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 week, another musing that's been floating around the back of my mind for a while. It bubbled to the surface late in the week, when I was (once again) just about finished the essay I'd been threatening to publish for the last three weeks. While it's nice that I don't lack for writing ideas, that one essay that the writing fates refuse to let me finish is becoming my personal albatross ...

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

On Walking

When New Zealand went into COVID-19 lockdown in late March, 2020, like many others I started working from home. The work part of each weekday was fine. It was the end of those days that caused me more than a bit of trouble.

Despite stowing my work laptop and its charger in my knapsack, out of sight and out of mind, I just couldn't decouple work and my personal life — the office was home, and the boundary between them had smudged. It took a couple of days for me to realize what was missing: my daily commute.

The 20 or 25 minutes it took to get from the office to home enabled me to shift modes. It enabled me to read. To create some physical and mental distance from work. To become me, not work me, again. Since I'd started working from home, that buffer had evaporated. Nothing had taken its place.

Read more...

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 musing. I've been weighed down with ... well, a bunch of things that have put a dent or three in my plans and in my productivity. Sometimes, though, when an idea hits you have to follow through with it. The result of that is the letter you're about to read. I hope you enjoy it.

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

On Blogging (Again)

Back in 2004 or 2005, I had an interesting conversation with a friend. In those days, blogging was starting to enter the wider consciousness in the way that home pages had nine or ten years earlier. My friend, who could (and still can) be quite stubborn, especially about topics he knows little about, insisted that blogging was too hard for most people. So hard, that his mother would never be able to do it.

I'd been using Blogger for a couple of years by then and was intrigued by that statement. So, I asked if 1) his mother had an email account, and 2) she set it up herself. The answers were yes (a Hotmail account, if you're interested) and yes. So I asked my friend how his mother set up and used the account. He took me through the steps: choosing a user name and password; logging in with those credentials; creating a new message; selecting a recipient and typing a subject. Typing the message, and then clicking Send.

Read more...

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.

Sorry about last week's intro being a bit of a downer. It wasn't until after I sent the previous musing that I realized how much the events of a fortnight ago really hit me. What's done is done, and it's time to move on.

This week, an idea that's been churning in the back of my mind for several months got into the slipstream of the essay I was working on and pulled ahead in the race for my attention. The result is what you're about to read. I hope you enjoy it.

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

On the Netbook

In 2007, I did something that was out of character for me. Just before Christmas of that year, I concluded that I'd been nicer than naughtier in the preceding months and decide to reward myself with a new gadget. So, flush with cash from a couple of recent article sales, I headed over to the website of The Source by Circuit City and placed my order.

For what? The Asus Eee PC 701, the first netbook. If you're wondering why that was an uncharacteristic purchase, it's because I generally don't buy the first generation of any device. I'm a bit uneasy about paying for the dubious privilege of being a beta tester. But there were some things about the Eee PC that attracted me to it.

A few days later, the courier dropped by when no one was home (as couriers do). So, that evening I had to schlep down to a depot near Eastern Avenue in Toronto. When I got home, I tore into the box and plugged the little device in to charge.

Read more...

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.

Well, that was a week! The universe decided to wave the you-know-what with me wand in my direction, with predictable results. That knocked my motivation and confidence down, which also derailed the essay I was working on for this edition of the letter.

So, instead of leaving you hanging I dug an older piece from my archives. It's one which I consider one of the better examples of my writing. It's also the longest musing I've sent out so far. I hope you enjoy it.

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

On Riding the Rails in Kyushu

Japan is many things to many people. To me, it’s a nation of trains.

And when you say the words train and Japan in the same sentence, those words instantly conjure comical images in the minds of most listeners. The filter of the media has for decades shown us sleek, ultra-modern trains traveling at 300 kilometers per hour. It’s shown us stations packed with endless waves of rush hour commuters. And, of course, there are the pathetically hilarious video snippets from the Tokyo underground of uniformed, white-gloved pushers appearing from nowhere to cram passengers into already jam-packed cars.

During the time that I spent in Japan, the trains I rode in all parts of the country not only carried me from destination to destination, but also helped me form opinions of Japan and the Japanese people. Some of those impressions were good, some not so.

A trip to Kyushu, Japan’s large southern island, gave me a new perspective on not only Japanese trains but on Japan itself.

Read more...

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 taking a look back at what the web was and what (parts of it anyway) could be again. Yes, the nostalgia bug has bitten me once more ...

Let's get to this week's musing, shall we?

On the DIY Web

Maybe it's suddenly realizing that the years are catching up with me. Maybe it's my love of simplicity and minimalism. Whatever the reason, lately I've been a tad nostalgic for the early days of the web.

Back then, the web was dotted with home pages — little sites that academics and ordinary people used as their online CVs or to discuss their interests. For me, those home pages were an amalgam of homesteads on the digital frontier and numbers stations.

All of those pages were quaint. Simple. Spare. Utilitarian. Kind of dull. None of them was about aesthetics. It was all about what was on the page, with each page an expression of the person behind it.

Read more...

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.

Welcome back! With my trying to catch up on quite a bit of writing, working on updating an ebook, and the general tumult at The Day JobTM, last week was ... well, it was. Three ideas for musings jockeyed for position, and I actually started all three. Started, but couldn't finish.

But don't worry. Uncle Scotty isn't going to let you down. I quickly (maybe a bit too quickly; sorry!) pulled together the essay you're about to read. It's kind of timely and topical, and typically contrarian. I hope you enjoy it. Or, at least, get something out of it.

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

On Learning Because You Want To

When the COVID-19 lockdowns started cascading a few months back, a spate of articles and blog posts and social media ramblings quickly followed. The topic? How this was the perfect time to learn something. Much of that advice was around learning to advance one's career.

Take a moment to think about why you learn something.

Far too often, we learn things because we need to pick up knowledge or skills to better do our jobs. Or, we see learning something new as a way to advance our careers either in the short term or a few years into the future.

Read more...

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 while, a few of the fives who read what I post here have asked me why I don't focus Weekly Musings on a single topic — say, technology or productivity. I thought about doing the letter that way, but concluded that approach would be restrictive. Instead, I find it more natural and liberating to take these musings where my interest wanders.

My interest wanders not out of boredom or a lack of focus, but out of fascination. It always has and always will. And it's that wandering interest which sparked the idea for what you're about to read.

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

On Numbers Stations

When I was growing up in the 1970s, I was fascinated by radio. Not so much with the technical aspects — though, given the chance, I could have bored you to sleep with those details — but with what was on the radio.

I was intrigued by the breadth and variety of it all. News. Music. Talk. Comedy. Drama. Documentaries. How all of that came into existence and with the voices presenting it.

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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.

Read more...