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.

If you tuned in last week, you might remember that I mentioned a musing that was four-fifths complete. Guess what? It still is. That essay just refuses to let me finish it. Talk about stubborn, willful kids ...

Because of that, I've had to shift gears rather quickly this week. Luckily, I've got enough ideas knocking around in my head to be able to do that. The last thing I want to do is let any of you down.

Just so you know, parts of the essay you're about to read first appeared in my public notebook and appear here via a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license.

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

On Striking the Balance Between Work and Life

I don't need to tell you how much COVID-19 has disrupted all aspects of our lives. One of those aspects is work.

Many are fortunate enough to 1) still be employed, and 2) have jobs that enable us to work from home. That has created an entirely new dynamic in our lives. For many, it's upset that very difficult balance between work and life. If you lose that balance these days, you'll probably fall on the side of work. It shouldn't be that way.

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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 essay I was originally working on for this week was about four-fifths done. Then the idea for what you're about to read rushed in, elbows out, and knocked my first idea aside. I know I shouldn't encourage that kind of behaviour, but I'll let it slide this time.

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

On Taking Notes While Reading

Everything I needed was laid out, in a somewhat asymmetrical grid, on the table before me. My glasses. A pocket notebook held open with a binder clip. A gel pen, quickly running out of ink. And, of course, the book I'd be reading for the next hour or two. All that was missing was a steaming mug of green tea.

My wife walked by, looked slightly askance at the everything laid out before me, and said Hitting the books again, are you?

Since late 2019, I've been making a concerted effort to change my reading habits. I'm not trying to read more, as several people out on the interwebs advocate. Instead, I'm trying to read more deeply. I'm trying to read carefully. To help do that, I'm taking more notes while I read.

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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 is a shorter one. I don't know about you, but being in lockdown has energized me in some ways but has been sapping some of my energy in others.

I just want to say welcome to the new subscribers to this letter. I'm flattered that you're interested in what I scribble each week. And, as always, I'm grateful to those of you who've been reading Weekly Musings for a while now.

A quick reminder: you can download the ebook of the first 52 editions of Weekly Musings. It's free (you can pay what you want, but I don't expect you to). And I've finally gotten around to making a PDF version of book.

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

On Travel and How It's Changing

We're in a time of change, folks. But I didn't have to tell you that. Like all of us, you're living through those changes.

To be honest, I can't think of a single event in my 53 years walking this planet that has shaken up the world like COVID-19 has. Definitely not as quickly and definitely not in as many areas.

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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, it's time for another letter about technology. As with my other musings on that subject, I'm not discussing the intricacies of any technology, but a more ephemeral aspect of it.

Before anyone starts reading between lines that aren't there, understand that this musing isn't an attack on or an indictment of free and open source software. Open source is the tech world in which I live. It's the world that I know best and the one with which I have the most experience. What I discuss in the essay you're about to read applies any technology. In fact, it applies to just about anything.

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

On Open Source and the Power User Fallacy

It wasn't that long ago that the free and open source (FOSS) world wasn't a pleasant place to be in. If you were someone who lacked technical skills and posted for help in a forum, you were as liable to get belittled as you were to get help.

And woe betide you if you wrote or said something that didn't mesh with the ideas or beliefs of some corner or the other of the FOSS world. On more than one occasion, I was on the receiving end of some nasty backlash. Yeah, fun times.

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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 and those close to you are doing well. These times are testing us, but I believe we can come through them stronger and with a stronger sense of what's important.

Once again, duelling topics bouncing around in my head have vied for my attention. This week's musing presents the winner of that duel. It's a slightly shorter essay than usual, but like the topic the essay is pared down to the essentials.

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

On Minimalism

It was an interesting idea. It was a good idea with a solid foundation. But in the hands of some, that idea went to extremes. It became a game of bragging rights, of demonstrating strength of character, of rejecting the supposed norms of society. In the words of New Republic writer Jill Steinhauser, the idea became a measure of taste and an opportunity to announce your sophistication.

And in that way, a good idea became the object of mockery and derision.

That idea? Minimalism.

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This week's essay isn't about the scariness that's sweeping the world. Instead, it's about most of us. It's about embracing something that shapes us whether we realize it or not.

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

On Living an Ordinary Life

I see the cultural messaging everywhere that an ordinary life is a meaningless life

— Dr. Brene Brown

If you believe everything you read on the web, we live in a world of hyperachievers. Of people doing extraordinary things. People (until recently, anyway) travelling the world with nothing but a backpack and a laptop, having amazing adventures and telling the world about them. People founding companies while grinding away at gruelling day job. People pushing themselves beyond their supposed limits. All that sort of thing.

In some circles, those kinds of folks are held up as a modern ideal. And unless, like them, you've lived in a dozen countries or mastered half a dozen languages or founded three startups before you're 30 you haven't lived up to your potential.

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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 lot of thoughts and ideas have been bouncing around my head the past week or three. I'm starting to wonder if that's a mental manifestation of the stress that I'm denying I'm experiencing. Or maybe it's a sign that I've got too much on my plate. Whatever the reason, all that is both frustrating and exhilarating.

The subject of this week's letter has clawed its way to the top of the heap. As is often the case, the ideas around it aren't fully formed but I think they're ready to provoke a few thoughts. And that's why we're all here, isn't it?

The other day, I noticed it's been a while since I've recommended a newsletter. With the craziness going on in the world right now, and with people isolating, we could all use a little more good reading. This time 'round, it's Why is this interesting?. Each day, more or less, Noah Brier and Colin Nagy share some thoughts about something that they find interesting. And they bounce around topics more than I do! Rarely is there a dull edition or one that doesn't engage me. Give it a try.

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

On the Necessity of Boredom

If sleep is the apogee of physical relaxation, boredom is the apogee of mental relaxation. Boredom is the dream bird that hatches the egg of experience.

— Walter Benjamin

Boredom.

It's seen as something bad. With so much input and stimulus available to us, there's no excuse to be bored. You can always find something to occupy your brain, your body, and your mind.

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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.

Life is full of the unexpected. Some of it good, some of it bad. Sometimes, the unexpected provides us with a reason to smile, a reason to believe that everything will turn out OK. That's what this musing is all about.

Let's get to it, shall we?

On Finding Simple Pleasures in Unexpected Places

There I was, standing on the footpath in one of those tiny villages that dot England. Just in front and a little to the left of me was a small fish and chip shop. It was around three in the afternoon, and I'd had my last meal early that morning. Aside from a nearby pub and a convenience store, there was nowhere else to get something to eat.

In my head, a debate raged about whether or not to go in.

I'll be honest: I was apprehensive. While I'm not a snob, this shop didn't seem like my kind of place. It looked a bit run down, a bit worn out. Threadbare. It wasn't a dive, but it had seen its fair share of days.

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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 goes to show you that ideas are everywhere. They can come from a lightning bolt of inspiration or from performing a mundane task. The musing you're about to read sprang from the latter. I hope you enjoy it.

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

On When a Place Has Its Greatest Impact

It all started with a curious request. Last week, a friend emailed and asked for a couple of photos from one of my travels.

I dug those photos out of my archive and duly send them on their way through the intertubes. Instead of moving on to something else, I started combing through other photos that I'd taken over the decades.

Something I noticed in those photos was people. More than that, a general lack of people. If there were in any in my snaps, there were only a few of them. Usually, those people were in the distance or on the peripheries.

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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 edition of the letter. But it's one driven by you, the people who subscribe to these musings. This edition is a follow up to last week's letter, expanding on the theme or information overload.

A quick note of thanks to those of you who pledged some support over the last few weeks. Most of that has gone to causes, including sponsoring the cutest assistance dog you've ever seen. If you're interested in supporting Weekly Musings (beyond reading the letter, I mean), you can find out how to do that on this page.

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

On Information Overload (Again)

If you're keeping score, last time 'round in this space I took a dive into the concept of information overload and explained why it's a crock. Over the last seven days, I've gotten ... well, not push back but actually some interesting feedback. Not just from the fives of wonderful people who subscribe to this letter but folks I know in meatspace.

A lot of that feedback revolved around the amounts of information that those people in my complained about having to keep up with. At least, what they think they have to keep up with.

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