Train Daze

Every time I ride the Downeaster between Boston and Maine, I imagine this might be the trip when I simply ride along drinking my coffee, maybe listening to music, and looking out the window. You know, take a break from online life – leave the iPad in the bag and the iPhone in the pocket. Don’t even even reach for the unflashy Kindle. It never happens. This trip, I’ve been comparing the brand-new iPad app from The New Yorker with the Kindle version of the same issue. Now I’m seeing if the WordPress iPad app has been improved since its clunky debut. So far, it still seems to be an inferior way to blog compared with the BlogPress app.

One of the great pieces in the current New Yorker is about the composer John Cage, who confounded audiences with four minutes of silence and other acts of random attention. My life is like that. It’s a crazed mosaic of random attention punctuated by plans and attempts to get organized. Meanwhile, the trees race by with hints of fall color, and Leonard Cohen sings, “There is a crack in everything, it’s how the light gets in.” Boston is coming sooner than I’d prefer.

I noticed at Podcamp Boston 5 last weekend how many presentations and conversations had to do with fending off the addictive allure of online life. I learned about nine steps to get more done with less work and the Pomodoro technique of focusing on one single task — imagine that! — by setting a timer for 25 minutes. It’s a great topic for authors, because the demand for hope is bottomless. But pity the poor guy, like Stever Robbins, who takes on the challenge and spends two years trying to focus on the work of writing a book. He confessed that he broke every one of his nine steps as he wrote them down in a way that might inspire and motivate the rest of us.

It’s possible that if I got more sleep I would be less susceptible to distraction. So I signed up for a $199 sleep-monitoring gizmo at, whose social marketing guy I visited with at lunch during Podcamp.

It’s a gray, soft day. Most of the trees are still green, so the early reds and yellows stand out in the crowd. The train has stopped in the middle of the woods, because of a problem with the signal system. I see rain drops on a leaf, and a bug. Now we’re moving again, slowly, past brick mills, three-story tenements, and graffiti sprayed on the back of an abandoned semi. This is Lawrence, Massachusetts, and I’m not getting off yet.

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