Random Musings

A collection of thoughts about whatever catches my attention

What I'm doing — whether learning something, writing, tweeting, making breakfast, leading my life — I'm doing in a way that works for me. It might not be the way you do things. But so what?

Not everyone fits into the same cookie cutter mold. And they shouldn't try to. That's what being an individual is all about. Finding your own way of doing things. Finding your own path. Finding what works for you, even if it goes against the accepted grain.

In my teens, I was an avid listener to shortwave radio. My receiver was an old Grundig model that my old man had acquired at some point, but which had spent years gathering dust in a closet.

Somehow, and I can't remember how, that radio fell into my hands. I whiled away hours listening to the BBC World Service, the Voice of America, Radio Luxembourg, Radio Moscow, and stations from South America and South Africa.

What fascinated me and freaked me out in equal measures wasn't the regular programming. At certain times and on certain shortwave bands, I tuned into what I'd later learned were called numbers stations.

Those are stations that play a list of numbers or a combo of numbers and letters, read by a human or created with a voice synthesizer. The most common explanation of these stations was that they were secure communication lines between spies working overseas and their handlers.

At the time, I didn't understand what those stations were or why they existed. But hearing those voices — sometimes a man, sometimes a woman, sometimes even a child — being pulled from the ether was always unexpected and often chilling. It also offered a thrill. Here I was, in my parents' modest home in Toronto, Canada, catching snippets of coded messages.

The Cold War, the tail end of which I grew up in, is long over. Most numbers stations have shut down. From what I'm led to believe, there are still numbers transmissions happening. I wonder who's sending them, who's receiving them, and what they're up to ...

Over the last five or six years, almost all of my reading has been digital — PDFs and EPUBs on laptops, EPUBs on a tablet or smartphone, and on an ereader. A while back, though, I ran out of ebooks.

Sure, I could have bought more (there are several on my list), but I also had some honest-to-goodness, dead-trees books on my shelf. I decided to tackle them instead. It's been an interesting shift.

Understand that I've been reading books since I was about two years old. Until around 2006, very little of my reading was done on a device. I read ebooks on a Palm PDA (remember those?) and a pre-Kindle ebook reader. Later, I moved to an Android-powered media player.

All of that that rapidly changed when I decided to move overseas in 2012. I couldn't bring my books with me, so I loaded up a Kobo Reader with digital tomes. Since then, I've added more ebooks to various devices and that's been the majority of my reading.

Going back to reading physical books wasn't a sharp change. I have, however, noticed a few things:

  • I've become more engaged with what I'm reading
  • I can more easily go back to read a passage that sparked an idea or which vexed me
  • The heft of a book is comforting
  • I have to wear my glasses more often (you can't change the size of the type on paper)

I don't plan dump digital for the physical. I can comfortably live in both reading worlds. I will be going back to being a hybrid reader, though.

The world is full of people trying to be rock stars, ninja, and Jedi in whatever they're doing.

The world is full of people who are trying to achieve some kind of nirvana with what they do: task nirvana, writing nirvana, even pocket notebook nirvana. I couldn't believe that one, either.

Like describing something as an art or a science, this is just another attempt to exalt the mundane. To make something seem more important, more meaningful than it really is.

Why?

Is there anything wrong with reveling in the ordinary? Or have we reached the point where everything is a silly game of oneupmanship with friends or a peer group or an online community? A game where we have to add a veneer of complexity and mysticism to everything we do so that it seems more important or challenging or special than it actually is.

Yes, change sometimes does cost. One of the biggest costs is the time that you need to take to adapt to something new. To learn something new. To bend or break old habits and create new ones.

That price hurts people more than a hit to their wallets. It's not a surprise. We all like stability. Change is disruptive. Change can be painful. Change slows us down.

But change also helps us grow and learn. And if we don't grow and learn, even just a bit, what becomes of us?

You have to thrown your hands in the air, yell Fuck it!, and step back.

Some days, that's all you can do to survive and stay sane.

Don't be ashamed if you feel you have to. Your body and your brain are telling you something. Listen to them.

This is seems a bit meta, doesn't it?

The main reason I wrote this post is because 1) some people have asked my why I use Write.as, and 2) some of them question my choice.

So here's why I use Write.as

I've been blogging since around 2003 and have tried a bunch of platforms for publishing my work online. I've using Write.as for a couple of projects (including this one).

Recently, though, I was told (not advised, told) via email by a couple or three people that I should be using WordPress instead. Why? According to them, WordPress is better. Sadly, the tone of those emails suggested I either didn't know about WordPress or don't understand it

I've used WordPress extensively in the past. I like it. It's a good platform. It has a lot of features, including a pile of features which I never used.

Having more features doesn't necessarily make something better. I chose to use @write_as because I was curious about it, I like its minimalism, and it does what I need it to do.

That doesn't mean Write.as is for everyone or every online publishing project. It is the right choice for what I want to do. For me, Write.as is better.

It's been just over five years since Google killed off Reader, it's RSS feed reading app. I remember when the Mountain View firm made the announcement. It was as it they were cutting off one of their users' appendages. You can choose which one ...

There were cries of betrayal. There were cries of unfairness. There were rants and whinges and general blubbering.

Some people can't let that go. Five years on and there are still people whining about the shuttering of Reader. On social media, of course. Five. Years. On. The main complaint? That the death of Google Reader opened the door to the rise of Facebook and Twitter as the online world's primary (and often unreliable) news sources.

You know what I'm calling on that.

I'm not Google's biggest fan or booster, but I have to say that the company did go about putting Reader to pasture in the right way. Google didn't just pull the plug, leaving all of Reader's users high and dry.

The company gave:

  1. Several months' notice that they were discontinuing Reader, and
  2. Detailed instructions for getting feeds and everything else out of Reader.

Anyone who complained (and is still complaining) about the Google shutting down Reader had more than enough time to find and adapt to an alternative. And, yes, there are (and were) a number of options out there. In fact, there were dozens (probably more) articles published online that pointed people to alternatives.

Blaming Google Reader's demise is a poor excuse for becoming reliant on outlets like Twitter and Facebook becoming purveyors of so-called fake news. News, I'm sure, the people doing the whining follow on those sites and others.

Google is to blame for many things. But not that. The fault lies with the people too lazy to take the time to find another option. The fault lies with the people who couldn't be bothered making a move, who let their anger and frustration and disappointment stop them from acting like rational adults and taking action.

The lesson here? Always have an exit plan, and be ready to use it. Because you will need to use it later if not sooner.