Bears Don’t Care About Your Problems

Title: Bears Don’t Care About Your Problems:More Funny Shit in the Woods from

Author: Brendan Leonard

Completed: March 2023 (Full list of books)

Overview: Last year I was given another of Brendan’s books and really enjoyed it, but never thought to look for any of his other books until a friend mentioned reading this one when we were out on a run. It’s another funny collection of running and adventure stories. Several made me laugh out loud and got me some strange looks when I was reading in public.

His discussion of Obsessive Campfire Adjustment Syndrome was certainly worth a read and reminded me of several people I know… Although other might have thought he was talking about me.


  • Kurt Vonnegut, in a 2003 speech to students at the University of Wisconsin, said, “I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’” This year, I urge you to notice when something is awesome, as it often is, and exclaim or murmur or just make a mental note of it. Isn’t it just goddamn fantastic that you have your health, for example? Or running water, or electricity? Or that you have enough money to actually pay someone else to make you a cup of coffee? Or if you want ice cream, you are at any time in America probably only five or ten minutes away from a place that sells some form
  • People can disagree on things like quality, their friend’s taste in food, or whether or not a movie is good. But no one can argue with enthusiasm, especially when it is over the top. Do you think that climb you just did is the greatest climb ever? Great! If someone tries to tell you it isn’t, who cares? Greatest Rock Climb Ever is not an objective title. Thusly, when you are excited about a climb—or a trail run or a summit view or a bike ride or a sunrise—don’t let anyone bring you down.
  • Of course, since there was kind of a big hole in the outside, I thought maybe I’d get a new pair of shoes before my pal Greg and I did a one-day Rim-to-Rim run in the Grand Canyon last October. I didn’t make time to go shoe shopping, so instead of new shoes, I just brought a couple feet of duct tape in my pack in case something catastrophic happened to them and the sole ripped off or something.
  • I guess, you can count on most shoes. I don’t really have too many problems with running shoes. I’ve never been out on a run and said, “Man, I can’t go on. These shoes are just not high-quality enough.” Usually I get about six or eight miles done, and I’m like, “Man, I’m tired,” or “I should call my friend and go smash the breakfast tacos at Watercourse,” or “I better get back to my phone so I can type in this pithy and witty Facebook status that is bouncing around in my head right now.” It’s really not the shoes that present obstacles to my running.
  • One friend of mine says we peak as bicycle riders at age thirteen, after which you start to get afraid to jump your bike off things. Another friend says thirty is the new thirteen.
  • You’ll enjoy a breakfast of oatmeal and instant coffee before your lung-busting days of walking with a 40-pound backpack on your back. What’s for breakfast the next morning? Certainly not fresh croissants or toasted bagels with cream cheese, with a steaming-hot vanilla latte. No, you’ll enjoy another breakfast of oatmeal and instant coffee. While walking miles and miles of steep terrain all day, you’ll snack on Bars That Kind Of Remind You Of Food And Are Pretty Tasty Until You’ve Eaten Two Every Day For Six Days And Now You’re Fuckin Sick Of Them. Mmmm.
  • “I used to think I was gonna change the world. Now I just let people onto the freeway.” I always loved that line, because I think it says something about what people can do to make other people’s lives better—all those little things that don’t make the evening news.
  • Since Dave doesn’t drive, a lot of his miles are commuting miles. He told me once a few years ago—when he was wearing cutoff pants and skateboard shoes—that he doesn’t wear lycra when he rides because he wants people to see him riding his bike and believe they can do it, that they don’t need to buy a bunch of special gear and clothing to ride a bike.
  • you may have Obsessive Campfire Adjustment Syndrome. OCAS affects one out of every four camping enthusiasts in their lifetime, which means you have a 25 percent chance of developing symptoms. It also means that the next time you go camping in a group of four, three of you will enjoy the campfire, contentedly staring into its embers like cave people, but one of you will not stop messing with the goddamn fire.
  • Fact: Hiking is actually just walking, only on dirt or rocks or other uneven surfaces. Or walking some place where an animal larger than you could possibly show up and kill and eat you.
  • the host asked McGonigal: How does this apply to people who are, for example, choosing between a stressful job and a non-stressful job? She said: One thing we know for certain is that chasing meaning is better for your health than trying to avoid discomfort. And so I would say that’s really the best way to make decisions, go after what it is that creates meaning in your life and then trust yourself to handle the stress that follows.
  • Now, there is nothing wrong with riding a nice bicycle. But if you can’t enjoy riding a crappy bike, I would go as far as to say that maybe you don’t like bikes.
  • Terror, that’s how. Fear of failure at The Thing. Of sucking, and wasting everyone’s time and your own money, and maybe some plane tickets. Why does Mount Rainier, or your 5.12b project, or the triathlon, or the ultra, work so much better than those other general objectives like “lose some weight,” “get in shape for bikini season,” or “look good for my wedding”? Because unlike the disinterested glances of fellow beachgoers, unlike your own “I’ve-lost-a-couple-pounds-haven’t-I” inspections in the bathroom mirror, unlike your non-judgmental wedding guests, Mount Rainier will crush you.
  • I’m told something called an IT band exists—one of those body parts you don’t even know is there until it decides to ruin your week, kind of like an appendix, but for runners.
  • We’re not so far removed from the last recession to forget that by having a job, you’re living the dream, too. Almost nobody’s getting out of bed in the morning going, “Yay, work!” But we should be saying, “Yay, life!” And work is part of that, whether you clock in to pilot an airplane, a shovel, or a spreadsheet.
  • You just have to go sometimes. Ignore all the little voices in your head that can list a million things a minute that you need to do or would be more comfortable doing, and put on your damn running shoes, or pack your backpack, or get your gear out of the garage and throw it in the car. Maybe it’s not perfectly planned, or you won’t be able to get as far as you would like, but three miles is probably better than no miles, isn’t it?
  • 1.  Don’t argue with people on the internet. 2.  Use your car horn to communicate with other drivers for emergencies, not to communicate your frustration with other things in life. 3.  Pretty much 100 percent of the time, people don’t want to be surprised by photos of male genitals. 4.  Try to be the first to yield the trail when you see a hiker or mountain biker coming… 10.  If national news gets you down, do something that helps locally. 11.  Instead of insulting someone over their opinion, ask a few questions to try to understand how they came to form that opinion.
  • good for you for just trying something new. Maybe you’re wondering if you’re doing it right, or if you have the right clothes or technique, or if you don’t exactly blend in. All of that stuff is OK. Sure, maybe a few of the people you see doing the same thing look more comfortable doing it, or you think they’re way better than you’ll ever be. Well, they probably are more comfortable. But when they look around the gym, or the trail, or the mountain, they see someone who they think is way better than they’ll ever be. And even if they’re the best climber or skier or runner in the immediate vicinity, they are no doubt aware that someone else out there is better than they are. Everyone’s trying to get better at whatever it is they’re doing, no matter how long they’ve been doing it.
  • I’ve had to devise systems to keep me from giving in to my sloth-like instincts. I refuse to own a reclining easy chair because I’ve seen them trap people for hours. I commit to outdoor events beyond my capabilities so I’ll be terrified enough to train for them.
  • I hate running, three to four times a week if I have time. I hated it yesterday for a little over an hour.
  • Anyway, I hate running. But you should totally try it.
  • I have learned the utter uselessness of complaining about things I can’t change—like the fact that during the summer, it’s often hot outside. In the winter, it’s often cold outside. Sometimes when we want to do things outdoors, it’s windy. Or it’s rainy. Or the things we like to do make our feet hurt, or our shoulders. Or we have to carry heavy backpacks to get somewhere to do something. And whining about it does exactly nothing to help.
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Running While Black

Title: Running While Black: Finding Freedom in a Sport That Wasn’t Built for Us

Author: Alison Mariella Désir

Completed: Feb 2023 (Full list of books)

Overview: I first heard about Alison and this book through an interview with the South Seattle Emerald. The book went on my “Must Read” list and I added her podcast to my regular listening queue.

This is a book every runner should read. It covers a lot of untold (at least no one told me) stories about the start of distance running in the US. Many of the people who helped establish the sport were Black men who have been erased from the history.

Other part of the book covered more general history of race in America. Although many of these points have been covered a lot since 2020, they were largely ignored for decades or centuries before that and deserve to be repeated until this history is as well known as other aspects of this country’s founding.

As part of a running club in Seattle, there are definitely step and suggestions in this book I want to work on to ensure our group can be as welcoming to all runners as we hope it is.


  • I’d pass the house with the American flag and start wondering if it’s safe, and then I’d be annoyed that white nationalists have somehow claimed the flag, as if the rest of us aren’t Americans, too.
  • Running showed me change was possible. It showed me how transformative movement can be. Simply put, running changes lives.
  • Slowly, people began to arrive, wearing tights and jackets. Everyone was white, and no one was talking to each other, a habit of white people I find odd—a default to being stoic and standoffish. I’m never quite sure: are they not talking to me because I’m Black, or because they’re white?
  • The low-performing white kids were not kids I was supposed to stay away from, but the low-performing Black kids were a “bad” influence? It was the first time, but not the last, that I saw how race and class were often conflated in the United States and how the kind of Black I was (middle class) was somehow seen as exceptional, but in danger of being “contaminated” by the kind of Black (working class) some of my classmates were.
  • The science of the time said that the differences between the races were such that education was moot. “The black, the brown, and the red races differ anatomically so much from the white . . . that even with equal cerebral capacity they never could rival its results by equal efforts,” said Daniel Brinton in the late 1890s, the outgoing president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
  • Junior year, we had to recite a poem to the class. Most of the students picked works by Sylvia Plath. I read a piece by African American activist Jayne Cortez called “There It Is.” It equated white supremacy to Legionnaires’ disease, a disease sprayed on people, poisoning minds with a lie about their superiority, that their way was the right way. The poem allowed me to say words and phrases like “ruling class,” “Ku Klux Klan,” and “penises” out loud. I loved the discomfort my teachers and classmates seemed to feel when faced with language and ideas we were not supposed to use.
  • When it came time to write my thesis, I chose to expose how the narrative of Haiti in the U.S. was an intentional project of white supremacy. I wrote how Haiti has been portrayed as poor, diseased, and without a future, because it was the only successful revolt by enslaved people, and it will be paying the price for that radical act forever. If Haiti had become a thriving country, what would it have signaled to other enslaved people, other nations under colonial or imperial rule? You can unseat white supremacy. That was not something the world wanted anybody to think.
  • the power of a totem, the idea that you can imbue an object with meaning and it can have a positive impact on you.
  • Black people couldn’t own property until the state’s Fair Housing Act passed in 1957, six years before the running group first met. Eugene’s population in 1963 was only 0.4 percent Black, or 220 of nearly 51,000 people. The University of Oregon had a small percentage of Black students, but it wouldn’t approve a Black student union until 1966.
  • During the ’50s and ’60s, civil rights lawyers filed multiple lawsuits in attempts to desegregate state parks. But rather than open parks to Black people, South Carolina shut down its entire parks system. Georgia opted to lease a dozen of its parks to private operators, circumventing the legal system.
  • As runners showed up, I greeted them. Other regulars like Amir did the same. Then we’d form a circle and the first words I spoke were: “Welcome to Harlem Run. Great to see so many people out here. Is anyone here for the first time?” We were getting one, maybe two, new people each week. If someone’s hand went up, the group applauded and welcomed them. I added icebreakers to create connection. In a circle, we went around answering the question of the day: What’s your favorite ice cream, movie, song? It allowed each person to know someone, to actually have spoken to a fellow human and shared a bit of information about themselves. It was fun, and felt both silly and intimate.
  • I asked everyone not to wear headphones so we could engage with our community, and to run two by two on the sidewalk; I’d witnessed groups take off as a mob, clogging traffic, endangering runners and pedestrians alike. When we ran, we made sure there was room on the sidewalk for others, recognizing that we all shared these streets. I also plotted our routes to showcase Harlem’s historic monuments and places. In these ways, Harlem became a member of Harlem Run, and we became custodians of the neighborhood.
  • We did an activity that asked everyone to line up in a semicircle according to skin color, lightest to darkest. Everyone in the class got up and began assembling themselves, except for a dozen or so white folks. They stood there, flummoxed by the whole affair. “I don’t know where to go,” a white woman said. Oh for fuck’s sake, I thought, just get on the end. White people are so uncomfortable with race that they pretend not to know the color of their own skin. So we had a conversation about this. What is it like for each person to arrange themselves according to race? This was where white people’s feelings on race surfaced. White people felt “bad” that Black people had to line up as “dark.” It was ridiculous. I don’t feel bad about the complexion of my skin. You feel “bad” for me because you’re projecting your biases about Blackness as “bad,” “inferior,” and “other” onto me. Faced with their own biases for the first time, some of the white women began to cry. I could hardly contain myself. This was of course the whole point of the exercise; not the tears, but the awareness. Nothing more had been said other than to line up according to complexion. Everything else, all the feelings and thoughts that came, were what you made of it, or rather what you had been taught and socialized to make of it.
  • Traditional counseling views the therapist as a change agent only within the walls of the counseling room, while a social justice approach sees the therapist as a change agent both inside the counseling room and out in the larger world, as an advocate for changing rules, laws, and conditions that impact clients’ lives. A social justice approach asks, What are the conditions in the world that contribute to my client’s mental health symptoms—such as racism, food insecurity, and sexism—and how can I as a therapist work to resist and dismantle those conditions in order to help my client?
  • In 1946, for example, the Pioneer Club boycotted the national championships in San Antonio, Texas. The AAU, eager for the Pioneer Club athletes to compete, sent a representative to New York to talk to the club, trying to persuade the team to attend. The club refused on principle. Four years later, the Pioneers took a stand against the national championships being held at the University of Maryland, which did not allow Black people in the dorms. To make a point, the eighty-five athletes, Black, brown, and white, stayed at Lincoln University, a historically Black university in Pennsylvania, ninety-three miles away. The New York Road Runners, I learned, grew out of the Pioneer Club.
  • I was floored by this. We were not only there; we helped build the sport. But our participation had been erased, buried. While the New York Road Runners, the RRCA, and the sport as a whole evolved into a white sport, it was clear to me now that the running story is not only a white story. It is a Black story. It is a civil rights story. It is a story of our talent and resilience. It is a story of creating space for Black people. The idea of an inclusive distance-running culture—the democratic, anybody-can-run ideal running wants to be—traces its roots to 1942, with three Black men who embraced and fought for integration and inclusion. Said simply, the first chapter of the modern running boom began with Black men in Harlem.
  • Sometimes I’d go to the website and reread the mantras Corbitt used, to keep them in my mind. “I will be relaxed and free of all restrictions.” “I will feel buoyant and strong while running.” “I will run hard and enjoy the effort.”
  • my first introduction to how much runners buy in to the Boston Marathon myth of exclusion. Our participation as sponsored athletes seemed to threaten these runners’ perception of the race’s specialness, and therefore their own specialness. They suggested we’d cheated the system. But the idea that a system is inherently right and we all have to abide by it is problematic. Why not change the system to welcome more people? Why not have a dialogue on ways to expand the race experience to more runners, rather than shrink it?
  • In the 1970s, Boston likely saw itself as the “Olympics” of marathoning in the U.S. at the time. The distance was not yet a mass participation event; the majority of people running marathons in the early ’70s were fast men, mostly white, who were participating in what was then “amateur” athletics. But as participation grew and the marathon became a distance for all runners, Boston did not evolve. Other big-city marathons like New York, Marine Corps, Chicago, London, Berlin, and Tokyo all chose a lottery system to manage participation. Boston went through multiple changes to its qualifying times rather than doing the obvious—switching to a lottery system. It chose to be elitist rather than democratic.
  • Growing up, grown-ups tell you: don’t be caught at the wrong place at the wrong time. But when you get older, you realize that the wrong place and the wrong time could really be any day of the week, any hour of the day. White supremacy dictates the time; it dictates the lessons we all learn
  • I was conflicted about honoring his life by running the miles associated with his death. I worried that the complexity of a human being could not be distilled into a day, that running a distance that marked his murder erased the life that he’d lived. Were we honoring Ahmaud? Or was this for us? Amir and I put the baby in the stroller and headed out. We ran down 132nd to Randall’s Island Park, did a small loop, and finished as a family. As always, I gained a sense of clarity that comes after a run. We were running for Ahmaud because that was his place of joy, something we as Black people all deserve to feel while moving through space.
  • Some white runners were able to see that a Black person’s agency is very different from a white person’s. One runner wrote on Instagram about the freedom a white man knows: “I almost always feel safe while running,” he said. “Even when I shouldn’t. I’ve found myself down dark alleys at night. Or on private property, have taken a wrong turn. There are even times I’ve trespassed knowingly, wanting to get to that beach or down that trail, all the while figuring it’ll be all right. Many runners don’t have that privilege. To move so freely without fear. Or to make a mistake. To just be human.”
  • In the course of conversation, I had to explain the term white supremacy to him. He thought it meant extremism, the KKK, white nationalists. “That’s not what you’re talking about, or is that what you’re talking about, or not what you’re talking about?” he said, fumbling. So I explained that white supremacy was not simply extremist views or people, but rather the economic, social, and political structure of our nation. It was the idea that white is the norm and everyone else a deviation from it.
  • The average Black person without a formal education knows more about racial issues in our country than a formally educated white person. White ignorance is part of what keeps a white supremacist system in place. If we don’t acknowledge it exists, then there’s nothing to address. White supremacy is the system that allows racism to flourish, and prevents racial diversity from being welcomed and celebrated. I often think of this quote from the hip-hop artist Guante: “White supremacy is not a shark, it is the water.”
  • I learned later that the person who’d suggested we soften the language worked through her blocks with a biracial friend who’d offered to be a sounding board. The friend explained that white supremacy was not just a phrase or term. It existed physically and historically, as a structure and system, and it thrives on being hidden, she said. The more ingrained white supremacy is in the system, the easier it is to hide and the harder it is to get rid of. So watering down the language actually empowers white supremacy. She added that by suggesting the group soften the language, she was actually muting the voices of the cause she was claiming to support and positioning herself in alliance with people who were not really on board.
  • a sense of urgency diluted the possibility of meaningful work. And while the work is urgent, it cannot be done urgently. It requires strategy, and the mental fortitude to resist white supremacy culture, which prioritizes speed over other factors like including more voices at the table.
  • One simple step—hiring more people of color, for example—is more complex than you initially think. It takes education, planning, thought, and care. It requires an understanding of what certain phrases like “must be professional” signal to Black people and other historically excluded communities: that we won’t thrive there because “professionalism” usually translates into a culture that centers white appearance and norms of behavior.
  • A 2021 survey conducted by TRUE Global Intelligence for Gatorade found that 40 percent of Black respondents cited a safe place to run as a barrier to entering endurance sports like running and cycling. Nearly half of respondents of color named a safe place to train as a barrier, as well as fear of hate crimes.
  • In a study conducted by sociologist Rashawn Ray, Ph.D., on why middle-class Black Americans are less active than their white counterparts, Ray found that safety played a primary role.
  • When I hear white runners say “keep politics out of running” or that running publications and brands should “stick to running,” and that “race” and “social issues” don’t belong in running, I hear someone denying structural racism, bias, and white supremacy—denying my reality and the reality of millions of others. These comments demonstrate a lack of racial understanding and a narrow view of our nation’s history. And they ignore the fact that running occurs outdoors, in neighborhoods and parks, and on streets and trails. They ignore the fact that politics and racism are embedded in everything—all aspects of American life.
  • The meet-up was the birth of the Seattle Running Collective, a place for the region’s running groups to come together to meet and share ideas and best practices on how to create inclusive and welcoming environments. It’s a work in progress, but our goal is clear: fostering a change in running culture to focus on inclusion.
  • The running collective is “come as you are,” in sweats or sweat-wicking gear. We want to dispel the myth that running is only about getting faster or that it must be about pain and struggle; running can just be about movement, community, and joy.
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Chasing the Perfect Loaf

I’ve been baking bread for years now and have gotten some recipes that work well for me… But every so often, I decide the loaves are not good enough and I start experimenting with my process.

Recently I’ve been working on higher hydration breads again. My sourdough usually runs around 72% hydration but I keep seeing people online turning out amazing breads at 80% or higher. I tried making sandwich rolls using a recipe that calls for 100% hydration and was blown away by how well they turned out. This was just what I needed to increase my confidence to try higher hydration in my sourdough again.

This time I increased the hydration to about 78%. The dough was still easy to work with and seemed strong enough. When it baked, I got plenty of oven-spring and generally a good looking loaf. The crumb was similar or maybe slightly better than my lower hydration loaves. Unfortunately, just like previous bakes, I didn’t get the ear I was looking for on this one. I tried again. Same results. The loaf wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t significantly better. The tradeoffs were slightly better crumb for slightly worse crust (and no ear).

I’ve since gone back to my lower hydration recipe and the ear has returned. Like so many other projects that I work on repeatedly, I’ve gotten to a local maxima. I keep trying changes, but they rarely make the process any better. I would like to think that I’ll get to the point of accepting the loaves I make, but I recognize that I’ll probably always strive for that little improvement, even if I end up going in the wrong direction for a loaf or two. After all, there’s always the possibility to improve on the next one.

Latest loaf of bread, after going back to my “regular” recipe
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Running without racing

Many people I’ve run with over the years keep an eye on their next race. Whatever the distance or strange quirk that entices them, there is a race they are dreaming about. Some are dedicated to the training and pushing their body to the limit while others are excited about traveling to the start line. My interest in races comes and goes, but it’s been mostly gone since 2019.

Looking back, 2018 and 2019 were great years for my racing. In December of 2018, I signed up for a local 5k with work friends. I didn’t train specifically for the race, but was running fast enough that I won a 5k for the first time ever. It wasn’t a huge event, but there were over 200 runners and, for a guy who barely made my high school varsity XC team, that felt amazing. I started off 2019 with new minimalist shoes which worked my calf muscles more and slowed me down a little. I still managed to run a decent 8k and half marathon. In July, I ran a larger 5k. This one had over 1500 runners and I managed to take 3rd behind two NCAA runners visiting from Georgia. Another exciting finish, but I only signed up for the run because work had a bunch of free entries. It certainly wasn’t a race I’d been dreaming about.

I ran a couple of other races that year and they fell into two categories: ones that felt fast, but weren’t that interesting; and one that had held my interest for about a year… but felt so slow. I ran a Ragnar Trail race on Mt Rainier in place of my brother who signed up before moving across the country and I ran a 5k that a friend organized. These were all fun races and I’m certainly glad I did them, but in my mind one of the best parts of a race (or travel… or anything that you plan months in advance) is the excitement of anticipation. It’s what drives the months of planning, preparing, and focus. The only race of 2019 I was anticipating was my first 50 miler and I’d been thinking about it for almost a year.

There were about 80 of us toeing the line at 6am. When the gun went off, I was feeling good, plus a mixture of excitement and nervous, so I went out a bit too fast. Over the first 10 miles, I went back and forth with another guy as the front runner. I knew it was too fast but I was also realizing my legs weren’t going to be the issue, so why not keep going? I was still running my new minimalist shoes. By now, I was used to how they worked my calves. I had trained on roads and some dirt trails. I was ready for the distance. I was not ready for the gnarly gravel that made the trail we ran. By mile 5, the bottoms of my feet were starting to hurt and shortly beyond the 10 mile mark, I watched the other runner drop me as I slowed. There was a lot more walking that day than I expected. By mile 20, it was obvious that I was not going to be anywhere near my hoped-for pace, but I still wanted to finish. The last quarter mile was on a soft forest trail so I managed to look strong at the end. It was a rough day, but like the other races that year, I’m very happy I did it. Even though the race hadn’t gone how I hoped, the excitement of anticipation had kept me going and given me focus which is what I most look for in an adventure or race.

Since then, there hasn’t been a race that got me excited. I’ve done a couple of friendly 5ks but all that excitement of anticipation has been focused elsewhere… mostly with kayaking. Now I’m starting to look around again to see what race might cause that spark that gets me excited again. I’m not sure if it will be running, kayaking, biking, swim-run, or something else entirely. Until I find it, I’ll keep running with friends at group runs and looking for that unique race that I’ll be able to look forward to for months.

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American Sirens

Title: American Sirens: The Incredible Story of the Black Men Who Became America’s First Paramedics

Author: Kevin Hazzard

Completed: Jan 2023 (Full list of books)

Overview: Everything we take for granted had to start somewhere and it’s fascinating to me that emergency medicine, as we know it now, started just before my lifetime. It seems obvious, if someone is hurt, you go to them, provide care, and get them to more care quickly, but until the 1970’s, that second step was mostly missing. This is a amazing look at the history behind the first paramedics including the push back they got from established medicine, racist politicians, and a skeptical public… Then after overcoming it all, they were mostly forgotten.


  • What they [the 1968 Kerner Commission] reported back—that recent violence in Black communities was rooted in racism, police brutality, and poor prospects for advancement—probably shouldn’t have taken so long to find. “What white Americans have never fully understood,” the report declared, “but what the Negro can never forget, is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.”
  • “What we are searching for is some method… of lessening the effects of bigotry and hatred.” Specifically, the goal was to patch holes that systemic racism had cut into the public health safety net.
  • Asked why he’d left a union job to join the civil rights movement, McCoy said, “A person does not get into the movement. The movement is in a person.”
  • They were men who existed on the margins and were looking for a way to get ahead, gambling on a long shot. Their ages ranged from eighteen to sixty. Nearly half hadn’t completed high school. One had just a sixth-grade education.
  • Pittsburgh was in the midst of a ballooning heroin epidemic and a corresponding surge in overdoses. But looking around, people noticed heroin-related deaths were climbing in white neighborhoods even as they were dropping in Black ones. The reason was simple. Safar had taken a drug then used only to reverse anesthesia in operating rooms—Narcan—and issued it to his medics.
  • The invisible line separating the Hill from downtown was now the threshold at which an emergency vehicle carrying emergency medical technicians on their way to an emergency situation had to begin operating in all ways nonemergent. No more sirens downtown. This was something new. Hunt first raised the idea, but Flaherty made it law. The idea was to stop Freedom House’s “reckless driving of ambulances,” which they claimed not only imperiled drivers and pedestrians but also disrupted the business community.
  • Just the year before, in 1972, the Beetle had finally beaten out the Model T to become the best-selling car of all time,
  • Eugene Key said he once saw a cop drawing a chalk outline around a guy lying on the street. Cops did this with someone killed in a shooting or a stabbing or a wreck, so that even after the body was gone, investigators could piece together the crime scene and figure out what happened. But this man was still alive. Key pointed this out, but the cop just shrugged. “Yeah,” he said, “but not for long.”
  • The only way to get respect from someone who doesn’t want to give it is to walk right over and take it.
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Jaahnavi Kandula

As I pedaled up 4th, I knew I was getting close, not because I saw other bikers, but because there was a police helicopter hovering a few blocks ahead. I rode into Westlake park to find about 20 other cyclists preparing for the Critical Mass ride to remember Jaahnavi Kandula. The helicopter made conversation difficult so I just stood there getting cold with strangers. Eventually I got used to the noise and could chat with others around me. Many were there for their first Critical Mass ride ever. It’s amazing how well the police can encourage different people to come together…

Monday evening, Jaahnavi was using a crosswalk when a Seattle Police officer, driving to a call, struck and killed her with his SPD SUV. Details have been slow to come out this week but there’s a lot here that shines a negative light on SPD and other city organizations.

The number of bikers continued to grow as we got closer to our 7:00 roll out time. As we took to the streets, there were around 100 riders including a few on skateboards or Onewheels. We were easily able to shut down the street as we rode from Westlake Park to the intersection where she was killed.

We had a two-minute moment of silence and set up a vigil. Eventually the police helicopter that had been over us for about an hour, decided we weren’t that interesting and left a different silence in its wake. People started talking and asking what it will take to finally get police and drivers/cars to stop killing people. There was hope that this would be the first and last vigil of the year, but no one really believed it would be. The only thing we can do is to continue to draw attention to each injury and death to try to change public opinion enough to create real change.

Many drivers seemed to be extra alert tonight, especially around the intersection where she was killed. When it was time to head home, I was starting to have hope that change was coming. Perhaps this would be the event to draw enough attention to change the tide.

The rain started to fall on my ride home. I was cruising down 12th when a van in front of me slowed and I rolled into their blind spot. Concerned, my hands were already gripping my brakes when they started to turn into my lane. I slowed quickly enough to avoid them and they decided not to turn after all. As the dark van continued forward slowly, I decided I would be safest if I passed them now, when they had no opportunity to turn. Glancing over, I saw it was an SPD van with two officers up front and realized it is going to take a lot more for our city and culture to change.

Good bye, Jaahnavi. I wish we’d had a chance to meet.

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Seventy48 Training Begins… again

Last year I learned about the Seventy48 and started training for it without really knowing what to expect. I went in a bit nervous but had a great time and decided to do it again.

Since Avery, my adventure buddy, is starting to outgrow the back hatch of my kayak, we decided it was time to get a tandem kayak. This will make kayak camping easier, but it also means that when I do the Seventy48, I don’t have to do it solo. Avery is still too young to complete a 70 mile kayak adventure with me, but my dad isn’t. He got me into sea kayaking when I was younger and has done some epic kayak trips in Alaska, but never anything this long.

Avery testing out the new kayak. She likes this much more than sitting in the back hatch of my boat.

Last year’s training plan seemed to work out well. I had a bit over 100 miles of total training with my longest single day around 27 miles. The plan for this year is about the same with maybe a few more 15+ mile training sessions.

As of last week, Team Drowned Chipmunk is officially registered for Seventy48 2023 so it must be time to start training. Yesterday we went out for the first official training session. We’re both still getting used to the boat (neither of us have much experience in a tandem) and I tried a bent shaft paddle. We did a little under 12 miles on the water with a stop at the half way point to grab coffee at Leschi. Overall, the trip went well. We kept a strong pace. We still need to figure out some of the gear (I don’t think I’ll use a bent shaft paddle again), but we’re in a good position to be ready by June 3. Anyone else doing it this year? We’ll see you on the water.

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Leadership and Self-Deception

Title: Leadership and Self-Deception – Getting Out of the Box

Author: The Arbinger Institute

Completed: Jan 2023 (Full list of books)

Overview: This came up in a conversation with a coworker. She recommended it as a quick read and it was. It’s written in the same style as other overly didactic books where rather than trying to show you the points they are trying to make in 2000 words, they tell you a first-person story of someone learning the lessons they want you to learn. This approach takes over 100 pages, but I guess it’s more interesting. The main point comes down to “you should treat all people (and especially coworkers) as actual people, not objects that help you get what you want.” It has a some good ideas to reflect on, but like several other books I read over the last few years, I would have liked it twice as much if it had been half as long.


  • Either I’m seeing others straightforwardly as they are—as people like me who have needs and desires as legitimate as my own—or I’m not. As I heard Kate put it once: One way, I experience myself as a person among people. The other way, I experience myself as the person among objects.
  • we see them in terms of the self-justifying images we’ve created. If people act in ways that challenge the claim made by a self-justifying image, we see them as threats. If they reinforce the claim made by a self-justifying image, we see them as allies. If they fail to matter to a self-justifying image, we see them as unimportant.
  • However bitterly I complain about someone’s poor behavior toward me and about the trouble it causes me, I also find it strangely delicious. It’s my proof that others are as blameworthy as I’ve claimed them to be—and that I’m as innocent as I claim myself to be. The behavior I complain about is the very behavior that justifies me.”
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Four Lost Cities

Title: Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age

Author: Annalee Newitz

Completed: Dec 2022 (Full list of books)

Overview: I heard Annalee speak at ToorCamp this summer and thought this sounded like a fascinating read. The four cities existed across several millennia yet each went through a similar rise and fall. Annalee points out that the common explanation these days, promoted by Jared Diamond’s Collapse, that the cities were abandoned because of environmental changes is only part of the story. Each city was also going through social and political changes at the time. And, despite the population leaving each of the cities, they make the point that none of these civilizations really collapsed. Each went through a slow population decline, but the people continued their culture in different places. Each culture continued to evolve and change over time as all cultures do.


  • Popular accounts of the city’s demise suggest that Romans shunned the buried city out of superstition and fear, quickly losing track of where it had once stood. Nothing could be further from the truth. Pompeii’s demise was followed by one of the greatest relief efforts in ancient history. Emperor Titus toured Pompeii twice after the eruption to assess the damage, discovering that the once-lush landscape was entombed in thick, superheated ash, oozing toxic fumes. Pompeii was unsalvageable. Titus and his brother Domitian, who succeeded him, used the sprawling empire’s wealth to rebuild the lives of people whose homes were lost. They allocated money to survivors, and paid workers to construct homes for them. Archaeologists have recently uncovered new evidence of the empire relocating refugees to nearby coastal towns like Naples, expanding neighborhoods and roads to accommodate them.
  • Ironically, it took the invention of a city for people to conceive of being alone, away from the crowd. Put another way, the concept of privacy had arrived, and with it the concept of a public.
  • As people left nomadic bands to form agricultural communities, their populations grew in size. Suddenly, a community wouldn’t be an extended family of people whose faces you knew by heart. In a village of 200 people, or a city of thousands, even neighbors might be strangers. People needed more than personal connections to feel part of the group. “[They] needed huge monumental art to create commitment and remind people constantly of their collective identity,” Benz told me. You might say that people went from identifying with each other to identifying with a special, shared location.
  • the city begins and ends with the small acts of many people, who imbue their houses with “increased practical and symbolic importance.”
  • The figurines themselves may not have been objects of reverence, but the act of creating it could have been a magic ritual. Seeking guidance or good fortune, Dido would quickly mold one from the clay next to the field where she harvested wheat. Once it was dry, she could have used it in a ritual that drained its power away. Afterward, she’d throw the clay figure off her roof along with waste from yesterday’s meal. If people at Çatalhöyük used the female figures like this, it’s clear why people threw them away so often. Making them was more important than keeping them.
  • People today are attracted to cities because they feel an affinity for subcultures or groups that don’t exist in smaller communities organized mostly around families.
  • There are also glossy corporate towers, massive churches, imposing government buildings, and thousands of shops in every configuration. Today’s cities are places where we can see social and economic inequality built into the landscape.
  • Along with incentivizing women to have as many babies as possible, the Julian Laws also meted out harsh punishment for women deemed “promiscuous.” Famously, Augustus exiled his own daughter in 2 CE when she refused to stop publicly engaging in the ancient world’s equivalent of free love.
  • “I’m interested in the part of the rock that is now gone,” he told me. “The shape that’s worn away—that’s what people did.” This is especially true when it comes to public spaces where many people were doing roughly the same kinds of things. “If you take the hundred thousand interactions with the stone in aggregate, all over the city, the absence is thousands of people making the same decision. Now, suddenly, you have a picture of a system of traffic at a place like Pompeii where we had zero evidence ever before.”
  • And yet, despite over two centuries of researchers excavating Pompeii, very few people understood the world inhabited by Murtis and Amarantus until recently. Partly that’s because data archaeology has given us new tools to explore the lives of nonelites. But it’s also due to a more fundamental problem with the way we study history. Though people of the 19th and 20th centuries treasured Pompeii, returning to it repeatedly for further excavation, there were parts of its culture they wanted to forget. When they came upon sculptures of genitalia or dirty graffiti, they locked these things away in “secret cabinets” because it was too hard to step outside their Christian values and look at those artifacts with Roman eyes. Only in 2000 was the “secret cabinet” in the Naples Museum opened to the general public. Roman sexuality is so alien to modern people’s sensibilities in the West that it was practically illegible. Museum curators in previous centuries treated lucky penis charms like pornography, and historians didn’t consider prostitutes worthy of study.
  • Naples is a noisy city, full of narrow cobblestone streets that roar with cars and motorcycles careening uphill from the Bay of Naples at terrifying speeds. These downtown roads were built for the kinds of mule-drawn carts that dominated the ancient and medieval Roman worlds, but now pedestrians fight for space alongside metal machines that Murtis and her friends at the lupanar could only dream of.
  • At Sambor Prei Kuk, kings of the Chenla Empire worshipped the Hindu god Shiva, unlike the Angkorian kings who preferred Vishnu.
  • In one temple, we found fresh baskets of incense, paper flowers, and a golden parasol sheltering a statue of the Buddha. But the centuries-old Buddha was also a modern touch. It had been built on top of an ancient lingam shrine that symbolizes the power of the Hindu god Shiva.
  • Jayavarman II explicitly wanted to build a Hindu empire. Inscriptions carved after his death recount a coronation ceremony where he declared himself the Khmer’s godlike ruler in a ritual that borrowed concepts of divine kingship from Hindu traditions. But Stark and Carter think the picture is a lot more complicated than a sudden infusion of Indian Hinduism. “It’s not Indianization—it’s globalization,” Carter said, noting that influences came from many parts of Asia. “Plus,” she added, “by the time Angkor arises, there’s a thousand years of indigenous cultural development in Cambodia.” The local people in places like Battambang were just as important to Angkor’s development as ideas from abroad.
  • The khñum debt slavery scenario sounds brutal until you consider that most capitalist cultures in the West use a similar system. In the United States, it’s not unusual for people to graduate from college with so much debt that they have to work their whole lives to pay it off. Others take on debt to pay for a house or buy a car. Though technically all of us can choose what kind of work we do to pay off these debts, it’s rare to find anyone who is doing the exact kind of work they’d like to do. Many of us feel like we’re being told to dig ditches by some distant corporate authority, or risk losing everything. Still, we keep working instead of rising up against the banks, for complicated reasons. Maybe we don’t want to rock the boat because our lives are relatively comfortable, or maybe we need health insurance to pay for a child’s hospitalization, or maybe the corporations seem too powerful to defeat. Those feelings might have kept khñum in line, too.
  • He’s discovered that urban populations grow faster than their own infrastructure. West has found that doubling the size of, say, a city’s water canals would more than double its population. Due to the benefits of sharing resources at high density, urbanites need about 15 percent less infrastructure than you’d expect based on population size.
  • the Mississippians likely controlled land via kinship networks, the way the Hidatsa did, with many families sharing the same field. “American schoolchildren are taught that private, individual ownership of land was a concept foreign to Native Americans,” she writes. “Nevertheless, it is clear that families or extended kin groups held exclusive use rights to firmly demarcated plots of land for farming.”
  • The collapse hypothesis was nearly dead when Jared Diamond published his popular book Collapse in 2005. Based mostly on anecdotal evidence from cultures like the Maya and Polynesians on Easter Island, he argues that societies “collapse,” or fail, when they engage in environmentally unsound practices. His argument played into a lot of myths about how cities work, including the idea that cultures are wiped out when their high-density settlements disappear. As we’ve seen with the cities in this book, urban abandonment does not mean some kind of cultural death. Usually it means that city people have migrated elsewhere, bringing the values, art, and technologies of the city with them to new homes. Diamond is right to highlight environment as a contributing factor in urban dissolution, but that’s only one part of the story. Abandonment is most importantly a political process.
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What is Anarchism?

Title: What Is Anarchism? An Introduction

Author: Donald Rooum and Freedom Press, et al

Completed: Nov 2022 (Full list of books)

Overview: First hearing about anarchy through pop culture doesn’t really give you a good understanding of what the political philosophy is truly about. Over the years, I was more and more interested in learning about it so I would read an article here or there but not much more. Eventually, i looked into it a bit more and came across this book and the Conquest of Bread which I got as an audiobook earlier this year. This collection of articles covered many aspects of anarchist thinking and helped answer some of my questions. Some of it was a bit dated but the philosophy remains true, even if the language and examples they give are 100+ years out of date.


  • Anarchists believe that the point of society is to widen the choices of individuals. This is the axiom upon which the anarchist case is founded.
  • Many people confuse government with organisation, which makes them suppose that anarchists are against band leaders and architects. But organisers and leaders are not the same as bosses. Anarchists have no objection to people following instructions, provided they do so voluntarily.
  • Wherever Marxists have seized power, they have behaved like other people in power. Marxists accuse them of betraying the revolution, but anarchists think the pressures of power make all bosses behave in substantially the same way.
  • Anarchists are against the surrender of power, and therefore against democracy. Not just against the perversion of democracy (though that is often mentioned), but against the democratic ideal. They do not want people to give power to whoever they choose; they want people to keep their power for themselves.
  • Anarchists are disgusted by the idea of houses standing empty when people are homeless, and have always supported squatters movements. Several anarchist groups run squatters advice centres,
  • In times and in countries where the people believed in the need for government by one man (monarchy) the word republic, which is government by many, was in fact used in the sense of disorder and confusion
  • To become a convinced anarchist, and not in name only, he must begin to feel the solidarity that joins him to his comrades, and to learn to co-operate with others in the defence of common interests and that, by struggling against the bosses and against the government which supports them, should realise that bosses and governments are useless parasites and that the workers could manage the domestic economy by their own efforts. And when the worker has understood this, he is an anarchist even if he does not call himself such.
  • Unlike the politician, he does not regard dishonesty, brutality and avariciousness as natural characteristics of human nature, but as the inevitable consequences of coercion and frustration engendered by artificial law, and he believes that these social evils are best eradicated not by greater penalties and further legislation, but by the free development of the latent forces of solidarity and sympathetic understanding which government and law so ruthlessly suppress.
  • To a government, therefore, that talked to us of deference to political authority, and honour to be rendered to our superiors, our answer should be: “It is yours to shackle the body, and restrain our external actions; that is a restraint we understand. Announce your penalties; and we will make our election of submission or suffering.
  • What role does the government play in your existence? Does it help you live? Does it feed, clothe and shelter you? Do you need it to help you work or play? If you are ill, do you call the physician or the policeman? Can the government give you greater ability than nature endowed you with? Can it save you from sickness, old age, or death?
  • Consider your daily life and you will find that in reality the government is no factor in it all except when it begins to interfere in your affairs, when it compels you to do certain things or prohibits you from doing others.
  • anarchism means voluntary co-operation instead of forced participation.
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