Tag Archives: nytimes

On Auden, Brueghel, and the brilliant way the New York Times combines them

I’ve posted before on The very cool AR/VR (augmented reality/virtual reality) section of the New York Times. That time it was concerning their exploration of the Apollo 11 mission.

The folks at that section have done it again, this time with a poem from W.H. Auden titled Musée des Beaux Arts. It’s a beautiful poem, and simply reading it by yourself is a fine experience. But click here and immerse yourself into it, with the richness of analysis provided, and you will come away with a deeper level of understanding and appreciation of the work both of Auden and Brueghel.

It’s winter. And cold. You could use some flannel sheets

Yep, good flannel sheets can be such a pleasure in the depth of February in Canada. If you agree and you’d like some, check out: The Best Flannel Sheets for 2022 | Reviews by Wirecutter. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get good ones either.

Hey, it’s tough outside: make it nice inside.

 

 

How to garden in the winter

What’s cooler than summer gardening? Winter gardening! 🙂 No seriously, winter gardening is very cool. I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but the Times and specifically Niki Jabbour of Halifax have convinced me otherwise. As the Times explains:

Is it really possible to garden year-round? Yes, even in Nova Scotia. Through years of experimentation, Niki Jabbour has developed an all-seasons approach to edible gardening, despite the rigors of her Halifax location, where frost can linger until late May and return in early October. What Ms. Jabbour — an intrepid vegetable gardener and the host of the radio show “The Weekend Gardener” — calls her “vegetable garden tool kit” doesn’t include a trowel and pruning shears (although they are always within reach). Her essentials are an assortment of fabrics and the supports she drapes them over.

It’s really impressive. The article below gets into great depth as to how such an activity is possible. I don’t know if I will ever do it, but I really enjoyed reading about it, here: The Year-Round Garden – The New York Times

New New York: the plan to expand Manhattan

One thing I like about Americans is their desire to dream big. This is easily demonstrated in this New York Times piece about expanding Manhattan.

It’s a smart idea. Is it doable? I don’t know. I do know that the cost of shoring up Manhattan to deal with global warming is going to be a big one. Why not use real estate and additional taxes to do that? Read the article and see what you think.

1980s me would have laughed at the idea of expanding Manhattan, since so much of the existing island was unlivable. Amazing how much has changed.

You cannot learn anything from AI technology that makes moral judgements. Do this instead

books
Apparently…

Researchers at an artificial intelligence lab in Seattle called the Allen Institute for AI unveiled new technology last month that was designed to make moral judgments. They called it Delphi, after the religious oracle consulted by the ancient Greeks. Anyone could visit the Delphi website and ask for an ethical decree.

What can I say? Well, for one thing, I am embarrassed for my profession that anyone takes that system seriously. It’s a joke. Anyone who has done any reading on ethics or morality can tell you very quickly that any moral decision of weight cannot be resolved with a formula. The Delphi system can’t make moral decisions. It’s like ELIZA: it could sound like a doctor but it couldn’t really help you with your mental health problem.

Too often people from IT blunder into a field, reduce the problems in them to something computational, produce a new system, and yell “Eureka!”.  The lack of humility is embarrassing.

What IT people should do is spend time reading and thinking about ethics and morality.. If they did, they’d be better off. If you are one of those people, go to fivebooks.com and search for “ethics” or “moral”. From those books you will learn something. You cannot learn anything from the Delphi system.

P.S. For more on that Delphi system, see: Can a Machine Learn Morality? – The New York Times.

(Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash )

On the passing of Aaron Beck, developer of Cognitive Therapy

Last week Dr. Aaron T. Beck died. He lived a century. As the Times said, his

brand of pragmatic, thought-monitoring psychotherapy became the centerpiece of a scientific transformation in the treatment of depression, anxiety and many related mental disorders

I’d argue he did as much if not more for the health and well being of people than any doctor or scientist.

I highly recommend reading this: Dr. Aaron T. Beck, Developer of Cognitive Therapy, Dies at 100 – The New York Times. I was fascinated to see the pushback he received over time, and how he fought back against. Truly a great man.

 

The very cool AR/VR (augmented reality/virtual reality) section of the New York Times

If you read the Times as much as I do, you know it has a wealth of sections on its web site. So many I can’t read them all. What I didn’t know is that one of those sections is devoted to AR and VR. To see what I mean, check this out:  The Apollo 11 Moon Landing in Augmented Reality – The New York Times.

It’s a great story in itself, but using AR gives you a sense of scale for the photos taken on the first moon landing. It’s great! Great for anyone, but could be especially great for educators covering the moon landing in their courses.

There’s more stories there as well using AR and VR. See what they have by looking for the Immersive (AR/VR) section. Note: you have to access it via a mobile device; I couldn’t find it on the main web site unless I searched for “Immersive”. (Makes sense: you need a mobile device to appreciate it.)

Some reflections on reaching one million views on my blog today

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

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

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

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

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

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

P.S.S. My favorites are here.

 

 

Forget NFTs: sneakers are a better example of when culture and IT conflict

And the New York Times is on it: Can Shopify Stop Sneaker Bots? – The New York Times.

I find that story fascinating on many levels. It starts with the culture of sneakerheads. Then it shows what happens when you mix IT in. Suddenly there is a massive distortion effect that occurs. Combine that with voracious capitalism and a fun hobby morphs into something….well less than pretty.

So much of our current society is captured in that piece. Well worth taking a moment to read and digest.

P.S. I got caught up in that for a moment a few years ago when my son suddenly wanted this particular brand of Jordans. I remember him showing them to me by a guy who was selling them online, and I had to study sneakers to see if they were legitimate or knock offs before handing over hundreds of dollars to some guy who had some weird handle of a name.

Thankfully my son lost interest in becoming a sneakerhead. I couldn’t afford it anyway!

(Photo by Paul Volkmer on Unsplash )

 

The wonderful collages of Jim Jarmusch

I’ve always been a fan of Jim Jarmusch’s films. Now I have a new thing to be a fan of: his collages. The New York Times has a series of them here as well as good article talking to him about them. Go check it out. It’s a visual treat! Enjoy! Maybe go and make some of your own.

On Facebook’s new glasses

So Facebook has teamed up with RayBans to make the glasses seen above. One of the features of these glasses is you can tap them and record pictures and videos. Mike Isaac has a good write up on them, here. I’d like to highlight one quote from that piece:

“Facebook is not naïve to the fact that other smart glasses have failed in the past,” said Jeremy Greenberg, policy counsel for the Future of Privacy Forum, a privacy nonprofit that is partly financed by Facebook. But, he added, “the public’s expectations of privacy have changed since the days of previous smart glasses releases.”

Yep. Pure Facebook. An org funded by Facebook indicated that people are cool with potential invasions of privacy.

From a design point of view, this partnership has made a better looking pair of glasses than Google did with their Glass product. From a privacy point of view, however, these things things are at least as bad if not worse than Google’s product.

I can’t predict how well these will do. I can predict, however, that we will see abuses of privacy as a result of them. For more on them, see: Smart Glasses Made Google Look Dumb. Now Facebook Is Giving Them a Try. by Mike Isaac in The New York Times.

How to Make Dinner When You Can’t Even

If I were to ask you “are you sick of cooking from home during the pandemic?”and you threw something in my general direction while screaming “YES!”, then I highly recommend this: Easy Dinner Recipes (Without Having to Cook Anything) – The New York Times. 

Ali Slagle does a great job of helping you put together a meal using a simple formula.  So if the thought of getting out a recipe is painful and the thought of ordering take out is equally so, check out that piece from her.

(Photo: Linda Xiao for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Monica Pierini.)

On what you can learn from the obituaries of the not quite famous


What can we learn from the obituaries of the not quite famous? I thought of that when I was reading the sad fate of Hash Halper, here: Hash Halper, Street Artist Who Adorned New York With Hearts, Dies at 41 – The New York Times.

Obituaries in big newspapers tend to be for the rich and famous and powerful and great. Mainly. But sometimes you read about someone who was none of those things, who was struggling, yet who affected people in a positive way. Someone like Hash Halper.

What we learn, perhaps, is that it doesn’t matter if you were rich and powerful.  Bernie Madoff was rich and powerful. It didn’t make his life better or more worthwhile. Hash Halper did more good with his chalk hearts than Madoff did with all he had. In the end, it all washes away, save for the things you did to affect the lives of others.

We can learn many things from the obituaries of the not quite famous. Maybe we can learn/be reminded of what it is we want to do in the world, while we are here. That’s a very fine thing to learn indeed.

Rest in peace, Hash Halper.

(Image Kholood Eid for The New York Times, link)

The fascinating history of art in the Oval Office of the White House

The New York Times does a great job of telling the story of The Art in the Oval Office. There’s a good story of how it has evolved from Kennedy to Biden, and the Times does a good job of telling it by using various interactive tools. Well worth viewing.

Personally I like how different Kennedy was than the other presidents. But judge for yourself.

Web site of the day! or what’s old is new again


In the early days of the Web, there were several sites that would feature the Web Site of the Day. It would be something someone put together that was smart or wacky of useful. Those days were good.

Good news! Here is a list of web sites that Buzzfeed put together that made me think of those days: 38 Super Useful And Fun Websites You Never Knew You Needed In Your Life.

Every day check out a different one!

In a similar vein, here is a list of places in New York that have been around forever that are still going. Likewise, check out a different one every day: The 212 – The New York Times

The Internet can feel stale. Let’s make it fresh again.

(Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash )

 

If you contribute to political campaigns, you should read this

If you come across this article, How Trump Steered Supporters Into Unwitting Donations – The New York Times,  you might initially think a) well yeah Trump is a crook so no surprise b) his supporters are dumb so also no surprise. You can think that.

However, consider it from the point of view of people working on campaigns. Some of them on both sides might be thinking: this is a good way to bring in money. It’s hard to raise money, they might think, and this is a way to make it easier. These campaign workers might be working on campaigns for people you support. They might think the ends justifies the means.

So if you do contribute to political campaigns, consider doing it from an account that has a limited amount of funds in it. That way even if they trick you into overdonating, you won’t run into some of the trouble that Trump’s supporters did.

(Image comes from a link to an image in the New York Times piece)

On China and LinkedIn

Unlike other social media giants, LinkedIn rarely generates controversy or makes the news. An exception to that is this story about the platform running into problems in China: China Punishes Microsoft’s LinkedIn Over Lax Censorship from The New York Times.

What happened? In a nutshell:

LinkedIn has been the lone major American social network allowed to operate in China. To do so, the Microsoft-owned service for professionals censors the posts made by its millions of Chinese users. Now, it’s in hot water for not censoring enough.

I am not sure how they are going to recover from this, if they ever do.  It’s going to be worth keeping an eye on this, as well as how other social media companies make changes to suit the needs of the Chinese government. Those companies might find they land between two chairs if the U.S. government starts pressuring them in other ways.

(Photo by Greg Bulla on Unsplash)

If you are afraid to draw, blind contour drawing is a good way to start

There are several benefits of blind contour drawing:

  1. if you are afraid you can’t draw “well”, then use blind contour drawing. Chances are it won’t look like the thing you are drawing, and that’s ok. But you will learn and get better at drawing.
  2. it is a good way to be mindful. If you are focused on doing a blind contour drawing, it’s hard to think of anything else
  3. It’s a good way to shake off your bad habits that you may have picked up.

Here’s some good links to help you learn more about it:

(Image is a link to the Austin Kleon post)

The problems with supertall towers

I am not a fan of supertall towers. They are bland looking, and they add little to a skyline. Therefore I was glad to see this week that they are being exposed for being problematic. First up was this piece in the New York Times on how one of them has been having lots of problems:  The Downside to Life in a Supertall Tower: Leaks, Creaks, Breaks.  Then there was a more general critique of them here:  Why Pencil Towers are Problematic.

It seems to me that there are some problems with the buildings that not even super-engineering can fix. Perhaps this means that this is the beginning of the end of supertall buildings. I can hope.

(Image link to NYtimes.com)

If you are tired of cooking, you need quarantine cooking help


At the beginning of the pandemic there was lots of advice on  cooking and baking being published. Then summer came, and it seemed to have stopped. Restrictions loosened, people went out to restaurants, and in the meantime much of that advice got shelved.

It’s winter now.  In the middle of the second wave with more lockdowns and restrictions, we need that advice again. Bad news: I don’t see as much new material on it. Good news: the old material from before the summer is still good. Case in point, this, from the New York Times: Our Best Recipes and Tips for Coronavirus Quarantine Cooking – The New York Times.

There’s lots and lots of good advice and good recipes there. More than enough to keep you going for the next few months.

My favorite of the lot are the recipes from Melissa Clark. If you don’t know where to start, start there. But really any of the pieces in that long list of recipes and tips are good.

As Jacques Pepin likes to say: happy cooking!

(Photo by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash)

 

Ai Weiwei turns the tables on the New York Times By the Book and you just might feel better about your own reading afterwards

Whenever I read By The Book interviews in the New York Times, I am always a bit embarrassed. Everyone it seems has a stellar collection of books that they are about to read, they have read all the classics including some obscure ones, they read voraciously, and they arrange their books wonderfully. Meh. Reading about them makes me feel bad.

That’s why I felt better after reading this interview with Ai Weiwei: In the Cultural Revolution, Ai Weiwei’s Father Burned the Family’s Books – The New York Times.

He is well read and thoughtful but he seems much more ordinary about his book reading. And for good reasons. I recommend the interview in itself. And if you feel bad about your own reading, I highly recommend it.

(Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash)

How to shake those bad pandemic habits


It’s a new year, and you may not only be fed up with the pandemic but with the bad habits you picked up during the pandemic. You – ok, and me! – need new habits. While there a billion trillion guides on how to build healthy habits, here’s a nice article from the New York Times to help get you going: How to Build Healthy Habits.

In a nutshell:

  1. Start small and stack/tie your new habit
  2. Do it daily
  3. Make it easy
  4. Reward yourself

Stacking or tying your new habit involves tying your new habit to your daily habits and routines. For example, if you drink several cups of coffee each day and you want a habit of eating more fruits and vegetables, then have a piece of fruit every time you go have a coffee.  To make it easy, put the bowl of fruit next to the coffee machine. To reward yourself, have a small — small, not big! — piece of chocolate after completing the new habit. To do it daily, tie it to a routine or current habit you do daily or more.

Remember it takes time to build a new habit. According to the article, building a new habit can take “from 18 to 254 days. The median time was 66 days”. So give yourself some time. And start small and pace yourself.

A few more thoughts:

  • If it starts getting boring, challenge yourself. Or vary your habit.
  • If it starts getting hard, cut back, perhaps to the minimum amount (but not zero).
  • Get a coach or cheerleader, even if it your spouse, your best friend, or even your kids. (Kids love to cheerlead if they get to make noise. :))
  • Track that new habit. I like the journal below. Other people like putting Xs through a calendar. Whatever makes you proud of your accomplishments.
  • At first, focus on the fact you are started. Don’t think about how far you are going. Think about that you are going at all.

(Top Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash. Bottom Photo by Prophsee Journals on Unsplash)

On the ghosts of segregation

This is a link to a powerful essay on the remnants of segregation in the United States. You can see these remnants faintly in the essay’s photographs, like this one above. Off to the left is the entrance to the balcony where the “coloreds” had to go while the “whites” entered through the door on the right and sat separately on the main level closer to the stage. There are many such images in this essay.

It’s good that such images are captured. Soon enough these buildings will all be gone, and the remnants too. That’s why things like this essay are good, because they call our attention to and remind us of what occurred.

The essay is not just filled with moving images, but the words themselves are worth taking the time to take in. I hope you can find the time to take it in and linger over it.

Are artificial trees better for the environment than real trees?

Christmass tree

It’s that time of the year. And if you haven’t gotten a tree yet — either from a field or from the attic — you might be asking yourself: what is the most environmentally friendly option? Well, the folks at the New York Times asked themselves that too and wrote about it, here.

I am a big fan of real trees and will continue to get them. But read the article and judge for yourself.

(Photo by Danny Castaneda on Unsplash)

Not 1 but 2 good pieces on the eve of McCartney 3

Paul McCartney

Here’s two good pieces on Paul McCartney on the eve of his latest album, “McCartney 3”.

The first one is an interview with him. Among other things, it shows the difficulty of him doing interviews, since it’s hard for him to add anything new (he still manages to do so): Paul McCartney Is Still Trying to Figure Out Love – The New York Times

While the New York Times piece is really good, this piece is great: 64 Reasons To Celebrate Paul McCartney – The Ruffian.

I have always been a fan of McCartney, but this second piece made me a greater fan. I’ve read it a few times, and even though it is long, I look forward to reading it again. It really does do a fantastic job of highlighting what a great artist Paul really is and addresses some of the many criticisms of him over the years. McCartney has been pinned down over the years both by some bad musical choices and by some (unfair?) musical criticism.  One thing I liked about the second piece is how it nicely rebuffs some of that (e.g. “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da, “Another Day”). Highly recommended that piece, but both are worth a read.

P.S. Since I am banging on about him, my two cents on McCartney from the late 60s to the late 70s is that the Beatles were originally Lennon’s band, but as time past, McCartney grew and started to dominate the Beatles more. Meanwhile Harrison also came into his own. At one late point Lennon tried to come up with an arrangement of how they would allocate songs on the future albums (I think 4 for John, 4 for Paul, 2 for George, and 1 for Ringo), but I think things were too far gone by then. They were too big for the band. That’s too bad (what an understatement). If you go through their musical output of the 70s and picked out the best songs of all of them and made 3 or 4 albums, they would have been great albums (just think of taking the best of Imagine + All Things Must Past + Band on the Run, for example). Plus if they were together they would have pushed each other to do more great things.

I’m not sure how well they would have done past then. The birth of hip hop, punk and new wave might have washed them aside. Or they could have become frozen in amber, like some other big bands of that era. (Look at a Rolling Stones concert play list some time.)  Then again, McCartney teamed up with Elvis Costello and made fine music, so they could have turned out to stay great.

Regardless of alternative histories, McCartney went on to make his own timeline  as a creative artist. Here’s to the success of McCartney III and perhaps IV one day as well.

It’s Monday. You have something risky you have been dreading to tackle. Here’s how to tackle it

You have something we want to do but don’t because you feel there is a big risk involved. You think: what if I fail? If you fail you fear you will a) be covered in shame b) lose out big c) have other bad things happen to you that you can’t even imagine you can cope with. No wonder you have been putting it off.

First of all, you can cope with pretty much anything. Second of all, there is a good and painless way to approach that thing you think is risky. It’s outlined nicely in this article and in that diagram. The article uses opening a restaurant as an example, but it could be applied to any big goal you have, from taking on a new job position to running a marathon.

In my own job, we deal with managing risk every day. We plan to deal with risk by taking the same method and applying it over and over. It is very effective professionally. It can be effective for you personally. Keep iterating until the thing that once seemed very risky now seems much less so.

(Image from a link to the article.)

On US Politics, Money, and the recent election

Money
American politics is about many things. One of the main things it is about is money.  For a while it was believed that after the “Citizen United” case, the flood of money  would almost guarantee whoever had the most money would win.  Now it’s not just about what money can do, but what it cannot do.

As some states like Maine and South Carolina showed, vastly outspending the incumbent will not guarantee election: The Democrats Went All Out Against Susan Collins. Rural Maine Grimaced. – The New York Times. That’s not to say money is irrelevant. It’s just that it has limits. It’s no longer enough to bombard people with ads bought with all that money. You need to spend smarter. I am not sure if anyone in the US has that figured out.

Speaking of money, this article by Jamelle Bouie highlights the importance of money especially when it comes to low information voters: Opinion | A Simple Theory of Why Trump Did Well – The New York Times. High information voters might scoff at “Donnie Dollars” (cheques issued by the government with Trump’s name on them). But I agree with Bouie: things like that make a difference with many voters. People might not closely weigh one politician’s promises versus another, but they all remember the jobs and services and other benefits that the incumbents brought their way.

(Photo by Matthew Lancaster on Unsplash)

Are you more worried these days? This can help


Are you more worried these days? Ha! I know you are: I see your tweets and your socials! Hey, it’s fine. These are difficult days. That’s not a licence to worry your head off though. Difficult or not, being able to worry less is a good skill to have.

If you don’t think it is a skill you have much of, read this. It will give you good practical tips to deal effectively with your worrying. Better yet, read it with a pen and paper handy; when you are done, write down a practical plan to change your worrying.

Worrying is a habitual way of thinking that can cause you damage. The good news is you can break that habit and change your thinking and have it shift away from worrying.  Worrying is like smoking or eating badly or any other harmful behaviors. Behaviors you can change. So set your mind on a different form of being. You’ll be calmer and more positive soon enough.

(Photo by Henrikke Due on Unsplash)

On pantry cooking with Melissa Clark

One of the better things that came out of the pandemic is this series of recipes published in the New York Times and written by Melissa Clark: From the Pantry – The New York Times.

I loved how each recipe is really a cooking lesson more than a step 1-2-3 recipe. By the time you made a dish, you can already imagine making it a dozen different ways with the suggestions she provides. That’s especially good for people who are not comfortable changing recipes around. If you are one of those people, you’ll be much more confident improvising with ingredients after you have made a few of these meals.

I also liked that the recipes really cover a range of meals, from breakfast to dinner, from salad and soup to dessert. Now that there is quite a few recipes listed here, you can pick and choose what suits you.

Finally, I like that the Times didn’t firewall off this content. Anyone can see the recipes: you don’t need a subscription to the Cooking section of the paper/website.

I highly recommend these recipes. Go use some and become a better cook.

(Photo by Nadia Pimenova on Unsplash)

The pandemic ain’t going away soon. Maybe you need a hobby. This can help.

I am sorry to (not) break this to you (since you know it already) but the pandemic is not going away soon. That’s bad. What’s good is it may be the right time to start a hobby. Here’s two links that can help:

  1. CrossFit, ceramics: 10 people on how much they spend on their hobbies – Vox
  2. How to Find a Hobby – Smarter Living Guides – The New York Times

The New York Times piece can help you find a hobby. And the Vox piece can give you an idea of what it might cost.

A hobby is a good thing to have and no one argues this better than Austin Kleon. To see what I mean, check out his writings on hobbies.

(Photo by Margarida Afonso on Unsplash)

In a Hurry? Try Express Weight Training

Weight training has many benefits. If you have been considering it but balking, you likely have multiple reasons for not getting started. One reason might be: you have no time. Well, if you have thirteen minutes, you can do a weight workout. As noted here, In a Hurry? Try Express Weight Training – The New York Times, you can get stronger no matter what. Of three groups tested for strength gain: 

One group was asked to complete five sets of each exercise, with about 90 seconds of rest between sets. Their total time for a session at the gym was almost 70 minutes. A second group was asked to complete three sets of each exercise, requiring they work out for about 40 minutes. The third group had to finish only one set of each exercise, meaning that they were done after a brisk 13 minutes. Each volunteer performed his given workout three times a week for eight weeks and then returned to the lab to repeat the muscle measurements. After the two months, all of the young men were stronger, a finding that, by itself, is beguiling, since it suggests that people can continue to gain strength even if they already are experienced at resistance training. But more interesting and surprising, the strength improvements were essentially the same, no matter how many — or few — sets the men completed. The men who had stopped after one set gained as much strength as those who had done five sets or three.

As with anything, your results may vary. But if you want to get stronger with the least amount of time put in, consider this.

Is the weekend dead?

You might think so if you read this piece in the New York Times.

It has definitely changed, just like so much has changed during the pandemic. I predict the weekend will come back in time. Meanwhile, consider ways to make you day / days different enough so that it doesn’t just feel like one big endless day. It will take some creativity, but it’s worth it.

Your weekend is coming up: find ways to make those days stand out from the others.

Gardening as a form of mental wellness

Gardening is a tricky hobby. I’ve always associated it with older people. Which makes some sense: if you go to a gardening center in spring, it will be packed mainly with old folks. This is a bad prejudice to have. As this article by Samin Nosrat showed me, gardening can be a great activity to help with one’s mental wellness.

She starts:

Last winter I suffered a devastating bout of depression. Unable to do much else, I took to the neglected beds of the vegetable garden I share with my neighbors. Weeding and composting for hours a day, I was regenerating both the soil and something deep in myself. It felt so crucial to my well-being that sometimes I wore a headlamp to extend my work time past the waning daylight.

It’s worthwhile reading the entire article. She makes a great case for the goodness that gardening can do for you. After you finish it, you may want to rush out to a garden center and get started on your own garden and improved mental health.

(Photo by Benjamin Combs on Unsplash)

Quote

Some thoughts on the New York Times and how it is becoming a behemoth

I had some thoughts on the New York Times after reading this: It is possible to compete with the New York Times. Here’s how. – Columbia Journalism Review

In some ways, it confirms what I have long thought: the goal for some newspapers is not to be a regional or even national newspaper anymore: the goal now is  to be a global one. The Daily Mail in the UK recognized that long ago. I know little of what they publish in the UK, I just know that they seem to be able to get a lot of people to read their online articles. In other words, they write locally but think globally. The same with the Guardian. And now I think the same is true for the Times.

The Times, according to the article, knows that most people are only going to subscribe to one paper. They want that paper to be the Times. And they seem to be winning this battle so far. Other papers might depend on click throughs, and no doubt the Times does too, but they also want to ensure that they have the one subscription you or your household pays for.

In some ways, the Times reminds me of a software company. They want to be the one platform you depend on and use every day.  The way Facebook or Google or Amazon or Microsoft want to be the sole platform you use for information or social media or other essential IT.

I think there are ways to compete with the Times, just like there are ways to compete against those other behemoths. You can be a niche competitor. You can provide a deeper and richer experience tailored for a specific audience.  You can be more nimble than they are. You can move to the future markets faster than they can.

None of these things are easy. But they are not impossible.

If you are in the news business, you need to learn how to compete with the New York Times. Because the Times is not going away and it is not getting smaller any time soon.

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On my odd fascination with minimalism

I am oddly fascinated by minimalism. It appeals to me, though I could never adopt it. Visually I like the look of minimalist places (like the one pictured above, from this piece, Goodbye things, hello minimalism: can living with less make you happier? | Books | The Guardian). But then I know I am terrible and I would be hanging pictures and adding furniture in no time.

I suspect the simplicity of it appeals to me too. So much less to manage. But then I would get bored of wearing the same clothes, like this:

Likewise, a kitchen with this many things in a drawer seems great. No clutter, no struggling to find things, or manage things

But then I think that a kitchen is a workshop and like any good workshop, you need supplies and tools to be effective.

So when I read pieces like this, about Japanese hardcore minimalist, it lures me in to thinking about it for awhile. Then that dream fades.

I am not as anti-minimalist as the author of this piece. But I think they raise some excellent points. Then again I have read the book Goodbye Things and thought it worthwhile.

I suspect that my odd fascinating with minimalism will live on for some time.

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COVID comes for the French Wine Industry


And the result, if you are a fan of French wines, is tragic: Of Wine, Hand Sanitizer and Heartbreak – The New York Times.

You can read it straight up, but it’s worth pondering what it tells us about our values right now, and what they were before. Times are tough in the pandemic era, for winemakers in particular as well as all of us in general.

(Image thanks to Sven Wilhelm).

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On the passing of filmmaker Alan Parker

Alan Parker just died. If you grew up in the last quarter of the 20th century, odds are very good you’ve seen one of his films, if not several. You may not even realized you did. He wasn’t a fan of the auteur idea of being a director, and that likely resulted in him not making films in a consistent way. Which is fine, since he made many a good film. The New York Times has done a wonderful thing and put together a list of some of his most well known films and where you can watch them online: Where to Stream Alan Parker’s Best Movies – The New York Times.

If you haven’t seen any of his films, now is your chance. Grab that list and go stream. I may rewatch “The Commitments”, one of the more enjoyable films from that time.

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Brush up on philosophical ideas at The Stone

Keeping up with contemporary philosophy can be difficult for people who are not dedicated to it. Which is why I am happy to share news about The Stone over at the New York Times. As they describe it:

(The Stone is) A forum for contemporary philosophers and other thinkers on issues both timely and timeless. The series moderator is Simon Critchley, who teaches philosophy at The New School for Social Research.

I read a number of good essays there. The ideas can be challenging, but the language used is not. Well worth checking out.

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If your house is in shambles, you’re not alone


If your house is a bit of a mess right now, don’t beat yourself up. As this article showed me, it’s a pretty common problem: My House Has Not Kept Up With the Pandemic in The New York Times.

Now what you do about it is up to you. If you are fine with the mess, then fine. But if you are like me and the mess is getting to you after awhile, I recommend you start setting up a schedule to tackle it. Even bits at a time, starting with an area you can manage. You may find (like I did) that after you clean and tidy a bit, you feel better. Sure, no one may be visiting, but you’ll feel better, and that’s important too

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Sweden: how not to deal with a pandemic

It’s not good to be too confident with making pandemic assessment, but the evidence is that Sweden has failed in their approach to dealing with it. According to this, via Sweden Has Become the World’s Cautionary Tale – The New York Times:

This is what has happened: Not only have thousands more people died than in neighboring countries that imposed lockdowns, but Sweden’s economy has fared little better.

“They literally gained nothing,” said Jacob F. Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “It’s a self-inflicted wound, and they have no economic gains.”

The experiment was Lose-Lose: they suffered more deaths and their economy is worse off.

There is much to be learned from what happened in the Nordic countries. We are learning at the expense of the Swedish people. Read the article for more details.