Guided Tours

Russians are now organizing guided tours among the ruins of the Mariupol drama theater where 600 civilians were murdered recently by Russian airstrikes. I saw a video. The tour guide is youngish, nice-looking. She giggles and looks excited to be there.

TV Harms

I remember when I first came to Canada, there was this commercial on TV. Maybe some of you will remember it. There was this really obese little boy sitting at the table. I had never seen this kind of obesity before, so it was already a shock. The boy was eating something covered in a thick layer of barbecue sauce. His face, his hands, everything was completely grimy because of that sauce.

I was so horrified by the ad that I never tried barbecue sauce. Always avoided it because even hearing the words made me want to gag. I have no idea what the commercial was trying to sell. Napkins, detergent, paper towels? Maybe even barbecue sauce, although I don’t think anybody could be crazy enough to see those images as appetizing. But I conceived a decades-long disgust of barbecue sauce.

Finally, twenty years later I closed the Gestalt by tasting barbecue sauce in Canada today and discovering that it’s quite nice.

Throw Away the App

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. I’ve been crossing the border into Canada for 20 years. Back then, we had paper declaration forms we’d fill out. Remember those?

Now instead of the paper declarations, there are beautiful, sleek machines at the airport. And there’s an app. You can’t enter Canada without the app. But the app and the machine didn’t make the process of entering the country faster or easier. To the contrary. Yesterday, I arrived in a 40% empty airplane from Chicago and waited in a line the likes of which I hadn’t seen in 20 years. It took 1 hour 45 minutes to cross the border. I’m a citizen, I had all the paperwork, the vaccine passport, the negative COVID test. And yet it took this insane amount of time. In 1998, it had taken less than half this time actually to go through the immigration process at that border. Surely, it shouldn’t be easier to immigrate than come home as a citizen.

I’m all for technology making things easier. But it often doesn’t. Here it clearly did not because I’m telling you, this is the first time in two decades that I’ve seen anything similar at this border control. You go through all these apps and machines but at the end of the line, you still end up having the exact same conversation with the exact same tired border officer that you always did. All I’m suggesting is that we throw away the technology and go straight to the conversation.

And by the way, at that same airport, the process of crossing the border back to the US isn’t encumbered by apps and machines, and it goes in a flash. Let’s keep that in mind before some enterprising fellow gets a contract to build some stupid app that will create massive delays and make everybody’s lives harder.


Whenever one criticizes the way things are going, immediately a bunch of people arrives to tell one that there’s always pushback against innovation, but then everybody accepts it, and remember the Luddites?

I have no idea why the poor Luddites always get dragged out as an example. They are an unimportant oddity. There are, however, many examples of when humanity was going in a certain direction but then realized things weren’t working and changed course.

I’m sure everybody on here read some Dickens or Zola. Or Upton Sinclair. What was capitalism like in the 19th century or the early 20th? Child labor, 16-hour workdays, no weekends, starving workers living in hovels, etc. That model was clearly defective. It was producing really bad results. And it got corrected towards something not perfect (because nothing is) but clearly enormously better.

Or I don’t know, take the Franco dictatorship. Things were really bad. People were starving. Nothing worked. And even Franco, dumb as he was, figured out that hey, we need to try something different. He changed course, and Spain experienced an economic miracle.

So when people tell me that “you can’t turn back technological progress, don’t be a Luddite, there’s no walking away from this,” I don’t see why that should be true. I’m pro-capitalism, and what I know about capitalism is that it’s extremely agile. It can change course, turn around, and retract once the existing model becomes to threaten the capitalism’s existence.

Neoliberalism is a dead end of capitalism. We can turn around and walk away any time. And I’m sure we will.

Tiny Habits

The concept of tiny habits is actually pretty cool. Instead of setting yourself the lofty and vague goal of “I’ll work on my novel”, you say “I’ll open the document and reread something I wrote before for 5 minutes.” Or “I’ll open the document and add 15 new words.”

The risk of failure is pretty non-existent with these tiny goals. As a result, you don’t weigh down the activity with guilt and expectations.

Another example: instead of saying “I’ll clean the house,” say “every time I have a cup of coffee at home, I’ll put one thing in its place.”

I want to read more.” Read one sentence a day. If more sentences happen after that, it’s a bonus. But the goal is one a day.

Disclaimer: I’m not working on a novel. It’s only an example. But the method is cool.