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.

As has been the case for the last few weeks, technology is on my mind. This week's letter, though, looks at tech from what I hope is a slightly different perspective.

Once again, I'd like to share another email newsletter to which I subscribe with you. That newsletter is Nextdraft. It's a daily, rather than weekly, newsletter in which Dave Pell rounds up a few of the day's more interesting news stories. Pell summarizes and offers some commentary around the stories. The former is succinct and the latter is in equal parts entertaining and infuriating.

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

On a Different Way of Approaching Technology

It was in the seventh grade that I learned there was more to the concept of technology than I thought. Before then, technology was wrapped up in electronics. In the spacecraft that put humans in orbit and on the moon. In the fledgling home computer.

My history teacher changed that perception when she taught my class about something called Acheulean technology. Until then, I didn't realize that tools crafted by paleolithic peoples could be considered technology.

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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, I'm nattering on about an idea that's been knocking around in my head for quite a while. A few of the fives of people who regularly read this letter may have even heard me talk about the subject in question elsewhere over the last few months.

Let's get to this week's musing.

On Smart Cities

Imagine a city that's flooded with senors and detectors. Imagine a city that collects and transmits massive amounts of data, and shovels that data to your smartphone or smartwatch.

Imagine a city that knows where you are at all times, that can give you directions accurate to a few centimetres. A city in which you can never get lost or make a wrong turn. A city that can tell you where the nearest attractions of interest are, where to find a restaurant you'll like, or that can point you to the nearest bench where you can take a break and top of the charge on your devices.

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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 is a bit cheerier than the last couple have been. This time around, I look at something that's close to my heart. Something I don't do enough of. That something? Travel, but with a small twist.

Speaking of travel, I'd like to introduce you to another of the newsletters I subscribe to: Ridgeline. Crafted by writer and photographer Craig Mod, Ridgeline chronicles (among other things) the walks that Mod takes. And those walks are long, arduous, exhilarating, and joyous. It's both a vicarious experience and a call to lace up a pair of hiking boots and hit a trail.

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

On Slow Travel

Travel.

For some people, travel seems to be about cramming as much as they can into what little time they have. Everything's a rush, and they're only able to scratch the surface of, say, the five cities that they visit in eight days. They're looking at a lot, but not really seeing much.

Rushing through a trip or a vacation isn't anything new. For decades, people have hopped on and off tour buses for whirlwind glimpses of one sight or another. They looked at a few piece of art or old buildings, had an overpriced meal or snack, and bought some crappy tchotchkes. Then, they jumped back on the bus to do it all again somewhere a little further down the road.

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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.

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been a bit cranky. A variety of reasons for that, but my crankiness has been reflected in the last two letters. I'm not going to apologize for that — I refuse to apologize for being who I am. That said, imagine what it's like living with me or being one of my friends ...

This tone of this week's letter is a bit different. It's lighter. It's happier. It's reflective. I hope you enjoy it.

On the Joy of the Notebook

The good old paper notebook seems to have had a bit of a renaissance in recent years. Why? I've never been too sure about that. But I've noticed that people who've adopted notebooks tend to fall into three groups:

  • Those jumping on a bandwagon because Productivity Expert X uses and endorses one
  • Folks who feel nostalgia for what they believe to be a simpler time
  • People who actually find notebooks useful
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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.

Over the last few weeks, thinking about much of the tech industry has been getting me down. There's so much potential there, but there's also so much to infuriate me. Sometimes, being an idealist and an optimist only leads to heartache.

With that tugging at my brain, I'm sharing another draft chapter from Project Crimson. You might remember that as the book of contrarian essays about technology that I'm putting together. In case you're wondering, it's still in the works. Lately, paid work has slowed down my progress on it.

Let's get on to this week's musing.

On Going Cashless

Cash is king.

If you're around my age, that phrase is ingrained in your memory (whether you want it to be or not). And you probably remember how true that phrase was.

There was a time before ATMs. In fact, it wasn't all that long ago that if you wanted to withdraw or deposit money you had to go into local branch of your bank. You'd fill out a rectangular paper slip, wait in line, then hand it — along with your passbook and, if you were making a deposit, cash or a cheque — to a teller.

Most of us used cash for everyday transactions. We made larger purchases with cheques or credit cards. But cash definitely ruled.

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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 is one that might annoy, anger, or even offend a few of you. If any of that happens, I also hope that what I'm sharing with you this week also gives you pause. Either way, you've been warned.

A few of the people who subscribe to Weekly Musings have asked what email newsletters I read. There are a few of them, and every so often I'm going to introduce you to one of those letters.

Starting with Orbital Operations, put out by writer Warren Ellis. Orbital Operations is a cross between an email diary, notice board for Ellis' projects, and link station for what he finds interesting. You get a glimpse into the (grueling) world of a freelance writer and producer, but with liberal sprinkles of acerbic wit and dark humour added to that view. It's never a dull read.

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

On What Might Have Been

You might remember some news reports from September of last year. Reports about a drone attack on the world's largest oil processing site, an Aramco facility in eastern Saudi Arabia. In the immediate aftermath of that attack, fear rippled around the world. Fear that there would be more attacks. Fear that oil processing would grind to a halt and not meet global demand. Fear that oil and gasoline prices would spike. Fear that the world's economy would take a huge hit or even collapse.

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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 essay is taken from my book Glimpses of the Rising Sun. I've reworked the essay a bit, but the angle is still the same: a short chronicle of something I encountered during a three-month trip to Japan back in the early 1990s. Time and more than a few blows to the head haven't dimmed that memory. I hope you enjoy it.

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

On What's Under Wraps

One week into my sojourn to Japan back in the early 1990s, and I found myself without something to read.

The three paperback I brought with me, which were meant to last a month, were read on the flight from Toronto and during those first few jet-lagged late nights and early mornings on the ground in Amagasaki City. I had, to paraphrase Ernest Hemingway, burned through those three books like a drunkard burns through his patrimony.

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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 originally published this musing, it was an especially hectic time for me. The Day JobTM piled a lot on me, and then I logged I don't know how many thousands of kilometres with flights between Auckland and Raleigh, NC.

Speaking of Raleigh, that's where this musing started. As the ideas that would become this week's letter were coalescing in my brain, I had breakfast with my friend Bryan Berhenshausen. Breakfast in Raleigh has become something of a tradition with us. It gives us a chance to catch up and share ideas in person rather than via email. During our conversation, Bryan offered some interesting and valuable insights into this topic. As is often the case, I'm indebted to Bryan for those insights.

Let's get to this week's musing.

On (Local) History

It's interesting to view how some people perceive history. They think of it as something grand. They think of it as possessing scope. They think of history as focusing on major events, events that shape countries, civilizations, and the world as a whole. They see history as a set of big stories, sometimes interlocking stories, that define us.

History is more than that. For all the big stories, there are countless little ones. Stories of ordinary people. Stories of ordinary places. Local histories that we never learn about. If we do, we don't learn about them in detail. Local histories that we never really discover unless we root them out.

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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 letter is going to be a bit shorter than usual. I was working on a slightly longer essay, but the idea behind this letter grabbed me in a grip worthy of a champion grappler and wouldn't let go. So, I rolled with it.

Let's get on to this week's musing, shall we?

On Digital Versus Physical Books

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon my Kobo Aura eReader. To be honest, I'd forgotten about it. It took a few moments before I recalled turning it into a brick a year or so ago while trying to apply an update. As it turns out, that ereader was alive and on the verge of being well. I just needed to charge it up. After that, I was ready to read.

Earlier today, I looked at that ereader. Then I glanced over at the bookshelf in my apartment. It struck me: I have more books on former than on the latter.

Don't get me wrong. It's not that I dislike physical, paper books. I used to have a sizeable library — numbering in the thousands of books, on a range of topics and from a variety of eras. That library had to find several new homes before I moved overseas in 2012. As much as I wanted to, it was impossible for me to bring those books along without shouldering huge shipping costs. Costs which I really couldn't afford to shoulder at the time.

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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 might wind up learning something. And what's that, you're asking? An idea that's been tugging at various lobes of my brain on and off for the last couple of weeks. It's another one of those ideas that isn't quite fully formed, but it does provoke a few thoughts. At least, I think it does.

Let's get to this week's musing.

On an Internet of People

The spark for an idea can come from unexpected corners. You never know where those ideas will take you.

Case in point: in October, 2015 was in the kitchen at what was The Day JobTM heating up my lunch when I spied the brochure for an Internet of Things (IoT) conference that was held in Auckland. I didn't attend, partly because I'm not all that interested in IoT. Mainly, I didn't attend because the conference fee would have put a massive crater in my wallet. I am just a poor, struggling writer after all ...

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