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, I'm going back to a subject that I've written about in the past: reading. This week's musing was inspired by something I read. How circular ...

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

On the Effects That Books Have On Us

Did you know that singer Iggy Pop wrote an article for a scholarly journal? Until recently, neither did I. The year: 1995. The journal: Classics Ireland. The title of that article: “Caesar Lives”.

Pop's article was a three-page examination of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon. While the article didn't offer any deep insights into Gibbon's masterwork, it did offer a few insights into how the book affected Iggy Pop both as a person and as an artist.

That's what the right book can do to us. To any of us. Whether a printed or electronic tome, there's something out there in the form of a book that can shake us. That can shape us. That can move us beyond our cramped boxes of our experience and our thinking. That can take us to new places, intellectually and spiritually, no matter where we are in our lives. And it can happen with the books that you least expect.

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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.

With the frequency I've been publishing this letter lately, I'm starting to think I should rename it Biweekly Musings. Last week was ... well, it was. I just didn't have the time or energy to finish this week's essay.

It's an essay that started life as a post in my public notebook, one which I thought should be expanded up. Bits of that post show up what you'll be reading in a moment, and appear here via a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license. So, no, I'm not ripping myself off.

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

On Being Constantly Connected

A lot of years ago, Linda Stone wrote a very interesting column at the O'Reilly website. That column focused on how pervasive mobile phones had become, and how people took their phones everywhere (and I mean everywhere) with them.

One passage from that column still sticks with me to this day:

Last week, a high school sophomore told me that she brings her phone into the shower with her — in a Ziploc bag. She didn’t want to miss an incoming text message. When I asked her if, in her sleep, she had missed life-altering messages, she looked at me blankly.

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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 a slightly shorter musing this week, thanks to a lack of sleep and The Day JobTM being a little more trying that usual. So, I haven't had the focus or the energy to develop the idea at the core of this week's essay as well or as sharply as I wanted to.

What you're about to read is essentially a ramble, some email woolgathering about something I think is missing from a lot of tech these days.

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

On Fanciful Technology

It was late on a Saturday morning in 1993. I was hunched over a table at the Toronto Reference Library, catching up on some periodicals. Some I regularly read, some I only occasionally perused. Most I couldn't afford to subscribe to or buy regularly.

In an attempt to get a glimpse into, and a handle on, the then-current digital zeitgeist, I found myself leafing through an issue of Mondo 2000. Normally, I wouldn't have read that particular magazine. I always thought that Mondo 2000 tried to be a bit too hip, a bit too clever for its own good. But in that issue was a short article titled “Computer as Furoshiki” that sparked my imagination.

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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 essay was originally published after a wild week in January, 2021. Instead of dwelling on the events of the those days (which I did quite a bit of in the physical world), I decided to share an idea that's been tugging it my brain for a week or two.

And in the spirit of experimentation, I've started toying with monetizing certain essays on this site using a technology called Web Monetization. Not every essay (and not this one), but a random selection of musings published in this space. To read those posts, you need a Coil account and a browser extension. Will this experiment work? Who knows. But I think it's worth trying.

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

On Experimenting

In 1927, a man by the name of Richard Buckminster Fuller had hit bottom. Hard. A few years earlier, his four-month-old daughter had died. It was an event that sent Fuller into a spiral of anxiety and depression. Earlier in 1927, he'd lost his job. His wife had given birth to another child and the family had no resources upon which to fall back.

Fuller saw only one path to take. He decided to end it all so his family could at least collect the proceeds of a large insurance policy. Just as he was about take the fatal, final step into the cold waters of Lake Michigan, Fuller had an epiphany that influenced him to undertake:

an experiment, to find what a single individual could contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity

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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 first sent out this musing, the new year was just a few days old. As usual, little if anything, seemed different. What a difference a few weeks made. Turmoil. Uncertainty. I wanted to give 2021 some time before making a final judgement, but I'm not hopeful.

Over the 2020 holidays, I (for once) followed my own advice and disconnected for a while. So much so, that I didn't publish a musing last week. One of the ways in which I took a step or two back sparked the idea for essay you're about to read.

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

On Walking Amongst the Monuments

A couple of hundred metres from where I live is a massive cemetery, one that dates back to the late 1800s and which rolls and sprawls over ... well, I'm not sure how many hectares. Its size and contours make that cemetery a near perfect place to go for long walks — whether for exercise or to clear one's head.

Whenever I stroll through the cemetery, I steal the occasional glance at the tombstones and monuments and plaques that I'm walking by. Not out of morbid fascination, but out of curiosity. Curiosity about how people are remembered by those who they leave behind.

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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.

Thoughts about the holiday season helped jump start the idea behind this week's letter. Not about the holidays themselves, but about what the holidays should be: a time to pull back. I'm not going to natter on about that in this intro. That's what the essay you're about to read is for, isn't it?

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

On the Joys of Disconnecting

Let's take a wee trip back in time, shall we? To 2012. Specifically, that year's Christmas break. It might have been the 26th or the 27th of December. Sorry, it's been eight years and some of the finer details have faded from my memory.

At that time, I was a member of a now-defunct social networking site called App.net. On the 26th or the 27th of December, 2012 a rather interesting and, in many ways, very sad post passed through my stream. A post that made me shake my head — partly in disbelief and partly out of pity.

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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 good to have you back. Thanks for joining me.

This time 'round, thoughts about a topic inspired by something I heard at The Day JobTM recently. But also thoughts that, as usual, have been bouncing around in my brain for a while.

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

On Simple Software

Maybe I've been digging in the enterprise software trenches a bit too long. Maybe I'm just getting old and cranky or jaded. Maybe it's a bit of all of the above. But lately, I've been lamenting today's lack of simple software.

By simple, I mean software that does just what it needs to do. Not software that tries to be everything to everyone and comes up short in all areas. Software that's focused, but also easy to use.

That's not to say that all software is overly complex and overloaded with features. Quite a bit of it isn't, though much of that simple software occupies some very niche spaces.

Despite so much software being just too much, developers and (what's to me) a shockingly large number of users put up with the status quo. They cling to the idea that more features and functions in software means that software is better. That by pushing a one-size-fits-all approach, we wind up with not something that's a well-tailored solution but one that fits like a tablecloth. A big, tent-like tablecloth.

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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.

Another week has passed. They seem to be doing that a lot faster, aren't they? Or maybe it's just me.

Regardless, you're getting a new edition of this letter. A day late due to unforeseen circumstances, but it's here. See, I do care. This time 'round, thoughts about a topic inspired by something my wife mentioned to me recently. Thoughts that hadn't popped into my head in over 20 years.

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

On the Death of the Post

It wasn't all that long ago that no one knew what electronic mail (e-mail) was. That started to slowly change when the World Wide Web gripped the popular imagination back in the early- and mid-1990s. Even then, having an email address was something of a novelty.

These days, it seems everyone has an e-mail address. Some have more than one. Now, as in the seemingly ancient days of the web, there were predictions that the delivery of physical mail, often derisively referred to as snail mail will cease to exist. That there will no longer be people whose watches and clocks — biological or mechanical or digital — will be set to time of the daily mail delivery. That there will no longer be the clatter of envelopes and magazines slipping through the letter slot, or the joy of finding something addressed to you in your mailbox.

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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, 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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