Break Time

Break Time

Jon Wilkening is taking a much-needed break from his work, and from social media, this month.

Good for him. And it’s such a Today thing to do. I’ve seen so many blog posts lately where the authors are taking the month of July and turning off all social media.

I do that from time to time, usually on vacation or around the holidays. I find that I usually don’t miss much, and what I do miss, I don’t know any better.

Taking breaks from your hobby can be helpful, too. Last winter, after I finished my portrait project, I needed to step away from photography and recharge. The same thing happened this spring when I got my new job: my brain needed to work out other things than exposures and apertures.

So take a breather. And don’t feel guilty about it.

My Next Adventure

Thank you cards

If you were to ask me what my dream job was 10 years ago, five years ago, even a year ago, I would’ve said it’s my current job. My whole life has prepared me for working in communications at a small, liberal arts college like Albion College. I knew that much when I was in college.

I still feel that way. Higher education is a calling for me, kind of like a monastery is for those who are spiritual. My belief system is strongly tied to learning, and I believe in education so much that whatever I do for a living, I want to be around it.

But then the arts came in after I started treating photography as a serious hobby. And as I got more serious about it, I started to learn more about the arts, and study the great works and art history.

What if I could combine those two passions: education and the arts?

Turns out it’s possible, and that’s why I’ve accepted a position as communications manager at the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA).

It’s a tremendous opportunity. I’ll be working with curators and artists, on a big state university campus, in a world-class art museum. UMMA has been a special place to me for 10 years now. I try to visit the museum at least once a year, and spend the day around Ann Arbor and campus. It feels good get a job at a place I enjoy so much.

My time at Albion has been life-changing, as I knew it would be. America’s small, liberal arts schools are such a treasure. They allow students to wander and grow and learn and make connections – especially for those students who, like me, like to do a lot of things.

One thing that Albion did so well was show its appreciation, as you can see from the thank you cards above. I collected them over the years, because I was humbled by how often they arrived in my mailbox. People at Albion know how to write a thank you note.

I’ll try to take that lesson with me at Michigan.

‘See the Moments You Care About First’


You may be surprised to learn that people miss on average 70 percent of their feeds. As Instagram has grown, it’s become harder to keep up with all the photos and videos people share. This means you often don’t see the posts you might care about the most.

To improve your experience, your feed will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most.

The order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post. As we begin, we’re focusing on optimizing the order — all the posts will still be there, just in a different order.

If your favorite musician shares a video from last night’s concert, it will be waiting for you when you wake up, no matter how many accounts you follow or what time zone you live in. And when your best friend posts a photo of her new puppy, you won’t miss it.

We’re going to take time to get this right and listen to your feedback along the way. You’ll see this new experience in the coming months.

Terrible. I’m so sick of this we’ll-decide-what-you’ll-see algorithm crap.

CD Case Clean-Up

Spent some time the last few weeks going through my CD collection. I bought two of those big binders, and am working on putting all my physical music into those and recycling (if possible) the jewel cases.

Some of them are pretty hard to part with. Some come in lovely gatefold digipacks, and deluxe-edition album editions. But all that plastic is taking up a lot of space.

So now, instead of four slots in our IKEA Expedit shelf, all that music is taking up two – one for the two big binders, and one for the box sets that I just can’t part with (Pink Floyd, I’m looking at you).

I am keeping the booklets, so at least I’ll have lyrics and liner notes. Although I did think about dumping those because everything’s online these days. Part of me just can’t part with the album art.

You want to test your emotional discipline, start eliminating bits of the stuff you love the most.

Pale Blue Dot

Pale Blue Dot

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

“The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

“Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

“The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

“It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

– Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot

Happy New Year, everyone.

On Physical Books

When we buy a physical book, we can do with it what we want – cut up the pages, burn it for warmth, give it to friends, and so on. Because the contract of ownership between reader and object is implicit, not dependent on any third party, the physical book also becomes a true souvenir of the reading experience.

Craig Mod, ”Future Reading”

Question Authority

If we can’t think for ourselves, if we’re unwilling to question authority, then we’re just putty in the hands of those in power. But if the citizens are educated and form their own opinions, then those in power will work for us.

Carl Sagan, The Demon Haunted World