they are all easy to use.

This is not to take away from other social media. From Pinterest to Twitter to Facebook, it’s all good in its own way.

Some thoughts on my blog reaching half a million views

Sometime last night my blog reached 500,000 views. I started it on April, 2007 as a way of getting away from sending interesting links to people via email. Simple as that.

I don’t really know if this is “good” or not. Certainly my views pale in comparison to premiere bloggers. I am sure even some of my peers easily surpass that. On the other hand, I know it can be difficult at first to get anyone to read your blog, and because of that, I am happy for all the people that have.

For me, I think it is a great milestone to reach. I had few expectations when I started the blog, other than I hoped that the people that I used to email links to would go and read them on my blog. Along the way, I was happy to be able to look back over what I blogged about a year or two ago and think: oh yeah, that happened! And while I don’t think I am a great writer, what I am happy for is that blogging on a regular basis has helped improved my writing and my thinking.

Most of the time I am trying to squeeze in a blog post among all the other things that I have to do at work and at home. There’s very little time for revisions and editing. Some of the longer posts have alot of effort poured into them, but most of the time, I think certain things are interesting and I’d like to share them with smart people I know. I am happy to see how many more smart people that I have come to know in the time since I started.

As always, thanks for reading this.

My blog: 2010 in review via WordPress

(WordPress generated this review of my blog and made it easy for me to post. Never one to turn down free content,  I decided to post it! :))

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by your stats.

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 120,000 times in 2010. If it were an exhibit at The Louvre Museum, it would take 5 days for that many people to see it.

In 2010, there were 501 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 1945 posts. There were 11 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 2mb. That’s about a picture per month.

The busiest day of the year was August 17th with 586 views. The most popular post that day was So how many mosques are there currently in Manhattan, New York City?.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, google.com, twitter.com, Google Reader, and search.conduit.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for art nouveau furniture, zara suits, slow cooker roast, zara suit, and effects of facebook.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

So how many mosques are there currently in Manhattan, New York City? August 2010
2 comments

2

Why I buy suits from Zara September 2008
24 comments

3

The social effects of Facebook June 2007
6 comments

4

From furniture to art. August 2008
7 comments

5

How to pronounce Gewürztraminer, Viognier, and all those other wine associated words April 2009

I’m moving my blog!

Thanks for coming to this blog. If you like my blog, please come and see my new blog at:

http://smartpeopleIknow.blogspot.com

Different domain name, same good contents.

WordPress itself!

I decided to look around for a new blogging site after blogger started changing. I considered technorati, but went with WordPress for a number of features, including the option to be notified via email when updates occur (a very nice feature). More from me soon….