Blog Archives

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On David McMillan’s Love Letter to Toronto

David McMillan, who is responsible for some of the great restaurants in Montreal, wrote this love letter to Toronto and it’s restaurants a few years ago. It’s wonderful. Reading it over again, it has a bittersweetness as I read the names of some of the wonderful Toronto food establishments he mentions. I wonder if many of them will still exist after this pandemic. I want to hope that most will and I want to hope that the Toronto food scene will still be great. Just like I want the Montreal food scene to recover and thrive. I will say a prayer that both those things come true.

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Some random thoughts on bullet journals


There’s merit to be had in having a bullet journal. It lets you capture the things you have to do and track and quickly capture them. If this appeals to you and you want to learn more, I found this use helpful:  Learn – Bullet Journal

That used to be my impression of how they worked, and they looked very minimal.

It seems though that bullet journals have transformed into these amazingly detailed books filled with calligraphy and they started to look like this:

Now there is nothing bad about that, and for some that is an impressive way of capturing information. But as the person who made that wrote, it may not be the best way to be productive, and she switched to a simpler mode of documentation.

I can’t say which is the better way of doing things: it’s a personal preference in my opinion.

I do want to say that there is this person who has come up with a smart way to visually represent the things she has to do. For example, here’s her todo list for decluttering her house. It’s a much better visual representation of what she has to do.

Likewise this is a smart way to plan a big meal:

If I were to do a bullet journal, I think I’d stick with the minimal approach. But even that is a lot of work. Perhaps if I were more artistically inclined I’d go with the more graphic approach.

Like I said, random thoughts.

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If you are struggling with your iPhone because of the pandemic…

Then you need to upgrade your phone. Why? This:  Apple rolls out iOS 13.5 with COVID-19 features | Engadget

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Something beautiful to look at: Copenhagen’s Grundtvig’s Church

You can see many more pictures of it here, at Colossal.

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The story behind JFK’s official presidential portrait


I’ve always loved and admired  JFK’s Official White House Portrait. I found it intriguing, too. After reading the “Story of Aaron Shikler’s Posthumous Painting of John F. Kennedy”, I found it even more so.  Fans of the work or JFK will want to read that piece.

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Why running may help your brain

Based on this older study (For Your Brain’s Sake, Keep Moving – The New York Times), it seems like running helps the brain grow better. It’s a good read. It may also explain, at least in part, why people’s brains are not doing so great lately with the lockdown due to the pandemic.

We rightly attribute running to helping our muscles and our cardiovascular system. It seems to help our nervous system as well. Try to get out and move if you can.

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You need more than a room of your own. Virginia Woolf said so herself

As Austin Kleon highlights in this post:

It is curious to me how often, when people quote Woolf, they quote the room part and leave out the money part — especially when you consider that money buys you both the time and the space

I’m not sure why people leave that out, but it’s an essential part of the freedom required to create fiction or any other artistic endeavour. The money frees you from the basic needs, just like the room gives you the social freedom you need. You can still create art if you are weighed down by poverty and responsibilities, but it’s harder.

I recommend that post by Kleon, and Kleon’s blog in general.

 

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If you are feeling blah, set up an inspiration board

For some people, the first response is going to be: “great idea, but I need some bootstrap inspiration”.  Totally understandable response. So here are seven boards to get you going on making your own: Peek at the Inspiration Boards of These 7 Female Designers

If you first response was something the opposite of “great idea”, then all I would say is try to find 3 or 4 items that represent things you value and have them in a space that you can see often. Maybe they are awards, or pictures of people you love, or items from trips you’ve been on. A cluster of things to remind you of what you have and what you accomplished. They may sit on a shelf instead of a board, but they will inspire you nonetheless. Whatever works.

One thing I would recommend is set the board up so you can change it often. I find if the board is inflexible, you end up not seeing it any more. If you have a dozen images or items you want to post, perhaps post a fraction of them, then switch them around with the unposted ones. It will keep it fresh that way.

It is a slog being locked down during this pandemic. Anything that lifts your spirits help. Inspiration boards can be one of those things. Make yours today.

 

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How to get started reading the classics


Well this advice is fraught with assumptions, but if you are hankering to read the classics and have an open idea of what “the classics” are, I recommend this:  So you want to read classic books during the coronavirus pandemic – Vox

Basically, there are quite a number of books that are considered classic, but not all classics are approachable. You might pick up one in anticipation, get stuck, and abandon the idea of ever reading such books. To prevent that from happening, read the advice given in Vox. Start slow, and go from there.

Finally, there has always been a debate over what consists of the classics. Many of them will not appeal to you. And other books not considered “Classic” by many might just be old enough for you to fill your appetite for something you consider classic. (e.g. A fan of science fiction might consider Jules Verne classic. ) I consider it good to read from different times: it gives you a better appreciation of your own time, among other reasons. So put down those contemporary writings and go find your own classics to read and love.

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Tired of cooking during the pandemic? Here’s some ideas to keep you going

Me too. I go through waves of wanting to cook things fancy, and other days when a sandwich is all I got in me to make. If this is you too, but you want more than a sandwich, consider this:  The No-Brainer Meals Chefs Make When They’re Too Tired to Cook

That piece has tried and true meals that can fill you up and satisfy you without having to put a lot of thought in them. One of my favorites on the list is fried rice. A great way to use up ingredients at hand, and it always tastes great for something requiring minimal effort.

Sure there is take out, and that’s fine. And perhaps one day soon we can sit in restaurants again. But if you are stuck with having to making something, consider the somethings in that list of meals.

(Photo by Ali Cayne.)

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On the Silver Palate Cookbook

I started thinking about the Silver Palate cookbook again after reading this piece in Bon Appetit:How the Silver Palate Cookbook Changed Our Cooking

It’s funny to read the staff of Bon Appetit talk about this as their parent’s cookbook. To me the tone is nostalgic. Perhaps they believe it is dated. Like any decades old cookbook, it is dated in a way. There’s lots of things in there that was novel and daring at the time but now are passe, and ingredients which are now commonplace were once hard to find.

But there is much about the book that is still great. The layout and design, for one thing. And some recipes stand the test of time and became classics. It’s so much more than a collection of recipes.

In some ways, publications like Bon Appetit are the same. Many of the things I’ve said about that cookbook will apply to Bon Appetit over time.  And like the Silver Palate cookbook, I believe people will look back on Bon Appetit in this era the way the folks at BA look back at this kitchen classic.

If you haven’t read the Silver Palate cookbook in some time (or ever), you can read (at least some of) it online.

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Friday night cocktails: the Bronx

What is a Bronx cocktail? David Lebovitz explains:

Not as famous as its “other borough” cousin, the Manhattan, the Bronx is a fruitier, lighter alternative to the rough-and-tumbler whiskey-based cocktail. However one sip and you may find yourself visiting the Bronx a little more often!

I’ve had one recently and it’s delicious. Get your ingredient list, here: Bronx Cocktail – David Lebovitz Bronx Cocktail recipe.

 

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Don’t Want to Pay for Art School? Here’s how you can get similar benefits from home

Before the pandemic, I would not have taken this too seriously. But with everyone studying from home, I am taking it a bit more seriously.  And even without the pandemic, there are benefits to this approach. So if you want to get some of the benefits of going to art school without going to art school, check out this piece and this syllabus: Don’t Want to Pay for Art School? Here’s a Streamlined Syllabus for Getting Your Own DIY MFA at Home | Art for Sale | Artspace

Key passage from that piece:

Art schools are renowned as being inspiring places where art lovers can imbibe the history and practice of their favorite creative disciplines among like minded strivers. They’re also known for being very expensive (and not necessarily remunerative). Happily, we can offer an alternative avenue to learning. Here, …find a syllabus that will give you the tools you need to navigate today’s art world—taught by some of the greatest artists and thinkers in the world.

If that appeals to you, get a copy of that syllabus and get studying.

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The Best Websites to Get Your Retro Gaming Fix

For a generation of oldesters like me, arcade games were what we grew up on. They seem quaint next to games on XBOX of PS3 or 4, but compared to games like Animal Crossings or other Nintendo games, they still seem relevant. Anyway, whatever your take, if you are into old games, check this post out: The Best Websites to Get Your Retro Gaming Fix.

I was over at archive.org playing my old favorite, Berzerk! Still fun! And hard! 🙂

Note to Mac users: I had a problem with the Fire button on my Mac. So I followed the advice on this page to map my SPACE bar to the fire button. Then I was fine.

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New York in winter: a photoessay

I love and miss New York. So I enjoyed this photo essay: New York in the Snow Photography Series – Fubiz Media.

It’s not a series of photos of great architecture or famous people. It’s simply a sequence of photos of NYC at night covered in snow. It’s wonderful and wistful.

Enjoy.

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If you know someone learning about the periodic table, show them this

Not too long ago I was teaching my son about the periodic table and trying to make some of it relevant to him. Something like this would have helped: This Illustrated Periodic Table Shows How We Regularly Interact With Each Element | Mental Floss

It’s a great way of showing that the dozens of elements listed there are things we interact with regularly.

Check out the link for a more detailed version of the chart. (The above image is just an abridged version).

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Me: pandemic masks will make it hard to do face tracking. TensorFlow: we have face AND hand tracking


Yep. See here for more details:

Face and hand tracking in the browser with MediaPipe and TensorFlow.js — The TensorFlow Blog

 

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Having problems reading? Then avoid these books

It’s always tricky posting a list like this, for the minute you do, many people will go over it and disagree with it. They will say, “but The Ambassadors is my favorite book”. Fine. Read this list and decide for yourself: 21 Books You Don’t Have to Read | GQ

Many of these books you will be familiar with. (Ahem, The Bible.) You may have them somewhere in your house. Perhaps on your nightside table. Hopefully this will save some of you from spend time struggling to read a book you shouldn’t even be reading.

Life is short. There is an endless list of books you can read. Read the ones you want to.

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A list of films you might need right now is this: the best screwball comedy movies


Here’s a good list to take your mind off these pandemic times: Best Screwball Comedy Movies: List Ranked By Film Fans

And no, it’s not just old black and white movies, great as they are. There’s films as recent as 2019.

The weather is going to be rainy this week (at least in Toronto): take a break and have a laugh by watch one (or ten) of the films listed there.

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Can you improve yourself in 10 minutes a day?

According to this, unlikely: ‘Most of us are too busy to be better’: the lazy person’s guide to self-improvement | Life and style | The Guardian

So if you only take 10 minutes to try and improve, not much will happen. But do 10 minutes every day.  10 minutes every day adds up to 60 hours a year. 15 minutes is over 90 hours. You can improve noticeably if you do that.

So what can you do in 10 minutes? Well, HIIT exercise, for one thing. A drawing can be done in 10 minutes: do 365 of them and you will get better. Stretching can be done in that time and you will be more flexible by then. Pick any area you are interested in improving, and practice to be better every day, and you will see improvement.

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In praise of gray (the colour)

Gray is a beautiful colour, but it is hard to appreciate. If you feel that way, I recommend this piece, which is beautifully write about this beautiful colour: Ode to Gray

And then there are these quotes by Gerhard Richter about the colour gray.

I’d love to read more such pieces on colours that mean so much to artists. These two artists make me appreciate gray more than I ever did.

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On the death of happy chords

This is a fascinating piece on how some chords

  • are perceived as happy
  • are dying out

I think people with more musical knowledge than I can assess how true this all is. But it is interesting nonetheless.

See: ‘Happy’ chords are dying out, study reveals – Classic FM

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Some thoughts on the pandemic and plasticity

Will people be largely changed by the pandemic, or will they revert to the way they were? My initial thought was that people would all be changed to some degree by the pandemic. I am now leaning towards thinking that it will depend on two things: the degree it impacts them and the plasticity of the individual.

By plasticity, I mean malleability but in a way that once reshaped, you likely do not go back to your original shape. Some plastics are very easy to reshape and some are not. I think some individuals are like thin plastic bottles that crumble with the least pressure, while other individuals are more like thick plastic bottles that revert more or less to their original form once you release the pressure on them.

Plasticity is one thing. The other thing to consider is the impact the pandemic has on a person. A person that lost a loved one or their job or their business suffers a big impact. If your biggest impact is missing going out or to the gym or getting a haircut then the impact is little.

Given that, I think the pandemic will change people in the following ways:

Impact vs plasticity Easily shaped Hard to shape
Little Impact Some change No change
Big impact Big change Some change

People easily shaped that experience a big impact  will be seriously changed by the pandemic. Most others will experience some change, and a certain class of person will not change at all.

 

 

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On Prune, and restaurants in general

Many many people were blown away by this piece written by Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune fame: My Restaurant Was My Life for 20 Years. Does the World Need It Anymore? in The New York Times. 

She’s a great writer, and a great restaurateur, writing about a time of peril for all restaurants.

During the pandemic I’ve thought about it often, as well as the future of restaurants. I don’t know a fraction about the business Hamilton excels in, other than to recognize that even for someone good at it, it’s a hard business. It was a hard business before when places were jammed with hungry eaters. It may well be impossible now.

My hope is that knowing that  restaurateurs are smart, hard working and passionate people.  They have managed in difficult situations before. They will find a way to make the foods that they love and feed them to us. And we will find a way to get out and support them.

I have had a number of meals at Prune, and they have been some of the finest of times for me. Here’s to it and many more places coming back soon and giving us meals and memories that make life worthwhile.

(Image is a link to the Village Voice.)

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On the economics of running a restaurant

I don’t know how typical the economics of Prohibition Gastrohouse  in Toronto is with other restaurants, but I imagine they all have something in common with it. If true, then I can’t see it being easy for any restaurant to operate for long in the coming phase of post pandemic, short of getting significant financial relief or radically redoing their business.

To see what I mean, read this: Prohibition Gastrohouse shuts down after 13 years in Toronto and owner says he lost his house too

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Is it time for Frank Ramsey to get his due?

In some ways, that question is ridiculous. Ramsey and his ideas are embedded in so many fields of thought, from mathematics to economics to philosophy. However, I had never heard of him before. Or I should say, I had heard of him, but I never thought of him the way I thought of Russell or Wittgenstein or other contemporaries he had.

That might change now. There are two good pieces I recently found, here on CBC Radio and here in The New Yorker. I really enjoyed both. If you do too, you can get a recent book on him called, Frank Ramsey: A Sheer Excess of Powers
by Cheryl Misak
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Recommended.

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Skills you might want: how to make a basic stitch

It’s too bad we don’t get taught more practical skills in grade school. So many of these skills are only taught if you aren’t pursuing college or university. That’s a shame, because how to cook, clean, and repair things are skills everyone should know or be able to learn.

One such skill is how to make a stitch. Here’ a link to 5 Basic Stitches You Need to Know, Plus Other Textile Tips.

Go now and fix that piece of fabric that you love and want to see last a long time. You can do it.

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Darebee has great meal plans too (if you feel the need to get off the all you can eat pandemic merry go round)

 

The pandemic working from home has been hard, and for some of us, eating has been a source of joy. However, I am feeling the need to eat better and maybe even shed a few pounds. For help, I am turning to one of my favorite sites for this: Darebee.

I love DareBee.com for it’s fitness routines and the great posters they provide.  They have made getting in some exercise a breeze. But they have other things to help you get fit and live better too. One section of the site is dedicated to Meal Planning. You can find lots of great items there, including ones to help you transition to a vegetarian meal routine

If you feel like eating better, consider checking this out.

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It’s that time of the year and seeing how people are into it, here’s how to start a garden without a backyard


I’m seeing lots of people growing pandemic gardens in their homes using scallions, celery, etc. I think that is cool. If you’ve done that, or if you want to go to the next phase, read this: How to Start a Garden Without a Backyard – The Simple Dollar

I want to add that many dollar stores will have seeds and other things to get started. You can also shop garden stores online and get supplies that way. You have options.

Of course, if you have a backyard or other areas you can plant, go for it. But if you have more gardening ambitions than you have space, give that a go.

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How to choose artwork for your home (plus gallery wall ideas)

If you are thinking of improving your home by adding some artwork, this piece can be helpful: How to Choose Artwork for Your Home – Decorology

Among other things, there’s some offbeat examples of how to do gallery walls. Sure, you can do strict grid patterns for your gallery wall, but why not try something different, like that wall shown above?

Also, if you are interested in getting great affordable art, check out the works for sale at Art Interiors. They have gallery wall ideas, too.

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Pandemic Challenge: read an entire book in a single day

I realize not everyone can do this, but if you are bored out of your gourd right now and are looking for a challenge, why not try to read an entire book in a single day.

If you think: there’s no way I can do that, then read this:  How to Read an Entire Book in a Single Day.

As you can see, it’s quite possible to do it, and with that article, you have all kinds of advice on how to succeed.

The weekend is coming up. This could be just the thing you need to feel some sense of accomplishment.

Let me know what you read!

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Postcard Art of Bauhaus Artists


Fans of Bauhaus, take note: The Exuberant Postcard Art of the First Bauhaus Exhibition.

Lots of really good works by members of Bauhaus, including Klee (above).

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15 Places Online to Buy Reusable Face Masks


Here’s a link to get you the information: 15 Places Online to Buy Reusable Face Masks That Comply with the CDC.

Style and safety. It’s a weird time, so might as well make the most of it.

 

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Now for a completely different form of floor tile!

That is actual floor tile you can buy! The floor is flat underneath, but the different shaped tiles trick your eye into thinking otherwise.

For more on this trompe d’oeil, see: An Optical Illusion Tile System Designed by Casa Ceramica via Colossal

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On the benefits of repetition


You might be thinking at this stage of staying home that there is no benefit of repitition. But Darius Foroux makes the case for the benefit of repetition here: All Strength Comes From Repetition.

I get it: you might be sick of the repetition you are currently undergoing. For me, part of that sickness is this pandemic repetition is forced and prolonged and with an unknown end date. But we are all stuck with it. Here’s a way of thinking of it and acting upon it in a positive manner.

Good luck. Get better.

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How to hack your workout routine so you do it more


Ok, fine, your workout routine right now might consist of opening the fridge thirty times a day. That’s fair. It’s hard to get motivated to exercise during a pandemic.

But you might be trapped in thinking that a) I am feeling crappy because I am not exercising but b) exercising makes me feel crappy. It’s a dilemma.

I think this article can help you out of the dilemma: Maybe You’d Exercise More If It Didn’t Feel So Crappy in FiveThirtyEight

I’d rather you read it then summarize it. I will say that one way to get out of the rut you are in is to reconsider what you are exercising for. You may have high goals, and if so, great. But if your goals are: “feel better” then there are plenty of ways to exert yourself (i.e. exercise) that are not crappy. A good long walk (preferably with a destination, at least for me), a bicycle ride, or running around the park with your dog (don’t just stand there) can all work. Stretching daily as a way to break from work is useful. Go to the dollar store and get a jump rope and get outside and skip again. Grab a garbage bag and go pick up some litter (I saw someone on twitter doing this). Do some woodworking or do a lot of batch baking (if you haven’t been exercising, you will find this tiring). Plenty of ways of being active. Or do things like the article says: start off hard into your exercise routine but gradually make it easier and easier.

Most importantly, find an easy way to track it so you stick with it. You will likely find yourself feeling better, or at least less crappy.

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How to think better about regrets

Can be found here: How to Have Fewer Regrets – The New York Times

People will say they have few or no regrets. I wonder how challenged they were in life to be that way. Chances are you have more than a few regrets. That’s ok. Read the piece and things better about that.

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Generation Jones: the cusp gen, between boomers and Gen X

If you are a member of those people born between 1954 and 1965, you may never felt comfortable being associated with Boomers or Gen X. You may have felt a bit of both and a bit of neither. Congratulations, there is a gen for you now: Generation Jones.

Let me let Wikipedia explain:

Generation Jones is the social cohort of the latter half of the baby boomers to the first years of Generation X.

The term was first coined by the cultural commentator Jonathan Pontell, who identified the cohort as those born from 1954 to 1965 in the U.S.who came of age during the oil crisis, stagflation, and the Carter presidency, rather than during the 1960s, but slightly before Gen X. Other sources place the starting point at 1956 or 1957.

Unlike boomers, most of Generation Jones did not grow up with World War II veterans as fathers, and for them there was no compulsory military service and no defining political cause, as opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam War had been for the older boomers.

Also, by 1955, a majority of U.S. households had at least one television set, and so unlike boomers born in the 1940s, many members of Generation Jones have never lived in a world without television – similar to how many members of Generation Z (1997–2012) have never lived in a world without personal computers or the internet, which a majority of U.S. households had by 2000 and 2001 respectively.

Unlike Generation X (1965–1980), Generation Jones was born before most of the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s and ’70s.

So, lots of reasons why you may feel unique. And you are. And also this generational explanations for how you are is slightly more accurate than horoscopes, but not much more, in my opinion.

For more on this, see Generation Jones – Wikipedia

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You’ve been working from home for awhile. You need to spruce up your space. Here are some ideas. #wfh

Many of you have been working from home for several weeks now due to the pandemic. You may be getting fatigue for a number of reasons with your environment. Worse, you might have to keep doing it for some time to come.

Don’t fret. Here’s 10 Home Office Ideas That Will Make You Want to Work All Day from Real Simple magazine. Lots of good ideas in that piece, and nice photos to offer up some inspiration. Best of all, most of the ideas are affordable. If you can’t get out to shop and don’t want to shop online, consider “shopping your house” (i.e. take pictures, rugs, clocks, etc from other parts of your home and put them in your work space. Hey, you are there most of the time, why not make it shine). Also Google things like “home office gallery wall” or “home office decor ideas” for more visual ideas.

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How to care for cut tulips

It’s tulip time. If you love them and buy them often too, here’s some advice on how to better take care of them: Tulips – Flower Care via Apartment Therapy