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 week's musing comes not from a depth of despair, but an attempt to reconnect with myself. The idea also has roots in the way in which some of the people I know are trying to reconnect with themselves.

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

On the Importance of Being Alone

I need to be alone. I need to ponder my shame and my despair in seclusion; I need the sunshine and the paving stones of the streets without companions, without conversation, face to face with myself, with only the music of my heart for company.

— Henry Miller

Humans are, for the most part, social. You can argue that by coming together in groups larger than our own families, humans were able to survive, thrive, and progress over the millennia. You can also argue that being social has been woven into the fabric of our societies over that same span of 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 week, a slightly shorter essay. An essay sparked by something I overheard while out a few days ago. Once again, a random remark dovetailed with some ideas knocking around in my head.

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

On Teaching (and Learning) Skills, Not Software

Let's take a step back into the past, shall we? To an evening 2007, sometime in October. That evening, it was my turn to go to the monthly parent/teacher meeting at the public school my daughter was attending. Something that wasn't my favourite way to spend a weekday evening.

It's not that I wasn't interested in my daughter's education or what was happening at her school. It's just that I found a few of the parents who were regulars at the meeting to be ... well, to put it mildly, annoying.

That evening, one of the topics of discussion was how to introduce more computing into the curriculum. During one that discussion, one of the parents I found annoying chimed in. He was quite passionate about computers in schools. He also kept hammering the point that not only should this school (and all schools, for that matter) have computers for students, but that schools should also teach students the most popular software packages to “prepare our kids for the future.”

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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 several weeks, I've been reading quite a bit about topics related to this week's musing. Much of that reading dovetails with my thoughts and ideas, which resulted in what you're about to read.

And if you enjoy what I send out every seven days or so, feel free to recommend this letter to you friends and family. Or your enemies. A subscription is free and they can cancel at any time.

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

On What to Keep (and Delete)

Whether we intend to or not, we collect a lot of digital cruft. Piles of bookmarks. Notes. Articles stored in read-it-later apps. Unread feeds in our RSS readers. And more.

We become digital pack rats. We figure that we'll get a chance to look at all those things we've saved when we have time (whenever that is). The problem is that most of what you save and collect won't be useful in the future. Most of it has a short shelf life anyway, a shelf life that's ended long ago.

Often, we wind up with all that digital weight because we spent time creating or finding it. We can't bear to part with it because it's ours. We hold on to it because we can. While every bit and byte you've accumulated might be of minor interest to a digital archaeologist in the future (and that's doubtful!), it has little or no use in 2020. Or beyond.

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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.

In the last week, I had three ideas for essays compete for my attention. I furtively started work on all of them, but another idea pushed its way into pole position. Not because it was the best of them — although, as ideas go, it's not bad. No, that idea became the musing you're about to read by getting me to think about what I do and how I try to get better at it.

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

On Reading Fiction

It was a Sunday afternoon. Not a particularly nice one — cloudy, windy, cool, and threatening to rain. A typical winter's day in Auckland.

As I watched highlights of a recent DTM race weekend on TV, my wife for whatever reason seemed engrossed by some books in the bookcase. Specifically, my books. After what seemed like several minutes, or at least a lap or two of Spa-Francorchamps, she said When was the last time you read a novel?

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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.

I hope you're all well, or as well as you can be in these crazy days of plague and uncertainty. Sometimes, it seems like all of what's will never end and that the so-called new normal isn't anything to be thrilled about. But life goes on, and we all have to make the best of it, no matter how hard it seems at time. We will get through this, though. We will.

This week's musing has little or nothing to do with that. The idea around it has been churning in various corners of my brain for a while now, and coalesced recently when I was catching up on some online reading. Which resulted, in a roundabout way, in the essay you're about to read.

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

On Taking Control of Your Information

The amount of information that passes before our eyeballs in this age is ... well, I can't think of a way to describe it. Words like incredible, phenomenal, and massive just don't seem up to the job.

A deluge of information washes over us each and every day. That information comes in a number of forms and from a number of sources. And, most telling, the deluge never stops. Ever.

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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.

Time to get a bit more introspective this week, with thoughts about something I've never been much good at. Well, one of the somethings. But with the events of recent days, it might be time to take another kick at that can.

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

On Journaling

Sitting in front of me on the table were a black Uniball pen and a fresh 5 by 8 inch notebook, open to its pristine first page. The dot grid on that page stared up at me as I picked up the pen and removed the cap. But as the pen descended towards the page, my hand froze. My mind went empty — tabula as in rasa. The page stay unsullied.

Once again, I came face-to-face with my inability to get the hang of regularly writing in a journal. It doesn't matter if it's paper or electronic, I just can't develop the discipline of regularly jotting down what happened during the day, of recording my random thoughts about the day and its events.

Whenever I did try to regularly journal, I found that it had a number of benefits. Journaling isn't only therapeutic and cathartic, it's also a good record of where I am and where I've been. It can help show progress in life, and remind me of what I've done right and what I've done wrong.

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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 is a time for shifting gears and looking once again at technology. And, once again, looking at technology from a slightly different angle.

And in case you're looking for something new to read (and listen to), you might want to check out Bryan Behrenshausen's new email newsletter. In it, Bryan recommends one vaporwave song I think you'll like and I write about that song for a bit. Even if you're not a fan of vaporwave, Bryan's commentary is well worth a read — it's concise, clever, and evocative.

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

On Keeping Older Hardware Alive

As it always does, the Battery Critically Low notification popped up on my desktop unexpectedly. As I reached down to plug the AC adapter into the little yellow power bar on the floor, I noticed the small, fading label on the adapter emblazoned with MAR-15.

I clearly remember ordering that laptop from System76 a little over five years ago, and how happy I was went it finally made its way to New Zealand. In the intervening years, that laptop, literally and figuratively, logged more kilometres than I care to admit. A laptop that, despite being five years old, is still going strong.

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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 shorter essay this week. It's an idea that's still forming in my brain, but one which I wanted to share with you even in its incomplete state. And it's an idea that I hope will, at the very least, give you pause to think.

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

On Quality of Life

The brown mug sat steaming in front of me as I stared out the window at the green water of Auckland's harbour. The nail of an index finger absently tapped the mug's handle as I pondered the events of the last few weeks.

Those were a set of weeks that, on a personal level, hadn't been the best. Or the kindest. The kind of weeks that kick you in the gut, and then do it again just because they can. It felt like everything was spiraling out of my grasp and control, and the universe mockingly refused to stop that spiral.

Staring at the green water in the distance, I started to think about quality of life. What it is. What it means at a deeper level. How different people view that concept, and what it means to them.

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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.

In the introduction to a recent musing, I mentioned that I'm rarely (if ever) without writing ideas. While I'm told that's an enviable position to be in, there's a flip side to that. Sometimes I start working on what seems like a promising idea, only for that idea to not fulfill that promise.

Which is what happened over the last few days. I was around 1,200 words into another musing when the idea collapsed under the weigh of too much being packed on to its rickety frame. The idea also collapsed, I think, because of my expectations around it and because of my limitations as a writer. That's something of a humbling experience, but a humbling we all need sometimes.

That said, I managed to pull something out of my hat so I wouldn't let you down. See, I do care!

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

On Failure and Failing

This week, I'd like to talk to you about the F word: Failure.

While failure isn't a four-letter word, it's treated like one. It supposedly has a stench. If nothing else, failure has a number of negative connotations — both perceptually and psychologically.

Technology companies, especially startups, incessantly chant the mantra Fail fast, fail often. When you do it collectively, failure takes on something of a mystique. Sure, that group of people might have failed. But they're a collection of talented, intelligent, hard-charging people pushing envelopes. Pushing boundaries. Pushing the state of the art. A failure of two is inevitable, but by failing that group is learning and growing.

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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.

Finally! I've been able to finish and send out this musing. If you haven't been following the ongoing and mildly-amusing saga around this, let me recap. Over the last few weeks, I've been close (and I mean really close) to wrapping up the essay you're about to read. But other ideas have muscled their way in to jump the queue. To be honest, I came close to abandoning this essay. I'm glad it didn't. And I hope you enjoy it.

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

On Productivity

I don't have all that many close friends. That makes me grateful for the people who fill that small circle. Those friends and I don't agree about everything, or even about a lot of things. In fact, we sometimes have some pretty intense discussions and disagreements, ones we realize aren't personal and which don't jeopardize or weaken our friendship.

Recently, I did a video chat with one of those close friends. Talk, for whatever reason, turned to something that we've never agreed upon: productivity. What productivity is. What it means to be productive. That sort of thing.

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