Tag Archives: ideas

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

The fascinating history of the word “lox”


I thought this piece was great: The English Word That Hasn’t Changed in Sound or Meaning in 8,000 Years. It turns out the world “lox” has not changed meaning in all that time. As the linguist in the piece explains:

One of my favorite words is lox,” says Gregory Guy, a professor of linguistics at New York University.  “The pronunciation in the Proto-Indo-European was probably ‘lox,’ and that’s exactly how it is pronounced in modern English,” he says. “Then, it meant salmon, and now it specifically means ‘smoked salmon.’ It’s really cool that that word hasn’t changed its pronunciation at all in 8,000 years and still refers to a particular fish.”

That’s a great piece. Not just for the story of the word “lox”, but on the study of language and its origin. Recommended. It makes me want to run out and get a plate!

(Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash)

A great introduction to Bayes’ Theorem and how it relates to COVID-19

You may have heard references to Bayes’ Theorem in light of the pandemic and wondered how it is relevant. Well I am here to help. First off, here’s a great guide to Bayes’ Theorem from the website MathIsFun.com. Even if you are math phobic, I think you will be able to read that piece and understand it. Secondly, check out the site Varsity and how it explains how Bayes’ Theorem and COVID-19 testing are related. Both are well worth a read.

Learn Bayes’ Theorem. It’s good to help you understand many things in life, including what is happening during the pandemic.

P.S. This related piece at FT.com  explains why you should expect to see vaccinated people in the hospital with covid despite high vaccination rates.

On prisons and prisoners and how things can be improved

Here are three pieces on prison and incarceration that I thought were worth reading:

  1. Here’s some technology to help identify discrepancies in prison sentencing based on race.
  2. Here’s how California jails take a kinder and better approach.
  3. Here’s how artists teamed with prisoners to transform their prison.

(Image linked to in the third piece)

On progress: may you live in average times that are getting better in many ways


Matthew Yglesias wrote this piece here and it did not go over too well: The case against crisis-mongering. I mainly agree with him, that our world problems, dire as they are, aren’t as exceptional as we may think. Or as Dan G put it on twitter:

What Dan states is my worldview as well. There are still many bad things in the world, but there is progress and things are getting better.  We have overcome problems in the past and we have the ability to fix things in the future. Plus the past was terrible in many ways and so much worse than now (and our times will look terrible to people in the future).

If you disagree with this, I strongly recommend two books:

  1. Factfulness
  2. Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future

They make the case stronger than I can for how the world is getting better and how we should be optimistic despite our difficulties.

People will say: what about global warming? The pandemic? Nuclear weapons? All I can say is read Matt’s piece and then read those books. I think that will help alot.

(Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash )

 

 

 

On the rise and fall and unlikely rise of QR codes


I’ve been a fan of QR codes for a decade. Back then I wrote about how they could be used to tag everything from trees and medic alert bracelets to IOT devices. I thought the sky was the limit for them. I was wrong.

Until this year. As Clive Thompson writes here, the pandemic has been a game changer in causing the resurgence of QR codes. I am glad to see that.

I’d still like to see QR codes everywhere. It would be a way of connecting the virtual world to the real world. Cities could tag streets and neighborhood with QR codes to allow you to get a glimpse of context into where you are standing. If a new building is being built, put a QR code on a sign out front that links to a web site providing greater detail on it. As for historic buildings, why not put a QR code on them that links to their wikipedia page describing the historical significance. Anyway, lots of ways QR codes could enhance our understanding of the world.

Here’s hoping they are here to stay, providing us a way to better navigate our world.

(Photo by Rebecca Hausner on Unsplash )

Some food for thought on a Saturday


Often I find links that are interesting but I don’t have anything especially interesting to say about them, other than I thought they were worthwhile reading.  Here are 30 of them for this month. As the image says, you may get lots of your own ideas from reading the ideas of others:

  1. Philosophy by Susan Rigetti
  2. Moral grandstanding in public discourse: Status-seeking motives as a potential explanatory mechanism in predicting conflic
  3. The Five Types of Personal Boundaries (and How to Set Them)
  4. One simple way to build someone’sconfidence: Ask for their advice
  5. Are We Trading Our Happiness for Modern Comforts?
  6. The Stoic Antidote to Frustration: Marcus Aurelius on How to Keep Your Mental Composure and Emotional Equanimity When People Let You Down
  7. Imagination is the sixth sense. Be careful how you use it
  8. Jeff Bezos Faces Down The Overview EffectIn Space
  9. Joseph Landry sentenced to seven years in jail for death of Dartmouth friend in 2018
  10. We‚are Learning the Wrong Lessons From the World’s Happiest Countries
  11. Even if You Think Discussing Aliens Is Ridiculous Just Hear Me Out
  12. Years You Have Left to Live Probably
  13. Desire paths: the illicit trails that defy the urban planners
  14. Other People’s Despair – Mending the Social Fabric Won’t Fix the Suicide Crisis
  15. Stop Doomscrolling and Grab a Game Controller Instead
  16. How to Separate Your Identity From Your Behavior (and Why You Should)
  17. The Blackfoot Wisdom that Inspired Maslow’sHierarchy
  18. I Miss My Bar – Recreate Your Favorite Bar’s Atmosphere
  19. At Talkspace Start-Up Culture Collides With Mental Health Concerns
  20. Emotional labor
  21. Biblical and Greek Ambivalence Towards Child Sacrifice – TheTorah.com
  22. Cream of the Crop: 8 Architecture Firms Leading the Urban Farming Revolution
  23. The necessity of Kripke
  24. Why Emotionally Intelligent People Embrace the 2-Way Door Rule to Make Better Faster Decisions
  25. How does Google’s monopoly hurt you? Try these searches.
  26. Effective altruism is logical but too unnatural to catch on
  27. Darkness is the absence of recognition
  28. A Checklist Before Dying
  29. Empires pandemics and the economic future of the West
  30. The Bus Ticket Theory of Genius

(Photo by CJ Dayrit on Unsplash)

What I find interesting in general, Julyish, 2021


Often I find links that are interesting but I don’t know what to do with. Here are some for this month. I should have posted them in July but hey, it’s the thought that counts 🙂

  1. Enjoy the restored Night Watch but don’t ignore the machine behind the Rembrandt 
  2. Starting an Online Store as a Digital Nomad
  3. User Experience Matters: What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From “Objectified”
  4. The Infinite Loop of Supply Chains
  5. How to Not Go Broke the Next Time You Move
  6. Breaking Point: How Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook Became Foes
  7. Our Favorite Cheap Earbuds Are an Unbelievable $16 Right Now
  8. Tony Mecia’s Charlotte Ledger newsletter on pace for $175 000 in annual revenue
  9. Best budgeting software of 2021
  10. Nearly 60% of small charities have zero plans to digitally transform says CanadaHelps survey
  11. Millions of Canadians working from home could qualify for new tax deduction
  12. Simplest Stool
  13. The Rasterbator
  14. Help Your Garden Thrive By Pairing These Plants
  15. Behold: *All* the Stuff I Wish I’d Known Before Starting an Etsy Business
  16. 7014
  17. The Dreyfus Affair (1899) A Silent Film Review
  18. The Iconography of the Paris Commune 150 Years Later
  19. The Problem With History Classes
  20. Centuries-Old Paintings Help Researchers Track Food Evolution
  21. CONVERTING VHS TO A DIGITAL FILE // MAC & PC // CHEAP & EASY!!
  22. How and Why to do a Life Audit
  23. Why People Are So Awful Online
  24. The land was worth millions. A Big Ag corporation sold it to Sonny Perdue’s company for $250 000.
  25. Northern Ireland Is Coming to an End
  26. From Dominion Day to Canada Day there’s a long history of ambivalence
  27. How Amazon Bullies Manipulates and Lies to Reporters
  28. What the city and police say about the crackdown on the homeless in Torono parks seems at odds with reality. Why should we trust them?
  29. On the Occasion of Our 10-year Legal Marriage Anniversary
  30. John Tory shares strong feelings about protesters at Toronto encampment evictions
  31. Juul agrees to pay North Carolina $40 million to settle vaping accusations
  32. Newly detailed nerve links between brain and other organs shape thoughts memories and feelings
  33. lofi.cafe – lofi music

Thank you for reading this far. I don’t know if anyone reads most of my posts, especially these general ones,  but I keep at it regardless.

(Top Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash . Bottom Photo by Courtney Hedger on Unsplash)

Two good pieces for those of us getting older (with some additional thoughts from me).

People runningHere’s two worthwhile pieces on growing old:

This, Fighting against ageism and this, Aging is inevitable, so why not do it joyfully? Here’s how.

How we see growing old is a cultural thing. When I first went to pick out a photo, I decided on the first one of the man running. Because I am a product of my culture, as they say. I see being fit and young and productive as valuable.  Especially in our culture, being able to produce is highly valued. That’s why ageism occurs. If you show signs of age, people assume you will produce less. So your value decreases to them.

Then I saw the picture below. In other cultures, being able to sit and converse with your friends is valuable. These people are not being productive. They are not trying to look young. They are being social. They are being human.

Old people talking

I think we have problems in our society because for many the chief purpose of humans is to produce, to be productive. As long as that is true, we will have problems with ageism. True, we need times of our life to be productive, but we also need times for growth, times for rest and reflection. To combine all those times effectively is to live a good life. A life where all humans at all times of their lives are valued.

(First Photo by Lisa Wall on Unsplash. Second Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash )

Haiti and the Dominican Republic: a case study as to why results are never monocausal

Dominoes

People like to think outcomes, especially political or social outcomes, are monocausal. They’ll say: Y happened because X occurred.

I think that is rarely true. At best, X could be the main contributor as to why Y occurred. But it is never the only contributor. Often it is not even possible to determine which cause made the most difference. Most outcomes are not monocausal.

A good case study for this can be found in this essay on Haiti vs. the Dominican Republic – by Noah Smith.People will often say the main contributor to Haiti’s poverty was French colonialism or American intervention. Smith makes the case there are many factors that contributed to the significant differences between the two nations and it is not easy or even possible to single out one cause.

The next time someone tries to argue for single causes, look deeper. You’ll like find at least a half different other factors that contributed. People who can highlight multiple causes for an event understand the event better.

(Photo by Tamara Gak on Unsplash )

The lie within resilience

There is a lie within resilience. Not just the letters themselves: there is a falsehood included in the concept.

The lie is that if you are resilient, you snap back. You recover. You regain what you lost. This is what I have thought. I believed that.

After every one of the many setbacks I have suffered over the last decade I have told myself that I am resilient. Even my doctor told me that I was the most resilient people she had ever met. Every time I thought that, I thought: I will come back. I will recover. I will be who I was.

I don’t believe that any more. I don’t think resilient people recover. You may not break, but you can no longer come back to what you were. You turn into something else. Something misshapen. You become like a piece of paper than is crumpled up and then flattened out: you are never the same as you were before the crumpling. Never as good.

I am sure some people can comeback from setbacks. But if you get enough of them, even when the thing that crumpled your life goes away, you can never go back to the way you once were. You’re ruined.

In the future, will you own anything?


In 2030, you may not own any gadgets, says this Gizmodo piece: In the Future, You Won’t Own Any Gadgets.

It makes some strong points. It’s true, younger people aren’t as keen to own things. (Heck, this is also true of older people who get fed up with the accumulation of things). And companies are keen to lease things. Add that up and you will see less and less owning.

From an IT perspective, I’ve been through this before. For a long time IBM had a very strong business in leasing technology. That gradually went away and more and more companies bought their technology. Then server farms came followed by the cloud, and now we are effectively seeing companies lease more IT again. Will it switch back again?

I think so. Eventually the cons outweigh the pros, be it for leasing or owning. People will move to leasing because it saves them money in the short term. Then eventually it gets more costly and the restrictions on the leases push them to own things again. Until the costs of owning add up and they switch back to leasing.

So yes, people will be moving to leasing for some time. Then they will switch back to owning more stuff. Of this I am confident.

(Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash)

A brilliantly visual way to learn philosophy

This site, www.denizcemonduygu.com/philo/browse,  is a fantastic way to learn more about philosophy. It lists out the major world philosophers, several of their key ideas, and how these ideas link to ideas of other philosophers.

It is a brilliant use of visualization software, too.

One thing: it can be hard to navigate at first. To make it easier, go to the Menu in the top right and then you can browse and search more easily.

(Photo by Alex Block on Unsplash )

On my study of history in school and out of school

In the United States and Canada recently, there have been terrible events that have driven people to ask: why didn’t we learn about XYZ in school? Tom Hanks devotes an article to this line of thinking in the New York Times, here.

I just have a few things to say about that, based on my own education in history, the education of my kids, and the education I gave to myself post high school.

In Canada there was a big discussion about the Residential School System and why did we not learn about it. I didn’t, and my kids didn’t, I don’t think. What I did learn when I was younger was different aspects of history for each year I was in grade school. In the earlier grades, we studied Nova Scotian history, British history, and Canadian history. We studied ancient world history and then history of the second millenium. We did study indigenous people at the time when the focus was on North America. (As well, we studied Mi’kmaq religion in grade 7, which was interesting). Indigenous people were not invisible in the lessons, and their role was significant at times. That said, the lessons were mainly Eurocentric and mainly focused on major events like wars and politics, though.

I noticed a shift in this when my kids were studying history in grades 7 and 8. There were lessons on injustices in Canada, especially when it came to racist events such as the internment of Japanese-Canadians during World War II. I thought that was a good improvement in the study of Canadian history.

Of course what facts are taught in history, and what are not, changes all the time. This will depend on many factors, from school administrators, teachers, parents, and others. Even what books are available matters. I hope and expect that Canadian history will be taught in a less Eurocentric way, and that Indigenous and people of non-European origin will get more focus. Also important would be more focus given to the role of women in history. That would be a change for the better.

I think it is important to acknowledge, though, that the point of history classes in school is not just to teach facts. For example my kids were learning not just about Canadian history, they were learning how to think about history. That makes a great deal of sense (though learning the facts is good too).

I can say this because I actually stopped studying  history as soon as I could in high school, and I think that is a shame. I found grade 10 history boring, and there were alternative classes that were more interesting in the next two years, classes I took instead. I made up for that later by reading history copiously starting in my late 20s, thanks to encouragement from my brother. By reading people like AJP Taylor, not only did I learn about history, I learned how historical writing could be criticized. I also learned from Taylor how history could be presented in a way different than more mainstream historical writing. I was studying history again. Thinking about it. Thinking about the arguments historians made. Agreeing and disagreeing with historians. Getting to recognize good history from not so good history, at least in a limited way.

I think knowing how to think about history is as important as ever. We are being confronted with our past and the past of others all the time. By being able to think critically of those times, we can better understand our past, our current era, and even ourselves.

P.S. If you want to understand more about how to history is taught, at least in Ontario, see this.

(Photo by Museums Victoria on Unsplash)

Four pieces on Mary Oliver

You could do worse on a Sunday than read about Mary Oliver. Here’s four pieces on her from various parts of the Web:

I don’t have much to add other than that Mary Oliver is a fine person and her poetry is great and reading her and reading about her may make your life better. That’s all.

On fonts, old and new, and other design choices of St. JOHN

I’ve been thinking about fonts recently. Mainly I’ve been thinking why I love the font used by the restaurant St. JOHN so much.  I came to a conclusion after I read this piece, 60 free sans serif fonts to give your designs a modern touch, and came across this opening:

It is universally acknowledged that most contemporary designs require a versatile sans serif font. Sans serif fonts, as you might already know, are the fonts with no projecting lines at the ends. While serif fonts are known to be more traditional, sans serif fonts bring that much needed modernistic touch to the design.

That was it! When I think of modern and new, I think of thin sans serif fonts. And I am tired of modern and new for everything. Sometimes I want substantial, classic, traditional. The font for St. JOHN embodies that. It’s a chunky fat Serif font. The name itself is almost all capital letters. It is very different than the modern in that regard.

While their font is very traditional, in other ways, St. JOHN is very modern. There is a minimalism to the rest of their design, a minimalism of their design and decor is very modern indeed. To see what I mean, visit their web site (or better still, their establishments) and you will see what I mean.

And that’s perhaps what I love best about them: they mix in the best of what is old and traditional with what is new and modern and stride both worlds. It’s no easy feat, and yet they do it so well.

Ponoko: a great site for entrepreneurs and other makers wishing to implement physical designs

If you’ve ever thought of starting a business making physical objects, then you should check out thePonoko site. They can take your designs and transform them into physical materials from plastic to metal. Sure 3D printing is great for some things, but if you want to work with a great range of materials, check them out.

Click here to see some of the success stories of makers who have used their services. One of them is this very appropriate story in these pandemic times: Redesigning The Intubation Box To Better Protect First Responders

(Image above is of the intubation box and is a link to an image on their site.)

On the physical representation of the world in one object

The ball you see above is a time ball. As this Kotttke post explains:

Women from the Yakama Native American tribe used strings of hemp as personal diaries. Each major event in their life was represented by a knot, a bead or a shell. This mnemonic device is called an Ititamat, or counting-the-days ball, or simply time ball.

In these days where more and more is digital, I love that an object like the time ball can represent a life so well.

Perhaps you have something like this in your life. A diary, perhaps. Or a photo album. Or a collection of small objects that represent your life. Whatever it is, it is something worth treasuring, just like our lives are worth treasuring.

If you don’t have something like this, perhaps it’s time you do. Your life has value and is worth representing.

For more on this, see his post.

What I find interesting in general, June, 2021

Often I find links that are interesting but I don’t know what to do with. Here are some for this month.

Art related links: If you draw and are running out of ideas, try this,  Random Art Prompt Generator. I was interested in printmaking lately. Here are some links to various sites on it:

I was using this site make photos into stencils, which I could then use on other art projects…it’s good: Free Picture Stencil Maker. Robert Frank is a great photographer. Here’s a good story on how Robert Frank’s vision influenced and inspired Generations Of Photographers. Back to earth, here is Flashery,  a photo box for people serious about their home photos.

Work, economics and capitalism: I found these interesting:

Working for yourself?  How many fans do you need to be successful. Here are two views on that: The Technium: 1,000 True Fans and 1,000 True Fans? Try 100

Climate Change:  We’ve all been very focused on the pandemic. But climate change has not gone away. Here’s two pieces on it: The business as usual climate scenario may be too pessimistic, researchers warn – The Washington Post and Let’s abandon climate targets, and do something completely different | George Monbiot | The Guardian

Random:  I love motorcycles as an object, and Uncrate has some cool ones, like this Volcon Runt Kid’s Motorcycle. If you are painting your house and can’t pick from thousands of colours, perhaps this list of 50 will help you narrow it down:
50 Most Popular Sherwin-Williams Paint Colors. This was a delightful story on how professors are hanging on to chalk! Where Theory Meets Chalk, Dust Flies

If you are interested in statistical distributions other than the Bell curve/normal distribution, check out 3 interesting Statistic Distribution and
Power Law and Power Law Distribution.

Thank you for reading this far. I don’t know if anyone reads most of my posts, but I keep at it regardless.

(Photo by Courtney Hedger on Unsplash)

 

Categories: food
Tags, general

The best form of government, according to Branko Milanović

This is an interesting view of government, and I recommend you read it:
Branko Milanović – Governments of limited vice | Brave New Europe

When I first read it, I found it fascinating. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that what he is partially arguing for is moderate government. If governments get extreme one way or another, terrible things happen to their citizens.

The other benefit of this approach is that governments can adjust to what is a vice they have to crack down on, because the citizenry’s view of vice changes. Sometimes people stop considering certain acts vices. Or they downplay the harm such vices do. When this happens, governments of limited vice can back off and permit people the freedom to act a certain way.  For much of the 20th century the province of Ontario had a film censor board, and they cut out scenes they thought were offensive.  Now it’s been scraped. Once people were arrested for buying marijuana in Ontario: now the government provides guidance on how to purchase it. Governments of limited vice are moving the boundaries all the times, often due to the effort of the people who do not agree with the boundaries, and think society would be better with different boundaries.

There will always be a form of government. Governments of limited vice may be the best of them all.

(Photo by Rythik on Unsplash )

The pandemic will soon be ending and you want to have a dinner party to celebrate. Unfortunately you’ve forgotten how to do that.

If the idea of having a dinner party after this time seems daunting, here are some resources to help you. First, check out this:  How to Plan a Menu for a Dinner Party. Now you can make anything you want, but if you are thinking of making a few dishes, those dishes should fall into each of these three categories:

Something that can be made ahead of time: This could mean days ahead or hours ahead—it’s up to you. But basically, you want at least one dish that you can make and then forget about until serving time. A cold salad, homemade bread, a dessert, or even a meat dish best served cold or at room temperature—are all good options.

Something you can kind of ignore: This may be a dish that can be roasted, very slowly grilled, or cooked in an Instant Pot or slow cooker. This could be your protein (like a pork tenderloin or some chicken thighs, for instance), but roasted carrots, baked potatoes, or rice made in a rice cooker or Instant Pot also work.

Something that demands your attention: This is anything that requires fiddling, watching, flipping, or futzing. Delicate vegetables, meat on the grill, or expensive steaks all fall into this category.

If you want even more help, why not check out this book by Corey Mintz: How to Host a Dinner Party. You can also find lots of great ideas in Alison Roman’s Nothing Fancy.

(Photo by Stefan Vladimirov on Unsplash )

Making your organization more inclusive


I’ve always been a fan of Chatelaine magazine for its content. Now I am also a fan of them for working to build a more inclusive Chatelaine. That link shows the many ways they aim for and measure their inclusiveness. Any organization wanting to be more  inclusive should look to them for ideas and approaches.

The link also shows the limits or obstacles any one organization has in becoming more inclusive. A smaller organization can only scale out so far, and there is always more to include than is sometimes possible. But by aiming high, they have achieved much. I’m hopeful that they will try and do more, and other organizations following their example can do more too. Inclusivity spread over more organizations leads to greater inclusion for all.  That’s a great thing.

(Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash)

Upgrade your thinking about economics


If you want to upgrade your thinking on economics, I recommend these four pieces:

  • The Choice Isn’t Between Capitalism or Socialism – this seems obvious to me and likely you too, but it is a good reference to keep around for whenever you hear people talking about capitalism and socialism.
  • America Never Learns the Limits of Bootstrapping – a good piece on the limits of social safety nets built using private initiatives. My belief is that social safety nets should come both from governments and individuals, and that we should be looking into how our society is set up to provide a wide range benefits for everyone. For example, unemployment insurance is good, but free or low cost education to allow people to improve themselves and others is important also. We need more initiatives to improve people’s lives.
  • A Basic Income Could Solve 8 of Society’s Biggest Problems – the big initiative in the 21st century should be this. We can eliminate poverty and remove many social ills with it. It will not be a cure all, but it can cure a-lot.
  • If You’re so Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich? Turns out It’s Just Chance – finally, some many say if you have all these social programs, no one will every try again because we need a system in place that encourages people to work hard and get rich. If you think that, read the article.

Not everyone will benefit from these pieces. I did, though, and for some of you reading this, you will as well.

(Photo by Aziz Jus on Unsplash)

What solitary confinement teaches us


Solitary confinement is terrible. Most people confined this way for a stretch are badly affected by it. A few manage to come out of it better. It’s their stories that are told in this piece: How to Survive Solitary Confinement

The people that managed ok tend to have grit and the ability to make their minds work in a way to defeat being alone and confined. To see what I mean, read the piece. It can help you in some way if you are feeling alone and confined, as we all do from time to time.

(Photo by Marco Chilese on Unsplash)

On how you are in terrible times

I’ve been thinking about the terrible times we live in a how it affects us. When life is easy /not difficult, it is relative easy to be good. That’s normal, and by normal I mean like the vast majority of people. However as life gets more and more difficult, some people don’t change their behaviour and manage to stay the same. Those people are saints (1a). What about the rest of us: does that mean we are monsters? I’d argue that as life becomes much harder (1b) our behaviour tends to become terrible too. That doesn’t make us monsters: that makes us….normal still. Most of use are fairly elastic and as things become easier we slide back (2b) to being good. A few though end up staying terrible (2a). The hard times affect them in a way that doesn’t allow them to behave the way most people do when times are good and easy. We end up as seeing them more like monsters. We may avoid them but we should also have pity.

It’s hard to tell the saints in good times: they seem normal too. It’s only when difficult times occur do they stand out. Likewise it’s hard to know if people are monsters in difficult times because everyone seems to be not their best. It’s also hard to know if monstrous people have always been that way or if the times shaped them so.

Have some pity and understanding on all during difficult times: saints, monsters and the rest. We are all struggling to deal with what life throws at us.

Let’s play the game of Five Nice Things

Tulips for sale
This is a game you can play any time, but it’s especially good to play it in a pandemic. What is the game you say? Here’s Siobhan O’Connor to explain in this piece, An Easy Way to Practice Gratitude | Forge. Key quote:

At our dinners, we sometimes played a game we called Five Nice Things. It is what it sounds like: You take turns naming things that are nice. Five is the number. It can be a thing that makes you happy, a compliment for the other person, a win at work, “This broccoli is tasty,” whatever. It’s a bit sappy, but it’s not the sappiest, and the rules were: Don’t overthink it, and be specific. We’d roll it out in other settings: group hangs, work, whatnot. It was, generally speaking, a hit. Even Eeyores can get into it if you bring to the game your Tigger energy. But it was most meaningful when it was just the two of us.

I think the way to make it easy to play is to avoid trying to find the five NICEST things. Five low key nice things are fine. For example five low key nice things for me are:

  1. Waking up in the morning and feeling good and energetic
  2. A bright sunny day after days of overcast skies
  3. Walking by a store with lots of tulips for sale in buckets on the sidewalk
  4. Buying a hot mocha on a cold winter day and sipping it as I walk
  5. Late at night, looking at a yard filled with new fallen snow and seeing how uniform it is and how it sparkles

Just thinking about them makes my brain feel better. I think once you come up with some, your brain will feel better too.

(Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash)

On letting go of garbage

garbage bag

If you had a bag of garbage, would you continue to keep it? Likely not. Once you had the opportunity to get rid of it, you would. You don’t need it any more. You are under no obligation to keep it. So you’d get rid of it.

The same is true for other things in your life. For example, garbage thoughts. Or garbage people.

Speaking of garbage people, I see the crew from Trump’s regime are still trying to keep people paying attention to them. Hanging on to them and giving them attention is like hanging on to garbage. Don’t do it. Put them to the curb and let them get hauled away.

Your life and the lives of others improve when you get rid of the trash. The sooner the better. Say goodbye and walk away.

P.S. I hesitate to use the phrase garbage people. People are complicated, and simple characterizations can harm your ability to see others clearly. That said, metaphors like garbage can help you constructively modify your behaviors and thoughts. Just be careful with them.

(Images from by Markus Spiske and Sven Brandsma on Unsplash)

The arc of every long project and what you need to keep it mind

 

This chart came from John Hendrix.  It is much like the Gartner Hype Cycle but with some key differentiators.

At the beginning of John’s curve you get an idea and as you imagine it more and more, the idea may get better and better.  You get excited about it. By the time you are about to start, you can imagine how great it will turn out. But it is only an idea still.

Then you start the project. As you progress, the idea goes from being Great to Good to Ok to Horrid. At some point you enter The Pit of Despair (or as Gartner calls it, The Trough of Disillusionment). This is the low point of the project. Like John says: a) you want to give up b) this is normal. Think of it as the first draft of something.

How do you get out of the pit? By applying yourself. By sticking to it. Slowly it gets better. It goes from Horrid to Ok to Good. It may even get to Great.  What will happen for sure is that it will Suck Less. (A concept I learned from Austin Kleon.)

When you have finished the project,  you may notice two things. One, it is different than how you imagined it. Two there is still a gap between what you had hoped for or imagined and what you had accomplished. It’s important here to acknowledge that and also acknowledge how far you’ve come and how good it is.

John’s chart is for art projects, but it can be applied to fitness projects, IT projects, home improvement projects….you name it.

On friendship, it’s importance and limits

 I have been thinking a lot about friendships over the pandemic. I have wondered how many friendships will dissolve due to the distance imposed on us by this disease. I have wondered how many will strengthen afterwards when we have a chance to reunite. This crazy time has distorted our lives in so many ways, and our friendships will be one of those things that gets distorted.

If I have you thinking about friendship now, here’s more food for thought:

  1. The People Who Prioritize a Friendship Over Romance – The Atlantic
  2. Why You Need a Network of Low-Stakes, Casual Friendships – The New York Times
  3. The Limits of Friendship | The New Yorker

The pandemic will be over. When that happens, make sure you value the people who were your friends during this difficult time. Best friends are best. But go out and make more friends, too.

(Photo by Kimson Doan on Unsplash)

On the paths you get to choose in life


There are two sets of paths you take in life: those you choose, and those chosen for you. We comfort ourselves by thinking we have many opportunities to choose the right path, but often the right path is taken away from us, either directly by others, or indirectly through our circumstances. We also comfort ourselves by thinking we can influence others to take the right path by pointing out what is obviously the right way to go. Then we are surprised and saddened when they chose the wrong path.

All of that is a way of introducing these two articles on Terry Naugle. The first one is about him being sentenced to 15 years in jail at the age of 62. The next one is about him dying in prison a year later.

I don’t have anything more to add to this man’s life and death. It seems from a The paths available to him from a very early ages were the wrong ones. Later on he could have chose better paths, but it seems he could not make it over to them. His story made me think about how a good life can move away from us given the paths before us.

(Photo by Tim Umphreys on Unsplash)

Illness mindset, pandemic mindset

This is a stark and great piece on how one woman found that her cancer from a previous time is helping her now:  I spent eight months in the hospital as a teenager. Here’s how it prepared me for the pandemic – The Globe and Mail.

It’s really worth reading. This part struck me in particular:

People have a tendency to believe that “everything happens for a reason”; that bad things happen to transform us into individuals who are more grateful, or open, or happy, or strong. So many well-wishers said this, or some version of it, while I was sick, and I hear it so often now, during the pandemic. But I think the real chance for something you could call transformation comes from accepting that there is no reason, and learning how to live with that.

I agree with this. As I argued earlier, many people will not be affected by the pandemic and will go back to their old ways. Those affected may become better people. Or not.

Something to consider as we slog through the days, waiting and hoping the vaccines take this all away.

(Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash)

Guyub and other untranslatable words that show different ways of living


Reading through this, 7 Concepts That Celebrate The Importance Of Simplicity, I started thinking we don’t have these words in English perhaps because we don’t value what they represent. But then I came across guyub. According to the piece:

The Indonesian idea of guyub (pronounced guy-oob) celebrates the importance of social connection. This concept entails bringing individuals together to share life’s ups and downs as a community, offering support and ultimately creating a happier, healthier lifestyle.

Now we do have words like that in English: family, community, home. They are simple words: so simple we don’t give them a lot of focus. So perhaps we don’t a Swedish word like döstädning but we do have our own words that represent a range of feelings for what we value. Words like Christmastime or Thanksgiving, which represent much more than a date on the calendar. Perhaps in other languages those are untranslatable too.

(Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash)

Some low cost last minute gift ideas for you…

Are here: Best Gifts from West Elm for $50 or Less | Apartment Therapy.

Even if you can’t get them from West Elm, try and use the ideas and get your last minute items crossed off your list.

(Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash)

On being grateful despite duress

Grateful sign
It is said that being grateful is good for our mental health. But being grateful when living under duress can seem next to impossible. To see others do so is educational.

So I give you this piece on someone who is grateful in a way many of us might not be. I found it educational. I am still absorbing the lesson. I hope you gain something from reading it.

(Photo by Dylan Ferreira on Unsplash)

On being moderately gifted, and the pain and pleasure that brings


This piece by Austin Kleon on being moderately gifted got me re-thinking this idea he discusses.

I say re-thinking because it is something I have thought about since I was a young man. Back then I was getting into  jazz (as one does) and someone told me: the problem with being a jazz musician is your new album is always competing with the albums of Armstrong and Fitzgerald and Davis and Coltrane and Simone. People putting out pop music don’t have to worry about that. It’s tough to be moderately gifted in jazz, I thought, for you are always competing with the best. But in pop music, you are usually competing with the now. There’s more room to get by being moderately gifted. (Especially in the era I grew up when three chords was all you needed.)

If you have a creative spirit but moderate talents, it is easy to get dispirited and put your tools away. You will never be great you say, why bother? But I think the answer comes from looking at pop music. You may never be great, but you can enjoy putting in play whatever talent you do have. Maybe you can only paint flowers, or knit scarfs, or bake brownies. Do it with gusto! Do it like a punk rocker pounding away on his guitar with the 3 chords he knows! You might never be great, but in the moment, you are living large and the audience at the time is loving it. That’s enough. And enough is as good as a feast.

Perhaps you will go on to greatness. Whether you do or not, shine on as brightly as you can. Not all of us can be the sun, but sometimes being a campfire is fine.

On starting your own Orangery this winter


Ok, ok, maybe that is a bit ambitious. But as the winter settles in, you might want a bit of summer in your home. If just to help you get through the days when it seems like winter will never end and summer will never come. (Collapse face first on the bed after you say that. :))

If you like that idea, read this: The Plant That’ll Make it Feel Like Summer in Your Home All Year Long. 

Then go get one and get started on making your own orangery.

Need more encouragement: read this from Bon Appetit.

P.S. if you are asking, “what the heck is an orangery”, then go here: Orangery – Wikipedia. It’s a fascinating idea and history.

Image above of the Belvedere Orangery in Vienna, via Wikipedia.

Thinking about Fun (something good for you to do)

kid playing in leaves

Are you having fun? That’s a question often asked of us as kids. Then we get older and get more responsibilities and that question dies off. You might only hear yourself saying: I am not having fun.

That’s a great loss. Our lives are enriched by fun. If you can’t even imagine fun anymore, here are too good pieces for your serious self to read:

I really recommend you read them and challenge yourself to make time to have fun. Remember make your own fun. For some people it is being goofy, other people it’s making something, and still others find fun in doing things no one else would consider “fun”. Never mind. Find your fun wherever you can and cherish it.

(Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash)

If you are slogging through your laundry this weekend

Then read this: Laundry is a never-ending chore – Vox

It’s about the social, historical, and economic aspects of laundry. It will make you think of laundry in a whole new light.

P.S. It’s the pandemic. I hope you are giving the ironing a pause in this difficult and wrinkly time. 🙂

(Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash)

If you are feeling bad about reading fewer books, then read this

I’ve been reading less since the pandemic hit. For many reasons. It started to bother me, since the last few years I have been reading dozens of books each year. I felt I was failing. Then I read this: How to Read Fewer Books, from The School of Life.

I whole piece is good, but this part nailed it for me:

In order to ease and simplify our lives, we might dare to ask a very old-fashioned question: what am I reading for? And this time, rather than answering ‘in order to know everything,’ we might parcel off a much more limited, focused and useful goal. We might – for example – decide that while society as a whole may be on a search for total knowledge, all that we really need and want to do is gather knowledge that is going to be useful to us as we lead our own lives. We might decide on a new mantra to guide our reading henceforth: we want to read in order to learn to be content. Nothing less – and nothing more. With this new, far more targeted ambition in mind, much of the pressure to read constantly, copiously and randomly starts to fade. We suddenly have the same option that was once open to St Jerome; we might have only a dozen books on our shelves – and yet feel in no way intellectually undernourished or deprived.

What am I reading for: it’s a great question. I think there are many answers to that. To be content, as that suggests. Or to become an expert in an area. Or to pass the time. All are good answers, depending on your need for reading. If you are feeling bad about reading fewer books, step back and decide what you are reading for. It may help you read in a new and improved way.

(Photo by matthew Feeney on Unsplash)

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On policing and lack thereof


With the situation in the US concerning police and the use of deadly force, there is much discussion of defunding the police. One argument is that the police can be replaced with other social service workers, as this town did here. Then there is the story of Camden and how they fired all their police, though they did replace them. Some believe that police are unaccountable, and when you try to hold them accountable, they do thinks like this (What Can We Learn From the Chicago Police Department’s API Shutdown?). Or they do pullbacks like this How to Stop a Police Pullback – The Atlantic.

My thoughts, which don’t amount to much, is there is not one answer to deal with problems in police forces. They clearly need to be accountable. They may need to shift some of their responsibilities to other services. This has been done in the past (e.g. the officers who give out parking tickets are different than the ones that make arrests). They also should be paid well: nothing encourage corruption like poorly paid police officers.

Societies need public police forces. I don’t believe the lack of police means things automatically get better. There needs to be some form of organized force that keeps the peace and enforces laws. Otherwise, you will get individuals taking advantage, gangs of organized crime, and private police forces. An unaccountable police force is bad, but no police force is worse.

Finally, here are two good links. This one, which eviscerates the idea that looting is acceptable: There Is No Defense of Looting – The Atlantic. And this one, which highlights the failure in parts of the world to control the criminal organizations forming: El Salvador’s president Bukele cut deals with MS-13 gang in bid to reduce killings, report says – The Washington Post. Mexico has similar problems. Any member of a society that thinks they are immune to this need to ask why they think that.

(Photo by Esri Esri on Unsplash)