Weird times

Skyline of Denver with a construction crane

These are such strange times.

We’re surrounded by business closing – yet some sectors of the stock market are soaring.

The world has become Woke and yet there seems to be complete intolerance toward anything but the majority view. Every single written or spoken word is judged using just one filter that determines what is correct.

In the name of justice, society is shutting down traditional methods of maintaining law and order.

Wake me up when it’s over.

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An Ideal Boy

An Ideal Boy poster

We lived in Kenya, Africa for five years.

The most numerous non-African people in Kenya are from South Asia.

(There is some pretty awesome Indian food there – in fact, the best I’ve ever tasted.)

One day I went into a shop run by South Asians and found a poster – “An Ideal Boy.” I bought it instantly because of the reflection of a quirky part of India’s colonial-era past.

And all these years later, I found that poster in our attic.

I’m sharing it with you.

You can see a PDF of “An Ideal Boy” here. Download the file, enjoy it, whatever.

If you want to buy one of the panels, I’m selling them for $5 each, which includes shipping to US addresses. There are 12 panels, and there’s just one of each. I plan to keep one or two for myself (whatever is left). If you’re interested, send me an email at paul at pmerrill dot com, and I’ll be in touch. Send me your address too. We’ll exchange the funds via PayPal or Venmo.

First come, first served. (There’s only one “Salutes parents.”)

Each panel is about 5 1/2″ x 6.”

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It just isn’t the same

Charly Bliss live in concert

Live music is something many of us greatly miss in the wake of Covid.

An alternative has been tossed over the fence – live streaming.

I’m sorry, but it’s just not the same. (No one said it would be.)

Often, what’s already out there on YouTube is better than a streaming show you might see. And you’ll probably see some actual crowds.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for supporting musicians! A good solid alternative is to go to their page on Bandcamp and buy some music or merchandise.

I just did. And since our cars are old enough to have CD players, some sweet new tunes will be playing in a few weeks – with better sounds than Spotify can deliver.


Aimee Giese, a Denver friend, spent a good amount of time compiling a page with links to support Denver musicians. You can buy lots of fun merch from a wide variety of artists.

If anyone out there has another similar page, please put the link in the comments. Thanks.

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Staying environmental in the face of Covid-19

shopping cart filled with groceries

The world has thrown being environmentally aware out the window as we’ve faced the Covid-19 crisis.*

There’s disposable everything… gloves and sanitary wipes get thrown by the side of cars. To-go packaging from restaurants is almost always plastic. (And they usually also throw in a bunch of plastic cutlery.)

If the grocery stores in your neighborhood are like those near me, they won’t let you bring your own reusable bags into the store.

There is one thing you can do.

Keep groceries in your cart as you bring it to your car or bike. Then put your goodies in your reusable bags to carry home.

Simple. Easy.


* Yes, I do know about the massive decrease in consumption of some consumer goods and lessened vehicle use, resulting in greatly reduced air pollution.

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The writing’s on the wall

car magazine spread

I love car magazines. I’ve enjoyed them since I was a boy. I find pleasure in discovering the latest details on all kinds of vehicles.

The genre I least enjoy is supercars – because they are so far removed from my reality that I could never own one.

The other genre that I don’t take pleasure in is SUVs. Though they are the world’s most popular vehicle category, they offer less driving pleasure than cars. (But I’ve never cared about what’s popular.)


Back to car magazines…

Looking at printed photos and flipping the pages of a car review are somehow much more satisfying than scrolling up and down a web page.

Apparently, few other people appreciate this joy.

Nearly all magazines are dying a slow death – not just those of the vehicular variety.

Automobile Magazine quietly passed away without its caretakers even telling me.

Autoweek died just a month before Automobile.

When Car and Driver quits printing their publication, I will cry.


By the way, the expression “writing on the wall” comes from Daniel 5.

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Why is it still that way?

empty toilet paper shelves at the supermarket

I understood why the shelves were empty of toilet paper over a month ago. It was a weird kneejerk zombie-apocalypse mass response to Covid-19.

But why is this shortage still happening?

  • Can’t the companies that make toilet paper keep up?
  • Can’t the hoarders realize they already have a year’s supply?
  • Don’t people realize that Covid-19 is a respiratory illness and not a gastro-intestinal virus?

I did a little research and went to the Kimberly-Clark website. They are one of the world’s largest manufacturers of toilet paper.

The newsroom section of their website had two initiatives that seem a bit out of touch:

  1. No Baby Unhugged… don’t they realize that social distancing kind of prevents hugging babies from happening, other than by their own parent?
  2. #ShareASquare… there is very little mention of the idea of toilet paper hoarders sharing toilet paper with their neighbors who might not have planned ahead. The initiative seems more focused on giving to United Way. And share just a square… why not a whole roll?

To be fair, maybe their marketing team is probably stretched like the rest of us.


Update 1: Supply chain issues and working from home are some of the reasons why. Read more.

Update 2: Americans do hoard. My son recently arrived in the USA after having lived in Italy until April 15. He said supermarkets in his city of about a million people never had any toilet paper shortage. Italians normally buy what they need for a short time period and no more.

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That haircut

Antonio, a guy who is not real

During the time of coronavirus, Antonio decided that it was time for a haircut. He knew his hair styling salon was closed.

Christopher, his hairstylist for the last nine years, was now lacking a source of income. Antonio was a compassionate person, so he decided to find out how to get in touch with Christopher, to arrange for a haircut.

The date was made, and the haircut took place.

Christopher received a very handsome tip.

Sadly, Christopher was one of those who had a mild form of coronavirus. Though he demonstrated no symptoms, he was a carrier.

Antonio was not so lucky with his encounter with coronavirus.


The moral of the story is that during this work-from-home era, maybe it’s OK to let your hair grow out a bit.


Antonio’s photograph is a CGI composite of several humans, courtesy of thispersondoesnotexist.com. You can read about that amazing site on Tom’s Guide.

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Coronavirus respect

hand washing

We’re well into feeling the global impacts of the cornavirus. The depth of consequences to the world’s economy and productivity is truly sad.

No matter what your level of worry is, be kind when dealing with those who are more scared than you are.

And wash your hands.


Image is used via a Creative Commons license via Unsplash.

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What I learned by taking a month off Instagram and Facebook

calendar with 3 months showing january greyed out

January first brought new year’s resolutions and healthy actions. At my son’s request, I reluctantly agreed to not use Instagram and Facebook for an entire month.

That exercise was helpful and stretching. But it was not the amazing revelation and breakthrough that some bloggers claim… words like “detox” are overstating the point a little, at least for me. I think my dependence on those apps may be less than for some people.

Positive aspects of the break:

  1. I gained many free small moments sprinkled throughout each day. I hadn’t used Instagram and Facebook enough before the break to read a whole novel¬†in my new free time, like some bloggers.
  2. I learned how often I click on my phone’s Instagram app – very frequently!
  3. Feeling the pain of loss most intensely happened during that first week. Not having those two avenues available became less of an issue as the month passed.
  4. Rather than wishing friends a happy birthday via Facebook, I used Messenger, which provided a greater connection in a few cases.
  5. I discovered that I definitely use Instagram more than Facebook. I found myself wanting to click my phone’s Instagram icon much more often than the Facebook icon.
  6. I sent more emails and made more phone calls.

Negative aspects of the break:

  1. I missed out on a few friends’ life events.
  2. I had to look elsewhere for super quick bites of entertainment. I cheated and did keep using Twitter… so my frequency of tweets increased compared to December. However, I actively tried to limit my use of Twitter.
  3. I found myself looking forward to February.

Results of the exercise:

  1. I’ll pare back the number of accounts in my Instagram and Facebook feeds. That will improve the quality of my browsing moments.
  2. I will try to use Instagram and Facebook less. The very fact that quitting for a month was not a huge revelation shows that I wasn’t missing much.
  3. One month may not have been long enough. At the very end of the month, I was at a restaurant alone, waiting for my lunch, and I reflexively had the urge to launch Instagram. That feeling had not hit almost since the first week. But it was still very deeply ingrained.

Caveat: During January, I went on Instagram and Facebook a few times for professional reasons since my work requires those platforms.

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One cup at a time

ceramic and glass drinking vessels

You can save the planet – one cup at a time.

Well, I am overstating the impact of switching to a ceramic or glass drinking vessel, but you can save a lot of waste by asking for a “drink it here” vessel when you visit Starbucks for a sit-down drink next time.

Here are a few advantages:

  • You’ll prevent landfill accumulation.
  • You’ll save on manufacturing and transport costs for the cups, straws and lids.
  • You’ll enjoy the nicer feel of smooth ceramic or glass against your lips, compared to a thin plastic lid or a straw.
  • You’ll make me happy.
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