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.

Another seven days, another letter. This one springing from thoughts that have been kicking around in my brain for a while, and which came to the fore thanks to something I'd been doing at the time I wrote what you're about to read. Funny how things work out like that, isn't it?

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

On Doing Something Because You Enjoy it

Each Saturday from mid-May to early June 2021, I hauled myself out of bed a little earlier, taking a short train ride, and then walking 10 minutes or so up a couple of steep hills. Why? I started a beginner's archery course at a local club.

I was easily the oldest person in the group. And I can't say I completely embarrassed myself — I consistently hit the target without hitting anyone else or launching an arrow into my foot. I even scored second highest in the group on assessment day. That said, I think by the end of the course I hit a plateau that I couldn't get over. I reached a point at which I didn't improve, where I was spinning my wheels and didn't seem able to shift to the next level.

At one time in my life, that would have bothered me. Not now. Becoming a really good archer, or even a pretty good archer, wasn't the point of those lessons. In setting foot on that field on a Saturday, my plan wasn't to morph into a competitive bowman — time, both age and the scant few hours and minutes available to me, weren't on my side. And to be honest, I never planned to take up archery. The beginner's course was a Christmas gift from my wife.

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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 letter that was inspired by an online chat that I recently had with a friend. She found herself overwhelmed by the type of application that's meant to make her life easier and keep her informed at the same time. That wasn't what happened.

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

On the Problem of Reading It Later

So much to read on the web — articles, blog posts, essays, and more — and so little time. To try to keep up, or at least keep all that in the front of your memory, you wind up with piles bookmarks and items in your RSS feed reader. None of which helps you read, though.

In this situation, a good read-it-later application can be boon.

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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, time to indulge in a little nostalgia of the tech variety. I must be getting old ... Even if I am, I don't have a pair of rose-coloured glasses. At least, not yet!

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

On Portable Technologies Past

Last week, I found myself chatting with a new hire at The Day JobTM. He's a recent grad and our conversation ranged superficially, as those kinds of conversations do, over a few topics. Somehow, our chat veered into the lane of technology and the person I was talking to was genuinely surprised that the iPhone wasn't the first smartphone. I could actually see the lightbulb behind his eyes amp up in brightness when I told him that.

That wasn't a revelation to me. Most people have, at best, a vague inkling of the histories behind the technologies that they use in their everyday lives. I'd argue that they really only know the histories put out by tech companies (who are trying to make themselves look uber innovative) and the tech press (who should know better).

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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 wrote this edition, it was off the back of a week was more than a bit trying, especially at a place that partially inspired the topic for what you're about to read.

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

On Constraints

I have never been forced to accept compromises but I have willingly accepted constraints.

Charles Eames

For the last ... I don't want to remember how many years, my days have been taken up writing user and technical documentation for a number of companies that are willing to pay me. In that time, I've become more than a bit familiar with more than a few of the tools of the technical communication trade.

At my current Day JobTM, my colleague and I are using something called Confluence to write, manage, and publish documentation. Early on, we starting butting up against Confluence's limitations (which are several) in each of those areas. And we've had to push the software to try to get around those limitations. What we've done is definitely not pretty, but it works.

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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 musing you're about to read is less about technology and more about a different way of thinking and working. At least, that's what I hope you get out of the thousand or so words that make up this week's letter.

And remember that you can grab a copy of Weekly Musings: The Second 52. It’s a free download (and always will be), although I’ve set it up to be a pay-what-you-want kind of deal. Remember, though, that you’re not expected or obliged to pay anything.

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

On Outlining and Outliners

Yet again, I wasn't hearing the story in my head as clearly as once did. Yet again, the words and sentences weren't coming together into a cohesive whole in the way they once did. Bouncing around my brain was a misshapen, lumpy mass of words and phrases and ideas.

All the pieces were there, but the structure had decided to go AWOL.

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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 down. The weeks seem to be rushing by at an impossible velocity these days, don't they. It's as if so-called internet time is bleeding into the time we experience in the physical world. Or maybe it's just the years catching up with me.

Regardless, another letter comes your way. Via, not ironically, the internet. Funny how that works, isn't it?

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

On Pseudoscience

Usually, it takes quite a bit to get a rise out of me. A few weeks ago, however, my gorge started a quick ascent to the surface when I read article about a new so-called natural health company here in New Zealand. A company that's planning to sell, among other quack remedies, pills that protect people from 5G radiation and cures for autism. That, and more, enveloped in marketing copy that sounds vaguely scientific.

As the parent of a young adult with autism, I found their claims of having a cure for autism highly offensive. Autism isn't a disease. It's not something that you make magically disappear with a bogus potion or pill. As someone who views himself as a rationalist, I find companies like that one, their wild claims, and the pseudoscience they use to hawk their fraudulent wares to be both frightening and dangerous.

What troubles me the most is the pseudoscience underpinning all of 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.

A quick announcement: I've collected the second year of these musings into an ebook. It’s titled, and don't be shocked, Weekly Musings: The Second 52. That ebook is a thank you letter to each and every one of you who reads this letter. You can grab a copy at Gumroad. It’s a free download, although I’ve set it up to be a pay-what-you-want deal. You’re not expected or obliged to pay anything, though.

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

On Analog

For what seemed like the 100th time in the last couple of years, I stared at an empty text editor window. My fingers? They refused to move.

I was working on a paid writing gig, one that had a due date approaching with the speed of a cruise missile. Even so, everything inside my head was clear. The ideas just weren't coming together. The words weren't joining into larger whole.

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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.

Year three of the letter officially starts with this musing. It's been quite the journey, hasn't it? Oh, and I have a surprise in store for you so check back here next week.

Just so you know: the basis for what you're about to read first saw the light of the web in my personal notebook. I've used portions of that post here via a Creative Commons license.

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

On Rereading

A couple or three weeks into 2021, I put a moratorium on buying new gadgets for myself over the next year. So far, I've managed to stick with that despite all of the temptation. And, believe me, there's been a lot of temptation lately.

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This letter marks something of a milestone: two years worth of musings. One hundred and four essays. Over 80,000 words. A bunch of different topics. Admittedly, the real second anniversary of Weekly Musings came and went a while ago but thanks to some hiatuses (planned and forced), it's taken this long to publish Musing 104.

I'd just like to thank you all for supporting this little experiment in email publishing of mine. If it wasn't for you, this letter wouldn't exist.

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

On Algorithms

Ah, the algorithm. A word that really only recently entered the popular lexicon. A word that ... well, if it doesn't strike fear into our hearts then it's one which makes us wary.

And with good reason. Tech giants across the board have for years been releasing algorithms in the name of advancing their positions in the market and to bolster their bottom lines. All with little or not thought about how those algorithms can or will affect us.

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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 edition of the letter, a confluence of stresses from both my personal life and the Day JobTM meant I hadn't been sleeping much. Worse, I'd fallen behind in what I wanted to do. That's not a good place to be in, especially when those things that you want to do have to be done, and soon. So I started thinking about the ways in which I'd dug myself out of that hole in the past. Those thoughts became the letter you're about to read.

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

On Carving Out the Time To Do What You Want

Time. There just isn't enough of it, is there? And there's definitely never enough for you to do what you want to do.

There's a lot of advice floating around about how to carve out the time to do what you want. Most of that advice tells you to wake up an or two hour earlier than you usually do, or go to bed an hour or two later. Or some variation on that theme. You can try that if you want. But you'll find that it will wear you out after a while, making your situation even worse. Yes, I'm speaking from experience.

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