I got into the habit years ago of never really taking a vacation. I'd stay loosely tethered in order to make the friction of reentry tolerable. But this time around, thinking about what Ray Ozzie said ( "For cryin' out loud: the damned machine was taking over" ), I decided to let go completely. I left the laptop home -- it wouldn't have been much use anyway from our Maine getaway location -- and brought a pile of books instead.

The best of the lot was Steven Johnson's Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software . (So, OK, I didn't completely disconnect.) I'd seen Johnson's excellent talk at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology conference, which touched on the book's themes: urban spaces are self-organizing patterns, the patterns add up to a user interface that aids data storage and retrieval, blogspace is still figuring out how to achieve the effects that urban spaces do. If you like to think about this kind of thing, you'll love the book.

Anyway, reentry turned out to be less painful than I'd feared. There was the usual chore of hacking through the email: scanning the spam folder for false positives, resuming various threads in mid-juggle. But there was also an unexpected pleasure. I set my Radio news page 1 to a thousand items, and hauled in the feeds.

1That's a Radio-specific localhost-style URL. The large number -- 1000 -- enables me to capture everything in one fell swoop. Then, because I have Checkboxes on or off? checked, I just need to uncheck those items that grab my interest. The Delete button reduces the haul to only those items.

You'd think a week's worth of almost a hundred RSS feeds would be overwhelming. To my surprise, it wasn't. I spent more time looking through this stuff than my email -- and I suppose this made my total reentry time more than it otherwise would have been -- but the process was enjoyable. There were no demands, no requests, just information useful in varying degrees. Crunching through an email backlog is a stressful experience. But nothing in the RSS haul raised my blood pressure. It was like eating a good dinner. I went for a walk afterward to digest it, and felt well-nourished.

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