Absolutely Useless Thoughts, Jr: 2017

best-sweatpants-for-men-0I might as well continue this, right? After all, my only new year’s resolution is to buy sweatpants. I own sweatpants already, but I need a new pair. And, apparently, the athleisure thing has peaked, so maybe there are good deals on sweatpants now. Or even on companies that produce sweatpants.

1. Should we rename our species? Like are we really sapiens? Some people think we’re not and should be named accordingly.

2. Cars. We won’t be driving them. Or trucks. Already, self-driving trucks are driving self-driving cars. This is bad for a lot of people. No one seems to connect automation with unemployment much (Trump still hasn’t figured this out) but worse, automation has led to inequality. And very few people in power care about inequality. But they should.

3. And now someone has built those scary human-driven robots we see in sci-fi movies.

4. Fish have feelings. Sometimes very strong ones. Finding Nemo is, perhaps, a documentary….

5. Speaking of food, this is a great story about Chinese food in small-town Canada. There have been terrific books about Chinese food in the US (I highly recommend this one and this one and this one), but not so much about Canada. Out West, especially, every single town seems to have a Chinese café. I remember once taking my son to Milo, Alberta (his name is Milo) and we ate at the only restaurant in town, a Chinese-Canadian restaurant where you could get chop suey and won ton soup or a hamburger. North America is full of these places and you often think of the people who work there, who own these places, often the only Chinese people for miles.

The Milo Cafe, Milo, AB

The Milo Cafe, Milo, AB

6. Speaking of food, this story is one of the most delightful I read all year, not really about food so much as about a time and place but most of all about brothers and the odd bond they share, even when the bond doesn’t feel so strong. I loved everything about this story. Bonus for being set inside a Carl’s Jr.

7. American soft power is still its strongest and hardest power. I’m not sure the incoming President knows this because culture is not one of his strong (and ill-fitting) suits. But when KFC and Donald Duck become synonymous with Christmas in places as disparate as Japan and Sweden, well, that’s the hardest example of soft power.

8. I can’t keep up with TV anymore. I didn’t watch TV for a while because I couldn’t find the time. Then I realized it was because all the good shows are now long form serials – you have to watch them from the beginning to get what’s going on. I watch some shows now. But still, TV’s gotten so good these days it’s like too much of a good thing. I don’t know how anyone has time for anything anymore.

9. New Hampshire is not far from where I live and suddenly there is reason to be afraid of this simple fact of geography.

10. You’ve heard of OPEC. But I doubt very much that you have heard of the maple syrup version of OPEC.

11. It snowed in the Sahara. I’m sure this happens from time to time. It’s quite beautiful.

12. I hope 2017 turns out to be less awful than 2016. The pessimist in me suggests 2016 was just a warm up. We’ve suffered in the past and will suffer in the future. From a purely Canadian perspective, 2016 wasn’t so bad. But globally, well, more people were happy to see 2016 in their rear view mirror. And then the new year started with a terrorist explosion in Istanbul…

13. My son, who is almost 17, doesn’t quite get the concept of rotary phones. Or even the pre-internet era. This video of an old Cathode Ray Tube television, slowed down, might freak him out. But I could watch this forever.

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