Tag Archives: blogging

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.

 

Image of a bar

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.

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….