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, 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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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.

During the last week, several ideas for this week's musing have been engaging in a battle royal in my head. It was a bruising contest between competing concepts, and the one that I didn't expect to win was the last one standing. So, here it is.

So, let's get to his week's musing.

On Information Overload

Why is it despite the stacks of unread books and links, we still go around looking for more to consume?

Scott Berkun

Information overload. That's a phrase I've been hearing for ... well, a long, long time.

And I think it's a crock. Always have thought that and always will.

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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.

While I was writing this musing, I listened to IBM 1401, A User's Manual by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson on a continuous loop. It's a wonderfully soft, slow piece of music that, in some ways, fits well with the theme of the essay you're about to read. And, in some ways, that piece of music informed the tone of this musing.

Speaking of which, let's get on to this week's musing.

On Slow Communication

Just before Christmas 2019, I sent a few emails to various friends. Not holiday greetings (I hate Christmas, to be honest), just messages to catch up since we'd been out of touch for a while.

The responses I received surprised me.

Those replies came a week or two or so after I sent those emails. Each reply started off with an apology. An apology for not getting back to me sooner. What surprised me was that I didn't expect a response for a while, it being Christmas and all.

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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 comes from the depths of my archives. Before you think it, no that's not due to my legendary sloth.

The two essays I've been working on have stalled. Why? Mainly because I've been caught up in a pile of paid writing and have been wrapped up in a rather pressing personal matter. I haven't been able to tackle a lot of what I've wanted to work on.

So, I present for your perusal another short account of my sojourn to Japan in the early 1990s. It's from a particularly memorable part of that trip, which knocked me out of a funk that I'd been in.

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

On Gaining a Different Perspective on Nature

What's duller than Kyushu in early April? That question entered my head as I boarded a bus leaving the Japanese city of Kumamoto. I'd been traveling around Kyushu, Japan's large southern island, for the past week and a half. This bus was one of the many that I'd hopped on in that time. It, and just about everything else at that time, seemed to blur into a numbing sameness. On top of that, several days of overcast skies mixed with rain had dampened my enthusiasm for this portion of my trip.

But the bus ride I was about to take would change that, and give me a new perspective on the power of nature.

During my stay in Japan, I normally took trains wherever I went. But this time around, there were no trains heading in my direction. So, I had to make this leg of the trip by bus. I chose the bus that I mentioned a couple of paragraphs back because its route passed Mount Aso, an active volcano that was said to have had some of the most explosive eruptions of any volcano on Earth.

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