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.

Year three of the letter officially starts with this musing. It's been quite the journey, hasn't it? Oh, and I have a surprise in store for you so check back here next week.

Just so you know: the basis for what you're about to read first saw the light of the web in my personal notebook. I've used portions of that post here via a Creative Commons license.

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

On Rereading

A couple or three weeks into 2021, I put a moratorium on buying new gadgets for myself over the next year. So far, I've managed to stick with that despite all of the temptation. And, believe me, there's been a lot of temptation lately.

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This letter marks something of a milestone: two years worth of musings. One hundred and four essays. Over 80,000 words. A bunch of different topics. Admittedly, the real second anniversary of Weekly Musings came and went a while ago but thanks to some hiatuses (planned and forced), it's taken this long to publish Musing 104.

I'd just like to thank you all for supporting this little experiment in email publishing of mine. If it wasn't for you, this letter wouldn't exist.

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

On Algorithms

Ah, the algorithm. A word that really only recently entered the popular lexicon. A word that ... well, if it doesn't strike fear into our hearts then it's one which makes us wary.

And with good reason. Tech giants across the board have for years been releasing algorithms in the name of advancing their positions in the market and to bolster their bottom lines. All with little or not thought about how those algorithms can or will affect us.

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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 first sent out this edition of the letter, a confluence of stresses from both my personal life and the Day JobTM meant I hadn't been sleeping much. Worse, I'd fallen behind in what I wanted to do. That's not a good place to be in, especially when those things that you want to do have to be done, and soon. So I started thinking about the ways in which I'd dug myself out of that hole in the past. Those thoughts became the letter you're about to read.

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

On Carving Out the Time To Do What You Want

Time. There just isn't enough of it, is there? And there's definitely never enough for you to do what you want to do.

There's a lot of advice floating around about how to carve out the time to do what you want. Most of that advice tells you to wake up an or two hour earlier than you usually do, or go to bed an hour or two later. Or some variation on that theme. You can try that if you want. But you'll find that it will wear you out after a while, making your situation even worse. Yes, I'm speaking from experience.

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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.

A slightly shorter letter this week. And one that's not as ranting and cranky as Musing 101 was. In fact, I'm taking a step or two back and trying to be a bit more reflective in the essay you're about to read. I'm not sure I've succeeded in doing that, but I tried. I hope you enjoy it.

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

On Exploring Your Surroundings

Confession time: until I moved to my new home back in November, 2020 I really wasn't all that adventurous when it came to exploring the vicinity in which I lived. Don't get me wrong: I didn't just stay cooped up within four walls or within a small radius from those walls. But I had to make an effort to get off my sorry posterior and explore the nooks and crannies of the area in which I lived.

That's a sharp contrast to the times when I've travelled, both domestically and internationally (back when I, and just about everyone else, could actually do that). On those jaunts, I regularly turned right when others were turning left. I wandered off the beaten track, down side streets and lanes, seeing sights and running into people I probably never would have otherwise.

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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, more of a rant than an argument that was fueled by the recent experiences of a few friends who were trying to find some information online, but who were disappointed by all of the bait that they latched on to. And were they ever annoyed. OK, annoyed isn't a strong enough word to describe how they felt.

To be entirely honest, what you're about to read has been a long time in coming. The topic of this letter has irked me for years. It's time to vent.

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

On SEO

In late 2015, a friend sent me a link to a blog post on writing that he described as great. He thought I'd be interested in reading that post and was convinced that I would learn something from it.

I did learn a lot from that post. But what I learned wasn't what my friend expected me to learn. While the information in the post wasn't bad, that post illustrated a lot of what I find wrong with a number of blog posts these days.

The post was way too long. Not in a TL;DR way, but in a let's stretch this out as far as we can way. On top of that, it wasn't particularly well written. Which is ironic, since a central argument of the post was that good writing is a key to effective web publishing.

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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, I'm going back to a subject that I've written about in the past: reading. This week's musing was inspired by something I read. How circular ...

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

On the Effects That Books Have On Us

Did you know that singer Iggy Pop wrote an article for a scholarly journal? Until recently, neither did I. The year: 1995. The journal: Classics Ireland. The title of that article: “Caesar Lives”.

Pop's article was a three-page examination of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon. While the article didn't offer any deep insights into Gibbon's masterwork, it did offer a few insights into how the book affected Iggy Pop both as a person and as an artist.

That's what the right book can do to us. To any of us. Whether a printed or electronic tome, there's something out there in the form of a book that can shake us. That can shape us. That can move us beyond our cramped boxes of our experience and our thinking. That can take us to new places, intellectually and spiritually, no matter where we are in our lives. And it can happen with the books that you least expect.

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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.

With the frequency I've been publishing this letter lately, I'm starting to think I should rename it Biweekly Musings. Last week was ... well, it was. I just didn't have the time or energy to finish this week's essay.

It's an essay that started life as a post in my public notebook, one which I thought should be expanded up. Bits of that post show up what you'll be reading in a moment, and appear here via a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license. So, no, I'm not ripping myself off.

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

On Being Constantly Connected

A lot of years ago, Linda Stone wrote a very interesting column at the O'Reilly website. That column focused on how pervasive mobile phones had become, and how people took their phones everywhere (and I mean everywhere) with them.

One passage from that column still sticks with me to this day:

Last week, a high school sophomore told me that she brings her phone into the shower with her — in a Ziploc bag. She didn’t want to miss an incoming text message. When I asked her if, in her sleep, she had missed life-altering messages, she looked at me blankly.

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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.

It's a slightly shorter musing this week, thanks to a lack of sleep and The Day JobTM being a little more trying that usual. So, I haven't had the focus or the energy to develop the idea at the core of this week's essay as well or as sharply as I wanted to.

What you're about to read is essentially a ramble, some email woolgathering about something I think is missing from a lot of tech these days.

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

On Fanciful Technology

It was late on a Saturday morning in 1993. I was hunched over a table at the Toronto Reference Library, catching up on some periodicals. Some I regularly read, some I only occasionally perused. Most I couldn't afford to subscribe to or buy regularly.

In an attempt to get a glimpse into, and a handle on, the then-current digital zeitgeist, I found myself leafing through an issue of Mondo 2000. Normally, I wouldn't have read that particular magazine. I always thought that Mondo 2000 tried to be a bit too hip, a bit too clever for its own good. But in that issue was a short article titled “Computer as Furoshiki” that sparked my imagination.

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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 essay was originally published after a wild week in January, 2021. Instead of dwelling on the events of the those days (which I did quite a bit of in the physical world), I decided to share an idea that's been tugging it my brain for a week or two.

And in the spirit of experimentation, I've started toying with monetizing certain essays on this site using a technology called Web Monetization. Not every essay (and not this one), but a random selection of musings published in this space. To read those posts, you need a Coil account and a browser extension. Will this experiment work? Who knows. But I think it's worth trying.

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

On Experimenting

In 1927, a man by the name of Richard Buckminster Fuller had hit bottom. Hard. A few years earlier, his four-month-old daughter had died. It was an event that sent Fuller into a spiral of anxiety and depression. Earlier in 1927, he'd lost his job. His wife had given birth to another child and the family had no resources upon which to fall back.

Fuller saw only one path to take. He decided to end it all so his family could at least collect the proceeds of a large insurance policy. Just as he was about take the fatal, final step into the cold waters of Lake Michigan, Fuller had an epiphany that influenced him to undertake:

an experiment, to find what a single individual could contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity

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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 first sent out this musing, the new year was just a few days old. As usual, little if anything, seemed different. What a difference a few weeks made. Turmoil. Uncertainty. I wanted to give 2021 some time before making a final judgement, but I'm not hopeful.

Over the 2020 holidays, I (for once) followed my own advice and disconnected for a while. So much so, that I didn't publish a musing last week. One of the ways in which I took a step or two back sparked the idea for essay you're about to read.

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

On Walking Amongst the Monuments

A couple of hundred metres from where I live is a massive cemetery, one that dates back to the late 1800s and which rolls and sprawls over ... well, I'm not sure how many hectares. Its size and contours make that cemetery a near perfect place to go for long walks — whether for exercise or to clear one's head.

Whenever I stroll through the cemetery, I steal the occasional glance at the tombstones and monuments and plaques that I'm walking by. Not out of morbid fascination, but out of curiosity. Curiosity about how people are remembered by those who they leave behind.

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