Weekly Musings

Thoughts about what's caught my interest in the last seven days

Welcome to this edition of Weekly Musings, where each week I share some thoughts about what's caught my interest in the last seven days.

A lot of thoughts and ideas have been bouncing around my head the past week or three. I'm starting to wonder if that's a mental manifestation of the stress that I'm denying I'm experiencing. Or maybe it's a sign that I've got too much on my plate. Whatever the reason, all that is both frustrating and exhilarating.

The subject of this week's letter has clawed its way to the top of the heap. As is often the case, the ideas around it aren't fully formed but I think they're ready to provoke a few thoughts. And that's why we're all here, isn't it?

The other day, I noticed it's been a while since I've recommended a newsletter. With the craziness going on in the world right now, and with people isolating, we could all use a little more good reading. This time 'round, it's Why is this interesting?. Each day, more or less, Noah Brier and Colin Nagy share some thoughts about something that they find interesting. And they bounce around topics more than I do! Rarely is there a dull edition or one that doesn't engage me. Give it a try.

With that out of the way, let's get to this week's musing.

On the Necessity of Boredom

If sleep is the apogee of physical relaxation, boredom is the apogee of mental relaxation. Boredom is the dream bird that hatches the egg of experience.

— Walter Benjamin

Boredom.

It's seen as something bad. With so much input and stimulus available to us, there's no excuse to be bored. You can always find something to occupy your brain, your body, and your mind.

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Welcome to this edition of Weekly Musings, where each week I share some thoughts about what's caught my interest in the last seven days.

Life is full of the unexpected. Some of it good, some of it bad. Sometimes, the unexpected provides us with a reason to smile, a reason to believe that everything will turn out OK. That's what this musing is all about.

Let's get to it, shall we?

On Finding Simple Pleasures in Unexpected Places

There I was, standing on the footpath in one of those tiny villages that dot England. Just in front and a little to the left of me was a small fish and chip shop. It was around three in the afternoon, and I'd had my last meal early that morning. Aside from a nearby pub and a convenience store, there was nowhere else to get something to eat.

In my head, a debate raged about whether or not to go in.

I'll be honest: I was apprehensive. While I'm not a snob, this shop didn't seem like my kind of place. It looked a bit run down, a bit worn out. Threadbare. It wasn't a dive, but it had seen its fair share of days.

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Welcome to this edition of Weekly Musings, where each week I share some thoughts about what's caught my interest in the last seven days.

This week's letter goes to show you that ideas are everywhere. They can come from a lightning bolt of inspiration or from performing a mundane task. The musing you're about to read sprang from the latter. I hope you enjoy it.

With that out of the way, let's get to this week's musing.

On When a Place Has Its Greatest Impact

It all started with a curious request. Last week, a friend emailed and asked for a couple of photos from one of my travels.

I dug those photos out of my archive and duly send them on their way through the intertubes. Instead of moving on to something else, I started combing through other photos that I'd taken over the decades.

Something I noticed in those photos was people. More than that, a general lack of people. If there were in any in my snaps, there were only a few of them. Usually, those people were in the distance or on the peripheries.

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Welcome to this edition of Weekly Musings, where each week I share some thoughts about what's caught my interest in the last seven days.

This week, a slightly shorter edition of the letter. But it's one driven by you, the people who subscribe to these musings. This edition is a follow up to last week's letter, expanding on the theme or information overload.

A quick note of thanks to those of you who pledged some support over the last few weeks. Most of that has gone to causes, including sponsoring the cutest assistance dog you've ever seen. If you're interested in supporting Weekly Musings (beyond reading the letter, I mean), you can find out how to do that on this page.

With that out of the way, let's get to this week's musing.

On Information Overload (Again)

If you're keeping score, last time 'round in this space I took a dive into the concept of information overload and explained why it's a crock. Over the last seven days, I've gotten ... well, not push back but actually some interesting feedback. Not just from the fives of wonderful people who subscribe to this letter but folks I know in meatspace.

A lot of that feedback revolved around the amounts of information that those people in my complained about having to keep up with. At least, what they think they have to keep up with.

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Welcome to this edition of Weekly Musings, where each week I share some thoughts about what's caught my interest in the last seven days.

During the last week, several ideas for this week's musing have been engaging in a battle royal in my head. It was a bruising contest between competing concepts, and the one that I didn't expect to win was the last one standing. So, here it is.

So, let's get to his week's musing.

On Information Overload

Why is it despite the stacks of unread books and links, we still go around looking for more to consume?

Scott Berkun

Information overload. That's a phrase I've been hearing for ... well, a long, long time.

And I think it's a crock. Always have thought that and always will.

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Welcome to this edition of Weekly Musings, where each week I share some thoughts about what's caught my interest in the last seven days.

While I was writing this musing, I listened to IBM 1401, A User's Manual by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson on a continuous loop. It's a wonderfully soft, slow piece of music that, in some ways, fits well with the theme of the essay you're about to read. And, in some ways, that piece of music informed the tone of this musing.

Speaking of which, let's get on to this week's musing.

On Slow Communication

Just before Christmas 2019, I sent a few emails to various friends. Not holiday greetings (I hate Christmas, to be honest), just messages to catch up since we'd been out of touch for a while.

The responses I received surprised me.

Those replies came a week or two or so after I sent those emails. Each reply started off with an apology. An apology for not getting back to me sooner. What surprised me was that I didn't expect a response for a while, it being Christmas and all.

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Welcome to this edition of Weekly Musings, where each week I share some thoughts about what's caught my interest in the last seven days.

This week's musing comes from the depths of my archives. Before you think it, no that's not due to my legendary sloth.

The two essays I've been working on have stalled. Why? Mainly because I've been caught up in a pile of paid writing and have been wrapped up in a rather pressing personal matter. I haven't been able to tackle a lot of what I've wanted to work on.

So, I present for your perusal another short account of my sojourn to Japan in the early 1990s. It's from a particularly memorable part of that trip, which knocked me out of a funk that I'd been in.

With the out of the way, let's get to this week's musing.

On Gaining a Different Perspective on Nature

What's duller than Kyushu in early April? That question entered my head as I boarded a bus leaving the Japanese city of Kumamoto. I'd been traveling around Kyushu, Japan's large southern island, for the past week and a half. This bus was one of the many that I'd hopped on in that time. It, and just about everything else at that time, seemed to blur into a numbing sameness. On top of that, several days of overcast skies mixed with rain had dampened my enthusiasm for this portion of my trip.

But the bus ride I was about to take would change that, and give me a new perspective on the power of nature.

During my stay in Japan, I normally took trains wherever I went. But this time around, there were no trains heading in my direction. So, I had to make this leg of the trip by bus. I chose the bus that I mentioned a couple of paragraphs back because its route passed Mount Aso, an active volcano that was said to have had some of the most explosive eruptions of any volcano on Earth.

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Welcome to this edition of Weekly Musings, where each week I share some thoughts about what's caught my interest in the last seven days.

This time 'round, you're in for a bit of a departure from the fare that's appeared in these letters over the past while. This week brings you something of a stream of consciousness musing that's been tugging at my ganglia for the last few weeks. The essay that ganglia tugging has spawned is a short mental ramble, but one that has a flow and (I hope) a point.

With that out of the way, let's get to this week's musing.

On Listening to the Heartbeat of a City

Cities can be many things. They can be sprawling. They can be impersonal. Cities can be a series of ecosystems, of tight or loose communities. They can be unexpected repositories of data. They can spark the imagination or deaden the spirit. Cities can be whatever we want them to be, whatever we need them to be at a particular point in time.

Every city, no matter where or what size, has a distinct life of its own. Each city has its own unique heartbeat.

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Welcome to this edition of Weekly Musings, where each week I share some thoughts about what's caught my interest in the last seven days.

This week's musing comes courtesy of a couple of people I heard having an intense conversation on a bus. A conversation that, at times, veered into the realm of the absurd. Then again, it was a conversation that I'd heard many, many times in the past.

A small piece of news: I've collected the first 52 editions of Weekly Musings into an ebook. It's titled, not surprisingly, Weekly Musings: The First 52 and that book is a thank you letter to each and every one of you who reads this letter. You can grab a copy at Gumroad. It's a free download, although I've set it up to be a pay-what-you-want deal. You're not expected to or obliged to pay anything. And, in case you're wondering, Weekly Musings: The First 52 is available as an EPUB and as a PDF file.

With that out of the way, let's get to this week's essay.

On Fetishizing Notebooks

Among the hardcore productivity and writing crowds, the notebook seems to have become an object of obsession. I'm not talking about the notebook computer, but the paper notebook. Sheets of blank or ruled or lined paper wrapped in a cover. Pages waiting for the caress of a pen. Waiting for the next great thought or idea, for that bit of important information, for that important list of task.

Some folks in that crowd take their obsession to extremes. They deeply ponder whether to buy a Moleskine, a Midori Traveler's Notebook, or a LEUCHTTURM1917. They demand that the pages be a certain thickness or made from acid-free paper. They obsess about the perfect size, the perfect thickness, the perfect dimensions of their notebooks.

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Welcome to this edition of Weekly Musings, where each week I share some thoughts about what's caught my interest in the last seven days.

Last week, I had a discussion with a friend that ranged over several topics. He was shocked when I explained that something he believed to be the spawn of the twenty-first century actually wasn't. That part of the discussion brought this idea to the front of my brain. And in front of your eyes.

With that out of the way, let's get to this week's musing.

On What's New Being Old Again

What's new is old again.

That's a phrase I often use when people talk about a seemingly new development or trend. A development or trend which turns out to be something that's anything but new.

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