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.

This time 'round, to commemorate my turning 54 a little idle speculation. About how I'll eventually meet my end. Don't worry, it's not as gruesome or morbid as it sounds.

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

On How I Might Die

You've probably heard the old saying about death and taxes being the only certainties in life. Of the two, most of us only accept the inevitability of taxes. As for death, whether we acknowledge it or not most of us want to live forever. Or, at least, as long as we can.

If you're one of the people who embraces the certainty of your days coming to an end, you probably won't think your passing until it's time to go. And, chances are, you'll try to put up a fight to keep a certain bony, scythe-swinging bastard at bay for as long as possible.

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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.

When I wrote this edition of the letter, the underlying idea had been coalescing in my brain for a couple of weeks. Not that I'd been thinking about this topic to distraction — in fact, I tried to ignore it. But the topic, and an idea for a short essay about it, stayed with me. So here we are.

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

On the Follow Button

It all started with some brief news items in the technology press a couple or three weeks before I originally wrote this musing. News items reporting on, and opining about, something called the Follow button.

What's the Follow button? It's a feature that Google is testing in its Chrome web browser for Android. The idea is simple: when you tap the button while reading a blog post or an article, it's saved to a separate tab in the browser. From there, you can read what you've saved at your leisure. As an added, dubious bonus, a Google algorithm makes other suggestions for you on that tab.

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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 was inspired by a series of conversations I recently had with a friend, a conversation that jarred loose some thoughts that had lodged in the back of my head decades ago. It also loops back, in some small way, to Musing 112. Just goes to show you that I sometimes do revisit ideas.

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

On Everything You Do Needing to Be Practical

Let's go back in time a few decades. To late 1979, to back a little more exact. I was 12 years old and had started junior high school a couple of months previously. I wasn't all that interested in sports or music or many of the interests that grabbed the seemingly shallow imaginations of my peers. Instead, growing in me was a deep interest in and love for movies. An interest and love that was fuelled by the TV shows Magic Shadows and Saturday Night At The Movies which aired (often) classic movies from 20, 30, 40 or more years earlier.

My other fascination at that time was with the special effects in science fiction movies and TV series. Like many people, I wondered how those effects were done — regardless of how crude and, often, laughable many of them were. At a local convenience store, I discovered Starlog and CineFX magazines. I'd make a beeline to that store once a month to pick up the latest issues, to learn more about how the magic of SF movies was made. Part of me yearned to make my own short films, even if I had no clue how to do that.

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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.

Ever have one of those weeks in which getting the ideas out of your head and on to paper or screen is akin to a minor archaeological dig? That's been happening more and more with me lately.

And, to be honest, it's a tad worrying. I'm not sure if it's stress, fatigue, approaching burnout or something else but I'm not hearing the stories as clearly as I used to, I'm not feeling them quite the way I should. Regardless, I'm hoping this is a passing phase.

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

On the Need to Make Everything Smart

Back in 2001, I was working as a technical writer (my high falutin' title was Documentation Engineer, in case you're wondering) at a telecommunications software company in Toronto. One of the quality assurance people there was a big fan of the latest technology. And of technology that was over the horizon a ways.

One February morning, he was pontificating in the lunch room about fridges with built-in sensors that could detect when vegetables were going off or when milk was about to go sour. When he finished his breathless exaltation of this coming wonder, he concluded Isn't that going to be cool?

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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.

Another seven days, another letter. This one springing from thoughts that have been kicking around in my brain for a while, and which came to the fore thanks to something I'd been doing at the time I wrote what you're about to read. Funny how things work out like that, isn't it?

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

On Doing Something Because You Enjoy it

Each Saturday from mid-May to early June 2021, I hauled myself out of bed a little earlier, taking a short train ride, and then walking 10 minutes or so up a couple of steep hills. Why? I started a beginner's archery course at a local club.

I was easily the oldest person in the group. And I can't say I completely embarrassed myself — I consistently hit the target without hitting anyone else or launching an arrow into my foot. I even scored second highest in the group on assessment day. That said, I think by the end of the course I hit a plateau that I couldn't get over. I reached a point at which I didn't improve, where I was spinning my wheels and didn't seem able to shift to the next level.

At one time in my life, that would have bothered me. Not now. Becoming a really good archer, or even a pretty good archer, wasn't the point of those lessons. In setting foot on that field on a Saturday, my plan wasn't to morph into a competitive bowman — time, both age and the scant few hours and minutes available to me, weren't on my side. And to be honest, I never planned to take up archery. The beginner's course was a Christmas gift from my wife.

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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 letter that was inspired by an online chat that I recently had with a friend. She found herself overwhelmed by the type of application that's meant to make her life easier and keep her informed at the same time. That wasn't what happened.

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

On the Problem of Reading It Later

So much to read on the web — articles, blog posts, essays, and more — and so little time. To try to keep up, or at least keep all that in the front of your memory, you wind up with piles bookmarks and items in your RSS feed reader. None of which helps you read, though.

In this situation, a good read-it-later application can be boon.

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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, time to indulge in a little nostalgia of the tech variety. I must be getting old ... Even if I am, I don't have a pair of rose-coloured glasses. At least, not yet!

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

On Portable Technologies Past

Last week, I found myself chatting with a new hire at The Day JobTM. He's a recent grad and our conversation ranged superficially, as those kinds of conversations do, over a few topics. Somehow, our chat veered into the lane of technology and the person I was talking to was genuinely surprised that the iPhone wasn't the first smartphone. I could actually see the lightbulb behind his eyes amp up in brightness when I told him that.

That wasn't a revelation to me. Most people have, at best, a vague inkling of the histories behind the technologies that they use in their everyday lives. I'd argue that they really only know the histories put out by tech companies (who are trying to make themselves look uber innovative) and the tech press (who should know better).

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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.

When I wrote this edition, it was off the back of a week was more than a bit trying, especially at a place that partially inspired the topic for what you're about to read.

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

On Constraints

I have never been forced to accept compromises but I have willingly accepted constraints.

Charles Eames

For the last ... I don't want to remember how many years, my days have been taken up writing user and technical documentation for a number of companies that are willing to pay me. In that time, I've become more than a bit familiar with more than a few of the tools of the technical communication trade.

At my current Day JobTM, my colleague and I are using something called Confluence to write, manage, and publish documentation. Early on, we starting butting up against Confluence's limitations (which are several) in each of those areas. And we've had to push the software to try to get around those limitations. What we've done is definitely not pretty, but it works.

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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.

The musing you're about to read is less about technology and more about a different way of thinking and working. At least, that's what I hope you get out of the thousand or so words that make up this week's letter.

And remember that you can grab a copy of Weekly Musings: The Second 52. It’s a free download (and always will be), although I’ve set it up to be a pay-what-you-want kind of deal. Remember, though, that you’re not expected or obliged to pay anything.

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

On Outlining and Outliners

Yet again, I wasn't hearing the story in my head as clearly as once did. Yet again, the words and sentences weren't coming together into a cohesive whole in the way they once did. Bouncing around my brain was a misshapen, lumpy mass of words and phrases and ideas.

All the pieces were there, but the structure had decided to go AWOL.

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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.

Another week down. The weeks seem to be rushing by at an impossible velocity these days, don't they. It's as if so-called internet time is bleeding into the time we experience in the physical world. Or maybe it's just the years catching up with me.

Regardless, another letter comes your way. Via, not ironically, the internet. Funny how that works, isn't it?

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

On Pseudoscience

Usually, it takes quite a bit to get a rise out of me. A few weeks ago, however, my gorge started a quick ascent to the surface when I read article about a new so-called natural health company here in New Zealand. A company that's planning to sell, among other quack remedies, pills that protect people from 5G radiation and cures for autism. That, and more, enveloped in marketing copy that sounds vaguely scientific.

As the parent of a young adult with autism, I found their claims of having a cure for autism highly offensive. Autism isn't a disease. It's not something that you make magically disappear with a bogus potion or pill. As someone who views himself as a rationalist, I find companies like that one, their wild claims, and the pseudoscience they use to hawk their fraudulent wares to be both frightening and dangerous.

What troubles me the most is the pseudoscience underpinning all of that.

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