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 I've mentioned in the past, the musings that appear in this space are sometimes (OK, slightly more than sometimes) ideas and thoughts that are still coalescing in my brain. There's always room for refinement, there's always room for reappraisal, there's always room for expansion.

This time 'round, it's a case of the latter. I'm reaching back a few months and trying to fill in a blank from a previous essay.

On Preserving Local History

You might recall Musing 040, in which I discussed local history and its importance. Since then, the gears in the back of my mind have been slowly grinding away, pondering how to preserve that history.

This week's letter is less a musing and more woolgathering. The next few hundred words aren't a definitive guide to preserving local history, nor do they offer many new insights. Perhaps they'll spark some ideas or, at the very least, inspire you to keep your eyes open.

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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 edition of the letter is an example of inspiration coming from an unexpected place. That place? A particular album by a particular music group. I hope you enjoy the product of that inspiration.

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

On Tokyo

Over the 2019 Christmas holidays, I reached a point at which I needed some time to myself. With my wife and daughter off doing something one afternoon, I settled in with a mug of green tea, a book my wife gave me for Christmas, and some music.

One of the albums I listened to was Tokyo by Marconi Union. The album is a musical evocation of the city, a city that the members of the group have never set foot in. They only know Tokyo through the media. As the tracks drifted into my ears, images and sounds of the city formed in my brain. A little while later, I realized that while I've been to Tokyo, I have only slightly more direct experience with the city than Marconi Union does.

Back in the early 1990s, I spent about three months travelling around Japan. In the 80-odd days I spent in the country, only a couple of those days were in Tokyo. And, to be honest, I couldn't wait to leave the city while I was there.

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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 expanding on a musing from a few weeks back. The core idea is one that's been tugging at my brain, so instead of the essay I had planned to publish this week, I was compelled to tap out this one.

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

On Slow

Do people still use the term internet time? I hope not ...

As annoying and cloying as that term is, there is some truth to it. The online world literally follows the sun. It never turns off. It never sleeps. There's a constant torrent of information and so-called content. Try as you might, you can never keep up with it because there's always something new popping up.

Everything these days has to be fast. Fast answers. Fast decisions. Fast access to bite-sized morsels of information. We're always speeding ahead, chasing something new. We never give whatever from five minutes ago further, deeper thought even though that whatever might need us to do just that.

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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.

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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