Tag Archives: pandemic

July, 2021 pandemic highlights and ramblings (a newsletter, in blog form)

Happy Autumn to you. It’s the end of September, one of my favorite months. It’s been a good month for me, despite the pandemic. I’ve travelled to Nova Scotia and Montreal. In many ways, travel felt “normal”, save the masks and vaccine passports. If those things mean we get to get around and see the people and places we love, I am all for it.

Pandemic: It seems like a weird time in this seemingly never ending pandemic.  In many places there has been great progress. But there have been terrible exceptions. Generally wherever there are right wing governments with ideological commitments to “freedom”, people have lost out. For example, Florida. Here’s a story on how Florida’s massive Covid-19 spike got so bad .In other places like Kentucky,  schools overwhelmingly keep mask mandates even after Republicans scrapped state requirement. Not that Canada’s provinces are necessarily better: even the New York Times is writing about the failure that is Alberta. To make it worse, covidiots are still being a menace to society. Fortunately,the public is forcing timid governments to get tough with vaccine resisters. I am sure there are a small number of them are genuinely afraid of the vaccine. Mostly though you have fools who will take Ivermectin even though it doesn’t work and is meant for animals.

Governments aside, businesses continue to try and get back to normal, but many companies like Apple are throwing in the towel until January 2022, citing the COVID-19 surges. The fact that remote work may last for two years worries some bosses. On the other hand, who wants covid-19 outbreaks occurring when workers get together? That’s right: no one.

Not only are businesses having trouble getting back to “normal”, but many of them cannot find enough workers to do the job. In the restaurant industry, many former worker are tired of the job and are more than happy to say so. But it’s not just restaurants: lots of industries including the gig industry are losing out. Here’s a good analysis by Noah Smith on why that is. As for Canadian workers, most picked up side hustles during lockdown and plan to keep them.

Finally, it’s no surprise that people are a lot less happy during the pandemic. There’s plenty of data to back that up. And we may stay that way for awhile, if you take into account people are still burnt out from this terrible time. Some argue a 4-day work week might fix that. I’m not so optimistic. Sure, a 4 day work week would be good , but more is needed.

Non pandemic stuff: Here in Canada we just had a federal election and…not much changed. Just check out these charts and you’ll see.

Toronto continues to develop new buildings everywhere. There are so many signs for new developments that someone decided to have fun and came up with a  fake development sign trolling an area with giant tower in middle of Toronto park. Many were not amused.

Homelessness continues to be a problem being struggled with everywhere, especially in Toronto. During the pandemic there were encampments forming everywhere.  Eventually they were  driven underground with a wave of summer crackdowns  that supposed cost Toronto nearly $2 million. Sad, to say the least.

People continue to do crazy stupid things with NFTs because there is crazy stupid money involved. For example, this boy 12 made 290 000 pounds in non-fungible tokens with digital whale art. People are now working on NFT blockchain video games. Meanwhile, an Insider Trading Scandal Hits NFT Industry. Things are just insane, but whenever easy money is to be had, it’s not surprising.

Two of the most underestimated and successful politicians continue to make news. Angela Merkel is exiting the stage, while Joe Biden is suffering politically. I think Merkel will be one of those politicians that rises in stature historically, while Biden will recover from his current doldrums.

That’s it for this newsletter. Enjoy your Autumn all. It’s a time of harvests, and get togethers, but it is also a time of colour and beauty. Enjoy it while it lasts.

 

On the deadly leadership of Jason Kenney and Scott Moe regarding the pandemic

Here is Jason Kenney on twitter in July, 2021, celebrating removal of health restrictions:

Here is a tweet from Robson Fletcher of the CBC on Kenney’s  province and Scott Moe’s province in September of the same year:

I mean, if people in your province are dying at 4X the rate of the other provinces because of direct policy changes you made, you are essentially killing people in your province under your leadership. I don’t know how else to put it.

Also, Jason Kenney should not speak for the Prairies or the West. Both Manitoba and British Columbia are doing better than Alberta and Saskatchewan. It’s not just right wing leaders either. Other right wing provincial parties have been much better stewards of their regions. Kenney and Moe and their leadership are to blame here.

It is terrible when leaders fail their provinces. But this is way beyond typical failure.  I feel great sympathy for the people of this province who have died unnecessarily on their watch.

 

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.

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.)

August, 2021 pandemic highlights and ramblings (a newsletter, in blog form)

I hope you are enjoying your summer and staying safe and well. Summer is the best time of the pandemic — it’s sad I can say that, but this is our second pandemic summer —  so enjoy it as best as you can. If you need something to read as you soak up the sun and sip a cold one, here’s my latest blog newsletter for you.

Pandemic: it’s a weird time in the pandemic: on one hand, most people in places like Canada are getting vaccinated. Meanwhile, in other parts of the world, the Delta variant is causing death and devastation.  I once thought the pandemic would be receding, now I am not so sure. We have signs of normality like Via Rail bringing back Montreal-Halifax service. But there is also talk about the fourth wave. People are patronizing restaurants and  people are trying to avoid going to gyms. Places like Israel are struggling after early success. And while restaurants are open, restaurants are having a hard time staying staffed. (I can see that personally: my son works at Stock TC and he tells me they are struggling to hire and keep people.)

As for me, I am finally looking forward to doing some travelling to Halifax and Montreal in the upcoming months. I am going to be going to the east coast to accompany my son as he goes to university there. Then I am going to take advantage of my empty nest status to go to Montreal and partake in that great city and their wonderful views and food. Can’t wait!

It’s weird trying to arrange the trips. So much I used to do with certainty I do with great uncertainty now.

In non-travelling news, I’ve been going to some restaurants in Toronto and eating on their patios. Some patios are really great, others not so much. I love certain restaurants, but sitting on a busy street while cars and bikes whiz by is less than relaxing. Happy to patronize these restaurants, and looking forward to when we can all dine safely inside again.

Besides restaurants, other businesses are struggling to return to normal. My own employer is backing off having people return to the office, at least in NYC. The pandemic is going to have a big impact on companies in a number of ways. For example, there is much talk about preparing for the Great Resignation: 4 ways to be a better boss during the Great Resignation.

Olympics: During the recent Olympics, I expected that this sporting event could be cause of outbreaks. However, this piece argued that  Tokyo has shown the pandemic can be beaten Games health adviser says. That’s good.

Health: One thing that came out of the Olympics was a discussion of taking into account not just physical health but mental health. This lead to articles like this: Why We Need To Normalize Taking Sick Days For Our Mental Health. Speaking of physical health, I agree with this, that  COVID-19 has given us an opportunity to look at weight and what it means to be healthy. Our views of health change from generation to generation, but they should change dramatics because of the pandemic.

Denial: As with climate change, there are people who want to deny it is happening or that it is significant. That never ends well. For example: Oops. Canadian Province That Acted Like COVID Was Over Just Realized It Isn’t. (Yes, that’s Alberta). Some of those same people are using HIPAA as an excuse to not disclose their vaccination status. Those people need to read this: What Is HIPAA? Read This Before You Use HIPAA as an Excuse to Complain About Vaccine Requirements.

My last pandemic comment is this. You might be working from home for awhile, still. If some, here’s some good WFH furniture ideas from Simons. I may be checking it out soon. Regardless of buying new things, you may want to improve the look of your place. If so, check this out: How to curate (just about) anything.

Non pandemic stuff

Climate Change: there is so much news about climate change that I could easily fill the newsletter with references to that. Perhaps I will one day. One thing that stood out for me recently is this news: Hotter than the human body can handle: Pakistan city broils in world’s highest temperatures. The thought of parts of the world being unlivable is terrifying. My belief is that the way to turn it around is massive change on all fronts. So when I read things like this, I get concerned, to say the least: A Bill Gates Venture Aims To Spray Dust Into The Atmosphere To Block The Sun. What Could Go Wrong?. There is no silver bullet for climate change, and anyone who thinks so is wrong.  Climate change is overwhelming, and only overwhelming action on all fronts is going to stabilize and improve things.

Canada: It’s Federal election time in Canada. If you need info on that, go here.  If you need to see the latest polls, go here. I can’t predict what will happen: I expected the Liberals would win in Nova Scotia but the Conservatives ended up on top with a majority.

The US: for a time the President was on a roll in terms of success . His enemies and opponents like Lindsey Graham were struggling to stay relevant. But then he announced that the US was withdrawing from Afghanistan. Since then things have not been going well from him. I suspect over time it will work out for him and the American people. The occupation itself was never going to end well and it was best he declared this early in his presidency.

For some good insight on this, read this piece by Noah Smith: The Afghanistan occupation and the Japan occupation .

Still a thing: NFTs (Russell Simmons launches NFT collection to help pioneers of hip-hop), ransomware (Top 5 ransomware operators by income), and space exploration  (NASA looking for people to spend a year pretending they live on Mars so it can prepare to send astronauts to red planet). Newsletters also still a thing.

Fun: this was a fun thing to read: An Oral History of Adam Sandler Pickup Basketball Legend.

Finally, this is a great time to eat fresh fruit and vegetables. Not only are they enjoyable, it is also a great way to live healthier. So eat as many as you can while you can.

Stay safe. Stay well. Hang in there.

(Photo by Dan-Cristian Pădureț on Unsplash)

July, 2021 pandemic highlights and ramblings (a newsletter, in blog form)

Happy midsummer to you. We are halfway through the summer of 2021 which also means it’s time for my latest blog newsletter.

Pandemic: For some time now, as vaccination was on the rise, the underlying story of the pandemic was “this will soon be over”. Masks were coming off. Indoor dining was on coming back. Travel restrictions were easing.

Now the Delta variant has taken over the story and masks are going back on and cases are on the rise. More on that here. I suspect that for at least the time being, we are still going to be struggling with COVID-19 in its many forms/variants.

Some places are trying to just act like it isn’t happening. For example, Tennessee abandoned vaccine outreach to minors and not just for COVID-19. That bout of madness lasted only a bit of time before the wise folks of that state reversed things. But like the pandemic, that madness is going around. For example,  Alberta is going to try a similar route, ending COVID rules.

Here’s the problem with this, in my opinion: unlike poverty, politicians can’t ignore COVID. If you try and do so, cases rise, hospitals fill up, more people die. People get upset and promise to vote you out. There’s no getting around it. The only way politicians win in that case is when people ignore them and do the right thing. Even then, their poor judgment is going to hurt them come election time.

As for other provinces,  Ontario  is trying to open as fast as it can, but it has a good plan and it seems to be sticking to it. However, daily cases were in the 150/day range and have creeped up to over 200. The plan may not hold.

I’m still hoping Canada is on the way to post-pandemic status. Based on our vaccine rates, it’s possible. But who knows. The pandemic humbles us all.

In other pandemic stories, it’s important to acknowledge that all tragedy did not occur directly because of the disease. In Ontario, more young people died from effects of lockdown than of COVID itself. That story is a good reminder that making choices in a pandemic are never straightforward. The choice of lockdown, while benefiting many, harmed others.

The New York Times has had many a good piece on how the pandemic has affected us. Here’s another: The Year of Purchasing and Purging

Finally, many of you have been forced to work at home during the pandemic. Here’s a silver lining: Introducing a simplified process for claiming the home office expenses for Canadians working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Non-pandemic things :

 Olympics: It is crazy that the Olympics are going on during the pandemic. There is talk that COVID cases count spike as a result. We will see. As for the Olympics themselves, people are tuning them out. I am not surprised. I know why they weren’t cancelled altogher — a lot of money is at stake — but they should have been.

NFTs: Not much to say here. The fact that Coke is getting into the NFT game tells me that either they are becoming more mainstream or they are petering out.

US: In the US we have a tale of two presidents. The former president continues to be in hot water. First off, it looks like he will be forced to turn over tax records. As well, his actions during the attempted coup of January 6th are getting more scrutiny. Good.

Meanwhile this is what amounts to a Biden controversy: people are upset about his choices of ambassadors. That aside, Biden has a good chance that Congress is going to pass his bipartisan Infrastructure bill. That will be a big win for him.

Another big plus for his presidency is that poverty dropped considerably as a result of poverty aid programs. It’s a reminder that poverty and homelessness are a choice we make.

Finally there was the billionaire space race. I wrote about it here.

Ransomware: Continues to be a problem everywhere including Canada. It looks like Biden has expressed his unhappiness with things to Putin. I am not sure if this is a result of that conversation, but some of the people responsible for ransomware suddenly disappeared.

Lastly thanks for reading this! I appreciate it. Go out and enjoy the summer days while you can.

(Photo by Chris Galbraith on Unsplash)

June, 2021 pandemic highlights and ramblings (a newsletter, in blog form)

Wow. It’s the end of June and summer has started. Here’s my latest blog newsletter for you. Short and sweet.

Pandemic:  Canadians continue to ramp up on getting vaccinated. 30% of the population has been fully vaxxed, including yours truly. Well done! I have been impressed by the Federal government procuring the vaccines, as well as the distribution in Toronto. They even had a big event where over 26,000 people were vaccinated in one day at the Skydome/Rogers Center.

Not everything has been awesome. Take the response from the government of Ontario. The Globe has said it has been the worst of all the provincial governments. Hard to disagree with that assessment. Ford has tried to distract others from his performance by trying to shift some of the blame on to Trudeau. That didn’t go far…Trudeau shifted it back onto Ford big time.

While Canadians have generally been good in getting vaccinated, some pockets have been resistant. So governments like that in Manitoba have been offering incentives. Here’s to everyone getting it done this summer!

There has been some positive things to note regarding the pandemic. Crime has plummettedQuarantine rules are changing for the better in Canada. So that’s good.

Businesses are trying to return to normal, but even the best of them, like Starbucks, are having a hard time getting supplies. There is still a labour shortage too. We are not out of the woods in terms of business.

Overall, this has been a tough time. As VOX argues, it has not been a sabbatical.

If you need more on the pandemic, the New York Times has a whole section, here.

Non-pandemic things I noted: NFRs are getting smarter, though there are still lots of nonsense. However at least  this time people like Sotheby’s are tying their value to the artist themselves. That’s a good thing. Another thing I keep an eye on is ransomware. Sadly, it’s getting worse.

In the US, the GOP are still focused on limiting who can vote in the US. They don’t want to change their platforms, they just want to stay in power.
That is obvious as shown here. Meanwhile, Biden seems to have their number, based on this.As for Canada, there has been a lot of focus on indigenous issues and in particular the residential schools. Here’s a good editorial
on it.

Try and go out and enjoy the nice weather while you can. Everything you can do to make the pandemic better is worth doing.

(Photo by Sofia Mejia on Unsplash )

What do you do if you want to keep working from home

While many of us have been forced to work from home during the pandemic, that time may be ending some time this year. Many people will be delighted to go back. If this is not the case for you, then read this article.

That article contains good advice for either finding a new job that is full time remote, or finding a job that can be a hybrid. Either way, if you want to continue to work from home, I recommend you start thinking of how to achieve that now.

(Photo by Collov Home Design on Unsplash )

 

May, 2021 pandemic highlights and ramblings (a newsletter, in blog form)


It’s May, and it’s lovely in Ontario in terms of weather. Alas, the pandemic is still going on, as is my not-a-newsletter of highlights and ramblings for this month. Hope you like it.

Pandemic: Here in Canada we are rushing to get vaccinated. Over 50% of the population has at least 1 dose, and some Canadians have two (I got my second shot of AZ/AstraZeneca today). I am happy to see that the governments all seem to be working better again. The Federal government has been procuring them, the Provincial government has been distributing them, and the City has been setting up spots for people to get them. And get them they have. Kudos to everyone making efforts to get out there and end this.

It’s not to say there are no bumps in the road. Some provinces, like mine, ended up in a panic about whether or not to allow people to get additional AZ vaccines. Eventually Ontario relented and people like me signed up and got their jabs. Still, the experience has left people bitter, as this Doug Coupland piece illustrated.

Canadians don’t need much prompting to get vaccinated. This seems to be true down south for the most part, thought some states like West Virginia are offering savings bonds to encourage vaccination while Detroit was giving out $50 debit cards to ‘Good Neighbors’ to help boost lagging COVID-19 vaccination rate.  I encourage governments using any means at their disposal to get vaccinated. It’s too bad that people just don’t go and get it done. Get it done, people! I am hopeful by this summer most of Canada and the US will be fully open or close to fully open. Indeed the mayor of New York City says his city will be open this July 1. Let’s hope every place is.

Now whether we all go back to work right away is another thing. Outlets like the BBC are arguing the future of work will be hybrid. We shall see.

Since the pandemic is still ongoing,  you need ways to cope. One way people are coping is managing their time on Zoom and WebEx calls. Techies have even been inventing devices to hang them up. Another way people have managed is by developing routines. That’s been healthy. Or getting back to exercising. A less healthy way has been drinking too much. If that is you, you might benefit on reading this piece on ways to cut back. But back to healthy, a good way to help yourself is to get out from time to time. I hope to take advantage of Toronto’s outdoor cafes once they are open.

Finally, in case you haven’t read the best restaurant review of the pandemic…now you can.

US : it’s been weird to watch what is happening in the United States. On one hand, you have the Democrats working to deal with the pandemic and the effect it has had on the American people. On the other hand, you have Republicans working hard in places like Texas and many other places to restrict the vote of people for the next election. Not only that, but Republicans are also working to prevent any examination into the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6th.

Here’s hoping for the United States to become a better democracy, not a worse one.

Meanwhile in Canada, we need to do better in many ways, starting with one that is fundamental to me: making sure everyone has access to clean water. I can’t believe I even have to say this.

Non-pandemic things: No new news on newsletters. They are still a Thing…just not as newsworthy. Good.

NFTs are still newsworthy.  For example, this piece is a good way to just see how weird and wild they are:

I still don’t think they make any sense, but I have been proven wrong on such things before.

A year ago: Last May we saw the “cancellation” of Alison Roman. Since then she pivoted to making her own newsletter and a YouTube video channel with over 100K viewers. She seems to have landed ok. Speaking of food, I wrote last May that people were already tired of making their own food. Ha! Still at it a year later.  For more on how the pandemic looked last year, here’s the newsletter I wrote then.

Finally:

Over a year ago we were all struggling to get masks and learn how to wear them properly. Now they are as common as shoes. Here’s a throw back to mask wearing tips from the City of Toronto.

Thanks for reading this! I appreciate it. Here’s hoping for a pandemic ending everywhere and soon.

 

April 2021 pandemic highlights and ramblings (a newsletter, in blog form)

The pandemic is still going on and so is this! Here’s my latest not-a-newsletter of highlights and ramblings and thingamabobs for this April.

Pandemic:The pandemic is a story of extremes this month. Some countries, like the US and the UK and Israel, are seemingly coming to the end of it. Meanwhile countries like India are burning up with cases and death. It’s terrible to see. For countries like the US and UK, being able to produce their own vaccines made a big difference. But it wasn’t the only difference (Ahem, going from Trump to Biden). For a deeper dive on just one country, here’s a good piece on how Israel was so successful

In Canada we model the world in some ways. For parts of Canada life is relatively normal and aims to stay that way. (I’m look at you up North and out East.) Then there is Ontario, where I am, which seems to have suffered a collapse in provincial leadership. The provincial government recently issued edicts to the province, only to have everyone from the police to the public health units to the people either ignore it or rally against it. Some newspapers are saying that’s the end for the premier.

I have some sympathy for the government’s plight. On one hand you have  hospitals halting non-emergency surgeries as COVID-19 patients fill ICUs, which is terrifying. On the other hand, you have businesses everywhere saying that they’re at risk of losing everything and need help. What you need is strong leadership at this point, but as the Globe and many other argued, we aren’t getting it. We have a panicked leadership seemingly refusing to do anything other than hope for the vaccines to rescue them for their inability to do more.

I’m too discouraged to say more. I’ll let the Toronto Star have the last word:  A 278-word timeline of Ontario’s COVID-19 response | The Star

Individually, the New York Times says we have all hit the wall and we are languishing. I agree. Some of us are getting vaccines, but the unequal distribution can make us feel guilty. Lots of difficult feeling to deal with. We just have to take breaks when we can and forge on.

Meanwhile for something completely different, pandemic-wise, check out this: Honeywell and rapper Will.i.am just debuted a futuristic face-mask with built-in wireless earphones at Yanko Design.

 Newsletters:last month I said newsletters are “still a thing”. What an understatement. If anything, they are now a Big Thing. So big that the New York Times is getting ready to go toe to toe with Substack.

It makes sense. There are likely some writers at the Times looking at Matt Yglesias and others generating close to a million in annual revenue and thinking: I want some of that. Money changes everything, and the amount of money newsletters are generating tells me that we are going to be talking about them for some time.

US : I am glad of two things in the United States. One, we no longer have to hear about the last president any more. (Although some writers still can’t give him up: he’s like an addiction they can’t quit). Two, they have a president who seems to be in a hurry. Awhile ago Vox argued Joe Biden should do everything at once. It looks like he has decided to do that. Besides Vox, two good pieces on Biden that helped me understand him better were this, Bidenomics, explained – Noahpinion,  and this, the radicalism of Joe Biden.

Other interesting things: I am looking to purge my basement and other rooms of things, so I found this piece on how to let go of any possession good. Post-pandemic, we are all likely going to want to live with less.

IKEA came out with this fascinating cookbook: IKEA ScrapsBook – Zero-Waste Recipes & Ideas – IKEA CA. Worth a look.

In the next few decades, I predict many brutalist buildings will be destroyed. Once I may have cheered this, but I have come around to appreciating them more. Articles like this helped.

Poor Orlando Bloom. He gave an interview on what his day in Los Angeles looked like and was widely mocked and ridiculed for it. I had to laugh as well. Then I came across this piece: California dreamin’ with Orlando Bloom, and other tales of only-in-L.A. obliviousness. It helps explain Mr. Bloom and L.A. in general. Worth reading!

Libertarians have been taking a beating during this pandemic. Understandably. Still, they make a good case for why libertarian principles are still useful during this time here.

Finally: I came across this site which I love: All the Restaurants in New York. It reminded me of the work of the late great Jason Polan, and his attempt to draw every person in New York. This gives me a chance to share some links I have of the beloved artist, including this piece in the New Yorker about his Taco Bell Drawing Club. The New York Times also has a piece on it. Finally here are two other sites showing their appreciation for him: ghostly.com and 20×200.com

 

May we all get through this pandemic soon and gather in large crowds again and be with everyone in New York and every place else as well. RIP, Jason. (Image via the NYT’s piece).

March 2021 pandemic highlights and ramblings (a newsletter, in blog form)

Yikes! It’s April 1st so I am a day late (and a dollar short?) on sending out my latest not-a-newsletter of highlights and ramblings since the one a month ago.Here’s a few things I’ve found noteworthy in March to share with you:

Pandemic:Right now the pandemic has been about the next wave (sadly) and vaccines (happily). It’s been a real roller coaster when it has come to vaccines. But with all the ups and downs, more and more vaccines have been distributed, thank heavens. The latest medical miracle is from Johnson & Johnson. This piece talks about how they work which I thought helpful. Also helpful is this piece from the site Our World in Data, which has some great stats on how vaccinations worldwide are doing. It gives me hope.

Locally, here’s how Ontario is doing: Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccination plan. Not bad, but not great. Somewhere through the pandemic the Ontario provincial government reverted to the idea that somehow being frugal during a catastrophe is a good idea. So we got things like this: Ontario rejected proposals to protect LTC residents, deeming them ‘too expensive’: documents, according to CBC News. Being conservative with water is a good idea, except when your house is on fire, but that looks to be the approach of the current Ford government. His team is not the only group coming up short. Toronto is struggling with a homelessness problem, and has lead to bad situations like this crackdown on tiny shelters. Meanwhile vaccine portals everywhere are failing. We all hoped for better. Meanwhile we all slog along. It’s tough.

A year into the pandemic, the effect on people is significant. Even people who have the luxury of working from home are struggling.  Artists in particular are having a hard time getting by, based on this really good piece in the New York Times on how 75 Artists On How They Spent a Year in Coronavirus . Even those who have been productive in the pandemic, like the famed art duo Gilbert and George, acknowledge that “this is an enormously sad time’ . So if you feel down on yourself, it’s understandable. But not hopeless, as this writer/runner shows. You may have given up on things, but you can start again.

Looking back, we were so cautiously optimistic at the beginning of the pandemic, making food and doing crafts. I was  using sites like this and also this to make zines. Others made chapbooks. And of course we all cooked a ton. Here’s an almost nostalgic run down of all the pandemic food trends, from Dalgona coffee to banana bread.

Post-pandemic: While the pandemic still rages on, with the rollout of vaccines, we are already looking forward to what the world is going to be like afterwards. For example, will vaccine passports be a thing? Will services discriminate based on that, as this piece discusses: Should Only Vaccinated People Be Allowed to Use the Gym?. Will our work places change? Will they feature things like this?

One thing I am afraid will happen is people will start arguing that all the sacrifices made and all the money spent wasn’t worth it. That we were duped. You can see the gaslighting already starting here: The Lockdowns Weren’t Worth It – WSJ. The thing to note in that piece is the total disregard for those who died and those who became sick. There is no accounting in it for deaths and illnesses that could have been avoided. Be on the lookout for that.

Meanwhile, if you are preparing to travel post pandemic, this is a good guide on how to visit New York City on a budget . And here’s a fun guide on how to go to concerts when you’re middle-aged because let’s face it you are going to want to do it all.

 Newsletters: still a thing. We’ve gotten to the point where they are so successful that there are debates about who is making money and what should be done about it. To see what I mean, read this: Why Substack writers are mad about money Substack is paying out – Vox.

US : I came across this article years ago concerning the Obama Administration:
Barack Obama is officially one of the most consequential presidents in American history – Vox. Funny enough, I think the Biden Administration took it as a challenge! They seem to be trying to outpace not even Obama but LBJ or FDR. It’s early days, but there is a sense Biden’s team will make great changes to the social contract in the US. Perhaps more and more people in America will be able to agree with Wallace Shawn in this essay he wrote: Why I Call Myself a Socialist.

Finally: if you can barely manage to make anything food wise these days, I recommend you read this: THE MINIMALIST; Three-Way Pasta – The New York Times. It’s a classic from Mark Bittman. I usually try to have a pasta dinner once a week. With that in hand, I have ¾ of the month covered in terms of what to make.

If you find working from home stressful, this might be helpful. How lo-fi artists make music perfect for work. (Or studying. Or chilling.) 

Perhaps in 2022 more of us will be working in fancy schmantzy sheds like the one below:

I for one would not mind. 🙂

(Image via that piece on how our workplaces will change in Yanko Design)

Are you eating oddly during the pandemic? Of course you are!

baby in a cake

I have been eating oddly during the pandemic compared to how I used to eat in the Before Times. Some days I will skip breakfast: other days I’ll have two! Or I’ll have dinner at 4 and then a snack at 10. I bet something similar  happening to you.

Well good news! As this article shows, everyone is going through the same thing: Your Weird Pandemic Meals Are Probably Fine – The Atlantic.

If you have maintained a consistent way of eating the whole time, that’s fine too. But if you are a bit weirded out by how you eat these days, read that article and you should feel better.

(Photo by Henley Design Studio on Unsplash)

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

Hi there! Thanks for taking the time to read my latest  not-a-newsletter of highlights and ramblings since the one in January. (Well, it was off January, but it was out in February because of a slow start).

Pandemic: It’s been a year now since I last started writing these newsletters at beginning of the pandemic. Last February I was still going to restaurants, still going to gym, still socializing with people and working in an office. No doubt you were doing that too.

I was going over links from earlier in the pandemic, and it was interesting to see how things evolved. When the pandemic first hit, people were recommending we read The Plague, by Albert Camus to get a sense of reference. That’s something we no longer need after a year. (Still a great book, though read it for other reasons). Back at the end of last March, some were asking if the measures taken were worst than the disease. I doubt anyone is asking that now. A big thing back then was making sure you washed your hands thoroughly.Some hackers even proposed a DIY Hand Washing Timer. Now we wear double masks. In the fall, someone wrote that it was fine the virus was mutating. That’s no longer true.

We in Canada and other rich countries are now at the beginning of the end (I hope). I am keeping an eye on Ontario’s latest vaccine update and will go when the time is right. Meanwhile we have to get through it somehow, even if this winter is going to seem hard. I wish I had the gumption to
walk 20,000 Steps a Day like this person: some days I barely do 1000. I watch the case counts go up and down. I don’t think anyone knows why. I’ve lost faith in many Canadian leaders, especially when they do things like this or this. Mostly the premiers are trying to get to the finish line somehow, so they keep doing this because the alternative is too expensive, I feel. Even cooking has been affected by the pandemic, with butter no longer being as good as it used to be. Ah well, I need to lose The the ‘Quarantine 15’ anyway.

One silver lining is that the flu seems to have been all but wiped out this year, according to this. I hope that becomes an annual thing after the pandemic is over.

Things I used to write about: I used to ramble often on the U.S., newsletters and restaurants. I no longer feel the need to so. The Biden administration is more than competent, and it’s almost like Trump no longer was president. The sooner he fades away, the better. Restaurants have not faded away, but they have definitely faded. Happily most are hanging in. I remain cautiously optimistic. Newsletters have done anything but fade: they are bigger than ever.

New things: Clubhouse seems to be the next new social media thing. If you haven’t received an invite, chances soon you will. Like podcasts, Tiktok and other new social media, there will be a rush to it at first, and there will be some people who suddenly become famous as a result. It looks promising, and it likely will be a big new platform. At least as long as the pandemic is underway. One thing to point out, though, is there are concerns with how secure and private it is. Keep that in mind.

Another new thing I like that isn’t new at all: Jacques Pepin. I love watching his videos on Instagram. He’s on YouTube too. Here he is making an egg. I have more to write on him in the days ahead.

Fun things: for a hot minute after the Inauguration there were all these memes of Bernie Sanders dressed up with mittens and placed in all these unlikely settings. Someone even wrote a bit of software to let you do it yourself! You can find it here.

Instagram and Facebook: I deleted my Facebook account years ago, after my Dad died. I didn’t like Facebook the company: they have been an abuser of people privacy since the early days, and they continue to be morally shoddy. Once both my parents were gone, I no longer felt the need to be on that platform in any way.

Meanwhile I’ve been trying to pretend Instagram is different, even though Facebook owns them. Based on how the service is changing and becoming more and more like its owner, I am having a hard time keeping up the illusion.

I am still hesitant to delete my Instagram account. I like the people who post on there, and I’d miss them if I left. I am still there, but I archived my posts from almost a decade. It took a long time, to be honest; that may be a design feature of Instagram. It may be easier to delete your account.

If you do want to delete your account, here’s a piece on how you can backup your photos first.

Good things: finally here’s some good things I’ve read about recently, including this story about a guy who goes on walks and picks up garbage. Here’s some coffee scented candles to pick up your day. If you are feeling like you need to have a good moment right now, read this.

Until the next newsletter, let’s keep each other safe by doing what this illustration says.

pandemic advice

On preparing for a post-pandemic world

Theatre sign saying the world is temporarily closed

If you are in business, you need to start thinking today about how everything will change after the pandemic. If you need help, review this piece in HBR: Preparing Your Business for a Post-Pandemic World

If you are not responsible for a business, it could still benefit you to read it. I see plenty of people fantasizing about what they might do after the pandemic. Why not go further and start planning to do it? If you are thinking of moving after the pandemic, what will that take? If you are planning on travelling, what do you need to have in place to make that happen?

The pandemic will end. Not soon enough, but sooner than you are prepared for. Get started on that today. The world is only temporarily closed.

(Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash)

End of university watch

classroom

It’s tempting to think that colleges and universities will start to see a major decline as a result of the pandemic. I think they will take a hit as a result of it, but I don’t think their demise is anywhere near. As this piece argues, people will take great lengths to take part in post-secondary educational experiences, pandemic or not: Why Did Colleges Reopen During the Pandemic? – The Atlantic

More than ever, the pandemic has made clear that major changes are required for post secondary education. Even before the pandemic, too many people waste their time and money going to university just so they can get a job. That’s wrong, but many employers demanded it. Fortunately, that is changing, as this piece shows:  14 companies that no longer require employees to have a college degree

Going to university is a good experience. Ideally I think university programs should split bachelor programs into 2. After two years, students could get some form of completion certificate. From there, they could go on to two more years of university study and complete their bachelor program, or they could switch to a vocational school and get something applied. (Or skip university all together.)

University isn’t for everyone. It should definitely not be something you need to start a job. A vocational school is fine for that. Indeed, most workplaces train people on the job once they hire them. Why wait for people to study something irrelevant to your profession?

P.S. Employers need radical rethinking of how they hire people. To see what I mean by radical, read this: This Company Hired Anyone Who Applied. Now It’s Starting a Movement.

(Photo by Changbok Ko on Unsplash)

January pandemic highlights and ramblings (a newsletter, in blog form, a month late)

Hey! How has your new year been? Mine has not started great: January was both tough and busy. I kept trying to get to this, but somehow never had the energy or the focus to write it. Now I have found both. Thanks for dropping by and reading this, my latest not-a-newsletter of highlights and ramblings since the last one in December.

Pandemic: we are now in the phase of the pandemic where we are being told in Canada to hurry up and wait concerning the vaccines. It’s been slow to get them, and slow to deliver them. The rate of progress has been discouraging. To make it worse, more variants of the COVID-19 virus have appeared, variants that spread more rapidly. I feel like someone on the Titanic waiting for my turn on a lifeboat while the ship takes on more water. And I am lucky to be able to stay at home and stay healthy. Meanwhile doctors are hospitals are overwhelmed and hanging on. Barely.

Vox took time to try and figure out why Covid-19 beat social distancing, lockdowns, and “flatten the curve”. Reading that could give you some consolation.

Of course, everyone had their monocausal explanations for why we are still struggling with the pandemic. The premier of Ontario brought in another lockdown because he said people are traveling too much. That’s one explanation, but not the only one.

In the early part of the pandemic I felt governments were strong on taking actions. They were like sprinters at the start of a marathon. Then things petered out. For example, the Federal government funded a Toronto COVID-19 isolation hotel. They pumped big money into the economy. Provinces like Ontario provided pandemic pay for frontline workers fighting COVID-19. But I never felt like they tried as hard recently as they did initially.

That’s not to say it is easy and they aren’t trying. This piece explains why
it’s so hard to ramp up Ontario’s COVID-19 testing. Yet it still seems like things are half hearted these days.

It’s not all grim, though much is. We have adopted. Sweatpants for instance :). And we are trying to maintain some form of work-life balance, but as my head boss says,  achieving healthy work-life balance in a hybrid work environment ‘remains to be seen’. Some of us are making unique friends (Riding Out Quarantine With a Chatbot Friend: ‘I Feel Very Connected’).  Some people tried to get out of their old pandemic habits and live better by taking on a Dry January. Others have taken up unusual self help books, such as this: A working from home manual in disguise.

I believe by the end of 2021 we will have put this pandemic behind us. Perhaps we will see a Roaring Twenties to match those of a century ago. Let’s hope, and for those who pray, let’s pray. Most importantly, let’s get vaccinated. If you want to know more about vaccines  in Canada, go here. More on that here.

Last word on this subject. If you want to know how others are getting through the pandemic, this is good: The Pandemic Logs in The New York Times.

The US: finally, after much nonsense, the worst president the United States ever had left the White House. What a long terrible four years it has been for America and the world with him nominally in charge. Whatever else the new president does, the fact that he is at least competent and not corrupt will be good for that country. I am hopeful for America, and my American friends, and I am looking forward to things getting better for them in the years to come.

Restaurants: I was drawn to this piece that Bon Appetit did some time ago on the best restaurants in Toronto . I wonder how many will still be around when all this is over. Some of them have taken to becoming takeout places, like this Michelin-starred restaurant, but many have not. Even for those that did, it might not be enough to get through to the other side of the pandemic.

Gamestop: It has a bizarre time in the world of finance as several forces came together to drive stocks like Gamestock into the stratosphere, only to crash down again. In some ways, it was a bit of a mystery to me. Just when I thought I understood the story, so me new fact would come along. There was a number of good pieces on it. This one, for example: The GameStop Reckoning Was a Long Time Coming

Jeff Bezos and Amazon:  Jeff Bezos has left Amazon. No doubt he was not looking forward to more grilling from the government into his monopolistic practices. I don’t have much to say about him, other than he did  not seem to be a person you want to work for. Here’s hoping Amazon becomes a better place with the new CEO. Meanwhile here’s some markers on the man who ran that company. Like Larry Ellison and unlike Steve Jobs, I doubt he will be missed:

Quantity over quality : there is a great book called Art and Fear which gives lessons on making art. One of my favorite parts of it has to do with how a ceramics class was split into two: one group were given the task of making many vases (quantity) and another group of making one vase (quality). The first group would pit their best vase against the second group. In the story, the first group wins. The lesson: quantity beats quality. I love that story.

Sadly, the story isn’t entirely true. The details on that are here: The Credibility Is in the Details.

Recent blog highlights: here are some things I blogged about in January that I thought were worth reading:

Finally: here is an interactive web site where you can be a cat playing the bongos. Worthwhile! 🙂

And don’t forget…

Good news is coming. Meanwhile, thanks as always for taking the time to read this newsletter, and other things on this blog. I appreciate it.

 

If you need help in designing a simple(r) life….

…you can find it  here at this site:  No Sidebar – Design a Simple Life

The clutter in my house has seemed more oppressive since the pandemic. Maybe you have the same experience. If so, sites like that can help.

(Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash)

 

The pandemic isn’t over and neither is working from home. Why are you working like before times?


Until recently, I was working like I always did: get up, get coffee, start work around 9 and finish work around 5 while sitting in the same place for the whole time. Then I read this:Working From Bed Is Actually Great – The New York Times.

After reading it, I thought: why am I working like I used to? Why not take advantage of being at home to work better? For example, last week I was working on a hard problem and I was sitting at my desk and getting nowhere. I decided to go out for a walk. After about 20 minutes of walking the solution came to me. I went home and wrote it up!

Likewise I have weights next to my desk now. When I get stuck I get up an do a microworkout. Other times I will take a break and do a drawing. Or stretch. Anything to get my brain going.

Consider shaking up your own work routine. I know for some people, that’s impossible. End of story. But if it is not impossible, try doing what I did. Or work from a different part of the house. Even the bed.

We are going to be working from home for some time. Let’s make the most of it.

(Photo by Avi Richards on Unsplash)

 

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)

 

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)

It’s the second week of January. You’ve broken your resolutions. Here’s some better ones for a pandemic


You’ve made resolutions to improve and already you’ve broken some of them. I get it: it’s hard to keep resolutions at the best of times, never mind during a pandemic.  It’s worse if you were hoping those resolutions were what you were going to get you through the rest of the pandemic. You may feel adrift.

Fortunately help is at hand. Here is a good article that will provide you with some gentle resolutions and how you can keep them: I teach a course on happiness at Yale: this is how to make the most of your resolutions | Health & wellbeing | The Guardian.

In a nutshell, be more compassionate with yourself. By doing that, over time you may find you build up enough inner resources to go back and tackle those failed resolutions. Did I say failed? I meant, paused resolutions. 🙂

(Photo by Tim Mossholder 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)

If you are spending Christmas alone this year….

If you are spending Christmas alone this year and  you find the thought of it difficult (and why not?) then you might find this helpful: The Best Ways to Spend the Holidays Alone, From Someone Who Does It Every Year.

Some good tips there, pandemic or no pandemic.

Happy Christmas, wherever you are, and with whomever you are spending it with.

 

It’s Christmas. Expectations can be high. This can help.

It’s Christmastime: expectations can be high, and sometimes unachievable.  This is especially true during this pandemic. If you are struggling to feel good during this time, here are two articles that can help:

Learn How to Appreciate What You Already Have 

How to Be Happy.

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Non-pandemic items:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And for those celebrating it:

How to go skating in Toronto in the pandemic

Liisa Ladouceur (shown above) has written a thorough guide for anyone who wants to go skating in Toronto during the pandemic. No, you cannot just show up with your blades and start skating. You need to do more. And you should do more, because skating is a great way to enjoy winter in the pandemic era. So read this: Where to go skating in Toronto in 2020 by Liisa Wanders. Then get out there! Maybe I will see you at a socially safe distance with a fun mask on too.

On the COVID fee and the airlinerization of your bill


If you are concerned about the cost of things, then you should know about this: The COVID fee, or why many services could cost you more as Toronto reopens for business | CBC News.

I get the COVID fee. It makes sense for businesses dealing with the cost of the pandemic. But it got me thinking about how we might start seeing the airlinerization of bills.

I thought of that concept when I started to get food from Uber Eats. On top of the cost of the meals is 3 or 4 fees, not including tips. Now with the COVID fee we may start seeing other service companies stacking additional costs onto the initial cost.

This reminds me of the airline industry. To compete, the fares for flights are stripped of costs. Then after you are about to pay, you find out the true cost of things. Again, I get it. It makes sense. It makes me wary of using a service that does this.

It may seem good for businesses to charge several additional fees. The listed cost seems low and attracts customers. It’s only when you get the bill do you see what you are truly paying. In my case yesterday I didn’t even see the COVID fee until I got home. The tip is added as a percentage on top of all the fees as well. My expected costs and my actual costs were wildly out of sync. This did not leave me with a good feeling for the place I just visited. I feel they need to be more transparent with this. (It is not listed on their website or on the Square terminal when I paid).

If the cost is not a concern for you, then feel free to ignore it. But for many people buying goods and services in the pandemic, caveat emptor.

(Photo by CardMapr on Unsplash)

I hope Americans still on the fence about travelling for Thanksgiving read this


I understand the importance of Thanksgiving in the US. It’s a big deal, and a big part of that is coming together. But coming together might mean spreading COVID-19, not just with the people you visit, but others after the visit.

Because of that, I hope you will stay in your respective dwellings and take advantage of this offer from Zoom: Thanksgiving on Zoom: Your family get-together can surpass 40 minutes.

Normally if you have a free Zoom account, you are limited to how long your online session can last. Happily, Zoom is waiving that for this year. It’s a great offer: you should jump on it.

I hope people will meet up virtually in the US this Thanksgiving. It will make a world of difference.

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:

 

On how care leads to love and how it relates to having more by having less

I have been thinking of this post by Austin Kleon, how caring for something leads us to love it, which leads us to care for it more. I think this is true. It’s a virtuous circle.

I have found this myself during the pandemic, when I purchased house plants with the expectation that they wouldn’t live long. I was wrong: because I was around them more, it was easier to care for them, and because I cared for them, they have thrived, and I loved them more and have cared for them more. Now I have more plants than I ever did before.

It’s tempting to try to stretch this virtuous circle, and you can, to a point. The limiting factor is your ability to pay attention and the needs of the things you are caring for. If you have something or someone that requires much attention and care, you can’t have multiples of those things without exhausting yourself. You need to strike a balance.

To strike that balance, you need the right level of things to care for. Chances are, you have too many things that requires your care. I think you and I need to find the right level and pare down the rest.  Give those things to people who need things to care for. By doing so, you end up caring for and loving yourself. You are the root of all this love and care you are providing. Take care of the root, and the love and care you have for other things and beings can branch out and spread.

P.S. If you are having a hard time paring down, take the advice of either Marie Kondo (keep only things that spark joy) or William Morris (see below)

(Imagine via mylightbag.wordpress.com)

On turning an old Windows laptop into a Chromebook for my son’s virtual school

For my son’s virtual classroom, most of his work is being done using Google’s cloud services. I’ve decided to take an old T420 laptop that was in the basement and turn it into a Chromebook for him to use. So far it’s going ok.

If you are interested in doing something similar, I found this article on PC World very detailed and good for all skill levels. (I’ve read a half dozen pieces and the ones I reviewed all pretty much said the same things.) All you will need is an old PC (or maybe an old Mac), a 16 GB USB stick, and some patience. 🙂

I haven’t wiped the Windows OS yet: I booted up the 420 and told it to load the OS from the USB stick. (This part will differ from machine to machine.) With the 420 it’s easy: just hold down the blue button on top of the keyboard and let it go into setup mode and then follow the prompts.

I can’t say that the user experience is fast. It’s….not terrible. Still slow. But once things come up, it should be good.

More from me as new results come in.

Oct 19: so far so good with the Chromebooks. I ended up wiping the old OS and installing the ChromeOS on the disk drive. One odd thing: there is no notification that the installation is complete. So I recommend you start it, leave it for 30 minutes or so, then reboot the laptop. It should come up with the new OS.

One nice thing about it is that my son has Chrome settings (e.g. bookmarks) specific to his Gmail account. So when he logs into the Chromebook, I can set up the bookmarks specifically for his e-learning (e.g., I have links to all his courses on the bookmark).

The other thing I like about converting old laptops into Chromebooks is that the screen and keyboard is often better than most Chromebooks. For example, I turned a T450 into a Chromebook and I love typing on it.

Finally, old laptops are relatively cheap. You can get T420 for under $300, and T450s for around $350, which is cheaper than many (though not all Chromebooks). Better still, I bet many people have an old PC lying around doing nothing. Make it into a Chromebook and give it to someone who could use it.

Dec 28: It looks like Google bought the company that made the software I used. I am not sure what this means, but one thing it could means is that Google shuts it down. If you were thinking of doing this, best do it sooner than later.

 

 

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.

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)

Do you need to generate a QR code? Here’s a tool to do that

This web site will generate a range of QR codes for you, and has some nice bells and whistles, too. For example, here’s mine:

With the pandemic, QR codes are becoming essential for any contactless transactions. Get yours there.

 

PPE for the .01%: the Louis Vuitton Monogram Face Shield

If you have more money than you know what to do with, by all means, get your own Louis Vuitton Monogram Face Shield. Details here.

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.

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.

What will happen if students at Ontario schools get infected with COVID-19?

I am sure many parent in Ontario are wondering what will happen if students at Ontario schools get infected with COVID-19. I know I am wondering. Worried too. The best thing to help deal with worry is to get some practical information.

You can get some of that, here. That  link to a BlogTO post has a good summary of what will happen, as well as links out to other sites with more detailed information.

No one knows for sure what will happen. But reading that will give you a better sense of what may happen.

 

 

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How the hotel industry is changing in light of the pandemic

The hotel business is changing in order to survive the pandemic. If you haven’t been to a hotel recently but plan to be, you should read this: What to expect from a hotel stay this summer – The Globe and Mail.

It says “summer” but really I expect this to be going on for some time to come.

(Image by Marten Bjork)

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How has New Zealand managed to go 100 days with no coronavirus community spread?

By having very strict controls.

This piece, New Zealand goes 100 days with no coronavirus community spread – Axios), shows just how strict they are:

By the numbers: New Zealand has 23 active coronavirus cases, all NZ residents newly returned from abroad in managed isolation facilities.

Of note: The border remains closed to non-residents and all newly returned Kiwis must undergo a two-week isolation program managed by the country’s defense force, which sees all travelers tested three times before they leave.

Police are stationed outside hotels where travelers are in quarantine. Officers have taken prosecutorial action against several returned travelers who’ve breached these rules by fleeing the facilities under the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act.

So good for New Zealand for doing this. But I wish people wouldn’t say New Zealand has beaten the coronavirus. What they have done is control it better than anyone.

Image by Adam Nieścioruk