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, an idea that's been rattling around in my head for a while now. As you'll notice, there are still bits of my thinking about this topic that are forming but it's something that I find interesting. I hope you do, too.

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

On Cultivating a Digital Garden

Something that's fascinated me for as long as I can remember is the way in which people collect, connect, and share knowledge. Not only in the professional sphere, but on the personal side of their lives as well.

About 11 or 12 months ago, the concept of the digital garden crossed my gaze. The concept grabbed and held on to my attention but, thanks to various other pressures and factors, thoughts about digital gardens were shunted to the back of my brain. Those thoughts, though, have been percolating ever since. Because of the nature of my new Day JobTM, the idea of the digital garden has strongly come to the fore again.

What, you might be asking, is a digital garden? It's something that lies between a public notebook and a blog. You can use a digital garden to collect and to organize the important information the comes your way. It's a way of sharing what you know and what you're learning. It's doesn't (always) need to be a structured, hierarchical set of files or pages on the web or on your computer, but more of a grouping of information that grows as you learn.

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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.

To quote the immortal (in more ways than one) Captain Jack Harkness: Hey kids, did you miss me? Well, I did miss you. And it's good to be back.

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

On Making an Impact

Since shifting house recently, the length of my commute has tripled. Instead of walking to the office, I take a train and then hoof it to the Day JobTM from the final station on the line. That commute, while stretching out my day, also gives me time to catch up on my reading. It also gives me some space to think and to write.

Something I've been pondering recently was triggered by an advert at final station on my commute. That ad is a vertical rectangle, just over two metres high, emblazoned with a question in big, black letters set in a modern font (sorry, I don't know which font). That question? How do I make an impact in the world?

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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.

Sometimes, things hit you from different angles all at once. Which is what happened with me over the last week or so. Mainly in a good way, but a way in which left me scrambling to get this edition of the letter out.

With time at a premium, I dug into my archives and found something kind of finished, but which needed a bit of TLC. Which is what you're about to read. I hope that you enjoy it.

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

On the (Japanese) Vending Machine

Like white-gloved pushers in the Tokyo subway and tales of $50 watermelons, stories about interesting, practical, and downright weird vending machines are one of the images burned into the world's knowledge of Japan. A knowledge that most of us didn't pick up first hand, but rather acquired through the often superficial and often distorted lens of the media and popular tales.

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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 should have been last week's. And if it wasn't for the last 175 words refusing to be written, what you'd be reading now would be something entirely different. It's annoying when that happens.

It's been a while since I've recommended an email newsletter, so why don't I do that now? That newsletter is James Whatley's Five things on Friday which, ironically, doesn't always land in your inbox on a Friday. Or even every week. Whatley uses the newsletter to share five things of note that you might have missed during the week. The topics can be pretty wide ranging, but you'll find something that grabs your attention.

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

On Embracing Your Inner Geek

Embrace your inner geek.

That's a phrase, and a call to action, that I've been using since the late 1990s or early 2000s. It started off focused on technology — I'd joke that a fellow technical communicator needed to dive a bit more deeply into what they were writing about to better understand it. Or, I'd say that to encourage someone to learn more about a certain technology.

As the years passed, the idea of embracing one's inner geek moved beyond technology. It applies to anything you're passionate about, anything in which you're deeply interested. That could be woodworking, trainspotting, tying knots, collecting books. In those cases, being a geek denotes an abiding affection or preoccupation with something. That something might be practical. It might be obscure. The key point is that it's something that's taken hold of your imagination and which you've acted upon to learn more about or do regularly.

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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.

Once again, life has decided to happy slap me. In between the (mostly good) chaos that's enveloping my work and personal lives is a narrow lane into which I slot the things that I want to do. Lately, the entrances and exits to that lane have either been blocked or clogged, which is slowing me down. The essay I was going to publish this week just wouldn't let me wrap it up. So, I had to quickly shift gears and quickly write what you're about to read.

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

On Reflection Versus Speed

It’s been a while since I’ve heard someone use the term internet time. Even though it's a hackneyed phrase whose vogue has long passed, internet time can be an apt metaphor for the world we’re living in. Or, at least, the world many of us seem to think we’re living in.

What kind of world is that? A world in which we’re expected to be constantly on and constantly available. A world in which information is coming at us at all hours of the day and night. A world in which we see and read, and are forced to react almost instantly. Our knees jerk. The lack of depth in our knowledge is on full display.

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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 hard to believe that we're almost half way through another month. And that another year is coming to a close. I'm sure that most of us want to see 2020 shunted into the history books and into the backs of our memories. Most of the last 288 days have been a strange, unexpected ride.

This time 'round, another short essay. The hectic pace that's invaded my life these past few weeks has continued, which means I've had less time to ponder and write than I hoped. But at least this letter is back on schedule.

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

On (Not) Reading More Books

So many books to read, and so little time. And yet the pressure to read as much as we can is always there.

It's not just the concept of tsundoku (letting books pile up without reading them) that plagues us and applies pressure. It's the number of books that we're recommended or encouraged to read. It's the number of books that we're told me must read. Books that will help us keep abreast of the latest professional trends and ideas. Books that will give us an advantage over our competitors in the workplace or in business. Books that will help us stay current with the reading of our peers.

Sometimes, it can all be too much.

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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 last while has been busy, with quite a lot going on in my life. Most of it good, but all of it requiring my full attention. Hence the delay sending out this letter.

That busy-ness has, for better or worse, spilled into this week. Which has limited my time, and which resulted in a slightly shorter letter this time 'round.

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

On Making Our Lives More Efficient

Effectiveness is doing the things that get you closer to your goals. Efficiency is performing a given task (whether important or not) in the most economical manner possible. Being efficient without regard to effectiveness is the default mode of the universe.

— Tim Ferriss

Efficiency.

It's an idea that I think we all try to embrace. We want to do our work in the fastest, most effective, and most efficient way. We want to get things done so we have a bit more time to learn or to focus on work that really matters. We want to get things done quickly and to the best of our abilities so we can get out of Dodge and have a bit more time doing what we want to do outside of the office walls.

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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, another essay that was inspired by something that friends have said to me. Not once or twice, but a few times over the years. What you're about to read is my retort.

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

On Bookshops

There are a pair of bookshops within a five minute or so walk of where I live. One is packed with new and new-ish volumes. The other is crammed with older, previously-read tomes. Both shops are compact, to say the least. It only takes a handful of customers to crowd the narrow aisles. Sometimes, books are jammed so tightly on the shelves that I need to do a lot of wriggling to slowly extricate (excavate?) what I want to take a closer look at.

The selection of books at both shops isn't what you'd call vast. There's always a pretty good mix of books, covering a variety of subjects and genres, on the shelves and tables of both. The stores definitely don't stock everything, and don't always have what I'm looking for. And that's fine with me.

It's from those bookshops that I buy most of my books nowadays. When I mention I'm heading out to buy a book from an actual shop, I often hear friends say “Why? It's cheaper on Amazon” or “Why not just order the book from Amazon and save yourself the trouble?”

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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.

If this week's essay seems a bit disjointed and rushed, my apologies. Over the last few days, I've had my head down, wrapping up the writing, editing, and publishing of a new ebook. That's done, and the book's been published. If you're curious, you can read the release announcement.

Back to the letter ... What's below the (virtual) fold is yet another one of those ideas that's been rattling around in my noggin for a while. What prompted me to finally write this essay was a seemingly innocuous comment made by an acquaintance. He's going to be email newsletter famous and doesn't realize it ...

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

On Social Media and Data

Back when I had a Netflix account, one series that I always looked forward to was Black Mirror. Admittedly, I have a bit of a thing for dystopian fiction. Especially if that dystopian fiction packs a sense of wry humour and more than a bit of a bite.

Like all good fiction, Charlie Brooker's series holds a reflective surface up to a corner of our world and shows us what's going wrong. Or what could easily go wrong. An episode from series five really brought that home.

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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 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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